Nov. 18, 2015
University of Notre Dame Football Media Conference
Q. DeShone, you said a couple of weeks ago that you’re not, of course, a run-first quarterback, you’re never going to be a run-first quarterback. But with the amount that you’ve run and in the red zone and everything, how has your comfort level improved and how do you think you have progressed in that area?
DeShone Kizer: I believe that throughout the season I have definitely developed as a runner, comfort along the lines of being able to read blocks and understand what we’re trying to do with the run play. I definitely have improved in that area.
Before it was more just a zone read type of run guy where once you get off it’s just a race to the finish, whether it’s out-of-bounds or trying to get some yards. But now being able to read blocks from internally with some power game and stuff like that, I definitely developed a little more. And my comfort level throwing the ball as high as it can possibly be.
Q. You mentioned runs that have been particularly impressive with jumping in and out of blocks and things like that. How much of that is being able to see the whole field and how much of it is knowing where your blocks are going to be?
DeShone Kizer: Being able to — it’s been weeks and weeks understanding how we want to block things up. It’s part of the quarterback position to understand the blocking schemes up front. So to be able to understand where the unblock pad is and set that unblock pad up to maybe get caught up in a couple of extra guys over there, those are things that definitely helped me out as a quarterback.
As a runner, you’ve got to be patient out there. I’m not a guy who’s going to be able to blow past guys with speed and be able to make mistakes and just run past them and do things like that. I’ve got to be able to think through runs and try to cut off of guys and understanding the blocking scheme.
So like you said, I have just continued to develop as we move forward. And if the opportunities are there for us to have a quarterback-run-driven game, then we’re going to have to do it because guys are going to try to put extra guys on the blocks to stop our running backs right now.
Q. If you looked at the film of the Wake Forest game, what are some things that you picked up that you could have done differently, or was it — what were some of the issues that led to — I think it was only 280-something total yards for you guys that day.
DeShone Kizer: We had the ball. We had upper 40s on places. We were averaging around 70. There is not much that was disappointing from the game. But on my own end, there was a couple of third down situations in which I gotta be able to get the ball out and understand the protections that I need to be in to get the ball out. There is one in particular that has been eating me up all week that I’ll be able to clean up and fix up.
But other than that, you know, when Wake Forest is running the style of offense that they run, it’s not necessarily a — it’s a spread offense, but they’re still consuming a lot of time out there when they’re checking over to the sideline a bunch and they’re snapping the ball with two, three seconds left on the clock every time they are up to bat.
You’re going to get limited drives. This isn’t a game where we game plan to get limited drives, but that’s just how it fell. When we get put in third down situations, I’ve gotta to be able to throw the ball and get us ahead of the chains and continue to move on so we can put together longer drives and kind of keep our defense off the field.
Q. Off topic, but being a former baseball player, is there anything added going to play a game at Fenway Park?
DeShone Kizer: Yeah, this is awesome. This is awesome. It’s been circled all year to be able to see that park. I’ve never been to Boston. I’ve watched it on TV a bunch.
I always thought that eventually I would be a guy that you might have to do a poppy shift for me since I pulled the ball a bunch, and this is just a cool opportunity for me to be on the field that a lot of great baseball players and a lot of history has been made on.
Q. Nick Martin talked about the confidence in your voice and how you carry yourself on the field since the time you’ve been starting. How natural of a transition was that for you to allow your voice to come out more than maybe it had?
DeShone Kizer: It kind of developed within itself. It wasn’t something I thought about. It wasn’t something I thought I had an issue. It was just I allowed my leadership role to develop within itself. I knew I couldn’t force anything. I’m not a guy — I’m not just going to come in and become a starter and start chirping at everyone. I just allowed it to progress to what it is.
At the quarterback position, at least this year and last year, we weren’t really in a position in which we did a lot of talking. Our verbal guys came from Nick Martin up front. Our verbal guys came from and the defensive end in Joe Schmidt.
We were a type of group where we try to lead with our play and step in when we absolutely had to. And now the way this season is moving on, it’s staying the same way. Nick Martin is a guy who is going to be the verbal guy and lead us, lead the offense the way it is. My position is more along the lines of, you know, being myself and making sure that everyone is staying calm and staying focused.
I’m not — I’m still not a guy that’s going to go out there and yell at everyone. We just want to execute each play that we get the opportunity to execute. And when it comes to my verbal end of things, I’m learning the offense still and I’m becoming more comfortable each week. And the more comfortable I become, the easier it is for me to push that out to the players out in the field.
Q. That being said, though, as a quarterback, you’ve got to have a certain amount of confidence in your voice. How do you walk that line between allowing others to be the verbal leaders and you being the quarterback?
DeShone Kizer: It’s who you are. I’ve learned quickly that you can’t be fake. These guys are in the locker room with you, they spend 365 days almost with you throughout the year. These guys know who you are. And you’ve gotta be yourself.
I’ve learned that — I came in and I thought that I was going to have to be some big-time — making sure everything was running the right way. But we’re all elite athletes. We all know what we’re supposed to do. We’re all playing at a high level for an elite program. Everyone knows their jobs. I don’t have to go out there yelling and chirping at them.
As the season goes on, I’m understanding the personnel out there and understanding the personalities of all my teammates. And I think I’ve done a pretty good job with evaluating how guys like to be led.
And with that being said, this team is at a point where everyone knows everyone. We have an identity, and we don’t look for extra leadership. Everything just kind of plays itself out. We’ve been in a lot of situations in which we have learned from, and now it’s all about executing.
Q. I wanted to ask you, and might not be fair to you because you’re so much younger than a lot of people in this room, but Rick Mirer and Tony Rice, just what you know about them, what you’ve heard or maybe even seen about them?
