Nov. 8, 2006

Tom Zbikowski

Q. Tom, you had a big day against Navy, 14 tackles. Now you’re getting another team that runs the ball. What are you looking for when you’re going up against a team like Air Force?

Tom Zbikowski: There’s some similarities to them running the option, but Navy definitely has got a much different attack. They like to run, just watching film. They’ll definitely use the tight end a lot more than Navy does, a few more counters. So it’s actually a lot different than Navy’s option attack. But obviously there’s still those same fundamentals of looking at the option.

Q. When you face three teams like Army, Air Force and Navy in the same year, is there anything you do at the beginning of the year to get yourself ready for the part of the season when you face those three teams?

Tom Zbikowski: Not really, we just knew with the two option teams that we’re going to have to get ready for option football. I haven’t even really looked at Army at all just because it’s still a week away. You know, you’re getting prepared for Air Force, and like I said before, three days is a short amount of time to get ready for a brand new offense. We’ve got to get ready for that. There’s not really much you can do but take each game like we have the whole year.

Q. With Air Force having the extra tight end, does that make it for difficult to defend than Navy’s option?

Tom Zbikowski: I wouldn’t say one is more difficult than the other, it’s just what they like to do. They have tight ends in their system and they want to use them. It can definitely help out in passing situations where you’ve got a little bigger body in there. But it just looks ?? it’s a different type of look. It’s not more difficult or less.

Q. Have you heard about their quarterback before you started watching film?

Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, I know he’s been running there for quite some time. I’m pretty sure he was starting as a freshman. I remember just Air Force was on a game and I saw him making big plays and making big runs. I heard that name before.

Q. Coach Weis was talking yesterday about the play action pass and how they’ll run, run, run and then they’ll bite you with the play action. Is that something you have to kind of be cognizant of?

Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, you definitely do. Facing other option teams before, Navy really never got a chance to get that big play off, so I think our coaches did a good job of coaching us up and preparing for them putting you to sleep and then hitting you with a big play.

Q. Will you mentally say we have to guard against an upset or is it the type of thing where you don’t even think about that?

Tom Zbikowski: No, it doesn’t really matter who you’re playing, you’ve got to come out and play your best.

Q. Tom, it seems like just from watching the Navy game that Navy has different responsibilities for you and it’s almost like you’re the 3 guy who makes the tackles and gets them blocked. Can you talk about your different responsibilities on the option pitch between you and Navy?

Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, he was more in the box and was kind of ?? he was playing off of what that wingback slotback is doing. It’s pretty difficult to go into it. But any kind of a free player that’s going to be your pitch player that’s got that outside responsibility and you’ve got another guy that’s got the quarterback responsibility. But the way they block, it can be easily switched up where a safety would become the quarterback player and he’d become the contained player. It’s pretty much based on what they’re doing.

Q. I learned earlier that Shaun Carney actually came here for camp in high school. He’s their quarterback. When you were in high school did you ever come to camp as a quarterback?

Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, I went to Nebraska and Northwestern’s camp as a quarterback.

Q. Did they give you any feedback about coming here to run the option?

Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, I got offered by both those schools, so pretty good feedback.

Q. There’s a big difference in the Navy game from the first half to the second half with you guys defensively. Does it help just in terms of the speed of the game, having a game like that under your belt as you get ready for another option team?

Tom Zbikowski: Yeah, because in practice you never really simulate the type of speed of their offense that they run, just because they’ve been doing that for ?? they’ve had guys in that system for years, so obviously every step is accounted for and they never have a misstep. If you get off base for half a step they’ve got ten yards on you. So definitely having that game played first half, second half and getting a feel for the type of option game definitely will help us out this game.

Brady Quinn

Q. You’ve talked a lot about how you read your keys off the middle linebacker. What does their middle linebacker do? He has so many more tackles than the next guy on their team.

