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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 13, 2007
COACH WEIS: A few things about Duke, Coach Roof, their head coach also is their defensive coordinator. Peter Vaas, who also was with us here for the last couple years, is their offensive coordinator, and they're throwing the ball pretty well. They're averaging over 213 yards a game passing.
Nice strong arm quarterback by the name of Thaddeus Lewis; he's thrown a touchdown pass in at least 12 straight games. He's a strong arm and he looks very athletic on top of it.
At halfback they really play three different guys. Boyette, he's averaging 4.3 a carry, but one thing about him is he also catches the ball well out of the backfield so you've got to be concerned about him. He runs with pretty good power. He's a north-south runner but he's also a very good receiver. Drummer showed up a lot last week against Georgia Tech and Boyle is a guy that likes to just pound you, so I think we'll see all three of those guys.
At fullback Clifford Harris has become their main fullback, but Brandon King is a guy they use to play both tight end and fullback. He's a really tough and physical guy. He work to finish, and he gives them a little versatility in their offensive package because he can play either position. Stefanow is listed as their No. 1 tight end, but you'll see King in there, as well.
Wide receiver, they have two guys that you have to mention right off the bat with Riley and Wright. Riley is kind of their go-to guy. He's got the big -- he's got nine touchdowns, 751 yards, and they'll throw it to him deep and they'll run reverses with him. He's got good speed and he's got the ability to go get it. But he actually is their second leading receiver because Wright is their leading receiver after ten games, and they use him. When they do go to three wide receiver sets they put him at slot and he gets a lot of balls. Kelly, Bell and Ringfield you will actually see at wide receiver, as well.
As far as their offensive linemen, the interesting thing is you go do research on these teams, you talk about Rumsey in the center and Goldberg, Maurides and Schirmann as guards and Roland as the other tackle, but all of them have started at least 21 career games, so it's interesting, they have a nice veteran group there.
When it goes over to the defense, Coach Roof calls the defense, Oglesby and Akinbiyi is the guy who starts as the weak side end. Now, he gives them some versatility because they like to go back and forth between a 4-3 defense and a 3-4 defense. When they play the 3-4 look, he ends up being an outside linebacker for them.
Okpokowuruk and Oghobaase are the two front line guys inside, but Respress shows up for both of those guys inside. They don't drop a beat when he ends up playing in there.
Now, their linebackers, Tauiliili, he really centers their whole defense as their middle linebacker. Both Marcus Jones and Robinson show up at Sam, and Vincent Rey really handles the Will.
In the secondary, they play a boundary corner and a field corner and they're definitely different between the two guys because at the boundary corner you've got Williams, who also comes in at the nickel package and plays in the slot, where Leon Wright is a little smaller pass guy, he's their field corner.
Their safeties, they're very, very active, Aye-Darko and Davis, they make a lot of tackles, and in the coverage scheme they get involved in run force, as well.
On special teams Coach Pearman came over to the Duke staff this year. Now, he actually had spent eight years working with Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech, and as everyone knows, Virginia Tech notoriously has one of the best special teams groups in the country.
Maggio is their place kicker, where Surgan takes care of the kickoffs, and Kevin Jones will handle the punting. The long snapper, been snapping for four years, is Hales. Their holder is Ryan Wood, and then the punt returners you're probably going to see Wright or Davis, and the kickoff return we'll probably see a combination of Marshall, Davis and Harris.
As far as our group, before you get to any questions, Sullivan, Kuntz and Sergio Brown will be out this week, they will not play, and Ragone and Price are doubtful. Anyone else that has any bumps and bruises will be all set and ready to go.
Q. You talked to the team about winning for the seniors. Is that the message that you're trying to give for this week, is that everybody owes the seniors this?
COACH WEIS: I think that that's the very clear message for both the seniors and for the underclassmen. For the seniors, they've gone through a season -- it's been a tough season, only won one game, haven't won one at home, and I think that the fan support at home has been fabulous, considering how things have went, and I think it would be a very rewarding experience for them to win their last game ever at the stadium and be able to share that moment with the fans, especially the student body.
As far as the underclassmen go, I think that they have to put any selfishness aside. You know, when you're talking about -- this isn't a game you worry about for those guys, worrying about next year. It's sending these guys out the right way.
