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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 25, 2007
MODERATOR: We'll start with opening comments from Coach Weis.
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Good afternoon. On to Purdue. They're 4-0. They haven't had any close games. They're ranked 25th in the country. Averaging over 48 points a game. Giving up just a little over 20. They've basically been averaging winning by four touchdowns. Coach Tiller has been there 11 years. Nine out of ten years they went to Bowl games. And obviously they're off to a great start for this season.
They've got two offensive coordinators: One upstairs, Bill Legg, who also coaches the centers and guards. And Ed Zaunbrecher, he's the quarterback coach. He's down on the field.
And their offense has got it rocking and rolling. Averaging over 200 yards a game rushing, which is just under six yards a carry. Averaging 324 yards passing. They've thrown 16 touchdown passes. They've run the ball seven times.
Their offense is averaging 527 yards a game. Only given up two sacks which is third in the country. And the first half, we've had this conversation for a couple of weeks now, and the first half they've outscored their opponents 114-20 in the first four games. Quarterback, Curtis Painter, he's doing a heck of a job. He's their captain now. He's been starting for two years. He started 23 games in a row. He was second in the nation with 16 touchdown passes.
He only has one interception. He lit it up against us last year for just about 400. He's a strong-armed kid and gets rid of the ball quick, and he's really making good, quick decisions.
Running back, Jaycen Taylor, started off the year for them as one of the lead dogs. He's hurt. Kory Sheets has been handling the majority of the action. Although they have a freshman Dan Dierking, who is getting a little action. Sheets, he's got good speed and quick, north-south runner. But he's really multi-talented because he's good out of the back field as well. And as much as they throw the ball, he adds another dimension for them.
Their tight end Dustin Keller, one of the better ones in the country. He's second on the team in receptions. He's averaging just about 19 yards a catch. He's got four touchdowns. He's got over 70 yards a game. He's got good speed for a tight end. He's very athletic, has good hands. And he's very dangerous to run after catch. When he has the ball in his hands, he's very illusive and he breaks tackles.
When they do put in a second tight end, which they occasionally do, Kyle Adams will be their guy. But most of the time they play with three wide receivers. Obviously it all starts with Dorien Bryant. He's led the Big 10 in receptions the last couple of years.
He's an all-purpose guy, because he's a punt returner and kickoff returner. Averaging 207 a game. Averaging eight catches a game, which is tenth in the country. Leads the team, he's got 32 catches for 368 yards and three touchdowns.
He's sudden. He's quick. He can run with the ball. He has the ability to make you miss, and they do a lot of things with him. Put him in the back field and give him the ball as a runner as well. He's a really talented player.
Their other two starters, Orton and Lymon, third and fourth on the team in receptions. Orton has 15 catches for 178, a couple of touchdowns. And Lymon, we remember him from last year because he had a career day, 238 yards and a couple of touchdowns, including an 88-yarder against us last year. He's fourth on the team in catching. So they play those three guys. And they can throw to any of them and the tight end and the back. So they have five weapons on every play.
And that's a very dangerous offense, especially with the quarterback playing well. Their offensive line, you have Sester at left tackle. He had been the right tackle for most of his career. Now he's starting at left. Reckman, left guard. Powell, returning starter at center. And Grimes, he is the right guard. He started 30 games in a row. And Zach Jones at right tackle.
Over on defense, Coach Spack, their defense has given only a little over 20 points a game, given less than 30% on third down. An example of how they're playing last week, they had a couple of sacks, interception return for touchdown and they recovered a couple of fumbles. Defensive line is pretty athletic. Cliff Avril, their captain, in his career he's played both linebacker and defensive end for them. Right now he's playing defensive end. Athletic pass rusher. Plays hard, gives good effort. He's quick. He gets off the ball.
Now, the two guys on the side, Baker and McKey, are both playing stout, high effort, high effort players with good size and they have some pass/rush ability and Brown's over opposite Avril.
You look at their line backers, you know they play pretty much all four of them. They play two, Ferguson is the regular linebacker and then Bick, who is the captain, he's more their nickel middle linebacker. But Keglar and Heygood, they handle the outside positions. So really the four of them play a whole bunch in all their packages, whether it's regular and nickel.
Get to the secondary, Adams, King and Scott and Vincent are their starters. But when they go to nickel, Williams comes in as a safety because they'll go ahead and drop King down into the nickel position. So they really only have to put one guy on the field. Just bring an extra safety down, bring one of the safety down to play their nickel.
You know, their assistant head coach and linebacker coach, Mark Hagen, he handles the special teams. And their special teams are another weapon. Any time you have good skilled players on offense like they do, usually it carries over to special teams. And this is no exception.
