Aug. 31, 1999
SOUTH BEND, Ind. –
An interview with:
COACH BOB DAVIE
COACH DAVIE: I think, first of all, no one needs me to hype this game. I think there is always enough hype that certainly we all realize what a big game this is for a lot of reasons.
I think first of all, it is a tremendous rivalry. I think, second of all, there is a lot of respect between the two programs – just the geography of the two schools, how closely we are located. Seems like we do a lot of recruiting against each other in a lot of far away places.
Certainly both traditions, rich programs, I think there is a lot of respect there. I know we respect Michigan. Also I think both programs, when I talk about players and coaches, have so much invested. We talk all the time about our players staying here all summer, how hard our players work. I know Michigan is another program where those players work. So there is a lot of invested. Because of all those reasons, it is a big game, not to mention the fact that, let’s face it, it is a Bowl game atmosphere as it seems to be every week, but you are going up to a Michigan in front of one hundred some thousand people, nationally televised game. I think ESPN is doing their game day up there. So without a doubt it is a Bowl game early in the year.
It is a tremendous challenge for our team. I think that goes without saying. It is our first road game, which when you have three offensive linemen, that haven’t played before, that is always a concern from a communications standpoint.
Then as far as on defense, I think sometimes you may not talk about it or you may not realize as much, communication on defense is just as critical. We have three new linebackers in the game, Anthony Denman, it is the first time he has ever been in front of the huddle.
I remember a couple of years ago when we were up there, we had some communication problems that everyone probably remembers on third and fourth down and some short yardage situations on offense, but the things that really that I remember just as much and were just as critical, we had a hard time getting lined up on defense up there. At that time we had some young linebackers.
So taking a football team on the road the first time with some young players, communication is always a concern. And then being able to stay together, being able to stay together, you know, we all know it is going to be hard and playing in front of an away crowd and with that kind of volume up there, I think it is important that we stay together. It will be our first time on the road. I think the goal for us is pretty simple.
With all that said, with all the talk about this game, playing in Michigan stadium, all those things, it is pretty simple, and the goal is for us to improve. Every week you say you worry more about your opponent or you worry more about yourself than you do your opponent. I think that is particularly true with our football team right now. We have to show improvement. I think there is several areas where we must improve. First of all, as a team, you have heard me say this many times, but just playing faster. When you look at the tape of Saturday’s game, particularly on offense, I thought we were a little bit tentative early in the game, tippy-toed around a little bit. I think we have to play faster. That is not easy. That is not easy.
We are going to try to keep things pretty simple, let the players go out there and let them players and give the players a chance to win without confusing them much.
I think mechanics is another area we have definitely have to improve on. We had six or seven problems on offense in that game Saturday where we just either didn’t get the right formation called, we didn’t run the right play, the backs went the wrong way – plays where you just have no chance to succeed. You can’t give away that many plays. So mechanics of the game continue to improve on.
Obviously the turnovers – we through three interceptions, we turned the ball over on the option, and we had a field goal blocked. If you add those five things up, you realize you have no chance. You have no chance against a team like Michigan if you repeat that performance as far as turnovers.
And as always in this series, if you just go back and look at kind of a capsule analysis of each game over the past years in this series, you know the kicking game is obviously huge. So we have to make improvements in all those areas.
I think we all realize what a challenge it is. I believe Michigan and Tennessee are the two winningest programs percentagewise in college football the last two years. They are an experienced team. I think they have eight starters back on defense and seven starters back on offense. They are talented.
The thing that jumps out at you when you look at their team on offense, those four offensive linemen have been playing for a long time. In fact, they won a National Championship with those offensive linemen two years ago. They are all big tall athletic players.
I think the second thing is they have big, tall athletic receivers. You look at David Terrell and Marcus Knight, DiAllo Johnson certainly they are tall – Walker. The other thing, their running back last year as a freshman I thought had at outstanding year, big physical back, their fullback is 250 pounds. Their quarterbacks, both of them, you know, are tall, both of them are athletic. Both of them threw the ball extremely well against us last year. So they are a talented offensive team and they don’t make a whole lot of mistakes on offense.
