Oct. 10, 2006
COACH WEIS: On Wednesday we’ll have a skeleton crew as far as coaching staff goes because the only coaches that will be here on Wednesday will be myself, Rick Minter, Bill Lewis and the graduate assistants. The other seven coaches will all be on the road recruiting. I’ll get to that here in a second.
So on Thursday we’ll have a similar day to Tuesday, but it will be more group oriented than it will be individually segmented because we have a skeleton crew as far as coaching staff goes. After Thursday, they have a lift with Rubin on Friday and I’m giving them off Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Monday is normally players’ day off. Sunday we normally have them in for part of the day. But I’m giving them Saturday, Sunday and Monday and they will return for meetings at 9:00 Tuesday morning. And the reason why 9:00 is because they have no school next week. So this allows us to have extended periods of time next week because it doesn’t match with having classes ’cause the rest of the student body is off.
Now, on Wednesday towards the end of practice, there’s going to start to be a mass exodus of coaches because you can only send seven of the 10 coaches on the road at one time, the nine assistants and myself are the 10, and only seven of them can go out there. During the season you can go out for six days. Two of the days we’re using are going to be Thursday and Friday of this week. Now, some of those guys will get to see a game on Thursday and a game on Friday. Some of the guys will just go to schools on Thursday and go to schools on Friday and see a game. Some of those guys will see two games on Friday where there’s an afternoon game on Friday and there’s a night game on Friday. But the coaching staff will be out.
The only little wrinkle, there’s a term called “tag teaming” where one assistant coach can come off the road and another assistant coach can go on the road. On Thursday, Friday we’ll make that switch. I need Rick here on Thursday. He’ll go on the road for Friday, Coach Oliver will come off the road on Friday so that Coach Minter can get into his area for a full day and Coach Oliver will come off the road so we just have the seven guys on the road at one time.
So that’s basically tying the two together. Our weekly schedule and our recruiting schedule. That leads me to our third thing that I was going to give you some more information on once I had it, and that was an analysis of where we are at the halfway mark.
Obviously, our record is one game better than it was last year at this time. We were 4-2. We’re 5-1 right now. Our turnover ratio is in the plus, but it’s not – last year it was a plus one. Right now it’s only a .3. Our penalties are almost identical for the same amount of yards. Last year we had 43 penalties for 369, now we have 45 penalties for 359. That’s a drastic improvement from where it was earlier in the year. Our opponent’s penalties about the same as where it was last year.
Then it gets to now offense, defense, special teams stats and some individuals that I’d like to highlight either positively or negatively and where we have to go from here.
Now, our scoring after six games last year, we had scored 216 points, 36 points a game. This year we’ve scored 182, or 30.3 points a game.
As far as rushing yardage, our rushing yardage last year at this time was 170.8 versus 106.8, which is somewhat skewed by the Michigan and Michigan State games where the volume of runs were significantly lower than in games the previous year.
We had 13 rushing touchdowns at this time last year versus seven this year. We had 14 touchdown passes this time last year versus 16 this year. So we’re actually throwing more touchdowns and rushed for less at the same time last year, with a completion percentage by Quinn almost exactly – almost identical. His completion percentage last year, if I go look, at this time last year it was 63.6, it’s 63.5. It’s uncanny how close. Actually he’s statistically done a little bit better job because of the 16?4 touchdown interception versus a 14?5 touchdown interception at the same time last year. I thought it was 14?4, but I might be wrong.
We were throwing for 318 last year at this time. We’re throwing for 273 right now. We’re down a little over a hundred yards a game offensively. We were dropped from 48 to 37% on third down. We’ve gone up over 20% on fourth down from 56% conversions to 77% conversions. We’ve allowed five more sacks.
Red zone, I thought we were significantly better touchdown-wise. But, to be honest with you, we’re exactly the same. We’ve scored 78% scored touchdowns in the red zone this year, 18 for 23. Last year we were 21 for 27, which was 78% at the exact same time.
Now, on the defensive side of the ball, there are some drastic – I’d say the biggest improvement on the entire time is our pass defense. Last year at this time we were giving up over 300 yards a game. It was 304.8, okay? Now it’s 212.8, which is by far the most significant stat on the positive vein by far.
Teams are rushing for a few more yards a game, but they’re averaging less per rush. I mean, last year at this time they were averaging 4.4 per carry, now it’s 4.2 per carry. It’s 126 to 134. Almost identical.
Last year we had given up many more rushing touchdowns, 11 versus four this year. Conversely, we had given up less passing touchdowns. We gave up eight this time last year versus 11 now. But either way, we had given up 19 touchdowns at this time last year versus 15 touchdowns at this time this year, which definitely is an improvement.
Overall statistically on defense, we’ve dropped from 431 to 347 as far as yards given up per game.
In addition, we have an improvement on third down, although be it slight. We were good last year at this time on third down also. 31% conversion. 28 right now. We’ve dropped from 50% conversion, a positive drop is what I’m saying. The opponents have converted only a third of the time on fourth down versus 50% last year.
Sacks are identical, 13 to 13.
We’re a little bit better in the red zone.
Touchdowns, we’ve given up 50% scores versus 57% last year. Statistically we’re better on scoring defense in the second half than the first half.
