Nov. 23, 1999
BOB DAVIE: I think it’s obvious this week is another big challenge. When you look at Stanford, really is remarkable the kind of year they have had, 7-1 in the Pac 10, going to the Rose Bowl, won the Pac 10 Championship. And what really makes it remarkable, and you have to give them a lot of credit you look back at last year, and they were 3-17. I think. Go down to Texas first game of the year and lose in Austin something, like 69-17, and to be able to bounce back from that, lose to San Jose State along the way, which obviously have to be considered an upset.
But to be able to bounce back from 3-8 and 69-17 and be in the Rose Bowl is quite an accomplishment. You’ve got to give them a lot of credit. When you look at them, their offense, it jumps out at you right away, one of the top offenses in the country, they are number 7 in total offense, 466 yards a game, the number 9 scoring offense, 37 points a game.
And the thing that catches your attention, I think they had 34 plays of over 30 yards or more, so they really are a big-strike offense. So the statistics jump out at you right away and their players jump out at you. First of all, the wide receivers, you know, we’ve played a lot of talented receivers this year, we really have, really, each and every week. But I think we’ll look back and say that this group from top to bottom may be — you know, they may be the most talented. If you just look at productivity, if you’ve got five or six that play, the first one, Troy Walters is No. 5. You know, I’ve watched him since he was a little guy, playing, I think, junior high football. And it’s amazing, what he’s accomplished out there, to be the No. 1, all-time leading pass receiver in the Pac 10, I think, that’s an unbelievable statement right there, when you think of how many balls have been in the air in the Pac 10 over the years, and then to have something like six receiving records at Stanford. So I’m happy for him the way things have turned out. He’s a heck of a football player. Goes up and catches the ball, makes a lot of big plays.
And number two pick, No. 81, Davis, and they also have two more they play, they have a good receiving core. Their quarterback, Husak, looks to me that he’s really — he played last year, had a lot of yards, was impressive last year, but seems to be throwing with so much confidence. They have a lot of quarterbacks here, but he’s statistically in a position where he can leave there with some records, so it’s impressive.
Then they have a backup quarterback, No. 11, that comes in and really runs the ball well. I remember watching him last year against North Carolina, took off running, won the game for them. He’s done the same thing this year.
Their offensive line is solid. They are first in the Pac 10 in the fewest number of sacks given up this year, and they throw it a lot. The running game is better. They have got a fullback that can run. He broke one, I think, 99 yards or 98 yards against Cal, that really broke the game open, really went untouched, and they throw the ball to him, and he’s a good player. And then tailback is a good football player.
So across the board on offense, you know you can see they are a good football team, and the thing that concerns you is their big plays and their ability to throw the football, which is something we’ve struggled with.
So there’s no question where the target is to go to be or where the bull’s eye is going to be this week. It’s a challenge. You look at their defense, you know, not great, statistically overall, but what jumps out at you is 45 sacks. They had 6 in the game against Cal. 97, their defensive end, is a good pass-rusher. 77, their defensive tackle, is a good pass-rusher. Both of them have — maybe one has 16 or something sacks, one has 12. So they create negative plays with their sacks, and they force turnovers. They have had 12 forced turnovers in the last three games. Their kicker is No. 1 in the Pac 10 conference he was at least 10 for 12 and had a 52-yarder.
They are playing well. I’m not an expert on the Pac 10, but they certainly deserve to go to the Rose Bowl based on the things I have just talked about. And I think turning that thing around like that in one season is a credit to those players and coaches.
For us, it’s pretty simple, it’s a chance to go win a football. 6-6 is a whole lot better than 5-7, but more important that that, I’m glad we have an opportunity to play another game. We lost some players with injury but I think overall, we’re a little bit healthier with the guys that are going to play than last week. There’s two more down, but I think from a practice standpoint, we can probably practice a little more than we did last week. We don’t have quite as many guys who can’t practice.
You know, so for us, and I’ve told our players this last night, none of us are proud of the record. But, you know, I’m proud of the way they have — I’m proud of the way they have competed, and there’s a lot of pride, and that’s something they can be proud of and that’s why this game is important. This game is important for us to go play well.
Injuries, nothing much has changed. Grant Irons is out. He has a cast on his leg, on his lower part down by his ankle, and they are going to go ahead — he’s had a knee he’s played with really all season. I believe today they are going to go ahead and scope that knee. You’ve got to give him credit. I mean, he’s played all year with that and tried to play the last two weeks with that crack, although, no one knew it was a crack, but that’s why it didn’t respond.
