Aug. 25, 1999
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COACH DAVIE: I hope we’re prepared for that. I think we’re prepared for that. But as you come over here, you know, every year it amazes you how this campus comes to life. There’s a buzz around the campus. It’s really good to see our players. I think the whole campus feels the enthusiasm right now. And there are so many things going on. It’s a little bit different this year. You feel it even more than last year. You know, classes started today. The first week of classes, usually we have a football game, a home football game, where normally it’s a little bit different. You have that week of classes, and then the game.
So there’s an awful lot of things going on on campus. I think the fact that this is the earliest Notre Dame has ever opened up, that just tells you how early this is. You kind of feel that on the campus. There’s a lot of things going on. The students camped out, are starting to camp out now in the stadium with tickets. I think that’s what makes this an amazing place, aside from the media, some of you guys last night before practice. I think what I’ve seen over my six years is it’s really important to keep your eye on the target here, whether you’re a coach, whether you’re a player, or any involvement you have with Notre Dame football, the target right now is the game. And the target is what happens in that stadium.
I really don’t have a lot more concrete answers right now than I really had when we were at Press Day. You go into the first football game, a lot of those answers you don’t get answers until you get that feedback.
I think just educating the players, educating the coaches as to what’s going on. So many things. First day of classes, probably have more pep rallies here that coaches and players are involved with than any other place in the country. We always have the quarterback ones. It’s always a Bowl game atmosphere. I’m sure Kansas is approaching this as a Bowl game. You look at their schedule, their open date.
All those things concern you with a young football team, starting somewhat with four new members of your coaching staff. I think that’s something we spent a lot of time talking about. I really think that’s what makes Notre Dame.
The point is there is an awful lot of things going on this week. It’s a little bit different week because you have classes and a football game. I think it’s one of those things you embrace as a coach here. You kind of get to where you take pride in the target.
I think all of us, obviously, are anxious. You really don’t know. You think you know what you have, you hope that you’ve made some progress. You hope that you’re a better football team. The bottom line is that you really don’t know until Saturday. I think especially in college football. I’m really envious that last night we met with our football team, I think Denver and Green Bay were on, the NFL preseason game. We don’t have that luxury. These high school teams, they go out and they play these scrimmages. We don’t have that luxury. We have a lot of new faces, they’ll be out there for the first time. I think that’s the part that makes it exciting in college football. I think what’s really important for us this year and for this team is that we improve. That old saying, It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish, I think is really appropriate with this football team. I think we have a lot of good, young football players in this program, some of them will be playing for the first time.
I know Kansas is excited to play in this game. I realize this is a great opportunity for Kansas, pretty much a Bowl game. But so are we. I think the chance — we haven’t talked about this much. I haven’t been asked many questions about this, but I think the think the chance to play in the Eddie Robinson Classic, that name makes this a big-time game to me. I had a chance to coach down at Tuhlane, be in Louisiana, and recruit a little bit down there. Obviously, in that part of the country, but all over the country. Eddie Robinson, any player or coach that has a chance to be associated with him in any way, I really think that’s an honor.
And to give you an example, I told Jabari Holloway last night that I called Coach Robinson, which I did yesterday, and invited him out to practice on Thursday, give him a chance to talk to the team. Jabari says to me, he says Coach, is it okay if we bring a camera and is it okay if we get autographs. It shows you what a big name and how much he’s done for college football. You look at what he’s done, 408 wins, that’s amazing. I think 56 years of grambling 200 NFL players. I think what’s really amazing, he’s been married to the same lady for 58 years. That tells you what kind of a person he is.
I feel like I know him because of that video down at the College Football Hall of Fame. I’m sure all of you guys have had a chance to see that. We take recruits down there every Saturday night during the recruiting season. Just about every week, I know all the recruits watch it because I make them watch it, but I sit there and watch it myself. It’s amazing when you see them demonstrating, they show him practicing hitting the sled and demonstrating. There’s some great quotes, some tremendous quotes on that video.