As you get through the first two phases, before I get to special teams and individuals, you’ll notice the one glaring thing that stands out the most – well, the two glaring things. We’re averaging less yards on offense and giving up less yards on defense. In laymen’s terms, the simplest things that slap you in the face.
Now, on special teams, it’s pretty obvious where the areas of improvement and where we’re not as good. For example, we’re obviously punting it further, netting more. Punt returns have dropped off. Kickoff return average is about awash. Our average drive start on kickoff return is about the same. The opponent’s drive start is down just a little bit from where it was last year. That isn’t anything significant.
One thing, because Geoff has been kicking it further, and we’ve been netting more, the one stat is they’ve also been averaging more per return because we’ve been punting the ball so much further than we were punting it at this same time last year.
I’m going to talk about some individuals in all three facets, throw a couple things your way.
Brady’s stats, starting with the quarterback, because it always starts with him, they’re very, very close. I mean, completion percentage is identical. He’s thrown a few more touchdowns with the same number of interceptions. He’s thrown for a couple hundred less yards. We’re averaging, what, 14 – we’re averaging 40 or so yards less passing a game.
Darius, his production is almost identical as well. Now, you say, he rushed for 600 versus 526 at the same time last year, but he’s also caught 258 yards versus 159 yards last year. So actually the combination of his receptions, the number of his receptions and touches at carrying the ball are almost identical. The yards are by a slight margin a little bit more per game than where he was at this stage last year.
Interesting, when you look at the receivers, I think you really have to group the two receivers together, group Jeff and Rhema together compared to Jeff and Mo. Jeff has the same exact number of catches right now than he did last year at this time, 34 and 34, okay? His average per catch is down from 17.6 to 10.9. He has less touchdowns, five versus nine. But the big thing is if you don’t add Rhema in here, at this time last year Mo had one touchdown, whereas Rhema has seven. You really have to add them together. At this time last year those two receivers had 10 touchdowns versus these two receivers have 12 touchdowns at the same time this year. Rhema is sitting there with 37 catches, seven touchdowns. He’s averaging 13.4 per game.
John Carlson and Fasano, it’s almost awash there, too. Carlson has 28 catches. Fasano had 27 at this time last year. He’s got about 60 more yards. He averages a few more yards per catch, John I’m saying than Anthony did.
The backup tight ends, you know, last year it was Carlson and Freeman. It’s almost identical. It’s uncanny how close a lot of these statistics are when it comes to individuals that are the frontline players.
I’d say just as I would have imagined, from a guy who played full?time last year to a guy who played full-time this year, there’s about three or four people who stand out how they’re improvement is so significant.
For example, Ndukwe last year at this time had 24 tackles. This year he has 43 tackles at the exact same time. As I’ve talked about people who have played better, it’s pretty obvious when you looked at him. Two interceptions, both of them last year and this year. You know, the other guys whose stats are significantly improved are the two inside guys on the defensive line, like Trevor had nine tackles at this time last year. He’s got 32. Derek had 16 tackles at this time last year. He’s got 24. There’s been significant improvement on those guys as well.
Zibby’s tackles are almost identical. He had 37 after six games where, you know, he didn’t play last week. He has 34 after five games. The one area where we have a drop?off here is last year at this time he had two interceptions and four pass breakups, where this year we don’t have any interceptions and we have one pass breakup at the exact same time.
Ambrose has really missed close to three games here, so his stats are a little skewed. They’re down. It’s tough to compare because he had played through every play of all those games last year versus missing close to three games this year.
Mike Richardson, he’s down a little bit in the tackles, and everything else like tackles for loss is higher. He had a couple interceptions at this time last year. He has more pass breakups this year. You know, it goes back and forth.
Victor has about the same number of tackles, but he has more tackles for loss, more sacks and more hurrys than he did at the same time last year.
Another guy that was a significant improvement, which surprised me a little bit at the numbers, but as I looked at Maurice Crum, he has 43 tackles at this time. Last year he had 24. I went back and compared Corey Mays’ numbers at this time last year because it’s Corey Mays’ position he’s playing, not his own. Corey at this time last year had 30 tackles, whereas Maurice Crum has 43 tackles.
We’ve had significant improvement from the Mike position. We have had a drop?off statistically at the Will position. Brandon had a lot more tackles at the Will position, tackles for loss and sacks at this time, than we have right now.
I have to add together Travis and Joe, add all their stuff together. But Brandon would have a significant edge at that Will position from where we are.
There weren’t really enough reps at the Sam position to evaluate and compare to how much nickel we’re playing this year.
On special teams, I’ve already talked about our drop-off on punt returns. Kickoff returns, we’re up just a little. David Grimes is up just a little bit. Geoff Price is a significant improvement.
One stat that probably, as I wrap?up my initial comments, one stat that kind of surprised me more than any, this year we’re three for six on field goals, but I was not cognizant until I went back and looked at where the field goals take place, that from inside of 40 yards, Carl is three of four. The two misses – he has two misses between 40 and 50. Anything less than 40 yards, he’s three out of four, where last year in that 30 to 39 range, we were two of three. This year we’re three of four. Last year we kicked two short ones at this time. This year we’ve had no attempts from that same area.
I think part of those stats when I look at them are the fact that I’m asking him to kick a couple longer field goals than we were kicking at this time last year.
