March 26, 2008
COACH WEIS: Well, welcome back. I have a number of issues to address from the year before I open it up to some questions. I’ll try to anticipate a few of the questions on the front end realizing that there will be more afterwards. But let’s get going.
First of all let’s start with some personnel issues. We only have two players that are going to be held out for the spring. They will both be running around out there, John Ryan, he had both a right shoulder surgery and a sports hernia surgery, so he had a double whammy here after the season. So he’s running around pretty well but he’s going to be held from the spring.
Kris Patterson is the walk on wide receiver, he had a right knee surgery back in October and he won’t be able to go this spring. They are the only two players that are out for the spring. We have a couple guys that are a little bit hobbled walking in or not in great shape walking in for different reasons, for example, Robby Parris, he had a sports hernia. He’s practicing, but he’s probably not in the greatest shape because he did not run that much in the off season. Same is true with Mike Turkovich, he had an appendectomy not too long ago. He’s not full speed but he’s able to start practice today and he’ll be able to go. If you see a couple of these guys hobbled around, they are all on the healthy side, they are just getting back.
We also have a couple of players that due to academic conflicts are going to miss some practice time. So the two guys, Duval Kamara and Paddy Mullen, you’ll see them miss part of practice or part of practices in a week, so rather than you try to figure out what’s wrong with them, nothing is wrong with them. It’s just that academically some of the classes conflict with football and I okayed for them to go ahead and do that in both cases.
Our two mid year guys Trevor Robinson and Sean Cwynar, this has probably been the best situation I’ve had as far as how the guys are doing on and off the field, and they look great in the weight room and they have done a great job in the classroom and it’s been a very, very good transition, smooth transition for both of these guys so far. The only tweak on the coaching staff is my office of graduate assistant Shane Waldron, he moved on to the New England Patriots and as quality control guy there. And the guy who was underneath him, the intern, Kevin Loney, he’ll move up to the offensive graduate assistant.
And I hired an ex Notre Dame football player Kinnon Tatum, he was here from ’93 to ’96 and graduated in ’97, played linebacker here, went on to play for the (Carolina) Panthers for a couple years and was in training camp with (Tampa Bay) in 2000. The last few years he’s been coaching high school football in Charlotte, so he’ll be taking the position that Kevin (Loney) had, and Kevin took the position that Shane had.
Objectives going into the spring. The obvious objective that everyone could see is we need to improve fundamentally and technically across the board. There’s one position that’s exempt from that which is, you know, once again, not to be redundant but just stating the obvious. Other issues that are of equal importance to us. We felt the team didn’t have much confidence as we went through last year for a number of reasons, but we’re working on confidence is one of the goals of this spring, confidence/swagger.
On defense we have some schematic things that we are interjecting as we are transitioning Coach Tenuta into the staff and some of his defensive philosophies that are meshing with mine and Jappy. Obviously with Michael (Haywood) and the offensive staff, me being more hands off on the offense, although I obviously still stay involved, but being more hands off the operation of the offense will generally be a change. On special teams, probably the question that everyone was asked the most was about Frank Beamer and Virginia Tech. Due to scheduling conflicts he wasn’t able to have us there and we are going on April 1. So next Tuesday is the day that we will be spending time, both myself and (special teams coordinator) Brian (Polian) will be with Coach Beamer and his staff on Tuesday.
As far as far as objective, some goals of the spring that are very, very obvious to the staff and by the end of spring ball we want to have established some clear cut depth charts and we want to establish leadership, because I think in some cases who the leaders are going to be in question and want to see how this matriculates as we go into the spring. And we’ll wait until the very end in the spring game to pick the captains. But we will wait on the leadership committee until the end of training camp so that the 21 freshmen that are not on board yet would get an opportunity to help pick the leaders at their position once they get in here.
Off season improvement. There’s some obvious improvement physically and there’s some subtle ones. Let’s start with the subtle ones. David Bruton, for example, we just finished testing as we finished the off season program and his measurables are off the chart. I mean, his weight is a pound or two different, maybe a pound or two lighter but his body fat is like three and a half and he’s vertical jumping 41 and a half. He’s in phenomenal shape. He’s not alone. There’s a couple of those guys. Some of the guys you wouldn’t notice all the time. You look out on the field and watch the shape and conditioning of Sergio Brown in the secondary; watch the condition of Eric Olsen on the offensive line, you’ll see a couple of guys that are in phenomenal shape as we go into this off season. Now I can’t say that for everyone but citing a couple examples, it would be very clear and obvious to everyone.
