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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 27, 2009
COACH WEIS: Good afternoon. On to Washington State. One quarter they have had success in this year is they've won the third quarter. And we've recently had some problems in the third quarter so that will be one of my areas of concern in this game. Coach Wulff took over last year, so his second year there. Coach Sturdy has been handling his offensive coordinator position as well.
They rolled through three quarterbacks this year, and they've settled in recently on a true freshman, Jeff Tuel who is coming off his best game that he had last week. Last week he was 28 for 42 for 354 yards and a couple touchdowns along with 68. So they've kindly settle on this guy who had big numbers last week.
You know, at running back it's interesting because they play three guys at half back. You know Tardy has been their returning starter, started every game this year except for last week when they started Mitz. They also have Winston who is a true freshman that will show up.
At tight end they use two guys Thompson is their regular. He is a red-shirt senior started every game this year. But you will also see Stormo who is a red-shirt freshman play along with him.
At wide receiver they play five guys. At Z, Karstetter is their team leader in catches, and last week he had 6 for 66. But also at Z they'll play Forzani who had a big game this past week. He had 4 catches for 116 yards and a touchdown with a long one, 68.
At X, Blackledge has been starting all year long until last week where Solomon started instead of him. Solomon had a big game. He had 7 catches for 81 yards. And Simone handles the slot. He is a true freshman out of Skyline in Washington. Last week he had six catches for 86 yards and a touchdown.
The offensive line: Pencer has been their starting left tackle, but he sprained his ankle, didn't play last week, so I'm not sure whether he'll play or not. If he doesn't play left tackle, Reitnouer will handle it.
William's has got left guard.
You know, Alford -- their most experienced lineman is their center. Similar to last week, their most experienced guy is their center, Alfred. He started 43 games in the last 4 years.
Guerra and Eppele will handle the right guard.
The other guy with the most experience is Hannam who starts at right tackle. He's been starting there for three years. He's got 32 straight starts.
On defense they have co-defensive coordinators. Both their DB coaches, you know, Coach Ball who handles the safeties and Coach Sears who handles the cornerbacks, they're co-defensive coordinators. And they play a lot of guys and both the secondary and the defensive line.
But starting with the defensive line, you know Hamlett and Long were the starters at defensive end but Feagin, he plays almost as much as those guys do.
Then inside, Wolfgramm and Laurenzi handle the one side and Spitz and Turpin handle the other side. So they're rolling guys through there. There's really three ends and four defensive tackles that end up showing up.
That's not really true at linebacker. At linebacker they're really settled down, you know, with -- they feel really comfortable and confident with the guys they have playing. Stripling's their wheel and Ellis now their Mike. Even though they play Bland and Ledgerwood in there as well. Ledgerwood actually started last week but, you know, Hoffman-Ellis has been their main guy as far as what we can see.
Then Mattingly, yes, a distant relative of Don Mattingly for all your Yankee fans. But Mattingly is their Sam linebacker. He is their most experienced linebacker they have. Now the other linebacker who plays a whole bunch is Myron Beck, and he's really a critical factor in what they do. Because when Myron Beck plays, that signals the change over from a 4-3 defense to more of a 3-4 defense because then they go from their 4-man stuff to their odd pack. So you know he's a critical guy in what they do.
In the secondary, Jones and Hayward handle the corners. Jones is really fast.
Their safeties are Hicks and -- make sure I got this right -- Nwachukwu are the starting safeties. Yes, I actually practiced the phonetics on that one, Tom, as you are getting a chuckle. They're the starting safeties. Steve Broussard handles the special teams; obviously, be the running back coach too after playing in the NFL at that position.
Their punter, Forrest, he's actually one of the better punters that we've seen. This kid's got a big leg, and he also serves as the holder. But he's got a big leg, a strong leg, and he's got good hang times. You know, he is a nice, a nice, solid punter with a big leg.
Grasu will handle the place kicking, and Rooney will handle the kickoff duties.
Then, you know, long snapping. Enyeart is the long snapper. Tardy and Winston will be the kickoff returners. And Solomon will back there at punt return.