THE MODERATOR: Let’s start with some questions from those in attendance.
Q. Given all the statistics and eyeballing the team, do you think this team is better than last year’s?
COACH WEIS: I’d say right now statistically you’d have to say it’s too soon to tell. And here is why I’m saying that. I think that the offense is on the rise and I think the defense is getting better. I don’t know if I felt the same way last year at this time. But I think that I see our team on a slow, steady improvement. And you can’t get skewed by one game. Can’t say, Well, we gave up a little over 200 yards against Stanford, how is that going to pan out against UCLA? They all kind of tie in together.
I feel this team is moving up at a steady pace, where at the end of the year the answer to that question might be yes. But I think that for me to answer that right now, I could not – I think it would be premature.
Q. In terms of your freshmen quarterbacks, you mentioned on Sunday, if Sharpley is in there, he’s probably not going to be throwing a lot. Is there any benefit in that light for them to play this year, for you to use up that year of eligibility for either or both?
COACH WEIS: I’ve had that conversation both with the coaching staff and with the players themselves. You know, we’ve had that conversation.
You get into that gray area because, you know, we don’t talk about redshirt, we talk about fifth years. I’m not going to be in a hurry. Let’s just say this. I’m not going to be in a hurry to play either one of those guys for the reason you’re implying.
Q. We heard about Demetrius doing very well in the show team against Michigan State. How have those guys developed kind of behind the scenes this year?
COACH WEIS: I think that both those guys are night and day improved over when we got ’em, okay? Just the mannerisms of running the huddle is night and day improvement.
But I think on different weeks they’ve both showed their wares. What we do is we have one of them, even though they don’t get any reps, one guy during the week, when the one guy is the lead guy on the show team, the other guy is up watching Brady the whole week. If Demetrius has the show team for the week, then Zach is up along Evan and Brady going through the offense for the entire week. If Zach has the show team, then Demetrius is up for the whole week.
We have a whole plan of attack so that those guys aren’t just show team players, they’re show team players like every other week. We’ve gotten the benefit from both them playing where they get almost every rep on the show team for the week, plus them also being coached with what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.
Q. In your receiving, the top four receivers are well ahead of everybody else. Is that just kind of what the defense has given you? Is there hope there will be some more?
COACH WEIS: I would like to play five, six, seven and eight. I would like to get down the line some. The game’s got to dictate you being able to do that.
I think the only way that I’m really going to get to that type of thing is if a game were over early enough. ‘Cause if the game’s not over early enough, in other words, if it gets over ?? when I determine that it’s over, you know, then there’s not going to be very many passes being thrown. They might get in there. I’d like for them to be able to catch some passes just like you would. But it would have to be one of those situations where, you know, it’s time to get these guys in here now. I’m not putting them in there just to make them feel good.
Q. With your defense, the fact that you have an efficient offense, explosive offense, does that affect the way the defensive calls are made in terms of aggressiveness and maybe gambling with the defense?
COACH WEIS: Well, yes and no. Sometimes Rick hates when I’m saying, Bring it, bring it. Yeah, I actually do have a clicker. I am actually on the defensive headset, contrary to popular opinion, okay? I don’t say as much as I do on offense, obviously. But, you know, I’ll correct a personnel once in a while. Doesn’t happen very often. I’ll tell everyone to quiet down so Rick can talk. There’s a lot of things going on there. I’ll give a hash mark or I’ll say, Big screen down.
The defensive coaches, they basically run the show there. Just sometimes I’m the one who gets antsy in conjunction to how I’m thinking on offense more than them getting antsy.
Q. How much does this team need a bye week just to get healthy, get everyone back to a hundred percent?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think the fact that some of our starters were the guys that I held out. Any time you can get this week and another week, ’cause those guys will only be in full pads on Wednesday. They’re going to be in shells Tuesday and Thursday, then back in full pads the following Tuesday. I think this is a definite, definite pro for the guys who play all the reps. It’s a definite pro for them physically.
Now, for everyone else, okay, this is going to be far from the Club Med program because we’re going to be banging for three days now, okay? We’re going to be hitting on Tuesday, we’re going to be hitting on Wednesday and we’re going to be hitting on Thursday. I can’t evaluate them without us hitting.
Q. Is this one of the downsides then of playing such a tough early schedule, that you do get beat up a little bit?
COACH WEIS: I don’t see any downside to having a bye in the middle.
Q. Playing all these tough games right off the bat.
COACH WEIS: But you could get hurt in any game. You get banged up in any game. It doesn’t make a difference who you’re playing. I mean, you’re a defensive guy, you’re hitting somebody. Normally you get hurt because of what you did, not because of what they did. Normally it’s what you did.
No, I think that this is just part of the game. It wouldn’t make a difference who you’re playing. I think you – players are just going to get sore. That’s just part of the game.
Q. Did you use guys differently because there’s only one bye week this year rather than two last year in a month?
COACH WEIS: Well, I felt that the bye week this year just came at the perfect time. If anyone in here were going to say, You can have one bye week, when do you want to put it? Everybody would say, You’re playing 12 games, let’s put it in the middle. I think that’s about where everyone would say.
For me the fact that there is one, you know, forget about the fact that there were two. If I were going to pick a time, this would be the time I’d pick.
