August 6, 2007
COACH WEIS: So coming in here was easy to win the team over because they just hadn’t had anything but moderate success in their careers here. Last year I think it was just the opposite where they came in with high expectations, and I think we lost a little bit of the chip on your shoulders that you have when no one expects you to be any good.
So now we’ve had a transition, a big transition in personnel due to graduation, so now it presents a whole different set of challenges, and I’m really looking forward to this season.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH WEIS: Change in what way?
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH WEIS: Well, there’s actually a contradiction because we have more players competing for spots now than we’ve ever had since I’ve been here.
In one case you had a limited number of players with a drastic drop-off in talent from the first guys to the second guys, to now this year having more competition than we’ve ever had since we’ve been here.
So in its own right, that’s going to be the biggest challenge in training camp – to sift through this competition and let the cream rise to the top.
Q. What do you think you’ve accomplished in your first two years here?
COACH WEIS: I think that we have a stable program. I think that when I got here, one of the biggest issues I had is I felt that the program was a bit unstable. I think that we have stability in the program. I think that we’re starting to get the numbers right as far as classes.
I think that we’ve been very low in the number of people on scholarship the first two years, and that number is going to be getting close to right up to the limit here now. I think academically I’m pleased with the direction of the program, and now what we need to do is we need to take that level of stability and win a few more football games.
Q. If I’m not incorrect, I think there are fewer players available this year for media day than previous years. Why is that?
COACH WEIS: That’s totally not true. The captains and the leadership committee are the same people that have been available for the first day all three years. It might be shy one because there might be one less guy on the leadership committee. But no, it’s the exact same guys I’ve made available all three years.
Q. What are the strengths of the 3-4 (defense), and what does Corwin Brown bring to the team?
COACH WEIS: Well, 3-4 sometimes can be misconstrued as just a defense, but really what it is, it’s a personnel group that lets you have a lot of versatility to go between an odd space and 3-4 so called defense and any kind of a 4-3 defense, and it gives you the flexibility to create pass rushing off the edge, additional pass rushing off the edge, which sometimes in the first two years here I felt that we haven’t gotten enough of.
So by going to this defense, you can kind of mirror those outside positions that have to be a cross breed between a pass rusher but somebody who can also drop into coverage. I think it gives you more position flexibility.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH WEIS: Obviously I’m a big fan of Corwin. I tried to hire him when I first got here and he told me no, so I told him I wouldn’t talk to him again. We had conversations then, and his family wasn’t ready to move. They just had transitioned from Virginia to the Jets at the time.
And when I reflected on the last football season and started to do some research to try to get on with something that I had more familiarity with, I think one thing that I didn’t do a great job in the first two years is I wasn’t as familiar with everything we were doing on defense. And this is no fault of the defensive coach, this is more the fault of the head coach.
I wasn’t as familiar with the scheme that they were using on defense; therefore when I’m watching tape sometimes, I couldn’t be – I couldn’t critically evaluate exactly what I thought the problems were because I wasn’t always on 100 percent the same page.
Now the guy who knows the defense second after Corwin probably is me because we’ve been familiar with this defense for so long. So now when I look out there I can say ‘was that a baseball call?’ and before I could never say something like that because I didn’t know exactly what we were doing on every play.
Q. Could you ever envision a situation in which you would use two quarterbacks?
COACH WEIS: I can’t rule it out completely. I’ve always been under the guise that if you have two quarterbacks, it means you usually don’t have one. I’ve always felt that. But I would not rule that out because I have guys that have different athletic skills, so I can’t rule that out.
And to be totally honest with you, I certainly don’t want to tell Georgia Tech what I’m doing because I’d rather they spent more time having to figure – well, are they going to play a true dropback quarterback? And are they going to play an athletic quarterback? There’s only so much time in training camp. I’m not really in the business of passing out, giving out free information on that one. That’s as honest as I can be.
Q. I guess this goes along with what you just said, but will there be a long gulf between when you decide who the starter is and when the public finds out who the starter is at quarterback?
COACH WEIS: Yes (laughter). In other words, I think I have a pretty good idea of the direction of an ‘either or’ type of situation, or if there’s a 1A and 1B. Obviously I’ve cut it down to three guys, so it makes it a little easier now when you’re dealing with a smaller group of guys.