Q. I know you never want to overlook an opponent, but is this a game where you warn them about, you know, don't be complacent, is that something you got to worry about?
COACH WEIS: You could talk about a trap and all those other things which are the normal verbiage that comes after, you know, a big game last week against Boston College, but I think that there is a number of factors that make our team really enthused about going into this game.
This is the first time we've gone to one of these neutral site games, and just intrigue about how this is going to play out is exciting in its own right. Number two, you know, we have guys from the state of Texas that are pretty fired up about, you know, going back to the state of Texas and getting an opportunity to play there. And, Number three, you know, we're at the stage of the year now where we really need -- if we want to do something special in this year, we really need to get better all across the board. We need to get better on every single facet. So this week our whole point of emphasis is about improving across the board.
So I think that, you know, Washington State provides us an opportunity where we're going to go against a program that we don't have a lot of familiarity with, that struggled some in the first quarter, but they've gotten a lot of turnovers. And, you know, it's one of those situations where, you know, we're going have to go down there and be ready to go or else we're going find ourselves in the same game that we've been playing in for the last month and a half.
Q. You talked a week or so ago about you need to make a statement the last six games. Is this a game where you tell the guys, you know, winning at the last second probably isn't going to make the statement we want to make we got to show something here?
COACH WEIS: I think that we need to get better across the board. We've taken the last -- like this Boston College game and analyzed it and came up with a lot of things we did well but we came up with a lot of things we didn't do very well, too. So this is the next tint for us to get better.
Our coaches are excited about getting out there today, too. One thing you will notice, I think it will be very apparent when you go through even in stretching right on through, I think you'll see a lot of, you know, a lot of up-tempo stuff early in our practice because that's really going to be the whole motif from the start of practice today right through this week.
Q. Does the Syracuse game from last year come up at all this week as an example?
COACH WEIS: No. We're not talking about anyone from last year. We have enough problems of our own. I think that we're a different team than we were at any time last year.
You know, obviously we've shown some resiliency at the end of the game, but it's also apparent on the flip side of that, Tom, is that we haven't played a full 60-minute game across the board either. And this gives us an opportunity to try to do that. You know, we'd like to get on top of them early and go hard for the whole game and see if we can't put a game together, a full game together on offense, defense and special teams where you can walk out of the game with everyone gaining confidence.
Q. I know you said the other day that, you know, you are not involved in scheduling. Assuming at least the athletic directors approach you with the idea of playing neutral site games. What can happen -- what advantage can it be for your program?
COACH WEIS: They just tell me who we're playing. I mean, they don't approach me. I mean, I'm not really involved. I worry -- when they tell me what the final schedule is, I worry about it when the time comes, you know.
There were all sorts of names of teams that were being floated out there. I mean, there's a whole bunch of teams. There's about 12 different names of teams that were contenders-- I knew Utah was locked down, but to fill the last two spots I heard about 12 different -- might have been more than 12 that I heard. Until they get them worked out I really can't worry about those. I got enough problems just worrying about Washington State.
Q. I mean the neutral site games, is there something that playing the offsite home games is it something that can help you at all?
COACH WEIS: Well there's a pro and a con. First of all, any area you go into that -- any area you go into, it definitely can help you in that area recruiting. But, you know, we appeal to the NCAA to try to get like a true home game, and the concession is we can have recruits go to the game, we can give recruits tickets to the game, but we can't talk to them.
So it isn't really for us like a true home game in the fact that we can have all the recruits from the state of Texas, You know, I mean, we can get a whole bunch of recruits from the state of Texas, and we have a bunch coming, especially 2011's. We have a bunch coming to the game, but we can't talk to them. In that case, it's not really like a home game other than the fact that, you know, they get to go to the game, which I am perceiving is going to be more like a home game than a neutral site game.
Q. Kind of off topic a little bit, your approach to going into forth down change at all over the years?
COACH WEIS: Yeah. You know, as -- there's a bunch of times this year in plus territory where I punted the ball, and punted them back there.
