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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 7, 2007
JOHN HEISLER: Coach Weis is here, then we'll take questions.
COACH WEIS: Good afternoon. I think this is almost like draft day in the NFL where you sit around and wait for faxes to come across the line after all your due diligence. From when the season ends, right till now, that's the most critical time. As we get ready for this, this is kind of our third year going through this. I think that we're getting close to getting our numbers on track. We're getting close to getting our numbers on track to having the Notre Dame way where the natural attrition each year is followed up with the natural -- the same number coming in and out.
I'm trying to compensate a little bit for the fact that next year's senior class only has seven or eight guys on scholarship, next year's fourth-year class. I think as we've done it in the last three years, first year we came in, we signed 15, which one young man left to pursue just an academic career. Last year we signed 28. This year we're signing 18. So that puts us at 60 after three years going into next year, which before you get into fifth-year candidates, before you even address that subject, allows you a maximum of 25 more guys as you go into next year.
Well, now, all of a sudden, like this year we have nine guys trying. It's going to be 10 guys actually trying to apply for a fifth year. Well, we wouldn't have room for but 15 scholarship guys next year if we took that many. Obviously, we can't take that many because there are only seven or eight fourth-year guys in the program. Between the fourth-year guys next year that ask and are granted a fifth year and our class next year, I think that will finally put us on track to have the numbers as I perceive they should actually be.
As we went through this class, we brought in 18 players that are from 12 different states. We have a quarterback, a couple runningbacks, a couple wide servers, a tight end. Then we have five linemen. One is just a defensive lineman. Two are just offensive linemen. Two are either going to be defensive linemen or offensive linemen, as deemed needed.
We have four linebackers. Two are more of the inside type, two more of the outside type. We have two defensive backs. One is a corner, one is a safety. We also have a kicker.
Basically going into this recruiting class, we wanted to take a minimum at certain positions. I think we basically attained what we were trying to do at all positions. I have to tell you, I'm very happy with the group of young men we're bringing in here. We have three guys that came in at the mid semester that you all know. I think I should really address those three first.
Armando Allen, runningback from in the Hialeah-Miami Lakes. Jerry Hughes coached him down there. Jerry also coached a former player of mine by the name of Davie. To get Armando up here was very, very important to us because one of the things I felt we really needed to do was bring some more team speed on the offensive side of the ball. This kid can flat out fly. He's a threat out of the backfield as a receiver. He's coming off a broken fibula, which made him miss this entire season. But with his rehab, it looks like he's on schedule to be ready to go for spring ball. That's one of the reasons why he was trying so hard to be in here at the midyear and be ready to go, because he really missed his senior year playing.
Jimmy Clausen, we brought in at quarterback. Obviously he comes in with all the high accolades. USA Today offensive Player of the Year, co-Player of the Year in Parade Magazine. The things that stick to me are his touchdown interception ratio and his completion percentage. The kid last year threw 49 touchdowns versus six interceptions in 15 games. He completed just under 68% of his passes. To me, as a quarterback, production and accuracy physically are really what everyone's judging you from. That and the fact he's 42-0 as a starter, obviously it doesn't get any better than that.
Last but not least, from our midyear guys, Gary Gray from Columbia, South Carolina. By the way, Coach Redell, we'd like to give him thanks, too, Jimmy's coach there at Oaks Christian. Whole bunch of distraction, a bunch of Division I players going out of their program this year, but was a big help to us.
Jay Frye, the head coach for Gary Gray, he and I have been buddies since the mid '80s when I was down in South Carolina. Obviously getting Gary to come here was very important. He played both as quarterback for them and defensive back. He's going to be strictly a cover corner for us. He's a versatile athlete. If I were running the option, I think I'd have him over there. That's obviously not what we do. This kid is a very, very, very good athlete who will bring a lot of athleticism to our -- bring another corner to our competition after the two fine ones we brought in last year. We brought in three really top corners in the last two years. Those are the three guys that are already enrolled here in school here at the midyear.
I think now what I'd really like to do is go through offense and defense, obviously our kicker, and address a number of these things, then open it up for some questions. Because we haven't talked in quite some time, I'll be a little bit liberal on your questions when we get to them, but I think we first should start addressing the recruiting class that I'm pretty fired up about.
Robert Hughes was a perfect complement to Armando Allen in recruiting. Armando is the smaller, faster guy. Robert is the outright bruiser. I mean, I love the fact he's a local kid from here in Chicago, Coach Harris. This kid, because he's a 230-pounder doesn't mean all he can do is run from tackle to tackle. He can run inside, outside, he can run over you, make you miss. He has very, very soft hands for a guy his size. I'm taking him as one of my projects.
At the wide receiver position, once again I don't like bringing the same type of player in. The two guys we have coming in are quite contrasting in their physical styles and abilities.
Duval Kamara from Hoboken High School, Coach Taglieri did a great job helping us on this one as well. He's a big physical receiver that adds size to our receiving group. He reminds me a lot of Mo, to tell you the truth, when you look at him, the way he acts, carries himself, his body type. He reminds me a lot of Mo. We really like this kid. He's athletic, big, fast. We see him coming in here and challenging walking in the door.