They have a couple of touchdowns on kick-off returns this year. Averaging 14 and a half yards of punt return. Last week kind of depressing, when you put on the tape, opening kick-off the guy they're kicking away from, they're kicking away from Bryant. They're kicking at Tardy. Tardy takes it 95 for a touchdown.
So they have two kickoff returns. Bryan and Tardy are back there. They return both return punts well. And they're both dangerous. Armstrong handles the punting, Summers handling the kicking. And Huffman handles the snapping.
Q. When you talk about controlling their offense or limiting what their offense can do, how much of that is on your offense in terms of keeping them off the field, basically?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I think significant. I think that you're right on cue. I think when you have an offense that's averaging over 500 yards. And if you say they're one dimensional, because they're spread out so much, if you said all they did was throw it all the time, then you could try to just stop the pass. But they're averaging over 200 yards a game rushing as well.
So I think that you have to try your best to try to keep their offense off the field.
Q. A lot's been talked about the offensive line. Is this kind of a year when it's really indicative of how important line play is and what happens when that isn't happening?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I think that what happens is guys get used to playing with each other. I think more than sometimes even more than just ability is continuity and cohesiveness. And I think that when you go through -- the more flux you're in, regardless of who the players are, okay, the more flux your offense ends up being in. As the year goes on, you end up building more continuity and more consistency. And usually heads towards better player.
Q. Last year, if I remember right, the game plan was to shut down Bryant and I think Keller and Lymon had the big game. What will you try to do this year?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: That was definitely the plan last year. I think because they have five guys that are all involved in the passing game, I don't think you can just try to shut one guy down, because if you try to put all your attention on just funneling those two guys that are normally they're inside players, when you funnel in Keller and Bryant, because Bryant is usually the slot and Keller is the tight end. Then you leave your guys outside all day long one-on-one, which is where we were last year.
So I think we're going to have to mix and match the things we do so they don't get a great feel for what we do. But we're really going to have to play a really solid game across the board, because if not they'll exploit you. Now, this quarterback, the one thing about him, he really makes good quick decisions. So if you make a mistake, he usually finds it.
Q. Last year it seemed like this was the game when Darrin Walls, like he got the half time, had to sit him down. Are you looking at that? Is that kind of a turning point for where he's at right now?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: That might have been a negative. But that's now turned into a positive. Because sitting down sometimes, especially when you're young, gives you a chance to pull away from seeing what's actually happening right there and you could learn from that.
And I think that Darrin's one of the guys who is more excited about playing this game than just about anyone because he remembers that game last year and he's grown tremendously from where he was at that time.
Q. The wide receivers, when they're not real involved in the passing game, when you're going to a power running game, how do you make sure that guys like Grimes and West feel useful even blocking on the edges and things like that?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Well, in the game, every time we go into a game, we do have plenty of passes that are prepared to go into the game. But they understand, the best thing, Jeff, when we set up a game plan and they understand what the basis of the game plan is, just as long as you don't sit there and tell him, hey, we're going to throw it 50 times and then throw it 10.
Just as long as they understand what we're going to try to do to win the game, those guys are very unselfish. Every receiver wants the ball. I've never found one that doesn't want the ball. But I think just as long as you tell them here's what we're going to do that gives us the best chance of winning, I think that we have a bunch of unselfish guys.
Q. Is it tempting to go more with the bigger guys with the Kamaras and Parrises over George and David when you're playing more of a power game?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: No, actually I think George and David block very well, to tell you the truth. Sometimes it isn't just size, it's how well you do it. George might be the smallest of all those guys, but he might be the best blocker of all four of them.
He's a pretty good blocker. So I think size is one of the ingredients, but I think effort is the other one. Because I've seen some tall receivers or tall or big receivers who don't like blocking. I kind of like the effort that these guys put in in the run for us.
Q. Last night, on Monday Night Countdown, your buddy Bill Parcells said Notre Dame should be in the conference. Is that something that he said to you, and do you agree with him or do you set him straight?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I haven't been watching a lot of TV lately. He and I have not had that conversation, no. But thanks. At least it's good to know.
Q. Could you kind of outline your practice week in terms of compared to what you tried last week and what you did last week?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: We still have to have elements of last week in there, because I think last week helped us -- what we did last week helped us in the game. So today the first half of practice is going to be dedicated to ones versus ones, full speed, take them to the ground.
What I didn't do I didn't do full speed take them to the ground on Sunday, because I had a bunch of guys beat up. So it becomes counter-productive. You have to be objective, too.
And you want to be tough, and you want to have a mentality at the same time you want to be intelligent and not do something stupid.