A couple of people in the off season, it was very important that we got some weight gain and strength without succumbing to having additional body fat. For example, Jimmy (Clausen), last year, started off at 194 and he’s walking in at 212 for the first day of training camp. That is obviously a significant gain. His body fat is status quo but has a lot more lean muscle. That’s pretty much the same I’ll give you Dan Wenger last year started at 282 and he’s at 300 now. Sam Young started at 309, dropped to 287 by the end of the year and he’s at 330 right now.
So we have had some people that have gotten themselves without sacrificing increased body fat, just adding a lot of lean muscle and putting themselves in a lot better position to compete.
The other thing with Sam, for over a year now we have dealt with a right wrist problem from his freshman year, and that’s the main reason why we moved him last year from the right side to the left side it he couldn’t block. He couldn’t punch anyone with his right hand coming off the edge on the right side. So therefore, we had to move him over to the left side. Well, now, that wrist is recovered which will answer one of your questions, which is why you see Sam Young over right tackles because he’s got his right wrist back and that’s where we project him to be.
Also, you’ll notice Morrice Richardson and John Ryan for that matter, even though he’s not practicing, you’ll notice both these guys are now on their way to 260 and rising. They both are in the high 250s and we have moved them in the off season from outside linebacker positions to defensive end positions and one of their biggest tasks in the off season to continue getting bigger, slowly, methodically where we are not trying to gain too much weight too fast; to try to get them closer to the 260 to 270 range by the time we kick off in September, which is what our goal with both these players as they have been transitioned to having their hand up to having their hand down on a full time basis.
Baseball season. Baseball season, Evan Sharpley, Big East Player of the Week last week. I called him yesterday about 5:00 in the morning, he was a little dumbfounded when I congratulated him on being named the Big East Player of the Week. He said to Ron he was a little caught off guard when he looked at his cell phone and saw the time of the phone call. But Evan and Golden and Eric are all contributing on the baseball team. Right now they will be here next Monday and Wednesday for practice. They will be there the following Monday and Wednesday for practice. And then it’s going to come a time around April 10 prior to the Villanova trip, and then the following week prior to the West Virginia trip where we’ll see how things it are going with baseball.
But what I’m not going to do is I’m not going to hurt the baseball team, and take them off the baseball field if it makes a difference with us winning and losing. And Coach Schrage and I have been in steady contact with this. We know that there are days where they are definitely going to be in football, and there’s days they are definitely going to be in baseball with baseball taking the upper hand until we get that April 10 time frame. And when those two road trips are back to back, we are basically talking about missing practice on a Friday and Saturday but that very easily could happen that way.
Honorary coaches for the spring game. Did something a little bit different this year. I have a representative from the last six decades as honorary coaches, so we have one from the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s. The ’50s representative by the way this turned out, as it ended up, turned out to be a running back dominated list of honorary coaches.
Jim Morse is going to represent the ’50s. Starting running back from ’54 to ’56, team captain in 56, and about every other building you walk around this campus is named Morse. It’s no coincidence. But I could not pick a better guy to represent the ’50s for all he’s done for this university both on the field and off the field.
From the ’60s he’s going to be Terry Hanratty, obviously starting quarterback from ’66 to ’68 including the ’66 National Championship team. When he ended his career at Notre Dame at the time, he was the all time leading passer, we all know about his NFL career.
From the ’70s, I’m going to get myself in a lot of trouble on this one because there’s going to be battle scars on this one, Terry Eurick is going to represent the ’70s. The biggest detriment to Terry, one of my suite mates from freshman year in college, so I’m opening myself to some serious scrutiny. But he was here from ’74 to ’77 and my senior year, he’s the offensive captain of the ’77 National Championship team. Everyone knows about the Montanas and all those guys but he was the offensive captain of that team.
In the ’80s, Allen Pinkett, starting running back from ’83 to ’85 and when he ended his career he was the all time leading rusher, currently everyone now knows his as one of the voices of Notre Dame football on radio.
In the ’90s I was happy to be able to get Bryant Young to return to us after retiring from his illustrious career with the San Francisco 49ers. Chicago guy, started defensive line from ’91 to ’93 and captain in ’93; and he was out of the country, all over the place until we could run him down, but he’s coming and we are pretty excited about it.
