Sept. 21, 2011

Q. Can you talk about Pittsburgh and what you’ve seen of them on film?

Michael Floyd: Great defense. From what I know, they have a great secondary. One of the young corners on the boundary side (is) real experienced. He’s a good player. Quick feet.

And then the other guy, he’s been there, I think it’s Antwuan (Reed) something, I can’t even remember, but number No. 22 he’s been there but always been to the field. So I haven’t really experienced make against him, and the safeties always get him every single year we play them.

Q. When you think about the first three games the Irish moved the ball very well in the opening drive the last two games; anything particular the coaching staff does to prepare you so well for that opening drive, scripting plays, something like that?

Michael Floyd: We just try to not make mistakes. I think that’s the main thing that Coach harshes on, just making sure you get rolling and get that confidence that you know that you can move the ball down the field and we want our players and quarterback to be in the most comfortable start as possible.

Q. When you take on a guy like Robert Blanton, what makes him such a good defensive back? What have you noticed in practice?

Michael Floyd: He’s tall and long. He gives you a lot of difficulty; he presses you. You have to know how to get off the line. He gives us a lot of pressure and a lot of good technique that we can get help on.

Q. You mentioned Pitt’s secondary a little bit. I think they are giving up they are 119th in the country and passing allowed per game; how do you evaluate that group? Where do you see opportunities? What are they maybe not doing as well as they would like to do at the back end?

Michael Floyd: Well, I kind of take it back to the high school days and coming here. When a team plays Notre Dame or when the teams played my high school, didn’t really matter what the record was. Didn’t really matter how they played. Somehow, some way, they played exceptional against us.

So you know, whatever they did against that team, I don’t think they would do anything like that to us. I think they will play exceptionally well, and I don’t think the mistakes will be there as it was, or if it was there.

Q. I was asking Brian Kelly about how you have improved from last year and he mentioned bursts and that you have gotten better. Some people look at quickness how did you improve in that area?

Michael Floyd: I think the most thing what I did was cut some weight. I was kind of heavy. So just cutting down weight, I think it made me a little bit faster, a little bit stronger and made me feel more confident about myself.

Q. Where does that show up in your game the most, what part of your game improves the most because of that burst?

Michael Floyd: I think the quickness off the ball and being able to get the long balls down the field.

Q. And as a motivating factor, I know you’re not much into like stats and personal stuff. But to be considered the best receiver in the country, how much of a motivational point is that for you?

Michael Floyd: I think about it all the time. It’s early in the season and I think I can get better as the season goes on. I just have to make sure that I keep a level head and don’t make mistakes and improve on the things I need to the most.

Q. I guess nationally, who do you like as a receiver when you’re watching college football games or college highlights, who do you watch and like, wow, that’s impressive to me?

Michael Floyd: I don’t really learn from college football players. I watch NFL. Those are the kind of guys who have made it to the highest level. But when I look at players from that level, I look at little guys, because I feel like you can get the most information from little guys, quick feet, just being able to get off the ball.

Q. So who do you like at the next level?

Michael Floyd: Steve Smith both Steve Smiths, one used to play for the New York Giants and Steve Smith from the Panthers.

Q. Another question about Robert Blanton, when you were making your decision to come back last year, I think you remember you saying that he was texting you a lot to push you into coming back; is that true?

Michael Floyd: I think he’s gotten better through the years, and me staying I think would just improve his game and every DB out there that I go against. I think it will just improve my game also.

Q. How has he changed since you first met him a couple of years ago?

Michael Floyd: I think he’s more aggressive. He still talks a lot on the field. I call him a two split personality guy, because he’s a nice guy off the field, but he’s a very aggressive guy and talks a lot on the field. But yeah, he’s just a great player.

Q. He’s told us that he’s tried to tone that down a little bit, but he still can’t quite hide it all the way, his ability to chirp a little bit on the field.

Michael Floyd: Yeah, I think he has cut it down a little bit, a little bit less than what he used to do.

