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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 20, 2007
THE MODERATOR: Coach Weis will start with some opening comments and then we'll take some questions.
COACH WEIS: We're on to Stanford. They're coming off a bye week this week. As they've gone through their season, they've had two really big wins. They've won three games, but they've had two really big wins, beating USC, which is something we haven't been doing, on the road no less, then beating Arizona on the road. Coach Harbaugh has taken over. Spent the last three years at San Diego where went back-to-back Division I-AA mid-major national titles.
Hired Coach Shaw, a four-year letter winner at Stanford. As a matter of fact, been with Coach Harbaugh at San Diego. He coordinated the passing game.
The passing game is obviously one of the greatest strengths, averaging just under 220 yards a game. For example, last week against Washington State, they threw for 263.
Pritchard has been handling the quarterback. We've seen Ostrander before as a backup to Edwards, but Pritchard has been starting for I think about the last six games. In the Washington game, he did get hurt, sprained his shoulder, missed the second half. Came back last week against Washington State or two weeks ago. Good athlete, moves well. He makes play with his speed, although he definitely wants to throw it before he runs it.
At runningback, Kimble, he's missed the last four games with a shoulder injury that he got I believe in the TCU game. He's listed as questionable. He's their returning starter. If he doesn't play, whether it's Stewart the freshman, McGraw the redshirt freshman, or Marecic, he's the fullback. Stewart and McGraw will handle the runningback duties.
Marecic, he starts at fullback. Jim Dray, he tore his ACL. Starting tight end. They use a combination of Gunder and Ladner and Kopa. Kopa is like putting an extra lineman in there. 6'6", 275 pounder. Similar to like when we were putting Stewart in the game. They get a big blocker in when they want to get a second tight end in there.
Wide receiver, Sherman, he's their leading receiver, he didn't play last week. Something going on. Not really sure. I don't know if he'll be back or not. I'm assuming he will. He averages 17 yards a catch. Bradford started X. He's been starting since his freshman season. Evan Moore is the tall guy we've talked about before, the big physical receiver. 6'7", 235-pound guy. He starts at Z for them.
On the offensive line, Smith was their left tackle. He's out for the year with a knee injury. Muth started the last seven games for them. Brewer at left guard, Mattran at center. He suffered an injury in the Washington State game. From what I understand, looks like he's going to play.
McBride at right guard. McBride is really the backup center. He played a lot in this game at Washington State when Mattran got hurt. Fletcher will start at right guard, Marinelli at right tackle.
Defensive coordinator Scott Shafer. First year at Stanford. Had been at Western Michigan the last couple years. Two very athletic defensive ends, Egboh and Udofia. Both very athletic. Inside Griffin starts at three technique. Udofia's brother, who had been their starting three technique, he fractured his ankle. Griffin will handle the three technique. Horn will handle the one technique, with Rydstedt backing him up.
Linebacker, Snyder in the middle, Maynor will be their Sam. Macaluso, another Jersey boy, will shore up some at middle linebacker. Then at will linebacker, Amajoyi will be the starter there. He's a true freshman, started the last four games, ever since Campbell got hurt with a neck injury.
In the secondary, Sims and Sanchez have been the starters. Sanchez, he's listed as questionable for the game. I don't know what's reason is. He doesn't appear on any of the depth charts that I'm getting from Stanford. For some reason, he looks like he's out. If he's out, looks like Evans will start at right corner for them. Osaisai, he's the other corner. I expect to see in there.
McNally, free safety, leads the team in tackles. All over the place. Reminds me of the safety from Boston College. Yancey starts at strong safety. Former GA of ours, D.J. Durkin, defensive ends coach, special teams coach. Lot of familiarity with what we do. Their punter, Ottovegio, he's also their holder, fourth season as their punter. First season handling the kickoffs and place kicking.
Then they got bunch of guys we have seen at returner. Hobbs has gotten most of the punt returns, Baldwin most of the kickoff returns.
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with questions here first.