You look at how many sacks they gave up last year. I think it was something like 22 sacks for the season. So they do a good job and they have got good players.
On defense, they are always good. They ended up last year 14th or 15th in the country last year on total defense, really strong and solid in the front 7. The nose guard and defensive tackle Williams have been playing for a long time. And so has Hall their outside backer. Two inside linebackers are really athletic, and their secondary Tommy Hendricks who we tried to recruit really a physical football player.
So no one needs me to analyze Michigan a whole lot. I don’t pretend to know everything about them, but they are a talented football team. It is going to be a challenge.
For us, injury wise, I think Tony Weaver is going to be okay. He practiced yesterday. He will even do more today. But really it went pretty well with Tony Weaver.
Deke Cooper, I think is 50/50. I am concerned about Deke Cooper. Did not practice yesterday.
Andrew Wisne is 50/50.
And Antwon Jones is 50/50. So we do have some injuries coming out of the Kansas game.
Hopefully those 50/50s will start to improve their percentages towards the end of the week. But right now I am concerned. Lance Legree looks like will be back for Purdue – probably Michigan State, maybe Purdue.
I think we all see what this is. This is a big test for our football team, a big game early in the year on the road. We all see the great tradition of this rivalry. And we are a young team. For us to make this a great game, we are going to have to show considerable improvement from last week. That really simply is our goal is to just improve and I like the focus and I like the concentration of our football team yesterday. I think they see the same thing that I and the coaching staff sees, that there is a lot of things always swirling around when you go play a big game like this. But right now, it is not a big game unless we show a lot of improvement between now and Saturday.
I am sure some of you have some questions.
JOHN HEISLER: You mentioned on Sunday that a considerable percentage of their rushing yardage was built on big plays. Are you confident at this point that there is enough consistency in the rushing game that you could put together the kind of drive that this game usually requires?
COACH DAVIE: No, I am really not confident that we can. Part of it is, though, big plays.
I would like to think that we can get some big plays. Now are YOU going to take the ball and have a 50-yard touchdown run or a 70-yard touchdown run on Michigan? Just look at their past statistics, that doesn’t happy very many times. I do think we have the potential to get some big plays just with our personnel.
But as far as lining up and consistently running the football up on them, that is a concern for me. Even with the offensive line we had last year, with the experience we had, and the talent we had on that offensive line, it is hard to do. But for us to be successful we have to run the ball. But to say right now that I am confident we can, that would be an inaccurate statement. That would be wishful thinking.
So all week we are going to work on trying to do some things, but they have seen a lot of football over the last several years at Michigan with that defense. And they are really strong up front, really experienced up front. And I have got a concern about that to be able to consistently run the ball.
Q. The media after the Kansas game always wants to imply that you saved something from Michigan, you have held back. Coaches always deny that you actually did that. If Michigan does have an advantage by having something to scout, how do you turn that in your favor?
COACH DAVIE: I think we may have talked about this before – how we approach this training camp was we practiced against our defense a lot early, which our defense is very similar to Michigan’s defense from a scheme standpoint. There are certain things that you do against certain style defenses that you may not do against another style defense.
Kansas was really a different style defense and some of the fronts they played and — particularly last year looking at them. So there will be some different things. But nothing that we consciously held or because let’s face it, we went into the Kansas game with one idea and that was to beat Kansas, not to hold things back from Michigan, but just in the fact that they are different style defenses, I would think there would be a little bit of changeup on some of the things you do just because some things are more advantageous to you against a certain style defense.
Q. By Kansas being more unorthodox, does that force you to be more vanilla, whereas, if Michigan is more basic, does that allow you to do a little bit more unorthodox on your part?
COACH DAVIE: I am not going to say too much, but it all depends how you define “Vanilla.” I think sometimes —
Q. I am not saying that you were —
COACH DAVIE: I thought we were kind of wide open in that game, to be honest. I don’t want to disappoint anyone.
