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August 28, 2007

Charlie Weis

THE MODERATOR: Coach Weis will make some opening comments, then we'll take questions from the media.
COACH WEIS: Good afternoon. I'm finally glad to get on to our opponent, Georgia Tech, and to a regular school calendar week, game week, out of training camp mode, into some form of a normal routine.
Let's get onto Georgia Tech. They returned 17 starters from last year's team. They've gone to 10 straight Bowl games. As a matter of fact, they're one of only six teams in the country to be able to make that claim.
Last year, not only was it their 10th consecutive winning season, but their 10th straight year with at least seven wins. One thing that concerns me, a concern last year as well, is they do very well on opening games. The last eight games they've won six times in their openers.
Coach Gailey obviously is the head coach, been there since 2002. Been there for five seasons and gone to five Bowl games. The only coach in tech history to be able to make that claim.
Let's talk about offense and defense, special teams. We'll talk about them offensively first of all.
Return seven starters. One of my biggest concerns is the fact that four of the five offensive linemen are back as starters. They have one of the better runningbacks in the country. They have a new offensive coordinator. Came from Northern Illinois.
Call the plays, coach the quarterbacks. He's already coming into a team that was rushing for over 160 yards a game, so you could see that that is going to be a fairly good complement for Coach Gailey. I think a very good hire.
Taylor Bennett is going to be their starting quarterback. There's several differences between him and Reggie Ball. He's a lefty, more of a traditional drop-back quarterback. Saw actually him in seven games, start a couple, including the Gator Bowl, where he really lit it up against West Virginia. Went 19 for 29 for 326, three touchdowns.
From watching them on tape, the things that stood out about this kid is he shows very good poise. He has a strong arm. I think he's a very good athlete.
If something were to happen to him, they have two totally different type of players as a backup. They have Calvin Booker, a 6'3", 240 pounder, then Nesbitt, who is athlete, and he can run.
Wouldn't shock me to see him in the game in some kind of package where, you know, they spread it out, had him involved in something. We've had a practice for that just in case.
You get to their running game, obviously the mainstay of their running game is Tashard Choice. He was a leading rusher in the ACC last year. I know he was second team all-ACC, leading rusher. Thing about this kid I always admire with runningbacks, he's very, very durable.
Only four players in the country that had more carries than him last year. He had 297, just about 1500 yards, 5 yards a carry, 12 touchdowns. Over 100 yards a game, 105 and change a game. He had seven games in a row where he had 100-yard games.
As a matter of fact, 9 out of the last 10 he rushed over 100. In addition, he was the third leading receiver on the team.
He's complemented by a Rashaun Grant. Besides being a versatile back, he's also one of their kickoff returners. This guy has skills out of the backfield. They try to do a lot of things with them. They line up as a slot receiver, involve him in a bunch of packages.
They try to utilize his quickness and his shiftiness, elusiveness. The thing that scares me a little about this guy is he has break-away speed.
We could see Dwyer and Evans. We will see Tyler Evans. Mike Cox, their fullback, he's one of the throw back type of physical, full, bruising fullbacks at 250 pounds. You know, reminds me a lot of Asaph.
James Johnson is their go-to guy. He started in all their games last year. Second leading receiver. No reason to think he wouldn't be their leading receiver.
Opposite of him, replacing Calvin, you have Greg Smith and Demaryius Thomas. Demaryius is the one everyone's talking about to be the next Calvin because he's 6'4", 220 pounds. But I also think I wouldn't be surprised to see Djay Donley, who is a true freshman, with size, along with Correy Earls or Andrew Smith.
