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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 16, 2007
COACH WEIS: First of all, a couple of our own personnel issues. Evan Sharpley will start at quarterback. Both Evan and Jimmy were told that yesterday afternoon after I had time to visit with our medical staff and our coaching staff, and that's the way we're going. So Evan will be one, Jimmy will be two.
In addition to that, the only person that I know that is listed as doubtful for this game would be James Aldridge. A follow-up from a question the other day in here, he had a bit of a high ankle sprain, and he intends to play this week, but I'd say the odds of that happening aren't real high.
On to USC, they return 18 starters, seven on offense and ten on defense along with one of their specialists.
In the first three quarters of games it hasn't been close. They've won the first quarter 45 to 14; they've won the second quarter 60 to 30; they've won the third quarter 65 to 17. You know, they've won the last five times they've played us, which ties the longest winning streak in the series.
Obviously Coach Carroll is one of the best, if not the best, college head coaches, seventh year at USC, 85 percent winning percentage. When he loses they lose by about four points a game. Only one of his losses has been by more than a touchdown.
Steve Sarkisian, their offensive coordinator, leads an offense that's averaging 34 points a game, they're rushing over five yards a carry, just about 200 yards a game. They throw for another 232, so that gives them 430 a game. They convert just under 50 percent on 3rd down, they've only given up ten sacks, and a very, very telling percentage is when they've been in the red zone they've scored touchdowns just about two out of every three times.
A lot is being said about the quarterback situation. Everyone knows that Booty is one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and he broke his middle finger on his throwing hand. I understand he's going to try to go. We'll wait and see. I think they feel they have more than a capable backup in Mark Sanchez, who's been the backup the last couple years, who last week played and showed pretty good poise. As the game went on he looked like he got better.
At running back looks like Washington has become pretty settled in as the lead dog. He gets the most carries, and he's got the most rushing attempts. He averages 4.3 a carry and has six touchdowns.
I know that Stafon Johnson is getting a little action this week out there. He's been out with a bruised or sprained foot. He's going to try to be back on Saturday, and I understand he practiced a little bit yesterday. He's a little scary because he averages over eight yard a carry.
Joe McKnight obviously one of the most promising freshmen in the country. He's playing more and more, he's getting now involved in punt returns and he's more involved in the offense, and you can see his progress. Like last week he had 13 carries for 75 yards, and along with 59 he also had a couple punt returns for 49 yards; one of them was for 45. So I think they're in more than capable hands.
And they've got a whole bunch of other guys that I could list, as well, but they look like the starter and their first two candidates to come in after them.
At fullback it looks like Havili. The one thing that he's shown me a little different than a lot of the fullbacks is he is one of the better receiving fullbacks that I've seen when I watched on tape. Everyone looks for the big bruising back, and he's a guy that's fourth on the team in catches, he's got a couple touchdowns, he's a legitimate threat as a receiver, and they move him around a bunch. He's got very soft hands, especially soft hands for a fullback.
The tight end, they've got one of the better ones in Fred Davis. Obviously they moved him from wide receiver to tight end in 2004. He led the team in receptions last week, had six catches for 63 yards, and he leads the team in receptions for a year, 29 for just under 500 yards, but he averages 17.2 per catch and he's got four touchdowns along with 63.
Dale Thompson will also show up in there because they do play some two-tight-end sets, and he's a big body who they like to put on the point, and he's a very good blocker.
At wide receiver they list Ausberry and Turner as the starters. Ausberry is the X, 6'4", 225, and Turner at the Z, who's 6'5", 220, two big guys. But it looks like Vidal Hazelton is really playing himself into the starting mix. He's got very good speed, and if he didn't have enough speed they could always put the freshman Ronald Johnson in there because he certainly has got enough speed to play himself.
This week a lot of the talk has been about their offensive line, about the injuries in their offensive line. I know three of the backups now listed are not going to play. Sam Baker, he's their left tackle, and he left the Arizona game with a left hamstring. We'll see how it goes. I'm sure he's going to try to play but he's a fifth-year senior, first team All-American, first team Pac-10 for the last couple years and a four-year starter.
