March 23, 2001
JOHN HEISLER: Good afternoon. Coach Davie is here. He’ll make some opening comments and then take questions.
COACH DAVIE: Probably the best time of the year right now, the spring football press conference, you know, where you start out, everybody is zero and zero, no setbacks yet, till I get some of these questions, no controversies right now. Got the media all excited about basketball, a lot of distractions out there for the media. This is probably the best time of the year right now, so you better enjoy it as a coach.
I think it really is the best time of the year because you can — you really start developing your team. I think what’s changed about this is that, you know, you used to look at spring football as kind of a separate season itself back when you had 20 or 25 practice days, you had 120 scholarships. Now I think it really is just kind of the next step in the process.
To sit here today and have a press conference and act like all of a sudden we’re going to start coaching or start putting emphasis on getting prepared to play again is not really accurate. I mean, we’ve been at it every step of the way since recruiting has ended. So it’s just another step.
You look at only 15 days of spring practice. Obviously three of those days are with just helmets. You have 12 days of contact. They have monitors, levels of contact you can have. You combine that with the injuries that everybody has this time of year, more rehabbing injury. Rehabbing injuries from the fall. You see spring football is just another step. It’s not like all of a sudden today we come together and we’re just starting. We’re just kind of continuing what we’re doing going into another phase.
I think it’s an important time because you are starting to put your team together to a degree. As we start right now, we’re farther along, in my opinion, than we’ve been since I’ve been head coach at Notre Dame. I feel more comfortable right now with the things that are in place than I have at any time.
That doesn’t mean necessarily that we’re going to have the best record or the best team because we all know just having things doesn’t mean that those things are going to all mesh together and gel together. But we do have some things in place that I’m excited about.
I think the keys for us, first of all, is don’t try to do too many things in the spring with the limited number of bodies you have out there, with the limited number of practice days. If you try to do too many things, sometimes you end up not getting anything accomplished.
I don’t think that we have to do a lot. You know, we’re not putting in new schemes. We’re not playing with basically a new quarterback or a new style offense. We don’t have to panic. We should be able to take the next step.
I think the priorities, you know, first of all for us would be, we have a lot of good players coming back. But the reality is, there’s some guys not here that graduated that supplied an awful lot of chemistry and leadership to this football team. Through the course of this off-season, I think we have seen some leaders rise and develop. The next step in spring practice, you see even more guys rise and develop. Sometimes your best guys are those guys that are the best contact football players. Don’t underestimate that.
I think the first thing is just to replace the chemistry and the leadership that was provided by the Anthony Denmans, the Tony Drivers, the Lance Legrees, Brock Williams. You know, each guy brings something a little bit different to the table, a different style of leadership.
Lance Legree, when you look at all the cut-ups that we’re doing now, Lance Legree was really a consistent football player for us last year and gave great effort week-in and week-out. Brock Williams was an energetic, vocal guy that gave a spark to you every day before practice. Anthony Denman was a guy that gave you big hits in the game. Tony Driver is a guy that was relentless, great stamina, you know, came out there every day and just went at it 100% full speed.
How do we replace those things that led to those guys being leaders for this football team? On offense you had a guy, Mike Gandy, that through his improvement and development turned into a leader on this football team. He was a great example. Jabari Holloway is a guy that is academically great, just a great person that was a leader. Dan O’Leary was vocal. Joey Getherall, was there a better leader on this football team by example than Joey?
I think you see my point. The first thing we have to do, it’s not enough to say you have good players coming back, or while we maybe are a little more talented, we’re a little bit more in sync scheme-wise, you know, it’s meshing that together and the chemistry of that. That’s my number one priority, that’s this coaching staff’s number one priority. Our team’s number one priority is to find those guys to provide that leadership in a lot of different ways. They all come in different packages. But who are those guys going to be? That’s the first thing.
I think the second thing is we have new coaches. We good out than the field, we have three new coaches. I have to say I’m really impressed with the new coaches. I mean, that thing has been just a tremendous transition. To be honest, I like it. I like having new coaches. As long as the schemes stay intact, I think it does nothing but help you in some ways. It invigorates you. You get a bunch of new ideas. You get a bunch of new concepts on things. So I think that rejuvenates us a little bit or invigorates us a little bit, new guys, new concepts, new ways of doing things, without creating new schemes.