Brady Quinn: Well, watching a lot of film on him, it’s pretty easy to see this guy gets around the ball a lot. He’s just got a great football defense. It’s something that you can’t necessarily teach someone, it’s something that I think is just engrained in them at an early age, and he’s someone who’s just a great player for them.

Q. Going against teams that have, believe it or not, as big as you guys, three times this year, how much does that maybe help you guys, or does it have any advantage or disadvantage besides the obvious?

Brady Quinn: Well, like you said, there’s some obvious advantages and disadvantages. I think any time you’re playing against an undersized team you should be able to dominate them physically, especially on the line of scrimmage where everything starts. But again, their athleticism, their quickness and their agility kind of allows them to kind of counteract that power and strength. It’s almost a wash at times, and I think when it comes down to it, it’s just going to come out to who’s going to play harder and who’s going to play a better game.

Q. Everyone likes to use the term go?to receiver. You have four guys who have caught at least 45 passes, none more than 52. How much do you attribute your experience to just being able work for the last couple years under Coach Weis to find the open receiver and not just hone in on one person?

Brady Quinn: Again, I’ve been gifted to have a lot of talent around me. I think when you look at Jeff, Rhema, John Carlson, David Grimes and Darius coming out of the backfield, you’ve got a lot of different weapons you can go to. This offense allows you to not necessarily key on one guy, just go through your progression, go through your reads and take what the defense gives you.

That may be Jeff one game, Rhema one game, John one game or obviously a group of guys getting the ball, and that’s how we like to do it. You can’t gest just key in on one guy because a defense can stop that. You want to make it harder for them to really be able to shut your offense down.

Q. How much easier has it become for you in the last two years than in your first two years? And the reason I bring that up is obviously next year Notre Dame will have a young quarterback, whoever that might be, who might not necessarily have the patience of Brady who can spread it out so well.

Brady Quinn: When that time comes, I’m sure Coach will deal with that situation well, and I think whatever happens in the future with that, I’m sure he’ll take care of it.

He’s a great teacher, he’s a great coach, and he’s taught me a lot of different things that have allowed me to grow and mature these past two years as opposed to my first two. My first two I had a lot of great experience and I learned a lot of great lessons, but these past couple years I’ve begun to become more of a ?? I guess a strong quarterback in the sense of how to lead a team on the field and really how to kind of dissect defenses.

Q. Your first two years, how much more difficult was just the concept of progressions and reads for you?

Brady Quinn: It wasn’t difficult. It really comes down to just the speed of the game. People talk about that all the time. As a quarterback you’ve just got to get to the point where you feel comfortable with the offense, and then once that happens you’ll start to kind of slowly have things slow down for you where you can see things sooner and you can anticipate what a defense is going to do.

I think we got to the point where my sophomore year I thought I should be comfortable with the offense and things were definitely slowing down for me. It was more or less a matter of then having to learn a new offense and getting in that same rhythm.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about the play of John Carlson? He was one of the question marks at the end of the season, and now he’s on the verge of breaking some records.

Brady Quinn: He’s never been a question mark in any of our minds. I think anyone on the team who has known him and seen him practice and play has known he’s going to come in and do big things for us. We were looking for him to come in here and not replace Anthony but be John and be that big play tight end force.

Q. How are they different, Anthony and John?

Brady Quinn: It’s tough to really say how they’re different. I think when you look at them, physically they’re both pretty tall, pretty muscular guys, guys who can get down the field and stretch a defense.

But I guess when I look at John, he’s got power, but at the same point in time he’s very agile, he’s able to make a move in the open field or run away from a defense. I think Anthony had the same capability that he was able to take on blocks well and really kind of beat some guys up in the secondary once he got the ball in his hands.

Q. I heard someone say you prepared him to have wide receiver type skills. In what ways is he like a wide receiver?

Brady Quinn: Well, if you go back and look at some of the film, you’ll see him stretching the field a lot at that tight end position, which you don’t see a whole lot in college football. I think sometimes you’ll see it in the NFL. He’s got that ability to stretch out a defense and find holes downfield where you normally wouldn’t see it because it takes too long for a tight end to get there. But he’s been blessed with that great speed to get downfield.

