Sept. 5, 2007
John Sullivan: It’s not a big deal, and for me personally I have to prepare the same way this week as I did last week and every other game. I have to take care of my job, and that’s what everyone has to do regardless of the quarterback.
Q. What you guys have done, like in the last couple of years, especially last year the us against the world kind of mentality going on the road, you have a better team and it seems to work very well for you guys, can you carry that same path when you have a young team walking into an environment like this?
John Sullivan: Absolutely you can do this. That’s the mentality we are going into Happy Valley with; us against the world, because the guys on the field are going on the only ones rooting for us. We are going to be the only ones in our corner. We are going in with 110,000 fans or whatever it is and it’s going to be a harsh environment. If we are focused and focused in on the things we need to do individually and go out and execute, it should be no problem going out there.
Q. John, can you explain what it feels like when you’re in front of a crowd like that and everybody is against you? I would imagine that it physically affects you just having so many people, the sound and the environment.
John Carlson: Yeah, I think even home games, the adrenaline starts pumping and you’re ready to go on game day.
But even more so an away game, especially when the crowd is hostile, the focus is even more intense. I just feel more I get more pumped up in an away game or where I feel like everyone is screaming at me and against me. I feel like I’m backed into a corner.
Q. What are some of the issues that you’re dealing with, with an offensive line when the crowd is that loud and communication is so difficult?
John Sullivan: Well, you know noise can be a factor in away games, especially away games where it’s a large stadium and a rowdy crowd and I’m sure that’s what it will be this weekend. But we practice for things like that and noise can be a factor. I don’t expect it will be because I think we are prepared to handle that. Mainly we’re the only ones that can affect the offensive line. There’s nothing that 100,000 screaming fans in the stands can do is change the way we play. That’s one of the things about our guys is there might be a lot of people in the stands, but there’s only 11 guys on the other team on the field and that’s what we need to be worried about.
Q. Travis, will you concern yourself with making Jimmy find a comfort zone this weekend?
Travis Thomas: I just think when we’re in the huddle with myself and John and the other John there, with the leadership that we provide, I think whatever quarterback is in there, whether it be Jimmy or Demetrius or Evan; I think they are out there for a reason because they are going to be prepared to winning it. They will find a comfort zone once they get out there.
Q. John Sullivan, after Saturday’s game, after watching the film, how do you feel about the Mike calls?
John Sullivan: Well, I don’t want to look back and focus on the Georgia Tech game. That’s in the past.
But once again, this weekend, I don’t think the Mike calls will be an issue. That’s something that I’ve been preparing for. It’s a responsibility I’ve had in the past and I haven’t had it the past couple of seasons but I’ve been able to learn from Brady and make the Mike call along with him and once again this Saturday it shouldn’t be an issue.
Q. Is it more difficult in an away game?
John Sullivan: I don’t think so. Like John said, you know, being in a road game and kind of being against the wall, it’s a great motivator and makes people come out and fight you that much harder. I think it’s a great way to motivate our team and I expect we’ll rise to the occasion.
Making the call noise can be a factor, but you’re standing right next to the guy. It might be hard when someone is 15 feet away from you screaming, but there are hand signals for anybody that’s far away and all of the linemen and center of the offense is really kind of close together so you can still hear the guys on the field.
Q. Travis, what’s it like going back to western Pennsylvania again?
Travis Thomas: I mean, it’s exciting. Just going back to the home state for the final time, it’s something I’m looking forward to.
But regardless of whether I’m going back to Pennsylvania or happy valley or Ann Arbor, we’re on the road and I’m focused on what I need to do to be successful and help this team win.
Q. Did you ever want to go there?
Travis Thomas: No, I never wanted to go there. That’s a lie actually. My high school coach is an alum there and he played; actually Austin Scott and myself were being recruited. I considered it, but I’m here at Notre Dame and I felt it was the best decision for me as far as academics and athletics. I’m happy with my decision.