Q. How much do you worry about a lot of times they get caught up and it might be a distraction or a negative?
COACH WEIS: It definitely is an emotional time for people. Sometimes I don't even realize how emotional it was. I watched it a little bit of the Syracuse game, was it last year or the year before, I forget which one, which was the last game. Was that two years ago or last year, Syracuse? Two years ago, so it was my first year here.
I didn't realize how emotional it would be for some guys. Sometimes you get -- just into coaching, you just do the same thing all the time. I know offensively it took us over a half just to really get anything going at all because there was a lot of guys that are going through that -- what's happened in their careers over the last four or five years. It's something that you have to try to keep them grounded.
Q. Does playing that up almost go against your general principle, just take each game as its own, and this time you're putting more emphasis on this because of when it is or what it is?
COACH WEIS: No, I think that each week you try to have a message for that game, so I think it actually plays right into that, our way of looking at it one week at a time. That happens to be the message for this game right here.
Q. You mentioned Coach Vaas. Since he was on your staff for two years and knows a lot about you, have you been in a situation where somebody that knows some of your thinking before, and do you change it or just assume that you can --
COACH WEIS: It's a little pain in the butt, to tell you the truth, because he knows the system. He knows the system very well, is a smart coach and an experienced coach and knows the system.
The one thing that you do have going for you is he also knows on a weekly basis what we did last week in all likelihood isn't what you do next week. So if you're one of those teams that just settles into something all the time, it would be a little bit more damaging. But it is a problem.
It would be especially a problem if you were doing a lot of signaling of things because then every time you signaled something, it's almost like in baseball when somebody goes to another team you have to go through a whole 'nother set of things. You really would have to create a whole 'nother set of circumstances. The only signaling we really do offensively is signaling numbers. So unless you have the number sheet and know what we're doing, that would be the only way that it could really hurt you.
Q. If you meet him after the game or midfield, any awkwardness in that?
COACH WEIS: Coach Vaas? I wish him well and I've wished him well the whole time. I wish nothing but the best for Peter and his family.
Q. The short speech with the 50th anniversary of the Oklahoma game, and talking to some of those players, they were saying that they think the '56-'57 team, they were 2 and 8, lost 40 to 0 to Oklahoma, came back the next season and beat Oklahoma. Is that something you might be able to use next year?
COACH WEIS: It's a very fair statement. As a matter of fact, Mr. Morris I think was the captain on that '56 team, who I've got to know fairly well. Through talking with him and going back to some of the history on how it was such a dramatic turnaround in such a short amount of time, I think that year they lost like 40-0 and came back and snapped -- was it 47 games? I'll use anything I can use as a lesson in life. There's a way things can happen. I think it's definitely something I would broach.
Q. I know you've said that you want to send the seniors out right this game, but for the younger guys, do they use this two weeks, maybe even more than last week, as an audition for next year?
COACH WEIS: I think the last week might have been -- well, you might even put it the last four weeks after -- the last four games after the bye for some of these guys getting to that point because once you get to the point where you're clear through the bye, you're moving to the second part of the season, I think the younger guys are trying to put themselves in a position to step up, and I think that there will be guys who will probably send us a message here in the next couple weeks of which direction they intend to go.
Not getting into one player, but it was probably one of the most enjoyable parts of my entire week, happened yesterday morning at 5:30. Yesterday morning at 5:30 I'm sitting in my office and I keep the door locked because I don't like just anyone walking in at 5:30, and my phone rings and one of the players on our team is outside. I said, oh, no, here we go again. He wants to talk to me so he knocks on my door. I thought we had another person that was looking to pack his bags and go.
And it was just the opposite. He said he hasn't slept all night. He's an under classman. He hadn't slept all night and he felt he needed to step up and take on more of a leadership role, and he was asking for some advice on how to do that. I mean, that's the type of guys you want on your team, guys that aren't sleeping because they're worrying about how they can -- he's a regular player, but how they can step up and take on more of a leadership role. I thought that was a good way to start the week.
Q. You're not saying who it was. Is there a reason for that?
COACH WEIS: No, I think it was a private conversation that he initiated, not me. But they're the type of guys -- you're talking about people stepping up down the stretch, you can step up in more than one way. It doesn't have to just be by your performance. It also can be by your leadership because as certain people leave, there's voids in leadership. It gives other people an opportunity to step up in that capacity, as well.
Q. I know you like to look week to week, but next week do you anticipate playing some of the fifth-year guys less to see what younger units might look like for next year?