Q. Following up on Carlson, he’s a small?town guy. You guys seem to like him. What is it about his personality that the guys on the team like about him?

Brady Quinn: Honestly he’s probably had one of the biggest transitions since he’s gotten here because he came in as this quiet guy who really didn’t say a lot around the team, and the more you got to know him and the more he felt comfortable with his team you more you started to see his personality and what he was like.

And now he’s kind of grown into this big tight end who’s got a sense of humor, he cracks people up, he’s a great guy to be around, is fun to be around. Every once in a while he’ll have ?? he just does imitations of some past players, different things. He can be hilarious. You talk about guys who are trying to be funny, Jeff and Rhema, but John is very humorous in his own pay.

Q. So he’s not quite as serious as he passes himself off to us?

Brady Quinn: He can be serious, but when you get him away I think from the cameras and everything and just get him in a state where I think he’s relaxed and he’s just out there having fun, he definitely will crack some people up.

Q. I was wondering how your block on Rhema’s reverse went over in the film study.

Brady Quinn: Well, I’ve got to defend myself a little bit because obviously it’s not something I do a lot. On the particular play I knew where my man was and I actually tried to help out John because I wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to get there in time with the way he was coming around to get his man, so it kind of put me in a weird spot there. Then once I came on the corner he started to kind of turn his back to me, which at that point I have no idea whether Rhema is going to go outside or inside of me, so I kind of pushed him a little bit and I didn’t want to get called for a clip or anything of that nature. It obviously looked funny, especially when you go back and look at it on film. All I’ve got to say is my guy didn’t make the tackle. That’s all I know.

Q. Just curious what your initial impressions of Samardzija and McKnight where McKnight came in the year before you and Jeff came in with you. What were your impressions of them as young receivers?

Brady Quinn: I saw Rhema when I first came. He was actually one of the first people I threw to, just working and playing catch with him. He was very smooth, had great hands, someone who you could tell is extremely athletic and one of those guys that you just want to get him the ball as quick as you can because he’s going to make guys miss and get some yards after the catch.

The more I worked with Jeff, he had that kind of same elusiveness that Rhema had but kind of in his own way. Again, Jeff, he’s blessed with great size, great ability to stretch the field obviously. He can go up and get balls. He’s 6’5″ and got great hands. He’s pretty much a dual threat out there as a wide receiver whether he’s catching underneath or making a big play or catching downfield.

Q. I know you guys don’t look at the record books and concern yourself a whole lot with that, but did you ever envision both these guys were going to end up 1 and 2 on the receptions list, career receptions? Did you ever envision that for them?

Brady Quinn: I always want the best for those guys. They’ve been good to me. You want them to excel to their highest potential, and really, I think hopefully the next three games, next four games they can do that. They can kind of end their last chapter here playing football on a high note and be 1 and 2.

Q. I think at one point earlier in the year you talked about their huddle behavior and said they were kind of like kids that you had to settle down and stuff. They also must have a pretty serious side, too.

Brady Quinn: Yeah, they can be pretty serious. When you look at Rhema, he’s a guy who is obviously fun?loving and very loose and relaxed, fun to be around all the time. But there’s some times when you know when he’s focusing. He’s not smiling, he’s out there kind of keyed in on what’s going on.

Jeff is kind of the same type of way. He’s extremely laid back and has some jokes and what not in the huddle, but when it comes down to having a two?minute drive at the end of the game, both those guys aren’t saying a word, they’re focusing on the play and listening on what the defense is trying to do.

Q. Last thing for me is earlier in the year Coach had made a point that you had talked to some of the NFL quarterbacks and gotten some advice from them. I wondered, has that come into play for you? Was there something where you said, man, I’m really glad I talked to those guys before the year that’s really helped me?