Tight end, pick one, they're all the same. Four tight ends over 260 pounds. Everyone will talk about Colin Peek. They'll say in training camp he had an Achilles. We don't know whether he's going to go or not. They have four of 'em that all fit the same bill. They're all 260 plus.
It gets back to their offensive line. We can talk about Gardner and Rhodes, Tuminello, McManus, all the starters from left tackle, left guard, center, right guard. They can talk about some guys being banged up.
Any time you have four guys that collectively have started 113 games, including every game together for the last couple years, they got something going there as far as continuity.
Whether it's Lonowski or Smith starting at right tackle, I know Smith was injured early in training camp, and I know they've had some guys bumped up along the offensive line as well as the receiver position. Any time you have a veteran offense active line that rushed for over 160 last year, that usually bodes well for the current year.
We go over to defense. They return eight starters on defense. Obviously everyone knows it's an aggressive group that flies around, gets good speed on defense. They have one of the best defensive coordinators in the game. His defenses play good year in and year out.
They're ranked 9th in the country in pass efficiency and 20th in rushing defense, 27th in total definite defense and scoring defense. They get off the field on third down. On third down they only give up 32% conversion rates on third down for last year. So, I mean, I think they're pretty stout on defense.
It all starts with the defense linemen. I can talk about Oliver and Robertson as the two defensive ends. You might as well include Michael Johnson in there, as well, because all three of 'em play. The two of them start.
When they go to nickel they put Johnson in there, knock Oliver inside. I think they're very, very strong at the defensive end position.
They also start -- those guys are starters from the past, especially Oliver and Robertson. You can throw Darryl Richards inside. He's a returning starter, along with Vance Walker. Gives them a pretty stout defensive line.
The key to the whole defense, without a doubt, is Wheeler. It's no big secret that this kid's a very, very, very good player. Him and Gary Guyton played together now for a while. Obviously Guyton has returned as a starter.
Their secondary, you can see this team is strong up the middle, Wheeler at middle linebacker, then the two safeties. You got all ACC Jamal Lewis, along with Djay Jones, both seniors, veteran guys with all sorts of experience, good players at the safety position.
Then you have Robertson and Daniels handling the corners. I think Pat Clark will probably be their nickel, I'm not really sure. We're going under that premise. We'll just have to wait and see how it goes.
Then you get to the special teams where they have one of the better pair of specialists in the country. You know, when Coach Kelly came in last year, we had to get used to a new coordinator coming in last year.
One of the things that slaps you in the face is how they're punting -- how they're second in the nation in punting. Brooks is a very, very good punter. Second team All-American. He was all ACC first team.
For the third year in a row, Bell will handle their place kicking. Whether it's Yahiaoui or Blair, everyone says it's going to be Blair, right now as we're tracking it, whether it's Yahiaoui or Blair at kickoff, we've got to be ready for either one.
Brett White will handle their snapping. As I said before, their kick returners will probably be Grant and Evans, whereas we think Tyler Evans will be handling the punt returns.
It's the first game. You're not really positive how it all plays out. But that's in our research, what we're prepared for. We'll have to go on the fly as it goes on.
THE MODERATOR: Questions from the media here in attendance.

