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September 16, 2015

Joe Schmidt

South Bend, Indiana

An Interview With:


THE MODERATOR: All righty. We'll start with questions here. We'll get going right away.

Q. Joe, before coming to Notre Dame, how much option had you prayed against, like in high school and youth football? Did you have much experience at all?
JOE SCHMIDT: So I actually ran -- I ran a version of the option my eighth grade year. I was the quarterback. So I was the quarterback until my freshman year of high school. I broke my hand. Surprising. And then I moved to linebacker. So I defended it -- I ran it then and I defended it all through high school. One of our big rivals ran triple option, and then let's see. Who else. I mean a few teams we've played every year I feel like played option. But yeah.

Q. Had you stayed a quarterback, who would you have competed with at your high school?
JOE SCHMIDT: Well, it would have been -- well, Barkley was ahead of me. I was a sophomore when he was a senior. So then my junior year one of my best friends, actually, Max Wittek, transferred in from Connecticut. So that would have been my competition, I guess.

Q. Do you think you could have beaten him?
JOE SCHMIDT: I 100 percent could have beaten him. Whoever can tweet at him, make sure you tell him that.

Q. The other thing is, you know, you obviously suffered an injury playing against option last year. Did you feel like that was related to the cut blocks, just kind of your take on all that?
JOE SCHMIDT: Yeah. I really don't think so. That's the game of football. And injuries happen. So I would never put it on a scheme or a player. It wasn't malicious. You know, the people from Navy were not malicious. They were just playing the game and I was playing the game, and things happen. So I mean I'm really -- I don't think of it that way.

Q. I know there's a lot of installation with Coach VanGorder's defense, and I'm sure it does am come very easily for you, but what's that like on a daily basis? I'm sure it's challenging. I'm sure it's exciting. I'm sure it's probably frustrating a little bit at times, too, because you can't quite get ahead of the curve, so to speak.
JOE SCHMIDT: Yeah. Tuesdays are always a lot of fun. They're frustrating and fun. You know, like we put in, you know, the game plan for the week; right? So Mondays is kind of a scout input day and Tuesdays we put in everything. So it's good because we kind of all just do it at the same pace, and Tuesday, you know you're going to make a few mistakes, but you gotta make sure we're working intensity that day. That's why coach calls it intense Tuesday. So I really enjoy the opportunity to kind of go through all the different schemes that he comes up with and try to run them and try to be perfect on Tuesday because that's what we're shooting for; right? Lofty goal. But I like it, and that's one of the reasons I really enjoy this defense and playing for him.

Q. Does one defense or formation build off of another? It's not like you're starting from scratch with each new install?
JOE SCHMIDT: No. Really he teaches conceptually. Right so Coach VanGorder I think likes to talk in terms of concepts. So once you understand, without getting into scheme, but like once you understand like how to play this play out of this coverage, like it just kind of all builds on each other. So you understand inside zone and you understand outside zone and you understand, it just kind of -- it's easier to do because then you stop memorizing, you just play from a central point of understanding.

Q. And where within the defense do the greatest adjustments need to be made? I mean it would seem like up front those guys are doing what they do generally? Is it linebackers or all the way at the back end of it?
JOE SCHMIDT: I'd say just as a general rule, the positions that do the most alignment in checking, alignment assignment checking would be the mic linebacker and the safety positions and I think that's been kind of well documented.

Q. Who's the worthy successor to you as both brains of the operation?
JOE SCHMIDT: I mean there are so many. I know you're looking for one guy, but I mean --

Q. Well, name a couple.
JOE SCHMIDT: I mean you got -- I mean everybody. You got Nyles, Jarrett, like Jalen is incredibly intelligent. You got James Onwualu. We really learned together. I named all the linebackers there, but you could say anyone at the back end, too. So I think Coach VanGorder does a really good job of we learn the defense together; we learn the concepts together, and that allows for -- it's almost like a seamless transition from player to player. So when I come out and Nyles goes in, there should be no difference, and I don't think there is a difference. And so like you know, I think that that's how we try to build it and that's how, you know, Nyles and I and Jarrett and I, and Nyles and Jarrett, that's how we talk to each other and that's how the guys at the other positions talk as well.

Q. Georgia Tech wasn't stopped often last year when we got on a roll offensively, but when you did see some hints of it in your scouting report. Is there a common theme? It's first down defensively (indiscernible)?
JOE SCHMIDT: Yeah. They weren't stopped much last year. I think they were 11 and 3, and they have one of the best offenses in the country. So I think that some people did some good things against them, and you know, we're learning from them hopefully. But you know, really I think we're trying to focus on what we're trying to do and kind of assessing what we find to be their strengths and weaknesses.