Brady Quinn: I guess the best way to answer that question is there was a point in time at the beginning of the season where I kind of sat back and looked at where I was at, how I was feeling about things going into the games. Everyone has got a routine they like to go through on a Friday before a game, Saturday before a game, wherever it may be. I really tried to analyze what I was doing before games, and when I kind of looked back and thought about all the different things, Tom Brady says, Peyton Manning says, Brett Favre says, I started to reflect on the past few years and realized that this is it, these are the last few games. Your future hopefully will be in the NFL and you’ll be playing quarterback there; maybe you should start really approaching it that way, look at it as a business, look at it almost as an internship for what you’ll be doing maybe a year from now.

Q. John Carlson is coming back here again. He seems like such a nice person, very polite. The one time in here we’ve seen him get a little funny was he was talking about the bookstore basketball finals from a year or two ago. Can you talk to us about exactly what happened and the controversy?

Brady Quinn: Really it wasn’t a controversy. Chinedum just pretty much just shut him down. That’s all he could really say. It was a tough physical game, but Chinedum just shut him down. John is a great basketball player, but it wasn’t his day that day.

Q. I could be wrong here, but did you and Jeff first meet at Ohio State maybe like a passing camp when you were in high school?

Brady Quinn: He was there at camp that day, but I was just throwing so I didn’t really get to know him a whole lot. I was there with Chinedum and that’s pretty much who I was hanging out with the whole time. We got to know Jeff more when we actually came to the Michigan game when we were seniors in high school, which was a home game here, which they won. Everyone rushed the field, so we were down there with everyone else, as well. And that was kind of where we really got to know Jeff and kind of started to get a better impression of him then.

Q. You didn’t go home from that Ohio passing camp really with him kind of sticking in your mind more than anyone else would?

Brady Quinn: No, he did. He was someone I obviously kind of kept my eye out for because once I heard he committed to Notre Dame I think before Chinedum did, and once Chinedum did, I thought those would be pretty good targets to throw to, especially with my experience working with them.

Q. I was looking at the numbers yesterday. It’s really amazing, but your touchdown?interception ratio your first two years versus ever since then is just so dramatically different. Can you talk about how much better a student of reading defenses you’ve become and knowing when not to pull the trigger?

Brady Quinn: Well, I don’t really think that has a whole lot to do with reading defenses. I think turnovers come from maturity, come from experience. I think the more experienced you are with an offense, the more opportunity it’s going to really give you to feel comfortable with it and make a good decision the majority of the time. People make a bad decision I think when they feel pressured.

That really hasn’t been the case the past couple years. We’ve done a good job of protecting things up front and really just spreading the ball around and moving the ball downfield.

I think the first two years we had some issues of not getting things done with protection and really just not putting ourselves in great plays the whole time, whereas with this offense it allows us to put ourselves in a good play; we always have a chance of winning or converting on whatever it is.

Q. I’m almost afraid to ask, but now what we’re past Halloween, how many people are coming up to you and saying just this one Christmas gift? Can you sign this? Has it gotten any worse?

Brady Quinn: Yeah, it hasn’t picked up so much. It wasn’t as bad as last year because I’m obviously out of the dorm, which makes it a little harder for people to track me down. People are starting to camp out, especially at night. You’ve just got to find ways to work around it but also realizing that you want to fulfill people’s Christmas wishes, too, if that’s what they’re looking for.

Q. Talk about your routine. What’s an average Friday or Saturday morning for you outside of the obvious like walk?through? When you’re by yourself, what do you do?

Brady Quinn: Well, Friday morning, actually that’s the only day of the week I really sleep in, probably until around 9:00, something like that, get up, have some breakfast and really kind of lounge around. I’ll try and catch up on some news or whatever is going on. Friday I’ve noticed the past few weeks is just horrible for TV, nothing on during the day. I try to pop in a movie or something.