But we do have new coaches. I think that’s going to be — that’s going to fit like a glove, because it has so far. I’ve been really impressed with the new coaches.
Next for us, I think fundamentally, we really improved as a football team last year. I know that’s coach talk a lot of times to you guys. If you look at punt protection, field goal protection, punt return, kickoff return, all those things, fundamentally we’ve become pretty good. We can build on that.
I think the same thing on defense. I think we have to do more fundamental things on offense because I think we’re in a scheme that all the quarterbacks are the same, and we can do in the spring what we’re going to do in the fall. I think that hurt us to a degree last year. Fundamentals.
Then I think just to continue the plan that our players believe in to win. I think, you know, kind of off-the-field things continue to raise the standards of just expectations, raise the standard of expectations. It really doesn’t matter.
You look back to last year when Arnaz went down. Didn’t matter if the starting guard quarterback got hurt or not, you’re expected to win. It really doesn’t matter what the schedule is next year. The schedule is what the schedule is. We’re expected to win.
I think getting productivity from a lot of different players, continue that. I really believe in that now more than I ever have, that there’s a place for the Matt Sarbs, the Chad DeBotls when he comes back from the lacrosse team, as examples, Adam Tibble, John Crowther, all the way down the line, not just the walk-on guys. I’m talking about all the scholarship guys on this team, there’s a spot in team to make this football team better. It will be productive with each individual and make them better players.
I think the second thing in those records, just unselfish, continue to be that. I thought last year maybe it’s because how we finished the season the year before when we lost the four straight games, but there was an unselfish attitude of just everybody scratching and clawing to win because you just didn’t want to be in that situation again. So continue that unselfish mindset.
I’m excited about this team, that it’s that. I don’t think this is a team, you know, that may be the most flashiest or the most cleverest in the press conferences or the luncheons that are coming or the pep rallies, but I think there’s a bunch of good kids that want to win.
On the field, priority number one in the spring, this may sound backwards, is special teams again. I think our team believes in it. Our coaches, fundamentally, that’s the first thing we’ve talked about in our coaching staff meetings, fundamentally to improve special teams. That’s critical for us.
When you play on the road like we do early in the season, when you play the kind of opponents we play throughout the season, our edge has to be special teams because there’s going to be a bunch of close games. Special teams has to be our edge. We’re going to work the heck out of that. We have all the units in place that are going to be in place in the fall. We’re going to grind it hard.
Offense. You know, first of all, I think we have to become more consistent in what we do. I don’t mean that in any way as a negative on what we did last year. The reality is we practiced in the spring things we didn’t really do in the fall because we went into the season thinking Arnaz battle was the quarterback. We were thinking we were going to have to be a heavy options team. We worked on a lot of triple option last spring that we really never got to use. We don’t have that situation anymore. We have three quarterbacks that are the same. Our style of offense, we can lock into right now, and it going to remain the same – knock on wood.
I feel much better about where we are with just the consistency that we have at the quarterback position as far as personnel because we are the same thing, and that should be the same throughout the season. It allows us to be more consistent technique-wise.
Second thing on offense, we have to run the ball. We cannot get in situations like we got into in the Fiesta Bowl where we couldn’t run the football. We have to run the ball.
Now, with that said, I think it’s obvious to run the ball, we have to throw the ball more efficiently and be more balanced. It’s impossible to throw the ball nine times a game or ten times a game and be efficient running the ball unless you’re just flat better than the opponents you’re playing, if you’re not wishbone, and we’re not going to be.
To run the ball, you understand the fact we have to throw the ball more efficiently to be able to run the ball better. It adds balance to our offense. We should be able to do it. We have three quarterbacks I think that are very talented. I think wide receiver, with Arnaz moving there, but with — with Arnaz at wide receiver, David Givens, Javin Hunter back, we should be able to throw the ball. Continue on the turnovers. I think that’s a tremendous statistic, just like when we said, When you can’t run the ball, you can’t win. The Fiesta Bowl proved that. If you turn the ball over, you don’t win. The Fiesta Bowl proved that.