Q. Obviously they like to blitz. Is it the variety of blitzes they offer or is the volume that makes it so difficult to deal with?
COACH WEIS: Well, it's a combination. But, you know, you get a team that blitzes up to 75% of the time statistically, you know, it kind of disrupts your practice schedule because normally what you'll do in a practice is you'll separate a period just to blitz.
Say you're working on blitz, but when a team's blitzing at that type of volume, you just have to integrate it within your whole practice, because if not, you'd be diagramming certain plays to beat the blitz and the rest of the plays wouldn't be.
It's one of those game plans where you got to be ready for them to blitz or blitz zone on every single play.

Q. You say 75%. Of the snaps?
COACH WEIS: No, I'm saying the whole game. It could be 75% of the whole game. So first, second, third down, you know, doesn't make a difference. You want pressure, you know, there's a good chance it's gonna be coming.

Q. Tough enough getting a first time starter quarterback ready, let alone against a defense like this?
COACH WEIS: What you do then is simplify what you're doing so there aren't any yeah, buts when you're doing that. You don't want them to have to think too much when they're playing. You want to let them go out there and play.
That's why you don't have an extensive package that is so ridiculous that they really -- you know, you set them up for failure. You can't do that.

Q. Two guys, Richard Jackson --
COACH WEIS: Somebody told me he's gone for the year. That's news to me, by the way. He does have a soft cast on his one hand, but he's been practicing. If I needed to use him, I'd use him.
I heard he was gone for the year, but I'll be the last one to know if that were the case.

Q. Any resolution with Derrell Hand's situation?
COACH WEIS: He's back in school; therefore he's back on the team, but he won't be playing for multiple weeks. As he and I discussed yesterday, you know, you talk about an extended -- whether it's making up time for suspension, but he will miss at least the first three games.

Q. Did you end up watching a lot of Northern Illinois this off-season?
COACH WEIS: We did. That's one of the things that the defensive staff spent extensive time doing, is watching the last couple years. He's been there for the last couple years at Northern Illinois, so we got an opportunity to watch a whole bunch of their games. They obviously were known for moving the ball pretty well.

Q. Then you talk about a Rashaun Grant being able to do a lot. Anybody they have that is kind of a Garrett Wolfe type?
COACH WEIS: You hit the nail on the end right there. They have the younger guys that they can put in there and do the same thing, but I think that after [] there are not that many reps left because he's so durable, gets so many carries.
I think Grant is going to have to be the one ready to go. He's got burner speed and he can catch. He's versatile. I'm not just saying it to make him look good; I wouldn't be surprised to see those two guys on the field, you know, together. Instead of just being Cox out there, having a slammer halfback and fullback, I wouldn't be surprised to see two halfbacks out there a number of times.

Q. As far as Notre Dame goes, how is the defense looking since the opening day of practice? What are you liking? What are you not liking?
COACH WEIS: Well, what I have liked is the effort and the communication. I think one of the things that Coach Brown has been trying to do from day one is to not reinvent the wheel when you put in the system and make sure that everyone played hard, ran to the football, knew what to do. I think that's what we've seen so far.
Now we got to do it against somebody else rather than do it against ourselves. I think they're really excited to get an opportunity to go against somebody else and see the fruits of their labor come to fruition.

Q. As far as quarterback goes, I want to make sure I understand. Are you firm on both who the quarterback and the backup will be against Georgia Tech?
COACH WEIS: Yes, I am.

Q. Those players know?
COACH WEIS: If they don't, they're brain-dead.

Q. Given the inexperience of all three, should we not read too much into who for the season opener has those roles?
COACH WEIS: Say that one more time. This is a very touchy situation. Let me try to get this one right (laughter).

Q. Should we not read too much into who is No. 1, No. 2, as far as this is it for the season?
COACH WEIS: The answer to that question is, the No. 1 is No. 1 for a reason. I think that people can play themselves into a role and play themselves out of a role. What you don't want to do is you don't want to be running quarterbacks.
That being said, would I ever consider playing more than one quarterback? Absolutely, I would.

Q. This is your first opener at home versus on the road. What are the differences to that in terms of all the hubbub on campus, the pep rally and everything else? Is that different?
COACH WEIS: Well, I know that I screwed up the first year here by making it too much of this big distraction playing at home right there. So what we're trying to do is we're trying to use the energy on campus, the energy of the game.
You have to actually try to incorporate yourself into that whole thing to try to turn it into a positive experience. But really the only way you can turn it into a positive experience is winning.

Q. How are the players? Have they gotten to the point where they look like they're ready to play, they're sick of practice?
COACH WEIS: They're sick of me, I can tell that. To be honest, I'm kind of sick of them, too. I think training camp is a long, arduous process. They're the only ones on campus that are happy that school starts because that's when training camp can officially end. I can have them endless hours until the day school starts.
There's no one happier than the players when school actually starts. They can get away from me till 2:30 in the afternoon every day.

Q. Are you feeling heading into this year any different than the previous two in terms of excitement or anxiety?
COACH WEIS: I'm feeling a lot more like the first year when I first got here because there's a lot more unknowns this year than there were last year. The first year here, you know, I was pretty excited about the players we had here, just like I am right now. They hadn't played yet.
You know, you had to go out there and play and see whether or not you thought -- how the way you envisioned it was the way it was going to work out. There are a lot of things that, you know, I wouldn't call them uncertainties, but there are a lot of things that you have to see it happen.
Hopefully it plays out the way it's in my mind right now.