A perfect complement to Duval was Golden Tate. Golden Tate, he's 6', 190, in comparison to Duval 6'5", 2 hundred and change. Coach Brothers, Pope John Paul II, we extend a thanks to him, as well. This kid is as good an athlete as I saw this year. Doesn't make any difference what we have him do, he's rushing the ball for 1400 yards, 23 touchdowns, he's catching the ball for another 510 yards and six touchdowns. The only thing I'm concerned about is that Coach Shrag is going to want him because he might be as good a centerfielder as there is on the country on top of everything else. This kid as good an athlete as I've seen.
By the way, he did have a long as their team punter this year of 62 yards as well. I might have slid into a backup punter without realizing it when we were doing our research. I cannot tell a lie. I just found that out in my research this morning as we were going over that one (laughter). He's also lined up at quarterback in the past. He really brings the type of versatility that I like, complementing together with Duval.
While we're talking about the receivers, Mike Ragone. Similar to Armando, Michael also sat out his senior season recovering from surgery. He'll be full strength by the summertime. We spent a lot of time with him. A guy from South Jersey, played for Coach Brown at Camden Catholic. We love this kid. As a junior he got hurt. He got to the right guys. He got it repaired right away. Coach Brown did a nice job of working with him, helping him rehab, develop. Kid looks great, put on some weight. He's really, really fast. As a tight end, you don't find very many tight ends that run fast. The MO on this guy is how fast he runs. As a junior he caught 35 passes for 720 yards and nine touchdowns. Six of his nine touchdowns were for 60 yards or longer. They're trying to cover a tight end. He's just running right by everybody.
Let's talk about the five offensive linemen -- the five linemen, two that are pure offensive linemen, the two tweeners, then the one that's a pure defensive linemen as we transition into defense.
First of all, we brought a guy out of California, Taylor Dever, out of Nevada Union, over there in the Grass Valley, California. Big kid. Originally they had him down at 6'5", 255, then it was 6'5", 275, now it's 6'5", 290. This kid must be eating the right food. When I went into the school, took a look at him, I said, That's the type of body you're looking for. Has that big body. Looked like he developed. Could play guard or tackle. He has played both. I think from what we've been able to view he was easily one of the best linemen coming off the West Coast. We're really happy and fortunate to be able to get this guy. This year alone he was credited with 80 pancake blocks and 50 knock-downs. I'm not the one doing the stats for the team, but I am the one watching tape. I'm really, really excited about having him.
Out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Matt Romine, with Coach Wright. He was one of our projects from early on. He came here from several times not just on official visits but on unofficial visits with his folks. Here is a guy who is really tough for him to leave Oklahoma. He's an Oklahoma type of kid. He's an Oklahoma kid, but he's a Notre Dame fit. He's a guy we wanted. He fit great with our players. He's a very, very good player. He got picked as one of the captains for the west team in the All-American Bowl. That's how much the players thought of him that All-Star Game down there in San Antonio. He was one of the four cocaptains for the west team. We really like him. We think here is a guy that can come in and compete early in his career. Neither of these guys are projects. These guys are both guys that are solid guys, ready to play.
The next two guys are kind of an interesting lot. Obviously we know we're tweaking our defensive system, which we'll get into a little bit later. We have two guys that as we went through this recruiting process we went back and forth. Last year we took six offensive linemen after taking two the year before. As you go through the offensive line/defensive line process, it was important for us to find a couple players that could play either offense or defense because we couldn't really take the risk of doubling the numbers up. But we had to find a couple guys that were capable of playing our offensive or defensive line.
Andrew Nuss came to us first out of Ashburn, Virginia, Coach Thompson. He definitely provides us the versatility as both an offensive and defensive lineman. He played both at Stonebridge this year. He blocked for a runningback, rushed for over 1700 yards. He stuffed the run when he played on defense. He's the type of big body type we feel that we need to recruit more of, 6'5", 285 guys that are going to be 300-pounders after a couple meals at the South dining hall, the type of guys we're really looking for. We're really excited about Andrew.
Emeka Nwankwo, we happy when he joined us, Miramar, Florida. Coach (indiscernible), he's another guy who did a lot of work locking this down once Emeka decided to come this way. He reminds me a lot of Andrew. There's a 6'4", 280-pound guy getting bigger every time I see him. He gives us the versatility both as an offensive and defensive lineman. 60 pancake blocks, 70 knock-downs as a senior, and also played some hoops.
The one guy that there's no doubt what he's going to play is Ian Williams. He's the big body, interior defensive lineman. The big body type, 6'2", a tad under 300 pounds, playing, Coach (indiscernible) down there. This guy is a very disruptive interior defensive lineman, the type of guy that can make us better in a hurry. Ian knows we're counting on him getting involved in the mix walking in the door. He had a great support group down there that helped him with his decision. We're very happy to have him on board.
As we go to the linebacker position, as we change our system, I'm going to talk about a couple guys that are linebackers and a couple guys that are outside linebackers/defensive ends because really in the new configuration, two guys fit as linebackers and two guys fit at this outside linebacker, defensive end configuration.
First of all, Kerry Neal, he's been committed to us a long time. Coach Howe has been a great help to us there. We got on him early. All of a sudden everyone in the free world was interested in him. He never wavered. He's a versatile athlete that can help us along the defensive line and as an outside linebacker. This guy is a dynamic pass-rusher, which allows him to get onto the field quicker than most freshmen would be able to do. He knows that we've designed in this system right now, he's in that tweener outside linebacker/defensive end stage, a perfect fit for what Coach Brown is looking to do on defense.