Q. When you are going against opposing cornerbacks, can that ever get into a receiver’s head, can a guy bother you by talking too much?

Michael Floyd: Unless he makes a great play, not too much. Usually I don’t really get talkative guys, and I don’t talk much myself. I just with my playing.

Q. Where do you think you guys stand in terms of turnovers? Obviously there was a couple early and then offensively, not any the rest of the way. And then the one special teams; where do you think you guys stand in that area in terms of progress?

Michael Floyd: We know that we have to cut that down and we know that turnovers lose games. Unfortunately that’s what it kind of showed in the first two games, losing the ball can go to losing games.

So just making sure that we protect the ball and making sure we make a big emphasis on that, going forward and for next week, is big.

Q. Was there a point in the first quarter where you guys go, in your heads, here we go again, why are we committing these mistakes against ourselves?

Michael Floyd: No, I don’t think so. I think you always feel, you don’t want to have the mistakes come, but somehow, some way they do, some miscommunication on the field. But you have to make sure that you have to get back on the sideline, talk it out and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Q. And obviously you guys gain confidence by getting the victory over Michigan State. How critical is that to continue that momentum Saturday against Pittsburgh.

Michael Floyd: Well, I think it’s very critical. We love the win, and we are not looking at it like we won a Super Bowl or anything like that. We just got to move forward and we’ve got to, you know, keep practicing hard.

Q. Could you just talk about the year to year improvement you’ve seen out of Cierre (Wood)?

Michael Floyd: I think Cierre has made a big improvement, and I think it helps our offense a lot just being able to have a passing game and a running game, and being able to do either one in any position of the field. So I think it helps us out tremendously.

Q. Pass blocking, is that one of the things that has really improved with him?

Michael Floyd: Yeah, I think so, after watching film from the pass games, having guys come from the side or from the outside of the line or inside, he’s better at picking it up and giving Tommy (Rees) a little bit of time to get the ball up.

Q. Just his ability to pick up yards, how much does that help your receiver core out?

Michael Floyd: That helps us out I think a great deal a lot. Just getting that second down and five, it gives us a little smaller kind of range of what plays we want to run. So just making just giving him the ball, and him getting five, six yards first down helps us out.

Q. Trying to put yourself in the shoes of a Pitt player, coming off the tough loss to Iowa, and now the whole conference; how do you block out distractions and go about your business?

Michael Floyd: Same as us. You can’t look at the loss and be like you can’t dwell on the loss. You have to move forward. There’s still nine, ten games after the season that he can easily turn it around.

Q. Can you talk about T.J. (Jones), are you impressed with what he’s been able to do this year given the tumultuous off season he had?

Michael Floyd: I think he got a lot better, and I would say getting off the ball, and that’s what all the season workouts, him getting stronger and getting the ability to go down the field and catch balls, because I think the defenses that we play, take a big emphasis on me going down the field. And just to have T.J. on the other side and be able to make big plays for us is great.

Q. What do you think is the next step for Tommy as a quarterback, having played with him for almost a year now what do you think is holding him back or what he’s doing well that will lead him down the rest of the season?

Michael Floyd: I think just his confidence level, staying poised in the pocket. He’s not scared to take hits. He knows what he’s doing, and if he has something to say to you, or if you’re not running a route or not getting that block, he’ll tell you. He has that kind of swagger about him, you know, that not too many people have, but when he says something, you respect him.

Q. The turnovers, is he not really the guy you need to go up to and say, keep your head up, or he’s already got it behind him; how does he respond to that usually?

Michael Floyd: I kind of see him as a guy that he’s kind of like me, that, you know that you made the mistake and you don’t need nobody harshing you down, and you know that he’s going to get back out there and not make the same mistake again.

Q. Both of you were visibly angry or had an edge about you; how do you keep that for nine more weeks since it worked so well for you last weekend?

Harrison Smith: I think this is how we (Te’o) play. I think normally when we come in here, Manti and myself are more we kind of tone it down. And I think we just kind of let ourselves be who we really are, like when we play football, and that’s really how we are on the field. So I think you guys just got more of a realistic taste of that.