No, I think that within the framework of what we are, which is what you saw, I mean, there will be subtle changes but you are not all of a sudden going to come out and see some new concept of offense. That wouldn’t be fair to our players. We have got one game under our belt hopefully getting young players more comfortable and more consistent.
I don’t think it would be a good decision on our part to come out and do something that is totally foreign to us. Within that framework of what you saw, there may be some subtle differences that fans may not even notice, but it would be more because of a different style of defense, more than us trying to hold certain things.
We are not a good enough football team or an experienced enough football team – I wish we were – but, no, there won’t be any drastic surprises or anything that we have been holding up our sleeve.
Q. Pat said Saturday for all the talk about Notre Dame running option and Kevin Rogers being the new dynamic offensive coordinator, that Notre Dame is still basically a power football team. Would that be accurate?
COACH DAVIE: We are pretty close to what we were last year on offense. That is why Kevin was hired. That is why we kept the terminology the same. Because the number one thing is to be fair to your players. They are the ones that play. They are the ones that have to be comfortable so you do what you do within the framework of your offense. We have got a lot invested. We have got two years into building this thing and trying to put a package together that we are all comfortable with.
So there won’t be any big sudden change style offense going Saturday.
Q. I know you don’t want to concern yourself with the Michigan quarterback controversy too much but you do have to kind of prepare for two quarterbacks. Are there enough subtle differences between Henson and Brady that you need to look at those two differently if one or the other is in the game and maybe your evaluation of each from what you have seen?
COACH DAVIE: Well, I am not real comfortable evaluating someone else’s quarterbacks. But just looking at the two, both of them I think are pretty similar, based on what we saw last year in the game- both of them are tall, both of them have strong arms. You just felt in the game that maybe Henson maybe scrambled a little bit more, maybe could run the football a little bit better. That would be my only assessment of the two, that maybe Henson seemed a little more mobile. But as far as change in your plans or your approach, I don’t think really — they are in pretty good position. They have got two good quarterbacks, I think, that are very similar. We have talked about around here through our recruiting and through our continuity having our quarterbacks be pretty much the same style so that you don’t have to change your offense if the second quarterback comes in. So I think they are in a pretty advantageous position.
Really we approach the game really regardless of whichever quarterback, I think it will be the same style defense.
Q. Heading into the Kansas game one of your concerns was the play of your cornerbacks. Based on that game and based on them going up against a talented, little veteran receiving core in Michigan, your thoughts about your corners heading into Saturday’s game?
COACH DAVIE: I think I was pleased with the way our corners played Saturday. Clifford had the one mistake, which really wasn’t a mistake. It was a technique breakdown when he stumbled in 3D coverage and they hit us on the fade. Deveron had the one fade in man-to-man coverage, but it was a 16-yard touchdown pass and a great throw and pass.
Overall I think both corners played pretty well. When we went to some substitution defense Lee Lafayette came in, played okay. But the concern is just what you said – I mean, no disrespect for Kansas at all – but Michigan’s receivers are big-time receivers, you know, tall, rangy. They have got a quarterback that can throw the football down the either, either quarterback. So I am still concerned.
The first true test, the true test I think comes this week and then it will come on the next several weeks as we go through the season.
I am pleased on what we did. I think we have got a good start. But the real test is coming Saturday.
Q. Lloyd made a lot about the 12th game you guys scheduled, even yesterday in his conference he was kind of making some noise about it again. Do you think he is making too big of a deal about you guys playing one game before —
COACH DAVIE: I don’t really — it is hard for me to comment on it because first of all, I haven’t heard from Lloyd, you know, I asked Mike Wadsworth if anyone in our Atlanta Department had heard anything >from Michigan on the so-called verbal agreement. No one had.
So you hate to comment on something that is kind of a third-party story. But it is interesting because last year there was a lot of discussion about us playing Indiana in the Hall of Fame game, the proposed Hall of Fame game. At that time that conversation went on for probably five or six months. Everyone seemed to be excited about it. There was not one comment made about a verbal agreement. Then this year with all the topic of the Eddie Robinson Classic that went on for months before that game was confirmed, there was not one conversation about a verbal agreement. Still to today, no one has heard from anyone here at Notre Dame from Michigan on a verbal agreement.