Last week they got down to second and thirds. I know Butch Lewis ended up having to play a good portion of the game when Baker went out, and he went in and played for at least the last couple quarters.
Looks like Byers is going to start at guard. He has a torn tendon in his right thumb and a dislocated ring finger on his left, but he hasn't missed a start, and he plays both enter center and guard. I think it looks like he's going to start at left guard and then Spanos will start at center. He's not 100 percent because he's got some stitches in his right hand with some lacerated fingers. I know he also injured a triceps, but he has started the last two games with these injuries.
At right guard it looks like Rachal is expected to be back this week. He missed the Arizona game after injuring a knee earlier in the Washington game, but it looks like a good chance that he'll be back. And Malu, in case he couldn't go, he serves both as a backup for both guards, and Radovich, he's at right tackle, he's the one guy who hasn't been banged up at all. They've been mixing and matching a little bit, but I'm sure they'll come up with a very, very dependable offensive line when it's all said and done. We're just not sure who's going to be playing what position.
Coach Holt is their defensive coordinator, he also takes care of the defensive line, averaging only giving up 19 points a game, 2.3 per rush, 67 yards a game rushing yardage, 267 a game total yardage, 33 percent on 3rd down. I mean, obviously they are very good and very talented on defense, and it starts with their defensive line.
They're good at every position. They're good at running back and they're good in the secondary. Lawrence Jackson, he's their strong end, this is his fourth year starting, and when they go to nickel they move him inside to get another defensive playing when they get into true pass rush mode. Sedrick Ellis, he's their All-American defensive tackle. He'll start for third year in a row. He's on about every list known to mankind, another 300 pounder, locates the ball, uses his hands, plays with good balance. He's a tough player.
Three technique, playing along with him, Moala, he started all seven games last year, and he's another big body, 6'5", just under 300 pounds. At the weak defensive end I know Kyle Moore got banged up a little bit last week and he's getting a MRI. He's got really good athleticism. Now, what Kyle does is he moves over to the strong side end when they go to nickel, and they put Everson Griffen in. Everson, we got heavily involved in trying to get him last year, and he looks like he's really coming on. He's got very, very good speed coming off the edge.
At Sam linebacker Thomas Williams has been playing there, but it look like Cushing is going to be back. At least there are reports he's going to be back. If he does come back, Williams it looks like might move into the starting Mike linebacker. Either him or Luther Brown will start at Mike because it looks like Maualuga isn't going to play this week. That's what it looks like, with the hip pointer.
Rivers is at Will, he's been starting for three years at Will, he's a preseason All-American, as well. This team is loaded with them.
You get to the secondary they've got two big physical safeties. Taylor Mays plays their free safety and Ellison plays their strong safety. I know Ellison broke his nose last week, but I know that he's going to be back. Terrell Thomas, he's their second year starter at cornerback, as is Cary Harris, even though we've seen a few other guys in there. For example, McCurtis we've seen in there, but McCurtis definitely last week showed up all the time when they went to nickel.
Coach McNair handles the special teams. He also coaches the running backs. He's got Woidneck taking care of the punting and Buehler taking care of the place kicking and the kickoffs. Collins is a four-year long snapper. McDonald is a holder, he also can throw the ball. As a matter of fact, it was in 2006 he threw a touchdown pass, a 20-yard touchdown pass off of a fake field goal, so you have to be alert for that, as well.
And then as returners it's going to be a combination of Ronald Johnson and Desmond Reed and Vincent Joseph as kickoff returners, and then it'll either be Reed or McKnight as the punt returner. Obviously Joe had the big one last week, so that will be the hot topic, but it'll be one of those two guys.
Q. The obvious question is the quarterback situation. What played into that or what led to the decision?
COACH WEIS: Just like I said the other day when we were talking, I said that I was going to talk to the medical people and talk to the coaching staff about where we were. I think there's a lot of people with bumps and bruises. That's not the sole reason why we're doing this.
But I think Evan in this week gives us the best chance of winning. And it's the exact same thing I told both quarterbacks, just so you know. I met with them yesterday and I told them exactly what I just said to you.