Q. Can you each talk about Pittsburgh and the challenges they present offensively?

Manti Te’o: We know that they have had a change in coach Tulsa’s head coach when we played Tulsa last year, and we know the outcome that have game. We definitely know what they are going to throw at us and we know they are going to continue to watch film, but it definitely starts with the running back. Ray Graham is a dynamic running back and he’s good in space and he’s good with the ball in his hands.

Their quarterback seems for more comfortable in this system. He’s making good decisions, so we definitely know what they are capable of doing. We just have to prepare ourselves in practice and when it comes to the game, just execute and do our job.

Q. Can you talk about Michigan State’s unbalanced line, how much did you guys prepare for it, first of all?

Manti Te’o: We prepare for basically anything. It was new but it wasn’t something that we didn’t know how to defend. So it wasn’t a shock to any of us.

Q. And I guess what were the keys for defending that, how is that different from regular stuff?

Manti Te’o: We just play football. We just line up and get to the ball.

Q. You guys were a lot more multiple on defense last week than maybe we’ve seen in the past, (Austin) Collinsworth got in there, Troy (Niklas) played, (Steve) Filer played a little bit more; how much do you think that just kind of helped the defense overall, when you come out of the game knowing, okay, we have 12 or 13 guys, maybe we have 18 or 19 that are going to play.

Manti Te’o: I don’t think it’s an idea of maybe. We know who we have; at any given time, anybody can go down there and we have the confidence of the guy who is backing him up with the guy who is going in after him, is able and capable of doing the job.

So it wasn’t something new for us on the defensive side of the ball and the coaches. We knew what guys can do and our coaches do a good job in telling us what our roles are for the game.

So when if ever that situation presents itself, if somebody does go down, we know exactly who is going in. Guys know how to play with him. Everybody is different. Guys know what his tendencies are. So it was nice to see everybody out there and just see everybody working.

Q. Harrison, how do you think that helps the secondary moving forward now that Austin (Collinsworth), Lo (Wood) have some real experience?

Harrison Smith: Those are guys that we as players and as coaches know can play since they have been practicing, and I think with him getting out there in the games, kind of frees everybody up, the same thing that we have always seen. But having guys that you can rotate in and out throughout the year, that you know can go in and get the job done is huge.

It’s a long season, so you never know what can happen.

Q. What about the prospect of just having a dime defense; seems like you can matchup maybe better.

Harrison Smith: Yeah, you can do a lot of different things when there’s six DBs on the field. As a defensive back, that’s more fun for me, too. There’s a lot of things going on, a lot of different looks you can get.

So that’s kind of as a DB group, that’s something that we really want to have a chance to get them to third and long and then get on the field with a dime group and kind of make something happen.

Q. Can you just describe his style of play and what he brings to the defense?

Harrison Smith: I mean to, me, with Collinsworth, it just starts with his mind set, his toughness. He’s just at a very high level. I don’t know if it’s just naturally or if he wills himself to be that way. He’s a tough kid. If you guys watch him on special teams running down on kickoff, he’s always on the ball and he definitely likes to study the game and trying to understand what offenses are doing. I think the more and more snaps he gets, the more and more you guys are going to see him getting comfortable and making plays.

Q. Similar question about (Troy) Niklas, how do you think he did and what does he bring?

Manti Te’o: First of all, you look at him physically, he has that physical build where you look at him, and you think he’s a senior. But as far as his game, he’s still getting comfortable. He’s still getting comfortable with the scheme where he has to go, where he has to lineup and the more comfortable he gets with that, his natural talents, his natural play making ability will take over.

I think at this point right now, he’s getting more comfortable. He’s settling in a little bit. And this game being his first game playing was a great transition for him from high school to college.

He experienced the size, the strength, and now it’s him adjusting a little bit. He did pretty good.

Q. Michael (Floyd) was just in here and he mentioned how you last week, didn’t win the Super Bowl, it’s only one win; can you just talk about that feeling that there’s still a lot to prove?