I remember back — I think it was 1994 — my first year here, I think we played North Western, my first game at Notre Dame in Soldier Field. Then we played the next week at home against Michigan. I think that was Michigan’s first game of the year. So it seems a little — it is a little different to me because I don’t think Michigan and Notre Dame every year is the first game of the year. I know in 2002 it won’t be our first game.
So it seems a little strange to me, but I don’t really want to comment too much on something that I haven’t heard directly from someone at Michigan.
Q. You’ve won all three of your season openers now. For the last two years you have gone on the road and lost, you know, a Michigan State game last year, got beat pretty badly, Purdue game. What have you learned from those past two years that you are using now this week to prepare? What happened those two years do you think that —
COACH DAVIE: Well, you are right. I think the first year in 1997, we really weren’t very good. We scrambled by Georgia Tech, probably fortunate to win that game, then we didn’t play very well at all down in Purdue. Then last year we were a little bit better as a team. Obviously had a big emotional win over Michigan, then played awful against Michigan State.
I wish I could tell you exactly what caused that. Part of it had to do with Purdue and part of it had to do with Michigan State playing pretty well. All I can tell you is that our emphasis and our focus >from the time the Kansas game was over in the locker room, was to prepare for Michigan. There wasn’t any celebration. There wasn’t a whole lot of back-slapping other than the fact you never take winning a game for granted. From the moment that game was over the emphasis was on preparing for this game this week.
I wish I had the exact answer what we have tried to do is really focus on the things that we can improve on from that game.
Q. Are you disappointed that you didn’t hear anything directly from someone at Michigan?
COACH DAVIE: No. Don’t misinterpret what I said. I don’t — I really haven’t put a whole lot of thought into it.
Q. If Deke Cooper doesn’t get his 50/50 up to acceptable level, is Gerome Sapp going to start for you? Can you talk about his development this fall?
COACH DAVIE: It would probably be Justin Smith. Certainly Gerome Sapp would play. I think Gerome Sapp would play.
Gerome Sapp is a real physical football player. He is on the first kickoff team. You will see him on other special teams. I have been pleased with his development. He has got good intelligence. He retains things well. The biggest positive, he will hit you.
He hasn’t had a whole lot of experience in passing situations, so that is kind of the next step for him. But I think he has — I think it is pretty obvious he has a bright future here.
Q. The other question has to do with your running game, you mentioned Saturday you are not confident yet. I wondered if Julius Jones would move more into the mix because of that someone that maybe doesn’t need the block, can do some things around not real —
COACH DAVIE: Well, I think — I think that is one of the things particularly here at Notre Dame, everyone wants to talk about the new player or the young player or the next player. Let’s not sell Tony Fisher and Tony Driver short and I think Terrance Howard as well.
Sure, Julius has caught everyone’s attention with some things he has done, but we have limited things for Julius as well. He would be the first one to tell you he is not comfortable with the total package.
So we have got some other guys on this football team if you just hand the ball too them let them run it up in there, they can run it up in there pretty good. Before we get all just excited and Julius Jones is the answer for us, I think it will be a little bit unfair to some of those other tailbacks.
Does he have a bright future? No question. But it is a little bit too early to say he is going to help us go to Michigan and win the Michigan game for us.
I want to see Tony Fisher and Tony Driver get their opportunity to hit it up in there because they’ve certainly paid their dues.
Q. You talked on the history of the kicking game in the Michigan/Notre Dame, yet last week the kicking game, particularly on fold goals struggled a little bit. Is that something you have addressed and how have you done that this week?
COACH DAVIE: Yeah, I think first of all, really, I am not being oversensitive to it, really the only area we struggled on was field goals.
I thought the protection in field goals was pretty good. We missed an extra point. We missed a field goal and kicked a field goal about this high off the ground on the one that was blocked.
The problem we had were the snaps were a little bit low. In other phases of the kicking game, really I thought our kickoff coverage as well as where Jim Sanson kicked the ball on kickoffs was really good.
