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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 14, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We have Jimmy Clausen and Eric Olsen will be joining us momentarily. We'll start with questions for Jimmy.
Q. What has Kyle Rudolph brought to the offense?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: He's a great play-maker. I think the biggest thing about Kyle is his matchup, whether you put him in the slot or put him outside, you know, he's running against linebackers. Kyle is probably a low four, five guy. He's 6'6", probably 260. He's just a real big body. He's got real good hands. He blocks real well. It just gives us a mismatch going against the defensive guys.
Q. He says he likes to call on his basketball skills oftentimes. Is that something you take into consideration with how you throw to him or is that just up to him?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: No, that's one of the things we talk about when we watch film together, is placement of the ball, where he would want to catch the ball, where I'd want to put it in different situations.
But sometimes you got to understand when he's running down the middle of the field, which he does most of the time, you don't want to put it too high so the safety can come and can get a kill shot on him. You have to be careful where you put the ball in different situations.
Q. Obviously you have a little bit of an important game on Saturday coming up here. A lot of things going on. Jimmy Clausen hype all week. What do you have to do to not get too worked up especially before Saturday?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: I'm just trying to do the same exact thing I've been doing the last four or five weeks: go out there each and every day during practice, get better. You can't take any days off. A lot of guys are tired, banged up. You just got to keep pushing through it. It's a long season. That's why you play football.
You just got to keep pushing through, get better each and every day, prepare yourself mentally and physically for the game on Saturday.
Q. Do you notice the distraction level being higher this week or are you able to put it aside?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: No, I'm able to put it aside. I've gotten questions earlier in the week, different things, are you getting annoyed or anything like that, all the media attention, things like that. To be honest, I'm really not worried about that. I'm just worried about, you know, the hundred guys in the locker room and the coaching staff, everyone surrounding Notre Dame football, just going out there and preparing each and every day to get ready for Saturday.
Q. Can you talk about your relationship with Matt Barkley. I understand you've known each other for a while.
JIMMY CLAUSEN: Yeah, we've known each other for a long time, probably since before high school. Our quarterback coach, Steve Clarkson, Air 7 Quarterback Camp, we've been going to him ever since we were little guys. Me and Matt have been working out together ever since. Every time I go back home during the off-season, Matt is always around. We're always throwing the ball, hanging out, stuff like that.
Q. Did he ever talk to you about playing as a freshman, about experiencing it as a freshman? If he did, what advice did you give him? If he didn't, what advice would you give him on how to survive in a high-profile situation as a freshman?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: To be honest, I think Matt has been in a good situation coming from a great high school in Mater Dei, California. You know, he's been in a hard offense to play in, which he played at Mater Dei. I talked to him during the summertime. He went into USC early, like I did here. I was just asking him how everything was going. He said it's going well. He's just trying to fit in, like I was trying to do, just try everything he can to get on the field.
I just told him to take his time. When the time comes, you just got to be ready for it. He's done a great job of leading USC's team, their offense, to high expectations. He's done a really good job with that.
Q. Charlie said his supporting cast might have been a little better than yours was a couple years ago in terms of how your first year went.
JIMMY CLAUSEN: Yeah, I'd say so (laughter).
Q. The '05 game here, what that experience was like watching it from the stands?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: Yeah, I was out here with Mark and my family. You know, it was a crazy game, back and forth. Came down to the wire. We were on the field about ready to storm the field, being recruits. It was a dramatic ending. That's pretty much what I remember.
Q. Was that a weekend that kind of proved to you that Coach Weis is here, NFL talent, now I can see where this program is going? Did that prove to you he was going to be able to take what he did in the pros and apply it here successfully?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: I think so. To be honest, it was his first year here. To be able to come in and compete against a great USC team, which they had, I don't think they were on the same level of athleticism at the time, but to come in his first year and compete and almost win the game was, you know, pretty spectacular to me.
Q. Was that almost when you made the decision in your mind you were going to come here?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: It wasn't that game. It was a little bit later than that. But I just wanted to come here, see the atmosphere, big game. You know, it was a lot of fun.
Q. Eric, Coach Weis mentioned, he used the term 'manhandled' regarding the offensive line versus USC's front last year. How are you better prepared? Do you mix the motivation of what happened last year with the confidence that you've gained over the last five weeks heading into Saturday?
ERIC OLSEN: Yeah, you know, I think it's the same old story, different week. I think our experience is going to be the biggest difference between previous years and this year. I mean, obviously at the offensive line position, having a couple years under your belt is definitely something that's a plus as a player, having that time in the weight room, being able to get bigger and stronger and be more comfortable in the offense. I think that's something that's definitely -- it has so far at least paid dividends for us. I think that's going to be the biggest thing.