Our kids believe in the playing, they saw it last year. We won nine games because we could run the ball and we didn’t turn it over.
On defense, I do think we made some improvement. I think we can be even better. I have no doubt about that. We weren’t great last year. I’m not sitting here saying we just jumped out at anybody. But we did make improvement. I think we can be better. I have no doubt about that.
Fiesta Bowl proved once again if you give up big plays, you lose. We gave up big plays and we lost. So the plan is in place to win. Winning nine games, losing the Fiesta Bowl proved that even more. In some ways you can look at it right now as a positive. Our kids understand what it takes to win, how much work it takes into getting to be able to do the things I just talked about.
Personnel on offense. You know, not concerns, but where we have to develop players, where guys have to step up at offensive guard. You know, early on we thought we were going to put Brennan Curtin in there. Boy, we’ve exhausted the research on that. We just feel better going into the season with three tackles, Kurt Vollers, Jordan Black, Brennan Curtin.
At guard, we think Sean Mahan can really be a good player. You look back at the tapes, really played pretty good. A lot farther along physically than he’s been. What we’re going to do with the other guard position, we have a bunch of guys going to battle it out. John Teasdale, Casey Robin is a guy I’m really anxious to see. He’s a guy that loves this team. He loves this program. He’s a fifth-year player. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. He deserves an opportunity to start for this team. Ryan Gillis, Ryan Scarola, and I hope I’m not leaving anyone off at the guard position. So the guard position is open. I look as it right now we have three tackles that we’ll probably rotate, and we’ve got to find starting guards. But we have some guys in there.
Our centers are back, both centers.
Tightend. You know, obviously we lost Danny and Jabari. Kind of excited about it. You know, anxious to see it, with Godsey up to 267 pounds, John Owens is at about 268, then Billy Palmer. We have three tightends there that I’m anxious to see. I think they can be good players for us.
Arnaz at wide receiver. We’re all anxious to watch that.
Then the quarterbacks. You know, Matt LoVecchio is the starter going into the spring. We won nine games with him. I guess really we won eight games with Matt LoVecchio. Actually seven games with Matt LoVecchio, because we were 2-1 when he became the quarterback.
Long-term, I don’t know. You know, none of us know. Jared Clark, Carlyle Holiday are exceptional athletes, but there’s a reason we were able to win seven games with Matt LoVecchio. He goes into the spring as a starter, but we’re anxious to see the other two.
On defense, number one priority, you’ve heard this before, but it’s at corner. Looking back at the cut-ups, I thought Shane Walton really had a solid year, really had a solid year. It hurt us when he went down in the Rutgers game, more than I thought it did at the time. He was really a good football player last year. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. He’s developed.
Vontez Duff is the fastest football player on our team right now. I think he has an awful lot of potential. Clifford Jefferson is back. Jason Beckstrom is back. PJ Jackson is a young guy we haven’t had a chance to see much of. Then Abe Elam, we’re going to see how that goes. Abe Elam had one of the fastest times on our football team, he’s a physical body, he’s actually lost some weight so we’re going to give him a shot at corner. But that’s our number one priority, as it is a lot of places around this country, trying to find those corners.
We need to find a linebacker. I’m excited about that. Courtney Watson, Mike Goolsby, Carlos Pierre-Antoine is down to about 240 pounds, looks great. Jerome Collins had some terrific times. I think we’ve got enough bodies there. I’m anxious to see some of these young players. We’ve got some talent there.
The biggest thing maybe is nose guard. Just losing Lance Legree who was not a flashy player, but, boy, he was a solid player, looking at the tapes. We’re going to go ahead with Andy Wisne, who really played pretty well in the bowl game, and Cedric Hilliard. The three technique would be Darrell Campbell and Greg Pauly who is back off the knee and really is starting to make some strides.
A lot of injuries. You know, I think there’s a lot of guys — not injuries. I think it’s more a lot of rehab. I don’t think it impacts us as much from a fundamental teaching standpoint as it does being able to scrimmage. It’s kind of difficult. We’re going to move ahead and hopefully be able to do it, and we will do it. I don’t know that we’re going to scrimmage a lot. I don’t know that we have to scrimmage a whole lot.