Q. More medical or coaching decision --
COACH WEIS: I think it's a combination of one guy has been in there, you get in there and get banged around pretty good. He's not injured. Is he hurt? Yeah, he's hurt. There's a big difference between injured and hurt. But I think that the separation between the two of them isn't big enough for a banged-up guy getting a nod over a fresh guy, and that's why we're going in that direction.
Q. In some respects, you talked about it a little bit, it almost seems it could benefit Jimmy from the sidelines. Have you given that much thought?
COACH WEIS: I had that conversation with him yesterday, along with Ron. I sat them both in there together and I said, this is what I expect. You have to prepare as if you're playing in the game because you're a play away from playing. I think this gives you an opportunity to stand back and watch the game. The game slows down for you when you're not in. The game happens really fast when you're in there.
Q. Switching gears a little bit, how much of a concern is it for you to have multiple transfers?
COACH WEIS: Usually the guys that transfer got beaten out. That's why they leave. It would be one thing if it was -- if you're telling me that John Carlson is transferring tomorrow, I'm going to start worrying, okay, but I really can't worry too much about guys that leave that aren't starting. I've got to worry about the guys that are playing. Pretty safe answer.
Q. Can you maybe just detail Jimmy's progress and Evan's progress since you named Jimmy the starter after Georgia Tech?
COACH WEIS: I don't understand the question.
Q. Where have they improved each individually?
COACH WEIS: They've both improved from the start of -- well, actually going back to last spring right on through. See, neither one of them did I spend a whole heck of a lot of time with before last spring. Even when Evan was here last year, I spent most of my time with Brady. So now I'm spending almost all my time with -- along with Ron, okay, with these guys, and I've seen them both mentally and physically become much better players and become more capable of running more information each week in practice.
I don't want to really separate the two of them because I think they both have shown a steady climb.
Q. In the game so far this year we've seen Evan throw at least a few more passes. Has that been a factor because the wide receivers are getting a little more separation or is Jimmy less comfortable making that throw?
COACH WEIS: Well, usually when he gets in the game it's been later in the game and we were losing. Usually when you're losing you try to throw the ball down the field more. That has a lot to do with it. When the game is close, you're not necessarily throwing as many passes vertically down the field.
Q. Jimmy's reaction to Evan starting?
COACH WEIS: He's great. The one thing good with the players, not that they like everything I say, but they know that I'm always going to tell them the truth and I don't have any tainted views, and I just explained to him very clearly that this gives us the best chance of winning this week, and that's what we're doing.
Q. Do you have an update on Maurice Crum and David Grimes' health?
COACH WEIS: It sounds like both of them have a legitimate chance of playing this week. Mo is walking without a limp this week, and that's a good thing. And David was close to being able to go on Saturday, but it's always tough when you haven't practiced all week long to try to go when you haven't had a meaningful rep in practice. So I'll have to wait until after today's practice. I'll probably have a better idea and be able to answer that one tomorrow.
Q. Real quick just from a recruiting standpoint, the last couple years you've tried to get off to a pretty quick start as far as getting offers out there and jumping off pretty early. Do you find you've been a little bit behind this year in that sense and why?
COACH WEIS: Because we don't have very many numbers to be able to give out. That has a lot to do with it. When you have 70 guys on scholarship and you're going to have a full 25, you can be more aggressive. But next year that number might be 15. So you've got to be very cautious because all of a sudden -- let's say this year we're taking four or five offensive linemen. Let's say next year we're taking two. It's different when the numbers change. You can't just start -- if you're trying to get five, you have to think about ten. Well, if you're trying to get two, you have to think about four. There's a big difference in numbers.
When you start to get the numbers right, which we're about ready to be, now it's like one guy leaves, you replace that guy, and it hasn't been like that to this point. That's why you have to be a little slow when your number is going to be low as far as how many guys you're going to be able to take.
Q. As far as evaluating guys, you feel like --
COACH WEIS: We're all over it. We're all over it. As a matter of fact, Tuesday night of next week it's going to be -- we're spreading the country. It's not just for the guys we've got, it's also for the guys that are on the horizon.