I really could say just about the same thing as I describe Brian Smith. He was obviously a late edition from us from St. Thomas Aquinas from Overland Park, Kansas. This is another guy when our system changed, he became a perfect fit. As a junior, he was an inside linebacker. As a senior, now all of a sudden he's playing inside linebacker, outside linebacker, and a rush end. As we change our system, he became from we all know what we're going to do guy to this is a guy that definitely fit. We are very glad to get him late in the process.
The two inside linebackers, start with Steve Paskorz. Interesting thing about Steve, every time I see him, when we first started, he was about 205. I said, I don't know. Then he was will 210, then 215. Last time I was at his house, he was a little over 220. After the meal we ate, he was probably about 230 when we were done.
When it's all said in done, an athletic guy that played offense and defense in Hampton High School in Pennsylvania. I think he missed time at a senior with a hammy that just about fully got cured up in about January. I think his best football is well ahead of him. He rushed for over 3500 yards in his career as a runningback, but we see him as an inside linebacker type that can run to the football and run with some speed.
Also Aaron Nagel who played more of a strong safety and runningback position for Coach Mickelson there over there at Lamont High School. We know he's a first team all-stater in Illinois. Had a bunch of tackles, 69 tackles, forced fumbles. That's not taking into account he missed four games as a senior. Rushed just under a thousand yards, averaging 10 yards a carry. As we configure this defense now, he's another guy that we see as one of those athletic guys that is able to run to the football.
To wrap this up on defense, last but not least, obviously we lost Ndu last year, just like we lost Mike and are he placed him with Gary Gray. We replaced Ndu with Harrison Smith. This was really tough on Harrison. He grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee. He goes to Knoxville Catholic, but grew up a UT fan his whole life. Great guide's by his parents and Coach Pemberton down there. Here is another guy who is 6'2", 205. One of those camps last year he was the fastest guy in the entire camp, ran a shade over 4.3. He played both offense and defense in high school as well. He gained over 1300 yards, scored 19 touchdowns as a runner, caught another 23 passes and scored another six touchdowns as a receiver.
The thing we're bringing him in as a safety who can cover from sideline to sideline. One of the things we think we need to do is get additional range in the secondary with our safeties. We're really happy to get Harrison in here. That was a tough one for him.
Last but not least, we brought in a kicker by the same of Brandon Walker from Findlay, Ohio. This is a guy, he's a lefty with a powerful leg that can kick, punt and kickoff. I was only interested in bringing in a guy at this position with another scholarship if it was a guy had had a chance of unseating somebody and being able to get on the field for us as a freshman. We think looking at this kid, he has the potential to do that walking in the door. We are glad he was another one of those guys that late in the process decided to head in our direction.
Before I open it for some questions, as we wrap this up, there are some people that I want to give a public thanks to. As you go through signing day, this is a long, arduous process that goes over a year, Coach Ianello is our recruiting coordinator. He spearheads our recruiting. In addition to being our receiver coach. He with the help of our off-the-field development guys, which were Ron Powlus, he's now coaching the quarterbacks, Dave, Christian, Tim, all those guys, off-the-field guys, I want to thank them. Obviously our coaching staff, Coach Haywood, Coach Parmalee, Latina, Shane Waldron, our offensive graduate assistant, as well as Jeff Burrow, our defensive graduate assistant. Coach Brown, Coach Oliver, Coach Lewis, Coach Polian, Mendoza and the staff. I'd also like to thank both Coach Minter and Vaas, although they're not here right now, aided in recruiting this class.
Father Jenkins and Tom Burish, John Affleck-Graves, they give us great support because a lot of times what you don't know is a lot of these kids and parents want to meet these people coming in, they want to meet Father Jenkins. They all meet Dan Saracino and his staff who we work with diligently to make this all possible. Dr. White, Stan Wilcox who are always there. They're always available for us. In addition, I'd like to especially thank Colleen, Adam, Kevin, our academic support staff, and deans and professors who helped out on game days and weekends to provide the type of guidance to help these people to get here.
Last but not least I want to give a special thanks to all the people who assisted in my travel. I can't name names of all the Notre Dame people who helped in my travel, but they helped make it possible for me to be involved with a son and 18 guys from 12 different states. Got to get a lot of places, see a lot of different kids in a lot of different places. They were instrumental in this process being a success.
On that note, I'll turn it over for questions.
Q. Does this recruiting campaign serve as an example as to why there should be an early signing period with so many kids changing their mind?
COACH WEIS: I'm a big proponent of an early signing period. Two years in a row now I've had one mission when I went down to the head coach's meeting, was to change instant replay. This year it was early signing period.
There's a couple of different thoughts on the table. The assistant coaches are in favor of having one towards the end of November. I personally would like to have one August 1st before they even start their senior year so that these guys can go into their senior year not having to worry about the process.
Fortunately/unfortunately the process has been pushed up so much in recruiting, like if you're not on guys now, it's February. When you finish the day, if you're not on next year's class, you're already falling behind.