As far as what's happened in the past, it hasn't been good, it hasn't been pretty, but I feel like we're definitely a different group this year. We're the same guys, but our mindset has been different. Our production has been different. Like I said before, I'll say it again, we're a real prideful group. I doubt our group is going to let what's happened in the past happen to us again.
Q. When you look at USC's front seven, a lot of turnover there, do they look that different to you?
ERIC OLSEN: That's the thing about USC and any of the top programs in the country, when they lose players at graduation, they just reload. There's no rebuilding. They replace them with the next guys in line who are top recruits as well. They're ready to play. For them it's a great thing. For us it's not so good.
But at the same time that's the reason why we come to Notre Dame, because we want to play the USCs of the world. We want to play against the top talent and win those games, because that's a statement for us, a statement for our program. That's what we want to do every week.
Q. Jimmy, what kind of challenge does Taylor Mays present to you as a quarterback? You look down a field, think a guy is open, he can come out of nowhere. What have you seen from him on tape?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: When you watch him on tape, he's obviously a big, physical and fast safety. Runs to the ball, makes big plays, big hits. That's one thing that you can't do when you're playing against SC, playing against Taylor Mays, is stare receivers down because he'll read your eyes, go wherever you're going. As soon as the ball comes out of your hand, he's going to be right there. That's what I've tried to work on this week leading up to the game, is not staring receivers down, moving Taylor one way or the other with my eyes.
Q. Is there a play or two that you've watched from him on tape that really gets your attention the most?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: To be honest, it's not one or two plays. But wherever the ball is, he's there. Like I said, he's a big, physical, fast safety, has a nose for the ball. He's going to be around the ball carrier, wherever they are.
Q. Jimmy, 2008 game, after that game, can you talk about the emotions you felt, then also maybe what you transformed that game into?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: To be honest, that was probably the toughest loss that I've ever faced in my life. To be honest, I never want to feel that way ever again. Just going against some of the guys that I know, that I've grown up with, played against, it's not a good feeling at all. Like I said, it's something that I never want to feel again.
You know, I think this whole entire team has grown from that game on. You know, going into the Hawaii Bowl, moving into this season, I think we've really taken a lot of steps forward. We still have a long ways to go, but each and every day going out to practice, that's that we're working towards.
Q. I know Michael didn't do much yesterday, but was it kind of a lift having him out in practice anyway?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: It's always fun having Mike out there in practice, whether he's suited up or not. He's a character. You know, probably one of the funnier guys on the team. You know, it's just great to have your whole team out there. All the guys on the team love each other, are there for each other. To be honest, just to have his presence out there is good for us.
Q. Jimmy, I notice you kept encouraging him to get to the front of the line. Probably wasn't ready for that yet.
JIMMY CLAUSEN: No, he wasn't ready for it. But he'll be back soon enough.
Q. Talking about the guys that you know and the difficulty of that loss last year, did the guys that you know give you a lot of grief about what's happened the past couple years?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: They do. I was getting text messages before I came in here, those guys talking smack, different things like that. My buddy Marc Tyler, he was texting me. Then Will Harris got on his phone, started texting. I know all those guys. We always joke around with each other. Whenever I go back home, we all hang out with each other. It's a rivalry, but it's a friendly rivalry, especially with me being from California.
Q. So if you were to win on Saturday, you're well-prepared to answer them?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: Definitely. Definitely.
Q. Eric, we've asked you a thousand times about Coach Verducci, what he's done for you, technique. What about in terms of just instilling in you and giving you guys the confidence level that you now seem to have after five games compared to where you were five games ago?
ERIC OLSEN: Coach Verducci really has done a tremendous job of teaching us that it's not about what other people think we are, who other people think we are, it's really about what we think of ourselves, what we think about ourselves, how we see ourselves as an offensive line. No offense to the media, but we can't let media or fans, anyone in the outside world, dictate the way we play. It's kind of tough, especially for young guys, and we have plenty of young guys, 18- 19-year-old kids to not listen to the stuff being written about them, about how bad they are, how terrible. It's really tough to block that out when you're at this stage of your life. Self-image is something that every teenager battles with.
But Coach Verducci really has kind gave us the tools and taught us how to think of ourselves and worry about fixing the things in our room and getting things right in our meeting room, worrying about ourselves as a group, not worrying about what other people think. I think that's definitely helped us out. You know, in the past, guys may have bought into the fact, they see everything, Oh, USC's defense is going to destroy Notre Dame's offensive line. This guy is going to destroy Eric Olsen. That kind of thing, I think guys have bought into that in the past. Coach V again has given us the tools to not pay attention to that stuff.
