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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 6, 2007
COACH WEIS: Well, Air Force, Coach Calhoun, returned to his alma mater this year after being at Texas as the offensive coordinator. He had been there from '89 to '94, his first season as the head coach there and doing pretty well.
One stat that kind of socks you in the face is that when they have a player rush for over 100 yards, they're 7 and 0, and they're 6 and 1 when they out-rush their opponents, which we'll get to that 273 yards a game rushing that they do.
On the flipside is when they're 0 and 3 when they don't have a player rush for 100 yards. Coach Horton, he took over as the offensive coordinator, another guy who spent six years at Air Force from '99 to 2005. He was with K State last year. He also coaches the wide receivers.
This year they've outscored their opponents in every quarter, rushing for 273 a game, which is over five yards a carry, fourth in the country in rushing. They also throw for 122 per game, averaging just over a little over 395 a game with 5.7 per play.
This is another team that goes for it long on 4th down. They've gone for it 18 times, converted 12 times, 67 percent.
Last week they rushed for 437 yards, threw for another 105 for 542 total, 7 yards a play, held the ball for over 35 minutes and didn't give up a sack.
Normally when I start talking about a team's offense I always start with their quarterback, and I'll talk about Shaun Carney here in a second. He's been there forever.
I think their whole offense starts with Chad Hall. He's played 33 games, he's played 32 starts. He's the only player in the country that leads his team in both rushing and receiving, and in addition to that he'll return punts and kicks. Last year he started every game at running back, but this guy does everything. Last week he had 34 carries for 275 and a touchdown, 333 all-purpose yards, which is the most, I believe, in Air Force history. He rushed for over 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns, over 7 yards a carry, 112 yards a game.
In addition, here's the problem. He also winds up at wide receiver as well as running back, and he leads the team in receiving with 41 catches. He makes their offense go. He's their go-to guy in the running game and the pass game, he'll line up a running back, line up at quarterback, line up at wide receiver. They're going to get the ball in his hands. He accounts for about half their offense.
He's one of many seniors that play for them. They have a very experienced team, and they play that way. Their quarterback Shaun Carney, he's been starting now for four years, and he's been starting since he was a freshman. Last week he was 9 and 12 for 105 yards and a 48-yard touchdown pass. He also ran eight carries for 53 and a touchdown. He's completed 63 percent of his passes. The kid has got a strong arm, but he's also the second leading rusher on that team. He's a good athlete, a good runner, he's got good quicks, and I think he's fairly accurate, especially when he's on the run.
They play four halfbacks, three seniors and a freshman, Ollis, McCarthy and Smith are the seniors and Stephens is the freshman. That's when Hall is not the halfback. Because as I told you last week, he's got the ball in his hands a whole bunch, so he's got -- those other four guys, they're touching the ball when Hall is not touching it. They have two seniors fullbacks, Williams and Newell, a senior tight end in Dekker. I think that they're really well -- at wide receiver, in addition to Hall, Quintana is usually the other guy, but you can see Root and Paffett and Armstrong in there, as well.
I think what they're really confident in on offense is they've got a lot of experienced players that seem to have a nice chemistry going.
On the offensive line, Williams, their left tackle, and Charles, their left guard, now for example, last week Charles started every game at left guard this season, but he started last week at left tackle, and Lusk came in and started at left guard. Guenther is their center and Morris is at right guard and Lusk is at right tackle. Although, as I said, last week there were some different combinations that we haven't seen so far this year.
Tim DeRuyter is their defensive coordinator, also coaches their safeties. They're only giving up 18 and a half points a game and 3 and a half per carry and had 21 sacks. Last week was their high point. Besides only giving up ten points, they gave up 63 yards, but it was .7 yards per rush, 164 passing, 181 on the day. That's only 3.1 per play. They held them on 3rd down, held them on 4th down and had three sacks.
Their defensive line, basically they're a 3-4 personnel grouping with Garland, Marvin and Kemp as the three linemen. Marvin is on the nose. They play with four linebackers. Rabold is their strong side, their Sam linebacker. He's definitely the most experienced, although three out of the four of these linebackers are all seniors and a junior. But Rabold, he's played 33 games and has 22 starts. He's definitely one of the most productive players on their defense.