DeShone Kizer: Yeah, I know they were the closest thing to dual-threat quarterbacks of their time and they’re crazy athletic. Didn’t really — like I’ve always said, I wasn’t necessarily the biggest Notre Dame fan growing up so I don’t know too much about them. I just understand that they’re respected and some of the greatest athletes and greatest quarterbacks to play at not only Notre Dame but to play in NCAA.
So I’ve heard a lot of things that they say I have similar traits to them, and I don’t necessarily — I haven’t really looked into them and the style of play that they had. But I just know that to be able to play the position that guys that are as respected as them is is always an honor. And I completely respect and acknowledge that every time I get the opportunity to step out as a Notre Dame quarterback.
Q. Must be fun to see the records, just like Josh over the weekend with his 98-yarder and Then will moving up the charts with his catches. And to think you could tie a record if you get another rushing touchdown, it’s got to be fun to watch that offense and be part of it.
DeShone Kizer: The only time we hear about records is when you guys bring them up in these questions. I have no idea what records are even out there. I know that some of the guys around me are playing spectacular and I know that it’s eventually probably going to lead to some records, but we’re just worried about how we can come out and win the day. There’s not necessarily some big goals in mind when it comes to making records and playing at that level of football.
Q. I don’t know if you can talk about how different it is now compared to last year? I’m sure you could go places last year and be more anonymous. I don’t know if anybody has used the word “Heisman” to you or anything like that, but just playing at a high level, being the Notre Dame quarterback, being so photographed now and on TV and everything, how has that changed? Did you go to stores last year or go into a restaurant and nobody knew who you were?
DeShone Kizer: That’s definitely — it’s weird, when you recruit, you are at the top of a totem pole. You are looked at some amazing, elite athlete. And then all of a sudden you get here, you go right back down to the bottom and you have to work your way back up.
The way that this transitioned so quickly, I didn’t necessarily climb the totem pole as slow as most people climb. I just kind of got thrown at some of the upper-tier levels of elite athletes and end up being compared to and talked about as one of the better guys.
But at the end of the day, there is so much going on each week that you don’t necessarily look at that stuff.
I can’t tell you the last time I sat down and watched TV. The only TV I watch is in the quarterback room when I’m trying to watch some film. So I don’t necessarily try to get too involved with all of that. There is just so much going on with us right now that we need to focus on preparing for the opponent at hand on the weekend, and maybe we can evaluate this all once the season is over.
Q. At the same time you’ve got to be treated with a little different respect maybe from some of the upperclassmen, I mean, as maybe before they didn’t know your name and all of the sudden it’s hey, buddy, what’s going on?
DeShone Kizer: Definitely, definitely. The respect levels are pretty high right now for me. But I believe once you are at this point in time in the season, your ranking or how many years you play is nonexistent. Everyone is just playing for each other. You don’t look at a guy like a freshman or — the only time that you can actually look at a ranking is when you understand a guy is a senior and you gotta give him his respect.
Other than that, when we are out on the playing field, we’re all playing for each other and we’re playing for the name across the front of our chest. And that’s just the way it is. At this point of the year, there is no more of that. It’s trying to accomplish a goal and trying to get a “W” each week.
Q. I know you have two games left. But how bad do you guys want to be in that college bowl game? Going to a great bowl game would be great, but you’re right there. You’re so close right now.
DeShone Kizer: Yeah, we set a mission at the beginning of this. We know that everyone who was recruited here and decided to come here came to play for championships. And we see the opportunity is there. But at the end of the day it’s not about — it more along the lines of what those 12 people sitting around the table decide.
We’re just out here trying to prove ourselves and prove that we’re one of the better teams in the country. In order to do that, we have to be able to beat today. And we know that there is some opportunities for us to play for those championships that we have dreamed for. But in order to put ourselves in that position, we’re going to have to play some good ball going up to there.
We have a really tough opponent this weekend, the best defense in the country statistically-wise, and we know that after that we’re going to play another really good opponent. With that being said, we’ve gotta focus on how we can get better today and how we can prepare for the game that we have Saturday.
Q. When Coach Kelly was in here yesterday, he was asked about the offense and maybe picking it up, didn’t face a whole lot of plays as you noted last week against Wake Forest, but he said he felt like you guys could be more aggressive. I’m curious how you view that, if there were spots in the game where you felt like I could have pushed the ball more, and how do you balance that against not turning it over and forcing into a bad coverage?
DeShone Kizer: Football is a game of rhythm. It’s a game of understanding situations. When you are out there and you get 70 plays, like we typically average, you can feel when it’s time to take a shot play. You can feel when a third down is supposed to be a three-step game rather than a five-step shot play.
But when you get the limited drives that we got and don’t necessarily get the opportunity to get the rhythm that we want within the game, it’s kinda hard to understand when you’re supposed to take shots and when you’re supposed to grind it out for a couple of yards.
There were a couple of opportunities in which I gotta put the ball out to a match-up in which that I believe we’re favored in with either Will or backside to Chris Brown or Corey Robinson. And it was only once or twice throughout the game, I believe, but we just have to understand that anytime the ball is in our hands, we’ve got to go out there with an aggressive mind-set, an attacking mind-set and not allow ourselves to get caught up in maybe the slower tempo of the game.
Q. Is that easy to do? As a younger quarterback who has not played a whole lot at this level to not get sucked into rhythm being against you in pressing?
DeShone Kizer: It’s tough. That was the first game in which we didn’t get the plays we wanted. We expected it earlier in the year with Georgia Tech and Navy, but we still ended up getting out there and getting opportunities to go up and down the field with the ball in our hands quite a bit.
It was the first opportunity for me to learn from something like that, and now I understand that I gotta be able to maybe become a little more vocal and show some energy in situations where we’re only going to get a couple of drives throughout the game.
