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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 6, 2009
Q. You opened the game with a lot of different, especially the first two drives, personnel groupings and formations. Is that twofold, to keep them off balance and score but also just to see how the defense reacts?
COACH WEIS: I'd say yes, it's twofold. That's the way I like calling a game. I like using multiple personnel groups and formations, but I don't like to run a whole bunch of different plays, and some of those plays were actually the same plays, just from different personnel groups.
At the same time, their second premise is correct, that a lot of times you're doing some of those things to set up something you're going to do later in the game, and I thought we got a pretty good feel for what they were going to do based off of formations. That gave us an opportunity to be fairly aggressive in a couple of attack modes.
Q. Did you script several plays for the game?
COACH WEIS: I scripted about the first 18.
Q. How would you compare Jimmy's growth to Brady's at the same stage of his career?
COACH WEIS: Well, the only problem in reference for me is the fact that I came in on Brady's third year, whereas with Jimmy I've had him from the beginning, from the beginning until now. But I'd have to say, based off of my off-field work with him in the spring leading into the season that it's at least comparable, if not heading with the arrow pointing up.
Q. Talk about James Aldridge. Any news on him?
COACH WEIS: No. As a matter of fact, he was coming in about 12:30, I think, so I don't know if I'll even know by 1:30. But I'm meeting with the doctors and the trainers at 1:30. I don't know if I'll know exactly what it is because they'll probably MRI his shoulder to find out exactly what that is, and I'm sure that it wasn't anything they could have gotten done last night after the game.
Q. Any other nicks or bruises?
COACH WEIS: No, as a matter of fact, I did talk to Jim early this morning just to see if besides getting James tested if there was anything of significance, and other than somebody having maybe a crack in a finger or something like that, he said from what he saw last night in the training room, it was just your normal bumps and bruises.
Q. Could you talk about what you saw after watching the film on the defense yesterday? You missed some of the game.
COACH WEIS: Well, obviously there were a lot of good things to start off with. Right off the bat besides the obvious shutout, going 2 and 11 on 3rd down and throwing a 4th down 2 out of 12, that usually bodes well for getting off the field. And then three times they were down in the red zone, ended up coming out without any points. There are critical, critical factors. Three turnovers in the game; I did get to see all three of those, so I didn't miss any of those.
I think for the most part, there was a lot of us moving the line of scrimmage the other way, even though they did hit us for some runs, hit us for four big runs and a pass. But we had two sacks and four tackles for loss, and to be honest with you, we had another four sacks that we could have had that -- we missed a few tackles there, and I think that's going to be one of the points of emphasis for the defensive staff going into Michigan. We're going to have to do a better job tackling because there were some times where we came completely free where Kaepernick did a nice job avoiding the pressure and getting out of trouble.
Q. Going into the season, one of the concerns was the young defensive line. Seemed like they didn't get a lot of production yesterday. They had a handful of tackles but didn't have a major role.
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that when they don't get production and the linebackers do get production -- we move a lot up front, and I think that even though you didn't hear the names of the interior guys being called too many times because most of the plays ended up going off tackle where they were running the ball or outside, true, we're going to have to work on some of our inside run stunts that we use to make sure we don't stunt ourselves out of some plays.
But I think the good part of that is they get a chance to settle down, and I think some of these guys, you take a guy like Kap, who really never played before, it gives him a chance to settle down because I think he was a nervous wreck before we got going, and now he's got that game out of the way. And I think that guys will just keep getting better every week now.
Q. When you have had the dominant defense that you want to have, wouldn't it be the case that the safeties usually wouldn't be the leading tackles on the team, you'd want the linebackers to be the leading tackles?
COACH WEIS: Well, you'd want the linebackers or down safeties. So when you say safeties, when a safety is down at linebacker depth, they're a linebacker. You're calling them safety out of semantics, but any time you see Kyle or Harrison down at linebacker depth, they have the same run forces, whether it's the weak side or strong side. You just bump those linebackers, so if he's down on the weak side, you know, the Sam linebacker on the one side and the weak safety would have the exact same responsibilities. Bump them down on the other side, now the strong safety and the Will linebacker would have the same responsibilities. So that is true when they're making the plays from the secondary.
But when they're down into the run force, it's just like they're playing a linebacker position.
Q. I wondered if you could talk about Nick Tausch's day.
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that he's another one of those guys, we talked about Kap. I think he was a little bit nervous going into that game. I'm glad that he was kicking extra points, not field goals, to get his feet wet. I think that on the kickoffs, which he had six of them, a couple of them he had 4.2 hang time that were down there, one he slipped as he was hitting the ball. It looked like we were hitting a squib kick, but actually he was squibbing to the ground himself.