One of them he talks about how teachers and coaches are really the same thing and he says coaches should teach more, and he said also teachers should coach more. And I think that really is appropriate. You know, it really is appropriate.
There’s a couple other things he says that, you know, one he says I try to get a piece of every boy that plays football at Grambling and I hope they all get a little piece of me. He says you really can’t be a great coach if you don’t love them. And then the last one he says on that video, I want them to be a better man by having played this game.
And I think that really, that sends a message to me every time I watch that. There really is a big picture to all of this. You can see why he’s a great coach, because of how much he cares about those players. He spends more time talking about his players on that tape than he ever does about himself. I think that’s a tremendous message.
Also this game, there’s two honorary captains, Paul Hornung for Notre Dame and Gayle Sayers for Kansas. I promise you Greg Mattison is glad Gail Sarris is just an honorary captain and is not out there playing in this game.
As I said before, you know, with us, I don’t really have a lot more answers than I did when we got together up in that press box. My concerns still are pretty simple. Can we protect? Can we protect? Can we cover? Can we punt the football? And then once again, can we protect the football with our running backs who have not played a lot? Always when you enter the first game, I think you’re much more concerned about your team and how your team prepares and how your team executes than you are the opponent, and I really do feel that way.
I’d like to think we’re better, I’m not sure. You look at our offense, I do think we’re more explosive than we’ve been. I’m anxious to see if we can get some big plays. You look at our wide receivers, the one thing we’ve done throughout this camp I think that stands out consistently is we’ve been able to throw and catch the football. And I hope we can continue that because I do think we’re better there.
You know, right now if we trotted out there starting it would probably be Joey Gatherall, I think Bobby Brown and Javin Hunter, there’s a lot of competition right there for that spot. But certainly David Givens will play. Raki Nelson will play. You know, we’ll play six receivers for sure, or five receivers.
Running back, probably start Tony Fisher, but Driver and Fisher will alternate. You might see Terrance Howard, you may see Julius Jones, I think we’ve got a lot of guys right there that have the potential to play in this game.
At fullback, Goodspeed will start. We won’t rotate Loplenski every series, but you’ll see Loplenski and you may see Mike McNair, both those guys. Mike McNair’s made a lot of improvement and I think Mike McNair deserves a chance to play this game. I don’t want to lock myself in, but I do. I think Mike has made a lot of improvement.
Quarterbacks, you look at Jarious, I think he’s been outstanding. I think Arnaz Battle has made a lot of improvement.
Tight ends, Jabari Holloway, Dan O’Leary, John Owens has been injured, has that calf muscle, I think he’ll be back today. Tried to go yesterday.
Offensive line, three new starters. That’s the reality. Kevin Jones, and then two tackles, Jordan Black and John Teasdale, have never started a game. Are they talented? I think they’re pretty talented. John Merandi and Mike Gandy have played. John Merandi last year was in a completely different role. He was the new guy leaning on Mike Rosenthal and Luke Petitgout. Luke Petitgout, looks like he will start for the Giants.
You see the kind of players we had up front and the experience we had last year.
The concern right now is the offensive line. I think Vollers will play, I think Sean Mahan is back now, if he’s 100 percent healthy, he’ll play. He’s practicing. Matt Brennan might play a little bit at guard. Those will be the next three guys in there.
On defense, I really don’t think Tony Weaver will play. I think it may be close. I would have to say he would be doubtful right now. Fortunately, we’ll get him back. Lance Legree won’t play, but he’s made a lot of improvement and it’s a long schedule, so we’re not going to rush them. If Tony Weaver is ready to play, he’ll play. I’m a little bit pessimistic about that right now.
Grant Irons and Lamant, I think Ching will play, I think Ryan Roberts will play. Defensive tackles, looks like Antwon Jones and Brad Williams. Antwon’s had a great camp, he really has. He’s a little bit nicked up, but he’s one of those guys he stays nicked up. It’s that way with Antwon.
Wisne will back them up inside.
Three new linebackers, really starting for the first time, obviously we think they’re pretty talented. Rocky Boiman, Anthony Denman and Ronnie Nicks. I think you see Carlos up here and Antwon, I think you’ll see Tyreo Harrison.