But still, I have to go by what I see, and at the same time I’m not – it’s only good for one game. It’s only good for the opener, because after you tee it off the first game, you are who you are.
So I think that, as has always been my case since I’ve been here, I’m only trying to win the first one, which is the next one, which is Georgia Tech. After that one, I think whatever you’re going to do you start taking on a personality.
Q. How much competition will happen at that spot then in the fall, or is there a lot of data that you’ve already logged from the spring?
COACH WEIS: Well, first things first. I want to get through training camp and settle in on the direction we’re going. But I think that you have to be ready. I’m not talking about having a short leash where some guy throws five incompletions you’re pulling him out of there. But you have to be ready, because if the competition weren’t as close as it was, I would have already said who it was. The competition is too close right now, so therefore if it’s that close, you can’t just rule anyone out because if somebody gives you a chance to win the game, you have to be ready to do that.
Q. You have Chris Stewart listed back…
COACH WEIS: I know, this is the hand and all that. I kind of figured that one was coming. I think that right now, we’re going to let him start off at guard. We don’t need him – at this point today, we don’t need him at nose, but we have a couple players that we’ve discussed Chris with offense and defense and we’ve also talked about the two young linemen, meaning Andrew (Nuss) and Emeka (Nwankwo), who are starting off on defense, where if we got in an emergency the other way, we could flip them back the other way. So those three guys we’ve talked about being able to go back and forth between defense and offense if need be.
Q. You’ve had a season with low expectations at the start and one with very high. Is there a benefit to one over the other do you think?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that any time – well, it depends on whose expectations you’re talking about now because my expectations are always high. They’re never low. If my expectations – to be honest with you, I thought we had a chance of winning the National Championship the first year we were here, and we really weren’t that far off from having a chance. I’m not saying – it wasn’t that far off.
So my expectations are always high. The problem is sometimes is getting everyone to buy into that. But it’s easier to get your team to buy into it when you can sit there and say, look, no one thinks you’re worth a darn. It’s easier to do it that way because usually players – football players or any athlete in general – want respect, and I think that they understand that respect is something that you just don’t hand out. It’s something you have to earn.
I think it’s easier when the public perceives you as just middle of the pack.
Q. You’ve talked in the past about using gimmicks to get your guys going. Is that a gimmick?
COACH WEIS: No gimmicks this year. We’ve used those in the first two years. I’ve already got my message sent to the team, and basically it says, ‘fellas, people perceive you a certain way and you’re going to have to be the ones to change that perception because let’s be very practical here. We had a large changeover in personnel, a lot of front-line players have moved onto the NFL. Okay, why shouldn’t they have their doubts or reservations? You guys are going to be the ones to change it.’ That’s as honest as you can possibly be with the players.
Now we’re at the point with the competition we have and with the players we have, my expectations will never change. They’ll always be the same, okay. But the most important thing is getting your players buy into what you’re selling.
Q. You talked a little bit about the quarterback. Is there another position you guys are battling for a starter that you think is really going to be tight?
COACH WEIS: Well, I mean, name the position. Give me one. There’s competition – I’ll just talk about one position group as a whole. We’re as deep in the secondary as I’ve been since we’ve been here. When I got here, everyone talked about the secondary. I think we have more athletes in the secondary than just about any position we have.
I mean, we have guys that have played, guys who have started, guys who have got some time, but we have a whole bunch of athletes out there. So it’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out, because I really don’t care who plays. I just want the guys who give us the best chance of winning.
Q. Is there a position that you’re uncertain or worried about at this point?
COACH WEIS: No, I mean I know what the cast of characters is. I mean, like everyone – Notre Dame alums and fans – is probably concerned about the offensive line because of the inexperience. I really like the offensive line. People are really concerned about the wide receiver position. Well, I like our wide receivers.
Remember, I’m the one who gets to see them all the time. So I think I get to make a more objective opinion of them because I get to see all the nuances both on and off the field. The thing is the jury is still out on all these guys because until you perform, until you get on the field and do it under the lights, figuratively, until you do it under the lights, you haven’t proved anything. So that’s what we’re out to do.