Justin Tuck would have liked to come but he’s in the process of getting married, and he said that he would like to give us a rain check. Obviously he’s had a heck of a run this year with the Giants, but he said he couldn’t make it.
But that’s okay, because Ryan Grant is going to represent this decade, obviously running back here from 2001 to 2004, he’s a perfect example of somebody who can rise from relative obscurity and through hard work and effort all of a sudden his time came and this year his time came and he became a household name when last year, very few people even knew who the guy was. They will be the six honorary coaches for the spring game.
Q. You answered every question that I had. COACH WEIS: Thanks.
Q. Not quite. Wonder how you will strike the balance between obviously you went back to a more physical preparation after the season started last year, you don’t have your graduating senior class or incoming freshman class; how do you strike the balance between being as physical as you need to be but obviously having depth issues? COACH WEIS: I think our biggest issue is to make sure nothing happens to Jimmy (Clausen), you know, with as little time – Evan (Sharpley) not being a full time player, we have a couple new quarterbacks, not that they are household names but there are a couple guys that are out there while we are holding down the fort, when Evan is not here waiting for reinforcements coming in the summertime.
But I think that’s probably the thing that could ruin our practice the easiest, if something were to happen to him. But I think that we are going to have to manage that but at the same time put in plenty of stuff that we are going full speed with everyone but him.
I think we will have to take running backs to the ground being we’re going to have to block and tackle. I think we’ll have to do those things, because without doing those things, at least managed, I think we will leave ourselves short.
Q. On the defensive line where you are short on numbers will they have to take extra reps? COACH WEIS: The way we are looking at it is we have a whole bunch of defensive linemen coming in the summertime. So this is the opportunity for them to make a statement and to put themselves in a position to say whether or not we can count on them or not.
What’s going to happen, all of a sudden it gets to be summertime and we get those Sean is already here — but you get another bunch of players, an infusion of guys coming in here and we want to see how quickly we can integrate them into our system and get a good look at them. So I think that right now is a time when the guys want as many reps as they could possibly get to try to stake a claim for these depth charts that we like to leave the spring with.
Q. Do you know exactly how your day will be on a practice day in terms of where you will be now that your responsibilities are a little bit different? Will you play that by ear? COACH WEIS: I won’t play it by ear. I actually, you know, individuals I’ll play by ear, but what I do is I script myself in different places on different days. One thing I’m doing differently, for example, I’m going to offensive meetings one day, defensive meeting the next day. And then I’m going to position meetings, which the coaches are fired up as you can imagine. One day I might be sitting in the defensive line meeting, one day I might be in the offensive line meeting.
I’ll always be in the special team meeting with Brian (Polian) but I’m going to make sure that I’m around every position, not just the quarterbacks. But I’ll take a script which I always have with me and I’ll say, go here this period, go here this period, go here this period, so that I always have on every given day, it might not be the same sequence from day to day, but I’ll always have a plan before the day where I’m going.
Q. Do you anticipate spending more time than you did with the quarterbacks or less or about the same? COACH WEIS: I think I’ll spend the same amount of time with the quarterback. Ron (Powlus) and I and actually Jimmy, Ron and I have spent a whole bunch of time here. What’s really been good, the operation, the offensive staff has opinion a little bit din. So what happens is when I sit there in clinic, Jimmy and Ron; Ron is then able to bring that back to the offensive staff and a, okay, this is how coach explained it to Jimmy so that the offensive staff is on the same page with the quarterback and myself.
Q. Now that he’s had two surgeries, there’s speculation about John Ryan playing hurt throughout the season. Can you talk about what his situation was? COACH WEIS: The sports hernia was new. The right shoulder wasn’t new. The right shoulder I can’t tell you when it happened, but I know he operated on it like the Wednesday after the season was over. So we’re getting that taken care of and then the sports hernia came we had that done about a month later because you can’t have everything done it all at one time. I don’t know exactly how soon it started to increase as far as the pain he had in his shoulder, but we knew it was something we had to get done.