Corners, Deveron Harper. Clifford Jefferson will start, Lee Lafayette will be in there. That’s probably my biggest concern right now, how good can we cover. We’ve played a lot of man-to-man coverage in camp. You know, I want to see how we compete and how we cover. That’s, as I mentioned, a concern.
Beckstrom could be in the mix a little bit later on down the road. Dykes could be in the mix, Albert Porea, in practice today full speed for the first time. We’ve got to get guys back.
Safeties, Deke Cooper and A’Jani Sanders are both good players, been around a long time.
Ron Israel, Justin Smith, Gerome Sapp you’ll see him on kicking game situations. Kicking game, obviously we’ve devoted a lot of time, I like to think we’re better, we’ll find out.
I like the way the coaches have attacked, I like the way the players have attacked it. We have a new punter, Joey Hildbold. I think Jeff Sanson will kick off and obviously do the field goals, extra points.
Joey Gatherall will be the returner. I’m anxious to watch our kicking game.
If you look at Kansas, I think some things jump out at you. First of all, last year, they beat Colorado 33 to 17, they were ahead of A & M late in the game, ahead of Missouri late in the game. They were tied with Oklahoma State, a lot of close games.
And the fact that they beat Colorado so decisively. Second thing I see is a lot of schemes. Both sides of the ball and in the kicking game. They’re multiple on defense, they do a lot of offense, they change the things in the kicking game. They’re a tough team to prepare for.
Third thing I notice is that schedule. You see that all focus has been on Notre Dame. I’m sure all through camp the focus has been on Notre Dame, which I would do the same thing with the kind of schedule they had. Because you know what our focus is on campus as well.
They have a lot of athletes, I mean that sincerely. They have a lot of athletes on that team and they have some speed.
Offensive, two running backs, offense, Winbush, both 22 and 20 jump out of explosive. North and south type runners, a lot of quickness.
The fullbacks are good blockers, they have some good wide receivers, the quarterback, they’re showing signs of really being good and he’s mobile enough that they can spread the field and do some quarterback draws and things.
Defensively, as I mentioned, the big zone blitz team, had been a 50 defense team. They play a lot different fronts. You have to prepare for everything. They like their linebackers, they’re athletic, their down guys are back. Play a lot of man-to-man coverage on the secondary, I’m sure they’ll come up and play bump and run.
Kicking game, got a heck of a field goal kicker, also kicks the ball in the end zone a high percentage of time on kickoff. Punter, looks like it will be junior college punter. Two good returners, the two tailbacks are back there on kickoff return and number 28’s a punt returner, had an 80-yarder last year against Missouri.
I think we all see what this is going to be. This is going to be a close game. This is the first game of the year. First games are always concerns. I think a couple things are really important for them to emphasize with our team. First, win at home. Win at home. We have nine straight games in that stadium. We were undefeated last year at home.
I think the second thing is to continue to talk about winning close games. We’ve been fortunate enough to be able to do that. So it’s going to be tough, it’s going to be hard. And we expect it to be that way.
So I’m sure you guys have some questions, maybe some people that have called in have some questions.
Q. Hi, Coach. You have got some experience on your defensive line and experience secondary. You had some defensive problems last year. What have you done to overcome them?
COACH DAVIE: Well, we’ve tried since the Bowl game, if you remember, meeting with the media the day after the Bowl game. I think the first thing we all saw and talked about was that we have to get better on defense. We did show a lot of improvement last year, just looking at statistics. But I think particularly, Bob, we have to play better against the passing offenses. Obviously, we’re a little bit young at the cornerback position opposite Deveron Harper, but hopefully with the pass rush that we think we’re going to be able to get, you know, it’s a combination of pass rush and it’s a combination of pass coverage, and those two things, we’ve really emphasized trying to stop the pass. We have since the spring. We have through fall camp. Obviously I’m concerned that Tony Weaver may not play and Lance Legree may not play, that was a strength of ours particularly rotating defensive linemen.
