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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 9, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We've got Kyle and Scott here. We'll take questions from those in attendance before turning it over to the phones.
Q. It seems as if Coach Tenuta had -- obviously, he's always had a very aggressive approach to calling plays on defense. He seemed ultra aggressive last week. Is it to the point now with him that you almost expect -- I mean, more often than not you expect to be aggressive in blitz as opposed to not, as opposed to sitting back and letting things happen?
KYLE McCARTHY: Definitely. I think Coach Tenuta and Coach Brown have really brought a different mentality to the defense than we've had in my first couple of years. It's definitely a go-get-em attitude, and we're going to be the aggressive ones. Not sit back and let someone run the offense. So that's just the mentality and the way we go about doing things, I think.
SCOTT SMITH: I think whether or not you're blitzing or bringing pressure, everybody's been taught to play downhill and play aggressive. So just the fact that being a defense that attacks the football, and just gets after it on every play, trying to force back the line of scrimmage and make things happen on their side of the ball is kind of something that is a big part of this defense.
Q. Do you think it -- does it put offenses on their heels? Does it make them less, you know, in control of the situation because they are the one that initiates the play?
SCOTT SMITH: Well, that's the plan. I mean, obviously we want to be aggressive and really the goal is to execute what the coach is asking, and to play our defense. But at the same time, you know, we definitely need to -- with the offense coming up, their misdirection on offense type offense.
So just like last week, we had had to stay in our gaps and read our assignments. Not try to do too much. You can't try to make the guys play next to you. You have to stay in your gap and do your thing. You know, that's the key to being successful, I think.
Q. They did spring a couple of plays up the middle on you. Does it ever stem from being maybe a little too over aggressive in running yourselves into a mistake?
SCOTT SMITH: Obviously, last week we had a successful game. But the saying is the eye in the sky doesn't allow it. And we know we made some mistakes, but that's the way we come out every day. We work hard in practice to get this corrected.
So we know we have to work on, and we've really taken it to heart with Notre Dame and Michigan. We're doing everything we can to get better and improve on Saturday.
Q. For both of you guys Saturday probably wasn't one of your, as a whole, probably wasn't one of your better tackling days. There were some missed tackles. Is that the kind of thing -- is it almost like a hitter in baseball early in the season just kind of needing extra at-bats in order to get into a groove? Is it the same thing in terms of being a consistent tackler?
KYLE McCARTHY: I mean, I think, you know, when you're going to make a tackle, you have to come to balance. Bring your feet. Try to use your shoulder pads, so I don't think it really has to do with a hitter in baseball finding their rhythm. Because we've gone full speed at times during camp against our offense, which is pretty talented.
So things happen during the course of the game. Maybe taking a bad angle or lunging a little bit too much. But during the course of the game you kind of get that corrected and you move forward because that's being more of a focus.
Q. Kyle, what do you think?
KYLE McCARTHY: Probably to answer that question -- I mean, obviously game speed's a little bit different than the speed you get in practice. But, obviously, we're not going to make any excuses. We know that we need to improve. We know that we didn't do our best and tackle our best. So, you know, obviously, that's an area that we're working on. But we know that we have the guys in the locker room that are going to get that situation fixed and move on.
Q. Kyle, you grew up a Notre Dame fan, didn't you?
KYLE McCARTHY: Yes, sir.
Q. Any memories of the Notre Dame-Michigan game that stands out growing up?
KYLE McCARTHY: Yes, actually, my first Notre Dame game ever was a Notre Dame-Michigan game. I don't know what year it was. It might have been 91. I think it was Derek Mayes got a touchdown in the end zone. And Michigan came back and hit a 40-yard field goal to win in the end.
So my first Notre Dame football game was Notre Dame-Michigan, and it wasn't one that I enjoyed all that much at the end. But it was obviously from a young age you could tell the Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry. And, you know, I'm just so, so happy and so humbled to be a part of it.
Q. Does it have a different feeling than some other games just because of the history or the -- you know, the closeness of the games in the past?
KYLE McCARTHY: Yeah, absolutely. Notre Dame-Michigan are two of the most storied programs in college football. You know, we take every game, you know, seriously, and each week we treat each game the same. Then again, not every game is Notre Dame-Michigan. So this is definitely a game that we're fired up for.
Our team's going to be ready for it. The tempo, and the heartbeat of the team is up, so we're excited to play this game. And, you know, there's not much more to say. It's Notre Dame-Michigan.
Q. Scott, did you grow up a Notre Dame fan, too?
SCOTT SMITH: I did, but probably not to the extent that Kyle was.
Q. Any special memories of the Michigan games? Do you recall them at all?
SCOTT SMITH: To be honest with you, not really. I just, you know, seeing it on TV, and seeing the games, you just knew that there was something special whenever Notre Dame played manipulate Mitch, because you've got the big house and you've got Notre Dame stadium. And you've got two teams that have been at the top of college football it seems forever. So every time you get those two teams together, it's going to be something special.