Q. Position changes, again there’s been speculation on the outside of who is moving where. COACH WEIS: Give me a more
Q. Aaron Nagel, for example. COACH WEIS: He was a Jack linebacker last year. Did you get a depth chart?
Q. I haven’t seen it. COACH WEIS: Did we hand those out already? Thanks a lot.
Q. If Evan is not around, there are both pluses and minuses to Jimmy being the guy getting most of the reps, and what would they be? COACH WEIS: Well, first of all, I think that I only can turn it into pluses. I can’t turn it into minuses. I’m counting on Michael (Haywood) and Ron (Powlus) to manage making sure he doesn’t get overworked, okay.
So there comes a stage in practice or time in practice where you can throw too much, and I think that that’s a fault that a lot of young, inexperienced quarterbacks have, they will throw forever and all of a sudden wear their arm out. That’s the only downside to that.
Other than that, every rep that he can take is a meaningful rep. He can’t take enough as far as I’m concerned. He can take every one if he can physically handle it, because every rep he makes will be that much more progress we can make from him.
Q. What specific things would you like to see in terms of improvement this spring? COACH WEIS: Well, there’s a laundry list. We have been working on the mental aspect more than anything else here in the off season. There’s a whole number of things mentally.
Now, mentally, I could break down into several sub sets, like one of the things that Ron (Powlus) and I are working on right now are ball possession, being careless with the football. That’s like one of the mental aspects. Sometimes people look at that as a physical aspect, but sometimes you throw an interception because you’re careless or you turn the ball over because you’re careless or a ball gets tipped because you’re careless.
So that’s one of the things we’re working on, one minor detail that’s not minor in the grand scheme of things is taking care of the football, because ball possession is one of the easiest ways that a quarterback can make a difference between winning and losing.
Q. Other than the weight gain, is there any way to quantify his physical improvement? COACH WEIS: Well, the biggest problem we had last spring is we had to manage him just to get through the spring. We had two choices that we could make, realizing that we had to have a bone spur removed, okay. We could have had it done before the spring and lost him for the spring and then he would not have been able to compete in the spring; or wait until the spring is over and have it done and have him mentally have gained grounds. We were in a true Catch 22 at the time. I’m not sure which is the best tact to take but that is the route we chose.
Now the kid is fully healthy for the first time and he has been able to take an off season. One of the concerns from 194 to 212 is what kind of weight is that. Last year in the off season, he wasn’t really lifting weights for his upper body. He was just doing stuff for his lower body, so now his whole body when you look at him, you will see, it’s an obvious difference when you look at him physically.
Q. Any changes to the status of Will Yeatman or Pat Kuntz? COACH WEIS: I asked a question whether or not I could address those guys and I’m really in the same mode from where I was before. I can’t make any further statement from where we were the last time we talked.
Q. David Bruton is a guy who the last couple of years has been going like this; what do you think the keys are to that rapid of improvement for a guy like that? COACH WEIS: Well, I don’t want to talk in a coach’s analysis like the switch turned on, which that’s the phrase that we always use. But it did. You know, that’s really what happened.
And it happened last year where you know, he came in, was a skinny kid when he first got here, so you can write off the first year as physically developing from 185 pounds to a 200 plus pound person but the difference is now, everything he does you know how I talked about one of the team goals is confidence and swagger? Well, he already plays with it. But he didn’t always play like that.
You know, he was timid when he was younger, when he was first getting his feet wet on the field here, too. So what we had to do is we have to get more guys to transition like David did, you know, where his confidence is sky high and he expects to be a good football player. And usually if you’re a good athlete and you expect good things to happen, usually the follow up is they usually end up coming that way.
Q. One of the things I think you liked about Trevor (Laws) is he pulled people with him and made them better, work habit wise; is David (Bruton) a guy that can do that? COACH WEIS: I think he’s already shown to be doing that. Right now, you know, if you went into the season, went into the training camp, or should I say spring ball, with any favorites to be the type of guy that would pull the position with him, like he would be the favorite in the clubhouse at the defensive back position.
You still have to wait and see how it plays out over 15 practices, but so far, so good, as far as what he’s shown as a leader for the defensive secondary.
Q. You mentioned wanting to get Sam back to right tackle. What makes him a better fit at right tackle? COACH WEIS: Because when you’re that tall, when you’re that tall and you can add some bulk, which he’s added some girth now. There’s a big difference between 287 and 330. Usually those guys are more maulers than the finesse guys you get at left tackle who are protecting your blind side over there. And I think that that body wise, stereotypically is where he seems to fit the best.