Would I be a big proponent of it? Yes. For a number of reasons. One of the reasons, going along with what you're saying, is the fact that if a kid decided to go in another place, you have ample opportunity to find another kid to take that guy's place.
My biggest problem in recruiting really comes down to what the word "commitment" really means. I think that really is the bottom line. What my commitment is, what the player's commitment is, their parents, what our university's commitment is to them, what their commitment is to us.
If you're asking me if I think there's evidence that an early signing period would be beneficial, I'm absolutely a hundred percent in agreement.
Q. How was that notion received at the convention?
COACH WEIS: I think there's a lot of support for it. The first thing you have to do is come to a unified what exactly would be the best program. Some guys want it the end of December. Some guys want it the end of November. I personally want it August 1st. Then comes, what about the kid from the lower socioeconomic income bracket that can't afford to go to 15 unofficial visits in the summertime to take a look at these schools before you go to make a decision. Then do you let their five official visits start all the way back to the spring beforehand?
There's a lot of logistics that get involved with that decision. It's not just, Let's change the date and have one.
The biggest argument for what you're saying are guys that, whether it's to Notre Dame or somewhere else, on signing day all of a sudden they're going somewhere else, okay? If that were November, there's another player there that you think you'd want, at least you'd have ample opportunity to recruit that player if he were still available.
Q. Couple months we were talking about you being on the road recruiting. You said some of the struggles on the field can help. You say to a recruit, See, we need you. Have you found that to be true or are the top defensive players still gravitating towards the top defensive programs in the country?
COACH WEIS: I think kids definitely get enamored with success. To say that is not true would be a lie. Especially when you have success and we're going through a bit of transition. Still there's no excuse to not go land players that you think could fit into system. See, what you evaluate, "you" in general terms, not specifically, some of the guys we brought on on defense I think are just perfect fits for what we're doing, okay? You don't know what we're doing yet so therefore you can't see -- tie the two of them together.
Q. I'm also looking at the players you recruited that you weren't able to land.
COACH WEIS: Those players, there's a reason why they don't come. Sometimes they didn't go to a school better than ours. Sometimes it's less than ours. Sometimes it's a comfort level. Sometimes it's familiarity. There's a zillion different reasons why a kid makes a decision.
But when it's all said and done at the end of the day, you want guys that want to be here. You don't want guys that don't want to be here. You want guys that want to be part of Notre Dame. I'd rather have 18 guys that want to be members of the Fighting Irish than 20 of them that two are walking in the door saying, I don't know if I made the right decision or not.
Q. You talked about Harrison Smith, UT fan. Lot of instances this year when you went head-to-head with a Southern school - won some, lost some. Talk about that circumstance. Difficult battle sometimes.
COACH WEIS: One of the things we said as a staff walking in the door, We have to go recruit the best players and you have to be willing to take your lumps. Harrison, we ended up winning on. You have to be willing to go into Oklahoma and Matt row mine, come down to Oklahoma and Notre Dame. You have to be able to go into Florida and have Armando Allen come down to Florida and Notre Dame.
Now, as I give you winners, you also have losers, too. But if you're going after the top players, you have to realize that taking a kid out of his home state is always the toughest task you have.
Harrison, not only is he from Tennessee, he's from Knoxville, growing up a UT fan. At the end of the day, after he had done his due diligence and his research, I think he loved both programs. I don't think he picked Notre Dame because he didn't like Tennessee. I just think he fit our program better than theirs. That was really why he came. Where you get one kid, you end up losing another for the same reason.
Q. Do you have to use a different strategy with kids in that situation? Is that a different battle than trying to get a kid out of Chicago?
COACH WEIS: It's easy to go battle for a guy that you think you already can get, okay, because then you look good. You can't think like that. You got to be willing to go after the best players wherever they are. If you don't get them, it's not going to be for a lack of effort. You got to be willing to do that. You got to be willing to take the punches. It's going to be like that every year. We're always going to recruit nationally. If it means losing a kid that goes to a school in his home state, does it hurt? Yeah, but life goes on. You go from there.
We're going to continue recruiting nationally. That policy won't change. We're always going to have -- the first thing you're going to have to do is try to get him away from his home state first.
Q. Ian Williams expressed some concerns about what kind of defensive setup you were going to use next year. He said he talked to you, you kind of calmed him down. What did you say to these kids about that?
COACH WEIS: I just told them the truth. That's one thing that these guys can always count on from me, is I tell them exactly what we're going to do. I tell them what we're going to do, how we're going to do it. If that's not good enough, then it's not good enough.
All of a sudden you have a transition of staff. Everyone says, They don't need you any more, why don't you come to us? I would say, That's not exactly it. Here is the defense we're playing. You show him tape of the defense. All of a sudden they see it and say, Okay, sign me up.
But, you know, until you can visualize it, it's a little bit different. One thing I can say for Ian, though, he had a great support group, his mom, but a whole entourage of people, we call them the village. Say hello to the village, by the way. They had a whole entourage of people that were his support group. They were looking at the big picture. Once he was comfortable with what was going to happen with football, that eased the rest of his questions.
Q. What exactly did you say to him?
COACH WEIS: I'm not going to tell you particulars. Being as you asked that question, I'm going to use this opportunity to talk a little football. You okay with that? Can I bore you a little bit?