Q. That said, last year you played Georgia Tech with a veteran offense, a lot of experience at the skill positions. This year you face them with a lot of inexperience at those positions. What is it that gives you confidence for your offense going into this game?
COACH WEIS: Well, each game is its own separate entity. Last year we were fortunate to get out of their hostile environment on the road, playing against a stout team, you know, on defense especially, squeak out of there with a 14-10 win. We were happy about that.
The whole thing is really don't care what you win by. I don't care if you win 14-10 or 38-37. Every game is its own separate entity.
We have a new cast of characters. So do they. There are some people that are back. There are some people that are gone. I mean, you know, there's coaching staff changes on both sides. They have a new offensive coordinator, we have a new defensive coordinator. You know, things change. That's what graduation's all about.
Any time somebody leaves somebody else has an opportunity to be the next rising star. So hopefully there's -- there's going to be some names in the news come Sunday, right, one way or another. They're going to be there good or bad, but they're going to be there (laughter).

Q. Any developments in the place kicking or kickoff situation?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, we've got it down to two. I can see both Brandon Walker and Nate Whitaker both playing a role on both kickoffs and field goals. I'm not saying that to be evasive, because right now, in certain situations, they're both the lead guy. They're the two guys. It was three, it's two, and they're the two.

Q. Are you still trying to determine the kicker situation? Last few practices become important for them?
COACH WEIS: No. What's more important is we have -- we've kind of laid out you're going to do this and you're going to do that. The first time we go to kick a field goal, it might make a difference where the ball is to see who's the kicker, for example. I mean, that's as far as I'll go with that one.
But they're both involved in both kickoff duties and field goal duties. And they both know what that role is.

Q. I was also curious, in the spring and whatnot when you were asked about the two-quarterback situation, you seem much more firm now. What went into you signing off to be open to that idea?
COACH WEIS: You have different styles of quarterback. So with the different styles of quarterback you have to fit things to what those quarterbacks can do.
Obviously we've got Evan, we've got Jimmy, we've got Demetrius. They're all different. What you have to do is take all those guys, figure out what's best for them, okay, then incorporate what of your normal package they can handle the most, what you have to bring in along with them making the best plays.

Q. Has Nate Whitaker surprised you at all?
COACH WEIS: No. Nate Whitaker, even last year, was one of the guys with one of the strongest legs on the team. You know, just comes down to, I'm not worrying about whether a guy is a scholarship player or walk-on. Whoever the best guy is, they play. That's just the way it is.
Nate will be kicking in the game on Saturday. He'll be kicking in the game.

Q. I guess the most notable change here on the depth charge is Darrin Walls at quarterback. Can you talk about what he's done to put himself in that position?
COACH WEIS: It's not really Ambrose playing poorly, it's Darrin playing so well. Sometimes there's a change in the depth chart because the guy who's there playing poorly, but that wasn't the case.
It's just that Darrin has played so well. We thought that starting a game and having him on the bench is not the way we want to go. We thought that he's -- he's just been excellent the whole training camp.

Q. How much has he progressed in closing the gap strength-wise, which seemed to be an issue for him coming in last year?
COACH WEIS: Well, that's really where he stepped up, the fact he's become much more physical than we ever saw him play last year. And, to be honest with you, it kind of surprised me a bit to see him come back and play with such a physical nature at the line of scrimmage, which was one of the things that last year probably was, like a lot of freshmen DBs, where he'd be a little bit behind. But he's certainly not that way right now.