Q. What’s Jimmy Clausen’s health and practice availability for today?
COACH WEIS: I’ve said it before. If people want to talk about procedures and being gone for the year, okay, he’s out there practicing today like I said he would be. Would I say when we’re teeing off on September 1st, would Jimmy Clausen being capable of being our starting quarterback and slinging it 30 or 40 times? The answer would be yes. None of them are going to be slinging it 30 or 40 times today, okay?
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH WEIS: The Chicago concert was great. I also just went to a Bon Jovi one last Monday. That was sweet.
Q. (Question about rebuilding.)
COACH WEIS: No, may God strike me dead if I use that word. I’ll never use that word. You use it, I’m not using it.
You know, I have nine fifth year seniors that came back for another year. Don’t you think I owe it to them to try to win this year? I think I have an ethical responsibility to all those nine guys that came back. They all graduated; it isn’t like they’re coming back to graduate. They all graduated. They all came back to win this year. I owe it to those nine guys to try to win now.
It’s easy for me to throw in the towel and start playing a bunch of young guys and take the pressure off of me and buy me more time. But that’s garbage. I have an ethical responsibility to those nine guys to win now, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.
Q. You mentioned that you like the wide receivers even though a lot of people outside the program haven’t seen a lot from them. What do you like about that position?
COACH WEIS: Well, it’s always interesting when the position body types change. You know, we’ve gone from the big, from Samardzija and Stovall and McKnight, those guys, to now we’ve got the Smurfs. But you have to remember, I’ve been involved with some teams that have won a lot of games where the tallest receiver was 5’10” and they have won championships. So where everyone can sell them short, no pun intended, in reality, I’m excited about the change in body types and the change in skill levels and the things they do.
Now, will David Grimes be Jeff Samardzija? No, but there’s things that David Grimes does differently than Jeff Samardzija. Remember, David Grimes had punt return ability in addition, so that gives you some shake and bake and making mince. So, with each guy you have to identify what he can do and then try to get him to do that. You don’t have each of them do the exact same thing.
Q. Similar question on the defensive line. After Trevor (Laws), you have a lot of guys that haven’t done much on Saturdays. What did you learn about them during the spring and what do you still need to learn about them during the fall to have confidence in them?
COACH WEIS: See, there’s a perfect situation. Let’s use a couple of guys because right now if we started Pat Kuntz and Dwight Stephenson and Justin Brown, those guys are all guys that are high into the mix right there. They’ve all got very minimal time or a little bit of time in their careers, but their time is now.
It’s the reason why you stay here is the conversation I had with Corey Mays a few years ago. Corey Mays, when I got here, had never really played a meaningful down and he was one of the best players on our team. Their time is now. It’s their time to step up and play. And if not, then a younger guy steps up and beats them out.
But I think with all those guys, they didn’t get a scholarship because they were no good. I mean, they have athletic ability, and it’s their time to step up and make plays. And I’m kind of excited about watching it and watching the competition at those positions.
I agree with you, the one ‘etched in stone’ starter is Trevor. But other than that, there’s going to be a lot of guys trying to get their butts on the field, and that’s a healthy thing.
Q. You mentioned offensive skill positions. There are a lot of positions that seem like they’re wide open. Four or five weeks into the season, do you want there to be that kind of situation in games where you can play four or five guys at running back or do you want starting positions?
COACH WEIS: It all depends how the thing evolves – it really does. It depends how this evolves. You don’t know what your run pass ratio is going to be; therefore, you don’t know what your lead personnel grouping is going to be.
I think a lot of times you have to figure out what your personnel groups and what your personnel can do, and then it might get heavy one way or another … things that, right now, the jury is still out. Remember, in the month of July when they’re back here going into the second session of summer school, we can’t watch them practice. When they go out there and throw, they’re throwing on their own. We’re not out there.
So realistically, you’re asking about some of these guys and how they look. I have not seen Jimmy throw a ball yet myself. I read some of you guys write in the paper that he’s throwing. Thanks … at least I get to see that.
But in reality, okay, I know that they are throwing. I don’t know how they’re throwing because I haven’t got a chance to witness it yet. So today is really going to be the first day. I’m like you guys, only I’ll see a little bit more than you will.