34 defense. This is the big. 43, 34, what is Notre Dame going to do? Let me explain to you what a 34 defense is. There's two different concepts. One is a 34 defense, the other is 34 personnel. 34 personnel means you're playing with three defensive linemen and you're playing with four linebackers. That's what 34 personnel means.
A 34 defense means you're playing with a nose tackle on the center, you're playing with two defensive ends on the tackles, you're playing with two inside linebackers on the guards, and you're playing with two outside linebackers either on tight end or in space. That's what a 34 defense is.
You can count on one hand the number of teams that play that as the main part of their defense. What they do is they play 34 personnel. Why do you do that? To get more athleticism on the field. That's why they do that. Because as soon as you reduce either one of those defensive ends, which means you take either guy that's lined up on either tackle and put him on a shade on the guard, that has now transferred into an under or over defense. That's all they have to do. All they have to do is move half a yard, that defense has become a 43 defense with 34 personnel, which is exactly what we're going to do. This gives us an opportunity to get more athleticism on the field, at the same time by moving a guy a half a yard, you've gone from 34 or odd spacing to a 43 defense, which is either under or over.
Everyone talks all the time, we play under or over. A 34 defense, you take one guy. If he's on the tight end side, you move him to the guard, you just made an over defense. If you are away from the tight end side, you move him from the tackle to the guard, you just made an under defense. That's all he had to hear. There's a difference between 34 personnel, which we are going to play, and a 34 defense, which will just be a part of what we're going to play. And that's what I told him.
Q. You've been here a couple years already. You've gone through the recruiting process. You always talk about how you try and change things, evaluate things. After you've been here a couple years, gone through this, do you see anything you'll change in the future as far as how you do things?
COACH WEIS: I think that's a good question because I think that the first thing -- we've been talking about it yesterday and today. But I think when we sent offer letters, when you send them early, like now for a junior, we've added one of our key words on that offer letter, "commitment." I think what we're going to do is we're going to spend a lot more time making sure that if a guy wants to commit to us, verbally commit to us, everyone is under a clear understanding of what that means. No soft verbals, no silent verbals, no quiet verbals, okay? Either you're committed or you're not committed.
I'll use an a analogy. It's like you're married to somebody but then you're looking at other women. I mean, either you are or you're not. I don't think there's any in between there. I think one of the things we're going to make sure this year differently than we've done in the past is make sure when a guy wants to say yes to us that there's a clear understanding from everyone they're not going to visit anywhere else, they're not going to talk to anyone else. It's either they're committed to us or they're not committed to us. I think that I never took that hard a stand because, as you start to learn the ropes, you need to understand that.
The other thing is, for all those other people who are silent verbals, silent commits, to me they're fair game, just the way my guys are fair game, because that's the way the game is obviously played.
I think it then becomes an ethical question, okay? How exactly do you broach different subjects? I think between Rob and I, our staff, we're going to have to continue to review because we never want to do things the wrong way, but at the same time you have to make sure that everyone's playing the game the same way.
I think the first way, starting on the proactive, is our own view towards people that are committed to us because obviously sometimes what a commitment means doesn't hold much water.
Q. You mentioned the game. Following it, it seems like there's a set of rules, then there's a gentlemen's type of rule that coaches have. Seems that is becoming skewed more and more.
COACH WEIS: We've had a couple incidents, as you know, that happened this year. At first I get mad at the coaches for the other school. Then you sit back and really reflect about it. Rather than saying, That no good this or that. I mean, they weren't the ones answering the phone. They weren't the ones saying, Yes, I'll visit. I mean, I'm mad at the coaches because the coaches are going of after other guys' kids, sit there and point fingers. In reality, all the kid had to do was say no, right? All they had to do was say no.
The tight end we brought, in Mike Ragone, he got called and visited right till the last moment. People come in and say, Why are you even here? That's what a commitment is. They come into the school and say, Why are you even here? I'm going to Notre Dame. Kerry Neal, I mean, you know how many people tried to get him after they realized how good he was? He said, I'm going to Notre Dame. They're two that are recruited. They would not visit or talk to anyone else.
The flipside of that, there's guys that loved the attention. All of a sudden they decide they're going to take a visit. When they take a visit, you realize that there's an opportunity that this kid could end up going to another school. That's why you have to be ready to move on if that's exactly what the case is.
Q. With the indecision, you mentioned kids talking to other schools, how would you able to monitor whether he was talking?
COACH WEIS: I just listen to you guys. You say you know where all these kids are going (laughter). With the Internet, I mean, you know where everyone is. Sometimes unfortunately that's how you find it out. The Internet is just like everyone else. If some kid is going to go visit to a school that's committed to us, that school wants, for some reason, to get that out, okay? Regardless of how that ends up getting on the street, whether it's the kid saying it, however it ends up happening, once it's out there, then it's an issue. There's nothing to hide in this thing. There's too many people in today's age with the Internet, too many people involved in this where they know things that are going on.
Hey, it isn't like we don't know about them. A lot of times people think we're stupid, we don't know about them. It's just how you're going to deal with them. I think you have to be ready to make a stand in recruiting. The stand has to be, you know, like a couple coaches I know actually have, if they want to go visit somewhere, you got -- if you're looking, we're looking. That's the way it's got to be.