Q. You mentioned protections a little bit, and there was one that was still sort of bothering you. When it comes to stuff coming from the backside, whether it be a corner blitz against Pittsburgh, I think, that got to you, do you sort of have to experience those looks and pressures to learn from them?
DeShone Kizer: Yeah, I guess that’s a way of putting it. We understood that Wake Forest is really good on third down. They’re one of the best third down defenses in the country. What they were doing over there with some of their looks and all the different variations of blitz they were going to throw at us was going to be a tough game on third down.
I completely understood that. There was one in particular in which I checked one way and they brought an extra guy off the edge that I didn’t expect to come. I hadn’t seen that blitz all year.
But, yeah, you got to get hit in the back a couple times before you respect your backside. We have one of the best left tackles in the country back there. So I tend to — or up until then I tend to almost forget that side. If I have a slide going that way, I believe that’s completely picked up, but now that people are throwing some exotic blitzes and sending three or four guys off that edge, I definitely have to be more cognizant of what possibilities I can have back there and just feel the pocket out a little more and continue to develop in that fashion of the game.
Q. Watching film of BC, how have teams tried to attack their defense?
DeShone Kizer: They like to play a lot of man coverage. In order to attack them, you’re going to have to take them down the field a couple times. They trust in their corners. They trust in their veterans. And they have a really big box — or really big guys within the box.
In order for us to attack them, it’s going to be, I think, similar to Pitt in the sense that we are going to have to take shots when we need to take shots but also not get too (indiscernible) with taking four or five-yard gains, whether it be a slant route or an inside zone run play.
Q. Do you have to make inroads outside the hashes in order to have success inside against a team like this, a defense like this?
DeShone Kizer: Yeah, I believe that’s football in itself. People are going to throw an extra guy in the box if you’re not going to challenge them vertically and challenge them on the outside. They have the ability to do a bunch of different things. They like to play their man coverage, but they play some really cool zone coverages in which there are not many open areas, and you’ve got to be able to understand when those are coming at you.
They have complete confidence in what they’re doing right now. And that, I believe, is their biggest plus right now. They know what they’re doing, they know who they are, and they’re really good at what they do. And when you have confidence in what you’re doing, it allows you to play more competitively and be able to take a couple more risks that end up in game-changing plays on defense.
Q. So you want to spread the field and get them moving laterally, or that’s another statement, that’s a general statement for what you guys want to do on a weekly basis?
DeShone Kizer: Yes, weekly. That’s who we are. We are a spread offense. We like to take it east and west as much as we can before we bring it inside and go north and south.
Q. How do you feel physically at this stage of the season?
DeShone Kizer: I’m clean. Thankfully, I’m clean. There is a lot of guys right now who have a lot of bumps and bruises. When you play the schedule that we play, every game is going to be a tough one in which you’re going to have to fight through some injuries.
But for me, myself, I’m pretty clean. And it’s definitely a blessing because when you get into November, there’s a lot of guys who are dealing with ankles and shoulders and minor bumps and bruises. That can build up and eventually hurt you pretty deep in November.
Q. Did you have a season in high school where you were a little bit more banged up than you actually are at this stage?
DeShone Kizer: Pretty much every season in high school by the end of the year.
DeShone Kizer: Yeah. By the end of the year, there was something going on, whether it was a shoulder, knee or something. This is kind of freaky to think I’m completely clean right now and completely fresh. And it’s always a blessing, like I said. And you’ve got to focus on keeping it that way because we know these games coming up are going to be some big ones.
Q. You probably weren’t 235 in high school, either?
DeShone Kizer: No, no, no. About 195.
Q. I was curious over the course of the season if you had to kinda flip a switch or something like that mentally from being more of a caretaker filling in for Malik initially to “This is my job; I’m the number one guy here”?
DeShone Kizer: Yeah, well, the way that it was set up is you get put in in your first game, in your first opportunity, and you’re down a touchdown and you’ve got to try to go down and put together a drive to win a game. That was a switch in itself that you have to turn on and have complete confidence in yourself to score the points that you need to score.
With that being said, I didn’t necessarily have a specific time, just because every game that I — I came in in Virginia and we’re down and you gotta score a touchdown. Then you come out and you start against a top 15 Georgia Tech team.
So the switch was on from day one for me. So there’s not necessarily a specific time in which I saw myself as the guy who was relieving to a guy that has to take over because when you’re playing the level of football that you play now, everyone has to be executing in all facets of the game. So I was always on in that sense.
Q. I think one of the most compelling parts of the Showtime series has been your conversation with Jack early on where you were very candid about some doubts that you had about should I be playing baseball or not, should I even be still pursuing football. How real were those moments and how far has your confidence come over this season?
DeShone Kizer: That was a completely — that was actually after an interview at the time and we were just kind of chatting it up and the cameras happened to be on. So that was a completely real moment for me. And now it’s to the point where I’ve accepted the fact that my life has changed from then.
I’m completely a different guy from who I was last year, and obviously my opportunities to play quarterback and be the number one guy is a big part of that.
I’m completely comfortable where I’m at and I’m completely accepting of who I am as a quarterback and who I am as a representation of my college and my university.
So it’s been a really fun ride, but, you know, we’re just trying to focus up on preparing for these games coming up. Maybe we can have a little better conversation with this after the season when we can evaluate everything that’s happened because it’s happening so quickly; that if you want to get caught up in it, you’re not going to be in the right mind-set to win a game on Saturdays.
Q. Baseball-wise you made it to the Majors; you’re playing at Fenway.
DeShone Kizer: Exactly.