Sean Mahan is definitely out. They are going to MRI his shoulder today. I’m not going to go through the other ones. You know the other ones that are out, definitely.
There’s a chance, Beckstrom may play in this game, which would help us. There’s a chance Terrance Howard may play. He’s going to try to practice some today, I think that would help us. Hopefully can help us a little bit in special teams.
Really, we’re a little bit healthier than last week even though we lost two more starters, so I think we’re going to have a chance to get some practice in. So at this time, if we want to take some calls. You’re talking about all the — very impressive statistics that Stanford has, I wonder if you could just maybe briefly recap Jarious’s season. He is the first 3,000-yard player in Notre Dame history, and it sounds like you plan to let him finish it off rather than let Arnaz start the 2000 season a few months early.
BOB DAVIE: That’s accurate. And I think all of us are proud of Jarious. You know, the improvement he’s made over these last two seasons, I think has caught the attention of a lot of people. Hopefully it’s caught the attention of some NFL scouts and coaches out there, which I think it has.
You know, it’s unfortunate that earlier in the year Jarious had to do so much, or thought he had to do so much on his own, with the new offensive line and those tailbacks. You know, but I think the thing you see about Jarious is just what you saw going into the season. He is a great competitor. He’s not an ego guy, at all, and he bounces back. That interception at the end of the Boston College game, I mean, that took the wind out of him. It really did. I saw it in the locker room after the game. You know, his mom was in town for the game. I mean, it was important to him as it was to all of our players, but that interception rocked him, and he took it — he took that personally, and he felt like he let a lot of people down.
But I think overall what he’s accomplished over the last two years, you know, is really remarkable. I think back when a few years ago, maybe three or four years ago when I talked to Jacky Cheryl and you talked about Jarious Jackson coming here and what a good linebacker Jarious Jackson would be, and over the first couple years, I thought the same thing. And now he’s going to leave here, obviously with that record, and with the chance to go on and play in the NFL.
I just like him. I think he’s a resilient, competitive guy, and I tell you what, I’ll take him on my team every time because he’s a guy that I’ve seen under the heat. You know, you don’t really know a lot about a lot of people until you see them under the heat. You know, it’s always easy to be on the outside applying the heat, but you find out a lot about people, and I think he’s done a remarkable job.
Q. You never know, sometimes games look like that they will be high-scoring end up being defensive duels, but it does look like this may be a game where Jarious is required to do a lot again?
BOB DAVIE: Well, we’ve been in that situation, David. You know, you’d like to say, let’s go out there and run the football, because you keep the clock running a little bit, somewhat keep their offense off the field. But if you’re realistic, you realize their offense is going to score because they are a long-range-strike type of offense. They don’t need a lot of time to score.
And for us right now going out there, really pretty much devastated on the offensive line. You know, I don’t know if that gives up your best chance, so Jarious is going to have to play well again. We’re going to have to throw the football to win, and he’s going to have to create some plays.
So yeah, that’s how it’s been all season for Jarious. And I think he’s really done a pretty good job, a remarkable job as a matter of fact, carrying that load for us.
Q. You talked a little bit earlier about Troy Walters and that you had seen him play in junior high or high school. At that point would you ever have thought he accomplished the things he has in the Pac 10 and what makes him such a good receiver?
BOB DAVIE: I did, you know, and I thought he was a great little player, and a great little athlete and I was with them — I think he was probably in the 9th or 10th grade the last time I saw him play. So I don’t think anyone could envision probably Troy or his dad, Trent, or his mom to accomplish what he’s accomplished, because like I said before, to break those records in the Pac 10 is just phenomenal.
The thing you see about him, first of all, you see he’s got great quickness and suddenness, so he plays really fast. He does a good job, I think of coming off the line of scrimmage and kinds of tempoing his routes. And he always has another gear. He runs great routes and he always goes up and catches the ball, he’s a fearless little guy, and he makes plays. He loves the game, you can see it. He’s a bright-eyed guy that enjoys it. And you know what, he’s got a good quarterback and he’s in a good system, too. He’ll be the first one to tell you he’s taken advantage of a good opportunity there.
But if you had to narrow it down, competitiveness and just his suddenness coming in and out of cuts, and he’s fearless, because he up and plays the ball extremely well, makes plays on the ball.