Q. Can you talk about (Kallen) Wade moving to outside linebacker? COACH WEIS: Both Kallen and Kerry have very similar weights. They are both I would say somewhere in the low 240s, I don’t remember exactly what the weight is, because those weights or as we took them the other day, so those are not like guestimates. Those are what the weights were. He’s put himself in a position and he’s started to do it at the end of last year on the scout team, started to put himself in a position to contend at that position, even though he wasn’t one of the big boys.
And now, the way the depth chart sets up, with it basically being two deep or two and a half deep in some cases, he’s going to get plenty of opportunity to compete with Kerry and see if he can get himself on the field.
Q. Chris Stewart played some guard and tackle for you last year; is he settling in at guard, or are you looking at him in both places? COACH WEIS: With Turkovich missing about the last three or four weeks with what we’ve been doing, we have been rolling six for five as you know, but the only guy who has not rolled out of that first group would be Wenger because he’s running the first center.
So with Turkovich not being there for the last three or four weeks, Chris has been playing right guard and Eric has been playing left guard, as we put out five guys. We can’t do anything with footballs but they can still have five guys out there.
So when we go out there the first time, that’s the way we’ll do it the first time, because one guy has been out there and one guy hasn’t been out there.
Q. You mentioned that you were really pleased with how the early enrollment guys are doing. Are they players who could push their way into the depth chart with a strong spring? COACH WEIS: I think when you don’t have volume in numbers, gives them a great opportunity to do that. I mean, they are here and there will be a time for example, look at Sean (Cwynar). Sean is listed as the third left end, but John Ryan is in (italics) as the second left end; you already know he’s not practicing. So in reality what you’re saying is Sean is running the second team left end.
Just like Trevor (Robinson), even though he’s listed as the third left guard, you have, correct me if I’m wrong, you have Turkovich and Eric (Olsen) co listed as the starter at left guard. So all the second team reps at left guard are going to be run by Trevor. So here you have a guy just coming in here and he’s running second team reps and early at this time of year they are getting equal reps to the first team.
Q. Now that Paul Duncan is back, is that a competition between him and Matt (Romine) for left tackle starter? Will he help push him in the spring? COACH WEIS: He’d better push him. Right now, Paul is definitely first. Matt, you know, Matt went back and forth and he was banged up some last year, missed a lot of time, missed a lot of time but his weight has gone from I didn’t mention him, but his weight’s gone from like 272 to 290.
So he’s put himself you’ll look at his upper body when you see Matt out there. But I’m counting on Matt Romine and I’m counting on Taylor Dever and I’m counting on Andrew (Nuss), those three freshmen from last year, I am counting on all three of those guys in this spring to not act like freshmen.
Q. James Aldridge as your starter at running back again, is this his final opportunity to kind of be the player you want him to be after what Robert (Hughes) did late in the season? COACH WEIS: Well, Robert had spurts. Armando (Allen) had spurts. They all had spurts. But I don’t think any of them established themselves over the course of the year as being the guy.
Now, what’s happened because of those three guys, while you’re on it, those three guys have really worked hard in the off season, because they are pushing each other. Because they all want to be the guy, and that’s really turned into a very healthy situation for us at that position.
Q. And is Luke (Schmidt) going to work at fullback and tight end? COACH WEIS: Actually, he’s going to work at tight end and fullback. That’s why we have the fullback in parenthesis because what we are going to do is work him more closer to the line of scrimmage than the majority of the time, and only use him to supplement over there at fullback in the backfield. It’s a perfect time for him Luke’s greatest strength has been with the ball in his hands. He’s got really soft hands. He’s got a big body and he plays very good close to the line of scrimmage. He’s not the same body type as like an Asaph (Schwapp). So rather than competing against a guy to do the same things, we’re trying to put Luke in a position where he could get on the field.
Last year there was a time where he was a strong contender to be in the field all the time but then he got banged up just when he was in a position to get himself on the field, he’s in the tub. So this will be a golden opportunity for him, especially with that position being thin in numbers until the reinforcements arrive.
Q. In December, you talked about taking a look at the whole program and what you’ll do differently, and you mentioned a few minutes ago about being more physical. What other changes do you see? How is the spring going to be different than maybe the previous two springs? COACH WEIS: Well, I think that the players are definitely going to feel a very, very great sense of urgency similar to the first year I got here. There’s going to be a great sense of urgency and the coaches are on board, the players are on board.
