Aug. 6, 1999
… HEAD COACH BOB DAVIE:
“You guys ready to go? No turning back now. I told our coaches last night, there’s no turning back.
“But just being up here in this press box, you know, last night we greeted our team, and had kind of a welcome dinner. You know, the first time all the freshmen being around all the varsity. And kind of reminds you of what freshmen, how young and inexperienced and how naive these guys are.
“One of our freshmen who shall remain unnamed was standing there over looking at the stadium, and the freshman came up to me and said: “Coach, how come there’s no lines on that field? What’s the story?”
“I said: “You know what, we do things different here. We told you all along that Notre Dame is unique. It’s the only place in the country we play without lines on that field. “
“He kind of turned around and said: “Okay, Coach.” Kind of accepted and walked away. That’s a little bit scary. But hopefully, we’re not in a position this year where a whole lot of freshmen are going to have to play.
“It’s good to get started. It’s exciting to get started. But you guys know in reality it never ends. This really is just the next step. That’s the amazing thing right now about college football. Not just at Notre Dame, but all across the country. The sacrifice these players make, it is a 12-month-out-of-the-year job. It’s really highlighted this year because of the Eddie Robinson Classic, but we just finished summer school Wednesday, and the players reported Thursday. And you’re talking about every scholarship player on this team, and just about every walk-on player, with the exception of a couple, that had summer jobs that they could not pass up, have been on this campus, really, for the last 12 months, and they make a tremendous sacrifice.
“But I think because of that, we’re all excited about this season, because we all have so much invested in it. But I have a tremendous amount of respect for our players, and I think all of you realize just how hard they work at this and how important it is.
“But it is exciting to get started. I really feel optimistic. I really feel like we have some momentum that has been generated. I’m also realistic enough, and just as all of you have been around these Media Days enough to realize that everywhere you go in this country, there’s a lot of optimism today. We’re not an exception. It’s normal to be excited on Media Day. I certainly realize what kind of schedule we have, what kind of challenges we have. I realize the youth we have on this football team. I realize that probably on paper, if you look at our team, it looks like it’s a year away, if you’re really honest and really realistic.
“But I really do have a good feeling about this team, and I think it’s shared amongst this staff, and also our football team just visiting with them last night. And the reason — it’s not really blind faith. The reason you’re optimistic is because of what you’ve seen this team accomplish.
“And I think a couple things: Number one, and probably the thing that I’m most proud of with this football team, really, this football program right now, I really do think we have developed a work ethic. And you’ll probably hear that all around the country today. I know other people work extremely hard, but I’d like to think we have the hardest-working team in the country. And I know they work hard, and I’m not sure we do. But I know our football team thinks that they do, and I think that’s important. Something that I’ve always believed: It’s not what you say, it’s what you do. And I think this football team has bought into it.
“A lot of times, you can spend your time thinking about clever way to answer things, the clever way to say things, and I don’t think we’ve done that. This team has dug in and worked hard, and I think that’s probably the number one reason that I’m optimistic. Because of what they have done, they have done everything we’ve asked. But because of it, I really do think we are closer as a football team. I think we have more confidence in one another, because we have been around each other and seen how hard each and everyone in this program has worked. I just think we have a lot invested, and I think that goes across the board. Not only for these players but the coaching staff. We have five coaches that have been here for two years. We have four new coaches that came in that all left good programs. Work ethic is something that I’m really proud of in this program.
“Second thing I’m excited about, I think the overall talent is definitely up. I’m not sure we have a lot of all-American football players right now. In fact, I try not to, but I had to look at some of these preseason magazines and one of them I think listed the top 50 players by position in college football, and I looked in there and I think we had four. We might have had the 8th or 9th best defensive end rated. One of them — they kind of had the all-purpose quarterbacks, and we had a quarterback down there. We might have a tight end about ten. We had four out of the top 250. I think Tennessee had eleven.