Q. Losing tough games this season hasn’t been fun for anyone, but the old saying about adversity making people tougher, or at least enabling you to discover what people are made of, what have you found out about this team and the prospects for rebounding next season?
BOB DAVIE: I think Saturday’s game, and I’ve told this story, you know you go home after that game, and you — first of all, you know, everyone, when you lose, thinks it impacts them more than it does anyone else. You know, sometimes the coaches, when you lose, feel like they take it worse and it rocks your whole world, rocks your life. Fans think it impacts them and student body thinks it impacts them. It doesn’t impact anyone more than it impacts the players. That’s the thing. If people knew how much the players put into it, and then to lose and not get the rewards of all that effort, that’s the frustrating thing about coaching, you know, is that who it really, really impacts are the players. And sometimes we all lose sight of that, and that’s something I will never lose sight of. I appreciate these players and I appreciate what they have done through this year and I have got no down in my mind that we’ll back from this and be stronger than ever. I mean that sincerely. I’m not saying that for myself. I’m saying that because that’s what I believe.
And the game Saturday made me realize that even more. When I got up and watched that tape — I told this story. I got up in the middle of the night and really didn’t feel like watching that tape. You know, you just got your butt kicked and you don’t feel like watching, you just lost a game, but you have to. I got up and watched that tape about 3:00 or 4:00, I guess, and I went back about 8:00 and just laid down for down for about an hour. I told Joann: “You know what? It’s encouraging.” It’s encouraging to watch that tape and see the effort in the way we played. We didn’t win, that’s the bottom line, but it’s encouraging.
For a football team to come out against a team that, I guess, was so inspired because of what was said at a pep rally and to jump up 14-0, that must have taken a heck of an effort. I guess we must have been pretty motivated.
And then to come back when it was 31-17, when you’re a 5-5 team and things are slipping away from you and you have a chance to win — you know, I’m proud of that. That’s the thing I told this team last night: None of us are proud of the record. No one hurts more than we hurt about that record. You know, but the thing we are proud of is the effort in the way we’ve handled some things, and the competitiveness this team has. And that’s the thing we take into this last game — and that’s the thing we can take out of this last game.
So, you know, with every lesson you learn in life, you know, that whole thing of: You learn best from your mistakes or you learn from the bad things that happen and how much — how much you learn is in direct proportion to how bad you had to hurt or how much you had to pay for those mistakes or those letdowns, you know, I think that holds true.
And this is one of those years where you really — you know you need the off-season because you need to get guys healthy, you need to get better. You need to go recruit. You’ve got to — we do have some liabilities right now, but it’s one of those years where you wish you didn’t have such a long off-season because you’d like to start playing again, because the only way you’re going to feel better is to go play better and win. I think it’s true, you know, this team has been through a lot, and I think because of it, it’s ‘s going to come back — it’s going to come back strong.
Q. The other day on Sunday you kind of remarked about your coaching mortality at Notre Dame for the first time that any of us could remember, and I was just curious, compared to the two times — you went through a rough stretch in your first year there losing four games and now toward the end of your third year you’re going through it, are you better equipped in your mind, talking about handling stuff under heat, are you better equipped to handle it now, does having the contract extension help you in the sense that you’re still able to look ahead for the future and to build on this, even though you’ve kind of had some adverse times this year?
BOB DAVIE: Yeah, you know, I think first of all, like I said I think you learn all the way. You know some things you say kind of tongue in cheek and it’s my own fault because I said it. But I said something about — what did I say, about getting the boat this the right direction. I just said — I hope I’m on that boat. I didn’t mean it, you know, real seriously and it’s something that I didn’t mean all that serious, but I did say that.
You know, so that’s what that was. You know, I certainly have the new contract extension. As I said, back in the summer, you know, it gives you a feeling of confidence because I think people saw going into the season, realized what this season, you know, that the challenges this season had, and look at the big picture. So yeah, it certainly gives you confidence about the long-term status of things.
But all of us are human and all of us want to win, and like I said, when you’re 5-6 you just get so down and downtrodden sometimes.
But what I said was really, really tongue-in-cheek, and that’s how that was meant to be.
Q. That’s good to hear, but I’m just curious, when you still look and see the forest through the trees, has this year set you back any more than — obviously, the injuries have played a huge role in it, but when you look past the injuries, has this year set you back at all in your grand scheme of where you saw this program going?