The other outside linebacker is Altman, the two inside guys are Shanor and Fowler. I think not so much in the defensive line but the linebackers in the secondary, okay, they're playing with a bunch of guys with a lot of experience and they're playing with some confidence.
You know, for example, defensive back, Byrd starts as the boundary corner and Rybak starts as the field corner, and both these guys have been playing and starting forever, which is a good testament to their consistency. Thomas is a strong safety and Giannini is the weak safety.
On special teams, I'm going to get back to Hall again, but Harrison handles all their kicking. He's the kickoff guy, he's the field goal guy, he's the punter, he handles it all. Howley is their long snapper and Norman is the short snapper. The guy who's the holder is also the backup punter. You'll see Rembert a little bit on kickoff returns, but really they want to get the ball to Hall.
Q. You talked a little bit about it last week, but could you kind of revisit, can you take anything away from maybe trying to defend Air Force? There are some similarities I'm assuming.
COACH WEIS: Well, I think the one thing against Navy, we did a pretty good on the inside run. We didn't do as good a job on the outside run. This is a team that likes to get to the edge. So you have to look at from their perspective first of all, they're going to look at Navy getting to the edge, and I think that's going to be the one challenge we have this week is to make sure we set the edge on the running game.
Q. What have you seen from the guys so far now having had a chance to be around them a little bit?
COACH WEIS: Well, obviously they were -- on Sunday the spirits were lifted up the way they always are. Yesterday was amazing about the number of guys on the players' day off that came over to this building because we don't request them to come over here on their day off. But I must have seen 90 percent of the team over here yesterday, you know, looking to do more, to do their part, trying to find a way to get things right.
Q. As far as you working through them or working with them this week, any kind of tweaks to practice or anything?
COACH WEIS: No, we're going to go inside today. Obviously looking at the weather, this looks like it's the worst day of the week. It looks like game day is supposed to be much better than it is today. It looks like low 50s, breezy, partly sunny on Saturday. So I don't think today would be a good resemblance of what we're going to do, so we'll do that inside today. But I think that one thing, when you practice on field turf instead of practicing on grass that could be a little sloppy is usually the tempo of practice is considerably up, so that will have a double positive for me.
Q. Have you made a decision on your starting quarterback?
COACH WEIS: We haven't practiced yet, but they're both in the running. You know, I'll definitely let you know this week when we get to that point, but they're both in the running.
Q. Is it something that you think you're going to wait until Thursday or you might make a decision today?
COACH WEIS: We haven't practiced one snap yet, so I can't answer that question yet. As soon as we have it, I'll let you know.
Q. At the beginning, after watching Jimmy be the starter the second week, you said you didn't want to play a physical quarterback. Are you worried it kind of seems that way? If Jimmy becomes the starting --
COACH WEIS: Well, the kid is banged up, the other kid is not banged up, so you play the kid who's healthy. There's a difference between pulling people for how they play, healthy versus banged up. I think that's a little different than what we're talking about at the beginning of the year. But I understand your point.
Q. And what are you going to look for out of either quarterback that's going to tell you that he's the guy?
COACH WEIS: Is that a rhetorical question? Whoever plays the best. That's what you look for. It really is not that difficult. Sometimes you make it more difficult than it is, just whoever plays the best.
Q. How much leeway do your young quarterbacks have to change a play at the line of scrimmage, for example, the last play of the game, the two-point conversion. If they have 11 men in the box do you want Evan making a change at that point, or has he not developed --
COACH WEIS: On the goal line there's always 11 men in the box, on every goal line snap. There's never not 11 in the box because the ball is on the 3-yard line. Every goal line snap when you put in three tight ends and two backs, there's always 11 in the box. You're running the ball against 11 in the box. Okay, we have in our system for the quarterbacks at this time, okay, some latitude on play calling, and some plays there's no latitude. But on a goal line play there's never any latitude. You never have a checkoff from this play to that play.