Punt return, we averaged 13 yards a punt return which is good.
On the one kickoff return I think everyone saw we had a chance to maybe break that. We blocked a field goal. So I can understand how when you look at the kicking game, normally fans associate it with the field goal kicker and the punter, but there are so many more things that I think we have made progress in.
Now the challenge is this week, you know, we are covering kicks maybe against a little better opponent. We are covering punts. We are trying to get the punt off against a good punt block team. So the stakes go up in the kicking game as well.
I think we have made some progress. It will be a good test for our kicking game. But the one thing, you know, you have got to be able to get points on the board when you have those field goal and extra point possibilities.
Q. Following up on the kicking, going over the last three games, the last two of last year and this one, I think Jim Sanson has missed five attempts. Are you contemplating at all opening up the place kicking derby at all? Have you given that any consideration?
COACH DAVIE: You know, I really haven’t. I have got a lot of confidence in Jim. I think our football team — in fact, I know our football team still has a lot of confidence in Jim Sanson. I really haven’t.
I do think we have some talented guys behind Jim. I think David Miller has done well. I think Nick Setta has done well. So at this point, I mean, it is still Jim Sanson’s job.
Q. Can you just talk about your impressions of Grant Irons first game at end and how he has made the transition from a linebacker?
COACH DAVIE: John, I think I thought Grant played the run pretty well. I think Grant is a pretty solid technique player. I think he plays hard.
The next step for Grant is to become more of a factor. I think we saw the same thing with Renaldo Wynn a little bit, not that I am comparing Grant with Renaldo win, but he went through a transition where he was a good, solid technique player, played hard and it took him a little bit of time until he became an impact player.
The next level for Grant is to be able to rush the passer, maybe a little more suddenness, a little bit more attacking still. But I think he is doing well. He is doing everything we ask. He has made that transition smoothly. Next step is to start making some more plays because he has a world of ability.
Q. You talked Sunday, alluded to the fact that Jarious’ three interceptions might have had to do with him being concerned with other people on the offense. Does that concern you when you go into a hostile place like this where if things start to get a little pressure cooker he might start to panic because of the other kids? Have you or will you talk to him about that?
COACH DAVIE: Well, one of the things is you always try to find an exact reason for everything – why did this happen, so you can find a pretty simple solution to it. It probably is a little bit more than Jarious or was a little bit more than just Jarious worrying about other players.
But that was a little bit of a concern going into the Kansas game. I did see him press a little bit sometimes in practice. So I talked to him before the game about making sure you take care of your performance. That is the best leader there is, is to go out and play a great football game.
Any time you go on the road you are vulnerable to a lot of things happening. It is a concern of mine, but I think with Jarious, as we all know, Jarious is a guy that learns from his mistakes pretty quickly. Because he is honest enough and with himself that he finds out what the problem was. I think Jarious will be fine. And I think also with those young linemen gaining experience, just with him becoming more comfortable with the plays and how we call the plays and maybe going off the wristband, I think he can settle down and probably focus completely on his ability once we — on his performance once we get rolling here a little bit.
Q. Is a gentlemen’s agreement something that happens at this level of college football or do you get it in writing?
COACH DAVIE: I think I am just going to stay away from all of that because I don’t have anything to do with the scheduling anyhow. The whole gentlemen’s agreement, all those things, I don’t even know who the gentlemen’s agreement was between. So yeah, there is plenty of gentlemen’s agreement on whether or not you trade tape out and things. So in reference or in response to a gentlemen’s agreement, there is gentlemen’s agreements on things. But pertaining to this specific situation, there was none that I was ever aware of or heard of.
Q. With five defensive linemen on the injured list are you concerned about your depth and rotation going into —
COACH DAVIE: I was earn concerned about that depth last week going into the game against Kansas.
Fortunately we do have some depth. But our depth was tested Saturday against Kansas and our depth will be tested this week. But Jason Ching is a little bit nicked up as well.