Q. Just how difficult is it to split carries, especially last week, the first session, you’re going in out, in out, what does it really do to a running back?
Travis Thomas: You want to get the rhythm. It can be. You want to get a series of six or seven plays to get the feel of the game, the speed of the game and get yourself going. That was the game plan and we were prepared in practice for things like that. I think we were ready.
Q. Watching the film, and what you guys in the line need to do to get better?
John Sullivan: As an entire offense we need to be more physical and we just need to execute better. That’s the one thing is this offense is very capable, and now at this point it’s just a matter of going out and executing and getting things done and being aggressive. I think this will be a great week for us to try to do that, and I really expect our offense to get back on track and going out and executing and being physical this weekend.
Q. Was it frustrating in that game, it seems like you guys couldn’t make the adjustment to get something going either on the ground or through the air?
John Sullivan: Yeah, I don’t want to look back on Georgia Tech. You know what, it’s Wednesday, Penn State week, we’re focused forward on that. We’re going to go out and we’re going to execute and we’re going to try to spring together a number of good plays this week and hopefully our offense will be successful?
Q. Based on Georgia Tech and what they did, do you expect Penn State to blitz more than perhaps is their personality because you guys struggled with that?
John Carlson: That’s up to the Penn State coaches. I know we’ll be prepared for that. You know, if they feel that they have to change what they do just because it was successful for someone else, you know, I think that’s a good sign for us.
Q. John Sullivan, all of the amount of information and the adjustments he was able to make do you remember anything about the difference inaudible how?
John Sullivan: Just slow down a little bit. When you’re in your first start things happen really fast. It’s not always easy in your first start to think ahead and think of what’s the worst thing that can happen and anticipating things that can happen. A lot of guys got their first taste.
I expected this week things will slow down, and we’ll be more aware of everything that’s going on around them instead of maybe just having a possible tunnel vision on the guy in front of them and they will be able to see more things.
You know, hopefully that will help our entire offense to execute better, which is really the main goal that we have, you know, just going out there, playing more physical and executing.
Q. You said you feel like this offense is very capable; what are some of the things that you’ve seen over the last month?
John Sullivan: You know, a number of things that I’ve seen is we were practicing together for a long time, and you know, I think that we have great athletes, we have smart guys and we have guys who really want to be good football players and guy who want to win. Those are the key ingredients. Now that a lot of the guys have a game under their belt, they will go out there and be more comfortable. Even though it’s a road game, they will go out and be more comfortable and we’ll execute better.
Q. Charlie talked about how during the spring Jimmy really impressed him and was leading the quarterback competition. What do you guys see from him that impressed you during spring practice?
John Carlson: It’s hard for me to judge him as a quarterback because I’m not a quarterback coach. As a tight end I know that all three of those guys are capable of making plays. They have all shown that they can do that in practice.
Obviously Jimmy is a good player and we’ve got a lot of faith in him. He’s been named the starter this week and we’re behind him 100%. But as far as naming specifics, I’m not qualified to do that.
Q. How about in terms of just leadership, running the show as a younger guy who has not been out there a whole lot?
John Carlson: All three of the quarterbacks are young and they are all inexperienced. So I feel like the three of us should bare the brunt of that burden I guess. We need to provide the majority of the leadership on the field. A quarterback does have just based on a position, he does have I guess some responsibility to be a leader. This year, it’s up to the three of us to provide the majority of the leadership.
Q. Do you feel like whoever the quarterback is kind of needs to kind of go his own way in terms of leadership; that there isn’t so much a quarterback has to be a leader on an offense I would think. Do you have to let Jimmy, Demetrius or Evan sink or swim a little bit and develop their own leadership style?
Travis Thomas: I think everybody is different in their own way. Everyone’s leadership style is different than the other. Some are move leaders by example, some are more vocal. I just think whoever is out there needs to do their job and by doing your job you’re helping the team.