BOB DAVIE: I really don’t think that it did. And, you know, it stings right now because we all wanted to be more successful this year. But in the bigger picture of the thing, you know, to go play in a January 1st Bowl game at Notre Dame, you know, to play in a BCS game, that’s always the goal, to win a national championship at Notre Dame, that’s always the goal. So in the grand scheme of things, whether you’re, you know, 7-8-4 or 6-6, you know,I think it impacts the short term, how you feel. But in the big scheme of things, I don’t think that it does. I don’t think that it does.
I’m not going to go through the whole thing again, but I really feel like August, when August comes, that we’re going to put together and have the football team — have a football team that probably, as far as depth and probably as far as overall talent, will be the strongest team that we’ve had here in a while. I’m also realistic looking at that schedule, when you look at Texas A&M, Nebraska, Purdue, Michigan State and Stanford, those are five good football teams, and you still look at Air Force, Navy, Boston College, USC, at West Virginia, I think we all see what this is.
But I think in the long-term thing, you know, we’ve recruited well. I think we have an excellent coaching staff. In some ways, we may be a better football team right now. I mean, if we had all of our pieces still intact, than we were last year. I felt like coming out of the SC game at that point in the season that we were a better football team than last year. You know, last year, we won some close games. Probably benefitted the schedule a little bit last year, but think back to the last year, the seniors last game in the stadium we played LSU. LSU probably handled us better than Boston College did, but you think back to Bobby Howard intercepting that pass and returning it for a touchdown, and we won that game, remarkable game.
You think about the year before against West Virginia. West Virginia, I think Zaroway (ph) had over 200 yards, handled us pretty good, but we found a way at the end of that game to just win it.
So it all kind of balances out, but in the big picture of where we need to go with this program, I don’t think that it changes much. You know, it’s about recruiting good players. It’s about having good coaches and just building steady progress. And, you know some of the injuries and things we’ve had this year in some of the way these games have gone the last couple weeks have probably clouded in people’s eyes the progress we’ve made.
But that’s the thing and that’s why you get up at four o’clock in the morning and say, “It’s encouraging,” because, you know, you might have to look a little bit closer. But being on the inside, I do see the progress we’ve made. And like I said in August, I think we’re going to start a lot stronger than we started this past August.
Q. I know you haven’t had much time to look at it but what do you anticipate having at that offensive tackle spot?
BOB DAVIE: Well, we’ve talked about it a lot. You know, the first thing is you’ve got a young guy like Brennan Curtin that, you know, I’ve said this, like Jeff Faine, really, really talented.
But right now in the 12th game of the year, I’d like to keep his option open, keep those young guys’s options open. Because I’ve seen right now and I’ve seen over the couple years that I’ve been here, where we’ve had some guys that didn’t have that option left open to them, and I don’t know that that was in their best interests. So I think to keep his options open for the future.
I think it will be Matt Brennan and Casey Robin this week who will go the whole week, and we’ll see which one of those guys deserves the chance to start that game. We’ll also move Gandy out to tackle and play Mowl at guard.
When you look at their football team their two inside players are really strong players. And Gandy has been a guard all year, and you hate to disrupt a solid part that you feel you have right now.
Q. So all things being equal and Curtin. You feel is the next best player, under normal circumstances if you could play him, he would be the guy in the lineup?
BOB DAVIE: I would say he’s the most talented player in the group. But I don’t feel good about that option right now.
Q. Sunday, we were talking about analyzing recruiting classes and you said the true test is the NFL draft. You know you’ve had some scouts at your practices, which among your players are the top NFL prospects?
BOB DAVIE: That’s really hard to say, and the one thing I’ve learned definitely, you’re not going to know for sure because nobody tips their hands.
But I don’t really know. And the thing that I talked about is when you look back and say how many players started for an NFL team or how many players made an NFL team is when you really say how talented was that football team.
I don’t really know. I’m not sure. I think there’s a few that will get an opportunity.
Q. Clearly, the effort of your players has been solid, maybe with the exception of Pittsburgh where you were a little disappointed in the overall 60-minute effort?
BOB DAVIE: I don’t think it was effort. We played hard against Pittsburgh. There was a passion. Saturday, there was a passion in there, scratching and clawing to win it. Against SC, that passion was there at the end of the game, and it’s the same thing. I realize everything you say can be kind of taken however it’s intended to be taken, but, you know, I just felt being honest that the passion, the overall passion against Pittsburgh, not the effort. I mean, we played hard, hard enough to win.