But I think our team speed’s better on defense. I think we have a few more play-makers on defense. But it’s going to come down to one-on-one, a DB and a wide receiver and the ball up in the air and see if we can make some plays. We’ve emphasized that. You’re right when you say we’ve had some problems and we need to improve. I do think we’re making improvements and I want to see us take the next step.
Q. Hi, Coach. Into the 4-3 this year, are you feeling comfortable with it? Do you think it’s going to meet what you designed it to do, pressure the quarterback?
COACH DAVIE: Really other than just personnel, one more person having their hand on the ground on a regular basis, it really is a lot the same, the same scheme that we have used last year and we’ve used in the past. It was more of just a chance to get those defensive linemen on the field. Grant Irons is 270 pounds now, Lamant Bryant’s 270 pounds. So it’s a chance to get all four down guys. Hopefully we can get more push, we can get more attack, more of a run-off-the-ball kind of a defense. I think our personnel, particularly when you look how young we are at linbacker, that we should go the 4-3 and I think we did the right thing. It’s not a big change in scheme.
Q. Has Grant adapted to getting down on the 3-point stance? I know he’s never done that before. Is he feeling comfortable with it?
COACH DAVIE: I think he is. Grant’s a remarkable guy. But he did that a little bit last year as well. It’s not the first time he has done that. And, you know, the fact — you don’t see too many 270-pound guys standing up. I think it’s best for him, it’s best for us. Obviously I think for the future, for him, it’s something he’s going to do. I do think he’s made the transition to do it.
Q. You mentioned Fisher might get the start over Driver. Is that because of what Fisher has done or what Driver hasn’t done up to this point?
COACH DAVIE: I think it’s too close to call. I probably shouldn’t have said he’s getting the start. Really what I mean is we’re going to alternate those two, and I would say both of them are starters. We may even flip a coin or do something before the game. So it’s really too close to call. They’re going to alternate just about every series.
Q. Is it imperative that Arnaz will get some playing time?
COACH DAVIE: I don’t look at it as imperative. I think it’s something that we’d like to do and something we probably will do. I don’t want to make too many strong statements as to when we will do it or definitely that we’ll do it. But I think Arnaz has — I think he has improved enough, based on what he’s done in practice. I think he’s explosive enough that it may change the style a little bit. And, obviously, you know, you see how important it is to have that backup quarterback. So for a lot of reasons, I think you’ll see Arnaz Battle some.
Q. The injuries have piled up a little bit here in the preseason. Is it a little bit more than last year? Is there anything you have been able to attribute it to other than of course the physical nature of the game?
COACH DAVIE: It seems to me there’s a few more injuries. We went back, I had Mickey Marotti and Jim Russ go back and check last year because we keep those records obviously. It really isn’t a whole lot different than last year.
My first thought was it is different, and maybe it’s because of Lance Legree having that knee, maybe Tony Weaver, it does seem that we have more hip flexors. Hamstrings and hip flexors. I remember a couple years ago, they didn’t even have hip flexors. It’s kind of like a ’90s injury now.
But, yeah, we have a few more. I think one thing may have been, you know, you put shoulder pads and helmets on the first day, in the past we’ve always gone a couple days with no shoulder pads. You’re pushing and blocking against sleds and doing things against each other a little bit more than you did, even though it’s a noncontact practice. But I think fortunately, none of them have been something that’s going to keep them out for a really extended period of time.
Q. Last year at this time you made a statement about last year’s freshmen class. The consensus among the coaching staff was it was one of the best you guys had ever been around. How would you assess this year’s freshmen class at this point?
COACH DAVIE: I think it’s too early to tell, being honest. We’ve had some of those freshmen that have been injured a little bit. They’ve had setbacks. There’s a lot of quality in that class though. Right now Julius Jones jumps out at you, Gerome Sapp I think are the two young corners. Big linemen, Curtin, Godsey, Daryl Campbell. I think there’s a lot of quality.