Q. With Travis Thomas having been dinged up in recent weeks, both Munir and James got some reps in the practice and the games, are you looking to keep Travis exclusively on defense now or do you still leave the door open for him to work some on offense?
COACH WEIS: I’d say the door’s still open but there’s less of a need. I’d say the door’s still open. It’s just that right now I would need – he’s going to be back out there practicing, you know, today. Now he’s getting ready to go play in his next game. He hasn’t played in a couple weeks on defense. Now the number one thing is, you know, get him ready to be our starting Will linebacker.
Q. With somebody like a Darrin Walls, you mentioned has excellent ball skills, when do you get a comfort level as far as seeing him on both sides of the ball, too?
COACH WEIS: Once he masters the side he’s on first. You don’t move a guy to offense until he’s got what he’s supposed to do on his side of the ball first. His ball skill stuff will be in return game until after we’ve settled in nicely at corner.
I think that the guys that you use on – that you’d be willing to use in those capacities are guys that have already settled in. Travis Thomas, you know, coming over to play some snaps at halfback, he can do that with 15 minutes of practice a week. With 15 minutes of practice a week, he can come in and play on offense because he knows the system and I trust him. With a freshman, it would be a long time before I’d be playing him both ways unless they were already settled in on one side of the ball.
Q. A hypothetical on recruiting. Let’s say you’re looking for three guys at a position but there’s five or six guys you might be recruiting. If you offer only three scholarships, how do you keep the other three that you haven’t offered to kind of still on the hook or do you even try?
COACH WEIS: Personally I tell them the truth. That’s how I do it. I say, I offered these three. If one of them says no, you got a spot. That’s how I do it. That means you end up losing some. I’m just not into lying to them. That’s how I do it. It also sends a message to the guys that you end up offering that I want you to say yes.
There’s guys, they’ll go offer 15 guys to get three. The first three that say yes, they take them. Well, what if they’re not the right three? What if you really wanted those two? I think you got to be very careful. I don’t think you have to offer just to the number because you’re not getting everybody. It just doesn’t work that way. But I think you got – you got to be willing to overtake at a position because if you say you’re going to take three and four say yes, you take four, you go light at one other position for a year, then you make up for it the next year.
Q. Will Yeatman, how has he progressed from when you first got him? What’s pushed him ahead of Reuland?
COACH WEIS: He’s not ahead of Reuland. They just play a different position. Really at this point Will is playing what Carlson does and Konrad is playing what Marcus does. Really we play them as pairs. When we do that, they’re paired up so that they have somebody they’re learning under with what they do.
Use a lot of two tight end sets. So it’s not like one’s ahead of the other. They just play ?? they’re just playing different positions.
Q. Have you seen, watching him, the lacrosse footwork really come in handy?
COACH WEIS: I don’t know what lacrosse footwork is (laughter).
Q. Being able to make cuts a lot like a basketball player.
COACH WEIS: I think he’s big and athletic. I think when you first get a guy, you really don’t – you watch him on tape and you see what you see. He’s a big man now. This is not a little guy here. He’s a big guy. He’s a big, powerful guy that’s very athletic.
What you can see, probably the best way you can see his athleticism, which is significant.
Q. With Sam Young, seeing him halfway through the year, is he everything that you expected?
COACH WEIS: He’s one of those guys who just keeps on getting better every week. He does. He keeps getting better every week.
Speaking of that, Brian, where are you? Let me say something about Sam. Sam is one of those guys that’s going to be on that early program today. I told Brian, because I know several of you requested talking to him. I told Brian to ask him if he wants to go today or tomorrow. There’s a possibility, because tomorrow is a normal schedule when they get done at 7:00, there’s a possibility that he might be going with the defensive players tomorrow. You’ll have him. I’m just not positive whether or not you’ll have him today or tomorrow.
From the first game to the fifth game, all’s he’s done is getting better, to the sixth game, is get better every game. That’s what you’d hope for. A lot of people talk about the wall, like the freshman wall. He actually is playing better each week. That’s the furthest thing from his mind, I’m sure.
Q. You were talking about the kicker position. Would you ever envision yourself in a situation where you’d have maybe a guy with a stronger leg, like Burkhart, take 45?yard plus field goals?
COACH WEIS: We’re going to look at it today. Good question. Carl is going to have a kicking day off. We’re going to take a look at Burkhart. We’re going to take a look at Whitaker. Let those guys kick from 40 to 50, see what it looks like.
Q. UCLA lost their quarterback (indiscernible) over the weekend. How much does that affect your scouting?
COACH WEIS: The other kid went 20 for 29 with two touchdown passes. Not that I’m looking or anything (laughter).
Q. On the recruiting, do you ever offer the scholarships to the players based on the recommendation of the coaches or do you have to see something on film?
COACH WEIS: We don’t offer a scholarship to anyone that I haven’t watched on tape. We have a protocol. It’s very simple. The area coach goes and finds the players. He brings the information back. We then get videotape of the players. That guy watches it first. The position coach watches it second. If we still believe he’s an offer?able guy, okay, then the side of the ball watches it. If it’s a defensive player, the whole defensive staff had watch the guy together.
If it gets through all three of those things and gets kind of okayed by admissions, then I watch the tape. I watch the tape, then they get mad at me because about seven out of 10 times I send them back and say, I don’t know what you’re looking at, but we’re not offering him.