Q. When you had Bledsoe and Brady making their first starts, were you different with them in that game? What can you recall from those games?
COACH WEIS: Well, with Drew, we had lesser players than when Tommy went in there. When Drew played, we were coming into a team that had gone two and four to a team. We didn't have a great supporting game.
We went into the early games trying to make sure he didn't get killed. We were very conservative, very conservative by nature. But that team and that conservative-by-nature mode, we started off year 1-11, then won the last four.
It felt like when we beat the Dolphins on the last game of the year, felt like we won the Super Bowl, but we ended up going 5-11.
Tommy, conversely, he came in there. That team ended up winning the Super Bowl. I mean, Tommy had a lot better players playing around him than Drew did at the time. But even when Tommy -- I remember the first game was against the Colts. I remember it like it was yesterday.
The players around him picked up a lot of the slack. As each game went on, we did more and more and more and more. But just like I was asked before, what you don't want to do, when you're playing an inexperienced quarterback, whoever it may be, the last thing you want to do is put him in a position where he has to win the game himself 'cause if you do, you're barking up the wrong tree.

Q. Is that maybe the best lesson you learned from those two experiences that you can bring into this experience?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, they're totally different. Totally different, but still the one parallel, the one analogy that definitely is going to be drawn that we've used here, is the fact that everyone else has to rally.
(Disconnection in audio.)
Q. Coach, there seem to be reports of a whole lot of injuries, strains, that type of thing. Usually that follows a pretty good effort in the off-season and conditioning.
COACH WEIS: Well, Rubin's staff has done an excellent job. But the players have done than excellent job, too. The training staff has done an excellent job, too, to be in the position we're in right now.
But, you know, you know how quickly those things can change. One of those few times where we're going into a game. We're probably as healthy as we're going to be the entire year right now.

Q. Could you talk about the rules changes? There's a few different things. How much time do you spend going over that with the players?
COACH WEIS: We address it. I think the two biggest rule changes, fixing the clock rule they had messed up. I think that gets it back to normal again. You know, I think that just didn't make any sense.
But I think other than that, the biggest change is going to be the special teams kicking off on the 30 rule. I think nationally you'll probably see more scoring this year because you'll see more kickoff returns for better field position. We call that hidden yardage.
One thing that ends up happening is for every 10 yards more you get on a kickoff return, that's one less first down you have to get it. Now the ball is on the 35 instead of the 25 when you start the drive. That's one less first down you have to get on a drive to go ahead and get points.
So I think that nationally, you know, whether it plays out here or not is not the point, but I think nationally those two rules will lead to significantly more scoring.

Q. You talked about wanting to keep them off balance with the quarterback situation. With the defense, you have a coordinator they don't know about. How much of an advantage is it that they don't know what to expect from you?
COACH WEIS: They just go watch Jet tape. You know they got their hands on Jet tape. Called the Falcons up, can we get Jet tape? Watch that. They get New England tape, watch that. They'll just try to take our players and plug them into the system.
Will there be things different that they haven't seen? Yes. But the bottom line is, you know, just like when you're asked a question about me watching Northern Illinois tape, they go watch Jet tape because that's the last place the guy was at.

Q. But he wasn't making the plays. They don't know what his tendencies are.
COACH WEIS: That's the advantage you have. They know with the defense, the foundation of the defense. But you don't know whether it's going to blitz 10% of the time or 75% the time. You're not really sure what they're going to end up doing.

Q. You talked about how you've tried to have a different attitude this year. Do you worry at all that the team will take that as a sign of different expectations at all?
COACH WEIS: No, they clearly know my expectations. You know, biting my lip has nothing to do with my demands on expectations with the team. I think they have a very clear understanding of what I expect.

Q. You mentioned the parallels between your pro quarterbacks. Which one do you think will be closer? Are you closer to the situation Drew faced or that Tommy faced heading into this game?
COACH WEIS: I think there's too many -- the similarities are not there in either case, because in both cases you had established players, just the players in New England, the second time, were a lot better than the players that we had the first time.
I think any time you have a great changeover in personnel I think there's a lot of question marks that still have to be answered. You only can really do that through doing it on the field.

Q. With all the talk about the quarterbacks, all the pressure they're going to probably have anyway, does it not help even more that they're following Brady and the numbers that he put up, kind of the status that he had?
COACH WEIS: You mean Brady Quinn?