Q. To that end, we’ve seen the eagle flap, we’ve seen — I think you were conducting the band after one of your scores last week. Can we get a home run swing —
DeShone Kizer: Oh, gosh. I’m just going to worry about trying to turn around and go find my big guys and celebrate with them.
I think Coach Kelly is on his last straw with this. (Laughter.)
Q. DeShone, thank you for your time today. Wanted to ask you about your confidence seems to have grown by leaps and bounds from that moment in spring where you had the issues that you were dealing with off the field and on the field, and I was wondering where was your confidence then? And it sounded like it was at its lowest ebb. But with the with the issues that your girlfriend was going through, did that help put things in perspective for you?
DeShone Kizer: Yeah, my confidence was almost zero at that point in time. I didn’t have any confidence in throwing the ball. Couldn’t throw a spiral. Didn’t really fully think I knew the playbook, even though I had a little more than what I actually thought I had.
But since then things have turned for the better. Spending some time with Coach Sanford and developing my game and now having the opportunity to be a guy out there who’s contributing for our offense and for our team has been truly a surreal feeling.
As I continue to develop and continue to experience the opportunities I get to experience on Saturdays, my confidence will continue to grow and I will continue to become more comfortable. And the more you understand the offense and the more you understand college football as a whole, the better you’re going to be as a quarterback.
I’ve just been able to be blessed to have the opportunities to play in all the situations that we’ve played in and develop into a guy who is completely confident in what he does and is able to come up with a couple of W’s throughout the season.
Q. When you committed to Notre Dame — true story, I’m wondering — when you called Coach Kelly to tell him that you were going to be coming to Notre Dame, I understand that Tom Brady was in the room when you made that call. If you had been aware of that, what would you have loved to ask Tom Brady?
DeShone Kizer: That’s a question that I could answer in a thousand ways. Why would he ever choose to head up north to a school like Michigan is probably the first question I want to ask him. (Laughter.)
That’s one of the best guys that ever played the position that I have, and to have an opportunity to sit down and have a conversation with him would be an ultimate dream.
Q. Do you wish you would have known that he was on the phone?
DeShone Kizer: Yeah. Well, I knew he was on the phone, but we were all about business. I was excited to let Coach Kelly know I had made my decision to come here and didn’t really seize the opportunity to have a conversation with one of the greatest.
Q. In terms of just the — you kind of mentioned playing against Boston College’s defense. What concerns do you have about their ability to get after quarterbacks and kind of disrupt things for someone looking to operate their offense?
DeShone Kizer: They’re rolling. They’re really good within the box. They’re really good outside, too. They have complete confidence in their game plans. And you can tell when watching film that they’re not willing to take a play off. These guys go hard and they take risks. And they’ve been really successful throughout the year.
We’re going to have to make sure as an offense we continue to do what we’ve been doing in executing our game plan. We’ve had some great game plans being put together for the defenses that we play, and this is another opportunity to execute what the coaches draw up for us.
THE MODERATOR: Sheldon Day is here. We can start with questions.
Q. Sheldon, as Romeo’s game has progressed pretty rapidly in the last month, I was wondering if you could just talk a little bit about his personality. What’s he like way from the football field? How long did it take for you to get to know him when you guys were younger players?
Sheldon Day: Me and Romeo bonded early. We came in together, so we’re the youngest guys in our class. So just kind of bonded through that and our experiences. And just his passion for pretty much the things that don’t involve football, whether that’s the ukulele or just hanging out and watching movies.
And it’s crazy how much we’ve grown over the years, especially starting off young. And he played linebacker, I played DM, and our relationship just progressed so far.
Q. Did you find his personality to be off-beat or different or unique in any way?
Sheldon Day: I wouldn’t say that. He’s a pretty normal guy, you know. But, I don’t know, he’s very intense. I would definitely say that on the field — he’s definitely a different guy on the field than off.
Q. In terms of red zone defense last week, got some goal line stands, getting inside the 10 a little bit, what was different? Was what was better last week? How did you feel like as a defense you took that step forward?
Sheldon Day: Coach VanGorder has been preaching when are we going to man up. And it’s about that time that we start trying to. We’re definitely just bringing a different mentality into the red zone and saying this is where we’re drawing the line.
And we’re definitely going to try to keep that going and make sure we play more physical in the red zone.
Q. Do you have any sense of why that happened last week, why that switch got flipped or why that mentality changed or what changed it?
Sheldon Day: Sometimes when people try to man — it’s time to step up. And Coach VanGorder just kept picking at us and picking at us and picking at us. And it was time to step up.
Q. I was just asking guys how they feel physically at this stage of the season, 10 weeks into the season. Not asking for specific aches and pains, but just overall. What does a defensive lineman feel like 10 weeks into the season?
Sheldon Day: Me personally, I feel pretty good. Man, I’m not saying I feel like week one, but I definitely feel good right now. I feel explosive.
Coach Longo has done a great job with us, maintaining us in the weight room. And then in practice, making sure we get quality reps. Not many reps, but quality reps throughout practice and things like that. But Coach Gilmore, he’s definitely taking care of the guys up front.
Q. When you — like say you tweak an ankle in the fifth week, how does it have time to heal? How can it get better during a season when you’re playing every week?
Sheldon Day: Treatment. Ratigan has a plan when something like that happens. We stick to the plan and we trust in the plan. So got to keep focusing on that plan and make sure you follow that plan.
Q. In terms of the weight room, how do you use that to not only stay strong but I guess help you heal a little bit?
Sheldon Day: You’ve got to talk to the head man, Longo. I don’t know the mad science behind it, but he does a pretty good job with it.
Q. How many times a week do you get in the weight room?
Sheldon Day: At least two.
Q. What days are those typically?
Sheldon Day: Depends on your schedule and how it relates to class and things like that.