So fundamentally I think we can get a lot of things done. I don’t think it’s going to hold us back, but it’s going to be really difficult to scrimmage.
The people that are out for spring practice, and there’s different degrees, no restrictions at all. Arnaz Battle, Rocky Boiman, Greg Pauly, Andy Wisne, you’ve got some other things. You have Chris Yura with the hamstring, but he’s going to be okay. Milligan has a little thing. He’s going to be okay. Jason Sapp is coming off of knee surgery. He’s going to be about 65%. I don’t look for him to do a whole lot. I want to make sure he’s healthy in August. David Givens has a bit of a hamstring. He’ll be a little slow when we get started. Grant Irons, we’re not going to have any full contact with Grant. He’s going to rehab the shoulder. He’ll be out there, but he won’t scrimmage. John Teasdale will be out there, will not scrimmage. Jason Beckstrom will not scrimmage. Fisher will not scrimmage. All shoulders. Fisher, Beckstrom, Teasdale, Irons. Jerome Sapp is coming off the knee. But they will be out there. We can get some work out of them.
Jerome Sapp will not have contact at all. He has a hernia operation and a shoulder. Israel, we are really going to be careful with Ronnie Israel. He’s still not 100 percent from a problem he had all season. He’s been to Pittsburgh, he’s been to Indianapolis later in the week. He has some groin problems that just aren’t 100%. He’s better, but he’s not 100. We’re going to be careful with him.
You can see it’s a pretty long list. But, you know, it’s all about August. It’s all about August with me. We’re going to get as much as we can out of it.
I’ll be happy to take any questions if you guys have some questions for me.
Q. Are you planning on looking at Arnaz as quarterback a bit in the spring?
COACH DAVIE: Well, you know, we’re going to close those practices. I don’t want to give everything away now (laughter). But I think it would be fair to say, you know, we’ve got — we have and Arnaz has three years invested in being a quarterback. He has three years. He’s dynamic in some ways at quarterback. I think it’s a possibility he can do some things at quarterback for us.
Q. With the tailback situation, who will you be looking at in the spring?
COACH DAVIE: You know, Terrance Howard is someone who has a chance to be our starting tailback. He’s going to get a lot of work. Garron Bible is a freshman tailback from Houston that we’re anxious to look at. We’re going to do some things at times putting the fullbacks back there and let them carry the football. Chris Yura, Mike McNair, Tommy Lapinski. We’re going to let those fullbacks have some opportunities carrying the ball, as well, just to see where they are and see if they can help us back there. We’re a little thin at tailback, but I think we’re going to be okay in the spring.
Q. You talk about the defense made some strides last year. You want to see it get even better. I don’t know if it’s too early, but do you anticipate holding on to the play calling? Will that impact spring practice?
COACH DAVIE: I kind of enjoy doing it. I think we’re pretty comfortable with the mechanics of it. I would imagine I would continue to. I don’t think it’s a critical thing, but I would imagine I would continue to do that. You know, I really enjoy, and I think the special teams part of it, the defensive part of it, I think we’re mechanically far enough along that I’m comfortable doing those things. I would expect us to continue it the same way.
Q. Spring is so limited. You have a lot of players banged up that can only do so much. Would that be too brief a time to spend any time concentrating on the season-opening game? Will you be working in generalities?
COACH DAVIE: I think everything we do — even though Nebraska will have some early games on us, because Nebraska and Purdue are so different offensively, you know, it gives us a lot of time to spend on those first two games. Last year we have the Texas A&M game sitting ahead of Nebraska, Purdue. You had to prepare for A&M. I don’t know that we specifically take time out of spring practice to prepare for Nebraska, Purdue. I think scheme-wise we’ll get in situations that are a lot like Nebraska and Purdue against our offense. Indirectly, yeah. I mean, we’ll prepare for Nebraska some in the spring. Put it this way. Everything we put in, we start with option responsibility first because Nebraska is our first game.
Q. I’ll be the first one to ask. You mentioned LoVecchio goes into the spring as starting quarterback. How wide open is that competition going to be?