COACH WEIS: I wouldn't -- let me take, for instance, John Carlson. I'm not going to take John Carlson and say, okay, your career is over now. I'm not doing that. He came back here to play. He didn't come back here to cheerlead. I think you owe him the right to play.
Q. We always talk about passing situations, but how much have blitzes on run downs and run situations affected your running game?
COACH WEIS: It affects it some. Two things happen, you know, with a blitz and run down. You either hit it right, hit it right, or you can get blown up. And it isn't just -- not just blitzes, stunts fall there just the same, because they could be rushing just four, but they could slant right into some guy missing a guy who's -- it's one thing when they're lining up on your outside shoulder and they stay on your outside shoulder. But it's another thing where you step to the outside shoulder and they come hard across your face. Let's say it's a right guard and you're protecting the B gap and all of a sudden the guy in the A gap and the ball is going in the A gap and that's the guy you're supposed to block. I think stunts and blitzes are both things that can affect the run game both positively and negatively.
Now, a lot of those things happened positively two weeks ago, where a lot of stunts and blitzes -- a lot more stunts than blitzes opened up running lanes, so that can work two ways.
Q. With Sullivan out of the lineup, who makes the Mike linebacker role?
COACH WEIS: It'll be a combination of Wanger and Jimmy. We'll start with Danny, see how it goes, and if it isn't going too well, we'll put the burden on the quarterback. We'd like to, as it goes into this off-season, put all the burden on the quarterback. But that's our plan going into practice today, that's how we plan on going.
Q. Is Mike Anello wearing No. 45 for any particular reason?
COACH WEIS: Well, actually he originally went to 45. Although I call him Rudy, that's my nickname for him, it wasn't to wear Rudy's number. It was because he was wearing the same number -- at the time he was wearing the same number as another player who he could have been on the field at the same time with in a special teams situation. So we had to move one of them to a number before the Michigan game. I forgot whose number it was, I forget what number he was in. I don't know if he was wearing 43 and it was Eric and then Eric was punting. I forget what number it was.
But you can't have two guys with the same number on the field at the same time. That's why if you remember going back to the USC game that's why Joe McKnight wore 4 and 40 because there was a DB on the team wearing No. 4, so they couldn't be on the field at the same time.
Q. Last thing from me, and this might be an ignorant question but it's nothing personal. Last week I asked you about the final play call against Navy, you're on the 1 and a half, and I mentioned something about maybe having 11 men in a box and does the quarterback have the opportunity to opt out of that. This past week you had a two-yard touchdown pass to Carlson, I believe it was the same personnel group, I believe it was the same alignment --
COACH WEIS: That was a pass call. That was a pop pass to Carlson. That was the play called. It was actually called Z pop, and he was the Z. One week helps set up the next week.
It wasn't as clean. In practice he was a lot more open than that, by the way. But that was actually a little -- it was a heck of a throw and catch, but that was just an all-out, sellout, everyone saw the play action and then throw the ball to John, and both he and Jimmy made a nice adjustment. Now you're giving away all my secrets.
Q. I suppose in a situation like that I suppose that's why you didn't cross-train Dan throughout the season. How did you feel he played last week?
COACH WEIS: Actually Danny is a much more natural center than guard, so when he plays guard, he doesn't -- let me just do it on a positive note. He's more comfortable in there. That's where he played his whole high school career, and although we'll greatly miss Sully and all he's done on and off the field for us, having a guy like that who is a natural center in there, I think this gets him into his natural position rather than being knocked over at the guard.
Q. Are you hopeful that John will be available for the finale?
COACH WEIS: I'm hoping so, but I just know he's out for this week, so let's take it one week at a time.
Q. With Sam, going back to the question I asked you Sunday about leadership, and you mentioned the offense, not really sure who's going to step up and be a leader there, is Sam a guy that could do that?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, he's a contender. See, the one thing about Sam, he's played more football than anyone else on the offensive line, once Sully leaves. Sully is such a domineering personality that you would never really notice the other guys' leadership ability while he's there because it's almost like overstepping your bounds. So it'll be kind of interesting how that matriculates after he's not there because that's exactly what you're looking for because you want to see who are those people that are going to start assuming that because I don't think leadership is something you can try to fake or create. Either you have it or you don't have it.
Now, in the offensive line position we really don't know what the answer is because Sully has really been the man all year long.
Q. As far as the season that Sam had, how would you kind of evaluate where he is now?
COACH WEIS: I think that ever since he settled -- after he moved over and then settled down or settled into the position, I think that from about the midway part of the year on, he's gotten progressively better.