We don’t have as many vulnerabilities as we had last year. They haven’t been pushed in to duty as much. This time last year, we’re sitting there, Tony Weaver’s 245 pounds, we’re talking about him starting against Michigan. We’re a little bit further along depth wise. Also, I’m not sure they came in in quite as good as shape, maybe we worked them harder this year, we’ve had some injuries with them. But overall, it’s a big-time.
Q. Sean Mahan, when you moved from the guard in the spring, he seemed to adapt to that position real quickly. He’s been injured here. But within a couple of days it sounds like he’s in the running for the tackle spot. Is he a viable candidate, a legitimate candidate for the starting spot here in the next couple of weeks?
COACH DAVIE: He is going to be close. I don’t want to make this a negative comment, but he surprised me. Moving a guy from defense to offense, you know, he surprised me with how quickly he made an impact. Even last night we did some team pass, he’s a good pass protector. He’s kind of a natural in there. He may play this week. If he’s 100 percent, he’ll contend for starting spot I think.
So he’s come a long way since spring football. The knee, he says, is about 95 percent. That’s encouraging. Hopefully it will be 100 percent by the end.
Q. In the spring there was talk about Driver possibly helping out in the nickel situation or a passing situation. Is that pretty much scuttled now?
COACH DAVIE: Yeah. We haven’t had a whole lot of success with that. He’s such an explosive player that I want to get him honed in at tailback. He’s still kind of going through a transition there to some degree with the pass protection and all those different things. I just don’t want to mess with him. I want to get him settled in and hopefully he can be an impact player for us.
Down the road, you know how in those substitution defenses when you get some guys hurt you run out of players, I think he could probably go back there and be a safety in some of that stuff. I want to give him a fair shot to be a big-time tailback.
Q. Since nobody’s seen him, can you compare Julius Jones with anybody, a tailback, the kind of runner he is? I mean I don’t know if you’ve seen the stuff on Reggie Brooks. Is he a Reggie Brooks type of runner?
COACH DAVIE: When I was at A & M, we played against Reggie Brooks in the Cotton Bowl. He reminds me, you know, it’s early. He hasn’t really carried it yet when it’s been live obviously, a whole lot.
But he reminds me a little bit of Greg Hill, a running back we had at A & M. He’s a scat back, get up the field. Reminds me a little bit of the tailback Kansas has. He’s a quick starter, and he’s, you know, he’s a little more explosive than we’ve had. I think that Cooper Rego had some of that. But Julius, I think, has a bright future. But it’s a long way to go.
Obviously, sometimes when you put young guys in, you know, at the end of a scrimmage or in the scrimmage, you’re limited a little bit. You can only do certain things. How he grasps the whole package, how durable he is, can he hold on to the football. There’s no doubt he has the north and south, and he’s an explosive player.
Q. Coach, with as many new faces in the offense,, particularly the tailback in the line, can you go in with the full contingent as a package, or do you scale back a little bit in the opening game?
COACH DAVIE: I think we have exposed our players to a lot of things. One thing I learned in ’97 is that it’s not what you have in the package, it’s what can you do on that Saturday. So we’ve really tried to cut it back and polish the things we can do. If you have a bunch of things and there’s a little bit indecision, you lose aggressiveness. One thing I don’t want to be, we were a little bit of that — not a little bit, we were a lot of that in ’97, particularly early in the season. We kind of had a lot of things and we really weren’t good at anything. I just want to make sure, we have exposed them to the whole package from spring ball until now. By intention, we cut it back so that we can — what going to do in the game, you won’t see a whole bunch of different things. I don’t think that’s fair to our team right now. We need to line up and let our players play.
So what percentage it is, that’s hard to say. We’ve done it in practice, a lot of different things, what we do in the game, though, will be to cut back the playbook.
Q. On a lighter note, no doubt you’ve heard ’66, ’77, ’88, coming up to ’99. This is your third season. Do you have any thoughts about this talk?
COACH DAVIE: Why do you think that’s a lighter note? Yeah, I mean, you can’t help but notice all of that. You know, that’s one of the great things about Notre Dame. There’s always comparisons, because of the tradition and because of the past. I mean it’s something that you always look at. All you have to do is look in that press guide, see all the coaches’ records and all the things that have happened.