Q. Just to clarify something with the quarterback, is this now a permanent switch, is this a week-to-week thing?
COACH WEIS: We're just talking about USC. That's all we're talking about. Evan Sharpley is the quarterback for USC. That's all we're talking about. How would I know if it's permanent? I don't know that answer. It's a permanent switch for the USC game. Evan is the starter. I'm not changing tomorrow and picking Jimmy as the starter (laughing). That's the best I can do.
Q. As far as since Penn State, has Evan just increased dramatically? Was the chasm between them that large at that point?
COACH WEIS: No, I don't think at any time this year has there been that wide a discrepancy between these two guys. I think it's been fairly close most of the year. So I think that we're at a stage now where we think that Evan playing gives us a better chance of winning, so that's why you go with Evan.
Q. Having seen how hurt Jimmy is from a physical standpoint, was there ever any consideration earlier on of starting Evan?
COACH WEIS: When?
Q. At any point earlier on.
COACH WEIS: At any time we would have thought the best person for us to win a game would have been Evan, Evan would have been in there. We have reached that point. So the answer to that question would be no.
Q. Just switching gears, as far as Robby Parris, what has he really done to show you --
COACH WEIS: He's not acted like a sophomore. He's playing with more savvy and somebody who's got more real experience than he has. This guy is really -- this is his first time really playing. He runs good routes. He's dependable for the quarterbacks. They know where he's going to be. He's fairly smooth for a guy as big, and he's got good hands.
Q. As far as him with the leg injury that he had in high school, how concerned were you when you saw he had an injury?
COACH WEIS: Well, I know that I wasn't as concerned as his mother was because his mother was concerned that this would be a career-ending injury. But the good thing with our practice here is once a guy has committed to us, we're committed to them. So I think that that alleviated that anxiety, and I think we're just glad that it came along nicely the way it did.
Q. You had mentioned Golden Tate was banged up a little bit against UCLA. He returned kickoffs against BC but wasn't that involved in the passing game. Was that a leftover from the injury?
COACH WEIS: That was because we were going to play a significant amount of no-huddle in the game, and in the no-huddle our outside receivers do not flip-flop positions, so they need to know both outside positions both as the weak side receiver and the strong side receiver. And really at his experience level, that's not what -- you want him to be able to play one position and be able to -- that's all he has to do, not where he has to know both the X and the F and know both right and left. That was not the type of game that you want a guy with very little experience to be involved in.
Q. Alex Flanagan from NBC mentioned something about you consulting with a sports psychologist following the win over UCLA. Can you explain?
COACH WEIS: I did. People always talk about the psychology of sports when you're losing. Well, there's also a psychology of sports when you've won. It became knowledge to me that there's a syndrome called the relief syndrome, where when you've been losing for a while and then all of a sudden you win, a lot of times there's a big letdown because you won. You would think there would be a big letdown when you've lost after you've been winning for a while, but I guess that works both ways, and that was something I was not really familiar with. I was made aware of it, and that gave us a chance to address it right off the bat.
Q. So you spoke with this person or this person spoke to the team?
COACH WEIS: No, he didn't speak to the team, he spoke to us.
Q. Just to clarify, following the penalty, the excessive celebration penalty, you kicked off from the 15. If you kick that out of bounds, where is the ball spotted?
COACH WEIS: Well, instead of on the 35, it goes to the 50 because there's 15 yards difference. So if it were a five-yard penalty it would be up to the 40. It's eight yards difference if you kick it out of bounds. Realistically the ball landed -- I thought Nate kicked it about right where we wanted him to kick it. I thought he'd kick it somewhere around the 35 but you'd pin him around the 40 because it's a high kick, on the minus 40, not the plus 40 obviously, we would have been content under the circumstances.
Q. In terms of the running back situation, if Aldridge isn't able to go, you mentions Hughes was kind of a potential every bound back. Has he moved into that role, or is it more using all four of those guys?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think what we would do this week is this is USC, and just to throw Robert in and Armando in there, USC right off the bat, I think that we would go a little heavier with Travis being involved in this mix, too, more than he has this year. I think that that would be part of that combination. I'm not saying by committee, but I think that he would probably take off some of the pressure of James, and obviously Robert and Armando would be much more involved.
