Feb. 21, 2008
COACH TENUTA: I’m excited about being here, there’s no question about that. I’m excited about working with the guys here, the coaching staff, the players. It’s a real thrill for me. Obviously, my family is not here yet. My kids will finish out the school year, my oldest son will graduate from his high school and then I get them here as fast as I can. So now I’ll open it up to anybody for questions.
Q. Charlie (Weis) mentioned that you, he and (defensive coordinator) Corwin (Brown) in various permeations talked about this, the arrangement and how things would work. How do you expect things will work? Do you have any idea of the breakdown of responsibilities since you’ve been a coordinator and now you work alongside a coordinator?
COACH TENUTA: All right. But I’ve been a coordinator most of my career and also not been a coordinator. So that part is no big deal. I’m here at Notre Dame. To me, Notre Dame is a place I want to coach. Corwin’s a heck of a football coach. Coach Weis is another reason why I’m here. To me we just work together and go on.
Q. How do you work together? Charlie said you’re going to kind of an ‘idea guy’.
COACH TENUTA: Obviously, with my experiences in where I’ve been and what I’ve done, with the packages that I have, and Corwin and his package, we just kind of melt the packages together. If something good, something’s bad, whatever, and work it out and game plan together and get ready for practice. Obviously some of my ideas but most of his will go into spring ball, then we’ll go from there. I’ve got to learn the players and what they can do first and foremost and adapt to that aspect.”
Q. You kind of hit on it already. But was it tough for you to reconcile giving up play calling duties to take this job?
COACH TENUTA: No.
Q. Since you’ve been a coordinator for so long?
COACH TENUTA: I’m just saying it’s happened to me before in my career. But I’m just saying this is Notre Dame. When that opportunity came up for me, this is where I wanted to be. So that part I’m still coaching, and I love coaching, the passion for the game, the players. So that part’s not a big deal. If people get into egos and all that, that’s where it creates problems.
Q. Do you feel like your philosophies and Corwin’s are similar?
COACH TENUTA: No question. There’s no question. It’s based on the people he’s been around and some of the people we’ve been around, I’ve been around, so all of it comes into play.
Q. What was it like playing against Charlie Weis, being on the opposite side? What was the feeling like that?
COACH TENUTA: Well, first of all, before the 2006 season, he already had a year under his belt in college football. I’m always a guy that starts way ahead especially with opponents that you have not played before. And obviously I get a little excited because I’m playing against Notre Dame, and I haven’t played against Notre Dame since I coached at Ohio State in ’96.
Knowing that you have to know your opponent, you can never really get into somebody’s mind, but I know Coach Weis is an excellent football coach. So at the end of January of that year I just started breaking down all the film and trying to get from his pro, what he’d like to do in pro football through that first season. Obviously, Brady Quinn was a tremendous quarterback and so on and so forth.
So it took me a lot longer to really get to understand what he was trying to do than the guys you see year in and year out. Because he definitely is not an NCAA Manual guy, and you won’t see the same thing two or three times week in and week out, because he’s going to have wrinkles and know how to attack and you so on and so forth.
We spent a lot of time there getting ready to play him in that first game two years ago. Then, obviously, going into last season and getting ready to play Notre Dame not knowing who the quarterback was going to be or what system was going to happen, but we had our game plan down based on if they were going to run the read option or if they were going to be in the drop back passing game or whatever and it worked to our advantage.
Q. About the attraction of coming here, do you think he (Charlie Weis) can make you a better coach? Do you think you can make him a better coach?
COACH TENUTA: I think, obviously, he can make me a better coach. And like I said before, this is Notre Dame. You get so many opportunities to coach in your career. There’s a lot of good jobs, but this is a great job. So Notre Dame is Notre Dame.
Q. Speaking from someone who tried to sneak into Ohio State games and got caught…
COACH TENUTA: I never got caught.
Q. You didn’t get caught, I did.
COACH TENUTA: I never got caught. For six years they couldn’t catch me.
Q. What was maybe your best way of getting in? What was it like watching Woody Hayes games?
COACH TENUTA: The best way to get in was when the band door opened up or the dormitory door opened up, you could run through, then you had to weave your way to get into the second deck. Once you got in and worked your way down to back when they had the track. Then I always want to the visiting side and between B and C deck I stood on the stairs going up to C deck. I could see everything. I was a little blocked on the 20 yard line to the south end zone. But I could see everything else.