Manti Te’o: For this team, I don’t think it’s ever proving anything. We don’t have anything to prove. All we are going to do is come each week and focus on who we have. This week it’s Pittsburgh and we are going to not necessarily try and prove to somebody, but prove a point; it’s not proving that we are a good team for us.

We know we are a good team. But just proving that, a point. I think for us, we are just going to keep playing our game, keep approaching each week and getting to work like we have been and keep going and relying on each other and just keep our edge sharp.

Q. Any thoughts on that?

Harrison Smith: We have had a one track mind. There is no last week or anything that’s happened before. Right now this is it, and nothing matters that’s happened before this. The only thing that matters to us is playing Pitt on Saturday.

Q. But do you gain confidence from last week, obviously; how critical is it to keep that going, obviously, this week?

Harrison Smith: I think we have been a confident group, and that’s just who we are. That’s what we do. We are not worried. Like Manti said, we are not out to prove something to people that we don’t even know.

We are out to prove stuff to each other, to the people in this building, and that’s all that we care about.

Q. Both of you guys have gone up against Cierre (Wood) in practice; can you talk about the developments he’s made over the last three or four years to become the running back he is now.

Manti Te’o: Cierre and I are close friends and it all starts with his confidence. He and I had a lot of one on one talks and he would always ask me, ‘Bro, what are you doing, what are you thinking.’

It’s something that David Grimes told me that I told him. I told him that whether you’re in Pop Warner, high school, college or the NFL, at the end of the day, it’s still football. It’s still the game that you played with your friends in your backyard. It’s still the game that you played in the parks. It’s still the same game.

So that love, that joy, that swag that you have when you were little, carry that over to college. Sometimes you’re lost in this whole college environment and big stadium, faster players, you lose the whole point of the game. I guess he finally grasped that.

Q. Did he ever confide in you any sort of frustration in being the No. 2 the last couple of years?

Manti Te’o: I think for Cierre, it was never him feeling frustrated with his position in the depth chart. It was more about him being frustrated with himself with the way that he was playing. He knew that he could do better and he was looking for somebody to show him to direct him in a way that he should go.

Now, I’m a linebacker. I couldn’t tell him how to run the ball. I just gave him points on how to gain the confidence that he once had that got him here. Everybody had something that coaches saw that got them here. I just helped him remember that confidence that got him here and it’s translating now.

Q. Have you seen that confidence on the practice field? Is he maybe chirping more on the practice field after a big run, anything like that?

Manti Te’o: I think you should ask Harrison about that. He usually chirps as he runs off after he gets hit a couple of times, and then Harrison usually he gets he’s the closest to him. So I think Harry would have a better

Harrison Smith: Yeah, me and Cierre have a funny relationship. We like to joke with each other, like, ‘Oh, I would have got you on this play,’ and we kind of go back and forth. So on the field, whenever we get a chance to go ones on ones, we are always talking to each other after the plays, like walking past each other. It’s just kind of like a fun little rivalry that just keeps practice to a little bit more competitive.

But I think he’s probably an example of a guy who got at running back, that’s kind of a natural position, you get the ball, and you make something happen, and I think when guys get into college, they get caught up thinking about the plays and just thinking at a whole new level and kind of forget what they have always done.

I think you just kind of see him come into his own and just play with that natural ability that he has and that determination to make a play.

Q. Would you say he’s just trusting his instincts more this year?

Harrison Smith: I think so. I can’t speak for him but that’s what it looks like to me.

Q. Coach Kelly mentioned last week his pass blacking was better; with your close relationship, have you given any pointers, like what you’re looking for as a linebacker, or what he should maybe try?

Manti Te’o: Cierre is always trying to with any good player, they always want to get better. They always know they could get better. And last year, Cierre pulled some guys aside and asked them to rush against him, to give him their best moves. And so, you know, he did that after practice; while everyone is going into the locker room and getting showered, he was doing that.