This isn’t something that’s going to be unique and is going to catch them off guard because one of the things by me being around these guys a heck of a lot more in this off season time, it’s given me an opportunity to let them know and say, look, fellas, I can talk to you and be buddy buddy all you want, but when we get on the field, it just doesn’t work that way. The job that coaches have are to push players to get them to play better.
Because they understand that you have two sides, not one side, you’re just not going to be on them all the time, I think that they already know what the expectations are as far as what the tempo is going to have to be in practice because we all know that there isn’t one area of the team that you could say that you were satisfied with from last year, not one. And they all the players are on board on that, too. So this isn’t going to catch anyone off guard.
Q. No major changes as far as how things are run or the way do you things or that sort of thing? COACH WEIS: I mean, I’m going to have major changes. I’m going through a little culture shock. I’m cutting the umbilical cord, so for me, major changes, but I don’t think there’s going to be too many major changes for anybody else.
Q. How about the way Mike (Haywood) runs the offense? COACH WEIS: I think the operation will be very similar, just be people wearing different hats.
Q. And do you see things being differently in training camp in August, just any major changes you see in the whole way you do things? COACH WEIS: Well, actually I’m hoping the way we are doing it now is the way it grows and gets better and better. We are trying to set the table for this to be the way it will be through the year, just keep improving and having the structure being tweaked and the way we have it right now. That’s what the goal is right now.
There’s some little idiosyncracies that we are still going to have to work out and some little things that we have to iron out. But I think that we feel pretty comfortable with the direction we are heading right now.
Q. And is the biggest change, that you expect to have more physical practices? COACH WEIS: We’ve always had physical practices. We just didn’t spend as much time taking them to the ground, and I think we will have to spend more time taking them for the ground and that isn’t just for the defense, it’s for offense, too.
The biggest disadvantage the offense has when you do this, and it’s a big disadvantage, is when the offense can’t cut the defense, it’s a big advantage to the defendants. Think about blitz pick up. When a running back can never cut the linebacker who is blitzing, they have to stay up all the time, then you don’t have a any change of pace.
You have no advantage because when those linebackers all of a sudden think you’re going to blow their knee out, they slow down and we never let our players cut our players. So it’s a big advantage to the defense when you end up doing that. That’s one of the reasons why you don’t do it.
Q. The reason you don’t do it is fear of injury? COACH WEIS: Yeah, you’re not going to cut one of your own players. It the opportunity to lose a guy to a knee, you know, goes up exponentially.
Q. Two of the things you’ve done are spend time with the players at 6:00 AM, and also I understand you’ve had some players over to your house for dinner. Can you tell me about the purpose of that and how it’s worked out so hard? COACH WEIS: I think what happened is when you have a bunch of young guys playing, they only see you one way. They only see you with that it’s almost like you have an aura or a fear about you, and if you’re going to be playing a bunch of kids that are now a year removed, they are a year in the system but they still don’t know you at all, the more you are around them, they can realize that you could sit there and pat them on the back or make fun of them on one hand. But as long as they know that when you get to the field, there’s no joyful time, other than when the horn blows at the end of practice.
I think it gets them to buy in a little bit better to realize that the reason why you’re doing it is to make them better, not just to just drill them all the time. I don’t think you can back off of players on the practice field. I do not believe in that mentality.
But at least when they understand that there’s two sides to you and not just one side to you, it’s a lot smoother and probably something that I should have done a year ago and probably something I should have had the foresight to anticipate, but I didn’t, and that’s what we are doing.
Q. Starting with today’s practice, you talked about altering some things (inaudible.) COACH WEIS: The first two days you can’t wear pads. I call it practice coaching. Until you can put pads on and truly start banging them around, and the NCAA also I used to try to wear protective shells; these guys, you can’t go full speed, but they are going full speed anyway without anything to protect themselves but they simply cannot wear those either.
I think it’s going to be important the first couple of days, I think we are in very good condition as far as running goes, because coming off of Ruben’s program, it was a pretty grueling off season.
Similar to Tim’s question from before about where I’ll be, because I don’t have to be with the offense all the time, it gives me a chance where I can go stand and watch one position for a half hour if I want to, okay, and I might not say anything. I might just take notes, and I might literally take notes or mentally take notes. But it still allows me an opportunity to get a little different insight on each position. It frees me up a lot more, to tell you the truth.