“But I don’t know that we have a bunch of all-American players right now. But I know we have a lot of good football players on this team. I think our depth has built up, and I think a big part of that is because of they have worked and they have all put themselves in a position to contribute. I don’t see any dead wood. I don’t see any guys that are just here kind of riding it out. And kind of goes back to that work ethic, but I do think our talent level overall and our depth is up.
“The third reason I’m excited is really the improvement we showed last year. The obvious is we went from 7-6 to 9-3, but a lot of other improvements. If you look closer at the statistics, total offense I think we went from somewhere in the 60s to 40. Total defense we went >from the 60s to about 40. Rushing offense, significantly improved, 36 to 16. Rushing defense, 83 to 40.
“I’m not telling you we’re satisfied or we can win being 40th in the country, but the point is that we’ve made some progress, and we’ve been able to keep that because the continuity in the schemes has stayed the same. Even though we have four new coaches, I think the positive thing is nothing that’s really changed for the players, and I think we are in a scheme that not only helps us for this next year with our personnel, but as we continue to recruit with the consistency we have, I’m really comfortable with that.
“I think it’s pretty obvious now the whole plan is to take it to the next level, which I’m sure everyone across this country is trying to do, and I realize what a challenge that is.
“Some of the concerns I have: Number one, I think it goes without saying the schedule is challenging. Challenging even as far as a Notre Dame schedule is concerned. I think the early part of that schedule with the passing teams we have on it, I’m talking about our opponents. Also, I notice the coaches poll came out. Three of those teams in the top 25, we play on the road. You’re looking at the No. 2 football team in the country, last year’s National Champion. You’re looking at the 7th-ranked team in Michigan, which is the previous year’s National Champion, and Tennessee and Michigan I think the last two years have won more football games than any two teams in the country, both on the road. And then Purdue on the road.
“You look at the home schedule, opening up with Kansas. And then also that five-game stretch, with Michigan State, Oklahoma, Arizona State, USC and then Navy, and then finishing the season going out to Stanford. I’m whining about it, but it is a challenging schedule and our football team realizes that. But it’s also a great opportunity.
“Second thing that concerns me: The youth of this team. We’re young. You look at the offensive line, you’re going to have three or four new starters, three or four new tailbacks. I talked to Tony Fisher and the only ball he carried the ball against Baylor, and maybe. Tony Driver has only carried the ball a couple times. Terrance Howard has never carried the football. Three new linebackers on defense. We’re going to have a new punter. But I think we have talent at all those positions.
“My concerns, just kind of putting it in a capsule: Can we protect. When it’s a third down and playing the kind of things we’ve played, can we protect with those young linemen, can we cover.
“You look at last year, you think back to the Michigan State game. A lot of things happened. One of the most significant things was some of those deep balls where we just got in jump ball situations and didn’t make plays. Think of the Georgia Tech game where we scratched our way back in that game, Dennis White catching that long pass.
“Can we punt, got to be able to punt the football. I think really what sometimes we don’t realize: Can we hold on to the ball. You take Autry Denson, you take some things for granted. But the last two years, we have been second and third all-time in the least amount turnovers in Notre Dame history. We have not been a great team. But the reason we have been able to win some games is we’ve been able to turn that ball over. All of the sudden with those new tailbacks, that can be a concern.
“Some things I think we need to continue and some things we emphasize, and you’ve heard me talk about these last year, but we’re building on that foundation, I think being a great-conditioned team, and I think that’s our edge. I think we have a tremendous off-season program and I think it’s an edge.
“Last year, for instance, it’s remarkable. When you look at 1997 in the third quarter, we were outscored 64-27. You think about the Michigan game up in Ann Arbor, out at Stanford, that LSU game down at Shreveport second half just caved in. 64-27 outscored.
“’98, outscored our opponents 94-26. Think back to the Michigan game out here last year. And I’m not going to go through all the games. But continue to be a great-conditioned team.