I think you also look at the reality of how young we are of a football team, the kind of schedule we have, all those things, and somewhere between that ’66, ’77, ’88 and how young we are and how tough that schedule is probably reality.
So I don’t think — I don’t think there’s going to be a whole lot of people on either sideline Saturday afternoon at about 2:30 thinking a whole lot about ’66, ’77, ’88, unless they’re wearing jerseys. It’s fun to talk about that. It’s fun to look at the records of the team, like the ’65 record, the ’76 team’s record, the ’87 team’s record, sometimes there’s a lot of parallels. But when it comes down to running that trap or blocking the right guy, it’s much more thought process put into that.
Q. Talking a little bit today about superstitions. Someone had mentioned the old story, you have a priest, make the sign of a cross before somebody does something, whatever, a fight or something. And turns and says will that help, he says yes, he’s got talent. Is that what you’re saying?
COACH DAVIE: That’s the bottom line, although we have superstitions. Last year before the LSU game, we came out of the basilica after mass, Father Reilly always gives us medals, each one. Everybody that was at the mass gets a medal. I always keep that with me.
It was about 30 seconds before that kickoff against LSU, I got one of those student managers, sent him hauling his butt across that field in to the locker room, got in my carry bag, got my dress pants out, and got in there and got that medal out and made it back in time.
I remember one time we were playing at A & M. That time I had a worry stone. My daughter had given it to me. We were playing TCU up in Fort Worth, it was about a three-hour drive. I get up Saturday morning and realize I don’t have that worry stone. Joanne comes up Interstate 35 in about three hours and makes it to that game bringing that worry stone. Of course Quentin Coryatt and Aaron Glenn and Kevin Smith had something to do with the way that game turned out but I think we all have that superstition.
Q. Why do you not want to open it play by play, do you want to get a groove going, any kind of philosophy behind that?
COACH DAVIE: One time I played, I alternated with a guy every play. Maybe I wasn’t in very good shape, but you could gasp just running in and off of that field so much. I’m not a big advocate of that. Plus I think you want to settle in, get a rhythm going in the game. We may not lock ourselves into every series, you see how it goes. Those guys are both even. They both deserve to play.
Q. Coach, you were originally very dissatisfied with the Friday scrimmage and felt better when you watched the film. I was wondering if the early start to the season has made the camp feel like it was just sort of rushed? Have you felt kind of hurried to get ready for a game so early even though the practice you did corresponding started earlier?
COACH DAVIE: I think the fact that you could stay in two days longer in some ways has given you more practice time and more meeting time. And it’s something we took advantage of. We started every morning at 7:15 with the players and they didn’t leave the locker room until 10:15, 10:30 every night. So it was a grind. It was a mental grind. And that’s how it’s supposed to be. I think this year more than ever, we probably met more than we ever met and probably practiced more than we ever practiced. Just looking Friday at the scrimmage, you know, it didn’t look a whole lot better, looking at it on tape. But the reality was going out and practicing Saturday wasn’t going to alleviate the problems we had. It was mental. A lot of lack of focus, a lot of silly penalties. I didn’t want to make a negative worse. I felt like by doing that we would. We kept them up there late, late Friday night and watched the tape. I think we got our point across, got our message across. I think we did the best thing. Our football team came back yesterday and they were excited and refreshed, I think ready to correct those mistakes.
Q. Coach, I know you’re worried about Kansas. Is there a benefit to playing Kansas at home instead of playing at Michigan — starting with Michigan on the road?
COACH DAVIE: I think just playing at home, with a young football team with three offensive linemen, so much is done at the line of scrimmage. You have new linebackers calling that huddle. You take Bobbie Howard, pretty comforting with 27 out there in front of that huddle the last few years, getting those signals from the sidelines, making strong calls, getting everybody lined up. We’re just so young. We have a new offensive coordinator. Even though the terminology is the same, some of the things we’re doing as far as checks and things are a little bit different. Just from a communication standpoint, you know, being at home is something I think is — obviously that’s why we did it. There’s no suspense as to why we did it. We wanted to open up at home. That was one of the issues we thought about. So obviously we thought it was good for our program.