Was he a bit inconsistent, yes, but I don't think that -- those 4.2 hang times down to the 3 yard line or down to the goal line that we saw on two of those six kicks, that's kind of, I think, what we're counting on getting once he gets settled down into just a normal groove.
Q. I remember you talking about something when you were on the sideline in New England, you really had somebody trustworthy in the press box that made that work. Must be happening for you. Can you talk about how that evolved?
COACH WEIS: As a matter of fact, we had a good operation. But for me, most of my communication yesterday was with Rob Ianello. I don't like a lot of talk when I'm calling a game. I don't like a lot of information. Give me the down and distance, give me the field position, give me the hash mark and give it to me quickly so that I'm not floundering around trying to figure out what the next call is, because anytime I make a call, I already have the different things that are on deck that are going to be the next call based on what ends up happening.
But he was very quick, he and Bernie, who were upstairs, were quick to give me information. But Rob did most of the talking because I don't like two people talking at one time when I'm calling plays.
And I think that the exchange of information afterwards went very well, too, because we have a splitter, so Frank can talk to guys about what's going on as far as the offensive line and the front play while we can talk about what's going on in the coverages simultaneously when we're off the field and the defense is on the field.
Q. It looked like yesterday what you practiced with your meshing of the 1s and 2s kind of worked pretty well for you. Can you talk about that?
COACH WEIS: I think that fortunately it was one of those games where let's start with those 1 and 1A guys, the Romine-type guys that we wanted to get action. There are actually three offensive linemen that rolled in there because Andrew Nuss also got some reps with the first group at right guard with Trevor Robinson. Wenger got in there and Romine got in there and Nuss got in there, and it was the same thing on defense. Sean Cwynar played 20 plays in there on defense, and John Ryan played a bunch of plays at defensive end. So it wasn't like we were only using a few guys.
And same thing, as we went through the game, I think that we played five corners and four safeties before mop-up time at the very end of the game. I think that there were a lot of guys that were getting meaningful time in that game. I think that will only help us down the road.
Q. Just so you don't feel weird about not getting a whole bunch of offensive line questions, talk about Eric Olsen. He seemed to really move well.
COACH WEIS: Yeah, I think that he played a really solid game. It's ironic because our captains, our four captains, were four of our best players in what they do. Eric probably was the most solid of the offensive linemen; Jimmy had a great day; Kyle McCarthy was the leading tackler and Scott Smith was the best guy on special teams. So if you ever ask for the leaders to start off and show by example, that was a good day.
But I think Eric, we're not going to let his head get too big here too quick and make him feel like he's the second coming, but it was a good start at center, a seemingly smooth transition from guard to center.
Q. You had, I believe, ten sophomores playing, a bunch of guys dealing with that. Is there a method as to how you deal with guys playing for the first time? What's your approach with them, because I imagine every kid is going to handle it differently.
COACH WEIS: Well, there were 18 guys that played their first snaps ever yesterday in that game. That's a lot of guys to be getting their first snap of football.
I think that a guy who's in there as a starter is a little different than a guy who you're just transitioning into the game, because they're getting thrown into the fire right from the start of the game, when the tempo of the game is being set. Kapron is one of those guys who -- he was on the field a whole bunch early in the game.
But I think that the assistant coaches have to get a feel for each guy's personality and know what they need, because guys need different types of coaching. You know, some guys you need to ride all the time, other guys you need to pat them on the back, okay, but I think the most important thing is just making sure that they play with poise. And for the most part, I thought the team as a whole, shown by the number of mental mistakes not being very high and the number of penalties not being very high, I think that the team played with pretty good poise, especially the fact that you're throwing in so many new guys into the mix.
Q. I think some of us might have been a little bit surprised to see Tyler Eifert in there. When did you as a staff decide this is a kid that needs to play now?
COACH WEIS: We had that conversation about a week ago, and we talked about can we make it through the season, can we make it through the season without using him. And with what we're going to do on offense this year, we felt the answer to that would be no. If we could make it through the season without him, we'd try to sit him for the year, but we said we're doing some things different schematically now, and there's guys that are playing different roles that we need to use guys in, and he looked to us like a guy that could get better and better as the year went on.
Q. For the freshmen that didn't play yesterday, is that an indication that you're moving in that direction, that you may not use them this year?