“Second thing we harp on all the time this in this program: Play faster. Play faster. Every talks about our team speed. We have enough team speed. We have enough team speed. We didn’t play in full speed, and just playing in the game faster, we’re going to be okay. ’97, we always talked about big plays or explosions runs over 12 passes over 16. ’97 receive in 12 games we had 64. Last year in ’98 we had 106. Talk about playing faster.
“This spring out here, probably saw more big-play capabilities than I’ve seen in — probably since I’ve been here. Probably since I’ve been here, and big explosions. Just take the spring game for example. There were some explosions in that game. And I think the same thing with the defense last year. We did improve on sacks. Did improve on tackles for losses, but that’s a big, big emphasis this year, playing faster.
“Third thing we have to continue is win at home. That’s easy to stand up here and say. We were 17-7 from ’94 to ’97 in Notre Dame Stadium. Now we’ve got nine straight, we were undefeated last year. Doesn’t take a genius to see we have seven home games this year. Now, there’s some challenges in that schedule, but if we can win at home, we have a chance to have an outstanding record this year and an outstanding team.
“Third thing or the fourth thing that I think we need to do better: We need to hit. We need to hit. And we need to have some explosions on defense, special teams. But you look at ’97 we forced 21 turnovers. Last year, we forced 40 turnovers.
“And the reason I go through these things and the reason I talk about last year is you build on the foundation. You build on what you’ve created, and I just want to let you know what we emphasize with our football team.
“As we head into ’99, things we must improve, number one, without a doubt, the kicking game. Without a doubt. These statistics are embarrassing. 1998 punt returns: We were 68th in the country. Kickoff returns: We were 75th in the country. With a punter like Hunter Smith, we were 39th in the country. Not that we didn’t spend time on it, but we didn’t get it done. And that’s something we started in the spring emphasizing, and we’ve carried it all the way through.
“A lot of it had to do with personnel. We’re going to have new personnel in a lot of those areas, and it’s going to be young. But we have made a commitment as a staff, and our number one priority is to improve the kicking game.
“Second thing I think we need to do: Play more players, particularly on offense. We got to where we kept those five offensive linemen in there all year. There was a gap between the first five and the next group. But I think because of the depth we have, it’s a little bit closer. You think about Autry Denson carrying the football that many times — I take responsibility for that — but I think we now have a few more numbers and a few more people that can contribute to tailback.
“But across the board on offense, I think need to play or players and we should be able to do it. I think it’s helped us on defense.
“A couple things on offense that I think specifically we need to improve on: I think we need to be a more up-tempo team. Georgia Tech definitely made an impression on me in the Bowl Game. I think we have those style of players that we can get up to that line of scrimmage and we can be more up-tempo more of a fast break style.
“I think we need to be a little more sophisticated with the option game. Maybe pitch in the ball a little bit more. We were a little bit conservative last year, didn’t get it out on the perimeter much. And also, I think we have some tailbacks that are that style that can get it out on the perimeter.
“I think we need to be a little more wide open. We are not going to be Purdue. I don’t mean to act like we are going to be wide and empty and that kind of thing, but I think more in our approach of not being afraid to take a chance. Maybe not worried so much about the bad things that can result. If it’s something you haven’t just prepared and prepared for, just let it rip a little bit more. And I think you’ll see us do that.
“On defense, continue to improve. We have not been a great defensive football team. We are making improvement. Continue to do it. I think particularly against the passing teams. That’s one statistic we actually did not improve on lasted year. We need to have our front become dominant, playmaker type players. And we’ve gone to a scheme that allows four down linemen, and that’s what our emphasis is going to be on.
“So overall, I think we’re a young, talented team. I think it’s a hard-working team, and I like those ingredients. I like youth. I like talent. And I like the fact that they have worked hard because you can stand in up in front of that group and say it worked hard, and they know you’re not kidding. You don’t have anybody back in the back thinking: Coach, you’re not being straight with us, we haven’t worked hard. These kids have made a sacrifice. I’ve got great confidence in our players and great confidence in our staff.