Q. Two freshmen punters, I don’t think we’ve ever discussed with you whether they have been kicking at all. Have you had them focus on the punting because that’s the open job? Or did they compete for the kickoff job with Sanson?
COACH DAVIE: Joey Hildbold we have not kicked with him much. He kicked earlier. Then we felt it was best he put his total focus on punting. Nick Setta has kicked, Nick Setta has an extremely strong leg. Nick Setta couldn’t compete for the kickoff job or field goal job. I’ve been impressed with him. With his situation right now with Jim Sanson ahead of him, I don’t know that you’ll see Nick. Nick has done a lot of kicking. Also has punted.
Q. Are you concerned at all about Sanson? I know you gave him the day off the other day, he had a problem being — are you concerned about him having that role?
COACH DAVIE: I would have been concerned if it was the same problem as last year, he tore that quad. But it wasn’t. He came back Monday and was 100 percent last night at practice. I was a little concerned over the weekend, but yesterday he’s fine.
Q. What difference has it made, this two-a-days as opposed to spring (inaudible) for Jarious (inaudible) to the offense to have Kevin Rogers working with him as the quarterback coach? Was that part of the reason you made that decision?
COACH DAVIE: You know, Urban Meyer is a great football coach. He’s one of the sharpest young coaches I’ve been around, recruiter, coach, on the field, off the field, in all areas. You know, I thought it would be a tremendous opportunity for Irvin to coach a quarterback. I think that would have worked. I really do. I think it would have worked.
In my watching the practice and the mechanics of practice, I saw quickly how hard it was to be the offensive coordinator and to mechanically coach the receivers. In other words, when that huddle breaks if you’re the coordinator, you want to watch the football. You want to watch the quarterback. All the checks, all the communication is done with the quarterback. Just the mechanics of it, I was uncomfortable with.
And I think it was the right move. And I know that — I know that it was the right move. I think Irvin and Kevin feel it was the right move. I feel much better about it. Just the meeting time, all the time with the checks, it’s just more consistency the way we were doing it.
Q. You talked about Eddie Robinson and why it’s important to you, what was his reaction when you called him? How often when you were at Tulane or A & M did you encounter him on the recruiting trail?
COACH DAVIE: Really never did. Never actually met him — I think it was maybe a summer, maybe last year or a summer — maybe a year ago he was in town for one of the Hall of Fame things and he came out to practice and I met him and he took a tour of the stadium and things. But, you know, the thing I see is the impact he has on our players. When you mention his name to our players, they get excited about that. But I’ve never really — I don’t pretend to be friends with him or know him, I just know of him. I think through that Hall of Fame video, that’s a tremendous video. Not only is Eddie Robinson on it, but they have John McKay, Darrell Royal, and I think it’s something everybody should take advantage of, going down there and seeing that. Really through that video more than anything, David.
COACH DAVIE: Well, Tom, I am concerned. I wish we had a stable of commerces. I’m not trying to be cute or clever with that. I’m concerned about that a little bit. Joey Hildbold is ahead. Do I feel totally comfortable with that? I won’t until I see him in that game, how he responds. That’s the reality of it.
David Miller has made a lot of progress. From where he was last year as a punter until now, he’s made a lot of stride. He would probably be the backup punter right now. Hopefully we don’t have to get in a punter derby where you are always trying to figure out which way the wind’s blowing, who’s this, who’s that, put a different punter in. We’ll have to wait and see.
David Miller has made progress. He’s done real well with kickoffs. But right now Hildbold is ahead of him, just a little bit more experience as being a punter.
COACH DAVIE: I’m going to have to see him.
Honestly, I’ll have to wait and see him in the game. They’ve done everything we’ve asked. You know, we go against our defense a lot. I mean, they compete against some good defensive linemen. You know, against the scout team, Kansas gives you a lot of looks. They’ve done a pretty good job picking things up. You and I both know Kansas will give us some different looks when they see three offensive linemen in there. How they respond once that game starts, what happens when they get beat, what happens with the quarterback gets back, that’s what I have to wait and see.