Q. My point is, you know that they are giving effort on a week-to-week basis. I think everybody can see that. Do you reach a point where you’re somewhat concerned that that effort won’t be there week after week if they don’t reap the rewards that have effort?
BOB DAVIE: That’s a reality. There’s reality for any of us, you know. It’s probably human nature. That’s something that you constantly talk about. You have to have the rewards for all that hard work. And I said going into the season, any time you — you set it up to where you say we’re going to outwork — we’re going to sacrifice more and we’re going to invest more than anyone else, and then all of the sudden, you don’t have success, that’s always a concern, that’s always a concern, sure it is.
I think, you know you look at Boston College, just going back to that, you know, they are scheduled early in the season, and the way their season went — you know, Boston College and Notre Dame are pretty equally-matched football teams right now. I think anyone that would watch us play, any NFL person that would evaluate the game, they are pretty even teams. How much did the emotion and in the early games and the won/loss record at end of the game affect it that much. Maybe as much as it did last year when it was the flipside up at Boston College where we won that game in the end.
So certainly there’s a lot of circumstances that go into it. And I think playing that kind of schedule early in the season that we play, that’s something in a we have to address as a football team. That schedule is going to be that way. I said next year’s schedule, what about the next year’s, when you’re at Nebraska and you’re at Purdue and you’re at Michigan State and you’re going, you know, it’s the same thing. So all those things factor into it, and that’s why, you know, yeah, I mean, it impacts it, I think.
Q. You also have repeatedly, when things have gone wrong, you have taken the blame for that. Are you just trying to deflect the blame being put on the assistant coaches and the players or do you — I don’t know exactly how to phrase it, or do you feel that you are to blame –?
BOB DAVIE: One thing I don’t need to do is put the green light on to take blame. I probably get enough of all that that I want.
It’s a combination of things. You’re responsible. You’re responsible. You’re the one that gets paid the most. You’re the one that gets a lot of opportunities because of being afforded this chance to be the head coach. That comes with the territory. You know, and I honestly feel that, don’t blame the players and the coaches because no one realizes how much they put into it and how much their effort is.
But someone is responsible, that’s the bottom line. And that’s the head coach. That’s how it is, and that’s how it always has been and how it always will be. That’s where the responsibility lies.
Q. Is there that fear that this team can’t get up, or as you put it, doesn’t have any juice left to play one last game because of the injuries? With that in mind, do you have to change your coaching strategy this week to make sure they are ready to play?
BOB DAVIE: We have to change always our coaching strategy to practice. We had to practice different. I thought we did a good job last week. I really mean that. I thought we got about every ounce of juice out of it.
My concerns are much more with Kurt, he has a bit of a knee, he hasn’t played much as it is. Casey Robin and Matt Brennan at tackle. And Ryan Scarola now, he’s a veteran, he’s played the game, he’s a guard. Mike Gandy and John Merrandi and right down the line. We’ll be excited about playing this football game. We’ve got great kids, and there’s a lot riding on this game, as I said.
But, you know, certainly, going out there, if we were playing this game for a Bowl game, yeah, that is the reality that, sure, there maybe would be a little more to play for. But I think, you know, I think we’ll be excited about playing.
Q. Along the same lines, as you look at last game of the season, picking up a win at the end, how much of that does that carry over into next season in terms of off-season conditioning –?
BOB DAVIE: Not going into a Bowl game>.
Q. Just the emotional — coming off a win as you start preparing for the off-season?
BOB DAVIE: I think there’s a couple things. Coming off a win is big. Now, how big is it in the big picture, I don’t know. Now, in our situation right now, depending on when that Bowl game would be played, we would have to rally the troops now, and we’d have to rally the troops and get some guys healthy to practice with enough that we could get significant improvement out of it. You’ve got to go out and practice against each other, and you’ve got to hit a little bit to become better as a football player, and that would be really hard for us right now in this situation. We’re going to make the best of it. Mickey Morrotti, we visited last night, and this gives us an opportunity to, No. 1, we’ve got some surgeries that have to happen in the off-season, guys that are playing right now that need some things done when the season is over. Gives us a chance to do that a month earlier. It gives us a lot of other things, time to go recruit, three solid weeks.
So who knows, maybe in the big picture, this might be the best thing that happened to us, that’s how I’m going to approach it. We’ve got extra time, we’ve got extra time to get guys healthy. And it’s all about next season. It’s all about next season, whether you’re playing in a Bowl game or not. And I’m talking about once the Stanford game is over.