Q. Do you personally like to consult with the high school coaches?
COACH WEIS: They consult with them. I don’t. I just watch the tape. We do not offer one guy that I haven’t watched myself. We will not offer a guy, doesn’t make any difference who they are, that I have not watched tape on myself.
Q. Last week you said you wouldn’t mind addressing some of the subject not necessarily related to the upcoming game. Back to the 60 Minutes story. Can you tell us about that?
COACH WEIS: Very briefly what happened was they did a special on Tommy Brady last year. Steve became intrigued by me. As the year went on, he decided he wanted to do something. We started about eight months ago doing little parts of this. They wrapped it up. They’re going to show it on October 29th.
Q. When you talk to former coaches, Lou Holtz, Ara Parseghian.
COACH WEIS: I spoke to Ara a little while ago.
Q. Is it social?
COACH WEIS: A combination of both. It’s social. Been there, done that. They can kind of tell you what you guys are thinking when I don’t know. Ara called me a little while ago just to talk. We were talking about some of those very things. You get to this point, then you get to that point, then they want this, then they want that. Don’t worry about this. What do you think of that? It’s good to have guys like Ara and Lou to ask because I’ve only been here two years. Those guys were here a decade, experienced all the things that I haven’t experienced yet.
Contrary to the popular opinion, I don’t think I have all the answers. I think having those guys as resources is invaluable to me, I tell you. It’s invaluable.
Q. Ara has told me whether you win or lose, you get mail. If you win, you should have won by more. How do you handle that? Have you experienced that?
COACH WEIS: I ask not to be given the mail. How is that? I only answer mail as it pertains to more personal issues, somebody dying, somebody sick, some kid’s going through a tough time, his dad is in Iraq. Those are the type of things ?? those are the ones that I ask for. I really don’t care what people think positively or negatively because what can I do about it? I can’t change their opinion. My job is to try to do as best as I see fit to run the program accordingly.
What will happen, if I read them, I’m going to start getting mad at people I don’t even know. You think about it, it’s just ?? I just can’t spend the time and energy doing that.
Q. You talked about not being in a rush with the freshman quarterbacks. Are you comfortable with having three guys with the same amount of eligibility at that position?
COACH WEIS: I think it’s going to be an interesting spring. I think between me and Coach Vaas, three Coach Haywood into the mix, the offensive coordinator, it will be a very interesting spring.
We’ll worry about the spring after this season’s over. Right now we’re just trying to beat UCLA. I’ll worry about it in the spring. Really, we’ll worry about it in the spring. I’m just worrying about the next game, then the next game. All of a sudden when Quinn is no longer here, then we have a whole different set of encyclopedias to have to be dealing with.
It will be a sad day for him, sad day for us, but also a good day for those young guys. Just up my work load for the spring, that’s all.
Q. You talked about Sam Young. You said he’s improved with every game. Can you pick out one game?
COACH WEIS: Did you notice him last game? Did you even notice him? That’s pretty good. When you don’t notice an offensive lineman, that’s usually a good thing. I’m just using that as an example. You didn’t even notice him.
I said this to Dan Stevenson last year when he was whining one time about something. I said, Dan, let me tell you something. The best thing about an offensive lineman is when no one knows you’re out there because when no one knows you’re out there, that means you’re playing pretty darn well. By me asking you a question, I don’t want to answer your question by asking a question, but that’s what I’m talking about. When an offensive lineman is out there, you don’t notice him, that means you’re running at him. It means guys aren’t running by him on a pass protection. Means they’re doing their job. That’s the best compliment you ever can say about an offensive lineman.
Q. Munir, how is he catching the ball out of the backfield?
COACH WEIS: He’s been significantly better in catching the ball. I’m not sure, I remember summertime or something when he was catching balls on the jugs, I think he was having – struggling when he first got here. That doesn’t seem to be the problem when we have him in practice. He seems to have been fairly reliable catching the ball as of late.
Q. Where do you project Tom Zbikowski as a pro, what position?
COACH WEIS: He’ll be a strong safety. There’s no doubt what he’ll play. He’ll be a strong safety. There’s certain schemes that fit him better than others. They’re the ones that will value him way more than others. Teams that have a safety that like to come down and get in a box, get in a mix all the time, that’s his game. There’s plenty of teams that play that game.
I see – not that he can’t play cover, too, because we’ve played plenty and so does he. He’s a very, very physical guy with good athletic skills.
Q. You never see him beefing up and being a linebacker?
COACH WEIS: No, no. He’ll be a strong safety.
Q. You do a very thorough statistical analysis. Which of those statistics do you take with a grain of salt?
COACH WEIS: Well, for example, scoring 36 points a game versus 30 points a game, a lot of time – everyone is so into how many points you score, how many points you win by, margin differential, all those type of things.
Ball possession to me is always a critical factor. The fact that we were plus one and now we’re only .3 means we need to pick it up on both sides of the ball. Means don’t turn it over. We had the one game where we really laid an egg, the Michigan game, which once again – but they all count the same. We hardly ever turn the ball over. One game we turn it over five times, that ironically is the game that we lose by a hundred.