Q. I see that Big Stew is listed as a backup right tackle. Is he exclusively working there or is it a little bit of a flexibility thing?
COACH WEIS: No, he worked last week at both right tackle and right guard. But one of the things that I've been concerned with all year is our depth -- our inexperience in depth at the tackle position as far as team experience. So I felt because we have some candidates to play guard and still do, okay, the one thing I didn't have, I didn't have a more veteran type to go out there and play tackle. So that's where he's been spending most of his time, at right tackle and a little bit at right guard.
Q. And in terms of backing up at right guard, backing up Eric Olsen, is Wenger close to being back?
COACH WEIS: He's back. I think I would just -- I list Tom down there, but I think if I needed a backup inside, Danny would be the first backup inside at all three positions. I know I only list him at one. I list him as the backup center but he'd probably go in first at right guard and he'd probably go in first at left guard, as well.
Q. I think you mentioned at one point last year or the year before that the '77 green jersey game was like your favorite game or one of your favorite games. Do you kind of wish you could have held the jersey as a surprise rather than it being announced so long ago?
COACH WEIS: No, because I didn't want to create a dog-and-pony show and all of a sudden we come out in the green jerseys. We are 1 and 6. It would be a heck of a thing to come out wearing the green jerseys. But I think at the time it was presented to me, to get that out of the way then so you didn't turn into doing it for the wrong reason, if we were going to use the jerseys for motivation, I'd use the ones that we have, the newer green ones that I really like.
These uniforms are ugly (laughter), but what the players like about them is that they're throwbacks. Because they're throwbacks they're unique. Remember what those jerseys looked like? Remember those ugly pants? That's what they have to wear this week. What I didn't want to do is I didn't want to make a big deal about using it more as a motivational thing. This is in respect to honor that '77 team.
Q. Speaking of retro things, grass was such a big topic a couple years ago. Just wondering if you had any comment on the lawnmower or the grass this year?
COACH WEIS: No, I don't have any comment. The only thing, and I will comment on one thing. I knew that in that game, and I remember Desmond Reed got hurt in that game, okay, and no way do you ever want a player getting hurt from another team for any reason. But this is the Midwest, and we're going to play five games in a row at home. That's where we are right now. Now, fortunately this is only game two. But it isn't like our grass grows like we're living in the south. It is what it is. It's patchy and it's not the same as playing on Bermudagrass in the south.
What might be perceived as somebody -- it isn't like we were playing on field turf; I don't think that would go over too well in Notre Dame tradition. It's grass, it's mid-October, it's not as perfect as it would be earlier in the year. That's just the way it is.
Q. Not having David Grimes last week, did that change the complexion of the offense at all?
COACH WEIS: You know, that hurt you a little bit. When you have one of your best receivers not playing, everyone's role now gets bumped up a little bit. Now, obviously Robby took advantage of that situation and had an opportunity to make more plays because some of those plays we were making were in two wide receiver sets where he might not be on the field. So I think that we would welcome David being back. It would be a good boost to our receiver corps.
Q. When did he find out that he wasn't playing?
COACH WEIS: We talked about it on game day. We talked about it before -- right until game day because sometimes, like even with Mo Crum, Mo Crum dressed last week, went out there for a few plays and said he couldn't go. It was like that close. Mo Crum was that close, David was probably about that close, too.
The differences, when you go through a whole week, I've never been big on guys not practicing and then playing in a game without having really experienced any of the new wrinkles that you practiced that week in practice. With some players you're willing to give it a shot, but I think both those players not playing last week will give them a chance to play this week.
Q. Talking about the green jerseys not being a surprise to the guys, do you think the guys still get psyched up wearing those?
COACH WEIS: I think it's cool. I think they're ugly, they think they're cool. I think that any throwback jersey definitely is unique, and it's something that I'm sure it'll be a hot commodity in a book store relatively quickly because I think that any time you have a throwback thing, it's something that just hasn't been around.