So today they all know that we're going ones against ones and it will be the first hour of practice. Then we'll have a break and we'll practice special teams. And then after that break, the rest of the practice will be dedicated to Purdue first and second down.
Q. From that point it's kind of Purdue the rest of the way?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I think it will be a little bit closer to normal schedule come tomorrow.
Q. As a staff, do you outline the plan ahead of time? Is any of this on the fly, as the players sort of perform? Or do you know what you're going to do before you get into it?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Like last week's schedule is different than anything we've ever done. This week's schedule we've never done this before either. But you still have to keep elements of what you've done last week because last week I believe paid dividends.
So what you don't do, you still lose the game. Even if you won the game, I mean there's elements of things that are improved because of how we practiced last week. So I think you have to keep elements in there. And I think that this might be more like the way we're going to go the rest of the way, where we at least dedicate part of Tuesday's practice to have ones going against ones.
Q. Maurice Crum, it seems he would epitomize what you're looking for as far as heart and leadership. Have you seen that?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: He's one of the top of the list. He's one of those guys I was talking about the other day, that you could see in certain people how important it is and he's not just a captain by default. He's a captain because he's perceived that way by his peers. And that's pretty obvious, look at him after the game, both physically and emotionally how much the game means to him.
Q. Pretty amazing how far he's come, really, from a freshman in just a couple of seasons.
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I've only known him, obviously, for three years. I didn't know him when he was a true freshman. But I can tell you, he went from that quiet guy who would never say a word to a guy who has now become a true leader on that defense.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about how the defense is developing and how they're grasping this year's scheme?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I think what's happening is we're intertwining more and more people into the mix. We're putting a -- bunch of guys are getting better because they're playing more. And I think with the exception of a couple of guys, like Trevor and Mo and Joe and a couple of those guys on the secondary, I think some of these guys are getting better just by pure reps out there of playing.
And it's one thing to just practice it, but I think another thing is actually playing in the games. And I think we definitely see upside by the fact that these more and more people are getting more and more game experience.
Q. Statistically, you can make it however you want, but so far this year's defense doesn't look better than last year's. Do you think part of that is because of the offense struggles or do you think this team is better defensively than last year?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I think that offense has had a lot to do with that. I think that last year you remember there were a lot of times when you could count on the defense not being on the field nearly as much. I can't -- the jury is still out on the answer to that question for real. So I can't answer that one part of the question. But I can tell you that by us not being consistent this year on offense, it does put a lot more pressure on the defense. That's a fact.
Q. And the streak of giving up 30 points, do you go into a game aiming for certain, tell the defense we don't want to give them anymore than this many points in the game or is that something you don't talk about?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: What we do is we go into the game anticipating if we play solid -- I won't give these numbers now, of course, Tom. So I won't follow up. But we go into a game, say if we play really solid in games and we don't give away the easy one, how many points will we need to score on offense to win the game based on how many points -- we do this as a whole staff.
This isn't like the offense staff does it and the defense staff. As a whole staff we do that. So there's sometimes you go into a game saying, well, let's try to win this game 21-17. There's other times you might go into a game say let's try to win this game 35-31. It all depends on the game.
Q. I assume most games under 30, you would want the opponent to get under 30?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: In all games you would want the opponent to get under 30. Not in most games. (Laughter) that's a good assumption.
Q. With Purdue being a passing team first, teams that have had the most success against you stress more running. Do you think they will try to run more or stick to their game plan?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I think they're a passing team first. I think they'll run it to make to keep you honest. That's why they get some of these gash runs they get. Teams have to try to respect all those different receivers we were talking about. When you have to try to cover all those different receivers, all of a sudden you hand it off and you break through their first line of defense and everybody is playing pass coverage, that guy is running for a while.
Q. How important is it for the line the whole defense to get more pressure on the quarterback, four sacks in four games, I assume you want to try to get a higher percentage than that?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: That's a good assumption again. You're on today (chuckling). I think the more times that you can get pressure on the quarterback, rushing for, especially in a game like this, the more time you can rush for and get pressure on the quarterback, the better, because as the more guys you dedicate, when you start bringing pressure, start bringing five, six, seven, whatever you end up bringing, now you have this guy who throws the ball quick with one-on-ones all over the field.
Q. You've had a lot of front-line players on special teams, a lot of starters on special teams, and you've continued to struggle there. Is there a correlation? Is there a fatigue factor coming into play there?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I think that there's a couple of players that comes in with. There's a couple players that are our best -- I'll use an example. Like David Bruton. David Bruton is probably our best gunner. He's also one of our best guys on the kick-off team. And he's also our starting free safety.