Q. When you came here three years ago, this was a team that was deficient in speed. Do you think you’ve been able to address that, and particularly at the running back position where there hasn’t really been a long breakaway run in quite some time?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think we’ve got at least one guy that can run fast, okay? I think that probably we lose Darius (Walker), who was a front line player for us, who was an excellent football player for us. But if you look at the depth at that position, that position has got great depth and talent and a variety of skills.
It’s interesting in the last question because I don’t know the answer to the running back situation yet because I need to watch them play. It’s interesting … the only guy who I’ve really seen play a lot is Travis (Thomas), and that was two years ago. That’s going to be one of the positions where not only do we have a breakaway threat, and we all know who I’m talking about, but in addition to having a breakaway threat, we have more competition than we had.
Last year, when I moved Travis over to defense because of the holes we had at linebacker, there was such a big drop-off from Darius to the next guy, there really wasn’t much competition. Well, there’s great competition at the running back position this year, and that’s one of the things that will be interesting to watch at training camp.
Q. And in terms of overall team speed, you feel you’re making progress there?
COACH WEIS: We have a bunch of guys that can run well. We have a bunch of them. You know those fictitious 4.3s that you hear about? Well, I coached for about 15 years, and there might be a handful of guys that run under a 4.5 in reality. You hear about all those high school kids running 4.3? Yeah, on some broken stopwatch somewhere. It’s not reality. If you can run 4.5, you can run pretty fast. If you can run under 4.5, you run real fast. We have guys just like everyone else that can run under that.
Q. When you’re trying to determine your first quarterback for the Georgia Tech game, are you going to factor in the quality of the offensive line and how far along your line is at that point?
COACH WEIS: We’re going to do it a little bit differently. We’re going to make sure all during training camp that we put the quality of line at a high level the whole time. That’s a very good question because, fortunately for us, this is the first time since we’ve been here that we think that we can put out two deep on an offensive line and put out good football players. The first year I was here, we might have had about a half dozen, so the drop-off from the first to the second (teams) was huge.
But now we believe that we can put out two quality lines that will keep us from getting somebody killed, which is – that’s a fair question.
Q. You said that now you’re probably the guy that can look at the defense and know the second-most about it. Was it a big transition for guys like Coach (Jappy) Oliver and Coach (Brian) Polian to switch the package like that?
COACH WEIS: I don’t care. That’s what they do. We change defense, they have to learn what to do. That’s their job. All I know is I know what they’re doing, and to me that was the most important thing because I don’t have to sit in that defensive meeting room. I have a copy of their playbook and I have their call sheet, and when he says they’re going to run 3 4 Will Cover Two, I’ve got it. I know how they’re lining up, I know who’s rushing, I know where the spot drops are supposed to be, I know where the re-routes are supposed to be. At least it’s a language now that I understand, and they just had to learn it.
Q. This spring, they were learning right along with the players?
COACH WEIS: They were way ahead of the players because the meetings had taken place long before the players got there. Remember, we had a couple months after Corwin got in there for them to transition in there. They were way ahead of the players.
But I think that’s what happened from them until now is exponential. I think that the staff, Coach Oliver and Coach (Bill) Lewis and Coach Polian, I think they’re all very sound as far as what we’re doing on defense.
Q. In two years you’ve brought this program up knocking at that door. You talked about a National Championship as a goal when you came here in your first press conference. What kind of things when you start thinking about this team this year do you need to maybe concentrate on, work on, to maybe make that a possibility this year?
COACH WEIS: Well, first of all, I only worry about one game at a time as you know. Not to be redundant, but I’ll worry about beating Georgia Tech. That’s the first goal I have, beating Georgia Tech. I can’t worry about anything other than that. I know we play them first.
I think that’s the most important thing, because these kids are impressionable young men like everyone else, and when people pat them on the back and say how great they are, they believe it. When people hammer them and say how bad they are, they believe that, too. So there’s two ways of looking at it.
Right now, one thing that’s very, very important is for these guys to grab on to the concept that if you want people to think you’re worth a darn, then let’s go do something about it. I think we’re doing that as training camp starts today. It gives you an opportunity to transition to that period, but everything you’re doing now is just for the plans of trying to win the opener.
You have to be short sighted. If you think any longer than that, then you’re behind the game.
Q. As far as the kicking game is concerned, talking about the kickoffs, now that it’s five yards further back, talk a little bit if you will about running (Ryan) Burkhart and the way he’s progressed maybe since last year and how important that is.