“Some of the positives, some of the issues. Some our players are going to be academically eligible. As you know, we went into the summer with very few, if any, even major concerns, and I think that’s a credit to our football players. I think they have done a good job academically. We do have one setback, which seems like that’s always part of it on Media Day. Brock Williams has been suspended from football for the fall. He will be on scholarship. He will have the opportunity to stay here at Notre Dame. It’s a setback for Brock Williams in the short term. It’s a setback for our football team on the short term. But hopefully, hopefully in the long haul and the long process of this, it can be what’s best for Brock Williams, and our football team can learn >from an example that can be best for our football team. But he will be suspended for the fall.
“As you know, we are going to be practicing back on the rec fields. I think when you get a chance to get out there, you will understand the reason why we are doing it. It’s not a major issue. Not a major deal. But I think it gives us a chance to change the atmosphere a little bit. It’s a real open-type complex. Reminds me a lot of the NFL training camps I’ve seen. And just gives us a little bit of change of pace. Hopefully, we can stay back out there till the Monday of the Kansas game and go back to our practice complex. But I think everyone has been excited about the facility out there.
“The practice format we’re going to use: We are going to go 2-2-1, 2-2-1, all the way through. All the way through instead of just 2-2-2., 2. I just want to change the players a little bit. I want to reward these kids for how much they have worked in conditioning in the off-season. And I think just right now, that’s the best thing for our football team.
“We’ll go from now until August 18th just overall implementing schemes. Spend a lot of time on Michigan, which is our second game, which we always try to do, get ready for a couple teams in training camp. From that point on, it will probably be all Kansas. Probably scrimmage the 18th, which is Sunday. Come back and scrimmage on the 20th, which is a Friday, which is a week before the game.
“Two new players on scholarship, not new players, but two walk-ons that I’m really excited about having the opportunity to put down for scholarship: Brendan O’Connor and Anthony Brannan. And both of those guys have just done a tremendous job, as all our walk-ons do. We have great kids in this program. And I’m glad to be able to reward those two.
“The other issue, Anthony Denman, there was a death in his family. Should be back today. He’s having some problems with a flight that was cancelled, but hopefully he’ll be back for Media Day. Sean Mahan has a knee sprain that he sprained about a week ago. He may be a week, week and a half to two weeks.”
“Other than that, I’ll be more than happy to answer any of your questions at this time.
BOB DAVIE: (Inaudible.) No longer able to play football. He had a situation, a head injury, and he will be — he will remain in school, but he will be on a medical scholarship.
BOB DAVIE: The decision was made just in the last several days. Obviously, it’s a position that we are vulnerable. One of those things I mentioned early was can we cover. You know what, it’s just one of those things that you deal with. This won’t be last thing that we have to overcome. I think with the corner situation, Deveron Harper, Clifford Jefferson, certainly Shane Walton, and now it’s freshmen. We’ve got two freshmen and it’s time to step up and go. Fortunately, we have enough numbers there, but it certainly — you know, it puts a bind on this football team.
BOB DAVIE: I’m not going to comment on the whole process. But you know, it becomes an accumulation of things. I don’t want to say anything more about that. Check with Jim Ross, but he’s had headaches. Really, when he came here, he had headaches, as he did in high school. And we’ve really researched that thing and sent him a lot of different places and a decision was made in his best interests. But it’s not from one injury. It’s from something that’s been kind of a chronic problem for him.
BOB DAVIE: Excited about our defensive front. You look right now at Lamont Bryant, weighed in at 271 pounds. Grant Irons is 272 pounds. Tony Weaver is 270. We’re going to start Tony Weaver off inside we are going to move him to defensive tackle. Brad Williams is 288. Lance Legree is 280. Antwon Jones is 290. Those kids have really built themselves up, and I think it should be a strength to this football team, our defensive line. And I want all four of them down with their hands down on the ground and see if we can come off the ball and create some negative yardage play. So it has been done because of our personnel.