So it's tough to -- because he's the best at those things, and one of the first guys down there, there comes a fine line what are you going to pull him off? Well you pull him off of kickoff team, then you're leaving yourself vulnerable there. If you pull them off punt team, you have Dorien Bryant back there returning punts. You're in a catch-22, where to take him off the field. Because right now he's a guy we want to keep on the field as much as we can.
Q. As the season progresses, especially if you continue to be physical in practices, there's got to be some give somewhere?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Yeah, but the one thing, physical in practices doesn't really expose the DBs -- the DB types as much as it does the front 7 type. I think that wear and tear would become more on the front 7 types than the DBs, because a lot of times you're just trying to pound the ball at them and hopefully it's not the safeties that are making the tackles when you're working on the running game.
Q. Following up on the question about defense, playing in space this week, is that a new challenge for the defense and the fact that you have the multiple personnel packages, does that aid that?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I think that that's a fair question, too. I think playing in space is a different challenge than when we really have gone against in the first four games, because this is a team that that's their mode of operation. So now what you do is, like I said, we've given up a few play action passes but for the most part the passing game as far as to move the ball has not been the critical factor that's beating us so far. It's been the run game.
So now the challenge becomes kind of flipped. It becomes more unique where now you have to stop the passing game as well as the run game rather than just try to stop the run game and leave yourself vulnerable to play action pass.
Q. I asked about Tate and Kamara a couple weeks ago, you were very encouraged by them. What's the evolution look like? What do you need to see from them?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Duval is a more polished receiver than Golden is. Remember, Golden is going through a transformation to be a wide receiver, whereas Duval was already a wide receiver. As far as the wide receiver position, the one thing that Golden has that no one else has, I can't say no one else has, some people have -- he has that straight top end speed that always gives you a chance to have a vertical through it.
Q. On John Carlson, you've talked about what a great leader he is and what a great tight end. How is he dealing with a year -- and he probably doesn't care, but how does he deal with the year where he's not catching a lot of passes and he's in for blocking sometimes, how does he deal with that?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: He knows the year's not over. He's probably as unselfish, you talk about Mo Crum, this is like the exact same thing on the offensive side of the ball as John Carlson. All he wants to do is to do anything he can to give us the best chance of winning. He knows the season's got a lot of legs left in it yet. And there's still a lot of opportunities out there. Right now all we're trying to do is try to put ourselves in the best position to win this week.
I think that he's such a high character guy, I think that that's one thing that probably never will enter his mind.
Q. When we talked to you on Sundays, among your evaluation of the games you always talk about the amount of big plays you give up, doing well on that or cutting that down and looking at Purdue they have 22 plays over 23 yards, is that something you have to emphasize even more this week?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: That's one -- we talk about the top 10, although that's not first, you know that's one of the -- we call them explosives. I think that explosives are one of the things that are a major concern going into this game. Explosive plays by their offense.
And not that we don't always emphasize it, but it's reached top 10 category for this week.
Q. What do you work on when you try to eliminate those things?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Well, the problem is -- and Eric pointed out a couple of seconds ago -- for four weeks you've been playing against teams that were running, setting up play action pass. Now you've got a team that throws to set up the run.
You've got a different set of problems this week than you've had for the last four weeks. So I think the first thing you gotta do is try to figure out, pick your poison. What are you going to try to -- like last year, I forget who pointed it out, I think it was Bob pointed out last year with Dorien Bryant, was trying to stop the tight end in the slot, which they basically were not really big factors in the game. But now you get Lymon out there having a career day. So this is a definitely pick-your-poison type of team because they have so many weapons.
Q. You mentioned Bryant and throw Tardy in. Are you a coach that is willing to do a squib kick or punt the ball out of bounds? What's your thoughts on that?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Yes, yes and yes, I'm willing to do all those things. It's interesting because what Minnesota did last week was what the logical coach in mode would do. You've got Dorien Bryant back there, opening kickoff, kick it to the other guy. He promptly takes it 95 to the house. So take your pick. It doesn't bode for restful nights.
Q. You talked about the offense needing to control the game a little more to keep Purdue off the field. And at the same at the time you're working with a young offense. You're still teaching them to walk. Do those two things mesh or is there a problem there?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: No, I definitely think they mesh. As a matter of fact, I'm sort of like you, you when see, okay, we made some progress last week. It wasn't good enough to come close to winning, but we made some progress. But we're going to have to make significantly more progress if we're going to put ourselves into the position to win the game, which is what we intend to do. We're going down there to win a game.