Q. So it’s not like following the schedule of when the game is and when you are going to work out prior to —
Sheldon Day: Oh, no. It depends on class.
Q. How do you think Jonathan was able to step in on Saturday and perform in really what seemed to be his first major college action?
Sheldon Day: Jonathan?
Sheldon Day: Oh. Oh, Bonner. He’s been pressing all season and he’s just been waiting for his opportunity. And he finally got one.
So he’s definitely been putting the time in and watching film and doing things like that and was just waiting for his time to shine, and he did a really good job.
Q. He lined up for you guys, got hit pretty hard by injuries in 2013 and 2014. This year you guys lose Daniel for a week but still seem to keep up a good level of play. How does the improved defensive line depth that you have help you practice?
Sheldon Day: Like Coach Gilmore says every day, we are one heartbeat. And we can interchange from any position, and we make sure we know each other’s jobs. We stay on top of things like that.
Q. How do you get that continuity from the first team defensive line to the second team and be able to interchange them like that?
Sheldon Day: Know your job and know everybody else’s job and make sure you play up to the guy’s position that you’re behind. And just make sure that you fly around and pretty much do the job that he did.
Q. Does that help you — kind of going off of Tim’s question. Does that help you stay fresher as the season goes on into November here?
Sheldon Day: I would definitely say that. Because you know you can come out of the game in any point in time, whether it’s a critical situation or it’s the first quarter.
Q. Sheldon, thanks for taking the time today. I had a question about your impression to how DeShone Kizer has evolved and settled into the role of starting quarterback, having been thrust into the situation, kind of an emergency situation at Virginia.
Sheldon Day: He’s done a great job. DeShone, he’s a guy who knows how to adapt. And we have definitely learned that through his play and things like that. But getting to know him as a person as well, he’s definitely a character where you love being around him and enjoying his presence. And just to see him on the field having success is pretty cool.
Q. How has his confidence changed from last spring to now?
Sheldon Day: Oh, man. His confidence level has just grown out the roof. He’s playing with a swagger that nobody can compare to right now. So he’s definitely playing with a lot of confidence and making sure he knows where the ball needs to go and trying to make adjustments when they need to be made.
Q. Oftentimes when a new player comes into a situation, his teammates are unsure about what he’s capable of doing. At what point were you guys confident that he was the guy that can lead you once Malik Zaire got hurt?
Sheldon Day: Coach Kelly always preaches “next man in,” and he was taking just as many reps as Malik in practice, so we knew he had the talent and the ability to do it; it was just about going out there and doing it.
Q. What are your thoughts about playing in this iconic Fenway Park, and do you see a little pep in the step of Coach Brian Kelly who is coming home this weekend?
Sheldon Day: Oh, man, it’s going to be a good homecoming for Coach Kelly. And it’s going to be a special moment for all of us. Most of haven’t played in a baseball stadium, and as iconic one as this one is. So definitely a special moment for everybody.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Sheldon.
THE MODERATOR: All right, folks, Nick Martin is here. We can open the floor up for questions.
Q. How does their defense compare with what you’ve seen clearly? With their front seven, it’s going to be a battle up front with you guys.
Nick Martin: Yeah, absolutely, they don’t do a lot but what they do they’re good at. They have controlled defense, they like to move around. They’re tough players. They play the whole play. And they’re older, too, which really helps. They’ve been in that system for a few years now.
Q. For a gap-control defense, they have an astounding amount of tackles for loss. Is that just them playing their scheme so well? Is it that those four to five guys that are exceptional players?
Nick Martin: Yeah, absolutely. Obviously they will blitz and they have their change-ups. But it does. I mean, they’re good at what they do. That’s tough to block.
Q. Are you guys concerned about the hit-or-miss approach of the running game? You’re getting so many big plays out of the running game, but there are also a lot of minimal gains along the way. Is it something that is part of the learning process with young tight ends, young running backs, or is it something that you can control going forward?
Nick Martin: We just try to — our philosophy is to take one play at a time, especially the offensive line and keep grinding. Not every play is going to be a “big chunk” play, but if you can keep grinding you find your spots.
Q. DeShone’s ability to call out protections in games, how has that gone from week 2 against Virginia to where it is now, and what sort of — Coach Kelly talked about his retention ability. So if he makes one mistake, he doesn’t make it again. How has that progressed in that manner?
Nick Martin: He does a great job with that. That’s a huge attribute of a football player — once you see one thing, it’s not going to get you again. He does a great job of reading protection the right, so he knows he’s protected. Or if there are more blitz’s than blockers, you know who he’s hot off and get the ball off quick. And he’s done a great job with that.
Q. Even if you don’t specifically tell him, hey, you missed this one, if you’re calling something out, you know, on a play and then you know, a couple of plays later he notices the same thing, even with you not directly telling him, is that something he’s been able to do?
Nick Martin: Absolutely. We all help when we see, we will be in there and we’ll watch blitz tapes and protections together, without the coaches, so we can try to get in each other’s heads.
Q. Nick, staying with DeShone, how have you — since he started, what’s the biggest uptick in confidence that you’ve seen in the way he carries himself on the field?
Nick Martin: He’s very comfortable, which is huge. I think he’s found his voice, which no matter what age you are when you are a quarterback, people are going to look to you, look to you to make plays and look to you be to be the guy to lean on. And he’s done a great job with that.
Q. With the voice specifically, have you been able to tell a difference in the way he commands himself and the way his confidence comes out through the way he communicates with you guys?
Nick Martin: He’s naturally a comfortable person and naturally a leader. And he’s stepped in right away and had that. But I think it’s just progressively gotten better since then.
