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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 11, 2007
COACH WEIS: I was just having that conversation with Brian. I said that I knew one of the questions would come up, do I have any update on it. Most of these guys don't come in until about 11:00 o'clock with Jim and the other three doctors about 20 after 1:00 right after we get done with this.
Q. One of the defensive bright spots had to be Trevor Laws, 17 tackles?
COACH WEIS: You know, got, he's got about 100 tackles for the year. It seems like every game he's eight or nine tackles, and I think that yesterday a lot of the tackles that he made would have been potentially really big plays if he doesn't make the tackle. So not only was he making the plays but he was preventing some big gainers in the game.
Q. You talked about the teaching analogy yesterday. Have you thought about or discussed at all the fact that the first two years here you had guys that had already been here for a long time, and you kind of polished off what they had. Do you think maybe the biggest challenge or the failure is getting the high school kids up to the level from where they were when they came in? Using a teaching analogy, from high school, you talked at the graduate level with Brady and all those guys, but getting from the high school up to the undergrad?
COACH WEIS: I think that's a good question. I think what I talked about with the staff this morning was -- you go back from your past and everything, but I said that -- I tried to talk to them the way -- I try not to overdo the Parcells and Belichick analogies, but I explained to them that when I was a younger coach, Parcells always used to say to me when I would say at a game like something would have gone wrong at a game, and I would say, well, Coach, I told them 1,000 times, and he would always say, well, you should have told them 1,001. Really the message that he was saying is that in a classroom that you go into, there are different levels of experience and football intelligence, and whenever we talked about the term, just pure intelligence, it would be football intelligence, because there's some guys that you can say something to once and they get it, whereas there's other guys -- even sometimes experienced guys need -- don't have the highest level of football intelligence.
So what he always used to teach us is that you had to find whoever the lowest level of football intelligence was in a classroom and try to gear all your teaching to him because if he could get it, then usually everyone else would be able to get it, too. So obviously part of the breakdown, to go back to answer the main part of your question, is the fact that we have to start gearing to make sure that everyone from the bottom up, whoever might end up playing in the game, is getting it, because if they're not, whether it's an experienced player or inexperienced player, then that's just not good enough.
Q. I guess the problem here at this point in the season is teaching that -- in the short amount of time left is a pretty big challenge?
COACH WEIS: Well, one of the problems is some of those breakdowns mentally were not from the younger players. You know, they were from experienced players. So it would be one thing if you had that cop-out, well, it was just a freshman making a mistake. But when it's an older kid and making a mistakes or more experienced guy making a mistake, that goes back to the message that I was taught that, you know, you've got to find a way to get that done on a week-to-week basis. You've got to find a way to get that done so you're not dealing with the same issue next Sunday when we get together.
Q. You talked a little bit about it last night. You talked about how different the personalities are from an 18-year-old to a 23-year-old. Obviously you're talking about freshmen and fifth-year guys. Given what your numbers look like, I don't know if chemistry is the right word, but how much has it hurt not really having a real bridge between the 23-year-olds and sort of the younger guys?
COACH WEIS: Well, there's still guys in every class that kind of have that natural -- that wave from the oldest guys to the younger guys. But for example, you get a guy like Maurice Crum, who's a fourth-year guy here, who goes out of his way to spend time with the freshmen. He goes out of his way to spend time with them. Not that everyone doesn't spend time with the young guys, but he goes out of his way. He's always around Brian Smith and he's always around Kerry Neal, and the other guy he's around all the time is Harrison Smith, and he's not even playing. You have certain guys that do it naturally, and Mo Crum would be like one of those guys.
So I don't think that there's any shortage of communication going on between older guys and younger guys. I think that it's just that there's not a lot of one grade all playing together. So it's not like you're playing 24 of these or 12 of those. You know, it's spread more across the board, which is a little bit unusual to be playing so many of the different classes within one team.
Q. I asked you last week why the skeptics should believe that the team can move forward and turn the corner and get back on track. Why should the skeptics believe that Charlie Weis is the man to get that done?
COACH WEIS: Well, they have to believe what they want to believe. The most important thing when you come into a program, you have to have a plan in place how you're going to get it from where you think it is to where you want it to go. You have to have a plan in place. And I think that it's important to stick to the plan, to not waver. Even when there's bumps in the road you have to stick to the plan. Once you've had the chance to implement that plan, at that point is when people can determine whether or not you are or you're not. But you have to think that when you get to that point, people will know one way or another.