COACH WEIS: Well, remember, once again, I have not seen him in the summertime, so the last time I saw him kick the ball was the week of the spring game. So it’s been quite some time.
I know that people have spent a lot of time. They’ve gone back to mentors, guys that have taught them when they were young. We got a new leg in here, so we have a new contender in there, as well, with (Brandon) Walker coming into the mix.
So I think that just like the quarterback position, okay, just like the receiver position, I think the kicking position is just the same. I’m going to have to wait and see what I’m seeing first.
But for those coaches that say that five yards doesn’t make a difference, they’re wrong. That five yards will definitely make a difference. There will be a lot more balls returned than there’s been in the past.
Q. You had a chance to visit with the Carolina Panthers staff last summer. Did you do any kind of visiting last summer where you were able to borrow some ideas or tweak some things?
COACH WEIS: Actually we did that the last week of May, so everyone on the staff went out. We went to different places. Unlike last year where we all went to Carolina, we were in a whole bunch of different places. I went out one place, Rob went out somewhere else, a couple guys went up to the Patriots, a couple guys went to the Saints, a couple guys still went to the Panthers. We went to a couple different colleges, as well. We went to a lot of different places.
But we already have an offense and a defense. What we’re trying to do is gain more ideas to be able to bring to our offense and defense. But everyone went out … the whole staff went out.
Q. I know that you don’t want to name the quarterback until they run out to the huddle against Georgia Tech, but in terms of getting from three to two and two to one, how quickly do you want to get there?
COACH WEIS: I think that’ll take care of itself relatively quickly, to tell you the truth. Because this spring, I spent so much time in due diligence trying to be completely fair to all four guys.
Well, now democracy has now come to an end. Now it’s time to get ready to go, and I think we’re at the stage now where now we have to start getting the team ready to play.
So it will be a much shorter leash as far as the time frame that … when I’m ready to make a couple decisions, I’ll cut it quick. It doesn’t have to be long.
I certainly won’t do anything until I at least get through this Saturday morning – which is your media day, by the way – but I’ll definitely get through Saturday morning letting all three of those guys get about equal reps for those three days and then we’ll sit back and pull back and see where we are, and if it takes us another week, we’ll take another week.
But by the 20th, now it’s two weeks through training camp, you have to start getting much more ready. You’ve got your installation in, and it’s time to start tweaking your system.
Q. I know that you haven’t had a chance to look at the freshness, but in terms of what you’ve heard reports of their lifting and so forth over the summer, and also their testing habits, how does that group look?
COACH WEIS: Well, the testing – obviously the conditioning testing must have gone very well because on the first of the acclimatization days, which is today, you’ve got five three hour practices, and on the first day, only you can spend time to take a conditioning test. Of the entire team, which is 100 guys, there are only two guys that looked to me that aren’t in great shape. That means that there are 98 guys that passed the conditioning test easily. So that means that Ruben (Mendoza) and his staff were doing something right as far as the running goes because it’s a tough test.
And as far as the numbers in the weight room, I don’t go exactly by how strong somebody is. I know by how much progress they made when they started lifting to when they ended lifting, and I’d say that the progress on this team was across the board.
Q. The NCAA is changing and text messaging has been eliminated…
COACH WEIS: Yeah, that’s a bad move.
Q. It’s a bad move?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, it’s definitely a bad move because the guys that like to text message, like me, you’re at a disadvantage. I think that one of the reasons why some of the guys don’t like it is because they don’t want to do it. They think because you do it that you must have some ghostwriter that’s doing all your texting for you.
Ask my wife if I text. She gets mad at me all the time because I’m sitting there – you should have seen me on the 31st (of July). I was miserable. I don’t know how many texts you can send in a day, but I might have set a record on that day because it was the last day you could do it, and I was saying, this is it. I don’t know what I’m going to do tomorrow. I had a lot of guys laughing at my texts because on the last day, I was going through text withdrawal.
Q. How about your thoughts on the early signing period?
COACH WEIS: I’m in favor of that, too. Go ahead, keep them rolling. I think that – I think the assistant coaches group – Rob (Ianello), I know, is the head of the assistant coaches – would like one in November and December so that you know what you have before Christmastime, so you know how to finish it off for February. I personally would like one in August, and for a different reason.