COACH WEIS: I think it's a bit premature at this point. We usually have that discussion about the midway point, and this year we'll have that discussion after the fifth game, you know, after Washington and prior to USC when we have that bye week. The next time we have that discussion will probably be on that Monday. We say, okay, who have we used, who haven't we used, do we need them, don't we need them.
After we make the determination of where we think we are, we'll let them know. That's how we're thinking.
Q. I know you have more things to concern yourself with, but in light of the public outcry against the gentlemen and the people behind the billboard, I was wondering if you had people that came out and expressed support for you.
COACH WEIS: Well, I don't want to really give it any more than it's already gotten already, but I can tell you that I thought the support was probably the most overwhelming since I've been here. You know, at this place usually it's a 50/50 crowd on most issues. But I'd say probably since I've been here, without me really being involved in the situation, it's probably the most overwhelming support of anything that's ever happened.
But really it's no big deal. I mean, it's no big deal. Let's just move on. It's no big deal.
Q. After the game you talked about James, and you said you had a plan B. Can you talk about the plan B?
COACH WEIS: Well, I've got to check and see what his health is. Once I know that, it will probably be Tuesday, I'll tell you exactly what it is. I'm not going to play mind games or anything. I'll tell you exactly what it is. But I need to see -- he might be better, he might be worse. I have to just wait and see where he is before we go to what that is.
Q. And then after the game some of the players were talking about last year and the end of last year the meeting that you guys had, and a lot of them brought up -- one said they were tired of being a media whipping boy and another said they were tired of watching ESPN and being thrashed on ESPN. How do you counsel or advise the players in terms of the media can be fickle; and how do you advise them to deal with that or to process what they see in the media?
COACH WEIS: Well, the best way I could say is I think they go by my example of how I handle it myself to start off with. I think that if you, in front of your players and how you handle it with your players, if you handle it the right way, I think that they can use you as an example of how to handle scrutiny. And it makes it a little easier for them because it's going to be usually in a little lesser scale than it's going to come with either the head coach or the quarterback. The head coach and the quarterback are the most obvious people to address scrutiny to.
So I think for everyone else, just how do I handle it, then how does Jimmy handle it and then how do they handle it. But I really think the bottom line, I thought that when we sat there, it was not a great oration that I got in front of them, it was just me sitting in this chair about five feet ahead of where I am now talking to a bunch of guys like I was a college teacher, just saying, where are we heading here, fellas? Where are we heading? We sat there and we talked for a while, and I think by the time that meeting was over, I felt very confident that we were heading in the right direction.
Q. I don't think that's the first time in the past couple years you've talked to the guys in terms of show me what you've got. How do you think it clicked then, whereas in the past maybe the buttons didn't get pushed.
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that they had to decide what their mindset was going to be for the month of December, because coming off of two bad losses now, one at home and one on the road. You've got exams coming up, you've got study days coming up, exams coming up. You're going to get picked to go play in some Bowl game, you don't know which it's going to be yet, because the Bowl is picked the following Monday after this meeting. Well, what's the approach going to be? What are we going to do? We're just going to go somewhere and just throw in the towel and just go through the motions, just say we went to a Bowl game? Or are we going to go use it as a mechanism to get this thing going in the right direction?
And no disrespect to last year's seniors or outgoing players, but we chose to use that game and the preparation for that game as a springboard for 2009, and I give credit to the players because they're the ones who showed up on Christmas Eve. I was going to be there either way, but they were the ones who showed up, and they showed up ready to go, and they've taken it from there.
What you really have to give the credit to the players for, and very seldom do we really give them credit, but you have to give them credit for one thing one; to carry over momentum from December 24th to September 5th is almost uncanny to believe that that could happen. How does that happen? And you have to give the credit to them, because they're the ones that carried the momentum, and now we'll see where it goes from here.
It's only one game. It's a great first game, but it's only one game. But the fact that they were able to carry momentum from December 24th until September 5th, they deserve the credit.
Q. So how did it happen?
COACH WEIS: You'll have to ask them because I'm not a player. I'll give the credit to them.
Q. In the past you've said that in the big picture all the great teams are essentially coached within the roster by the players. Do you think that's kind of the leap that happened there?
COACH WEIS: Well, this was the first year I didn't pick captains prior to the summertime because I felt we had so many candidates. And that's never been the case since I've been here. We had so many guys that I felt that were candidates to be leaders on the team. And I think that that bonded the team through the summertime. We picked four captains in August. We could have picked four different guys, and I still think we'd have great leadership, because the guys on the leadership committee are very well respected, too. And there's guys that aren't on the leadership committee that are very well respected, too.