COACH DAVIE: I think it depends on how the other quarterbacks perform. The advantage Matt LoVecchio has, let’s be candid about it, he’s played in high-profile games. He’s also had some disappointments in high-profile games. The Fiesta Bowl, without belaboring the Fiesta Bowl, part of becoming a successful team or successful quarterback is to get your butt kicked a little bit. Certainly we had it and he had it in the Fiesta Bowl. That’s got to be worth something. It is in my mind.
Obviously, you think about going to Lincoln, Nebraska, not getting ahead of ourselves, going to College Station, you like the idea that you’ve got a quarterback that’s been in a game.
Now, if those other two quarterbacks play better than Matt, how much better are they? That’s the decision we have to make. There’s going to be a decision made. They’re going to have to be a lot better to overtake the experience factor that he has. Are they capable of doing that? Sure, they are. They’re both very talented players.
It’s the combination of where he’s been, where he’s played, and who we play early, gives him obviously the advantage. The other two guys are going to have to play much better to be the starting quarterback in the first game or the second game of the year. But it’s a long season, and all three of them have long careers here, so that can change. It all depends on performance.
Q. Is that a competition that doesn’t really start until August or can some things be established in the spring?
COACH DAVIE: Oh, I think things can be established in the spring because you do a lot of offense against defense because your numbers are down. A lot of good players against good players. So things are equal. I think you can evaluate.
Yeah, I mean, I think all three of those quarterbacks are competitive guys. That all started in the off-season. You look at their 40 times, the development they’ve made strength-wise. We ran two of them last night just one-on-one in front of the team. We did that at each position where they competed against each other. The competition has been there every step. But obviously when we go out there in pads, start throwing that ball around, yeah, they’re going to be evaluated in the spring and they can compete against each other in the spring.
Q. Much was made about team speed at the Fiesta Bowl. I’m wondering if any priority is placed on that?
COACH DAVIE: I think we have enough team speed. I understand that. You stand there at that Fiesta Bowl, the way that game unraveled. I think that’s fair for people to say that. I was also standing there the week before in the Los Angeles Coliseum against a team that throughout history is known for having an awful lot of speed. We played pretty good in that game to win our ninth game.
Obviously, you never have enough speed. I should say you always want more speed. But we’ve made a lot of strides. Our off-season — I’m not saying we’re an elite team, that we’re as fast as every team in the country. There’s some teams that have exceptional, exceptional speed. Oregon State was one of them.
But to give you an idea, we timed our football team, all things being consistent, all things being consistent, Mickey is the timer, same time of year, same track, same everything, same number of guys being timed. We had three players this time in ’98, in other words, in the winter months, before we start spring in ’98, we had three players that ran under four-five. We timed our football team. We right now have 14 players that run under four-five on this team. From ’98 till right now, that’s not counting the freshman coming in, just like in ’98, from three under to 14 under four-five.
Running routs, catching balls, that doesn’t mean always the fastest guy is the best guy or that you’re necessarily going to be more productive because you have faster guys. But we have improved our team speed dramatically here in the last several years. I do think without a doubt we do have enough team speed. I think it’s a fair question because we got pounded in the Fiesta Bowl. We have enough players, have enough speed to win.
Q. I know the Fiesta Bowl was a long time ago. I just wondered, how does this impact your football team, in particular LoVecchio?
COACH DAVIE: How I look at it is, right now sitting here on March 23rd, we’re the same team we would have been whether we would have beaten Oregon State or whether we lost to Oregon State. We’re still the same team. We’re still the same coaching staff. We still have the same positives, we still have the same negatives.
In some ways, what it does is make our team realize that if we want to get to where we have to get, that we have to improve, and that we have to follow that plan that allowed us to win nine games. I’m talking about special teams. If you look at the Fiesta Bowl, we had no plays in the special teams. We won all year because we didn’t turn the ball over. Turned the ball over in the Fiesta Bowl. We won because we could run the ball. We didn’t run the ball in the Fiesta Bowl. We didn’t give up big plays on defense. We did in the Fiesta Bowl. In some ways I’m looking at it as a positive right now. I have no choice but to look at it as a positive.