Q. What’s Jimmy’s style that you’ve been able to glean so far?
Travis Thomas: I don’t know. I mean, he’s just out there doing the things he’s supposed to do as a quarterback. You know, they all do that. As far as being a leader, like John said, they look to us to provide that weight of leadership.
Q. And speaking of change, in week two, do you feel like you’re in some ways starting over at this point?
Travis Thomas: I wouldn’t say starting over. I think we are learning from our mistakes. You’re constantly learning as the year goes on, and what we are focusing on right now is just making us better; getting back the fundamentals and techniques and working on the things that you need to do to be successful.
Q. John Sullivan, could you talk about what your message is as leader of the line? What’s the message you have at the start of the week?
John Sullivan: You know, I’m a firm believer that that’s true, things will get better as long as we go out and work hard and we learn from mistakes that we’ve made.
That’s why I made the message, don’t get too high when good things happen, but don’t let yourself get too low when bad things happen. We’re going there with a strong will to work hard and a strong will to get better. I expect that will happen.
One of my messages has been you can’t be afraid out there. You just have to play as fast as possible. You have to play fast with your body, you have to play fast with your mind and your eyes, see things that are going on around you and adjust accordingly.
And you know, they are young guys. Offensive line is a tough position to play and they will get better and this offensive line will get better.
Q. For any one of the three of you, the fact that it seems like probably going back to a style that you used more last season or the past two seasons, will that help at all just because it may give you more confidence and the fact that there’s more experience that you can use the offense so you might have more to fall back on?
John Carlson: I felt we were prepared and confident in our respective roles in the game plan for last week. Whether or not things change this week, it’s not going to change our comfort level. We’ve been practicing for a long time. We went through spring ball last spring and that helped in our preparation.
No matter what style of offense we come out in, we’re going to be ready and the coaches are going to have us prepared?
Q. You talked earlier about how much it helps the speed of the game in terms of young guys being out there. For Jimmy, how much did it help being out there for the fourth quarter in terms of, you know, just getting his feet wet?
John Sullivan: That’s probably a question that only Jimmy can answer. But I’m sure, you know, any time you have game experience it helps a lot, and you know it just helps to you get more comfortable. And, you know, now when he goes out there this week and it was his first time out in a real, live, game situation, I’m sure it was a big help.
Q. Were you able to see things from him in the huddle and things that you saw, maybe improvements from the beginning of the first plays versus towards the end, just getting confidence?
John Sullivan: Yeah, that’s a question you’d to have to ask Coach Weis or Coach Powlus. I’m not a quarterback coach. I was mainly focused on the offensive line and trying to get feedback to any of those guys. Once I came out, we held them in the future, I mainly focused on them.
Q. What’s the biggest thing you can do at center for him in his first start?
John Sullivan: You know, we’ve got once again, we have the message of not getting too high and not getting too low, and that applies to everybody on the football team, which is what I addressed it to before.
There’s a lot of responsibility that the quarterback has and a lot of responsibility that I’m carrying right now. So just go out and do my job and focus on playing my game. I think if everybody does that, it will help him to be able just be himself and help him execute.
Q. Would you like to talk about how you concentrate on having physical practices this week on Tuesday and Wednesday, how does that help you guys get to that speed you want to reach this week?
Travis Thomas: When you practice fast, you play fast. I think we are creatures of habit. Once you continually do something, it becomes second nature.
John Carlson: I guess I’ll echo what Travis said. What you do in practice is what you’re going to do in the game. We need to work on finishing plays and play physically tough and go out there and play hard. We did that yesterday in practice and that’s going to be the focus again today and hopefully it will carry over to Saturday.
John Sullivan: I agree with what both John and Travis said. The more you practice, the more it’s going to help you in the game. Playing physical and playing fast are directly correlated. The faster you’re moving, the harder you’re going to hit somebody. That’s the way it goes in football. I think if our practices can be up tempo and remain that way, it’s a really effective way to play on Saturdays.