Q. Is it something you've talked to the freshmen about or is it that you assume they can kind of feel it because the way everybody else is acting?
SCOTT SMITH: I think the freshmen know what's up. You know, just the mood in the locker room, you know, the tempo of practice. I think they realize that they came to Notre Dame for games like this Saturday. So they're going to be ready to play. And if they're not, when they go on the field for pregame and you get all those 100 and however many thousand Michigan fans screaming in their face, they'll know what time it is.
Q. After last year's game, couple players mentioned that Coach Weis was kind of -- gave a pretty good speech before the game. Do you recall that at all? Was that something that got a little emphasis last year?
KYLE McCARTHY: Obviously, I don't really remember exactly what he said. But it was obviously one of the most fired up I've seen coach. I think that energy just kind of brought us up to another level in getting ready to play.
Q. Scott, I think Kyle mentioned freshmen going out there in Ann Arbor, you'll figure it out pretty quickly what it's about. What do you remember about your experience up there? I mean that was the first playing time you got in your Notre Dame career, and I think you were in on a tackle on one play.
SCOTT SMITH: I just remember it's definitely one of those experiences you'll never forget. And being on the sideline, and I see Corey Mayes running off the field for -- I don't think I still know to this day what the exact reason was. Just running in there and having all these emotions run through your head. You're like, all right. I'm at Michigan.
There's what seems like a million people in this tiny little place. So it's just something that is really special for me. I feel pretty blessed that I get a chance to go back there. Of this will be my third time going back to Michigan.
Q. Do you remember how that play unfolded? Did you feel like you even knew what you were doing? You were just running around looking for the ball?
SCOTT SMITH: It seemed like just high school. Running around and trying to tackle whoever had the football. There wasn't much thinking involved. There were certain times during the course of the game where you just can't think and you've got to let your instincts take over.
Q. Do you share that with some of the freshmen this week?
SCOTT SMITH: I don't think so. I think everybody is going to kind of get the chance. Those guys that are playing, to kind of make their own first memory of being at Michigan. Just like they had the chance to kind of savor their first time running out of the tunnel last Saturday. It's just something that I think they need to experience themselves. They don't need to hear something from the old man about when I was a freshmen. This is what I got to do. So I'll let them kind of figure it out for themselves.
Q. As far as, you know, last week, you go against the most experienced quarterback you're going to face all year this week. It's the least experience. How much does that factor into how you prepare a game plan, you know, what you set out to do? When you're facing a quarterback who essentially has one game under his belt?
KYLE McCARTHY: You know, I don't think it affects how we prepare too much. Obviously, last week we had a whole bunch of games to review the quarterback and see what he does. The challenge this week is we really only have one game to evaluate these guys that play quarterback. From the game that I saw, they're obviously more than capable of running that on offense and very talented kids.
You know, it's going to be a challenge for us to shut down that offense, as you guys saw last week. I think they're really quick on all cylinders. But, you know, that's a challenge for our defense, and we're excited to really take that to heart. We're out there working to try top stop them.
Q. What did you see from Fortier when you watched tape? What did he do so well that impressed you?
KYLE McCARTHY: One thing is you can tell this is his first collegiate game. He really ran that offense well. You see plays where his instincts kind of took over, and, you know, the play broke down. But I think his first touchdown pass, the play broke down, he just scrambled and hit his receiver going across the field. And that was a play that he created himself.
So he's got the ability and talent to take a game over. But I think our defense is pretty good. So it will be fun to watch on Saturday.
Q. From the brief time that Robinson was in there. Can you talk about what you saw there?
SCOTT SMITH: First thing when you watch him on film is he is he has phenomenal speed. You know, anything -- he can take a ball and his first touchdown run was, I think, a broken play as well.
So those guys have the ability to make something out of nothing, which is, you know, pretty special. But like you said before, with both guys we've got to play within ourselves. We have to play our defense and I'm confident that we're going to do well.
Q. Can you practice broken down plays? I mean, is that something you work on?
KYLE McCARTHY: No, I mean, that's just something that you, as a football player, your instincts have to take over, and in that situation, we just need to, you know, attack the ball and break down and move our feet and get the guy on the ground.
Q. I'm curious about Brian Smith. You can just feel his presence out there on the field. Can you talk about what he brings to the defense and your unit?
SCOTT SMITH: I don't think in the time I've been playing football I've ever met somebody who enjoys playing football more than Brian does. That's just something that if you're around him enough and you feel his in energy and feeling his presence, it just rubs off on you. Just the way he approaches every game, and the intensity that he plays with. You know, it's something that's part of what makes him so good.
Q. You touched on it a little bit. How much of that has rubbed through you guys in his three seasons here?
SCOTT SMITH: I think the emotional years leaders of our team. I think you have to look at Brian as one of those guys. Although he might never seem to shut up, that's part of who he is, and that's part of what makes him special is the fact that he's willing to put himself out there and be that guy to try to maybe push our team through days where we're, you know, maybe not feeling as great as we were the day before.