Q. I know you still have a game to go, but how would you evaluate Corwin's performance this year?
COACH WEIS: Let's talk about Stanford this week. We'll talk about the end-of-the-season stuff December 8th when I come back and meet with you guys again. Let's talk about Stanford.
Q. With what their defense does, ranked 11th nationally in sacks, you have given up a lot this year.
COACH WEIS: Blitzing, blitzing, blitzing and blitzing some more. It's a blitzathon. I mean, it's the first thing -- I'll tell you right now, if you're waiting to see whether they're blitzing or not, they are. They're coming. So you better be ready to block them.
Q. Do you do anything differently this week in practice to prepare for them?
COACH WEIS: Percentage-wise you put in a very high percentage of pressure. You can't just go in, put your running game versus a 4-3 defense where no one's blitzing and give an unreal picture of what you're going to get.
When you're practicing, whether it's your runs or protections, you better practice it with a lot of heat coming.
Q. Your thoughts on Jim Harbaugh?
COACH WEIS: I know he was a fine player at Michigan. I know he was a nice, solid pro for a long time. Obviously as a head coach, whether it was at San Diego or now at Stanford, he's always been known as being a tough guy with a very good understanding of the passing game. That usually bodes well for being a success, especially in the environment he's in where they like to throw the ball.
Q. Their big receivers, what do you do against them?
COACH WEIS: That's a good question. The biggest problem is when you get in the red zone. One thing when you're in the field, you can jam them. You have to go play a ball in a jump ball situation. It becomes even a bigger problem, no pun intended, when you get down in the red zone when you're dealing with -- you have a 5'10" or 6' corner, and they have a 6' wide receiver. There's a couple legitimate concerns that you have to do some things scheme-wise.
Q. In addition to all the blitzing they like to do, what are some of the other more notable changes you've seen thins they made the coaching transition?
COACH WEIS: First of all, defensively that is the biggest change as far as the transition goes. Offensively, I'm fairly familiar with the style of play. They're basically a 21-12 team, which is why we call it regular Detroit. I think it's a pro style offense. As their season has gone on, you can see them having a much clearer understanding of what's being implemented in there. The one thing that's hurt them some, I'm sure Coach Harbaugh is not making excuses, they have a lot of guys banged up on both sides of the ball. I think that's probably hurt a little bit in the growth. You can definitely see they're a team on the come.
Q. Can you see a confidence growth? Any time you can beat USC. Can you see that in their body language?
COACH WEIS: I tell you what, you could see it that day, that's for sure. Wherever we were, I was watching a little of that game. I forget where we were. We were on the road somewhere. UCLA. That was on right before us. I didn't see any of the game, until after I watched it on tape.
They hung in there, hung in there, hung in there. Next thing you know, it's a six-point game. Next thing you know, they're throwing a fade ball in the red zone. Just what we were talking about before. Get down there, they throw a fade ball in the red zone on fourth down, touchdown, they win.
You could see this is a team that hangs in there, same thing with Arizona. They win 21-20. Hang around there, hang around there, hang around there, win the game.
Q. The reference to Ted being the defensive coordinator. How difficult is that to combine, you've never known any other way as a head coach, to combine the head coaching with the play-calling duties?
COACH WEIS: Depends who is running the other side of the ball. We'll get to the big picture questions, the question on Corwin, who I'm obviously openly biased towards. I don't want to be too overly -- get into a Corwin love fest. Obviously I'm a big fan of Corwin.
I think as long as you feel you don't have to worry so much about the other side of the ball, it's fairly easy to do. It's when you don't have that same type of confidence is when it becomes more of a problem.
Q. John Sullivan's status?
COACH WEIS: I'd list him as doubtful. He's going to run today. I don't know. I know he and Coach Latina talked last night. Said he was going to run today. We'll have to see where it goes.
Q. Would you like to get him in a little bit?
COACH WEIS: I think it's more up to whether or not he can go or not. If he can go, I would like to get him in. If he can't go, he can't go.
Q. How about Aldridge?
COACH WEIS: Aldridge is a little hobbled. He's going to go out there and practice today. I don't think he's exactly full speed right now.