Q. You mentioned swagger was one of the goals for this year’s spring camp. How do you instill swagger? COACH WEIS: Here is what happens with swagger. You make plays. Make plays leads to confidence. Confidence leads to swagger.
If you don’t make any plays, how can you build any confidence? And if you don’t have any confidence, how can you make any swagger? So the first thing you have to do is make plays. It starts with making plays. Swagger is something that you evolve to. Confidence is something that comes after you start making plays.
A guy like David Bruton who used to just be a special teams gunner and one of the better ones, at that, now is one of our best players on our team, okay, and it happened because he started making plays. The minute you start making plays, you start getting some confident, now it’s taken some time but now he’s got swagger, but we’ve got to get more guys to get to Step B and Step C.
Q. So when you are talking about coaching confidence and guys making plays COACH WEIS: We had this conversation on Tuesday morning. Yesterday morning, we had this exact conversation about putting people in position to make plays, and then getting on their butt to make sure they do make them when they had an opportunity.
What good does it do if you have a hot linebacker sitting there in the hold that just whooped the offensive lineman and everybody is cheering that he whooped the offensive lineman and then in the back makes a miss? You still have to finish the play, okay, but the first thing’s first. Put them in position to make plays. That’s why the first week we don’t too anything too exotic the first three days, and each week we’ll pick up more and more.
Q. Is one of the guys with the best opportunity Mike, just the way the tight end situation is going, just talk about your expectations for him? COACH WEIS: Here is another guy came in 225, 228 and he’s 241. All of a sudden you look at the guy, he’s 241 pounds and now he’s put himself in a position where he always could run down the field. He always could run and catch and he played pretty productive for us on special teams as well. The question is, at 225, can you play at the point of attack? And the answer to that is usually not, but it’s a little different when you’re in your 240s. Luke is in his 250s, and now all of a sudden you’re in a position where girth wise, you can put yourself in a position, hey, Michael (Ragone) and Luke (Schmidt) have great opportunity to separate themselves from the pack before the reinforcements arrive.
Q. In the past you’ve done the captains different ways; how do you see that shaping up? COACH WEIS: I’m going to wait and see how it goes. That’s one of the things, we don’t know where all of the leadership is going to come from, and I think that we have to wait and see how that goes. The reason why we have had more than one captain on offense or defense is because the vote was too close to call. That’s the only reason why, like in the first year here, (Brandon) Hoyte and (Brady) Quinn were captains by a million miles. That’s why there was an offensive and defensive captain and last year wasn’t the case. It was too close to call. So if it’s too close to call, I pick more than one for the position, so just have to wait and see how it goes.
Q. Can a guy be too young to be a captain? COACH WEIS: You know, we’ve done some analysis from the psychological standpoint on that very thing, and we’re not going to be opposed to young guys being leaders, but they are going to have to win the players over. It isn’t going to have to be winning us over.
Q. Because of what you lost on the defensive line, does that make (Morrice) Richardson and (Justin) Brown need to show you stuff more? COACH WEIS: Part of that answer, the obvious answer to that question would be yes, let’s start with that one. Let me answer your question first and say yes.
Now, what happens is, because these guys are going to get so many reps in the springtime, we are going to kind of know what our strengths and weaknesses are by the time we are done. We won’t have to wait till August to figure out, hey, we have a problem or, hey, we are starting to resolve this problem. For example, Ian, production wise for a volume of plays that he played was one of the best players on our entire defense last year for the number of played for his production, was one of the best.
Now, let’s see if we can’t do that for the whole season as a full time player because this is his opportunity to become a full time player.
Q. Just with your kicking situation, where do you stand with that, and will you chart every kick again? COACH WEIS: Well, we always chart every kick. That won’t be any different. But what we need to do is at the end of spring identify whether or not we are satisfied with who is doing what, because we have to have a Plan B in case we are not. Right now I am going to assume that we are going to be satisfied.
Q. Is kicking something you’ll talk to Frank Beamer about? COACH WEIS: The first thing I want to find out is how do you block so many kicks, because they make game changing plays, I can’t tell you how many even over the years, they make game changing plays to win football games. And they have been involved in a close football game over the years, almost always they end up winning because of a special teams play. So he must be a heck of a lot smarter than me, so I’m going to go tap into that brain of his and find out if I can get a couple answers.