Q. What about LoVecchio?
COACH DAVIE: Matt LoVecchio, that’s a tremendous learning experience. A true freshman quarterback that for the first time all year we could not run the ball, we turned the ball over, we gave up big plays on defense. That freshman quarterback was behind and out of his comfort zone. That’s a tremendous experience because we’ll probably be in that situation somewhere again, particularly maybe early in the season. I think it’s a great learning experience.
I don’t think anyone, at least inside this program, is overreacting to what happened out there. Obviously, it hurt us, but I think now we can use that to be a positive. I mean that, I’m very sincere about that. We are still the same team. Matt is still the same quarterback he was then. I think what it does is the sense of urgency is there that we had last year at this time, but there’s also a lot more positives going in because we know we were able to win nine football games.
I like having a good season, but having a tremendous sense of urgency. That’s what we have because of what happened in the Fiesta Bowl.
Q. Muffet McGraw said when the Notre Dame women made an early exit last year, that really hurt her players. She could see them using it personally as motivation, getting to the weight room, working harder. Have you seen that with your players because of that Fiesta Bowl?
COACH DAVIE: Our kids worked unbelievably hard last year coming off the ’99 season. They worked hard. I’ve seen the same kind of work consistently for a couple years now. I really mean that sincerely.
But I do see, let’s call it what it is, as a coach or as a player, none of us want to be in that situation we were in. Used to be you talk about people remembering November. We won all our games in November. The whole thing of remembering November, that’s over. When you play a January 1st game, it’s remember January. Regardless how good that season was, what all of us sit here and remember is January.
The passion is there, the hunger is there. That’s my point of, what if we would have beat Oregon State? We’d probably be sitting here right now, people talking about us being one of the Top 5 teams in the country, expected to win the National Championship. Maybe our players would believe that a little bit.
I like the urgency we have. We are still the same team. We are still the same work in progress we were. How we won games last year, we won them by following that plan and doing it the old-fashioned way, with unselfish players, the kicking game, all those things. We are still a work in progress on that.
To answer your question, I kind of forget what that question is I’ve rambled on so long, but it’s a tremendous motivator. I agree with Muffet, that regardless — Muffet could come back and say the same thing right now, as good as the season has been. I know Muffet well enough, I know those players well enough, if they don’t get it all at the end, it’s going to be the same thing for that team coming back next year, because their expectations are one level higher, just like ours are a level higher than they were a year ago.
Q. Would you call that Fiesta Bowl a benchmark game in your career?
COACH DAVIE: What do you mean by “benchmark”?
Q. In terms of a memory type thing, either going one direction or another.
COACH DAVIE: Well, I hope not, I hope not. You know, I hope you look — I look at the bigger picture of all of it. This is all kind of one big journey to me of where we all want to get. I look at it as one pretty good bump in the road. But what I look at is to even have an opportunity to have that bump in the road, there had to have been a bunch of good things happen.
Let’s face it, all of us sitting here last year at this time in this same press conference, we weren’t talking about, “If you lose a January 1st bowl game, are you going to call that a benchmark in your career?” You’re talking about, “If you can get to a January 1st bowl game, holy cow, that’s pretty darn good.”
Keeping things in perspective in the big picture is what I’m good at doing. All I see it being is something that can make us stronger in the future because we have things in place enough that we can get to a January 1st bowl game last year. Just like Muffet had things in place enough that she could get to the tournament last year. We hope you can take that next step. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to take the next step. And I think we can do it.
I said when I started this, I’m more comfortable right now than at any time since I’ve been head coach and where we are. That doesn’t mean we’re necessarily going to have a better record or what’s going to happen. There’s a lot of dynamics that go into bringing all those things you feel good about together.
I think it’s really ridiculous if people overreact to what happened in the Fiesta Bowl. We can go back and watch the tape. There’s a lot of things that happen in a college football game. There’s a lot of times the score isn’t indicative and a lot of times one game isn’t indicative. I think this is a case of that.
With that said, I think everybody sees we have a ways to go before we start — we still have a ways to go.
COACH DAVIE: Actually, there’s still a little more process that they go through before it is official. John, is that the right way to say that? In fact, there’s some things happening today. In fact, by Tuesday it may be official. We don’t foresee any problems. Officially saying all of them have been accredited, I guess, sanctioned, we can’t say that right now. There’s still a few more that have to be. We may know by the end of the day. In fact, I think there is a meeting today. I don’t foresee any problems.