Q. And do you have a time projection, a time frame on when you think you will be at that point?
COACH WEIS: Well, you're still in the low 70s on scholarships right now. You'd like to be sitting at that 85 mark, and we're getting close. This year should about get us to that spot. We haven't been there yet. We've been in the 70s. That's why I've been able to give so many walk-on scholarships the last couple years and still have extra roster spots on top of it. Whereas I told the team next year we're only going to have one walk on scholarship. You're looking to go up to 84. Once you get to that point you have a greater volume of athletes to deal with, and I think that that gives you more potential, more versatility.
Q. Just following up a little bit on Tom's question, you mentioned football intelligence and there's different levels of that. How about with your younger players, too, maybe what you're getting from their high school coaching, are there uneven levels of experience in terms of what they're going to see at the college level?
COACH WEIS: That's definitely true. There's guys that come from different programs, from different places. You'll go into some places where there's 17 guys on the staff, and you'll go to other places where there's four guys on the staff. And sometimes when you go to the places where there's a very low number of guys on the staff, the good players aren't the ones that get most of the time coaching because you've got to get all the rest of the guys ready to go.
But that's what our job is, is to take this variety of people, regardless of their background and the programs that they come from. Obviously we think they're good enough athletically, or else we wouldn't have offered them a scholarship to come here. It's a question of how quick you can progress those guys to get to even.
Q. I was reading something by Bill Curry yesterday, and he was talking about no one likes losing, but there are opportunities in losing, and once you get it in your rear view mirror I guess you can appreciate it more. One of the things he said that there are things you'll do as a coach because of losing that you wouldn't have done otherwise, and he means positive things, that he made positive changes in his coaching. Have you seen some of those things in yourself this year?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, I think that as -- besides -- first of all, you have to be able to weather the storm, you know what I'm saying? Because no one wants to be part of a program that's losing, you know, to come in -- you come in on Sunday, you have to go through that, here are the stats, how are you going to handle the team. But what it really makes you to do is do a deeper level of thinking than you've done in the past because in the past you'd just do it a certain way and just do it that way and just stick to that way.
I said it last week, and I think I used the word dogmatism last year, and I really think it causes you or creates you to be not so much forward thinking but more open-minded towards different ways of getting it done better, whereas in the past you might say, this is the way we're going to do it, this is the way we're going to do it. I think more than anything else, it makes you, just as the team changes, makes you to -- forces you to make some changes, as well.
Q. There seems to be a part of the seniors that want to leave and still leave an imprint on the program. They don't talk about it as much now as they did early in the season, but I still think they want to do that. What do you think their imprint and their gift to this program is?
COACH WEIS: I think that the number one thing that the older guys -- and I met with all of the fifth-year guys last Friday afternoon a little bit before we had our walk-through, and I think that every one of them wants to leave going out fighting, you know. Whereas every week you come in and people want to say, well, are you going to lose the team, how's the team. And I think that they feel that that responsibility is -- a good portion of that responsibility is on their shoulders to go out swinging here for the last few games. Especially with this being the last game they're ever playing in this stadium this week, followed the next week by the last game they're ever playing, period, I think that that's the two things that are remaining on their history at Notre Dame, and I can tell you from -- I talked to Brady Friday night, and one of the things that he always has a bad taste in his mouth by leaving here the last couple games of his career being losses, and I think that these guys would like the last couple games of their career, even though they're not as significant as playing in a Bowl game, I would think they'd want their last game at home and the last game of their career being wins.
Q. You talked about the disconnect between the classroom to the practice field and then the game field. Are you saying that on the practice field they are consistently performing to the level that you expect, and then in a game it just doesn't materialize?
COACH WEIS: I think that we have fewer -- remember, practice is more segmented, and they don't get the whole plethora of things thrown at them at the same time. But usually the execution on the practice field has been at a much higher level than the related games that are to follow. I'd say that's definitely true. And that's one of the confusing things that you have.
Whereas, okay, we've got it, we put this in, we went and did it and it looks like we've got it, we've got it, and then you come out there -- there were three sacks or turned three guys in the first quarter of the game last week that were very simple schematic things that we practiced multiple times.
Now, you can say whatever you want. Obviously we didn't practice them enough. But these were things that were fundamental -- here's what they're going to do, fellows, and then they went and did it. It isn't like you just practiced it once, we practiced it 20 times. We've got it, here they come, oh, we don't have it. That ultimately falls back on me. You feel deficient in that because you see it coming, you say we've got this nailed and we don't have it nailed. That's a bit confusing.