Q. When you switched to the 3 4 package, are we more likely to see more guys on the line this year? COACH WEIS: I think what we’ve done is we started to get ourselves into the type of players that you want at the outside position where they are all in the 240s, because now when you get those guys, you really have guys Brian Smith is our starting Sam linebacker but he can put his hand on the ground and be one of our best pass rushers, as well.
When you start getting those mirror guys, guys in the 240s playing outside linebackers, now you really have both ends of the position to go ahead and do that.
Q. Talking about swagger and confidence, did you reach out to any coaches who went through bad years? COACH WEIS: I’ve been through bad years. I’ve been through some bad ones, and so has our staff. We’ve had plenty of guys we didn’t have to go to them for bad years. Plenty of us have had our own resources to go ahead and tap on for that one.
But what we have done is we have gone from a whole number of different angles that we haven’t worked on before that we think off the field is helping.
Q. How much is baseball affecting Golden Tate and how much does baseball detract from his progression as a receiver? COACH WEIS: All of it has to do with baseball. Right now the kid, he’s either third or fourth outfielder for the baseball team.
So, you know, come April 10, he’s going to practice four practices by that time so he’s got a fair amount of basketball practice and come April 10, if he’s in the not Top 3 outfielders, he won’t be on that trip to Villanova and he’ll be over here and see how it goes.
Q. Is he the kind of guy that has the chance to really move up the depth chart more than others because of his position in baseball this year? COACH WEIS: I think the first thing he’s trying it do is move up in the batting order. I’m really supportive of the other teams here at Notre Dame. I think that does it help him not being here every day? No. It doesn’t help him not being here every day but it’s a unique situation. How many guys are capable of playing division one sports at two different sports? There are not that many athletes out here that are capable of doing that so I’m just going to roll with the punches on this one.
Q. Toryan is listed as the starter at Mike linebacker, what kind of off season did he have? COACH WEIS: This is Toryan’s time right now. Right now based on where we are in the off season, he’s No. 1. He’s had opportunities to get on the field before and we have not got a lot of production out of him, so this is his time. This is his time to step up.
You know, if he’s got some guys behind him that we’re encouraged with and we’ve got reinforcements coming here in the summertime, so this is his time to make a name for himself.
Q. You talked about objectives and goals; how much extra emphasis will you put on your offensive line play and trying to get that foundation going? COACH WEIS: When you’re talking about offense or defense, I think the two biggest areas as a group that you have to be concerned with are your offensive line and defensive secondary.
I feel pretty good about our defensive secondary, and I think that probably one of the greatest areas, I wouldn’t say concern, I would say more interest, is the progression that we are going to have to make on our offensive line. No one is satisfied with how we played last year at the offensive line position, but I’m going to be really interested to see how quickly we progress.
One of the big deals is not only do we have so many guys that seem to be very motivated to prove the naysayers wrong, but there’s also a lot more competition than we have ever had there before. We have never been able to line up too deep and with guys that are actually contenders for the starters, and I think that that’s any time you have competition at a position, okay, that bodes well, because usually the first guy plays a heck of a lot better when he realizes there’s a second guy that’s right there to take their spot.
Q. Going in, are you going to plan more time as a group with that unit, more individual time or are you going to try to do more physical type drills? How do you go about emphasizing that position? COACH WEIS: Well, we are going to spend, first of all, the offensive line, one of the areas that we’ve identified is we are going to spend a lot more time with them away from the group emphasizing fundamentals and techniques that we felt that needed one of the greatest areas of improvement, and you can’t really improve unless you allocate the time. So that’s one of the things we are going to do.
But as far as working them as a group, the one biggest plus you have, you are say whatever you want but you lose one player in Scully (ph) and everyone else now is a year more experienced than where they are last year and more than any position on offense, the position where experience counts the most for quarterback.
Q. Now that I’ve looked at the hand out including the depth chart, I see you’re making a road trip end of May. COACH WEIS: Yes, sir, I am. They had asked, I don’t know how many coaches they had asked, but they had come to me. And then, of course, I went home and talked to my boss and after talking to Maura and Charlie about this and what the Armed Forces were trying to do, I thought that was a small token of appreciation representing Notre Dame, just a small token of appreciation for me to be one of a group of college football coaches to go over there and try to mix and mingle with a whole bunch of our troops that have a lot more important job than any of us have.
And I feel both honored and privileged to have been asked, and I’m looking forward to going, and I think this will be an enlightening experience.