Q. Besides cornerback, you were talking about Duff being a key in the return game. Do you worry about putting too much on his plate as a young guy?
COACH DAVIE: I would if it wasn’t just kickoff return or punt return. I think that’s something he’s just licking his chops to do. I think he can go out there and do it. He’s got to win the job. There’s other guys. He has to beat out Julius Jones. There’s some other guys have that done that. He’s got to win the job. But I’m anxious to see him. I just like him with his hands on the ball. He’s a pretty exciting guy.
Q. Is there a chance to sign one more high school player or (inaudible) scholarships?
COACH DAVIE: There is a chance we could sign one more high school player before this whole process is over. If we don’t, obviously our walk-ons have made unbelievable contributions. We have one scholarship left.
Q. Even with all the fifth-year guys?
COACH DAVIE: Yeah.
Q. You mentioned last year –?
COACH DAVIE: If every fifth-year player who has the opportunity comes back and is sanctioned to come back, I will still have a scholarship for a high school player, I’ll still have one. We’re either going to take a high school player or we’ll have that scholarship open. The fifth-year guys won’t lock us out.
Q. You mentioned last year that you thought this year you’d have the most talent since you’ve been here. Having had a chance to look at that, do you still think (inaudible)?
COACH DAVIE: For next year?
COACH DAVIE: I think it will be our most talented team. I think what you do is — you know, once again, anytime I understand as a head coach you start talking about talent, you’re going to lose (laughter). I think it’s fair when someone asks the question, as I’ve tried to do since the day I became head coach, to answer where I think the overall talent level is. I’m not trying to spin anything, I’m just trying to be honest. I realize as a head coach, once you start talking about talent, it’s a no-win situation.
With that said, I just think talking to NFL people that you do every year, it’s definitely on the upswing here, it’s on the upswing. Looking at next year, if everything goes according to plan, you’re going to have a very strong senior class coming out, particularly with these fifth-year players entering that senior class. You look at Grant Irons and Anthony Weaver, those are two very talented players, Rocky Boiman, Tyreo Harrison, Ronnie is really had a great year. You have a lot of guys who will be fifth years that have another year of football. You look at David Givens, Javin Hunter, Tony Fisher, Terrance Howard, Kurt Vollers. I don’t want to leave anybody out, but that’s going to be our strongest class of seniors with this coming season.
The reality is, last year at this time we had one draft pick, that was a seventh-round pick. That was Jarious Jackson in the seventh round. I think you’ll see that improve this year, with this year’s team. I think next year — what happened in ’98, we were 9-3. I think we had about five or six drafted. Came back in ’99, we had one drafted. We went ’97, we had one. We were 7-6. ’98 we were 9-3. We had five or six. Come back in ’99, we had one. We have more than one this year. We went 9-3. We’ll have more than one next year. We’re kind of off that roller coaster of one draft pick at the University of Notre Dame.
Q. When you talk about the quarterback, last year Matt LoVecchio, when it was his turn to take over, he seemed to be the most prepared of the freshman. What have Carlyle and Jared done to prepare themselves since that time?
COACH DAVIE: I think a couple things. One, they’ve had the opportunity to sit back and watch for a whole year without any pressure being put on them of getting ready for a game. They’ve had a chance to watch Matt LoVecchio. Then in the off-season what they’ve done really has been remarkable. When you look at their height, their weight, their strength, their speed, those two quarterbacks are going to be in a position to compete for the position. But I think the biggest thing is they’re a year older. I think they had the opportunity to sit back and watch. Anytime you can sit back and watch, I think that’s an advantage to you sometimes when you don’t get thrown into the fire too quick.
COACH DAVIE: That thing is always open. I think Nick did a good job. I’d be the first one to tell Nick, as I have, I don’t think he did a great job. Late in the season, you know, we had some things happen in field goals. That job’s open. Kickoff, we need a kickoff man. If it’s Nick Setta, if it’s David Miller, we need a kickoff man. There’s some competition there.
Then at punter, same thing. Joey Hildbold had a great year. Nick Setta made a lot of improvement in that. There’s competition there because we have some good players.