Q. After UCLA, you talked about relief syndrome, you didn't want the guys to let up because they won a game. Is that something you still look for this week?
COACH WEIS: We addressed it as a coaching staff. Because we've changed our -- last week was all about the seniors. Now we're actually trying to take that next step we were talking about the other day. I think the focus has changed a little bit from where we were. When you're in the middle of the season, you're in the middle of the season. Now you're wrapping up your season, you want to move the program forward. Gives everyone an opportunity, coaches and players, to try to move it in that direction.
Q. Kuntz and Sergio Brown?
COACH WEIS: Neither one of them will play.
Q. As far as Kuntz, is it his back or did he hurt his leg?
COACH WEIS: No, just his leg. If we were playing a game in two weeks, it's non-surgical, not like he needs to go get an operation or anything. It would probably take him another couple weeks before he could play in a game.
Q. This week and going forward in the future, are you happy with your secondary? Where do you see that projecting even this week?
COACH WEIS: I'm only trying to get through Stanford right now. I'll talk about the future some other time. If you want to ask me something about this week, I'd be glad to answer it. I don't want to talk about the future. We got a little in depth on Sunday about some of the problems in the program, the direction of how we're going to go about fixing them. Really now we're back to Stanford. The focus right now is all in that direction for this week.
Q. With the offensive line, in terms of how far they've come, how much do you think the vacillation early in the year when you talked about not having that offensive identity all the way up to the Michigan game, how much do you think that hurt their development initially and how much have they had to climb out of?
COACH WEIS: I think part of the reason for lack of identity is, you know, we really weren't very consistent a good portion of the year. It wasn't that we didn't have spurts of things that looked good; it's just we weren't consistent. I think more than anything else, through our consistent -- more consistent play, it's allowing you to develop more of an identity.
They kind of go hand-in-hand. Once you play more consistent, a lot of things work when you're playing more consistent. Less things work when you have three good plays and one bad play and the drive's over.
I think it works both ways on that one. I definitely think us hammering the ball inside helps them more. At the same time, them blocking them to give you a reason to run it inside, you know, they go together.
Q. Maust had kind of appear incredible play in the Duke game. Saved some field position. Can you talk about what you've seen in him?
COACH WEIS: I tell you what, the one thing that Eric is, I don't know if it's 'cause of the baseball background as a pitcher, but he's an athlete that's a punter, not a punter that's a punter. I've been around a lot of kickers over my years that all they are is kickers. That's all that's important to them, just kicking, where there's a lot of kickers I've been around that are football players.
Maust, he's an athlete. He can throw it pretty good, too, to tell you the truth. He can throw a high hard one. But that play right there, I really -- when asked the other day about what was the play of the game, you know, because you try to think of a play of the game, that post that Jimmy sticks in to David for the first score. But really there was no bigger play in the game than that play by Maust. You really have to be an athlete to do what he did. A, to catch the ball, but B, to be athletic enough to get the ball off and end up net punting 30 yards on a play really you could have lost 20 yards on. That was 50 yards of field position on that play there, solely due to him. No one else could we benefit that 50 yards to other than his athleticism on that play.
Q. Is there some concern now he'll be campaigning to play quarterback in the closing moments of the game?
COACH WEIS: Join the club, right (laughter)?
No, I think he has a bright future for us as a punter. I'm very encouraged as we go forward.
Q. Do you really need to see what James is doing in practice this week or is there a chance it will be more of a Robert Hughes week?
COACH WEIS: I think because of Robert James might get healthy quicker (laughter). You know how that goes. I think we'll have to see. Fortunately we have some options at that position. I think when you don't have options, that's when you have more of a problem. We know Armando will always be involved in the mix. Robert stepped up nicely when James went back. We're not looking to write James off. I know when the big boy gets it rolling, I think that gets people healthier quicker.
Q. Ian Williams, I don't know, if defensive linemen are like offensive linemen, better if you don't notice them. He seems to be pretty active there for you. Has a lot of tackles for a backup.