The USC game comes to mind. You know, it was a 13-7 game, I think that was the score right before half-time, where we had a fourth down in plus territory where in the past I wouldn't have thought about going for it and played more of a field position situation to make sure you are sitting there at that same score at half-time. But sometimes I, you know, I'll become a little more conservative than I've been if the past, yes.
Q. Is there a reason?
COACH WEIS: Field position. Last week's game turned into a field position game. Now you didn't know that going into the game it was going to be a field position game but we're starting a lot of times pinned back inside our own 10-yard line. A couple times we had it inside the minus-7 and got it out of there enough to be able to punt with regular distance. But, then the other time going from our right to our left when we didn't get out of there, you know, now punting backed up and they ended up getting the ball on the plus 40-yard line after that punt. So it all comes down to field position and weather and the opponent and a combination of all those factors.
Q. You ever heard of the high school coach in Arkansas who never punts, never kicks field goals, goes for it every time; heard about that guy?
COACH WEIS: I'd get run out of Dodge. (Laughter).
Q. Can you tell us the status of Robert Hughes?
COACH WEIS: Robert's up and ready to go, yep. He had a little ding and he passed his cognitive test so he'll be practicing today.
Q. I know (inaudible) came back in the game after he took the shot to the knee but it looked like a pretty good shot?
COACH WEIS: His knee's fine. He's got that nagging ankle what he really has, Tim. The ankles have been more of a problem than his knee, but his knee was fine.
Q. I'm curious from a coach's standpoint, you have a freshman punter out there from Florida who is struggling inarguably the biggest game of the year, at least up to that point. You know, are you balancing going back to the veteran kicker and being concerned about the psyche of a freshman punter in the long-term affect on him?
COACH WEIS: Both sides of that question are true. You know so there's the catch-22. In reality you worry about the psyche of a young guy, but the bottom line is you have to worry about the team first more than the psyche of the young guy.
Obviously, you will have perfect conditions this week because you are punting indoors. So, you know, you take the weather factor out of the game where you don't have to worry about playing on a perfect surface and not going to be slippery and those things, but still this week they'll both have an opportunity to punt and whoever punts the bests that who will punt.
Q. Good sign that probably his best punt of the day was his last one?
COACH WEIS: It was a good time to have it. It was definitely a good time to have it. We weren't satisfied. We weren't satisfied with it in the game and, you know, he'll get an opportunity to be the guy again. He's just going to have to kick better than the other guy.
Q. On the fake field goal, you said you are looking for a particular look; who makes the call, is it Holder?
COACH WEIS: Well if we have a check off. If we don't have the look mouse will call it off. We go in there with the intent of running the fake, and if we don't get the look, we have, you know, a code word that just tells everyone we're kick the ball. But we got exactly what we thought we were going to get.
Q. You had to keep Rudolph in to block against USC. He only had one catch last week although Jimmy threw to him several times. With Michael Floyd out, in general, are teams starting to game plan against him like that?
COACH WEIS: I think that last week wasn't so much game planning was just we weren't hitting on a lot of combinations between those two guys.
One of the things we're going work on today is we're going work a couple routes. As a matter of fact, I'm going to go over and one of the individuals today and just we'll work with the cornerbacks and tight ends and work on nuances and routes. When it's one-on-one I would think Kyle should get open every time, I would think, but that hasn't been happening, so we'll be working on that today.
Q. Last thing, going back to the fourth and one. They called a time-out. Did you stay with the same play and what was your thought process after they called a time-out? The fourth and goal at the one.
COACH WEIS: No, we changed plays. We changed personnel and play. You know, so that's -- we had goal line people on the field and the run we were going to run was going to get blown up. So I'm glad they called time-out because I was calling time-out if they didn't. You know, so that play would not have gone as is. You know, because once we saw the look, it was not advantageous for us.
But now we have a thing where, you know, they see what look you're in, so, you know, you run your other goal line play that were you going run which was giving you a chance to balance off the formation and goal line. When you have goal line people and you can't balance off the formation because you will have an overloaded side wherever the third tight end is going be, an overloaded side.