All those great teams with Jack Tatum and Rex Kern and all those guys going up into ’73. So it was exciting for me. Obviously, that really got my blood flowing for college football.
Q. Did you get a chance to meet Woody ever and talk football with him?
COACH TENUTA: Yes. I never talked football with him. But most high school guys, especially I’m so close and my high school’s so close there, you know, Coach Hayes lived in my town in Upper Arlington. As a matter of fact, he lived on Cardiff. Everybody that was around got a chance to meet Coach Hayes.
Q. Your thoughts about him as a coach and his philosophy? Did you take — I know you’ve taken things from a lot of people, did you take anything from Coach Hayes?
COACH TENUTA: Off the top of my head, he’s a legend. So I don’t know if I ever really did. I’m sure that just because he was such a great coach and I wanted to be a coach, I’m sure he inspired me to stay in coaching and get in the college coaching profession.
You never got caught, did you?
Remember then, they didn’t have those rail that’s they had to go through. So if you ever opened one of those gates, you just run through. We’re too old to do that now.
Q. First question, somebody with your reputation, I would assume a lot of jobs came your way. Did you turn down a lot of jobs to take this job?
COACH TENUTA: To me that’s a loaded question. There were a lot of jobs I was interested in. There were a lot of jobs and people that were interested in me. But the first time I talked to Coach Weis, once that happened to me, this is where I wanted to be.
Q. Can you talk about your philosophy with the linebackers? At Georgia Tech you did a lot of blitzing. Do you envision that here as well?
COACH TENUTA: I’m an aggressive attacking guy, so obviously, I hope and Corwin is, too. So we’re going to attack and get downhill and make things happen.
Q. What are you most excited about?
COACH TENUTA: There’s a lot of things to be excited about. This is Notre Dame football. There’s a lot of tradition and everything here. So to me, I’m excited about everything.
Q. What do you hope to bring to the football team?
COACH TENUTA: First and foremost, you have to look at your position first and hopefully you can carry over to the defensive unit.
Q. What strengths do you feel you’re going to bring to the program?
COACH TENUTA: I just think knowledge, first and foremost, and different things to do against different people in your game plan.
Q. What knowledge do you have of last year’s linebacking corps and what sort of scheme did they play?
COACH TENUTA: Since I’ve started on Monday, and I’ve had two early morning workouts and I’ve met all the guys. But I’ve watched lots of film. But, I mean, that’s a tough question after four days.
Q. You mentioned the lure of Notre Dame, were you ever a fan of Notre Dame? Why did Notre Dame attract you?
COACH TENUTA: As a kid outside Ohio State on Sunday morning’s watching Lindsay Nelson, everybody did. Obviously, Notre Dame — growing up in Ohio you had Ohio State, you had Michigan, you had Notre Dame. That’s just the way it was.
Every Sunday morning whether I can remember back when John Huarte was a quarterback with Hanratty and Seymour and Theismann to Gatewood and so on and so forth and move on to further action. I mean, that’s Notre Dame.
Q. I believe you mentioned you ran a 4-3. Do those mesh? I know a lot of times Notre Dame uses four down linemen. Is it easy to adjust and put things into?
COACH TENUTA: If you look at my package and the fronts that I played, my ends dropped and they were like a linebacker. So I may be a 4-3 personnel guy, but I’ve been a 3-4 personnel guy. So the whole package meshes together, that’s not a problem.
Q. Is it a fair description in terms of how you run your approach with players?
COACH TENUTA: I think sometimes I was that way. But it depends on the week, and who we were playing and how they were reacting to what we were trying to get done.
But I’m a no nonsense-type guy, discipline-type guy. I believe in the little things. I’m a big fundamentalist when it comes to football.
Q. And the connection that Virginia that Corwin also had, and similar sounding board there. Can you talk about the background there with Virginia and Corwin?
COACH TENUTA: You want me to give up my buddy is what you’re trying to tell me, huh? The guy’s name is Gerry Capone, and he’s an associate athletic director there. He and I were GA’s (Graduate Assistants) there in 1982. We’ve been close friends ever since. Obviously, Corwin went to Virginia in 2001. At that time I was in North Carolina. And he spent a couple more years there at Virginia when I went to Georgia Tech. So obviously, within the conference. But Gerry’s a good friend of Corwin’s and he’s a good friend of mine.