Q. Comment on the expectations for him being off the chart. You described him as an NFL-looking offensive tackle when you signed him. Did you ever have to talk to him about his expectations?
COACH WEIS: Actually we're trying to get him to gain weight. How many times do you hear you're trying to get a guy who weighs 317 to gain weight, but he's actually on a program where he's drinking extra shakes and things like that. He's so big that he can carry a lot more weight than he's carrying right now. Some of those guys as the season goes on have a tough time keeping weight on. I think that he's at the stage now, the offensive linemen are at a stage, there's really a couple different stages in their development, one in between their freshman and sophomore year when they become more physically ready to play on a regular basis where they came in with some brute strength, now they become more physically ready, and then between the sophomore and the junior year, I think that becomes more where they start to develop into like front line players.
Q. How big can Sam get and be comfortable?
COACH WEIS: I don't know what he would be comfortable with, but you could see him being 330. Go out and have a couple pizzas. You could see that happening pretty easy to tell you the truth.
Q. Lastly, David Bruton's special teams ability, covering the gunner, I can't remember seeing anyone that good here. Does he compare to anybody that you've seen that you've worked with in the past?
COACH WEIS: He reminds me of Reyna Thompson to tell you the truth. I'm really showing my age now because that goes way, way back. But there was a gunner that we had for the Giants in the early '90s by the name of Reyna Thompson that was as good as there was in the NFL. He'd go to the Pro Bowl just playing gunner on the punt team. That's who he reminds me of.
Q. Yesterday during the conference call coach Bruce said he was having the most fun coaching this year that he's ever had, even though they're 1 and 9. I was just wondering the way things have gone, has it ever ceased to be fun for you this year?
COACH WEIS: I would not say the same statement (laughter). No, I wouldn't -- I definitely, definitely would not be in that boat, just so you know.
Q. But when you have a guy, you've mentioned somebody coming in and asking for how he can be a better leader, is it still enjoyable when something like that happens?
COACH WEIS: That's why it was like the highlight -- it's a great way to start your week, a great way to start your week after you get through the grinds of the game and the aftermath of the game and recruiting and all those things that go on through Sunday, to be in your office early and you're watching tape and you're watching some Duke and getting ready for your meetings and everything and have a kid -- your double secret probation line that no one knows rings and you think my wife is calling with something wrong, and it's one of your players outside, hey, can I talk to you. You think, here we go. And he wants to talk to you about how he can be a better leader.
We talked for a few minutes, and I said let me think about it. I set up an appointment and he came back last night and we followed up after I had a whole day to think about it. They're the rewarding moments, you know, in life, when you see a young man kind of take the bull by the horns.
Q. Sullivan, it would obviously be his last home game. This has to be pretty serious in terms of keeping him out, and obviously he's got to be pretty greatly disappointed. I don't know if you got a chance to talk to him.
COACH WEIS: Yeah, I think he is. See, this would be a borderline play in the second week. It would be a borderline. You know, for him, one thing that you always get concerned with, and it's natural for anyone that's towards the end of their career in the last couple games, and you know that on the horizon is the NFL Draft and all those things, you're always concerned about something happening which would cost you a little time.
He'll be healthy in a hurry. I think he's disappointed by not being able to play this week, but that doesn't mean he won't be out there helping coach the offensive linemen. That doesn't mean he won't make sure that Wanger is making all the right Mike calls. We'll give him a constructive role this week where he won't just feel like he's pushed off to the side. He'll almost be like an extra assistant coach out there, which that will help us, too, this week.
Q. Other guys that are out most likely for longer?
COACH WEIS: I think Kuntz would probably even be more doubtful than Sully for next week, but he'd be able to play -- he'd probably be able to play in three or four weeks. Sergio rolled an ankle, Ragone rolled an ankle. It isn't like anyone put themselves in a position where they'd be out for months. It's only a week and a half left, so there's only so much time left.
Q. Just big picture, a lot of people take solace in young players playing now, the recruiting class coming in next year. But going from one to three wins, to better, to good, how close do you think you are, or is that a possible question to even answer?
COACH WEIS: First of all, recruiting class, as much as we like the kids that we're dealing with, that's all on paper, as you know. You still have to get them in there. Those guys still have to go through growing pains just like the guys that are playing now go through them. But one good thing is in the springtime we're going to have a large volume of guys that are going to be playing next year here and as a unit, as a group and ready to go.