Q. Nick, when you’ve seen film of BC, how have offenses tried to attack their defense?
Nick Martin: You know, they try to — they twist a lot and stunt when the single-backer blitzes, and people maybe go more lateral. You’ve got to get your hands on them and be able to push that forward and change your line of scrimmage with your back to the hole and make a run.
Q. It seems on the surface you would try to attack them outside of the hash marks?
Nick Martin: Uh-huh. They like to force everything inside and set the edge, make their linebackers make plays. And with teams like that you have to be able to both go inside and — you’ve obviously got to be able to run inside, just as every game, but also outside is a big part of the game.
Q. So why haven’t people been able to spread them out and attack them inside?
Nick Martin: They’re a good defense. They know they’re responsibility, they trust each other, and they do their job.
Q. You might be on the run a little bit this week?
Nick Martin: Uh-huh.
Q. I wanted to ask you earlier in the season you lost Tarean and then Malik. Was there any point where you guys said, Can there be anything else happen to us?
Nick Martin: Tough losses. Always is. But at the same time, it’s part of the game. With Coach Kelly’s next man mentality, people bought into that. That’s huge. When you buy into what Coach preaches and believes in, and you have a team like this who fight together, that’s how you get past it.
Q. I guess the lessons that that shows you, and maybe you’ve known those lessons since you were a little kid or been brought up that way, but to just keep plugging away and working hard and good things happen, I guess?
Nick Martin: Absolutely. And that’s what this team does. They fight together; they keep plugging away, like you said. And that’s shown and that’s proven that’s a good thing to happen.
Q. Just being in the top four, and knowing that there are other teams right behind you, does that keep you guys focused? In years past, maybe you’re out of the national championship hunt and you’re playing to get into the best bowl game possible. But you guys are right in the thick of things.
Nick Martin: We are. Our team has a vision, and we have a mission we want to accomplish, and we see it. But right now we have to focus on BC, and that’s what we have to do to complete that mission.
Q. Where are you physically at this stage of the season, ten weeks in? I’m not going to ask you for an inventory of your injuries, but what it’s like ten weeks into the season, the toll that the pounding takes on your body?
Nick Martin: Personally I feel great. With our strength and conditioning staff and our medical staff, they do an unbelievable job. Obviously every team has bumps and bruises. It’s week ten. It’s football. You hit, you hit during the week. And that’s no surprise. It’s no different for any other team. Everyone is banged up.
Q. I find it kinda interesting playing week after week, how do you feel better in week ten than maybe you did in week seven or week five?
Nick Martin: The little things. Once you get to a certain point — it goes back to nutrition, what you eat, take care of your body more, get more sleep. You take advantage of the lifts that you have. Little things that add up.
Q. So you can overcome certain injuries even while you’re playing on a weekly basis?
Nick Martin: Absolutely. It goes back to Coach Kelly’s attention to detail. You spend more time in the training room taking care of little things to make you feel overall better.
Q. In terms of time in the weight room, how many times do you actually get in there a week during the season?
Nick Martin: We lift twice a week in the morning during the season. And you really got to take advantage of those. Especially now because you have to keep your strength up, if not gain, which we do in our program.
Q. Are you going as heavy as you normally would — you can’t possibly be going as heavy as you will in the off-season.
Nick Martin: Coach Longo has his programs, and we do different things at different times of the year.
Q. Nick, I had a question regarding Coach Kelly. You mentioned how everybody has bought into his “next man up” approach, but how have you seen him in the time that you’ve been with him, who have you seen him evolve as a coach from the time that he stood on the sidelines in the 2012 Championship game to now in terms of developing this team?
Nick Martin: I think he’s done a great job. And obviously it’s been the program now where he has all of his players who he recruits. So everyone fits in the system. If a man goes down, you know what he can do, what he’s capable of, and he’s going to fit in the system. Everybody believes in that person coming in.
Q. Were you recruited by him?
Nick Martin: I was.
Q. What was that like for you, when he told you his concept and his vision for his program?
Nick Martin: You know, I was fortunate to have a brother in his program and already knew his ideals and the philosophies. And he was bought in, and that was enough for me.
Q. What did your brother tell you about him as a coach?
Nick Martin: I remember one of the first things he told me is he believed he would take Notre Dame to a National Championship.
Q. And here you are now, going to Fenway Park. Do you see a pep in his step this week, knowing that he’s coming home?
Nick Martin: I always think that’s very cool. A lot of us have been able to play in our hometowns. And we’re very fortunate like that. Notre Dame plays all over. He does a good job of preparing the same each week, but I think obviously it’s probably a little bit more special to him.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Nick.
Q. I was wondering what physically ten weeks into the season, if you took an inventory of your body and how you feel. Where are you?
Joe Schmidt: I feel great. Everybody’s got their bump and bruises, but I don’t have what I had last year. I’m not going to say it, but I am counting my blessings, so I can’t complain too much about it, and, you know, I’m still relatively young, and I like playing this game, so it’s fun.
Q. That helps, definitely. I wonder, like, you pick up some type of injury in week 3 or week 4, is there any way it can go away before the season ends?
Joe Schmidt: It kinda depends on the injury. If you have — obviously, you’re going to get stingers and such that last a few weeks, and they will go away. Sometimes you break a hand; then that’s an eight-week process. So I guess, like, relative to your question, it depends on what you hurt and when you hurt it, but there are certain things, yeah, that will kinda just be with you throughout the year.
Q. Like over the course of a week, how much treatment do you go through? Let’s say you don’t have a broken thumb or what have you, how much treatment do you actually go through?
Joe Schmidt: I don’t know. Per day, probably a few hours, like, two or three.
Q. Each day? Then what about as the season progresses, how much time do you get in the weight room? I’m sure there is no comparison as to how you workout leading up to the season at any point outside of the season?