Q. What did he tell you about Corwin and why you guys would get along?
COACH TENUTA: I think first and foremost I knew who Corwin was for years because he played at Michigan. He also played in the National Football League. Obviously he coached at Virginia where I’m very familiar with a lot of those guys there. Then he coached at the Jets and familiar with some of the guys on that staff.
Then to turn it around, he knows a lot of guys that I coached with. So that part was easy. Once you start talking about football and what’s going on, and some of the Michigan Ohio State rivalries in the game and whatever. But the football part of it just meshed together.
Q. Just in terms of your schedule leading up to spring practice, can you kind of take us through the recruiting or getting with the players?
COACH TENUTA: Recruiting is over and done with. So right now it’s the players and it’s the coach’s meetings that we’re into right now. We have the junior day coming up on Sunday, but as far as going on the road, you can’t go on the road.
Q. This has been such an offensive era in college football not this year but the two years before. Some of the numbers guys that the program has put up. What is it like to coach defensive football in this era and try to stay one step ahead of the offensive minds?
COACH TENUTA: I think the bottom line is you win with people. If you can get your players to understand what you’re trying to do first and foremost and now take what offenses are doing or how they’re trying to attack you and have your players understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, I think that keeps you up to snuff.
Now again, like you said, you win with people and there are some really good football teams because of talent. But if the scheme comes down into play and sometimes you have to have a chance to outcoach somebody.
Q. Does being more aggressive, running more aggressive defense play into this area?
COACH TENUTA: I think philosophically first and foremost, you have to stop the run, first and foremost. You have to stop the run or they’ll run the clock on you. Now with these wide open offenses and the way people throw the ball. Philosophically we want to confuse the front five the offensive linemen and not let the quarterback set his feet. So to me, you have to be the one that dictates and don’t let them dictate to you.
Q. Is it harder to do that than it was 10 years ago?
COACH TENUTA: No question, because of the multi personnel groups they put on the field. They change in and change out. The one thing about college football is you still only have the 20 hour work week, and you have 16 hours to get ready to play a game. They can’t do and change as much, and you can’t change as much. It’s that chess match that comes into play on Saturday.
Q. What were your emotions walking off the field here last year after what your defense did? And following that up a little bit, could you have imagined yourself here at that moment or what it’s like being here after that?
COACH TENUTA: Obviously, when to whomever you’re playing but especially if you’re away from home, obviously, you want to go in and win. I mean, there are other terms that you could use, but you want to go in and win and we won. Obviously we were elated with that aspect of coming in here and winning the football game.
To be honest with you, we knew we were good defensively. We just didn’t know where we were offensively. With that in mind, and we won the football game, but to say that I would at that day not ever be here, no. I didn’t know that what happened for the Georgia Tech people after the Georgia game, I didn’t think that was going to happen either. You know, that’s just the way it is. You have to adjust and go on.
Q. Knowing that Charlie Weis had a defensive coordinator and you were a defensive coordinator, were you a bit surprised when he first approached you about the job?
COACH TENUTA: Yeah, obviously, a little bit. Obviously, he had to see where they were going with Coach Lewis and things like that. But very much impressed me, because instead of this guy or that guy calling you or somebody’s agent calling you to see if you’re interested in a job, Coach called me. So, to me, that big. That even put more in it for me.
Q. With Corwin Brown being the young defensive coordinator, what are some of the most pertinent issues of a guy who is in the position as the one you’re in to have to deal with a young defensive coordinator?
COACH TENUTA: He’s battle tested. I think that even when I was young and was a coordinator, you learn from your mistakes, first and foremost. There’s different ways to skin a cat. But you’ve got to know what your people can do best and go from there. And I think he’s done a good job of that.
Q. What might be some of the more common mistakes that you made or that a young coordinator makes?
COACH TENUTA: I think sometimes it’s different now for people based on when I was young, because you didn’t have the multi group personnel coming in with three and four wide receivers and all that. The three yards and a cloud of dust was where it was when I was playing, so you’d have to worry as much about the pass as you do now.
So timing things up, down and distance, so on and so forth, creating match ups, making sure your players believe that mistakes, not mismatches can get you beat and those things. So it’s all getting yourself prepared.
Any time you go in, even the places I’ve gone in as the new coordinator is are the players buying into the system and so on and so forth? Can this guy do this, and that guy do that and so on and so forth? It is about a one year transitional period.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
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