Towards the end of last year, you could see that change with him, and he continually gets better and better and better, it’s that competitive edge that he has, same as Harrison has and Floyd has, that competitive edge that makes him better. It’s improved his game, not only in pass blocking, but in running and everything he does. So he’s really done a good job.

Q. Your thoughts on that?

Harrison Smith: That’s something that Manti probably sees a lot more. I don’t really get to go against him a lot with him blocking. But yeah, you can definitely tell, that’s something that a lot of fans don’t really notice is the running back’s pass blocking. But if that’s something you focus in on, you can definitely tell the strides.

Q. Are you guys friends off the field, do you hang out, like video games or anything like that?

Manti Te’o: Definitely. That’s how most of the team is, yeah. Everybody’s like that.

Q. Can you talk about Devin Street, he’s their playmaker; does he remind you of anyone you’ve faced so far in your career?

Harrison Smith: I don’t really know who exactly to compare him to, but he’s a long guy that can run. So he’s got a lot of talent. He’s got good hands. He can make a lot of things happen.

As far as exact comparison, last year they had Baldwin and he was kind of that big target they had. So I think that’s kind of what they are looking for from him.

Q. How does the noon start change your schedule or how do you go about getting ready for the game?

Manti Te’o: I think it’s obvious, just earlier, so just got to wake up earlier. That’s all it is. Just earlier wake up call, earlier breakfast, earlier pregame meal. But it starts at noon. The Navy game started last year at noon I don’t remember. It was early. Navy was early. Just earlier.

Q. You didn’t get off to the best of starts against Navy, is it tougher to get up for a noon game and get yourself fired up; you don’t have a whole day to get your mind in that state?

Manti Te’o: I wouldn’t blame it on the time. I wouldn’t blame it on us not being ready. But that was in the past, and we are just going to come out against Pitt prepared and ready to go.

Q. Do you prefer one or the other, certain start time or does it not matter to you guys?

Harrison Smith: I’m actually excited for our early game. It’s almost like training camp, like get up and get ready to go. I think the whole team is going to have mind set as soon as we get up that it’s game time.

Q. I don’t know how much you guys pay attention to this, but the shifts in conferences, do you guys follow that at all throughout the year?

Manti Te’o: No. We don’t worry about that.

Q. Do you like playing independent do you like being an independent? Is that something this team takes pride in?

Manti Te’o: Definitely, I have no say in it, but it’s cool playing teams from different conferences.

I’m just glad to play football, you know, whoever it is, wherever it is, just put somebody in front of us, put a game on a Saturday whether it be home or away, just put somebody in front of us, it doesn’t really matter.

Q. A little bit off topic, T.J. went through a tragedy not a lot of people can understand unless they have been through it over the summer with his dad dying, you’re one of the first guys to sort of Tweet out some sympathy. How have you seen him bounce back from that? How did you guys from the team try to help him?

Manti Te’o: I think as a friend, like aside from football, he’s done very well. I think if you’re going to talk about his performance on the football field, I think you should talk to Harrison, because Harrison faces him and sees him in one on ones and stuff like that.

But outside of the football field, I would say he’s done well. He’s carried that mantle of being the man of the house; he checks in with his family, checks in with his mom, he’s always checking in with his mom to see if she’s okay.

He’s still the same T.J., still joking around, still smiling all the time, still fun to be around. So he’s still the same T.J. he’s doing well, doing well in the classroom, so I wouldn’t I would say he’s handled it really well.

Q. Harrison, I guess you can sort of use that sort of thing maybe as motivation, get focused; what have you seen in him change that translates on to the field?

Harrison Smith: I mean, to me, I’ve never gone through anything like that, so I can’t even imagine what he was feeling and what he still feels.

But just the way that he’s handled himself, it’s just unbelievable. There was never any time where he was down or gave up. He’s just a tough kid and just like you said, it’s just motivation. Just doing it for his dad. Just giving him that little bit extra when you might not want to put everything you have into it is something that he has definitely used to his advantage.

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