Aug. 31, 2008
Q. Charlie, just your general impressions, what were your impressions just looking around college football yesterday?
COACH Charlie Weis: It was interesting because six of our opponents were on TV yesterday. So I watched sometimes bits and pieces of some of them. And sometimes some of them extensive parts of games. Like, obviously, the Michigan State game which was later in the day, as long as I could keep awake, that I could see most of that. But there were several things I took out of yesterday from our opponents and situational football from all the games that were on, because there were all sorts of things that happened. Thinking about some of the things that happened yesterday, a blocked extra point where they picked up the ball and ran it back for two points. That could have been the difference in the game. In the same game, a blocked punt to win the game at the end of the game. And think about the Illinois/Missouri game where Illinois takes the lead and now there’s a 99 yard kickoff return for a touchdown that changes the momentum of the game. Think about the Michigan State/Cal game where Michigan State looked like they were mounting a big comeback, on first down they run into the boundary, the guy goes 81 yards for a touchdown. I could go on and on. Probably one of the best teaching moments of the day will be the defensive lineman from Bowling Green makes the big play in the Pitt game towards the end of the game. And for a couple of seconds he goes like this, the next thing you know he’s getting a 15 yard penalty, which is borderline whether or not they should call it or not call it. There were so many teaching things coming out of that day, while at the same time being able to watch your opponents. I thought I ended up spending a good portion of the day making mental notes, not so much the Xs and Os of who we’re going against, because I know the kids were sitting there watching the game. So more about what exactly was happening in those games.
Q. Looking at your own team, are there still things that you’re not going to know about your team until you hit the field for the first time?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think that there’s certain things that I’m counting on and certain things that I’m going to have to wait until I see it. You have to wait until you see visual evidence. And I’m counting on them to be positive. But you still have to see it first. So I’d have to say that there are some things you still have to wait and see, because you need to be objective, not subjective.
Q. Charlie, a little bit of a different dynamic this year. Seemed like your first three years it took you to get to week six before you finally played a team that lost a game. Obviously you have San Diego State getting beat by Cal Poly. Coming up 3 9, I would assume overconfidence wouldn’t be an issue. Would you address that at all?
COACH Charlie Weis: I don’t think you have to worry about our team having any overconfidence now. I don’t think that first of all, Cal Poly, they’re a good football team. They might be a lower division program, but they’ve been a good football team for a while. But in this game, having watched two thirds of it so far, okay, there’s plenty of evidence on tape of things that we have to worry about. There’s plenty of evidence, be it their quarterback throwing the ball up and down the field. I’m not going to get too much into that game yet. But kickoff coverage team, you know, all of a sudden one guy blowing up everything there. You watch it on special teams. And then watch it on defense, you know, them creating turnover, turnover and getting when they’re making a critical stop towards the end of the game when they had a chance to put the game away. So there’s plenty of evidence on the tape for our players to realize that they need to get to work.
Q. I think, what was it, looks like six of your opponents lost yesterday. Does that mean anything to you at all?
COACH Charlie Weis: No. You know, it means something to them. But to us we’re just getting ready to play San Diego State. This is one of those rare weeks where you can be worrying about other opponents. But in reality you’re now into a game week. And all they’re focused on is just San Diego State, and they can’t be worrying about any of those other teams right now.
Q. I know you played with a 40 second clock before. Yesterday you got to see how it affected college. What have you told your players and how do you think will affect the game?
COACH Charlie Weis: The 40 second clock, did you say? I think the 40 second clock is a very, very easy rule to manipulate. It just forces it just forces offensive play callers to get into a quick flow. I’ve always been a quick flow guy so I always felt that the clock was a non issue. I think it will become more of an issue for the people, the play callers who are used to waiting for right around to when they’re blowing the whistle for the 25 second clock and sending in plays, because before you know it you’re already at 20. And now everything becomes rushed. I think it will just force more guys to establish that same mentality that I grew up doing. So for our program it should be a fairly easy flow.
Q. Doesn’t have as much effect on the play, more on the play calling?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think it has everything to do with the offensive play calling. Because the defense, they’re waiting to see what personnel you put on the field. They’re seeing what down and distance. They’re reacting, not so much reacting on the defensive call, but on the personnel they’re going to put on the field and everything. I think most pressure is put on the offensive play caller, just to make sure he does things expeditiously.
Q. Is one of the biggest things you addressed with your team there’s no leeway at all for celebrating, you can’t do too much?
COACH Charlie Weis: I thought that was really borderline. But who am I to critique? But it does show how a mild celebration this wasn’t like a flagrant taunting now, how a mild celebration could put your team, winning and losing, the outcome of the game in jeopardy in a game like that. So we addressed it in the locker room yesterday. We didn’t wait until yesterday. Yesterday we had our practice. That was one of the things we addressed yesterday, that very thing. So I think that it will be a good teaching tool to realize, show our players how little you can do and still be hit for a 15 yard penalty. Probably the one penalty that showed up to me more than it’s ever done is now that every face mask is a personal foul penalty. Every time I turned around it seemed like there was a coincidental or by just kind of grasping the face mask, but they’re all 15 yards now. I think that showed up time and time again yesterday knowing that there’s no five yard penalty anymore, it’s just 15 every time.
Q. Charlie, after spending so much time getting your team to play with more emotion, does it seem odd you’re almost asking them to dial it back before you even get out there?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think there’s a fine line. I’m counting on what the officials are looking for is the players to be partying with their teammates. That’s what I’m counting on. I’m counting on, from my interpretation, is that they don’t want isolated celebrations to put the attentions on themselves. Because I’m going to expect our guys on offense, defense and special teams to be celebrating with their teammates when a big play is made. Because I think if you’re doing it with your teammates, I can’t see how it could possibly be viewed as taunting.