Q. Are we to assume this list is final, there's not going to be any additions?
COACH WEIS: I'd say right now I'd go under that. I'd never say never. I'd say right now this is the way it's going to turn out. My guess is, this is the way it would turn out right now.
Q. With the last two decommits or switches, did those blindside you or did you see those coming?
COACH WEIS: They happened for different reasons. That's the best way of saying it. Happened for different reasons. I'd rather you talk to them than you talk to me. They're not even closely related circumstances with those guys.
Q. Do you think there needs to be maybe at next year's coaches convention, you said it's on the kid to not answer the phone, but do you think there needs to be some kind of ethics with regards to coaches?
COACH WEIS: Do I think so? Yeah, I think so. But I don't want to be blaming the other coaches for going after a top-line player. I know the breach of ethics we're talking about. What I'm doing then is I'm making excuses. I'm saying, I lost a kid because that coach is sleazy. The bottom line is, today is signing day, you sign your letter, you fax it in. Today is the day when the commitment becomes a commitment. Today they got married, okay? Obviously some people get cold feet.
I'm not one to point at other people. I just think that we just have to define what exactly the rules are. I think that maybe in my case, you know, I have to reevaluate in the big picture, because I'm proud of the way we do it, but in the big picture you might have to evaluate those soft commitments or silent verbals, those guys that are wavering. Maybe I should be doing the same thing. I just have a tough time with that, but maybe I should be doing the same thing.
But right now I'm not down playing what we have. These kids we have coming right here, we are very happy with them. I'm not saying it just to make it sound good. I love the guys we're bringing in here. They're going to complement who we are. It puts me on track next year. I'll probably be table to take 20 next year, depending on how many fifth-year guys you have. Now since the first time since I've been here, we're going to be on track. See, you have to have a plan, get on track. We haven't been on track yet. I signed 15 the first year, 28 the next year, 18 this year. At Notre Dame, with everyone staying in school, you should be on a 20-a-year program. That's what you should be on. We're about at that point right now. We're about on that 20-a-year program. That's where you want to get to. That's where we're going to be at the end of next season.
Q. This is the first time you've been able to talk publicly about Jimmy Clausen. A lot written about him. Also his physical condition, maybe you can address that. Tell us what kind of kid this is? What's he like?
COACH WEIS: Probably the biggest misnomer is that he's a Hollywood type of guy because of that dog-and-pony show on the spring game last year. I thought it was kind of cool. Some people thought it was way overboard. This guy is kind of quiet. Walks around on campus. He doesn't go around wearing a jacket that says, I'm Jimmy Clausen. He's kind of quiet. He's doing good on and off the field. He's working hard. People in academics say he's great to work with. He's probably nothing like the reputation people have, other than the fact he's a fierce competitor that wants to come in and compete for playing time.
With that being said, I've also read the medical reports, okay, that have gone national. The bottom line is I told him I didn't -- I did not want him throwing a ball till about the end of February because if you ever went and watched one of their practices, not only do they throw the ball all day long for their offense, but he also was the show team quarterback for their defense. Sometimes young guys 18, 19 years old don't realize there is such a thing as overthrowing. As he gets a little older, as Brady got a little older, he started to appreciate the rest for your arm.
I've kind of shut him down. The reason why he's not throwing is because he's been mandated by the head coach not to throw, not because he's got some dire medical condition.
Q. You talk about position flexibility. When you're recruiting kids sometimes they're in love with the position they're playing. Do you talk frankly, If you're a runningback, you may be a linebacker?
COACH WEIS: Very few guys you do that with. In this class, even though you heard me talk about Harrison Smith as an offensive player, what he did, Steve Paskorz, those guys. Realistically we have two guys that we would look at either side of the ball, and they're linemen. Everyone else, they're an offensive or defensive player coming in.
Now, after having them in your system for a year, if you felt they were not going to be in the best competitive situation on one side of the ball but had abilities to play the other side of the ball, that's what you would do.
Q. Talking about Clausen, do you approach him any differently because of all the attention he got? Have you talked to him about not letting it go to his head?
COACH WEIS: I met with the three young quarterbacks yesterday. I met with Zach, Demetrius and Jimmy. Those other guys have only been here a short amount of time themselves. Because Brady is gone, our security blanket is gone, he's out of here. Whether it's Evan or one of those guys playing, they need to understand there's a certain way to carry yourself. I think part of being the head coach and involved with quarterbacks, I think for them to understand the whole mentality on and off the field.
So, yes, I had a half-hour meeting with him yesterday, but I also had similar meetings with both Zach and double D so they could all understand where we are right now as we of move forward in the program.
Q. You mentioned being on track. Last year on signing day you predicted you'd try to go for a full class this year, which I assume is 25. Was there not enough people out there or did you decide along the way you'd rather go about 20?
COACH WEIS: It was the number of fifth year guys that I wasn't anticipating being able to apply for fifth years. There are a number of guys in this fifth-year class still involved in this mix. I wanted to try to get the numbers to eventually be where where it's not skewed heavy up and down and one year to the next year, okay? I tried to get to a point where the numbers become more regular.
For example, last year there were 10 of the freshmen who didn't play. They still have potentially four years of eligibility, as we talk about fifth years down the line. You can't just look at one year, you have to look at a whole five-year cycle when you're looking at that.