Q. You compare that, obviously very different with Brady Quinn at quarterback last year?
COACH WEIS: On a goal line play there would still be no latitude. On a goal line play you're already assuming that all those bodies are going to be there, and the bottom line is you need to push the pile more than they push the pile. We're talking on just that last play, on every goal line play with the exception of that one, the pile was pushed pretty well. But on that play you'll notice as you watch it the line of scrimmage came this way instead of going that way.
Q. How did you evaluate Ian Williams' performance?
COACH WEIS: I was very pleased with Ian Williams' performance. I can't say I was surprised, but going into the game we thought that we were going to have to play him some more because of all the chop blocks that go on. We thought he was going to have to get more action and rest Pat some. We didn't realize that Pat was going to get banged up and he was going to have to play so much, but I thought he handled it and played pretty well.
Q. He has 30 tackles and a very limited amount of playing time. That's abnormal production from a nose tackle, isn't it?
COACH WEIS: That's a very, very high number.
Q. Do you see with Pat Kuntz coming back next year and an influx of young defensive linemen, does Pat Kuntz have the same skill set where he can make the same transition that maybe Trevor Laws made from last year to this year?
COACH WEIS: Well, either he can make it or somebody else will be able to make it. What we're not going to do is get three or four deep at one position of good football players. We'll move people accordingly to make sure we get the best guys out there. But somebody is going to move. We're not going to get stacked four deep at nose tackle, and if those players are players we want on the field, we'll find whoever has the most versatility and get them to that position.
Q. You said 90 percent of the guys came by on Monday. What is it normally like on a Monday? Is that more typical?
COACH WEIS: We're kind of buried in game planning, so we get going early. But usually they come by, they'll come by and some of them will get a workout in, some will get treatment. But more than normal, they're a lot more around the coaching staff. They want to get tape to watch on their own because we can't watch tape with them because it's a day off, so we leave them alone. So there were a lot of guys that kind of wanted to just hang around yesterday, which I think that's a good thing.
Q. When you saw them on Sunday, was it the first time where you didn't really know what you were going to see from them when you met with them?
COACH WEIS: No, I kind of expected that it was going to be what I've seen after the other games, too, which is -- as we discussed as a group in here on Sunday when we were talking, when you look at them and they don't look concerned, that's when you know you have a serious problem.
Q. Chad Hall was obviously a nice player last year but he came to be much better this year. Why is he having the performance he is?
COACH WEIS: Well, they're finding more ways to get the ball in his hands. Last year he was primarily just a running back that would get the ball. Now they're using him there, sometimes he's -- a lot of times he's at wide receiver. For example, to run the option, they have three different formations with the same -- with one personnel group, for example, they have three different formations to run an option, and in all of them, when it's all said and done, they want the ball in his hands.
Q. Was it kind of surprising to you how Ian Williams was able to play that many downs?
COACH WEIS: Well, I don't know if it was surprising that he could play that many. I was just -- we weren't counting -- going into the game you never count on somebody getting hurt. What was more pleasing than surprising was his production while he was in there. I think it might have been more surprising to him because you never count on playing as much as when you're a backup as he played in that game.
Q. How is Travis Thomas emotionally? Is he over that last play?
COACH WEIS: I don't think Travis is going to sit there and take the blame on his shoulders. He ran the ball adds hard as you could run it, and the line of scrimmage was going this way. It's a team thing. Travis -- I'm sure if the line of scrimmage was going the other way, I think Travis would have gotten in the end zone.
Q. On a different note, watching film, what have you seen from this Air Force team that's different from last year's Air Force team?
COACH WEIS: They have a different -- first of all, defensively there's a different scheme than they were using last year. Last year they weren't using this 3-4 scheme that they're using -- that they've turned into a big blitz-all team, which wasn't really the case last year. They were more a cross team. Offensively they've found more ways to get this number one the ball, both as a runner and a receiver. Last year he was just a runner, he wasn't really receiving. So I think that they have a lot of confidence -- they have a lot of confidence in their running game. The quarterback has got a nice strong arm, and defensively they've made some wrinkles that have made them much more aggressive on defense.