I think that one of the biggest problems, because recruiting has been moved up so much, at least a half a year or a year from the olden days, I think one of the biggest problems high school coaches have is the kids on their team not having the security of knowing where they’re going to school before their senior year starts, and if they haven’t accepted a scholarship, they risk losing a scholarship if they get injured.
See, any one of our guys Notre Dame is very good about this. Any one of a guy that makes a commitment to us, even though he’s not signed until the following February, knows that it’s a two way commitment. It’s them committing to me, but it’s me committing to them. So if something happens during their senior year, they’re still coming here on a scholarship. I’m not going to say, ‘oh, you tore your ACL, you’re not coming here anymore.’ I think that you protect the players and let them play uninhibited in their senior year without worrying about, ‘well, I’d better not play. My hammy hurts a little bit and it might end up costing me a scholarship.’
Q. How far away from comfortable are you with the quarterback? How far away from comfortable are you with their ability to start and play on this team?
COACH WEIS: I’m a long way away because if I still have three guys in the running, then I’m obviously not comfortable with who the one guy is yet. You know, I wouldn’t be sitting at three if I were comfortable. I’d be sitting at one with a backup, and I’m not anywhere near there at this point.
It’s not where I’m uncomfortable with their ability. I just haven’t been able to establish what the identity of our offense is going to be because it all surrounds who the quarterback is going to be. You have to center the offense around what the quarterback can do because if you ask the quarterback to do things he’s not capable of doing, then that’s your fault as a coach.
Q. You talked about recruiting. I know you can’t talk specifics, but what are your thoughts on where it is right now for next year?
COACH WEIS: Well, I mean, obviously on the surface things have gone very well. You know, everyone thought that I was not very intelligent when I sat there last year right after recruiting and said that we’re going to make sure we have a much clearer – have everyone have a much clearer understanding of what the word ‘commitment’ was. But it’s actually had the exact opposite effect of what everyone thought it was going to be because people have bought into that.
It’s been a very, very strong positive. Our staff has worked hard. We’ve got a ways to go yet, but it isn’t like we’ve got very many spots left open. But the two things you have to do is A, not take anyone for granted that’s already said yes and make sure you treat them like family; and B, go get the rest of those top line guys that you’re out there and waiting for them to make a decision.
Q. You talked about the kickoff coverage, and there being more kickoff returns this year. Does that change how you use personnel at all?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, it’ll depend on what our kickers can do. You mean from when you’re kicking off yourself? Yeah, it’ll depend on what your kickers can do. You have to wait and see what you’ve got, first of all, and then you have to be ready to tweak scheme based on what you have.
I mean, if I have a guy who can kick the ball to the end zone, and not in a three second hang time, by the way. If I have a guy who can get the ball to the end zone, then we’ll kick it deep and run down there and cover it. If you don’t, you’ll just hit sky kicks to the left and right, loop them down there and make them fair catch it and let them take the ball on the 30 and let’s go. It just all depends on what your kickers can actually do.
Q. Have you talked to Brady (Quinn) at all recently? How is he doing?
COACH WEIS: I talk to him probably every other day, and he’s doing fine. He’s anxious. He wants to be in there. I think everyone wants that to get done, and hopefully it’ll get done sooner rather than later.
Q. Last year Tom Zbikowski, fairly or unfairly, received a great deal of criticism. There was talk that he was overweight. How would you evaluate Zbikowski’s play, number one; what are your expectations for him, number two; and three, was the press unfair to Tom Zbikowski?
COACH WEIS: Two things. I think at the start of the year, he might have been a tad overweight, but I don’t think that his weight was the issue. I think him getting speared on a punt return was the issue because he was never the same the rest of the year. And I think that sometimes you don’t realize because the kid is so tough, you don’t realize a guy is playing with pain and borderline playing with injury.
And I think that the reason why he made the decision to come back – it wasn’t because he loves going to school, by the way (laughter). He already graduated, and he’s a very proud person to have done that. But I think that he’s coming back here because he knows that his worth should be higher than where it ended up last year based off of what ended up happening.
The good thing about a guy like that is, now he does have a chip on his shoulder, okay, and his weight is down, and he’s ready to go. Obviously the team greatly benefits by having a guy like that who’s a good football player that’s coming in with a chip on his shoulder with something to prove.