COACH WEIS: Even before Pat got hurt, he had to start playing full-time, his production per amount of playing time was astronomically high. He's shown at that position very good athleticism, being able to hold the point. I think that's the toughest part of that job, is being able to hold the point, not getting pushed back before you even go about making plays. Then when you get off of single- or double-team blocks, get involved in the mix, be involved in that many tackles, it's very encouraging.
Q. Last week you had a situation where you had some seniors going out of the tunnel for the last time. They'll have that Saturday. Being the other side of the curtain, a way to exploit that?
COACH WEIS: Our message this week to our players, first of all, you have to stay focused on the week itself 'cause the whole week is different this week. You're practicing Thursday morning so you can have Thursday off, then eat. Then you're flying out. You get there. Your meetings which normally start at 9:00, start at 6:00, Pacific time. There's a lot of little distractions that come.
I think the message with the team, I think we talked about it very clearly on Sunday, was taking another step, moving a step forward. I don't think we're really worrying about those guys. I don't think we're really worrying about Stanford, what their message is. I think more importantly they still got -- what is the nickname for that game, the big game, the game. They still got Cal next week. Not like this is their last game of the season.
But they're coming off a bye. They're as well-rested as they're going to be. They're well-coached. They'll be ready for us. I think we're worrying more about taking that next step ourselves.
Q. This final game of the season isn't maybe what you envisioned at the beginning of the season. A road trip, chance for the guys to be together. Does that make it a little more special, be away from other distractions, celebrate the fact you worked hard and spent the year together?
COACH WEIS: I think Thanksgiving week is always a special week regardless of who you're playing and where. It's one of my favorite holidays, not because of the food, but because of what it stands for in America. I think it's a time when these guys being together, we're a family-oriented team. I think they'll feel that way Thursday when they're having dinner together over here on campus, Friday when we're making that trip, Saturday, realizing this is the last game, let's see if we can't take another step and move it in the right direction.
Q. You mentioned the blitzathon. Have you seen signs in the recent week the offensive line is more ready for this kind of a defense?
COACH WEIS: I think the offensive line really hasn't been the root of our problems in the last few weeks even when we have given up a few sacks. We gave up a few unnecessary sacks back in the Air Force game and that was more runningback related in that game than it was offensive line related.
Really for the last few games, almost the last month, they've been a lot better in doing their jobs.
Q. How about the runningbacks? Do you think they're ready for the blitzathon?
COACH WEIS: I think so. This is not a -- not a defense where you're going to get confused where they're coming from. There's one, two or three of them coming. When they go into odd spacing, could be four of them coming. You just know they're coming, you know who they are. Isn't like they trick you with where they are. It's a question of when you have to block them, man-on-man, go and block them.
There's a lot of teams you play that try by trickery, deceit or scheme to get you in a position where you don't know where they're coming from. That's not this game. You just don't know who is coming, you just know they're coming.
Q. Theme of the week is moving the program forward. How does a win here move it forward? Someone might argue two wins, three wins, not much of a difference. How does a win make a difference?
COACH WEIS: Being you're the king of the stats, I'll throw one back at you. We haven't won the last two games of a season since 1992. That's the last time Notre Dame won the last two games of the season. That's a stat that I want to attain.
Q. After the game on Saturday, you said this team practiced to win. Could you expand on that. What is an example that a team that practices to win?
COACH WEIS: First of all, effort is the most obvious, noticeable one. The volume of mental errors or mental concentration as the week goes on, usually the first day of the week you'll have more mental errors than you will the second day and the third day with any team at any level that's really focusing in on getting ready to go.
The biggest problems that I found with teams that really have not -- are not practicing to win is when they're having a large volume of mental mistakes later in the week than earlier in the week because it means that they haven't gotten in their play books, they haven't done their research, they haven't done their due diligence, they haven't studied, they're not mentally preparing play the game.
The physical/emotional one you could see is the easiest one, but the mental ones are the ones I'm concerned with the most. That's where I've been most encouraged.