Fortunately if we can get Tony Weaver back, if you go into the game with Grant, Lamont, Tony Weaver and Brad Williams, I think Andy Wisne’s percentage will be increase, as far as about 50/50 by the time we get to game back so, yeah, it is a concern particularly against a talented offensive line and we know it is going to be hot, but we are fortunate that we have a few more numbers there than we have had in past years.
Q. With Brad Williams being the only one that is fully healthy in defensive tackle, are you counting on him to make bigger plays this week?
COACH DAVIE: Well, one thing we don’t play anybody unless they are fully healthy.
Tony Weaver probably could have played last week, so, they don’t play unless they are fully healthy. So whoever you see out there will be fully healthy. So that —
Q. It just didn’t seem that Lamont’s name got called a lot. Did he still make the impact that you hoped and the fans just not noticed or did he not have a very good game?
COACH DAVIE: Well, I think he did what we asked him to do. He didn’t have a real productive game. I think the point I had made earlier about Grant, you would like to see Grant and Lamont be productive. Those are good football players and Lamont had been productive all through training camp. Didn’t have a whole lot of opportunities, but the reality is he was not real productive in the Kansas game.
Q. Your fullbacks didn’t carry the ball on Saturday’s game. Do you anticipate that changing this week?
COACH DAVIE: We may have talked ourselves out of the fullback just a little bit in the Kansas game. As you guys know, when you have to defend all three phases of that option, it makes it a little bit more difficult. I do think we have some ability at fullback. We go into this game hopefully getting the fullback some carries.
But so much depends on how the game goes, what the score of the game, what fronts they are playing. That is something we have talked about this week getting the fullbacks’ hands on the ball a little bit more.
Q. You talked about playing the Kansas game to give these guys a chance, get their first game at home, get experience, is the offensive line ready to play in front of 105,000 screaming fans? Are they ready for this game?
COACH DAVIE: We will know a lot more Saturday evening about 6:30 or 7 o’clock.
I’d like to think they will be ready by Saturday. We need to make improvements as I mentioned. We took a good first step, I think, Saturday against Kansas.
But so much in college football, any level of football you find out once the game starts. I’d like to think we have made some steps, made some improvement. But I can’t sit here and answer you whether we are going to be okay or not. They are still young guys playing against some real experienced guys away from home.
Q. With all the questions you had about the team, their experience, any one key, something you guys have to do on Saturday to compete with Michigan?
COACH DAVIE: I think first of all, eliminate those self-inflicted mistakes. Michigan is going to make plays. Michigan is going to force us to have bad plays at times. But one thing we can’t do is shoot ourselves in the foot and have self-inflicted mistake. We cannot turn the ball over and can’t have silly mistakes. That is our number one goal.
I think just how I started this press conference, a lot of things going on, a lot of hype, but what goes on in that practice field between now and Saturday, and the improvement we can hopefully make >from Saturday’s game, that is not a given, that old saying you make your most improvement from the first game to the second game-that is not necessarily always true. This week in practice is a critical week for us because we are just starting. We are just starting out. We are just building a foundation for this season.
Q. Is the policy of using Battle when the game is still close, does that extend to each week during the season?
COACH DAVIE: I think that it probably will. As you know, you don’t want to pin yourself down and create another huge issue, but I think so. I think he deserves to play. I think he gives us a certain dimension because he really is quick. We have got to get him where he can throw the football consistently. Which I think he can do. So I think you will see Arnaz Battle, yeah.
Q. Because Arnaz is so quick and gives you another dimension, do you ever tinker with the idea of using him in the backfield some or doing something like that?
COACH DAVIE: I think he is just too valuable in our situation.
I think as many reps Arnaz Battle can get at quarterback without putting more on his plate, because not only is he a key, key player this year for us, but let’s be honest, in the future, we have got a bunch of these same names coming back again next year, that quarterback situation is going to be critical to our success. So what you don’t want to do is overload Arnaz Battle. I think if we get him reps in the game it will be at quarterback. But that thought has crossed our minds a little bit. But I just don’t think — I just don’t think that is worth it right now at this point in his development.