Q. In the past, correct me if I’m wrong, you said that you like to have a designated ‘No. 1 running back’ kind of a guy. Could there be a situation this year where you go more by committee at running back, where you have four guys competing for time?
COACH WEIS: Well, obviously I have five guys that are competing because Robert (Hughes) is in here now, too. So could I see more than one guy getting on the field in a game? Absolutely. I still think you need to have an identity on offense just like with the quarterback. I still think you need a lead guy.
But that doesn’t mean like, in the past where Darius would get 30 carries and somebody else might get five, that doesn’t mean you might share the wealth more. Yeah, you might share the wealth more, but I don’t think you would ever get into a true 50/50 mentality. I don’t think that’s what we’re talking about.
Q. In regards to the offense, is it a matter of one of the three quarterbacks fitting the offense you have or one guy performing the best and you fitting the offense to who he is?
COACH WEIS: It’s the latter. It’s never the former. I learned that a long time ago, that you don’t set your system just around what you do. You set your system around what the quarterback can do. So you go in there, and in the first two weeks, you just install. You just install. You just install the whole volume of stuff.
And then when you see who handles it the best, then you take that and it actually becomes easier by week three because you’re cut way down. You put in way more than what you’ll actually end up using in the first two weeks, but that’s the only way you can evaluate and try to establish where you’re going to go with that.
Q. Just a follow up on what he just mentioned. So I guess the question to me is: if Jimmy Clausen and (Evan) Sharpley are more of the same type of quarterback versus Demetrius (Jones), how much different does the offense look with Demetrius as the quarterback versus those other two?
COACH WEIS: Oh, it would definitely be different. But Jimmy and Sharpley are not the same quarterback. That’s how they’ve been characterized. But Jimmy and Evan are not the exact same quarterback, either. Jimmy is different than Evan and Evan is different than Demetrius. Now it’s just not two versus one. It’s not like a two on one; it’s three separate entities. They all have different things that they do that are their strengths and their weaknesses. Evan and Jimmy are not the same guy. That’s just how they’ve been perceived. They’re not anywhere close to being the same guy.
Q. Another quarterback question. I was wondering if in your career you’ve ever gone into a year with this much inexperience at a position and the challenges of doing it at a high level and no exhibition games, that kind of thing, just day one you’ve got to go?
COACH WEIS: Well, let’s start in ’93 when we (the New England Patriots) drafted (Drew) Bledsoe, and we had about a half a dozen quarterbacks and Bledsoe didn’t even start a preseason game … he might have started the last preseason game. When we opened up the year we were going to use some guy by the name of Scott Secules to be the quarterback, and next thing you know, Bledsoe is starting and playing the rest of his career. He might not have played perfect right off the bat because we were going through a transition, but that team was a lower level of team at the time.
But I’ve been around a lot of teams where there isn’t where there’s multiple guys involved in the competition for a quarterback position. It’s not always like having Tommy (Brady) winning championships. That’s the easy one to coach. It’s when you have a group of guys that are trying to figure which guy is going to give you the best chance of winning. You know, that’s the situation we’re in right now.
Q. You brought in four guys early last year, and I’m just wondering if you can give us an idea how that went academically, getting in second semester last year so they’re ready to go this year, and are you looking forward to continuing that process?
COACH WEIS: You mean the three guys early – Armando (Allen), Jimmy (Clausen) and Gary (Gray)? They were the three that we brought we brought three of them mid year two years in a row.
Gary is obviously coming off the shoulder and there’s a good chance that he might not end up playing the entire year. He’ll be able to run around fine. But academically, they’re all in good standing, which that is a big plus when they can go ahead and get 12 to 15 hours in the springtime, then they get another six hours in the summertime. So academically, they’re in a lot better shape than they would be.
Jimmy, obviously, is in a position to compete to be the quarterback, and Armando brings something different to the table than we have with the rest of the running backs. I like all three of those guys, but they’re all three separate candidates as far as where they are in football.
Q. Have you looked at the commitments so far about who might be able to do the same thing?
COACH WEIS: Yes, we are. I’m not commenting any more on it though, obviously.
