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September 24, 2014

Scott Shafer

COACH SHAFER:  Looking forward to our kickoff at the Meadowlands against an excellent Notre Dame football team.  Exciting environment.  It's a chance for us to get into the grassroots area of out recruiting.

Q.  Brian Kelly talked yesterday about the issues that your scheme has caused for him in the past.  Can you explain some of the schematic issues that he's caused for you on the other side of the ball?
COACH SHAFER:  Brian is a great football coach, done a nice job with all the offenses that I've seen him coach over the years.  Now he's got some great weapons to make it even more difficult.
He really understands the spread offense, the way to attack the front and the coverages.  He keeps you off balance.  It doesn't hurt having some good players, obviously, too.
Brian is an excellent football coach.  He understands how to attack the different schemes.  It will be a great challenge for us.

Q.¬† Obviously Notre Dame has their own dual‑threat quarterback you have to deal with this week.¬† What challenges does he pose for your defense and how are you feeling about your defense at this point in the season?
COACH SHAFER:  Everett definitely has a ton of challenges he brings to the table.  Very good quarterback.  Throws the ball extremely well.  Quick release.  Does a good job getting out of bad plays.  If he gets caught in a bad play, he can take off with it and be extremely effective with his feet.  There's numerous things we have to do a good job of.
As far as the second part of your question, I've been pleased with a lot of the things we've done defensively this year.  We just have to eliminate a couple of big plays.  That's been the nemesis at least this past week.  Had some opportunities to make some plays on the ball, and we dropped two interception opportunities that could really help us change momentum in those games.
We need to keep pushing to get better in those situations and understand that it starts with focusing day to day at practice.  Had a good practice yesterday.  Looking forward to backing it up with another one today.

Q.  Scott, obviously coming off of a loss against Maryland, you talked about mistakes.  You have to put those away and look ahead.  Practicing this week, you said you had a good week of practice so far.  What are some of the key areas you think the team is improving on in preparing for Notre Dame?
COACH SHAFER:  In general, we're just practicing efficiently, off the field, on time, or early.  I like the tempo, the way the kids are going after it.  We've had some physical periods on Tuesdays.  I think it's helped us a great deal with some of the things that we weren't as consistent as we needed to be with, block protection, tackling, some of the fundamental things.
Then probably the third thing would be I think the kids are doing a nice job understanding the systems and understanding the strengths and the weaknesses of the systems on both sides of the ball, offense, defense.  Understanding how to get out of bad things, whether it be a check on defense, getting out of a bad play on offense.
Those are some of the things that I think we've improved upon.

Q.  As far as the wide receiver corps, you talked about it going into this season, not knowing who was going to step up, but you did see some flashes there.  Without Ashton, who have you seen step up, or has it been kind of by committee?
COACH SHAFER:  It's definitely been by committee.  I think Ben Lewis is a guy that's done a really nice job.  He's been playing consistent football.  He knows every position.  Been pleased with his progress.
But really when I look at it, it is by committee, it is by the group.  You never know which guy is going to get an opportunity to make a lot of plays depending on what the defense presents us.  Each guy has to be ready to step up.
With Ashton being down, we have full confidence in Brisly.  Then like we mentioned before, moving people around a little bit will have to be part of the plan.  Those kids are ready for that.  Coach McDonald has done a nice job getting those guys ready to be able to adjust to different situations, different game plans going in.
I've been pleased with that part of the development.

Q.  Coach, what did last year teach you that all those years as an assistant didn't teach you about being a head coach?
COACH SHAFER:  Well, that I enjoyed being in the press box more than I ever knew, because I didn't get in trouble when I got mad.  That was probably the biggest thing.
I think over the years watching the different head coaches I was lucky to work with, I had some good mentors that helped me prepare for being in this position.
Really nothing earth shattering other than I think there's a point where you want to try to be involved enough that your assistants understand that you're involved but not get in the way either.  That's probably one of the most difficult things to do.
But really other than that, nothing major other than those things.

Q.  Coach, as a defensive specialist, you coming in, you've seen the success that Notre Dame has had in the red zone this year, 14 out of 14, 10 touchdowns.  How do you counteract that?
COACH SHAFER:  Well, we try to play our best red zone defense possible.  But they are a great offense.  They've been spectacular in the red zone.  I think a lot of that comes when you look at how successful they've been, they've been in tempo with their plays, they've been very consistent with getting the ball to the dead zones of the different teams they've played thus far this year.
When you get into the red zone, you have to do a great job, have well‑trained eyes, everybody understanding the game gets compressed, the timing of the passing game especially is going to be a little bit more precise in that part of the football field.¬† Your eyes are going to take your feet where they need to be.
I think we've done a good job focusing in on that.  We have a Big Red zone day in practice today.  Those will be some of the things.  I think it starts with the ability of the kids to have discipline with their eyes, and hopefully their feet will follow.
Like you said, the job that Notre Dame has done in the red zone is just unbelievable.  We'll have a tough task and a great challenge that we're looking forward to, but hard to be much better than they have been in the red zone.

Q.¬† Coach Kelly on earlier saying Everett has grown from the game manager to sort of their big‑time play‑maker on offense.¬† When you're watching film, is that what you see, him as the focal point, maybe the guy you need to stop first now as opposed to being that game manager?
COACH SHAFER:  Yeah, I think what Coach Kelly said is absolutely on point.  You see him making plays down the field with some of his creativity.  He's a phenomenal athlete.  You also see him play the game on time and on schedule.  Coach Kelly and his staff there have done a great job.  You do see that progression.
But the part that you mention is the big‑play opportunities he makes.¬† There's times where he leaves his feet to get a ball off, he's getting pummeled as he released it.¬† One I think the ball was in the air for about 64 yards.¬† That was an impressive, somewhat freakish play.¬† There's some things as a quarterback, as you said, you want to be a game manager early on in your career, learn how to manage the game, not get your team beat.¬† When you take it to the next level, you continue to do those things well, but you also give your team an opportunity to be a big play‑maker.¬† That's definitely what Everett has become there. ¬†He's a hell of a football player.

Q.  Do you feel that, by committee, Brisly and Ervin are two guys that can contribute in that regard?
COACH SHAFER:  I think everybody onboard, from the wide receiver crew, runningback crew, anybody that gives us a chance to do those things is always equally accessible.  That's kind of how we're looking at it.

Q.  On the first drive against Maryland, what kind of opportunity do you see for Ervin?  What do you think he can do well in that position?
COACH SHAFER:  I think there's a number of things, not just Erv, but other guys can do in that position.  I hate to shed too much light on those things and give the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame much of an advantage of what we may or may not thing are our strengths.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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