Q. Did you see a big jump in that after you went back to the training camp thing?
COACH WEIS: No. I think that might have picked up the physical play. I don't think it necessarily picked up the mental play. I think I really have never felt the team mentally hasn't prepared to win. If it did, that would be my biggest concern, both from the player standpoint and equally from a coaching standpoint because when the players are making a lot of mental mistakes at the end of the week, there's a sharing of blame there between the guys teaching it and the guys learning it.
Q. Trevor is within striking distance of the school record for tackles. Can you sum up his year, maybe his prospects in the NFL level?
COACH WEIS: Last year when we sat down in December, he's a very bright young man, I don't know if you're aware of how good a student he is, but he's a good student. He was an easy walk-away graduate. Really aspires to do well in the NFL.
I told him honestly that on that defensive line he would have been the third defensive lineman taken. I told him Victor and Landry would go before him and then he would go. He thought he should be better than that. I said, Well, one advantage you have that they don't have is you have another year available to you if that's the road you decide to go. I think he's helped the team tremendously, but he's helped himself tremendously as well.
Q. I'm sure you don't get to see as much of the other teams as you might like, but do you consider him an All-American?
COACH WEIS: Let's just go by the numbers. I mean, I don't see all these guys, what everyone does. When I do, it's just for a couple minutes of a game on Saturday night before I go to sleep. But if you just go by the numbers, the guy's getting nine, 10 tackles a game as an interior defensive lineman. That's phenomenal. Isn't like we're playing against crummy teams. Isn't like he's going against bad guys, and he's had numbers every week. Doesn't make any difference who we go against, he's had numbers every single week. It's tough not to at least have that argument.
Q. Coach Carr is a guy you faced three times. I don't know if you got to know him when you were coaching Tom in New England. Your thoughts looking back on his career?
COACH WEIS: I tried calling him today. He was getting on a plane to go somewhere. I gave him a call today, left him my double secret probation telephone number. I really like Coach Carr. Before you even talk about him as a coach, as a matter of fact, I actually went up there and spoke at their coaches clinic when I was with New England. I like him. I like a lot of guys on the staff. I have a great admiration for him both as a football coach and a person. He's one of the good guys.
Q. Do you feel like you have a quarterback more prepared to see what's coming before it actually arrives now?
COACH WEIS: Absolutely. I think that's kind of fallen along with what all of us have been talking about for the last few weeks since he got back in there after standing on the sidelines. I think he has a lot better understanding seeing where things are coming from, where the ball's supposed to go than he did before.
I mean, he seems -- not that everything has been perfect, but he's got a lot better concept of what we're supposed to be doing.
Q. I'm sure the last couple weeks, going into this week, has helped his confidence tremendously. What about Jimmy's play, what kind of effect does that have on the team at-large that they can see who the quarterback is, he can make plays, gives you a direction or identity that you've been looking for all year?
COACH WEIS: You think about how inconsistent the offense has been for a good portion of the year, okay? Any time you have a quarterback in there that the team believes can make plays, it makes the whole team more excited, not just the offensive players, 'cause now the defensive players don't feel they have to get a shutout to win a game. Now they don't try doing things outside what they're supposed to do because they get more confidence the quarterback's going to be able to make some plays. I think that's heading in the right direction.
Q. Not that big of a difference, two wins versus three wins, Stanford. The significance they beat USC, that would make them think they could beat anyone, whereas you have struggled to get the two that you do have.
COACH WEIS: Tough to argue that point. I mean, they beat USC, and they beat them at USC. I think our guys will be ready to go.
Q. Turf question. Ripping the field out of the stadium, putting in a new one, do you think that's necessary? What kind of benefits come with that?
COACH WEIS: If I had my druthers, we would put field turf in. This is Notre Dame, that's not happening. We had this dialed up to rip up the field, put in new, right after the season was over, just like we have this whole thing getting ready to go right after spring ball, we're going to be doing our whole practice fields over here, putting two turf fields down and a grass field. This is part of the major project that Notre Dame has undertaken to upgrade their facilities across the board. I think it will make our game field significantly better for next year.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, everyone.
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