Q. Yes.
COACH WEIS: I mean, obviously we all have a strong affinity to Brady and we're all pulling for Brady. He's not doing anything that we didn't expect. You know, everyone else felt that way. I would imagine that most of you guys probably expected the same thing out of him.

Q. I'm talking more about the guys here now, whoever is going to start on Saturday, them feeling more pressure because they're following Brady.
COACH WEIS: Oh, no. If anyone should take the pressure, it should be all those guys we talked about that I'm counting on to take more of the onus of responsibility.
I think the most important thing, it goes all the way back to the first question right here, the most important thing, when you get into this situation right here, is you don't go into the game expecting the quarterback to have to do it by himself, okay?
You have to share the wealth. You have to share the work. You have to share the blame. You have to share the credit. I think you have to make it a more collaborative effort so you don't hang the quarterback out to dry. I think that's very, very, very critical.

Q. You said last week all three quarterbacks were still taking first-team reps. Has that changed?
COACH WEIS: We've been going more with two guys, with a third guy just getting a couple snaps in there. So you can't -- as you get to a game week, you know, you still have to be ready for more than one guy playing.
But, you know, it's been more two guys. I'm just like you, I'm going to be glad to get to the game and get this stuff over with, you know, because I don't like this either, just so you know. I'd rather have this over with. Let's get to the game, get playing.
Now we can just move on with the season and I'm not causing a distraction outside. Now, the team's not distracted by it because everyone knows what the deal is. The only one that's distracted is everyone else. I can't wait to get through Saturday, hopefully with a very positive outcome, and we can go from there.

Q. Have you explicitly told them yet or are you not going to sit them down Thursday night?
COACH WEIS: You've requested, the media has requested both Demetrius and Evan today. Five seconds after you're done talking to them everyone will know exactly what they're doing so they don't have to lie to you, okay, because I don't want them ever to have to be put in a situation where they have to lie to you.
I don't want them to do that. But once they're not requested anymore, okay, we won't have that problem (laughter).

Q. You talked a little about Brady, Bledsoe, it sounds like neither. Is there a situation with this kind of personnel turnover that resembles something you went over in the pros?
COACH WEIS: I think the situation was more like the Jets in '99, to tell you the truth, you know, where Vinny Testaverde is the veteran guy, quarterback. We go on to the first game of the year.
Actually we were playing the Patriots. We were running 35 counter. He's handing the ball off to Curtis Martin, tears his Achilles on a non-contact injury. We were scrambling the rest of the year.
You know, we went through a couple different guys. When the season was over, we went 8-8, something like that. We were pretty content going 8-8 at the time. The difference is, the big advantage you have now is that happened when the season started.
That was kind of like the dilemma I was living with the last couple years 'cause the drop-off from Brady to the next guy in the last couple years was so big, that if he would have gone down I would have been faced with that situation.
The advantage you have now is you have had the whole off-season, you've had the whole spring, you've had the whole training camp to get ready to go. I think that any time you got time to get the team ready to go there should be no excuses.

Q. I think there's the perception out there that football coaches are, for lack of a better term, control freaks. But you seem to be enjoying the challenge of kind of figuring this out on the fly, in some ways not knowing exactly what you're going to get on Saturday. Is that a fair characteristics?
COACH WEIS: This is more exciting than the first two years for me. This is also more challenging. You know, the first year you had a change in attitude. You had a change of attitude in the team. No longer are you changing the attitude of the team.
Now what you're trying to do is get the players that you brought -- a lot of players that you brought in here or were already in the program paying their dues, it's now their team. You know, with that comes a challenge of coaching those guys, putting them in a position to win.

Q. Speaking of challenges, when you hear people talk about Notre Dame, the possibility you are in for a rough season, starting with this opener.
COACH WEIS: Who says that (laughter)?