Q. Put a finer point on the recruit rules. They can come to the game, you can't even so much as wave at them?
COACH WEIS: No.
Q. So you try to keep them away from where the team is?
COACH WEIS: Yep. It wouldn't be like anything that we normally do at home. They can't come into the holding area or anything like that. You can give them tickets to the game.
Q. How about the coaches, is there some advantage being able to make contact with high school coaches down there?
COACH WEIS: I don't know, you know, I would be ignorant -- before I answered that question I'll find out that answer because I wasn't worried about talking to the high school coaches as much as I would have liked to talk to the players. But, you're right, that's a fair question to ask and they will get you that answer before we go to practice.
Q. Can you kind of explain what's going on with the safety situation? Is Kyle actually the free safety now?
COACH WEIS: I mean, what we did was as I told you on Sunday and Monday when we talked about personnel, you know, you always have -- you have, you know, high safeties and low safeties and two-deep safeties. We have high safeties and low safeties, normally semantically the guy who is deep is the free safety. And normally the guy who has dropped down, semantically, is the strong safety. That's why when you got that depth chart it's just based off semantics.
Q. Harris, how is he looking?
COACH WEIS: I would say doubtful. I'll try my best for doubtful to be out this week, You know, not the other way. You know, I'll try my best to, you know, not use him this week.
Q. Last thing I want to talk to you about the release said something like 35 of your players have played in this venue before, and a big chunk of them are your sophomores. That group I know is pretty special to you because when you guys were going through the '07 season they kind of held together and didn't go different ways. Can you just talk about that group, and were you aware of how tight they were in San Antonio?
COACH WEIS: Oh, yeah, because they were letting me know what was happening. They said we got 'em, Coach. We got 'em. There were so many of our guys on board. You remember Sam Young wasn't on board at the time; he wasn't committed to anyone yet. He didn't visit still January, if I recall correctly. So they were working him pretty hard. One of the reasons -- no that's not right because Sam was already here.
Q. I'm talking about Crist, Floyd.
COACH WEIS: That's right 8 or 9 of them or however --
Q. 14 or 15.
COACH WEIS: Well 8 or 9 of them were together every second of the day. You know, I think that, you know, Dayne was the point person. But I think that one thing that happened with that group because they were getting hammered, you know, so badly from everyone, like, Why you going there, Why you going there, they just tightened up as a group even more and more. And I think that it says a lot for the character of that group of guys. Because, you know, we had a crummy year and they're getting massacred by everyone from everywhere, and they just stayed strong and stayed together.
And, you know, I think that, you know, that was -- as I said at that time, if you recall, probably the biggest upset of that year was that recruiting class. Because them being able to hold together when things had been under such duress that said a lot about their character.
Q. Home game this week is Tim McCarthy go down with you guys or does he stay here?
COACH WEIS: It's interesting because we always talk about Top-10s that some people are always trying to get their hands on. One of the things I talked about was this away slash home game question mark. You know because it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. You know, I really don't know how this whole thing's going play out.
I'm assuming we're going to have the majority of the fans. I am assuming that. But, you know, that is one of the intrigues about the game. You know, I'm really intrigued about the game. And so are our players.
Because this isn't like you are going, you know, to play Washington State at Washington State, you know. You are playing in San Antonio, and I think that's one of the intrigues of the game.
Q. A lot of times in neutral sites fans start rooting for the underdog if they stay in the game?
COACH WEIS: I'm not expecting that to happen.
Q. Talk just a little bit about priority to get younger receivers in this year and you've been able to do that. Talk about the priority to get younger offensive linemen in. You seem to not have been able to do that as much?
COACH WEIS: Well the games haven't dictated being able to do that, that's been part of the problem. It's been since Nevada, you know, every game is right down to the last second of the game. You know, at the offensive line position the last thing I want do is sit there and take a sophomore and say, Okay, I want to put you in for a few plays and see how you do, you know. The offensive line you risk the quarterback getting killed.
I mean, we're going travel a bunch of offensive linemen to the game, and we'd like to have an opportunity to play a bunch of them, but, you know, the game has to present itself in such a way where you can do that, John.