There’s games and there’s one play sometimes that affect all the stats. The bottom line for me is I’m looking for consistency. I’m looking for consistent improvement. The fact that we’ve dropped a hundred yards a game in pass defense is significant to me. There’s games if you want yardage, I can go out and get another hundred yards offense. There are games I could do that. That’s not me. Some people take that the wrong way. They’re saying, He thinks he can do everything. That’s not the point. I just don’t believe in doing it.
I don’t worry about, let’s get to 500 yards so everyone knows we had 500 yards offense in that game. Let’s get Quinn ?? I know that Quinn is going over 10,000 with another 30 yards or whatever it is. I know. Can I get him another 30 yards in that game so he could have thrown for over 10,000 in his career? It wasn’t necessary so you don’t do it then.
Q. Do you think your background in the pros has influenced that? On that level it’s a W or an L as opposed to here people are looking for a bigger win so you can move up in the polls.
COACH WEIS: I don’t know, we went from 12 to 8 with a 31?10 victory over a team that was 0?5. Usually you’d say yes, but it didn’t pan out this week. This week you thought we would have dropped eight spots the way things are going.
Is there a little influence of me on that vein? Yes. But I really think it’s disrespectful, not only wrong, it’s disrespectful to play a game to run the score. I really think it’s disrespectful. I’m always going to think that way.
Now, are there Notre Dame fans that are going to say, God, I wish he’d go score another two touchdowns? My wife and son want me to do the same thing. Just so you know, they’re not alone. Just tell them they have supporters in my own house.
Q. How did you evaluate Aldridge’s brief performance? You talked about the plan for him. Where do you go from here with him?
COACH WEIS: The fact that he came out of the game with those few touches not being sore, that means now I can give him more. You have to make sure you can give him what he can handle, first of all. I wanted to try to get him eight touches in the game. I got him four. I wanted to get him eight in the game. Unfortunately the game really wasn’t put away yet. I wanted to make sure the game was put away.
It was a nice day. The field was firm. My intent was to give him eight touches. Four was enough where I could get him in the training room, they could go check on him, see where he was. He came out of the game pretty good, pretty well. I think that means you can up the ante a little bit.
Q. Early in the year you were asked about the change in the rules as far as starting the clock after possessions. You said it was no difference. Is your opinion the same? With a team like Navy coming up, does that rule change concern you because it’s so much of a number of touches game?
COACH WEIS: I’ll answer that in two parts. It hasn’t affected us. As long as you’re ready for it, it’s not a big deal. You’ll watch a lot of games where teams come out there and they start the clock and they aren’t aware that the clock’s even running. It’s happened in our games. It’s also happened in people we play. When I’m watching games on TV, they’re in the huddle, the clock’s running. There’s a sense of urgency here as far as time. They’re wasting 10, 15, 20 seconds going by.
I’d say as long as you’re prepared for it. Very few times in our career will it really affect us because I’d like to think that we’ll be at the line of scrimmage, ready to go, if the situation dictates for us being at the line of scrimmage.
Q. In general you haven’t felt like the game itself has been constricted? I know you’re ready to go.
COACH WEIS: I haven’t felt that pressure. There was one game we played this year, I forget which game it was, the only time I felt rushed is there was one referee that started the 25?second clock really, really fast. What game was that? Do you remember? He just started it. It was a home game. He started the clock really, really fast. Like all of a sudden, I’m having to give the calls. I give the calls in quick. If we take a delay of game, it’s very, very unusual. If we call a timeout, it won’t be because we didn’t have enough time to run the operation at the line of scrimmage, it’s usually because something there that the play would have got blown up and we didn’t have a better answer to get out of it.
When you see me call a timeout when we’re at the line of scrimmage, it’s because I know the play’s getting blown up. That’s why I’m calling a timeout. Why should I let them run a play that I know presnap is going to get blown up?
I think the second part of your question about Navy, I think you have to understand that the game is going to be shortened. You’re going to have less possessions is the way the game’s going to go. You got to do more in your possessions. Like in the last game, we score on the first touchdown, then we go the next couple drives, don’t score. You can’t afford to do that against Navy because you might only get four possessions. Sometimes you get seven possessions a half. You might get four or five. You got to make the most of your possessions now. You can’t have too many bumps in the road or else it’s going to be 7-7 at halftime.
Q. Last year you talked about your philosophy in dealing with parents. You said on the NFL level, dealing with wives and agents. This is a selfish question. What has that been like in dealing with the parents of the players?
COACH WEIS: Actually it’s been very, very smooth. I’ve had a couple of instances where the parents came in because they were upset about one thing or another. After I listened to them, I either tell them they’re wrong or I tell them I think they’re right. I’ve done both. I listen to them. I try to be object sieve. I’ll say, You got a valid point. This is what we’ll do.
I think you have to take each situation individually. I’ll listen to somebody for an hour. After I say, Thank you, but I disagree with you. A lot of people aren’t that blunt. They don’t want to say that because they’re not supposed to say that. Sorry, but that’s not my makeup.
Q. You talked about Sam Young not hitting the wall. Is that talent, go back to his high school coaches?
COACH WEIS: I’d like to think it went back to Aquinas and how they approach the games, his head coach is very similar, runs a very similar program on a high school level to what we run here. I think he might have been more ready for this type of system than a lot of other people would.
He’s shown no signs of doing anything but going like that.