Q. I've heard. What goes through your mind?
COACH WEIS: I'm only -- to be honest with you, I'm only worrying about Georgia Tech. That's the only thing. I'm trying to beat Georgia Tech. That's all I'm trying to do. I don't worry about any other game but the game we're playing. And when that game is over, I'll start worrying about the next one.
I don't look at two games, three games, seven games, ten games, I look at one. To me it's 12 one-game entities. Right now the only questions I can answer about are related to Georgia Tech, because it's the only thing -- every bit of my energy is focused on just trying to beat Georgia Tech. That's going to be a tough enough task in its own right.

Q. Are you confident, though, that these players might surprise naysayers?
COACH WEIS: Well, they better.

Q. You said the team will explicitly know tonight. That means the whole offense, getting that chemistry for the rest of the week. What signs have you looked for in the last couple weeks where maybe they didn't explicitly know about the chemistry between the guys?
COACH WEIS: I think that that hasn't been the air. I think they've known for a few weeks. Players are not stupid. You the players are smart. I mean, they got it figured out.
I mean, they'll sit there and say all the right things because I haven't had to say it to them, but they know. You go in there, even though the reps have been pretty close in most cases, even yesterday, it wasn't like one guy got -- like Brady would get all but two reps. It wasn't like that.
It's still two guys getting significant reps with one guy getting more than the other. But they've known for a couple weeks. It's just I didn't want to have to put them in the position where they'd be lying to the media. I think that would be disrespectful to you guys and to them, as well.

Q. In general, what are the signs you've looked for with an offense, working in a new quarterback, that says the chemistry is working?
COACH WEIS: You always start with the senior leadership. Really the three guys that I watch the most are really successfully, Carlson and Travis Thomas. They're the guys I watch the most, not just because they're captains, but because of their vocal leadership whether in the huddle or out of the huddle. That's where the camaraderie starts to grow. That's where it stems from.
I'd say more than anyone, one of the reasons why we made Sully a captain, why the coaches added a fifth captain to the team, is because Sully really has been the heart and soul of our whole offense this whole training camp. A lot of the responsibilities we had on the quarterback in the past, we've taken off the quarterback and we put it on Sully.

Q. Talk about how important it was for Sullivan to come back for his fifth season to anchor the offense?
COACH WEIS: Well, it was important for us, for our team, and it probably was very, very good for him, as well. For our team, to have a guy, a fifth-year guy, who makes all the calls for the offense at the line of scrimmage, has taken all these young guys under his wing, these inexperienced guys under his wing, has been invaluable for us.
Conversely, two years in a row, before this year, he had come off in the springtime -- one years comes off a knee, the other year he comes off a shoulder. He never had either a full season of either running or lifting until this year. So this is the best shape he's ever been in and the strongest he's ever been.
For him personally, he's made himself more ready to play than he's actually been able to do for the last two years.
I hope I answered your question.

Q. Opening at home rather than opening on the road, do you prefer this or does it matter? Are there advantages to this?
COACH WEIS: I think the big advantage, to be honest with you, is that I learned from my first year here how not to do it. I think despite the fact that we almost came back and beat Michigan State in that game, I think going through the experience myself and having gone through it the first time, realizing how not to do it, I'm hoping it gives you little bit better chance of how to do it right this time.

Q. Is it difficult having it be the first game of the year at home rather than the second or third or fourth game?
COACH WEIS: Really, you know, it's still the opener. The thing with the opener, you have to expect the unexpected because there's all this time. Coaches like to dream stuff up, draw it up in the dirt. They've had all this time to go and come up with all their schemes, all their preparation and everything. But still it's getting out there and playing for the first time with a new group of guys, building some camaraderie, letting it grow from there.

Q. Derrell Hand's three-game suspension is yours, not the school's?
COACH WEIS: It's not the school's, it's football's. The school, he was reinstated yesterday. He came out after signing compliance forms, he started almost like the training camp mentality because you can't just throw pads on him and put him out there. Like yesterday, he went out in shorts. Today he'll go out in shorts again. Then he'll go shoulder pads, shoulder pads, full pads. That's the protocol by the NCAA via compliance.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, everyone.

End of FastScripts
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