You know, that’s why this press conference right now, you don’t know a whole lot more. You think you feel better about things, but so much changes in the game, particularly the first game.
Q. Since you committed to playing this game, are there ways that you can benefit from the extra game that may not have been clear to you at the time that you committed to it? Are there other things you’re going to be looking at?
COACH DAVIE: You know, not really.
This is my third time in one of these games. You know, I think we’ll benefit if we play well enough to win. And we come out of it a better football team heading to Ann Arbor the next week than we would have been if we didn’t play it.
You and I both know it comes down to how that game goes on Saturday. But looking at the plans, the reasons why we chose to do it, I think it was a good move. I think our football team came back. They were enthusiastic about it even though they didn’t go home. I think Kansas is really a good opponent. They are a multiple scheme team that causes us to prepare for a lot.
They’re a talented team. So I think it’s going to be a really good test for this football team. In fact, I know it is. And you have to go play to find out what you have. To me, it doesn’t matter. I mean, personally I could play 14 games. I mean — but, you know, the only concern I had was the players, starting early, they’re the ones that have to play the 12th game but they seem to have embraced it and they are excited about it. That makes me feel good.
Q. How about the receiving core, what do you see with Bobby Brown, Joey Getheral? I mean what do you see? What’s the real Bobby Brown?
COACH DAVIE: Well, first of all, Bobby last year was our most consistent blocker. He’s not a guy that’s built particularly like a blocker but he’s a good blocker, very smart, very rarely does Bobby Brown miss an assignment.
Bobby’s wrist was really — had a problem with his wrist early in the year. Arizona State game made a huge catch for us on third down, kept the drive alive, came back, made some catches, made some catches in the Bowl Game. Got better as a receiver because he got healthy.
I think he’s a good football player. He’s a leader off the feel. Those young receivers, Jamaar Taylor, Glenn Earl, they really have — I think Bobby’s done a tremendous job with those young receivers. He’s a leader, great blocker, and he’s got some competition right now.
Javin Hunter’s pressing him. Hunter’s a guy that can make things happen. I think Bobby will respond to it well.
Q. Will he be alternating with Hunter?
COACH DAVIE: They’ll both play. Bobby’s going to start. Javin Hunter’s going to play. All five of those receivers are going to play. Jamaar Taylor has made some strides in practice. I don’t know that he’ll play Saturday. I don’t know that Glenn Earl will. But the other five will.
Q. What was Bobby’s reaction to last year? Was he frustrated that Malcolm got most of the catches?
COACH DAVIE: Yeah.
Q. Was that —
COACH DAVIE: I think Bobby was. In fact I talked to Bobby early in the season and I talked to Bobby’s family about it. But Bobby is such a good person, a team player, and the fact that he was injured, he realized that Malcolm was the marquis receiver because Malcolm was being productive. I think Bobby fought through that and matured from that experience.
Q. What’s Malcolm doing now? He’s with the Steelers, right?
COACH DAVIE: Bobby just talked to Malcolm the other night. Malcolm, I guess, is in competition with two other guys for one spot, but he’s really doing well. I think he’s on the punt team as one of those gunners going down. Malcolm’s had a good camp. Bobby talks to him a lot, yeah.
Q. How about the other guys? Denson and —
COACH DAVIE: Greg talked to Bobbie Howard. Bobby’s doing well. He thinks he has a great chance to make the team. Autry Denson, somebody talked to Autry. Autry scored a touchdown the other night in the game.
Hunter Smith, I guess there’s a punter down there that’s been around that he’s in competition with. Tim Ritter they say is going outstanding. Tim is a guy that went as a free agent in Indianapolis, and they think he’s having an excellent camp. Kory, I’m not sure. Jerry Wisne, I’m not sure.
Q. Rosenthal? Is he going to be —
COACH DAVIE: I think he played very well, yeah. I think they really like him.