BOB DAVIE: I think Ronnie Nicks is healthy. Will Ronnie Nicks stay healthy, that’s the question. I don’t mean to embarrass Ronnie. He’s one of the toughest football players I’ve ever been around. There’s no correlation sometimes between staying healthy and toughness. I’m excited about our linebacking crew. They haven’t played. But Rocky Boiman, Rocky Boiman is 245 pounds. That doesn’t mean he’s a great player because he’s 245 pounds. But he’s done it the right way, he’s worked his tail off. Anthony Denman is as explosive a player as we have in the mode of Kenny Tatum, but more of a natural linebacker. You look at the young players. Carlos Pierre-Antoine and Tyreo Harrison, it’s exciting because of the talent there. Ronnie Nicks is a key player, because all of you that have seen him play, he can make some things happen. He’s an explosive player. And keeping him healthy is obviously something we all hope for. I think also Joey Ferrari. He had a good off-season. He’s going to push Boiman for that outside backer position.
BOB DAVIE: Maybe I read between the lines too much, but I’d like to think it is. All of you have been around here a long time. There’s not many decisions made at Notre Dame by this administration that haven’t been well thought out. They are usually obviously very conservative to move — to move, make decisions. What it is, I think it says a lot of good things about the staff. I think staff continuity is a key reason for it. But also, I think that it gives me confidence that people that make the decisions and people that know see that down the road, that if we continue to do what we’ve done, that they think we can have success in the long term. All of us see the challenges we have right here before us, but I think the people inside that really matter also see the positives that are there that allow us to have long-term success. Maybe I’m reading between the lines, but I’ve taken it as a huge positive, and something that I’m proud of.
BOB DAVIE: I think first of all Jarious is a natural leader, and that’s why I’m comfortable. I’ve seen him with veteran linemen in there be a leader. One thing you can’t do is all of the sudden say: Okay, Jarious, all of sudden we have a bunch of young offensive linemen, you need to be a leader now. He’s just naturally a leader, so I’m comfortable with that, but he plays a key role for us on offense. Also, I think that because of his abilities and his potential to learn, and his experience, he’s a 5th-year senior, that we can do a lot more things. And I think with Arnez Battle being the backup, it allows us to do a lot more things and it may involve option football to a higher degree. But I think Jarious, with his experience and his tools, allows us to do a lot of things. And I think he really evolved throwing the football last year. If you look late in that season against LSU, against Georgia Tech, Jarious Jackson ended up being a pretty good throwing quarterback last year.
BOB DAVIE: I think’s a hundred percent. In fact, we have a videotape we make in the off-season. I just happened to watch it last night. He’d better be a hundred percent or (inaudible), because I saw Jarious out there pushing a truck around that practice field. And I think he’s a hundred percent.
BOB DAVIE: One thing I think or I know is there’s some magic around here. And the only way you have a chance to benefit from that magic is if you’ve done the right things and you’re good people and you’ve worked your rear end off, and I think that football has done that. Now, it will take some magic. It will take some magic, because that schedule I mentioned and the youth I mentioned. That’s not coach talk, those are realities. But you look back at examples of things that have happened in the past. There are been other times when people have said that football team looked like it was a year away. There have been a bunch of tough schedule that is Notre Dame seems to have been faced with. We’re going to need some magic, but this place is capable of it.
BOB DAVIE: You know, I do. You always hate to say it, but I go out on a limb a little bit. I think on defense, I think Darryl Campbell can help this football team this year. Now, keep in mind, again, don’t come back and zing me. We don’t have the pads on yet. It’s still a long process. I have to guess he could. I’ve said he could. It might only be for one play, the kind of condition he’s in right now. But he can probably help us out one play. We have to get him in better shape. I think the corners, Beckstrom and Albert, both can help this team, if they are durable and they will hit because they can learn and they have got ability. I think Gerome Sapp is someone that could have the potential to help this team. On offense, Julius Jones looks like he can be a punt returner, kick returner. Great hands. Whether or not he’s the starting punt returner and kickoff returner, I don’t know. The linemen are a little bit nicked up right now. Jeff Faine has that hamstring. Probably of the young linemen, Curtin has shown he has the ability to pass protect, he’s a little farther along. And by saying that, I don’t mean to be a negative on any of the other guys. But from where we are for two days, I think both punters, it’s going to be a battle between those freshmen punters who the starting punter is. There are some guys that can help this football team. They are going to have to earn it. Everything is based on competition. So the guy that doesn’t know about those lines on the field, he might not be one of them.