A lot of times I’ll have family in town, so I’ll try to go out to lunch with them, hang out with them. Other than that, though, I’ll just try to lay back and just kind of hang out.

Q. Saturday morning do you have any downtime just for yourself?

Brady Quinn: Not really. Those are the meetings and you just kind of get ready. I try to get up pretty early and get breakfast and just relax and get everything organized, so whenever I have to start getting ready to go down into meetings and everything, everything is just kind of set up for me.

Q. What is kind of going through your head in the time before the game? What are you mentally telling yourself?

Brady Quinn: It’s funny because I think any time you go into a game like this, you’ve got to calm yourself down, you’ve got to put yourself into a state of mind where you feel your perform best, whatever that may be. For me it’s kind of being calm and relaxed and not trying to focus too much on what the defense is doing or thinking about the plays or anything like that because we’ve repped them enough.

It’s putting yourself in a state of mind where you can just kind of get into a flow and just react, not worry about anything else but just hear the play, execute it and react to everything that’s going on out there.

Q. Do you feel like you’ve kind of matured this last season? Away from beyond the field and stuff, as a person off the field, do you feel like you’ve matured?

Brady Quinn: Definitely. My experience this year, just going through living in a house, doing different things, you kind of get a sense for what it’s going to be like a year from now. I’ll have to pay bills, different things like that. It’s been a great process for me, really moving off and getting a different perspective of Notre Dame and of football and everything that really goes on.

Q. When you watch yourself on TV, do you see that stuff?

Brady Quinn: No, honestly I stay away from all that stuff. If I ever am on there I’ll change the channel. Sometimes Chinedum will change it back and he’ll try to get us to watch it. But I don’t know, I stay away from all that stuff. I just try to play football and have fun with it, and away from that I’m just a normal guy.

Q. The turnovers, I think you guys are the first nationally in turnovers. Does that surprise you in any way considering you had five against Michigan? What’s been the key as far as righting the ship from there?

Brady Quinn: I mean, it’s funny, again, I just think we’ve got a really mature, veteran group of guys. When you go into any game, I’m pretty sure turnover margin has to be the one indicator of I guess whether a team has a better chance of losing. We know that.

Any game we go into ball security for us is always on our list of top ten things we need to do to win a game. We always place importance on it and we really look at that every day at practice and do some sort of drill warming up for ball protection.

It’s been emphasized all across the board with this team and it just follows through.

Q. How close is it to number one?

Brady Quinn: It depends. Some weeks it’s closer, but usually it’s somewhere in there. I mean, it’s not necessarily ?? we don’t really rank that 1 to 10 as this is the most important thing we have to do. Those top ten things we just look at completing. We look at those objectives, kind of checking them off every week.

Q. Kind of another “what were your first impressions of” questions, but Dan Santucci, when did you kind of get to know him and how would you describe his personality?

Brady Quinn: I’ve gotten to know him better this year than in years past. Really last year we started to get to know Dan a little more. Obviously transitioning from defense to offense, he’s just been fun to be around. He’s an interesting guy. He’s definitely a creature of habit. He’s always in there, he’s always ready for practice about a half an hour, 30 minutes before we have meetings or anything. He might be dressed right now for practice.

He’s funny, he kind of comes to work every day, works hard, and he’s just got a great attitude. It’s fun having him on a team. He loves doing things like going out, we go out a lot for dinner, those sorts of events. He likes being one of those team players. He’s a great guy to have on your team.

Q. If you were talking about your Friday routine, some of the guys about Santucci said that Friday morning when he wakes up he’s ready to play right then and kind of tough to be around the rest of the day. Did you ever run across him on a Friday?

Brady Quinn: Yeah (laughing), there’s a progression from that Thursday where he’s kind of starting to lock in. That Thursday night we all go out, we have dinner, and you can tell at that point many time that’s kind of his deal, his place he likes to go and eat, so he kind of organizes sometimes to get everyone there or see who’s all coming, so that’s a little stressful for him.