You can read the clippings when they're good, but when they're bad, just dirt off your shoulder. You kind of just let that stuff go. He's given us the tools to get past that stuff and it's definitely helped us out.
Q. The clippings are pretty good now.
ERIC OLSEN: I don't want to admit to whether or not I've been reading them. I'm just going to let that one go (laughter).
Q. Jimmy, you talked about some of the texting. Can you give us an example of what a message might be, what kind of things they say?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: I can't give you like a specific example. But it's just, you know, friends talking smack back and forth to each other. It's nothing bad. But I think it's kind of personal.
Q. Pete Carroll yesterday said one of the reasons you came to Notre Dame was you thought you could get on the field faster. Is that accurate? Was that a major point in the decision making?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: What was that?
Q. Getting on the field faster at Notre Dame than USC.
JIMMY CLAUSEN: No, that wasn't a factor at all. To be honest, wherever you are going to go to school, you have to compete for the job. No one is going to hand you the job. Obviously, I didn't start the first game I got here. That wasn't the case at all.
Q. You talked a few minutes ago about the 2005 game, maybe Notre Dame didn't have the same athletes that USC did. At this point do you think Notre Dame is on the same level as USC or close to the same level in athleticism?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: Yeah, I really do, whether it's the skill guys or the line or whatever it is. I think we match up really well against SC this year. To be honest, in the past, I don't think we really did. This year definitely we match up pretty well.
Q. Obviously a lot of different things are written about you this year. A lot is written about whether you're going to stay another season or not. Have you gotten to the point of thinking about how you're going to make that decision, what parameters, when you'll think about it, how you'll go about it? Have you thought about that at all?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: Not one bit. The only thing I'm thinking about right now is going out to practice later today and beating USC on Saturday. That's about it.
Q. Have either of you ever seen a tape of the '88 Miami-Notre Dame game?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: I saw the fight in the tunnel. I saw that. That's about it.
ERIC OLSEN: I haven't seen the tape.
Q. Jimmy, is it overblown when you're playing all your games in 78 degree weather, and you play a game for the first time in the 40s, do people make more of that than they should? Does it impact the way you play, at least a little bit?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: To be honest, it's kind of difficult. I'm texting Matt Barkley, you know, when I was in the locker room before I came in here. It's going to be different for him because he's never played in cold weather, things like that. When I first came out here, it was freezing cold. The first day I went out there, I was throwing (indiscernible) all over the place, couldn't really grip the ball. It's something you have to get used to. It's good for us being able to practice outside. You know, I don't know the coldest game Matt has ever played in, but it's probably going to be a lot different for him.
Q. Does this week feel a little bit like three or four days before Christmas for you in the sense that there's nothing else on your mind and it's hard to block it out?
ERIC OLSEN: It's kind of a tough question because every week is like that. I mean, there's so much work that goes in all off-season, all summer and everything for 12 games. It's kind of tough to look past any game and not treat it as Christmas, as players, even the coaches get just as excited. You put the practice in, Sunday goes by so slow, the first day after the game, then Monday, class and everything, it kind of drags along.
I think everyone treats every game as Christmas, especially for us, because we're not in a conference, we don't have a conference championship or something to work for. It's BCS or nothing. For us as a team, every game is a big game. It just so happens that the next guys in line are highly ranked and have gotten the better of us the last few years. As a team, as an offense, as an individual, you have to take this game as another game. Obviously the credentials that come along with it are a little bit different and there's a little bit more on the line. But we're just as excited as we've ever been. We're just looking forward to Saturday.
Q. Do either of you guys ever read Pete Carroll's tweets on Twitter?
ERIC OLSEN: I've never been on Twitter. I don't even know what it is.
Q. Jimmy, you were talking about your 2005 visit. Do you remember meeting any of your future teammates here that day?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: To be honest, I don't. It was kind of a crazy game. Notre Dame won, then they had to take all the fans and everyone off the field, then the Bush Push happened. After the game, everyone was down. To be honest, it was so long ago, I don't even remember.
Q. Can you talk about what it means to hear your name mentioned for the Heisman, how you deal with that kind of buzz?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: I hear about it, but to be honest, I kind of try to block it away, worry about the team. Coach Weis said it the best. If the team keeps winning, we have a winning season, that happens, the team did well, if it happens for me, it happens. But I'm not worried about individual awards at all. I'm worried about this team, going out on Saturday, preparing well the rest of the week, getting a win on Saturday.
Q. Can you talk about what it was going back with Kyle on the bye week.
JIMMY CLAUSEN: It was fun. I went back to Ohio. Went back with Kyle and Dane. Just hung out. Got to go to and watch Andrew Hendricks play for the first time. That was fun.