Q. You said that we as a group mistakenly lumped Clausen and Sharpley. Could you just characterize the strengths and weaknesses of those two guys?
COACH WEIS: No, I didn’t – they’re different players because really, Evan – let’s just say it like this: Without going into a big, complex thing, you have Jimmy on one end, you’ve got Demetrius on the other end, and Evan is kind of in the middle. That’s the easiest way for me to say it. Let’s just say that Evan is kind of a cross between Demetrius and Jimmy. That would be the easiest way for me to explain it because I’m not looking for a jack-of-all-trades, and a master of none. I’m looking for somebody that can actually do enough stuff where we can win.
I’m not looking just to be competitive now. I’m not in this just to play close games. I have to find out which one of those guys does all the things, leads the team on and off the field, throw, run, all the things that … make Mike calls, identify defensive fronts, identifies coverages. Right now, the jury is still out. I don’t know the answers to those questions.
Q. Two plus years on the job, I mean, Notre Dame changed (Dan) Devine and changed Lou (Holtz) and changed Bob Davie. I’d be curious in knowing, in the two plus years you’ve been here, are there times when being the head coach of Notre Dame is uncomfortable for Charlie Weis, or are you more comfortable on the job than you were when you first got here? Can you give us a picture where you are as a head coach as you begin year three?
COACH WEIS: I’m going to give you two personal answers. First of all, I bought an expensive house and dumped a lot of money into it to make sure that my family is happy. I’ve got indoor riding arenas, I’ve got outdoor riding arenas, I’ve got paddocks, I’ve got a baseball field, a pool, a playroom. I’ve got a TV room downstairs that’s pretty sweet, pool table, ping pong table, a game room. Do you think I’m in a hurry to move somewhere else? This all comes with your question. My question was rhetorical. Let me finish (laughter).
So part two to that is if I didn’t think that I could stay here for the rest of my career, both by me wanting to be here, me believing I could do it here, or them not wanting to get rid of me here, I would not be doing the things I’m doing off the field. I would not be doing it with my housing situation, I would not be doing it with my son or daughter, I would not be doing it with our charity.
I really believe that this is where I’m going to retire. And the reason I believe it is the pressure that you feel that comes with this, I don’t feel. I really don’t feel that pressure. I feel better now than I felt the last two years. I mean, I feel better – I mean, I feel great.
I know the indecision or the question marks that come into it. I’m not oblivious to that. I’m not ignorant. I understand that a bunch of guys are gone. But to me, that makes you even more driven, and provides even greater challenges.
Q. Because you have to wait to figure out your starting quarterback and fine tune your offense, are you going to maybe create a dual offense that you haven’t done before, and is that something as an offensive guy you’re kind of excited about?
COACH WEIS: One of the reasons why you send everyone out is to tweak your system, but you don’t change your system. I mean, do you put extra things in? Yeah, you always put extra things in. But you need to have a system that has some kind of base to it. That’s why for the first two weeks you put the system in, and then after you figure out who you’re going to use to do what, you tone it down.
Q. So it’s more figuring out what style of system you use?
COACH WEIS: Well, you have to first decide who’s going to play and what they do. And then you tweak your system for those things to fit.
Q. And then as a play caller, are you a guy that likes to design new plays, or do you pretty much stick with what’s in the book?
COACH WEIS: I like to use more personnel groups and formations to run the same plays. I like to confuse a defense by using multiple personnel groups and multiple formations to run the same plays because the read to the offensive players is the same, whereas to the defense it looks like a totally different play. That’s what I like to do. It’s always been my personality.
Q. We talked a lot about the quarterbacks being inexperienced, and you have Ron Powlus on your staff as a quarterback coach now. How important is it to have him there as someone who’s been at Notre Dame and been through the competitions to give those quarterbacks some insight on that?
COACH WEIS: Well, obviously when I tweaked the coaching staff and made that change, that was the number one pressing issue on my mind. It’s been well documented about my lack of athleticism, and I felt that what these guys really needed was a mentor, somebody who’s actually lived the experience that they’re about ready to go through.
Brady had already been hardened when I got here. It wasn’t quite the same. But these guys are pups. They’re young and they’re inexperienced, at least at this level. And I think that Ron having walked the walk and talked the talk, I think that will be an invaluable addition and complement to what I do.
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