Q. Early in the year, I think mainly in the preseason, you talked about how you had a little bit of a different approach with this team because it was younger and that you were showing more patience. As you reflect back upon that, should you have handled it differently? I'm sure you've thought about all of that.
COACH WEIS: I haven't shown that much patience as the year went on. Don't think just because I've acted like I'm mild mannered that that's exactly the way it goes, because it's not quite that way.
Q. You've talked about preparation, all the things that you've done. When you look back from an Xs and Os standpoint, has that been handled the way -- do you have second -- I'm sure there are individual plays along the way there, but from an Xs and Os standpoint, are you satisfied with the direction that you've gone throughout the season?
COACH WEIS: Well, going back, I'm going to connect this with a question you asked yesterday where we were talking about consistency. We probably have -- I can't talk about how many personnel groups or formations or temperaments or modes of operation we've been in on both sides of the ball. I can't give you the exact number. But I think that we've kept -- we keep on searching on a week-to-week basis to find things that are answers. So it isn't like I don't feel like we've used a whole library full of information.
What I think that we haven't been able to do is come up with the right answers at the right time, and I think that that's what we haven't been able to do. It hasn't been by the volume of things we've tried to do; they just haven't had enough of the right answers at the right time.
Q. I take it you saw Trevor kick the flag because you had a conversation with him on the sidelines?
COACH WEIS: I had a conversation with him, and I really told him that as much as he's hurting the team, he's hurting himself. Very calmly, I wasn't hammering him. I said, now, you're about ready to leave this place and go on to play in the NFL. I know there's 32 teams out here and they're watching you do this right now. This was not raise my voice, but he just knew that he lost his composure. He did it out of frustration. Maybe he just wanted to see that guy kick the ball through the uprights on the kickoff.
The kid is playing his butt off. He's played his butt off all year long. He's given us every penny of his worth. He's worked his butt off all year long. Did he make a mistake right there by kicking the flag? You betcha. But I was just explaining to him as you're moving forward in your career you're always being evaluated by how you act as well as by what you do.
Q. The flag was right there, he just couldn't resist?
COACH WEIS: It just seemed like the thing to do. As a matter of fact, if I would have been out there I might have kicked it myself, but I wasn't out there.
Q. Last thing, you always talk about how you go week to week, and I'm sure you handle it that way. But at some point, everybody is human. Does it begin to have a cumulative effect, even on you?
COACH WEIS: It bothers me with Maura and Charlie as much as anything else because when you leave home, I'm like everybody else. You bring work home with you and you have to deal with how down your wife is and how down your son is. Realistically I've been able to find the one thing to hold onto each week. Like this week the one thing to hold onto is it's the seniors' last home game. That's not phony. It's their last home game. So that's something to hold onto.
So one thing I will do today, and I've already told the staff, is we're going to get in here at 2:00 o'clock and I'm going to have all the seniors stand up, all the fourth- and fifth-year guys will all stand up, and there's a whole bunch of walk-ons that are seniors, so there's going to be a bunch of people stand up. Then I'm going to talk to how they want to end out their home career, and then I'm going to tell everyone who's not a senior how it's their responsibility to make sure they go out with a win. It gives me something to grasp for this week.
As long as you have something to hold onto, you can hold everything together. It would be a lot different if you didn't have something to hold onto.
Q. Talking to some of the players yesterday, while they want to play the last two games, they said they are also looking forward to the off-season to take a step back and try to get things fixed without the week-to-week grind. Are you looking forward to that, as well?
COACH WEIS: I'm looking forward to going on the road recruiting after we play the next two games because the next thing I need to do is get more players in here. So I'm not looking forward to any time off. I'm going to hit the road and I'm going to hit it hard.
Q. But are you looking forward to getting out of the week-to-week preparation grind where you can take more of a big picture view?
COACH WEIS: That recruiting is not getting out of the grind now. That might be hitting it even harder. I mean, that's -- I don't exactly keep myself on a loose schedule during that time frame.
The one thing when I'll have a little time to reflect will be when the dead period comes the week before Christmas. That will be the time where I can look back and reflect on that. But it's got to be full speed ahead come Sunday after Stanford.
Q. You said Mo was a guy, kind of a bridge leader type of player. Do you feel like you have enough of those? Do you feel like you have less than what you had last year?
COACH WEIS: Well, on defense I think that there's some really, really natural leaders, even with Zibby going ahead and going. I think David Bruton is a natural leader, I think Pat Kuntz is a natural leader. I already mentioned Mo Crum being a natural leader. The biggest question is really going to be who will be the leaders that rise on the other side of the ball because if you really think about it, with Travis and Sully and John all gone, it's really going to be a different thing on the offensive side of the ball to see who rises to that -- because I think that leadership is something inherent. You can't feign that.