Q. Because you know it's fast track and you know the weather conditions what they are, do you specifically game plan different plays that you wouldn't do here even if the weather was nice here?
COACH WEIS: You run some plays more than you would have run them. You usually have those plays available, the plays you're talking about, but sometimes you don't call them very much, you know, based off of sloppy field or slow field or a wet field, you know. But on a fast track there is some things you might go to the well a lot more than you normally would have.
Q. I don't know if you feel comfortable answering this, but now that more teams are behind you when you guys look at game tapes are you telling your staff, we've got more to review for example the Stanford or Pitt, so we don't wait until that week, we're doing every team every week now?
COACH WEIS: You mean, as far as breaking them down?
Q. Yes sir.
COACH WEIS: I think what happens with the younger guys who do most of the initial film breakdown before the coaches get the film break down and do the analysis, I think they try the best they can to go ahead and get ahead. You know, because we use 4 or 5 games of every opponent in every game.
You know, having been a film breakdown guy myself, okay, I used to want to be done with the team we were playing so early in the week that the next team we were playing early in the week so by the end of the week I could be getting a jump start on the second opponent, not the first opponent. Was never ahead, you know, two teams.
So to translate that, I'd want to be done with the Navy stuff early this week so that later on this week I could be working on Pittsburgh stuff. You know, having had to do that job myself, you know, trying to go any further than that, you know, would be a little bit, you know, carried away.
Q. I wrote in, asked question about a rule and I told them I'd ask you to clarify it. When Robert was hit at the goal line when it was a helmet-to-helmet hit on him, why wouldn't that be a penalty in terms of a helmet-to-helmet hit?
COACH WEIS: It could be. But I think that the refs usually call helmet-to-helmet hits when it's more something that happens in an open field air area where refs feel that it's something that was definitely avoidable.
I don't know if I would have ever seen anything on a goal line where -- I mean, I think the refs are almost assuming there's going be, you know, some vicious contact when the ball's inside the one-yard line. You know, not that it's not illegal, Al, because it would be, but I don't think that -- I can't imagine they've ever called it in that situation right there.
Q. Could you talk about why Duval Kamara was able to handle the ups and downs he's had this season. I mean, he started with a knee injury, came back quickly, became productive, especially when Michael was out, had the slip at Southern Cal, then, you know, last week had what you called his best game of the year?
COACH WEIS: Well I think that, you know, he's -- even though he's been back from -- he was back from the knee, you know, being back from the knee and being ready to go and being at the top of your game like you never had a knee are two different things. I think we battled back nicely and quickly and got himself involved in the mix. You know, was he disappointed at the end of the USC? You bet you. But you could see it didn't affect at all his performance in the next game. And I thought that he not only caught the ball well but, you know, he got some extra yards for us when he did catch the ball and was very productive for us.
Q. Has anyone come further since 2007 than Golden?
COACH WEIS: I'd say it would be a toss up with the quarterback. I mean, if you really -- sometimes we underestimate the quarterback and you think about where he was in 2007. So, I mean, that might be a two-horse race there. I think that the progress those two guys made -- of course, Jimmy already had skills, you know, whereas Golden was a running back that got converted to wide receiver, but his rise has been meteoric, you know, from where he was till now. He is one of the best receivers in the country, you know. But then again everyone would have questioned freshman year whether Jimmy would be one of the best quarterbacks in the country. And he's arguably the best quarterback in the country. You know, one of the best if not the best. So those two guys, I think they're -- it's pretty close race.
Q. Along those same lines maybe one of those which child do you love the most questions, but can you talk about the importance of Jimmy on this offense versus the importance of Golden in this offense this year?
COACH WEIS: I think we'd struggle without either one of them. But, you know, everyone said when Michael Floyd went out that would be the end of the passing game, and, you know, so give credit to both Jimmy and Golden for that, that not being the case.
I think that they've both performed above and beyond, you know, what you could have expected. But the one thing is the quarterback has the ball in his hands on every single play. Therefore, you know, the value of a quarterback always, you know, you come and you win and lose and come and go by what the quarterback does. Because if he doesn't get the ball to 23, doesn't make a difference what he's doing. He's got to be able to get it to him, too.