But I think that this team has a very good core. It all starts from a core. They're bonded very well together, good and bad.
Q. on Floyd, talking to his teammates, they all talk about how he's kind of a jokester, light-hearted, kind of fun loving.
COACH WEIS: Yeah, he's a goofball, you've got it right.
Q. When he talks to us, he just kind of shuts it down. Could you kind of expand on his personality a little bit? And talk about how his personality has kind of evolved over the last year.
COACH WEIS: First of all, he loves to play the game. There's somebody who loves to play the game. You know, I'm not saying players don't like playing the game, but he's one of those guys who has a lot of fun. You'll see a lot of emotion out of him, because by nature, he's a relatively quiet guy, but he's hard-working and he's meticulous and he wants to be great. He has a chance of really accomplishing that desire, and he's grown a lot just from his first year until now. I think the sky's the limit. I think this guy is the real deal.
Q. Do you think he has a chance to be the best receiver ever to come through here?
COACH WEIS: Golden would argue with you. (Laughter.)
Q. When you go back so many games over the past two years you could, even if you won, you might find a mistake or two. Yesterday you'd really have to look to find a glaring mistake. Having looked at the tape, what did you see?
COACH WEIS: I think this is a perfect day to be a football coach, utopia, because when you win 35-0, we're going to be the most critical bunch of guys that will ever be, because the players are most receptive to constructive criticism when things go well. When things don't go well, everyone goes into a shell, a defense mechanism. This is a good a day as could come.
Would you like for me to give you a couple examples? How about the second half after scoring five out of your first six times, you have three drives that really get stalled on all relatively short situations, a 4th and relatively short, and a 3rd and 2 and a 3rd and 1. So I won't be harping on those five out of six touchdowns they scored right there. I'll be showing, here's a 4th and 3, here's a 3rd and 2, and go over why the play broke down and how we've got to do better, because today is the best day to teach, because they feel good about themselves. Today is the day we get to bring them back down to earth.
Q. You're in a position that you probably haven't been in here before and you may not be thinking about the fact that you've got a lot of guys who have got a lot of experience, but they've all come up together. Was playing so many guys yesterday a way to make sure that you always are in that situation?
COACH WEIS: Well, that's what good programs do. You have to have enough confidence that you can start putting some of these guys in there, and to be honest with you, early on in my career here, there weren't enough guys that I had confidence putting in here, so I didn't play them.
But now we have more guys that have ability that have earned our confidence to get playing time. We're not going to put somebody in just because everybody wants us to put them in, just because somebody says, hey, they should be playing so-and-so. We believe guys have to earn playing time, regardless of what year. Whether you're a freshman or a fifth year senior, you have to earn playing time.
The only guy that I wanted to make sure we got out there yesterday in the game, and we did, is Chris Gurries, because he's from Reno, and I didn't want to have to listen to him whine about not playing in a game against Nevada. He got a couple reps on special teams, which I was happy for him.
Q. In that vein, what was the reason to put in Dayne Crist in the second quarter when it was still close, just for one play?
COACH WEIS: Because we had designed, if they're doing this, this is what we're going to do. It was only going to be a drive starter. You notice it was the only time in the game where we went from the sideline right to the line of scrimmage. We only did that one time, and we had run two wildcat plays to see what they were going to do, and the first wildcat play we miss a block or else we have a gash run to the left side. The next time we run one to the left side for about 20 and then we have a phantom holding call, which I'm sure you'll find it a phantom holding call, too. So we have two plays from that.
But in both cases, when you call those plays, we call those plays and we're looking at those formations to see what we're going to get to see if you're setting up that very play you're talking about. They gave us looks, saying, okay, bring it on, fellas, and I thought we were going to score a touchdown on this play now, because if they would have done what they did the first two times, next thing you would have done was hit the pylon because there was no one over there. But it didn't work out that way, so they guessed right and I guessed wrong.
Q. Do you have a set criteria as to when you might take Jimmy out for the day like you did yesterday when you were up by a pretty good score?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think one of the things I need to do is I have to get Dayne Crist ready to play. I don't bring bringing Dayne Crist in and letting him hand off on inside zone and run on every play. So given the opportunity, I want to get him time. I mean, who wants to take that No. 7 out? Certainly not me, not the way he's playing. Who would want to take that kid out?