Q. Where are you at now as far as practice? Are you running practice on Sunday, or was it back to --
COACH WEIS: No, Sunday was watch the game, run and lift and go to class. That's what Sunday was.
Q. What is the rest of the week?
COACH WEIS: Today is full pass and let's go. That's what today is.
Q. How do you divide the rest for the quarterbacks, 50/50 now?
COACH WEIS: I'm not really sure how tomorrow will go. What I'll be able to do is after I get through today I'll be able to give a more definitive, definitive answer, okay, I want to be able to get through -- going back to Michael's question initially, I don't want to be evasive to you guys on the quarterbacks. I want to get through today before I get my mind with where this is going to go. But what we're not going to be doing is going 50/50 on the reps all week long. That's not the way it's going to work. It might be a little bit closer to that today, but it's not going to end up that way.
Q. I know you said that everything -- when you look at some of the stats, Clausen has been better at completions, Sharpley has a better efficiency rate. Do you look at everything? Is it a little bit of everything?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, you do look at both those things. I think the number one thing is who is going to play the best versus -- who's going to play the best for you down the stretch. I don't think what you want to be doing here is each week say, well, who's going to play the best for us against Air Force, who's going to play the best for us against Duke, who's going to play the best for us against Stanford.
I'm at the point right now where I want to win this game, and simultaneously, okay, I want to start -- I want to start building some upward momentum. So they go together.
So the decision isn't as simple as, okay, over the last half dozen weeks who's done what better. It's who gives you the best chance to win this week and the next two weeks and moving forward.
Q. Talk about setting the edge. Whose responsibility is that mainly, the linebackers, the quarterback?
COACH WEIS: It's a combination of outside linebackers and/or the force. Now, the force could either be a safety or corner based off of what the coverage is. For example, if you're playing cover two, the corners are the guys that are responsible for run force, where if you're playing cover four, the safeties are responsible for run force. So it's the outside linebackers and the force guy.
Q. Do you know what Pat Kuntz' status is?
COACH WEIS: He's considerably better than we thought he was going to be. He's going to practice some today, and then we'll just kind of see how it goes. You know, Saturday I wouldn't have known if that would be the case or not, but he is going to practice some today.
Q. Is David Bruton basically --
COACH WEIS: He's a go.
Q. The last question from me, you pressed a lot of buttons this year, switched practices and everything. Is there a time when you run out of buttons or do you worry that you pressed -- too many buttons have been pressed? Do you just go back to what you started with and just let it go?
COACH WEIS: It's funny because I asked that question myself of the staff this morning. But I think that you always have to be looking to find -- you always have to keep on plugging along to try and find a better answer. I might have been more dogmatic in the past, but I'm keeping on working towards finding a better answer. And I think that's what I'm going to keep on trying to do.
Q. With Robert's situation, do you plug in back to where he was a couple weeks ago or are you kind of reading him and seeing where he is?
COACH WEIS: I'd like to try to get him more involved, but you have to do the same thing you talked about in the question earlier, you have to wait and see if he's in a fog. If he's out there physically, you've got to see if he's going to be out there mentally. So I think that you just have to read it and you have to manage that one. It isn't like you can push it.
I've been able to start pushing him a little bit more. Like yesterday I told him to get your butt to study hall. Last week I would have never said that obviously. You're trying to get things to a more normal routine.
Q. And Sam Young, can you talk about the year he's had? He seems like a pretty resilient kid, but it also seems like he's had some tough learning moments, too.
COACH WEIS: I think he's played much better on the left side than he has played on the right side. He looks for natural both in the run game and the pass game. I think that what he's going to continue doing is as he continues getting stronger -- he's already grown into this big old body now, and as he continues getting stronger, he's going to become more dominant as time goes on. But he looks like he's settled into the position that he looks most natural at.
Q. The quarterback situation, you went to Jimmy the first time then went to Evan. Could you talk about how the dynamics are different where you need to see something in practice as opposed to being ready to play?