Q. Manti I know experience is sort of the large umbrella for what's enabled him to kind of start getting on a roll. Is there any one or two specific sub-categories to experience whether it's reading defenses, technique stuff, that have really sort of allowed things to click with him?
COACH WEIS: I think as a defensive player the number one thing is being able to pull the trigger, okay. And by that I mean even when you know what to do, to just let it loose and go. Because I think any time like when he first started playing he would be a little hesitant. You would see that momentary pause before he he'd finish off a play. That momentary pause is the difference between making a play and not making a play. Now all of a sudden that momentary pause is starting to vanish and so you don't see that anymore. Now when he sees it, he goes. And I think that, you know, when you get to that point, you know, you are definitely on the right track.
Q. Charlie, how did you feel about sneaking back into the rankings again, was that an important thing at all at this point?
COACH WEIS: Well I think that we have to, you know, if we want put to ourselves in the picture to play in a top-flight bowl game at the end of the year we have to slowly but surely, week by week take care of business. I think that that's the most imperative thing.
You know, last week, you know -- let's go back one week prior. In the loss to USC, you know, a loss never helps you, but, fortunately, for us because of how the game played out, it didn't really hurt us drastically by vanishing from the picture.
So then last week we beat Boston College to sneak back in there and now we got Washington State. It's we're not going to jump ahead of ten teams in a week. You want to get ahead of a couple of teams. Each week you want to get ahead of a couple more.
Q. You have a trip planned to the Alamo?
COACH WEIS: No, I have a trip planned to my hotel room because basically that's about all I do. We're going to get there, you know, after 7:00 p.m. at night on Friday so you'll see those guys going right to the chow line. I think that's the most important thing for them is they'll go to dinner then go to chapel.
Q. I could pull strings maybe get you in. How about curfew, no river walk after ten?
COACH WEIS: No, there will be curfew, and they won't be on the river walk. Our fans will be on the river walk, but our players, if they're on the river walk after ten, you know we have a problem. (Laughter).
Q. One last thing. I noticed you don't seem to recruit Texas as much as -- I may be wrong about this -- coaches in the past. Is that something you hope to take advantage of here and maybe recruit there a little more?
COACH WEIS: Well that is really not true. You know, we have to spot recruit. We spot recruit Texas. See Mac has that deal going, that junior recruiting day, you know, where he looks down about half the state in about the third week of February. Where he brings in those 25 guys and says you take it now or you're done and they all grow up wanting to go to UT and you know that locks -- most of them are going.
Everyone else that goes into Texas, there is a lot of teams go into Texas besides the other fine universities in the state of Texas. Now Houston's become more competitive; they're playing top-flight football. So you can't sleight any of the schools in Texas. Of course Oklahoma and everyone else -- LSU, all those places that go in there.
I think in our case what we have to do is we kind of not cherry pick but we have to hand pick a certain number of guys to go after. And we're still involved with people. A few people in 2010, but many more in 2011.
Q. Charlie, kind of building in that recruiting, is that -- do you find Texas to be a state where you need to be on kids the earliest of any region that you go into?
COACH WEIS: Yeah because of Texas junior day. You know, let's face it, if you like a kid and, you know, he wanted to go there and you weren't heavily involved with him long before then, you know, you already have no chance.
Q. Curious if you could just talk about Kapron's very steady upward development and revisit his recruitment. He was kind of an add-in recruit in the end based on timing but someone you were involved in long before?
COACH WEIS: Which part of that do you want me to answer first?
Q. While he's here it seems like he's maybe been the most consistently improved week to week guy or one of them?
COACH WEIS: He started this year, you know, at Notre Dame they're called sophomores. Everywhere else in the country they're called red shirt freshmen. Because he didn't play last year. Everyone else, that kid's a red-shirt freshman, but here he's a sophomore because that's the way we talk.