BOB DAVIE: I think the team that runs option is not necessarily an option team. When I say run — I don’t necessarily mean run more option. Maybe just take it because of the foundation we have to a little bit higher level. It may not be the number of times, but I just think we need to become a little more sophisticated maybe on some of our blocking schemes and maybe pitching the football. It’s not like we’re going to be just overboard option. We just do it at a little higher level. We’ve got a year in it now. Our linemen have another year in it, which is significant. Plus we have a little bit different style linemen right now.
BOB DAVIE: It’s going to be interesting. I am really anxious to watch those tailbacks, Tony Driver and Tony Fisher. Tony Driver is 223 pounds. Tony Fisher is up close to 230. Terrance Howard opened everyone’s eyes in spring, he’s 195. Darcy Levy and Julius Jones, it’s going to be fun. I don’t know that we’ll have a number one. Somebody is going to have to really be good to jump ahead of that pack. And do you have enough scrimmage snaps to determine that? I don’t know. It’s going to be exciting because there’s no real good tailbacks in this program. One again, can they hold onto that football? Can they do it out here when those lines are down on that field, because Autry Denson wasn’t a guy when you’re out there in shorts and a t-shirt that just overwhelms you, but he can do it when the lights came on. That’s the unknown.
BOB DAVIE: I any the same thing at fullback, there’s a lot of competition. I think the fullback will probably carry the ball a little bit more. Probably because of the scheme orient. A lot of competition with Joey Goodspeed, Lapinski, Mike McNair, Murray. That will be interesting as well. It’s kind of like we’re across board with exception maybe on corner where there’s a lot of depth and a lot of competition. A lot of competition at corner, but there might not be a lot of depth.
BOB DAVIE: Well, I don’t think it will be something that just jumps out at you. But I’d like to think we are going to be faster-tempo team. I think maybe you’ll notice that. I think it may be, to a degree, a little bit more wide open from a formation standpoint and >from a play-calling standpoint. But still the same flavor and same style that we had last year, because we did make improvement and we do have that foundation set. I don’t know that it will be dramatic. Obviously, we’d like to get a few more big plays and try to get the ball in the hands of our playmakers.
BOB DAVIE: I think Jabari Holloway, I just mentioned about getting the ball in the hands of the playmakers. He is exciting with his hands on that ball. It makes you a little nervous, because he kind of hangs it out there and he doesn’t have the most secure ball skills. But he is fun to watch with that football. He can run after the catch. I’d like to get him involved more. And I think Dan O’Leary is a young tight end that’s talented. Not young. He’s experienced now. And John Owens has made strides in the spring. I think Jabari Holloway needs to get his hands on the football because he can run out there and catch them.
BOB DAVIE: I think it’s hard. And I think — well, it’s easy just by looking at the schedule and by looking at the record. But if you look into the factors of who you play and where you play them in the youth of this team, it’s a challenge. And I think not going back to the contract extension and making it a bigger issue than it really is. On the short term, that doesn’t change thinking. The expectations and the pressure and all those things are still the same. But I think it gives you confidence in the future you see the good things starting to happen. So not everything is always judged the simple, simple way of just wins and losses. You look at the whole situation and the big picture. You know, I think that’s a good question. This is a challenging year, but I’ve got a good feeling about this year because I like these players, and I like what they have invested.
BOB DAVIE: You trying to get me to say what I think our record is going to be?