So in some ways, maybe it helps you. That’s how we’re going to look at it. Try to be optimistic about it and ise it to our advantage.
Q. You mentioned a little while ago the nature of the schedule at the start of the season is something that needs to be addressed, how do you plan –?
BOB DAVIE: No, I think with — you know, I think with maybe letting the kids go home in the summer maybe a little bit. Now you have some guys that played for the first time this year that realize when you start, I mean, it’s a grueling, grueling deal. Maybe spend a little more time lifting weights during the season. You know, we’ve had some significant weight loss with our linemen this year.
That schedule is going to be what the schedule is. I’m not complaining at all about the schedule. But as a football team and a staff, we have to address why we have 21 or 22 players right now that started in August who can’t play right now. Whether it’s from — some of it of their own making, there’s some guys out there that aren’t out there, some of it because of injuries, all of those things. I think you do that. So coming out of the chute fast, playing good teams every week, it’s a long season. It’s a long season and all you have to do is look around the country and just comparatively look at some of the schedules, there’s no question that’s an advantage, now. At some point during that season, that has to be somewhat of an advantage. Well, we’ve got to realize it’s week to week to week to week for our football team, and I think just because — coming out the of the SC game, just like I said, we were a better team than last year. We had some liabilities and we weren’t a finished product by any means, but all of the sudden here, we have gone backwards. Now injuries have had a lot to do with it, but it doesn’t do any good to say, well, those are injuries and we can’t do anything about. That we’ve got to find solutions.
That’s more my point of: There’s that schedule. Do we need — we need to look at everything we’ve done, so we’re not in a that situation next year at this time. Now, maybe there are some things we can’t control, but that’s not good enough. We’re responsible for it.
Q. Earlier in the season you tried to look into it to see if there were any factors that explained the difference have you continued to pursue that?
BOB DAVIE: There’s such a different — there’s so many different types of injuries you’ve got Teasdale and Jim Jones both with those arch injuries. You just have so many different things. You have so many different thing.
A lot of it comes back to, I think, maybe some young guys playing, and playing every week, every minute of every game. And, you know, you just kind of ran out of juice a little bit there from a physical standpoint. You know, they have been here, they were here all summer and they sacrificed a lot. And you try it get young guys ready to play. That’s what you do. More is always better. And I just think we need to look at everything.
Now, don’t read into everything and say I’m saying everything we’ve done in the off-season is wrong and Ricky deserves — it’s nothing like that. I’m just trying to be honest with you and say you look at everything that’s happened and you try to find a solution for it.
Q. You spent a lot of time in the last off season putting together your staff and making the changes that you have to make, since this is such a high-profile staff and people always are going to be noticed, are you concerned at all that you may have to go through some of that again?
BOB DAVIE: I’m concerned, but I’d be happy for coaches. You noticed, I think, Desmond Robinson was picked as one of the top assistant football coaches in the AFCA, has an opportunity maybe to end up being the top coach.
And we do have a lot of high-profile coaches. And I think people who are in that profession, our peers would look at us and say we are a pretty well-coached football team and doing some good things. I think coaches will have opportunities, but, you know what, I’m happy for them. That’s the way it should be. I like our staff. Certainly, I’d like to keep the continuity, but in this profession, you realize what guy has an opportunity to better himself, you’re all for it.
Q. Regardless of how it turns out this week, were you expecting when you get into that room after the game you’re going to get an emotional release because of the finality of it?
BOB DAVIE: No, I think it depends on how the game goes. It will be about the game. It will be if we win, it will be a great feeling, if we lose, it will an awful feeling. It will be about as simple as that.
Q. You touched on this last week, the fact that you’re talking to kids, the MTA thing, what’s the last possible week or month that you could go without hearing a definitive word before it really starts affecting not only a kid signing but visits –?
BOB DAVIE: Well, you know, I think that’s probably a tough question to put a specific date or specific time on. I think all of us recognize that the sooner we hear, the better. And it’s impacted us to this point. It’s obvious in the phone calls and then the visits we’ve had. You know, you can’t give a definitive answer. I can’t say what I think it’s going to be because if it isn’t, then I lose some credibility right there. It kind of puts you in neutral right now.