Joe Schmidt: Yeah, I mean, you cut back a little bit from off-season training, but we’re still in there. I lifted today. You have to lift, and I think that that’s — you know, our training staff does a great job of trying to get us stronger throughout the year in order to peak when we want to peak. They do a good job of writing programs for that, and we get into the weight room a little bit less than the off-season, but we still get in there.
Q. We in the media tend to ask you about the different venues that you go to. Do you get — probably for you going to Fenway Park, that’s probably a little bit different, but do you have any time to give any care and concern about the venue you’re playing?
Joe Schmidt: I think you always have to look at where you’re playing. You have to know the terrain, you’ve got the Art of War, right? You gotta know the terrain? I think in order — I think for us it’s still going to be a football field, wherever we go, the dimensions are more or less the same.
This weekend will be a little different in that we are on the same sideline, understanding how that plays out, that will play a part of the game, but I think you can’t get too caught up in the atmosphere. That’s when you might lose sight of what’s really important, that’s playing a football game.
Q. This might be one of the places where you are curious to wander around in the facility before, when you first get there?
Joe Schmidt: Yeah, we get an opportunity to feel out wherever we go on Friday. Coach general brings us by Friday evening, lets us walk around and see it, so that when you do get there on Saturday, it’s not like a “whoa” moment. So it will be cool to go and walk around and check it out.
Q. Thanks, Joe.
Joe Schmidt: Good questions today, by the way, not that they aren’t always.
Q. We’re peaking in November!
Joe Schmidt: I was goes to say, gotta keep going up.
Q. You being a Red Sox fan, you get to go around Fenway, are you going to try to go into the Green Monster?
Joe Schmidt: I’m going to try to do what’s allowed to do. I don’t want to get in trouble, but if there is an opportunity to go into the Green Monster, I think I would gladly accept that opportunity. I’m not going to try to pull a Manny Ramirez and leave the game to go to the Green Monster, but it’s going to be kinda cool to walk around.
Q. Defensively for you guys against Wake Forest the ability to clamp down in third down situations on fourth down in the red zone, where does that kinda start for you guys as a defense, when you are able to do that so consistently in a game?
Joe Schmidt: You have to start with mind-set, I think. I think our coaching staff does a good job of coaching third down and game planning third down and fourth down and understanding what an offense wants to do with the football in those situations.
I mean, really, I think our coaching staff did a great job against Wake Forest because that really ended up being the difference, from it being a few score game and being a really tight game there at the end.
So I think first it starts with the mind-set, game plan and then just executing in those situations is critical. We can’t have one guy mess up.
Q. Do you feel like that was the best game you’ve played this year?
Joe Schmidt: Personally? Do you?
Q. That was what, double digit tackles, couple quarterback pressures.
Joe Schmidt: I don’t know. I would say probably no, but, I mean it was — you see, the thing is, it’s hard to — for you, you might look at, like, the amount of tackles I have in a game and grade my performance based on that. But when I’m looking at the film, I don’t look at how many tackles I had to base it on whether I had a good game or not, because sometimes there are games where you might not have an opportunity to play a whole — make a whole lot of tackles, but you play a really good football game. I guess that’s what I’ll have to say, sometimes the statistics of tackles and TFLs don’t always exactly mean that you had a great game.
You might have had a 13-tackle game, but you might have missed three things, and they might have scored three touchdowns off that, and that’s not a very good game.
Q. When you graded yourself out, how do you feel like you did overall then?
Joe Schmidt: Against Wake?
Joe Schmidt: I did very well, played a clean game.
Q. As a captain, how much have you appreciated watching DeShone come along from the start of the season to now?
Joe Schmidt: Well, DeShone has kinda always had — I think I’ve said this before, he’s always been cool and collected at the line. He’s always been able to get in and out of pressures — sorry plays, not pressures; that’s any job!
He’s done a really good job, too, of making all the throws across the field, and it’s been great seeing him evolve into that kind of quarterback where he seems to — he seems to always be making the right decisions, so it’s been really fun for me, too, because DeShone is a good buddy of mine, and how he’s evolved has been fun to watch from afar.
Q. As the season has progressed, what’s been the one area where — obviously you knew he had that skill set to play with that confidence, but what’s been maybe the — was there a game or a moment when you said, wow, I didn’t expect to see that from him?
Joe Schmidt: I wouldn’t say — I wouldn’t ever say that I didn’t expect to see something from him. You know, I think that there have been “wow” moments. You have to start with when he came in. He first came in against Virginia, and he throws that bomb to Will. I mean, it’s like, yeah, we know he can do that, but it’s still a “wow” moment. He still executed perfectly. So I think there have been moments like that all season, though, and he had, what, six touchdowns against Pittsburgh. He’s been doing great. He’s been doing great things.
Obviously we all know we need to get better, and DeShone knows he needs to get better, and it’s been fun talking with him, because he’s still hungry and he knows there are things he missed.
Q. Joe, do your defensive goals, game plan change when an offense is struggling versus maybe facing a potent offense, and just in BC’s case, they have such a good defense that it’s so difficult to score on them. Does that in any way change the defense’s goals? If you’re playing a great offense, you’re thinking, well, we’re not going to hold them to 10 points. But is there any change whatsoever when you are playing a team that really relies on defense rather than offense, I guess, is my point?
Joe Schmidt: Maybe in terms of like we understand that their defense is statistically extremely good. So we know whenever we play a game, we’re going against their defense, right?
So I think in that regard we understand that they’re very good, but our goals never change. Our goals for each game remain the same. I mean, those are — those are just what, unitwise we decide are going to be our goals. I think a good goal is something that you don’t change all the time. I think maybe mind-setwise, we know that we’ve got our work cut out for us, and really Boston College’s offense — they’ve got a great system in place, they really do, and they’ve got players that can run the system, and when they execute, they’re dangerous.