Q. Jimmy, obviously you're playing your best football right now. How have you grown off the field since you've been at Notre Dame?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: I've grown a lot. When I first walked into Notre Dame, I didn't really know and, to be honest, expect what it was to be like to be the quarterback at Notre Dame. You know, I've had to deal with some things on the field, off the field. To be honest, I'm just really embracing being the quarterback at Notre Dame right now, just having a lot of fun with it.
Q. I asked Chris Galippo if you were cocky yesterday. He went for about 10 minutes telling me what a great guy you are. Do you think there's a pretty big distance between some of the negative public image and who you are today?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: To be honest, yeah. People that know me wouldn't really say that. Chris is a guy I've known since high school. He's one of the guys that we hang out every single time I go back home, go to SC, hang out with those guys. The people that know me truly know who I am, so...
Q. Jimmy, you spelled out pretty specifically what you wanted to accomplish before you came to Notre Dame, how you wanted to leave your mark. You probably had similar thoughts at Oaks Christian. Is there something about the position that makes you want to leave a legacy in some way wherever you are?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: Being the quarterback, you always want to have the ball in your hands at crucial times, you always want to win the big games. To be honest, you want to win every single game. I think just being the quarterback, you know, you just want to do everything you can to help the team win, whether it's hand the ball off or, you know, cheering the defense on or throwing a touchdown pass. To be honest, it really doesn't matter, all you're trying to do as a quarterback is just help your team win. If that leaves a legacy for yourself, then so be it.
Q. And just from your perspective, why is there such a sense of ownership for a quarterback with a team, besides the obvious of having the ball in your hands all the time?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: You know, the quarterback, like I said, has the ball in your hands every single play. Guys are looking up to you, whether they're on defense or on offense with you. You know, when you have the ball in your hands every single time, every single play, something good can happen or bad can happen. They want you to have something good happen every single time. So it gives you that much more motivation to go out each and every day to work hard and do everything you can to help the team win.
Q. Do you think this is a big game for you in a way to establish some sort of that legacy at Notre Dame?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: To be honest, like I said, you know, previous questions, I'm not worried about myself. I'm worried about the team, and that's about it.
Q. Jimmy, what do you say to critics who say you're 0-4 against top 20 teams and haven't won a big game since you've been at Notre Dame?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: I guess that's the nature of who we play. We go out each and every day and play against whoever is on our schedule. Just so happens to be that SC is a top-10 team coming in. We're just working real hard right now to go out and prepare for them and get ready for them on Saturday.
Q. How important is Saturday in terms of being a statement game for you and the program?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: I think it's a huge game for us as a team and as a program, a university. We haven't beaten SC in seven years or whatever it is. We've kind of been the whipping boys of the USC-Notre Dame rivalry. We want to get on the other end of the stick now.
Q. Jimmy, quarterbacks are always going to face adversity at some points in their career. You had quite a bit as a freshman. Do you think that helped you get to the point you're at right now, going through those trials and tribulations as early as you did?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: I think that helped us a lot, helped me a lot, just going through all the ups and downs that we did my freshman year and last year, not only for myself but for this team. We've been through everything that could happen, good or bad. I think that's what's helped us grow so much as a team, to get to this point, this year, this season, and help us move forward.
Q. Can you talk about the process as a quarterback taking ownership of a team. I'm sure it's hard to do as a freshman. You're dealing with older players. Like you said earlier, you're trying to fit in at that point. Nevertheless, you're the quarterback. Is it a process, was it a process, for you to get to that point where this is my team and I'm the leader here?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: Yeah, it is a process. Coming in as a freshman, you can't take ownership of anything until you've proven yourself. You know, the first thing that you have to do is just come in and work hard and do everything you can to help the team win. You know, I'm to a point now where I'm obviously the captain of the team, taking more ownership, trying to make plays each and every time I have the ball in my hand. Whether it's in practice cheering guys on, trying to encourage guys, or getting on guys, do everything I can to get this team ready to go and play on Saturdays.
Q. Lastly, if you could talk about your relationship with Coach Weis. I know you've said in the past that you went to Notre Dame to play for him in a pro-style offense. You were his first signature recruit. You're linked at the hip. After a couple of the emotional wins these last few weeks, you shared some heartfelt embraces on the sidelines. It seemed genuine. Can you talk about that relationship you have forged together.
JIMMY CLAUSEN: Yeah, that is the reason I came to Notre Dame, is because of Coach Weis. Ever since I came in, we've been real close. I see him every single day, whether it's in meetings, on the field, going in his office, joking around with him. He's a real family-oriented guy. A lot of people don't get to see that about him because he tries to keep his life kind of in a shell. He's just a great guy to be around, funny guy, just a great coach who loves his family and loves his team.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, everyone.
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