But I think that the more we can get Dayne involved running the normal offense, the better it will be for the future of the program.
Q. What would you say to anyone who suggests that you're taking anyway from Jimmy's Heisman numbers?
COACH WEIS: (Laughing) I'd say we wouldn't touch that with a ten-foot pole. That's what I would say.
But actually Jimmy and I talked about it first. I said, hey, I can keep you in for another series, but I think we should go with Crist here, and he says, "I agree. Let's put him in there."
When I sat there and we talked about his first play, I said, well, I could hand it off, but why don't we come out swinging on the first play. Dayne almost had a heart attack that I was going to actually throw a pass on his first meaningful play in there after that gadget play.
Q. Can you talk about the play of Brian Smith and his ability in the backfield?
COACH WEIS: You know, Brian Smith, not personality-wise, but as far as his passion for the game, Brian Smith is a guy who just loves to play football. He just loves to play football. And he can run, and he has athleticism and he's physical, and he has fun.
You know, he's a guy that I just like being around on the football field because, you know, he's got that special something in him. I just think he's going to be a pain in the butt for everyone we go against.
Q. You said preseason that Jimmy was starting to play really, really. This might not have been as perfect as the Hawaii game, but does this raise his bar now?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that when the team completes 85 percent of the passes in the game, you're not going to do much better than that for a game. He has three incompletions in the game, and I can remember all three of them. We have a chance of not throwing an incompletion. I mean, the first one he throws to Floyd up the sideline, fades a little bit out of bounds; next one was Rudolph running right up the middle for a home run; and then the other one was he checked off from a slant to a fade ball to Golden, and he might not do that again because when you go watch the play, you're going to see an unblocked linebacker who's not blocked. He's hot on this play, coming from his left hitting him right in the face. I think next time he might just throw the slant.
But that being said, I mean, he's playing pretty well right now. But he knows that now we've got to go on the road to the big house, and he knows he's going to be a formidable challenge, and you're not going to just throw up 85 percent every time you go out there.
Q. You mentioned the wildcat you put in for a couple plays. I guess what was Armando's first reaction that he would be doing that?
COACH WEIS: Well, we've been doing it for a year, so I mean, he's got it down pretty good. We've got a whole bunch of plays, and we'll just have to wait and see how it goes. When you run a couple of plays right off the bat, one thing you do know, whether I run 2 or 20 of them, now it's a whole different thing that the defensive coordinator is going to have to spend time on.
Q. Is doing that a function of having guys that are more experienced or having healthy bodies or being more flexible?
COACH WEIS: Well, you have to have guys that you want to be in those positions doing them. First of all, Armando has got good hands; he can take the shotgun snap. The guy going in motion is Golden, and you'd better respect him because if we hand the ball off to him and you're just trying to stop the inside run game and all of a sudden you hand it to Golden, he's around the corner, I think a lot of it has to do with the composition of players you have doing the different jobs. The most important thing is get 7 away from the action as far as you possibly can.
Q. You mentioned all the guys that played for the first time. Does anybody else stand out to you?
COACH WEIS: Let's see, of the freshmen, I mean, Zeke Motta had a decent day on special teams first run right out of the box; Cowart was fine in his long snaps that we asked him to do. So that's his first route out of the box. Theo excited everyone from his kickoff return and decides to jump about five feet in the air, and I think Robert was watching him, so he decided to try to jump in the air, as well.
But you could see his quickness out there. Shaq got a little action as well as Tyler. Then you've got Deion gets his first catch and Goody has got the 24-yard punt return and some action on offense, as well.
Thinking of the offensive line, you've got all those guys got some action. You know, I'm looking at all scholarship guys that don't get much action, and at the end of the game, I'm looking at Lane and Taylor Dever and Braxston and Nuss and Mike Golic all in the game at the end of the game.
And then flip over to the other side. You've got all those -- a bunch of those linebackers in there, you have Posluszny getting some reps and McDonald is getting some reps and obviously Manti is getting some reps and Filer is getting more reps. At the end of the day you start looking at all those guys and saying, hey, you're playing more defensive linemen and more DBs, and a lot of guys are getting some playing time.
Q. Talk a little bit about Ragone.
COACH WEIS: Yeah, I think Michael was just happy to be out there and feeling good and feeling healthy. I think that he's not only has knocked the rust off, but I think his best football is ahead of him. I think that now he's got confidence. He's not worrying about injuring a knee. So I think he'll just get better and better and end up getting more involved in the production here, too.
End of FastScripts