COACH WEIS: Well, I've already talked to both of these guys, so it isn't like -- they know that when they've been in here, things haven't gone great for either one of them. It isn't like either one of them is coming up there and saying, hey, I've done a great job, it should be me. They know that whatever we need to do to put the team in the best position to win, we'll do. Not to piggy-back on your question going back to Mike's question, but I think that I need to make sure that I get us settled for this week so that we're not going into playing that usable quarterback situation because whenever we do this, now that you've got two guys that are both pretty much at the same health here now, I think that you have to plan on doing it for the stretch, not just doing it for this week.
Q. Can you talk about Air Force's offense, the chemistry, the experienced back, a four-year starting quarterback. Is there any way to gauge how much the back-and-forth quarterback for you guys has affected your offense?
COACH WEIS: I think it only -- the only big effect was in the very beginning. But I think that after -- I want to be careful to make sure to say that in no way am I placing at fault on like Demetrius or anything like that. That's how we felt was the best chance we had to win the first game. That's what we felt. But now as we've settled in, really it was a point where Jimmy was really playing the best for us in practice and deserved to be the guy, and then when it got to the point where he was a little worn out, he no longer was as good as Evan being on the field. So sometimes they just kind of play out, and that's what you go with.
Q. It didn't happen a lot last week, but when you were able to get a negative play against Navy's offense that really took them out of what they really wanted to do. Can you put more of an emphasis on this that week, or is that one of those double-edged-sword things?
COACH WEIS: No, I think it's important to get them into more 2nd and longs. I think when you get a team get into 2nd and 6, 2nd and 5, 2nd and 4, you're really playing from behind.
Q. Do you have to take more chances and do that again this week?
COACH WEIS: Well, you have to take chances, yeah. You to have to take chances.
Q. Kind of a follow-up to the quarterback situation, you had said against Navy that you had hoped to play both quarterbacks and that you don't see a lot of separation between one or the other. Is that a possibility, that both of them might get some time?
COACH WEIS: I don't think that's the way. I don't think that's the way it'll go as far as 50/50 goes. Would I play both of them in the game, I could, but there will be one lead guy. There won't be I'm playing him one quarter and him the next quarter. There won't be anything like that.
Q. I know you're getting down to kind of the finishing touches on recruiting, but would you be willing to use another scholarship on a kicker this year?
COACH WEIS: Well, it all depends on whether or not I think we have the answer in-house or not. I think that's something that we would not address until well past the season because we're involved with some people right now that that's an area we would address when we do evaluations of us. If we didn't think we were good enough, that's what we'd have to do. If we thought the potential were good enough, then we wouldn't go in that direction. I'm obviously going to have to replace Geoff right off the bat, and do we have' candidate in-house at that position. It's just a question of whether you want to go that route, that direction or not. So far as the kicker now, you have to decide whether or not you're content with the future of the people you have right now. I'm not ready -- I'm not there at this point.
Q. In terms of evaluation, how different is evaluating and identifying those guys as opposed to problems at any other position?
COACH WEIS: Well, with all the kicking camps, all the kicking deals that go on around the country, I mean, there's plenty of information and resources that you get on people. Usually what ends up happening is guys will end up kicking from most places, usually walk onto a place end up being the best guy and not earning a scholarship. That happens a lot. The thing is, this isn't the easiest school to get into and it's certainly not the cheapest school to go to.
So there are plenty of resources out there that you can tap in to find out where the people are. It's just a question of are they any better than what you have. I think that's the big question you've got to ask yourself when you get to that at this position.
Q. You've talked a lot in the past and even today mentioning momentum and the importance of making progress these last four games. I wonder if that progress isn't up to your satisfaction, how much do you think that could prevent you guys from getting where you want to go next year, being the team you kind of want to be next year? I mean, is there a correlation between where you kind of finished this year and the kind of team you could be next year?
COACH WEIS: Well, that's a fair question. I really don't know for sure what the answer is to the question. But you'd like to think that the chances of things moving in the right direction in the spring would be greatly aided by a strong rally down the stretch. You'd have to think that that would be the most logical answer you could get.
Now, that being said, there's no rule that says that how you play in the last three games is going to have anything to do with San Diego State, but I think the better you play down the stretch, the more information you have going into the spring.
End of FastScripts