Q. I was wondering even though you talked about keeping offense simplified, if that is perhaps advantageous to have Kevin going against Michigan again because his Syracuse offense really pretty much dismantled Michigan in Michigan’s second game?
COACH DAVIE: I am not sure what the question is.
Q. Would it help to have Kevin again going against the same kind of Michigan team that he was able to pick apart last year?
COACH DAVIE: It does. I think what would really help if No. 5 at quarterback came along as part of that package. I think, Kevin Johnson, that wide receiver probably would help and that big fullback. I think three of those guys went in the first round. Kevin would be the first to tell you that.
But when you look at that game last year, Syracuse jumped on them early. There were a lot of things happened as far as the momentum of that game. I am telling you what, to Michigan’s credit they bounced back after that game, beat Michigan State the next week and went on and had a great season.
So I don’t think people should read too much into some huge advantage we have which because that is just not accurate. And the bottom line you do what your football team can do with your personnel.
Every situation is a little bit different. So what happened last year is last year. This is a whole different ballgame now. We go up there with a young offense and the only way we have a chance to win is to not shoot ourselves in the foot. If we think we are going to go up there and do what Syracuse did when you have got a guy like Donovan, some of those kids that were in that offense four, five years, I don’t think you are going to do as many things as they did in that game.
Q. Could you just kind of outline some of the pros and cons of being in the situation you are in, having had a game against facing a team that you haven’t had chance to see?
COACH DAVIE: I think the thing that is always frightening is the unknown. Every year in college football, without preseason games and without a whole lot of scrimmages, you know, it is not like it was ten years ago where you can just go out and scrimmage three or four times in preseason. You go into the first game, there’s some unknowns.
Now with Michigan, there is not quite as many unknowns because a lot of those players have played a lot of football there. But for us, just the opportunity to see on tape against a different opponent than yourselves, what you had, it adds to your confidence just a little bit. You know where to attack. You know where your problems are and what areas you need to improve on.
So from that standpoint you feel a little bit more comfortable just because you have seen it. I think the second thing is just with the new staff, with four new coaches, having been in the game just from the communication standpoint, even though the terminology is the same last year, this year as it was last year, just you had four new coaches in the press box. So in our situation, I think it is just, you know, the mechanics of the game and seeing where we are with some new faces, we had never seen playing the game before. So you feel a little more confident not that you feel great about the performance but at least you know where to start as far as correcting some problems.
So I think it is just less fear of the unknown to some degree.
Q. Not that you’d tell us which one, but defensive staff have a preference with quarterback they’d like to see from Michigan on Saturday?
COACH DAVIE: Honestly, no, because both of them I think at least in our opinion, are pretty much the same. If it was a huge difference, I think probably that decision would have leaked out a little bit earlier on who the starting quarterback was. So if they are that close, and they are the same basic style of quarterback, I don’t think there is a whole lot of time we need to spend on worrying which or hoping which is the quarterback. It is just too close to call.
Q. That said, what would a coach – not asking to speak on behalf of Lloyd – but what would a coach gain from keeping that information secret or not public up until game time?
COACH DAVIE: Well, I don’t know. But — maybe he doesn’t know. Maybe it is that close. I wouldn’t think that it would be a huge advantage to not disclose which one it was if the two are that close and that similar in their styles. Just as you mentioned, I certainly don’t know why unless it is just that close.
Q. Compare the last two years, teams that you have brought in to play Michigan, how much further ahead are you removing the hype and experience and — how much further are you in terms of pure talent and skill than those other two teams?
COACH DAVIE: It is hard to say because last year we had some talented players in Mike Rosenthal and like Petitgout and Jerry Wisne, certainly Kory Minor, Bobbie Howard, you know, I think overall as a team, I think we are a little more explosive now than we have been on both sides of the ball. Maybe a little more team speed across the board. I think maybe having two years in the program, the off-season program and the conditioning program, I think we are a little more explosive as a team. But when you lose those big linemen like we lost, how does that factor into it because those guys all three of them they are going to play in the NFL. So it is a hard question to ask. But I do think we are a little bit more explosive as a team.
JOHN HEISLER: Thank you very much.