But that night after, he’s got to go to bed and get a good night of sleep because come Friday he’s completely keyed in on the game plan and what’s going on. He’s all business. He’s just got stuff ready and he comes here early. I don’t know if he watches film or what he does, but you can tell the whole day he’s just ready for the game.

Q. It sounds like guys try to get under his skin a little bit on Friday to try to test him. Do you ever see that happen?

Brady Quinn: Oh, yeah, I’d say Sullivan and Harris are probably the two worst components of that. They try to get under his skin and try to do things to get him to freak out or just say something. It’s fun. I love sitting by those guys.

Q. When you looked at the Air Force?Army game, did it make you prepare more for what Air Force is capable of or for what Army is incapable of?

Brady Quinn: I mean, we look at every game the same. Air Force obviously has a lot. They have a different scheme. There are different things that we’ve just really got to prepare ourselves for in our game plan. I think if you’re going to look at any game to try to get an indication of Air Force, you’ve got to look at the Tennessee game. Tennessee is a great team, and I think they walked out of there losing 31?30 at Tennessee, which says a lot about their defense.

We know they’re going to come to play, we know they’re going to be a tough team and we know we’re going to get minimal opportunities having the ball. It’s one of those things where we have to be efficient on offense and make sure we’re productive.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about when you have a guy on the defense like a Maurice Crum, a linebacker who can really get through the offensive line and get to the quarterback, how destructive of a force can he be?

Brady Quinn: Oh, man, if you watch how really quick he is, especially on the run game, that’s the one thing I notice most is how fast he can fill a run hole. It’s almost as if there was never anything there in the beginning.

But his abilities as a quarterback, his ability just to read a defense is amazing. He’s someone I’m just so glad we have on our team and isn’t somewhere else playing every week.

Q. I’ve spoken to a lot of guys about taking a hit from Mo, and they say it’s something they remember for several days afterwards. Have you ever been subject to that?

Brady Quinn: I have not, I’m actually fortunate.

Q. Again, when you watch him or when you’re playing against a guy like that, he’s a little bit undersized. Can he use perhaps his smaller size and his feet to be more disruptive out there?

Brady Quinn: Yeah, I think you hit that on the nose. Any time a guy is undersized like that, he’s going to use that speed to counteract any size he lacks or strength he lacks. That’s something if you watch Mo on film, I’m telling you, he fills the hole better than anyone else I’ve seen play this year.

Q. Have you ever been to Colorado Springs?

Brady Quinn: I have not.

Q. Do you have any idea what to expect there?

Brady Quinn: No. I mean, we’ll obviously get there on Friday and check it out.

Q. You talked a little bit about looking at Air Force. You’ve already played Navy, you know a little bit about what they’re like; Air Force is similar. Is it a matter for Notre Dame to just take care of business, or do you have to do something special to beat Air Force?

Brady Quinn: I don’t know. I mean, we go into every game really just looking to fulfill our objectives in the past that we really set out to do. We try not to focus on our opponent week in and week out. We know each opponent brings a different defensive strategy against us. Really we just try to focus on ourselves, proving our fundamentals, techniques, week in, week out. We really just try to execute our game plan.

Q. The four interceptions that you have, everybody looks at that number and they think that’s really exceptional. Is there a reason why it’s that low? Is it your ability, the protection, the receivers you have or the system? Is there any one thing that’s more prominent than the other?

Brady Quinn: Yeah, I don’t think it’s one thing that’s more prominent than the other. I just think it’s a combination of all of those.

Obviously our system allows us to be in a good play in every situation. We’re always going to have somebody to go to where we can get out of a bad play. Offensive line has done a great job for us this year really protecting things up, not allowing any pressure. Again, our wide receivers know that if there is any opportunity for a DB to intercept the ball, their number one job is to become a DB and really bat it down and make sure they get it out of harm’s way.