Q. Travis, there was some reports in western PA that you were thinking about turning pro this past year. Just wanted to see how close you were to considering that and if that was something you were thinking about.
Travis Thomas: It’s definitely something I’m not thinking about right now and something I really don’t want to talk about. All I’m focused on right now is getting prepared for Saturday’s game against Penn State.
Q. How has it been to focus solely on the running back position this year?
Travis Thomas: I think it’s a good thing when you only have one thing to focus on. You can really tune in to individual little small things that you need to do to make yourself better as a player and also help the guys around you. You know, when you’re doing a lot of things, you have a lot of things on your mind and a lot of things that you have to work on it helps when you can focus on one position.
Q. Travis, the atmosphere here in Pennsylvania has been electric getting ready for the game. What has the atmosphere been in South Bend, and how do you get a young offense prepared to deal with the hype surrounding this game?
Travis Thomas: Well, right now we’re getting back to first base and really focusing on us, trying to get ourselves better and working on the little things that we need to do to be successful as a team, focusing on our individual things at each position to get prepared. We’re getting more amped up as the week goes on and we’re practicing really hard.
Q. Travis, after having paid your dues for so long, doing whatever has been asked of you and you finally have a true position, what would you take away from your career at Notre Dame, also being a two time captain?
Travis Thomas: I just think going out there and doing whatever you’re asked to do, whether it be offense, defense, special teams or anything in particular, it’s just going out there and doing the best that you can at whatever you’re called to do. One of the things that I do is try to take pride in everything that I do, and regardless of whatever it has been that I’ve done in the past, I’m now in the present and I just try to do my best.
Q. How satisfying is it for you to finally have a true position and to finally have such a big role in the offense?
Travis Thomas: You know, I think it feels good but at the same time I still feel like I have a lot to prove. I still have to work hard every day and go out there and work on the little things to make myself better because I have a long ways to go. I just take pride in what I do like I said previously and that carries over.
Q. Has the quarterback situation been a distraction?
John Carlson: We have had a lot of practice with distraction from the media I guess, it’s not a distraction and we support all three quarterbacks and it really doesn’t matter who is in there. This week isn’t any different than the past four or five weeks. So, no, it hasn’t been a distraction.
Q. First question is for Travis, obviously when you have a young quarterback in the game or any quarterback, a running game helps that quarterback succeed. Just explain the importance that that’s going to be in this game having to establish a running game?
Travis Thomas: I just think that establishing a running game is very important. It sets the tempo of the game and as a running back it gets me going and it also opens up things for the pass. Just being a balanced offense, getting the pass going, getting the run going, it’s going to be very important in this game.
Q. Following up with Penn State’s defense, Georgia Tech seemingly blitzed on every down. Penn State doesn’t do it every down. But what stand out about their defense and what’s the major concern facing them?
Travis Thomas: You know you’re going against a Big 10 team. You know they are going to be physical and you know we have to bring our A Game. We are on the road and going into their house and it’s going to be a loud environment. So what we need to do is work on getting better this week, focus on executing our game plan and hopefully things fall into place.
Q. I’ll follow it up with a question for John. Tight end position really hurt Penn State last year, and you had a very good game against them. What do you see in their linebackers from watching film as far as how you would rate the way they play?
John Carlson: As Travis said they are very physical players, a Big 10 team. But as far as what my role will be this week or what I can expect, it’s hard to say until game day. I’m going to do the best with whatever my role is, whether it’s blocking or running routes or whatever. I’m going to try to do whatever I can to help the team win.
Q. Charlie talked about communication being a problem. Is that something that you think can be corrected immediately, or is it something that’s going to be a process throughout the season?
Travis Thomas: We know we’re going into a loud environment and we’re on the road. We are taking the mentality of us against the world, and, you know, that’s the thing we need to do. We’re practicing to prepare for that. You know, we’re confident that when we get up there, there will not be a communication issue.
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