I'm very happy that large number of guys are applying for a fifth year. What they do is allow you transitioning this year to get to a number that you could have on a steady basis. Like one year you might take two-wide receivers and one runningback. The next year you might take two runningbacks and one wide receiver. It's not every year where we're going to take five of those and five of these to get your right numbers.
Q. The consensus is it's a top-10 recruiting class, stronger on the offense than the defense. Do you think the next class has to be stronger on defense?
COACH WEIS: I think you have to realize where you're light both in numbers and talent, okay? I think you have to make a concerted effort. The one thing that's happening probably to our benefit right now that we haven't had before is I think we have established more of a definition of what we're looking for on defense, more of a definition, rather than just recruit good players.
We might recruit a defensive lineman that you don't think is very good, but in our system he might be exactly what we're looking for. So I think we can't be worrying about recruiting analysis. We need to find fits based on what we're doing.
Just like in our old system, the outside linebackers, the smaller run-to-the-ball types. Now our outside linebackers are the bigger defensive end/outside linebacker types. You went from one type of an outside linebacker to a totally different stereotype than what you were dealing with. Now all of a sudden Kerry Neal, Brian Smith, some of the guys you already had in your program, now they fit exactly to what you were looking for where they might not have been as natural a fit in a pure 4-3 defense.
Q. Given the changes you suggested in your recruiting outlook and philosophy, do you think the pace for '08 is going to be accelerated in terms of offers, evaluation, et cetera?
COACH WEIS: I think we're well ahead of where we've been. I think we're well ahead of where we've been. As a matter of fact, I have a meeting tomorrow morning at 6:00 to knock out a whole 'nother bunch of guys that the staff reviewed for the last couple days to get even further ahead.
I think it's going to be important to stay up with the Joneses, so to speak, to make sure you don't fall behind in this recruiting and make sure that by February in a number of cases you're in the game.
There's some guys, based off of junior tape, they're just not good enough or you're just not sure enough or you haven't gotten to yet or you don't have the tape or their transcript. Remember now, when we look at a guy, we don't just look at their tape, we look at their transcript, too. I think there's a number of factors that come into play before we send a letter, send the information over to Dan.
Q. (Question regarding the Washington Post article.)
COACH WEIS: My wife told me about that. She actually sent me an email of that very thing. I think he put Coach Vaas out to dry on that one. I want to side with Coach Vaas on that one.
You ask me if Coach Vaas sent him texts. Sure, he sent him texts. You probably could go ask the kid if he committed to us beforehand, too, see what he says to that one. It comes down to those silent verbals, all that other type of stuff.
I wish Regis well at Illinois. I don't think now is the time for him to be hanging Coach Vaas out to dry for sending him texts, because signing day for him was when he matriculated into the second semester. For guys that go midyear, the day they enroll in classes is like their signing day. That makes that time in December a much more critical time period because that time in December, once they start in January, that's when their clock starts. Their signing day is not February 7th, their signing day is the day they matriculate into classes.
I don't think Coach Vaas was trying to do anything unethical. I think Coach Vaas was trying to give him everything he possibly could get him, to a guy who once verbally committed to us, then switched to another school. I think we should wish him well and not point a finger at Coach Vaas.
Q. The second year of early enrollees, you have three, all seem to be doing well. If they continue to have academic success, are you going to try to get more of them?
COACH WEIS: Notre Dame doesn't want to take too many. It's not just football players. Notre Dame takes about 10-ish at the midyear. It's not just football players. We can ask for more. We can say, can we have six of them? Notre Dame is big on diversity, making sure we spread it across the board. What I don't want to do is monopolize all the requests for midyears.
Because there are so many people playing that game, we will continue asking for midyears, okay? As it's falling in place right now, we haven't had a guy, it hasn't ended up coming that wanted to go at the midyear. It's worked so far so good.
Q. Not to get away from recruiting, but what was your opinion with Darius told you he was going to enter the draft early?
COACH WEIS: I was surprised. I was surprised mainly because it's the first time since I've been here a player has come and told me what he was doing before asking my advice. That's why I was surprised. I can't say I was shocked. The kid's had a very good career. He's played three solid years here for Notre Dame, finished up the season with probably his best game of the year. He thinks it's in the best interest of his future. He's another guy that all you could do is wish him well. That's what I do. I wish him well.
Obviously he can work out at our facility, go to pro time and day when those other guys are going. But I was surprised.
Q. You haven't really explained in depth why you let Coach Minter and Coach Vaas go.
COACH WEIS: Nor will I. I just said we went in another direction. That's what we did. We went in another direction.
Q. You mentioned with two recruits they could give a look at both sides. Because of these alterations on defense, you have fewer numbers in the spring to work with, are there currently any others you may look at?
COACH WEIS: Actually we're three deep at defensive line and two deep at offensive line going into the spring. We're going to have to wait. I think the best part in this situation is we have the spring to determine where our needs truly fit. I think both in Andrew and Emeka's case, they want to get on the field as fast as they can. If they had a preference, both of them, their preference would be defense first, both of them. At the same time if I said, You have a better opportunity to get on the field playing offense, these guys both started offensive line, they would be set and ready to go.