But, but, we’ve been able to line up a lot of good visits. There’s a lot of interest out there. It’s much bigger picture than just that. But certainly that’s a reality right now, and it’s something we have to deal with it. And obviously, we need to hopefully have a decision as soon as possible, but hopefully, hopefully before, you know, before that signing date.
Q. Speaking of recruiting, you mentioned there. Was some liabilities that you needed to address what do you perceive those liabilities that you need to address in this recruiting?
BOB DAVIE: What we need to address in recruiting is we need some quarterbacks. It’s a little frightening. And I told our coaches, you know, to make it through this season, when Eric Chappell was dismissed to make it through the season with Jarious and Arnaz, you knock on wood. And we’ve made it through about nine games like that. So quarterback is No. 1.
You know, you always need corners, and they are always hard to find. You always need some receivers, and they are hard to find, sometimes. You know, so I would say quarterbacks and then skilled guys, speed guys. And I think we need linebackers, too.
Q. You mentioned about the tongue-in-cheek comments about your mortality, when recruits bring that up, what do you tell them about your future?
BOB DAVIE: It’s really never come up, and I did mean that tongue-in-cheek. You know, you tell them what it is. You tell them that if it does come up, you know, I had the opportunity in August or July to sign a new contract for five years, and, you know I’ve got four years, and it’s really not an issue. It really has not been — it’s not come up. So I tell them just what I tell them.
Q. In your evaluation of yourself, where do you think you’ve made improvement as a head coach within the season and also in the time that you’ve been head coach here at Notre Dame?
BOB DAVIE: Tough question. I think just in handling situations, and, you know, being steady in the boat. I think — I think just keeping things together, and I think making improvements.
I’ve never been one to talk about myself. These questions always kind of get me a little uncomfortable. You probably ought to some other coaches on the staff or ask some players. I’ve never been one to say a whole lot of things about myself ought.
Q. Lamont Bryant, he’s been kind of a guy, at least from the media standpoint, has been kind of withdrawn, not a lot of interviews and has kept to himself. What’s going through his mind?
BOB DAVIE: I think Lamont, I have a lot of respect for him. He’s played hurt probably this — probably at least half of this season, the second half of the season. He injured his knee. May have been at the Southern Cal game, and has really played with injuries. Plays hard. I think he’s played with a lot of — a lot of emotion. He’s been a leader for us. Statistically, probably doesn’t jump out at you, but really plays hard. And I give him a lot of credit.
We’ve got a bunch of those seniors playing with injuries, and he’s one of them.
Q. Can you run down a little bit of the numbers, I think you started season with less than 80 people on scholarship?
BOB DAVIE: Started at 82 and put two walk-ons.
Q. 18 to maybe 23 people with injuries, half a dozen special teams people, 7 or 8 freshmen that you don’t want to play because they are not physically able to or whatever. When you start to look at those numbers, it’s not hard to get down to the 30s. Is there a place where you can — when you look at those numbers, for example, do you start to look at: Well, we’re going to have to bring freshmen in and just plan on playing them just to give us maybe you a couple reps in the game and save –?
BOB DAVIE: You mean from this point forward?
BOB DAVIE: I think you always do that, though. What you do is say: Who can help this football team, like a Julius Jones like a Jason Beckstrom. You’ve got to get the best guys ready to play that can help the team. But you just hate to use a kid and take away his option of maybe having a potential 5th year down the road if he really can’t help your football team. And you try to do what is in each player’s best interests.
But yet, we’re not alone on this. I talked to Don Neelan at West Virginia a couple weeks ago, and they were going to play Boston College, and he was in the exact same situation. He said he had just never seen anything like it, how the numbers are just so down. I think it’s the same everywhere, to a degree. I doubt people have as many injuries as we’ve had. I doubt I’ve seen this many injuries.
But with the freshmen, if he can help us win, we’re going to get him ready to play and get him some significant playing time.
Q. On the other end, you’ve got a big list of people that could get a 5th year, next year, is that another part of the reality of that that you’re going to have to plan almost cycling a five-year plan?
BOB DAVIE: I think what you do with that is, you know, you all understand how that policy is done here. But will it better –what’s in it for the player. Academically, can he come back and do something that’s going to help him? Does it help him as a football player? Does it help his options down the road?
So each one of those you look at individually. And this year, we do have an unbelievable amount of guys that have the potential to apply for a 5th year. I think it’s something like maybe 13, 12 or 13 players. So there’s a lot of things that we have to do, you know, in the next several weeks or, you know, up until January. There’s a lot of decisions that need to be made.