When I showed it to them, I figured it was going to be an emphatic no. I brought them in here, here's this, do you want to wear it? Yeah, yeah. I said, you've got to be kidding me. It was unanimous. The captains, they couldn't have been any more fired up about it.
I told them at the time that we're going to say it now, get it out of the way now, let everyone know that we're doing it, and I think there will be a lot of people that like it. I like the new green jerseys that we wore last year. I like the color of those. But I got outvoted on this one.
Q. Did you have a reaction when you were sitting in the stand? Were you like, my God, those are ugly jerseys?
COACH WEIS: I was mad at Terry Urich to be honest with you for not telling me because he knew. He was one of the few people who knew because the captains knew, and this is one of my better friends in college. So at the time I said, okay, I get it.
Because we went to the pep rally the night before and Digger kept on talking about the green machine, and I said, what the heck is he talking about? We don't wear green. Digger was obviously in on it. That's a shocker that the whole free world didn't know (laughter).
Q. After the game two years ago you took no solace in how great a game it was. Looking back, I know you were never happy with a loss, but can you appreciate just how great a game that was?
COACH WEIS: It was a great game. The problem is you hate to be remembered as the losing coach in an epic battle. You hate to be remembered that way. But it was a heck of a game.
If I didn't think the game was that big of a game, I wouldn't have gone out of my way to let their players know that I thought it was a heck of a game because you knew that you had been part of something special. It just wasn't just another regular season game. This was two teams going right to the end and them making a gutsy call at the end that ended up paying off. You've got to give it to them. Got to give it to the coach, got to give it to the quarterback, because it was ultimately his decision. You've got to give it to the running back for helping aid them in getting in there, a heads-up play.
I can whine all I want, but it was a heck of a game. I just wish it would have ended the other way.
Q. I assume you didn't check again with a psychologist this week to get them up at all?
COACH WEIS: No, if you can't get up to play USC, then I think you've got a problem.
Q. The other question I had is obviously rushing always helps. How important is it against USC which has the top ranked defense to get the rush game going?
COACH WEIS: I think the more you can keep your offense off the field, the better chance you have of winning. I think that's a very valid question because if you try to get into a score-a-thon with the lack of production we're having, especially this year on offense, but even in the past, if you try to get a score-a-thon with them, it usually doesn't turn out too well. So the more you control the ball, the better chance you have of winning the game.
Q. Is that what you saw when you watched the USC-Stanford game? What did you see? Are there things you'll be able to replicate?
COACH WEIS: I saw Stanford make a couple of lay-up big plays where they threw the ball up for grabs a couple times and they made a couple of hellacious catches. I think for the most part USC has got the game under control. It was 23-14 with five minutes to go in the game, and it looked like the game was over. All of a sudden they make a couple plays, you turn the ball over. I think they threw four picks that day. No matter how good you are, you throw four interceptions, you've got a good chance of losing.
Q. With the amount of running backs they have and the people they're putting back there, does it matter who's back there how you defend?
COACH WEIS: Oh, it definitely matters because they're different type of running backs. They're not the same. You talk about Washington and you talk about let's say Joe McKnight. They might have the same offense, it's just like -- that's like in the modern day vernacular, compare them to LenDale and Reggie. That's how different the two backs are. Washington is a lot more like LenDale and Joe is a lot more like Reggie. When the different backs are on there, there's definitely a change.
Q. You mentioned their ability to throw to the fullback, their ability to throw to the tight end. The fact that they can spread you out with so many different weapons, how much pressure does that put on your linebackers for this week because they're almost going to --
COACH WEIS: It really puts -- if you have a fullback that can catch and a tight end who can stretch the field vertically that's averaging over 17 yards a catch, along with two big wide receivers, and that doesn't include the two fast guys in Hazelton and McKnight -- not Hazelton and McKnight, Hazelton and Johnson, when you add the two speed guys in there. There's some serious match-up problems.
Q. The game against Stanford, psychologically for your team, is there a benefit to that, that these guys have been beaten and there's a way that it can be done?