Q. Talking to the guys yesterday, they all mentioned chemistry as something that has impressed them about this team. What do you make of this team’s chemistry and what are some of the things you’ve done to try to enhance that?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, first of all, when the captains were originally appointed, Mo Crum and David Grimes and David Bruton, but when I first got here, if you would have thought that the chance of any one of those guys being a captain, okay, it would have been minimal, because none of them ever opened their mouth. They never talked. And these guys have grown into the type of leader that doesn’t have to be the rah rah, win one for the Gipper type thing; they’re more show by example and are willing to open themselves to being more verbal to the way of doing things. And I think that our team responds very favorably to that type of mentality. And it’s kind of trickled down from the top right on through all the way to the freshmen.
Q. Can a team have chemistry before it wins a game?
COACH Charlie Weis: Yes, it can have chemistry because in many teams you’ll see cliques, just like in everything else in life, you’ll see cliques. And we tried to do some things in the off season a little different, even the way we assigned lockers in the locker room. That was even different. So that it wasn’t just all the running backs with the running backs. Now it’s numerical. And you could be sitting, an offensive player could be sitting next to a defensive player. It’s all to get rid of the cliques, to get people to pull for them no matter what.
Q. Another thing, Bruton and Crum were talking about yesterday, you being more approachable. You said it’s something you wanted to do, could you talk about how you did it and why you think it’s going to help the team?
COACH Charlie Weis: First of all, I identified that as something I needed to do because the young guys didn’t get me. The older guys did, but the younger guys didn’t. But one of the things by not being in all the offensive meetings it allowed me to be around everybody, instead of being around just one portion of the team all the time. And for Bruton and Crum and guys who are on defense, for the last few years I haven’t been around them very much. Now I’m around them a whole lot more. They might get sick of me before it’s all done. But I am around them a whole lot more now. I’m sure they’ll also tell you, any of them that know me, they know me different than the rest of the guys do, too. So they’ve already seen all sides of you. Where it’s the younger guys that don’t really know that I’ve kind of, that’s where I kind of made my special attention to make sure the younger guys, whether they’re sophomore or freshmen, have a better understanding of who you are, so this way they can progress at a faster pace.
Q. Coach, I know you went through the pregame routine yesterday. How did the freshmen handle that and how badly will they screw it up once they get in front of 80,000 people?
COACH Charlie Weis: Some of them, the ones that are most involved in the mix, just kind of follow the leader. It’s easy for Michael Floyd, wherever Grimes goes, he follows him. That’s an easy one. But there will be some pregame, not just jitters, people looking into the stands rather than going through the pregame warmup with the freshmen like there always are. And there’s always about a million people on the sideline before the game starts, too. Sometimes it can be a little bit of a circus atmosphere. But they’ll grow out of it. It’s part of the learning experience you go through.
Q. Speaking to Scott Smith yesterday for the first time from the standpoint of talking to a young man that we’re talking about being the leader of the team, and he was kind of taken aback that he had been thought upon by his teammates like that. He seems to be another fairly quiet young man, quiet leader. Number one, your comment on that? Number two, how many special teams is he actually on?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, he’s involved in all the special teams. He’s a starter on at least multiple groups. The other day in practice I did something where I actually stood behind, when I was watching the defensive period, I stood behind the defense, and I just watched the players on the sideline more than I watched the players on the field. It was pretty obvious for the 20 or so players that were involved on the defense that were not over there running show team, they’ve got one guy who is coaching everyone, making sure everyone knew the calls. Calling out the offensive formation, as if he were playing the game. So it was pretty evident to me why these guys look up to him because there’s a guy that, even when he’s not repping physically, not only is he taking a mental rep, but he’s helping everyone else take a mental rep by making calls. He’s watching the signal. Going ahead, making calls, making sure people are making adjustments just like they’re on the field. It was pretty impressive to watch, to tell you the truth.
Q. I know you have Harrison Smith at that position. But is Scott Smith in a position now to be a regular contributor for defense?
COACH Charlie Weis: He’ll have to play, especially if we get into those games where it isn’t as much of a spread game, it’s more of a pound ’em game. You’ve watched the games yesterday. You could see, for example, let’s use Michigan State as an example. They looked like a big, bruising physical team with that 23 being pretty darn good. You’ll have to be able to hold up against the run or you’ll have a tough day. So there will be games where he’ll probably be more involved in the game plan.
Q. Paddy Mullen, a guy that hasn’t been talked a lot about in the past, has he stepped and put himself in a position to be a regular contributor on defense?
COACH Charlie Weis: A lot of times, when you bring in all these freshmen defensive linemen, everyone just assumes one of them is automatically going to move ahead of them. One thing he’s done in this camp is stay ahead of he might not be first, but he’s kept one step ahead of the posse. That means he’s put himself in a position to be on the field.
Q. The changes you’ve made since last year, whether it be giving up the play calling or even just changing the players’ day off, is this in reaction to what happened last year? Are those changes that maybe comes as a natural evolution of moving to college football?
COACH Charlie Weis: I wasn’t expecting to have so much free time in December last year, Ben. But I had a whole bunch of free time. More than I would have liked. So what I try to do, because I really hadn’t spent the time, in the time that I’ve been here, to try to go from top to bottom every single item on or off the field. There were some issues like that that, well, it’s okay, we’ll just keep it that way. So I’m trying to find a better way. Sometimes just getting out of a normal routine shakes them up a little bit and gets their attention more.