Q. Are there other freshmen that we don’t see in games, just in practice you see –
COACH WEIS: I’ll give you an example. Dan Wenger. Dan Wenger is still playing with a cast on his hand, basically playing one?handed. I’ll telling you, you could see he’s from the same program, the same mold. He was a guy who was on that same rise, that same path, but sustained an injury. We might have been seeing him a bit more.
I think a lot of it has to do with how they handle it here, but some of it has to do ?? one of you guys asked me this in the last month about programs you come from, does it affect those guys. I think there’s a residual positive effect when they come from programs similar to the one you’re running.
COACH WEIS: What if the number is a lot more than that? Maybe it is.
Q. At this point last year you had 19 guys that were publicly verbal. Considering signing day is still four months away, is there any significance to that at all?
COACH WEIS: First of all, the only reason they’re public is because they say so. When a kid tells me, yes, we cannot say anything to anyone, for two reasons. Number one, it’s not our right. Number two, you risk the kid, the kid who already has given you his word in private, getting turned off by the fact that you wanted to make it about you, not about him, even though that’s illegal. So nothing’s ever coming from me. Nothing’s ever coming from us.
If the word comes out, it’s never coming from us anyway. So what’s the difference between a public commit and a non-public commit? It’s whether the kid wants to tell somebody or not. That’s the only difference. People don’t know how many people we have that are coming here. We could be done. We’re not, but we could be (laughter).
Q. Somebody asked about the tape evaluation process. Am I correct in understanding that you would not watch tape of a kid until he’s been cleared by admissions?
COACH WEIS: I would not watch a kid until after he’s been okayed for me to watch him. There’s a whole – no. In other words, Dan doesn’t have time to have looked at every transcript before I get to them. We have a whole formula. We get a kid’s transcript, we punch them all in and come up with Notre Dame averages, not just your NCAA deal, before it even goes over to Dan.
I think that’s one of the reasons we have such a good working relationship with the admissions office, is ’cause when we send someone over, we send it over with a cover letter acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of what we see on the transcript. I think that Rob and the whole recruiting aspect do a good job of keeping me informed of this guy might be tough to get in here or this guy, we’ll be able to get this guy in here based off his grades we have.
Why do I want to go look at a tape of a kid that can’t read and write? He might be a great player. Everyone will say, Why is he not recruiting him? Well, usually if a kid’s a great player, there’s a reason why we’re not recruiting him. We’re not dumb. There’s usually a reason.
Our coaches do a great job of giving me enough guys to look at. All I’m telling you, I do not offer a kid a scholarship. First of all, I’m the only one that does it. One of the assistants don’t offer him, okay? I will never offer a kid I haven’t watched tape of.
Sometimes one of the hang-ups is getting tape good enough to be able to evaluate. There’s different levels of tape that you get from different high schools based on where they are.
Q. You say it’s too early to tell if you think this team is better than last year. Are you happy with where this team is at this year?
COACH WEIS: Oh, no. Am I happy? I won’t be happy next year at this time either. I’m not happy. There’s several areas of improvement, both offensively, defensively, special teams, individually. We have a lot of ground to make up. I say a big difference between happy and content. I do believe we’re headed in the right direction in several areas. I do believe we’re getting better in several areas. I think that if we get better in all those areas that I think we are getting better in, I think it bodes well for how the second season goes.
Q. Is there a realistic scenario in your mind where this year would qualify as a success when it’s all over with?
COACH WEIS: I won’t be able to answer that until the season’s over. We went through the first season with some ups and downs, including a blowout loss at home. How fired up can I be about that? The fact that we rallied well down the stretch from the comeback win to the last couple solid games, now you’re sitting here getting ready for a tough UCLA team.
I think at least as you get ready to start the second team, get ready for the hope opener for the second half of the year, you kind of know where you are, what you need to get better at as a team. I think we all know what the problems are and we all have an idea of what the solutions are, see whether or not they can come together there.
Q. Is there ever a point late in the season where you’ll start to pay attention to the polls, standings, where you are at, what may or may not need to happen?
COACH WEIS: I’m cognizant of the polls. Remember, I vote. I’m one of the voters. I have to look at all the games every week because I vote myself. I don’t exactly vote the same as everyone else does. I always vote fairly and I never shaft any team. I never take a team and say I don’t like that coach, I’m voting them down. I don’t ever do that. I vote them where I think they belong.
Q. Do you concern yourself with getting into the top two at the end of the year?
COACH WEIS: I’d love to be in the top two. But we need some help anyway. We got to take care of business ourselves. The way I look at it, if we don’t take care of business ourselves, what difference does it make? We got to worry about us. We can’t be worrying about anyone else. We got to beat UCLA. That’s what we have to do. Then we need some help. There’s a hundred teams that are undefeated. I don’t know how many it is. There’s still several. We need help anyway just to be able to even be in that conversation. So right now we’re just trying to get to 6?1. That’s what we’re trying to do.
Q. Your book comes out this week.
COACH WEIS: Yeah.
Q. Anything you’d like people to know about that?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, one thing. When I had last year probably about 50 legitimate offers to write a book. I said, I’m not writing a book. I said, you know, ask me in about 10 or 15 years when I’ve done something, which I still have not done as a head coach. I’ve not done anything, okay?