But each one of those, you try to do what’s best for the person in involved. What does coming back for a 5th year for him, starting academically.
Q. Can you pinpoint what the defensive problems have been?
BOB DAVIE: I think the first thing — the first thing that’s going to jump out at you is we’ve given up big plays with people throwing the football down the field, and it’s hard. I mean, it’s hard to win when you give up big chunks in the passing game. That’s the first thing.
The second thing has been third-down defense which kind of ties into that same thing. You know, I look at we haven’t had as many sacks as we hoped going in. So it’s not all — you know, it’s easy as soon as you say you’ve given up yardage throwing the football, saying it’s the corner or toward the corner or defensive backs. It’s a combination of things.
And what I’d like to do is just get through this season and go back and sit down when you can look at it objectively, and you can look at it with a lot of time and you can look through the course of the season.
But we would all agree that, you know, right now we can’t win giving up the yardage and the points we’re giving up. So we will look at everything. You know, I will look at everything.
We’ve got a great coaching staff. We’ve got a scheme that’s been very successful in the past. We’ve got a scheme that other teams are running that are having great success. We’ve got a scheme that we’ve tweaked a little bit to try to match our personnel.
But there’s a bottom line, and statistically, you know, we haven’t had the kind of success we’ve needed to have to win. Our offense went out last week with three new offensive linemen in there and had close to 400 yards, and, you know, you count the punt return in, we had 29 points. So we’ve got to look at the whole thing from top to bottom.
Q. When you look at the scoring defense bottom line, is there a number you want to get to, 17, 21?
BOB DAVIE: It’s hard, because the first thing you look at is how many points do you actually give up on defense. But I’ve used 17 points. And the way college football has become, if you can hold them in the teens, if you can hold them in the teens, you feel like you have a good chance to win.
Q. With David Miller maybe being healthier this week — ?
BOB DAVIE: We’re going to look at it today. Tuesdays and Wednesday, we get a lot of full-speed kicking. I would anticipate it to be Jim Sanson, though.
Q. On a lighter note, at the end of the game the south end zone, clock ticking down and you lost the game, were you aware and the team aware at the time about the student body and fans cheering and the squirrel crossing the goal line?
BOB DAVIE: Yeah, I saw that squirrel out there.
Q. Did the players know?
BOB DAVIE: You couldn’t help but notice. It wasn’t something that I was all giggly about and quite as excited as everyone else, but I did see that squirrel running around out there. I think they probably did.
Q. On the subject of the injury factor, given that to some degree that is going to be a consideration as you get to the end of every season, given the limitations of the situation here with evaluating prospects, is there a limit in terms of developing championship-caliber depth, given the limitations here when you look down the road? Is it hard to have second- and third-team people that would be able to step up and go in a game that would put you –?
BOB DAVIE: I think you have to have that, and that’s — that is what’s exciting about next year, when all of the sudden you look at the — I’m not going to go through all the conditions, but we are in a position in August, except for one critical position, that we do have depth which provides competition.
And, you know, we do have that, and that’s what back-to-back recruiting classes will do and that’s why another recruiting class is important. That’s what recruiting is all about, and that’s what off-season program is about, developing those young players so you don’t have a void in there when it’s just solid back-to-back.
And you know, that’s been a problem here for the last several years, and I think we’re — I think we’re pulling through that right now. And I think that’s why — that’s why you are optimistic, because no one is watching a Jeff Faine yet and no one is watching a Brennan Curtin yet. It doesn’t matter what the list said about any guys. I’ve had the opportunity to see a Darryl Campbell and I — I think we’ve got some really good young players. And I think we’re going to have some depth.
Q. In terms of developing depth at that line position, how do you approach that going into the fall when so much will be unknown about those people?
BOB DAVIE: Are you talking about the quarterbacks? That’s what it’s going to be. You know, the thing Arnaz has is two years, and really the same system. We’ve done a few more things this year, diversified-wise on offense and he’s got two years in it. You’ll be surprised, I think. You know Gary Godsey’s not going to run a whole lot of options, but he kind of intrigues us. He’s steady — he’s steady in the pocket, and he can throw the ball. He’s obviously a totally different style, but he can do some things, you know, I’m really — I’m excited we have him, and I’m excited he’s a quarterback right now.
And then we’re going to go recruit a few, but we’re going to start the season inexperienced and it’s going to be A&M and Nebraska right out the of the chute. That’s the concern.