Q. I talked to the former defensive coach. He kind of laughed when I asked if stopping first down was more important against the option. He said it's important against every offense?
JOE SCHMIDT: I was going to say when you want to be first down efficient against everyone.

Q. Is putting the offense behind the chains something obviously what you mentioned (indiscernible) you're putting an option behind the chains a little bit?
JOE SCHMIDT: I would want to put anyone behind the chains. If you can get ahead, you know, early in the series, it makes life a lot easier. And I think, you know, especially against an option team. But really, it goes for any offense. If you can win on first down, second down and put them into third-down situations, I think that's what really any defense is trying to do.

Q. Joe, what were the emotions like, and you know, how much did you feel for Malik when what happened on Saturday?
JOE SCHMIDT: That was tough. Having been there and felt that pain, and it's not even just the physical pain, because breaking that bone is incredibly painful. But the emotional pain that he was going through was really hard to swallow and hard to watch for me, because I remember it. I remember the feeling, and you know -- so I still feel for him. I'm going to go see him tonight and talk to him, and I know Malik will be Malik, so -- but it still doesn't make it any easier. It's still hard because he's one of us. And it doesn't matter who you are on our team. If you get injured and we lose you, it's a tough pill to swallow.

Q. You guys have had five season-ending injuries already this year. How difficult is that so early in the year to deal with?
JOE SCHMIDT: You know, I really -- I think that as I said, you don't like losing anyone, but at the same time it makes you feel blessed to have, you know, a plethora of solid talent that Coach Kelly and the staff has brought here and Coach Long on his staff have done a great job of kind of developing that talent into game-ready people. So I think that we have a lot of guys that can step into those roles, and as you saw last week with DeShone and C.J., I mean those are two guys right there. I know it doesn't matter what position across the board, I have full faith and confidence in everybody to do their job when they're called upon.

Q. And do you guys still have that same confidence, that same belief that you guys can achieve big things this year?
JOE SCHMIDT: Oh, yeah. I mean I wouldn't -- you know, and it has nothing -- that's not in any way meant as a slight to Malik, but I believe fully in everyone on our team. It does not matter -- I believe that there's no indispensable man. So there really is -- it doesn't matter who you are, where you play on the team, but that's what I believe, and if your time is called upon, you gotta step up and make plays.

Q. And finally for me, the top 15 show down at Notre Dame stadium, you don't get opportunities like that too many times. Just talk about how big of a game this is and how exciting that will be to be a part of.
JOE SCHMIDT: I mean it's so fun. This is one of the reasons coming to Notre Dame, you know, this is one of the reasons you play football, and I'm really looking forward to this opportunity to play Georgia Tech and to play one of the best offenses in the country and really one of the best programs in the country. I think they do a great job there. And so we have a ton of respect for them, and this is why you play the game. It's going to be a great atmosphere here, being at home it's going to be so much fun. So I can't wait.

Q. This is a little bit off tracks, but players of your generation, when you come in here to this place, how much are you involved in the history of the place? Do you actually study, do you have to watch Knute Rockne all-American and "Rudy"? Where does all the past fit in with the present?
JOE SCHMIDT: So I think you have to respect the tradition of this institution when you come here. I think it varies on the level of understanding of that tradition. Everyone that comes here knows that what Notre Dame stands for and what the people before us have kind of laid down. But at the same time you need to write your own -- you need to write your own story and do everything you can to build upon that legacy. So me personally, I think I'm -- well, I'd like to think I'm very familiar with the tradition of this place, you know, growing up a fan and kind of just starting from that side of things, that kind of understanding. So then there are some kids here that kind of are learning as they come here because they found out about Notre Dame in high school or something. So I think that that's kind of where I see the tradition and legacy of this place being.

Q. (Indiscernible)?
JOE SCHMIDT: It is. I was waiting for one of you to say that. I was hoping it wasn't you, for tuna.

Q. (Indiscernible)?
JOE SCHMIDT: "Rudy"? Embarrassingly enough, I guess. Like two or three weeks ago we watched it, at the house. I actually, I think it's a great movie. It's kind of funny. But one of the greatest sound tracks of all time. As a movie sound track, you'll argue? Where are you going to go from there? I don't know. Maybe I'm just a super Notre Dame fan then. Oh, we're going to end on that? I hear "Rudy" coming out and these guys just go into a typing frenzy.

THE MODERATOR: You can go to class, young man. Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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