This is not about what I’ve done to the resurrection of Notre Dame. What this book for me was about, when the guy came to me and said, Look, we want you to do this. You have such a strong support of people with special needs, you could donate X amount of dollars to Hannah and Friends, and this is how many dollars we’re talking about, would you be willing to do that? When the dollars were that exorbitant where I could see pumping that much money into things like that, it was tough to say no to that.
I felt the most important thing, though, was the last thing I wanted to do was be a self?promotor and sit there and talk about how I’m the Second Coming. I really, really felt uncomfortable. As you read this, there’s only two chapters that really talk about Notre Dame, the first chapter and the last chapter. Really the rest of it’s just about how some dirtbag sitting in the stands ends up being the head coach at Notre Dame. That’s all it’s about.
I would not have done it if Mora and Charlie wouldn’t have sat there after they saw the numbers and said to me, You have to do this, you can’t not do it. When they said that to me, I said, Are you kidding me? You have to do it. So I agreed to do it, with humility, but I agreed to do it.
Q. Have you read it?
COACH WEIS: I wrote it (laughter).
Q. Do you like how it turned out?
COACH WEIS: I think it sounds like me. For any of you who know me, it sounds like me.
Q. You say you spend a lot of time watching the Weather Channel. Played in the rain at Michigan State. In your conversations with Coach Parseghian, did you ever ask him how he stops the rain?
COACH WEIS: No. Is it going to snow on Thursday night? They told me it’s going to be. This weekend is supposed to be nice, Saturday and Sunday. I’m concerned about the weather on Thursday night, if there’s going to be rain changing to snow (laughter).
No, we don’t talk about changing the weather. We talk about a lot of things, but that’s not one of them.
Q. I understand you don’t want to run up the score. Comparing to your offense last year, in the first six games I believe you had (indiscernible) 600. This year you have none. With all the returners back, are you disappointed the offense hasn’t been more productive?
COACH WEIS: Well, I mean, you have to look at who you’re playing against, too. I don’t think that Georgia Tech defense is so bad. I think they’re pretty good, okay? You walk out of that game, you scored 14 points. You didn’t have a zillion yards. I was pretty happy walking out of there with a win.
Maybe that win wasn’t nice enough for you, but it certainly was for me. I was pretty pumped walking out of there with however many yards we had. It could have been 10. Wouldn’t have made a difference to me. Beating that team on the road in the opener that I knew was going to be a good team, contrary to popular opinion, I knew that this was going to be a team that was going to be good this, okay?
Then you go from there, you have a pretty good day begins Penn State, come and play Michigan, who is another team that was loaded on defense that you knew was going to be a tough day at the office. We had a crummy day. I had a crummy day. The players had a crummy day. We had a crummy day. You come back and have some big numbers against Michigan State in the second half after a slow first half. Which half do you want to look at?
I’m worrying about wins. Realistically we lost one game. The one game we lost, we turned the ball over five times. The plan wasn’t so great. They played good. If I had the exact same numbers that we have right here and you would have told me that 5?1 is 6?0, I would say I love those numbers . The fact there is that one, there are those five turnovers, there is that one egg in there, I think out of all the things I could say, that’s probably the thing I’m most disappointed about.
Q. Winning the Heisman for Brady isn’t an overriding factor in your thinking. The fact that you had a record-setting offense last year, it’s below that rate this year, it probably hurts him a little bit. Do you worry?
COACH WEIS: Let’s see where he gets drafted in the NFL draft. There’s been a lot of Heisman Trophy winners that have been terrible NFL football players. Let’s see where he gets drafted. If he gets drafted up there top one or two, makes $50 or $60 million, I don’t think I’ll be too upset.
Q. Do you think the national championship is still a possibility at this point?
COACH WEIS: I’d say it’s a longshot. Is it a possibility? 1977 I was a senior here. Lost to Ole Miss. No shot, right? All of a sudden everything fell into place, including that day. They’re the national champs. After losing to Ole Miss, there was no chance that that team was winning it, right? There was no chance. National champs.
Do we need help? Yeah, we need some help. But the first thing we need to do is we need to beat UCLA.
Q. You talked about answering letters. We found out from the book why you went to (indiscernible).
COACH WEIS: No, no. I didn’t talk to Dan. Dan was the coach. I’ve met Dan Devine when he was here.
Q. Someone told me you put a call into his office and got to him.
COACH WEIS: I put a call into Hesburgh’s office and got to him unfortunately. I wasn’t counting on getting to him. I got called out. It was probably the most humiliating experience of my life (laughter). If you haven’t really spent some time with Father Hesburgh, let me tell you something, he has an aura about him. There’s an aura about him. He can just look at you and crumble you, if he’d like to. He has that special something.
Q. Have any students gotten to you, been able to talk to you about questioning your calls, anything like that?
COACH WEIS: No. I have had some interesting things, though. I’ll end on this one. I have had a couple of interesting – probably the most interesting one I’ve had so far were guys on reunion weekend trying to steal my golf cart at 4:30 in the morning coming back from the bars. I looked at them and I said, What the hell are you doing? We’re trying to steal the golf cart. I said, It’s mine. I actually put them on my golf cart and drove them over to the dorm and piled them into a garbage can, got them back there.
I have had some – when you come in early, you do – there are some interesting things that you see walking in early in the morning.