BOB DAVIE: I think progress is pretty much getting better and finishing what you start. Getting better and making the best of the circumstances and making the best of the situation you’re in. And I understand the fans. I understand the student body. I understand the Notre Dame people all over this country. And I’m the same way when I judge somebody else’s program, to be honest, because I don’t know all the details. I judge it simply by Sunday morning when I open the paper and see who won and lost. But when you’re sitting here as the head coach, you see the big picture in everything. So I don’t judge as much on the won-loss record. This is the big picture as far as what all this entails, but I do it step by step and more the hand that you’re dealt and what you make out of that hand you’ve been dealt. It’s a hard question to ask. It’s taking it week by week. It’s a taking it day by day. It’s taking it day by day, and just feeling like every day you’ve done as much as you can as you make progress that day. You try to narrow it down to the simplest common thing and denominator and don’t worry so much about the whole, big picture out there. And I think that’s what we’ve done and it gives me confidence and we continue to do it.
BOB DAVIE: I’d like to feel better. Based on some of the things late in the spring that Arnez and Eric did. But until I see them do it in the game, that’s still a question mark. And I think that may be the biggest question mark as we move forward. There’s no doubt that that backup quarterback for our football team this year and for the future is significant in our progress. So yeah, I like the fact that Arnez Battle is 210 pounds. He matured in the spring. Maybe he learned from the Southern Cal experience and it will make him better, but until I see it, he is still a bit of an unknown. Still a bit of an unknown. Without getting into how much or when or getting myself boxed in, I think Arnez or Eric Chappell, whoever that backup quarterback, is needs to see playing time early in the season and with the game still on the line. That’s such a vital part, and we learned last year just how critical that is.
BOB DAVIE: Tough game. I think Purdue opens up with Central Florida. Obviously, we have Kansas, Michigan, Purdue. There’s no question where Purdue’s focus is going to be. Just kind of like Kansas, they have an open date after our game and Cal State Fullerton. Michigan, we are their opening game. We are going to get everybody’s best focus. I can understand why Drew would say that, and I understand that. They are going to get our best shot, also. Now, it’s a challenge because they are a good football team. When you go beat Kansas State in a Bowl Game, and Kansas State has played great defense the past couple years, probably as good as there is in college football, that’s going to be a battle. And any coach in the country, taking any team in the country, I don’t care if they are one, two, three, four, five in that coach’s poll today. If they are taking football team down to West Lafayette and playing Purdue right now and Drew, it’s a challenge for anyone to go down.
BOB DAVIE: As you know, in the spring, we started out making sure that we run the football. We spent about two weeks of the spring really running hard-nose football. Towards the end of the spring, we started to try to develop that passing game a little bit more, and we struggled a little bit. Jarious will be the first one to tell you, he didn’t have a spring throwing the football. Finished good, but didn’t have a great spring. That’s going to get a lost emphasis at training camp. Lot of competition at wide receiver. Bobby Brown is back. Bobby Brown is healthy had that wrist problem really all of last year. Was probably our best blocker last year at the wide receiver position. I think Bobby Brown is a leader on this team. Javin Hunter, David Givens, both chance to be excellent football players. Really encouraged by Joey Getherall. He’s up over 180 pounds and sporting that new body out there the other day. Freshmen practice, he came strutting out there, and so he’s feeling pretty good about himself. If he can stay healthy which I think for the first time since that Georgia Tech game his freshman year, I think he healthy. I think Joey Getherall is explosive. Jay Johnson is back, Jamaar Taylor, and also Glenn Earl. We’ve got some depth there. Same story: Can one of those guys step up and get you the home run. We’d like to remember in the spring game, Javin Hunter getting some big balls down the field. You’d like to remember David Givens from high school football seeing him make some good plays. But a lot of competition. A lot of guys all about the same. Somebody needs to jump up. And that will get a lot of emphasis during training camp. We started out the spring with Kevin coaching the wide receivers and Irvin coaching the quarterbacks. I think that would have worked. But I wasn’t as comfortable with it as I am with Irvin coaching the wide receivers and Kevin coaching the quarterbacks. I feel good because Irvin Meyer — and you can take this from Malcolm Johnson, you don’t need to take this from me. He is a heck of a football coach developing young receivers. And Kevin with his past history of developing quarterback. I think we are in a good position but we need to try to develop that during fall camp.