Q. When they’re working well, what do they do best offensively?
Joe Schmidt: I don’t know if I’m qualified to stand here and tell you that statement. I wouldn’t want to get into it, I don’t think. I think that — I know that they’re very challenging, and their system overall is a very challenging system.
Q. More so for a middle linebacker?
Joe Schmidt: It’s a linebacker game, right? They enjoy running the football, and I like people that run the football so it will be fun.
Q. Joe, Romeo is sort of like wharp speed in terms of his play on the field. Personality-wise, what’s he like away from, you know?
Joe Schmidt: Romeo. He’s a funny guy. He’s quieter, until you get to know him, and then he’s kinda like — he’s just — he doesn’t — he’s not like a super gregarious — you know, like an always-out-there extroverted guy, but he’s funny. How would I describe him? Kinda hard. I mean, he’s someone that’s really well liked by everyone in the locker room. He’s respected for his work ethic and his leadership skills. Really, he’s a vital, vital cog of that defensive line, so I think those are the things I would say about him.
Q. You’re a fairly outgoing guy. How long did it take for you to get to know him?
Joe Schmidt: Romeo?
Joe Schmidt: Not that long. Kind of like the first year of him being here we kinda knew. And Romeo used to give me a hard time because he would take the jokes that Carlo and Prince would use and use them against me, so that was kinda fun, and I still give Romeo a hard time too, so we have a great time with it.
Q. Could you share some of those jokes?
Joe Schmidt: Nope!
Q. Lastly, just to get back to what JJ was asking you about grading yourself. I asked B.K. about that yesterday, and he said there were a couple of plays against Wake Forest where maybe you around the ball that maybe you weren’t getting to a couple of weeks ago, and there were also a couple of alignments that were off that you would almost never do. Those are things that maybe we don’t see. Could you expand on that a little bit?
Joe Schmidt: Wait, say that again.
Q. He said there were a couple plays where you were misaligned, and that’s not something you almost ever do, but he also said that you got to some plays that maybe you hadn’t earlier in the year that were positives, and I think those are things that maybe we in the media don’t see. Any of that ring a bell? Any moments in that game where you could point to and be, like, that’s something that would be a check plus for me or a check minus?
Joe Schmidt: There is one play in particular that I remember was something we — I wasn’t as clean on it as I would have liked to have been. We ended up getting out of the drive and they didn’t score, so that made me feel a little better about it, but…
Q. Do you ever get on yourself after a game about plays or alignments that maybe you didn’t make, that didn’t lead to anything in the game?
Joe Schmidt: Do I what?
Q. Do you get on yourself —
Joe Schmidt: Get on myself?
Q. Yeah, like nothing happened, it was just a three and out, and the other team didn’t take advantage of it —
Joe Schmidt: No, no, no, I mean, I still like — even if I miss — so if I miss a tackle, and somebody immediately tackles them right after that, that will still bug me for — like there was a play against, like, Georgia Tech that still really bugs me and Sheldon tackled him immediately thereafter, but like, so, yeah, I still get extremely — I know exactly — I’ve got a very — I’ve got a pretty good memory, and I remember everything. In that regard.
Q. Do you guys look over your shoulder at all with the college football playoff rankings? You’re kinda the bubble team, and you’ve got a couple of teams undefeated chasing you right now?
Joe Schmidt: No, we can’t really think about that. We’ve got to think about Boston College and what’s important to us, so we’re trying not to focus on who is behind us, who is in front of us, we’re being looking at our opponent that’s next and that’s really it. You run into trouble when you start thinking b oh, we gotta win by this amount or we can’t — we gotta hope this guy loses, it’s like, whatever, whatever is going to happen is going to happen and we got no control over that.
Q. Sometimes you have to have a focus to stay hungry. The last couple of weeks you’ve been the favorite. It would be easy to get complacent. What makes you guys hungry with two games to go to think that you could be in that top four?
Joe Schmidt: There are two games to go and we approach each and every game the same way. We see the light at the end of the tunnel, and we’ve got too continue to strive to get better as we reach — near the end here. Our coaching staff does a great job of kind of policing that and setting the tone. They’ve been here before just like the guys in the first few rows have been here before. I know at least the guys in the front two or three rows have been on an undefeated team, so we saw how we needed to approach those games and how close they were, so we’re just trying to get better.
Q. Is that something that maybe we don’t see, how hungry you are and the intensity? I mean, you come out here and you talk to us, you have a good time, but there’s got to be a time when that switch flips.
Joe Schmidt: Yeah.
Q. Is that in the meeting room? Once you hit the playing — is there maybe a time before the game that it’s time to change?
Joe Schmidt: Yeah and I think — first, do I have a switch? I don’t know if I’m exactly the same guy a, I guess, if that’s what you’re getting at.
Q. I’m thinking teamwise and —
Joe Schmidt: Yeah, yeah, we all understand there is a time and place for everything, and we are doing a good job of kind of navigating between the two, but once we’re in that meeting room, it’s all business, it’s all work. Once we’re on the practice field, it’s all work. We go out for Saturdays, it’s show time. So there you go, your name dropped! So really it’s about performing when you need to perform and when you’re away from that you can do whatever you need to do but you want to make sure you perform.
Q. Do you enjoy that work? I mean, sometimes coaches say the love practice more than the games. I know everybody loves the games, but do you enjoy the process?
Joe Schmidt: Yeah, no, you gotta enjoy the process. 99% of your time is the process so that’s why you do this game, you spend time with your brothers on the team and the coaches and you just gotta enjoy it. We only got so many times left together as team 127, so we’re trying to make the most of them.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.