COACH WEIS: Absolutely. They've seen that team lose at home. I think that any time you have evidence, any time you have evidence that -- it's one thing when you're trying to get them into vision how you think the game is going to go. It's another one when they actually can see it go that way. Stanford kept on plugging, they kept on plugging, next thing you know they kick a field goal and they're down by six, and the next thing you know they get four shots from the end zone and they throw the ball and the guy makes a fabulous catch and now you win.
Q. It's clear that you have some guys that haven't been patient with playing time and decided to seek that elsewhere, but with Evan, what is it about his personality that's kept him patient, at a position of quarterback where guys seem to be the least patient as you look around the country?
COACH WEIS: I think he's been patient because he knows that when we judge a quarterback, we judge him based off of evidence, not by popularity contest. I can show him what I'm talking about rather than just tell him that. And I think that he knows that he continued to close the gap, and now is his time. I think that he's really excited to go make the most of this opportunity because I think he's waited his time and now his time has come, and I think he's pretty fired up.
Q. You mentioned the difference between being hurt and being injured. What is that exactly and --
COACH WEIS: If you're injured you can't play. If you're hurt, you're hurt. There's a lot of guys right now seven games in that you could list -- if this were the NFL and you were listing an injury report, you would probably have ten guys probable, ten guys questionable and five guys doubtful every week because there's different degrees of what's wrong with you. I mean, there isn't one guy at this stage of the year that feels great. Maybe Evan, he's been hit the least. Hopefully we'll be saying that Saturday after the game is over, though.
Q. When you're evaluating Jimmy, how much does that factor in for Saturday whether he's probable, doubtful?
COACH WEIS: No, whoever is playing, plays. Questionable still means you're playing. It's when they can't go, they can't go. Now Jimmy can play; I don't think he can play as good as Evan, that's why Evan is going to quarterback.
Q. I think you said that you're not going to single out players and there's a lot of reasons why thing are going the way they're going. Did you talk to the team about we're making a quarterback change but there are a lot of other issues here?
COACH WEIS: No, I just tell them -- I don't give them any other issues, I just say Evan is going to start at quarterback. It's just like every other announcement. To me that's just about like saying you're starting at right guard this week. I don't put the quarterback as any bigger than any other position. Geoff Price is the punter. I mean, to the team that's the way it should be because I shouldn't tell the team that any one position is any more important than the position they play.
Q. Is the psychological approach more of a concern at the college level than it might have been in the pros?
COACH WEIS: No, I think the biggest thing, the difference between an 18-year-old and a 23-year-old. I mean, there's a big difference between the two of them. When you're dealing with an 18-year-old kid fresh out of high school versus a 23-year-old man who's been here for five years, there's a big difference in maturity level. Their bodies might be the same, okay, but their experiences are not the same.
I think that's -- you deal with that in the NFL, okay, but the rookies, they learn to get on board in a hurry because it's a business. Here it's more of a game.
Q. I wanted to ask just a general question about how much the team and the program has changed since the epic against USC two years ago and why.
COACH WEIS: Well, we've gone through significant changes personnel-wise. That game we had a fairly veteran -- very veteran offensive line, we had a veteran tight end, we had veteran receivers, we had a veteran quarterback, and we had a guy that had been starting for a few years at running back.
At defensive line we had a veteran defensive line. Linebackers for that game were two seniors and a sophomore, and in the secondary we had a couple kids who have gone on to fortunately make it to the NFL from that team, as well. So probably more than anything else there's been -- like every program, okay, a significant transition. But the problem is the transition has been mainly to younger guys, not to another group of juniors and seniors. Although we have some very strong leaders in our upper classmen, there's significantly more younger guys involved in the mix now than there were at that time.
Q. Just quickly, could you address your young outside linebackers Neal and Smith?
COACH WEIS: I can't talk enough about how -- I keep on saying how the arrow is pointing up on them. It's not just because they get on the field and they make a few plays. It's because they play this game with passion, and I think that any time you play the game with passion and have some athleticism, okay, you have a chance to be something special, and I think that both those guys have a chance to be. When it's all said and done, by the time they leave here, they'll be household names.
End of FastScripts