When he started playing at the beginning of the year we all talked about his physical development. We all saw it. It wasn't just the coaching staff. You guys saw him walk in and say man Kapron looks really good. But when he first starts playing this year, the first play of his college career. He's nervous and he's just like anyone else that would be out for the first time. But now each week he's gotten better and better and better. And now he's more than halfway through his freshman year, you know, he's actually his level of performance has gotten significantly better.
As far as his recruitment. Before he committed to another school then de-committed, then joined us, we actually thought we were going to get him. You know, he came on his visit, his mom really loved the place, and his mom was a very strong person in his life, and we thought he were going to get him. So we were surprised at first when we didn't.
I think that, you know, his mom and him sat down towards the end it wasn't like us pushing or anything. I think they reflected back and thought that in his best interest in the grand scheme of things this would be the best place to go.
I'll never forget that phone call. I'm sitting with Warren Charlie and my phone rings and it's Kapron. He goes, Hey Coach, it's Kapron. He's already committed to somebody else so you already know my feelings about getting in conversations with people that are committed to somebody else. And he goes -- I said, Hey, Kapron, how are you doing? He goes, Still got a spot for me? I said, Are you going to tell the other school? He goes, Yes, Sir, I will. I said, Well you tell the other school, then I have a spot for you. And he picked up the phone, called them up and called me back and we had a spot for him.
Q. Seems like he tackles through people maybe more than any other player. Is that a knack thing or what would you attribute on that to?
COACH WEIS: I think that's what really good linebackers do. You know, they -- I don't know how else to say it. But always use to like linebackers that would run through somebody's face. You know, that's what Manti does. And, you know, he's only a freshman, but as I said not too long ago, I thought the sky was the limit. And, you know, fortunately for us he's really starting to get on a little bit of a roll here.
Q. Lastly, you mentioned Washington State struggled in the first quarter. With the scoring margin there the way it is, do you try to remind your offense that, hey we don't need to go out and throw a two, 80-yard touchdown down passes on the first two drives, and you know, is there a danger you would like to press too much to put them away?
COACH WEIS: That could definitely be. That is definitely an area of concern but it's also the same way for the whole team. You know, I think that's going be one of the first things I talk to them about today is about the start of the game. I think that will be one of the areas where, you know, let's get off to a fast start, and let's not press. Let's just go out and execute and not try to do anything too fast.
Q. Can you talk about Harrison Smith. Started out the year as safety now you are moving him to linebacker and he played so well against Michigan, it's been a struggle for him since then. Talk about how he's handling the move to linebacker.
COACH WEIS: He's had some good production in the secondary. It's just that, you know, his confidence has gotten a little bit shaken. Is so we moved him down into a comfort zone to regain his confidence. And he played significantly better.
You know, he kind of, sort of flip-flopped with Sergio. With Sergio going back into his positions and Harrison going down there working at Sam along with Darius and those other guys. I think that, you know, he regained a lot of his confidence.
Q. Your turnover margin this year really good. A few turnovers in your plus-minus. How important do you think that is to success on a weekly basis? It seems like teams are exponentially more likely to win when they don't give it away or turn it over to the other team?
COACH WEIS: I know that years ago we had done a big study in the NFL what was the greatest predictor of wins and losses. Turnover margin. Everybody talks about rushing offense and rushing defense. Turnover margin was by far the greatest determining statistic in winning percentage. So, you know, it's something I've always felt important, was most important.
You know, as we reflect back to the beginning of the year when we all talked about where we're going on have to get better at, one of the most critical things in evaluating the quarterback position play were the volume of touchdowns, the ratio of touchdowns to interceptions. I think that, you know, that's been one of the biggest significant changes we've had this year.
I've always felt good about our runners, you know, for the most part holding on to the ball, unless it's careless like something an exchange problem. But I think that our biggest area of improvement comes from not throwing it to the other guys as many times as we've gone it in the past.
Q. Is that something in the off season you pent a lot of time on getting Jimmy to be careful with his choices?
COACH WEIS: Look at the difference between last week's game and a year ago's game. I mean, we might as well been throwing to them. Well we were throwing them to them you know. So you sit there and look at the patience -- this is one of the things that I really love about Jimmy. Look at the patience that he really showed last week. I mean, that's tough to do now. You know, when you are one of the better quarterbacks in the country, it's tough to sit there and say we're going to dig and dunk all day, but that's exactly what he did. And I think avoids having those, you know, plays where you are throwing them to the other guys.