I mean, you really think about it, there's not very many losses from either side of the ball, and it gives you an opportunity to get to work. These guys will be in the weight room, we'll give them a week off after the game to kind of emotionally and psychologically and physically catch up. I'll meet with them at the end of the next week after I come off the road recruiting, and the following Monday we'll be back on the eight-hour program, the program where we start setting the tone for next year in the first week of December. The last couple years we've been in Bowl practices for that month. Now you start the strength and conditioning for -- you start that the first week of December and start trying to set the tone right then.
Q. How big of a dropoff is it going from Sullivan to Danny?
COACH WEIS: Sullivan has been our best offensive lineman all year. He's been our No. 1 guy. Any time you're going from the first guy to the second guy there's a dropoff. But I think Danny is a really good football player.
Q. And then you've been playing Stewart in spots this season. How close is he to earning your trust to be a regular guy?
COACH WEIS: He and I had this very conversation last week. He knows that I would like for him to put himself in condition to contend to be that guy. We've already talked about what needs to happen because right now he's way ahead in run blocking than he is in pass blocking, and he'd admit the same thing himself. He wants to play, and he knows he can't be an offensive lineman and be one-dimensional. You have to be pretty solid on both of them, and I think that's what he's going to dedicate himself to in the off-season, to put himself in position to be able to do that.
Q. You mentioned Sam Young's program. What's the deal with Stewart and Ruben?
COACH WEIS: I think that where Sam -- we're always trying to get Sam to gain weight. We always want to make sure we keep Chris' weight down, which he's done a fairly good job of keeping his weight down once he's gotten here. I think he's starting to grow into the lesser body than when he first got here. He dropped 60 pounds from when he first got here. So I think that he's in a position where he could put himself into position to play.
Q. You're always big on cross-training offensive linemen, but Stewart, tackle or guard at the end?
COACH WEIS: He doesn't know this yet, but this week he's practicing at right tackle and right guard because with Wanger going into center, he'll probably show up in the game at both right tackle and right guard in the game.
Q. What's your opinion in the general sense of the way officials are assigned to games? Coach Calhoun talked about it after the game last Saturday. What in your opinion should be changed about what's being done now?
COACH WEIS: Well, I'm an idealist, so if it were up to me there would be one pool of officials and they'd be assigned to you and not affiliated with the conference. There would be one set of rules and everybody follows it. That's easy for me to say because I came from a league where there's only 32 teams, so you only needed, what, 34 sets of officials, have a couple on vacation, or not even 34. So now you're talking 16 with a couple extras, so a couple extra crews so everybody could take a little vacation and let's go.
You're talking 120 Division I teams or somewhere in that neighborhood. Now you're talking about 60 crews. Now it's a little tougher.
I'd always be in favor of officials being not affiliated with any conference and you take them from a region of the country and send them to a game and let's go. I don't know if that's realistic or not, but that's what I'd be in favor of.
Q. You mentioned Sam's support being so good in the home games. How much do you actually hear from fans? I know you're able to keep outside the distractions away from you. How much do you hear from fans, and what do you say to them when they say, how do you explain 1 and 9?
COACH WEIS: I don't, is the answer to your question. I'm in a bunker over here. I really don't get to see too much of anyone. I'm in here pretty early. Every once in a while I get students asking me to sign footballs about quarter to 4:00, but that's about what I see. I don't think they're standing outside my door when I'm leaving at night, either. I really don't see too many people.
It's different for everyone else because they see everyone. I really don't see very many people. All I know is at the end of the game, win or lose, we walk over to that corner, and I look at the student body, especially after you lose a game, and I can't believe they're all there. I really just can't believe they're all there. I don't really look at the whole stadium at the time, but I know when we go over and sing the alma mater, I'm very proud of our students. I'll be honest with you, I really don't talk to anyone.
Q. I also wanted to ask you about Luke Schmidt. What does he need to do to get on the field more?
COACH WEIS: One thing he's going to be able to do for us this week is with Michael being banged up at tight end, he's going to be cross-trained at fullback and tight end this week. He's going to have double the opportunities to get involved this week because he'd be our tweener guy.
Q. And then building off Brian's question a little bit and looking ahead to next spring, do you expect to get more physical with your practices because you'll have more people available to go and more people with experience?
COACH WEIS: I think the practices will be physical, and I think that the head coach will be vocal.
End of FastScripts