But he is just the same guy all the time just looking to make plays and be aggressive. Every time he's on the football field, he has a whole bunch of fun.
Q. Kyle, how has Corwin maybe changed? His role has changed a bit, but have you noticed differences in him in the past six months?
KYLE McCARTHY: Not really. I think he's still pretty much the same guy. What you see is what you get. Um, you know, maybe he's a little more -- he could spend a little more time with us, with the defensive backs lately. And, you know, I think that really has benefited us.
He's, like I said last week, he's been to the next level. He's done what we all wanted to do. So we really respect him. When he speaks you're going to listen, because he has some insight to some film break down that you might not see as a young player. He's just got a tremendous football mind. I'm happy to play for him.
Q. He's obviously given you a lot of teaching points throughout his time here. Is there anything specific that stands snout any specific examples?
KYLE McCARTHY: Probably just he really encourages me to be a vocal guy on the field. You know, my first couple of years I really wasn't too much of a vocal guy. I just kind of went out there and played. But he told me from the beginning if I was ever going to play safety for him, that I was going to need to speak up and line the defense up. And I've worked with him at that, and I think it's worked out.
Q. How exactly did he do that? He was yelling at you and you had to yell back?
KYLE McCARTHY: Well, if I didn't do what he said he just put me on the sideline, so I listened.
Q. You guys mentioned Robinson has speed. I guess kind of a jokingly type question, the fact that the guy doesn't tie his shoe laces, how bizarre is that to see a guy do that?
KYLE McCARTHY: Well, I don't believe it can be done, so we'll have to see on on Saturday. No comment.
SCOTT SMITH: I mean, I have to go no comment also. I've got nothing.
Q. Yesterday Coach Weis singled you out as one of the guys who has kind of taken Manti under his wing. What is that process like and what specifically have you been trying to show him?
SCOTT SMITH: You I think first thing everybody really notices about Manti is how physically ready he looks to play. And ever since he got here in the summer, you know, every day through the workouts and studying film on on our own and kind of learning the playbook, he's just put in as much effort as anybody to try to get himself ready to go.
So I think a lot of the credit has to go to him and just the fact that he's really worked hard to try to put himself in a position to play. Being one of the older guys, it's kind of my job to kind of guide him through that learning process. So, you know, just whether or not I've taken him under my wing, maybe something that I thought of doing, but he's done enough on his own that he deserves the majority of the credit for everything he's done.
Q. Kyle, talk about now being a captain. How important or what mindset did you come into the season with given your progress, and also kind of the state of the team the last two years? Did you feel like there was unfinished business to attend to?
KYLE McCARTHY: I think the mood of this team is different than I've had in years past. You know, this group of guys has really been through a lot. We've seen the success and the failures in the last two seasons. So I really haven't done much.
I think it's been a team effort where we've really come together and worked hard in the off-season. We know the type of talent that we have in the locker room, but having high expectations doesn't translate to wins on Saturday. So this team's really taken it upon themselves to work hard both on and off the field, and try to get wins on Saturday. We're not going to try to talk too much, we're just going to try to go out there and perform.
Q. You mentioned after the game Saturday how much Harrison helps you maybe break the mold a little bit. Do you feel like there are the other guys on the defense that allow you to maybe maximize your talent more so than if you just kind of played the role that the position gives you?
KYLE McCARTHY: I don't think you I understood everything you said. But as far as the other guys on the team really helping us out on the defensive side and really opening up our defense, this defense definitely has a different face this year. You know, we have so many guys that are so athletic and can play so many spots that it gives Coach Tenuta and Coach Brown the ability to game plan a little bit differently, and maybe put guys in positions to make some big plays.
So with the new guys that we have this year, we're confident that we can really make the big play this year, and I think our defense has improved.
Q. Given your family's history, was there any other school than Notre Dame that you envisioned playing for? Also coming from Youngstown, it's a town that's prided itself on work ethic. Do you kind of take that into how you play football?
KYLE McCARTHY: To answer the first question, I absolutely considered other schools prior to the school that came in second was Ohio State. So I'm sure Michigan fans would like that. Then my younger brother was actually probably down between Notre Dame and Michigan, because Michigan wanted to play quarterback. So that would have been a good story.
To answer the third question, being from Youngstown and he growing up in a blue-collared town like that means so much to me. You know, it's really I know where my heart is. And everything I've learned, I've learned from the people in the Youngstown area, and I'm just so proud and so privileged to be from that area.
Q. I was just wondering. Obviously, you've got a lot of confidence from the opener. I was wondering what a win against Michigan would do both for your confidence and the momentum?
SCOTT SMITH: I think coming out of the opener we've gained a lot of momentum and confidence in our team. Looking at all three phases, offense, defense and special teams, obviously we realize this weekend at Michigan is a huge game, and they're going to bring their best effort, and we're going to bring our best effort.
So like we did in the first game it's all about showing up and performing on Saturday, and going out there and giving everything we've got and hoping for the best.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
End of FastScripts