BOB DAVIE: I think you look at Jim Jones and he is probably 6’1, 300, shorter. More compact than a defensive player. But really a defensive end in high school. You look at Mike Gandy: 6’2, 300. Came here as a tight end was a defensive end in high school. Merdani, 6′, he’s probably 300. Athletic, quick guy. You know, Jordan Black, Teasdale, they are taller. Both of them were basketball players in high school. Teasdale was a tight end. We had some great linemen here. Those three men are now playing in the NFL. These guys are athletic. Maybe just a little different style. Nothing dramatic, but I think that, and the fact that we’ve done the option now for a year, I think we may be able to do some more things with our offensive line.
BOB DAVIE: Scary. You watch them on tape, just as we thought they would be. Because obviously, I’m close with Slocum at Texas A&M. They had A&M right down to the wire. Really could have, should have won the game. They beat Colorado handily at home. A lot of talented and experienced receivers coming back. Quarterbacks back. Two running backs that are explosive, quick-footed running backs. On defense, they do an awful lot. Big zone blitz team. Comes from a lot of different areas. Kind of like Michigan, but even more kicking game they do a lot team-wise. We’ve got to prepare. In one sentence: It’s difficult because you’re young and you kind of spread players too thin by preparing for a lot but also it’s foreseason. Kansas is another thing that’s going to sit and give you one look on either side of the ball or the kicking game. There’s a Xs and Os going on.
BOB DAVIE: I don’t have a strong opinion on it. I think this is the 12th game I’ve played in. As coaches, we don’t get away much as it is. You know, it comes down to me — I think you would be better off to ask those players. We get paid for doing this. We make a lot of money for doing this. This is our profession. I think you would be much better off asking those players. And I think as we move forward and talk about playoff systems, and we talk about 13, 14, 15 games going into December, we ought to get those players in on that discussion. We don’t do the tackling, and we are not the ones that just finished summer school on Wednesday and were here Thursday. So for me, it’s great. But it all comes down to the kids.
BOB DAVIE: A little bit. You know, maybe Howie in the spring that was a bit of a concern. Any time you come back as an experienced player with high expectations and youth around you, I think you can get frustrated. I think channeling that frustration in a positive way is what’s important. You’re going to get frustrated, because he’s competitive and he has high expectations. But being able to channel that into a positive leadership role. Positive leadership. Leadership isn’t standing in the huddle hollering and complaining and whining. Leadership is done in a positive way. That’s something we feel comfortable with Jarious, and something we spend a lot of time talking to our football team and our seniors about. On paper and in the spring, I was concerned about the leadership on this team. Not because we don’t have good kids but you blossom great leaders. But as we’ve gone through this summer and I’ve seen these players work — and I’ve done things off the field. I had a chance to go speak and Lamont Bryant with me and spoke to youths. Jarious Jackson, John Merandi, Brad Williams have gone with me and spoken. Bobby Brown has been out in the community speaking with me. We’ve got some leaders on this football team. We’ve got some leaders on this team.
BOB DAVIE: I think it started a long time ago. A bunch of that leadership is going on over in these residence halls when it comes down to making decisions. It’s too late by the time you try it out on that field. The leadership — the leadership happens 24 hours a day, 12 months out of the year, and that’s something we spent a lot of time talking about. So I don’t always buy into: Well, you won, you have great leaders, and if you lost, you had poor leaders. This is an all-time, all-issue when it comes to leadership. And I’m comfortable with the leadership on this team. Even though they may not have played as much as some of the leaders in the past, because it’s not so much about that. It’s really who they respect.
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