Q. You talked about the need to improve team chemistry. Who have you seen step up so far in practice? Who would you like to see step up?
COACH DAVIE: I think one thing, so I don’t get misquoted on this, I’m not jumping back at you, but there’s no reason to improve team chemistry. I think the chemistry on this football team, the chemistry on the coaching staff, has been the best I’ve ever been around in coaching. Sometimes, you know, we’re in an era right now of rumors, we’re in an era where people just flat make things up.
The chemistry on this football team and coaching staff is incredible. Let me start by saying that when you ask about chemistry. That’s why we won nine games here.
But I think when you talk about players supplying things, just because of their personality, you know, just chemistry and leadership, Brock Williams and those players supplied it just by their nature in a positive way. You had coaches. You had a guy like Urban Meyer that would show up, a very competitive guy, he supplied chemistry just by being there every day because of his personality.
We have some new coaches, new players, that have to take that role. It’s not a negative that it needs improved. It’s just to mesh the whole thing together, that has to come out of these young guys, whether it’s new coaches or new players. I look at a David Givens, David Givens is a tremendous leader. Is he going to be the same style as Joey Getherall? Probably not, because they’re a different makeup. I think Mike McNair has come on with hard work. I’m really pleased with him. Just so many different ways.
You know what? To sit here and try to speculate who it’s going to be or how it’s going to happen, I don’t think that’s possible. That’s the dynamics of those teams based on the situations you get into. That’s the great thing about sports, you don’t know what path that whole thing is going to go down. The leaders define themselves. That’s the things I look for to see. Based on we’re out there practicing, they’re tired, beat up, who is going to be that guy? It not necessarily the guy we think it is right now.
The chemistry has been an absolute positive. What we need to do is make sure that that continues to be a positive. That’s what you’re looking for in this next phase. We’re putting this team together now. The off-season over, all the strength, improvement, all that. Time now to start putting all those pieces we feel good about together, and the dynamics of that.
When you look at Muffet’s team, I mean, they’re really good, they’re really good, talented. I mean, there’s some dynamics there on that team. When you watch Ruth Riley and how the players react to her. When you see Niele Ivey and how they react to her, the dynamics of that team to me is what makes that team that I think is going to win it all, the National Championship.
We’ve got some talent. We’ve developed some talent. We’ve recruited some talent. It’s getting the dynamics of that together. That’s where your leaders come from. That’s why our girls basketball team is fun to watch because there’s a bunch of dynamics there. Muffet has done an incredible job. Carol Owens has done an incredible job with that team. That’s what team is right there, that stuff.
Q. What is your plan for captains and when will you announce?
COACH DAVIE: You know, probably earlier than last year I’ll name them, probably sometimes towards the end of spring, maybe even have them for the spring game this year. I think it’s a little bit different than last year. Last year we wanted it to go into the summer to see who the leaders really were through the summer. I think maybe this year we’re a little farther along.
Q. Arnaz Battle, could he be the type of receiver, if it’s third and ten in a tough situation, could he be the go-to guy to make the catch, or is there a guy you think can step up and be that type of guy?
COACH DAVIE: I don’t know if he can. That’s what we’ll have to find out. He may be the kind of receiver right now that’s more get down the field, carry the ball for us a little bit in some special situations. You know, it takes a little bit of time to develop into that guy. I don’t know if it’s realistic to say right out of the box he’s going to be that player.
I know that Javin Hunter and David Givens can be those guys. When I look at unselfish, not to belabor this, I look at David and Javin. They’re guys that have worked their tails off, are capable of catching 30, 35, 45 balls. They get in a situation where all of a sudden we go with a young quarterback where we only throw the ball nine times, they didn’t really get a chance to do what I think they’re capable of doing. Because of some things that have happened, they’ve not had a chance.
I think they’re going to have an opportunity now, I think Javin Hunter and David Givens. I think the guy you’re going to like it Ronnie Rodamer, a big, tall receiver that reminds you a bit of Malcolm Johnson, Bobby Brown, catches the ball really well. Lorenzo Crawford, Omar Jenkins. I think we’ve got some guys there. I don’t know.
JOHN HEISLER: Thank you.
COACH DAVIE: Thank you.