We're not going down there to, okay, let's lose by 17. Here's a team that's been winning by an average of 28 a game. So that 30 minutes of competitive hard nose football, it has to be 60 minutes of competitive hard nose football, put yourself in a position to win. It means converting on third downs is one thing it means. It means you can't go 4-9 in the first half and 0-6 in the second half. That would be a good start.
Q. With your wide receivers, how do you work on getting more separation? Is it more of a route thing? More of a wide receiver specific thing to a guy?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: First of all, it all depends on the coverage scheme of the team you're going against. As a team playing man coverage, they're playing man with post safety and they're playing man with two deep behind it, are they playing two deep zone or playing three deep zone? Are they playing four across? There are a lot of things that are related to coverage first. There's people open. There's people open. Just depends on whether you're calling a pass or not. And where is the pass designed to go.
Okay. If you rotated one way, you're throwing the other way. Is it a flood zone or is it a coverage read? I mean there's a lot of things that get involved. Sometimes just getting open isn't the hardest thing. You can get people open, you can pick, there's a lot of things you can do to get people open. The question is, when you're throwing the ball, what are they going to be doing and where does that get the quarterback to go? I think part of being successful in the passing game is making sure that you are moving along to the timing type pass that we're talking, I think you have to get more where the ball's out on timing to a certain spot to give yourself a chance to get into a rhythm.
Q. (Off mic)
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: He's better than a few weeks ago where he started. But that's the type of progress that we need to make very quickly?
Q. I realize you only know Painter by watching him on tape. But how different a quarterback is he from what you saw last year? You mentioned the quick decisions. He seems to be making a lot of more good than bad compared to last year.
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Firstly, he threw it for 400 against us last year. It wasn't like he had a bad game. The difference is the experience, which he now has, which he really wasn't that experienced at the time we played him last year, now with that experience that he has any time you look at a guy who's got a 16-1 touchdown/interception ratio. That's a scary thought when you think about it. That's as good as it gets nothing. 16-0 is the only thing better. 16-1, means the guy's doing things right.
Q. Purdue's ability to keep him upright and not let defense get to him, how much is the line playing well or Painter showing to be better, buying himself more time?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: It's definitely a combination of the two. I just still think he's the trigger guy. You can compliment the line, which always deserves kudos when you've only been sacked a couple of times but this kid gets the ball and he usually gets it quick and gets to it an open guy. He's been impressive so far.
Q. With a guy like that, factored into your struggles to get after the quarterback with the four sacks, is this a week where you drop more or you try to change that around and send a lot of guys?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: Not that I'm looking for a sound bite, but you're back to that pick your poison again. Which way do you want to go? You want to drop eight and rush three and hope that he throws it to you? Or you want to bring six and make him throw it in a hurry and try to come up and tackle him? Between that and just rushing your normal four, anything in between, you know, I think you gotta mix it up.
Q. You're in your fourth recruiting cycle. Are kids -- as you get later in there, are they talking more about early playing time than they were when you started, and is that part of the message when you have it start like you have now?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I think it's pretty evident to them. I mean when they sit there and watch and they say you starting off the year the way we're starting, they're looking at the team and they're saying, okay, there's opportunities for me. And I'm never going to be disrespectful to our own kids, the kids that are on the team. They watch the games just the way you do or the way I do.
And they make their own evaluations of how they see they fit. And they look at they're pretty objective when it comes to a lot of times when they're looking at schools, whether it's somebody who has already committed to us or somebody's considering us.
A lot of times every one of these guys wants an opportunity where they can see themselves playing relatively early.
Q. Wondered if you could just talk a little bit more about Grimes and less play last week and are these guys developing, is your confidence developing each week when you see some of the athletic plays that they're making, and especially on third down situations, are you confident in going to those guys a little bit more?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I like both those players, to be honest with you. And they're capable of making plays. We obviously ran it more than we threw it last week. But I think that the more -- the better we run the ball, the better the protection is, the more we'll throw the ball and I have confidence that, A, they'll get open and, B, they can make all the catches. And David made a couple of very athletic catches. They weren't easy balls to catch, and they do it pretty regularly in practice. I've got a lot of confidence in them as receivers.
But we've got to get in a position that we feel confident that we can throw the ball more.
Q. You mentioned Painter's experience, the fact of the matter is they have 20 returning starters you have nine. They play one sophomore, you play seven. How huge a factor is that experience in putting together this match-up?
COACH CHARLIE WEIS: I think it goes back to not only experience but continuity. I think that the more you play with the same players for repeated period of time, especially at the skilled positions on offense, a chemistry starts to develop. And with chemistry, there's usually something good happens when there's chemistry. And I think that's what we're working on developing.
Looks to me that's where they are. So I think that that's always significant.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
End of FastScripts