I think on defense I'm pretty sure that we've got some good leadership there. On offense it's going to be interesting to see how it all pans out.
Q. I think I asked you last week about going into the locker room after the game and seeing if the guys hurt or they're glazed over, and that would be a red flag if you saw that. What did you kind of see yesterday?
COACH WEIS: They saw more of me than I saw of them.
Q. And Kamara, do you expect him --
COACH WEIS: He'll be playing this week. Sometimes you've just got to stick by your conviction of what's really important. We're going to toe the line. That's just the way it's going to be.
Q. And the other freshman receiver, Golden, where is his development?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, he played some of the game yesterday. He had a handful of plays. We've started to rep him more with the big guys. He spent half the week being number one and then half the week practicing up. He continues to get closer and closer to being a contender for regular time.
Q. You talked about getting a win for the seniors, how much it means to them obviously in their last home game. Can you just put in perspective obviously, their fifth year, if they were to go out without a win at home, what that might mean for them?
COACH WEIS: I'd rather not think that way. I'd rather think that we go out and beat Duke. I'd rather envision us beating Duke and them going around the field one time like we've done the last couple years and then being able to thank the fans for all their support. Let's face it, with how this year's gone, most other places there would be a lot less people up in the stands at the end of the game, and you have to give a lot of credit not only to our student body but to the fans for being there showing support.
Rather than think about the negative like that, I'd like to think about them winning the last home game, beating Duke and walking around and thanking the fans for their support, which the fans deserve a little kudos for their support, and I'd rather think of it that way.
Q. You talked yesterday about the teacher-student analogy stuff, that sort of being a disconnect there; there were a bunch of dropped passes which would suggest perhaps a lack of concentration from the guys; and then you mentioned today that during the practice things seemed to be okay. Does that suggest to you that they are still listening to you, that they are still hearing your message?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think when you drop eight passes in a game, which was what I recorded us down, and we probably didn't have eight drops in the week when we practiced outdoors two out of three days, there's no correlation on that one right there. I don't see how that has anything to do with listening to me. Either you catch the ball or you drop the ball. I don't know how that has anything to do with listening.
But I will give you that when you practice blitz pickup, for example, and you think you've got it nailed and then you go out to the game and you don't have it nailed, you only have two ways to look at it. You can sit there and say, well, the players screwed it up, or we obviously didn't get it across to them. So I'd rather choose the latter rather than the former.
Q. It stands to reason that the guys are worn down to some point just by virtue of the way things have gone. Do you think they're still involved? Do you think they're still invested in hearing what you have to say, regardless of the results?
COACH WEIS: I'd say yes because one of the things you brought up was about dropped balls. Your initial question, I don't know how dropped balls has anything to do with listening.
Q. But in terms of concentration, in terms of being prepared for a game, in terms of very focused in, I would think maybe that would play in some regards to your concentration on catching a ball. Trying to get to a more macro thing about whether you think at this point the players are still invested in hearing what you have to say, even regardless of what happens, even if they mess up here and there?
COACH WEIS: Well, I'll selfishly answer that I think they are. But you'll have plenty of opportunity this week to ask them. It isn't like I'm going to shut them out from talking to you. I'll think that they are vested, and you can follow that up and ask them.
Q. We talked about this earlier in the season, and some of it is hard to see it on TV and it's hard to follow in the game when you're watching the ball. But it seems like sometimes when the quarterbacks the last two weeks have had time to throw, they're really struggling to find an open receiver downfield, and I guess I'm wondering what you're seeing when you watch your film as far as are guys having trouble getting open or kind of what's going on downfield?
COACH WEIS: I don't know. The second half yesterday Jimmy was 17 for 29 for about 200 yards and about six dropped balls. I think there were a lot of guys open, and he was getting it to them.
Q. And in the first half against Navy?
COACH WEIS: We didn't throw the ball very many times in the first half. I think we might have thrown it about 11 times or so in the first half, and some of those were look passes because it was a heavy dose of James in the first half. It was a little bit more ball control. As the game went on I was forced to open it up significantly by how the game was going.
Q. How do you feel about the development of the young kind of receiving corps as a group?
COACH WEIS: I wasn't happy with the volume of dropped balls yesterday. That's for sure. And then Duval didn't play yesterday so I can't really evaluate him coming off his two-touchdown performance of the week before. So I'd say very consistent with my message I've been talking about, I'd say very inconsistent.
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