Q. You talked yesterday or I'm sorry on Sunday about finding roles for some of the players. Seemed like McGill kind of found his way back to that nickel role?
COACH WEIS: He's played -- he played there some of the game and he also played corner some of the game. And I think that you'll see Raeshon back on the field some more again this week.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH WEIS: We've been trying to do that. We've been trying to give, you know, Chris a little bit of a rest over there at left guard, you know, and get Danny some work at the same time. So we've been trying to do that for the last several weeks.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH WEIS: The second half of the USC game it was the thing that settled USC's defense down. In this past game we wanted to play the game at standing at the line of scrimmage for a good portion of the game. You notice it wasn't an up tempo it was just calling the plays at the line of scrimmage. We're basically doing that to make sure we kept them into just a vanilla defense, which is exactly what it did.
See sometimes you put the personnel there for a different reason. It isn't because of the personnel group it's because of what's the affect that it has on the opponent's defense. And if it lets you know exactly what they're going to do -- for example Washington State, they run every front and every coverage that you have. They run even, over, under, odd and diamond. They run every cover. So, you know, after studying all their games, going back to the beginning right through the this week's game, you know, there's so much multiplicity in what they do. You know, you got to go to the line scrimmage you are not going to be really sure exactly what they're going to do. So you better be good at what you do or else you are going have a problem.
Q. Charlie, little bit more on turnover thing. How much do you practice, actually practice ball protection?
COACH WEIS: Well if not every day it's close to every day. You know, we practice it almost every day. Especially at the running back position, the tight end position, and at least once out of a couple of days at the wide receiver position as well.
Q. What do you do?
COACH WEIS: Well, I mean, we practice at the quarterback position, too. Well there is a couple different things. You know, we have a home made gauntlet. Then we use bags to go ahead and knock on people. Then we get the quarterback in the pocket, we try to hit him from behind and different angles to knock the balls loose. So it depends on the position and the angle the guys normally would be going. But sometimes it's with a machine. Sometimes it's with people just standing with a row of bags trying to knock the ball out of your hands.
Q. We've talked a lot about the offensive line and whatnot but Tony Alford hasn't come up a lot when it comes to the running game. What has he brought?
COACH WEIS: Well, I mean, there's a couple things. Let's start with the fact that they're haven't been a lot of blitz pickup problems. There haven't been very many ball possession issues that you are talking about. Okay? The running backs for the most part when you look at the production of the stats of runners running in the game, I'm not talking about with Clausen's yardage or something like that, but runners running the game has been very productive. You know, especially Armando.
So when you don't really notice the running backs very much in blitz pickup, okay, and you don't see the ball laying on the ground and the production of the runners running the game is pretty good, that usually means that the running back coach is doing a pretty good job.
Q. It's interesting that good ball protection is followed Coach Alford around. I find that pretty interesting or where he's been; is that coincidence?
COACH WEIS: I think it started with him playing. That was his cup of tea. You know, he was going to take care of the football. I think when the guy has had that type of experience, he can kind of pass it on to everyone else.
Q. Off topic a little bit, I've been walk by the Gug ever since it was built and I see that grill you out there and I've never seen you cooking on it.
COACH WEIS: Believe it or not that grill does get used. Usually it's kind of a little celebration for my staff or, you know, it's nice day in the springtime where at the 7:00 staff meeting I'll say we're having a barbecue at noon. One time I had a barbecue and they came a little late and I said okay fella is guess you don't want this anymore. They haven't been late ever since. You know these guys get a free meal, they're usually there.
Q. Would something like a BCS win, some day would that maybe get you out there to cook some burgers for all of us? (Laughter.)
COACH WEIS: You're on, Todd. I tell you what, you're on. You guaranteeing that now? (Laughter.)
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, everyone.
End of FastScripts