Remember now, we're playing with three down linemen instead of four down linemen. The numbers now change as far as where your configurations end up being.
Q. Hasn't been any discussion about possibly moving some offensive linemen just to take a look?
COACH WEIS: We would consider playing Chris Stewart on defense. I know that's been well-speculated. But any time you have a big body like Chris Stewart -- if Chris Stewart has an opportunity to start at offensive line, he's going to play offense. If Chris Stewart has a chance to start at nose tackle because he's the big body that goes in a 34 defense, that's where he'll be. I'd say he'd be the one and only person this would come into play.
Q. My understanding is Will Yeatman is also doing very well with the lacrosse team.
COACH WEIS: Yeah, unfortunately that's true. Both Will, and Evan is on this program, too, both have a program between the two sports. They have a program with their lacrosse/football, and Evan we have a program with his football/baseball. From what I understand, he's doing very well also - unfortunately.
I support those other teams. My policy will always be the same. If the players are in good standing academically, and they're good enough to play, not just be there, but be good enough to play, I'm going to let them do it.
Q. They may miss spring practice?
COACH WEIS: They would miss -- they might miss some spring practice. I think Evan is going to miss none. I think Evan is going to miss three baseball games, the last weekend in March against Pittsburgh. I think in Will's case, he'll miss some practice time but he won't miss all the practice time. Not like he's going to miss the whole spring.
Q. A list of nine names for the fifth-year senior application, has that been confirmed?
COACH WEIS: No. The problem is the process takes well into March before it happens. They apply, it goes to the faculty board that happens around now. If they say okay, then they have -- once they get their classes, they become official. I would imagine that once the faculty board comes and says such and such are in good standing, we'll have a pretty good idea where we're heading with that. I would be encouraged, but it would be presumptuous on my part to say everyone is done already.
Q. I know you have a lot of young talent at runningback. With the changes you're making defensively, is there a chance you start looking at Travis Thomas differently as an offensive player again?
COACH WEIS: Absolutely, there's a chance. There's a chance. The chance would obviously be runningback. I'm saying there's a chance. First of all, we have to have him first. Once we have him, we're going to put Travis in the best position for him to be successful and us to be successful, wherever that may be.
Q. You were asked about Darius. Thoughts on Jeff's decision to go with baseball?
COACH WEIS: I did as a matter of fact. He called me. We had several talks including about a half hour before he was signing his contract. He called me and said, What do you think? I said, Give me the numbers. That's exactly what I said to him. I can't root for baseball or football, I got to root for Jeff Samardzija. That's the right thing for me to do. He gave me the numbers and the numbers were very good, even better than reported. They were very good. There's a big difference in the money in baseball versus football. We're talking about guaranteed dollars versus non-guaranteed dollars. Like I said, you could just be a .500 pitcher. If you're in the league five years from now, making $80 million a year, that's not going to happen at receiver. I think he would have been a mid first-round draft choice in the NFL. I know contractually what the dollars would be there. But it's tough.
I think Jim Henry did a good job of bringing it to the table and saying, Here is our best shot. I think he did a nice job of putting him in a position where it was hard to say no. If it was your kid, when you had those guaranteed dollars like that, versus (indiscernible), I think you would have guided him in the same direction.
Q. When you talk about how your feelings on recruiting are going to change, has this slowly come through over the past three years or does this kind of hit you overnight?
COACH WEIS: I try not to make any rash decisions. I try never to sit there, Hey, when things happen in recruiting, sometimes you get mad, all that other stuff. But really you have to start with yourself and say, Okay, how are you going to do things differently?
I think the first thing we have to identify what the word "commitment" really is. To me, commitment the whole key to recruiting. I don't mean about the hard work and the due diligence, finding the players, offer letters, transcripts, all the things that are encompassed in the recruiting process, okay, the courting, all that part. I think when the bottom line comes down to it, you get involved in enough good players, you need to find players that are committed to going to the University of Notre Dame and understanding what that means because you want guys that are committed to your team.
I feel that we have guys committed to our team in the program now. There isn't one guy I'd like to get rid of, not one, okay? I think that the 18 that we're bringing in fit that criteria. If you can feel that strongly about the players you have and bringing another 20 of them next year, another 20 of them the year after that, so forth, so on, then I think you're moving in the right direction.
As far as those other things, they're things philosophically that are just on the table that are yet to be discussed. But those are not things you act rationally on, they're things you have to sit there and talk with your staff and make sure you come up with a game plan. You just don't wing it. You have to come up with a game plan of how you're doing things.
Q. You mentioned Robert Hughes was going to be one of your projects. Would you elaborate on that?
COACH WEIS: Well, I told his mom and his dad and his uncle and everyone else that I was going to look out for him. I'm going to look out for him. He's an inner city kid from Chicago that's coming down to Notre Dame. I think you have responsibility when you sit in those homes and talk to the parents and relatives, the people that are important in these kids' lives. I think if you say you'll look out for them, that's what you better be ready to do.
Q. Going back to your recruiting philosophy going forward, when you say no soft, silent or quiet verbals, does that affect your philosophy with people going to other schools or does it not affect your current philosophy?
COACH WEIS: If they're looking, we're looking. That's it.
JOHN HEISLER: Thanks very much, everybody.
End of FastScripts