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November 18, 2009

Jimmy Clausen

Eric Olsen

THE MODERATOR: We have Eric Olsen and Jimmy Clausen. We'll start with questions.

Q. Jimmy, I know you were only here for a little bit, but talk about what you remember from Zach being here, the competition you were involved in.
JIMMY CLAUSEN: You know, it was so long ago, I just remember coming in early as a freshman, you know, competing against Zach and Demetrius and Evan. It was a tough battle.
It was kind of hard for me because it was just my first few weeks coming into school here, trying to get situated with everything involving being in college. Zach was a good guy. You know, he's doing pretty good at Connecticut.
I really didn't get too good of a relationship with him 'cause I wasn't really like one of his guys or whatever like that. You know, then after the springtime, he left, so we really didn't have too much of a connection together, so...

Q. What do you remember about him, Eric?
ERIC OLSEN: Zach was a great guy, one of my good friends when I came here. Walking in the door, he was in the same class with me. We had a good relationship. I mean, we had a pretty good friendship. Things obviously didn't work out the way he wanted to and he had to leave to give himself a better opportunity.

Q. Eric, talk about the emotions you're going to be going through on Saturday.
ERIC OLSEN: You know, it's tough 'cause I know what to expect but at the same time it hasn't really sunken in yet. I mean, obviously it's the last time I'm going to run out of the tunnel into our stadium. That's kind of hard to swallow. But at the same time I'm really just worrying about, you know, winning this game right now. I'll worry about the emotions afterwards.

Q. Jimmy, I know you said you guys aren't going to talk about any of that till next month. Will you take an extra long look around in case it's your last game there, too?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: No, I won't, because it's just another game, you know, for myself and for the rest of the guys that aren't seniors. To be honest, all we're really focusing on is getting out to practice today, another day of work to, you know, get ready to go for Saturday.

Q. Probably an impossible question to answer, but I'll ask it. You have played so well in the fourth quarter, fought back so many times. What is the secret to getting that going in the first half, to get off to a faster start?
ERIC OLSEN: That is a tough question. You know, obviously our sense of urgency changes in the fourth quarter, especially when we're down points, you know, need to start scoring to get back in the game or to win the game.
It's kind of tough to think or try to understand why we don't have that same -- why I don't personally have that same urgency. I like to think that I do. But if you just look at the statistics, you know, we're way more productive towards the end of the game.
I guess it's just a matter of, you know, trying to come out with the same urgency as in the beginning. You know, whether it's running to the line of scrimmage after breaking the huddle, getting the offensive line set more quickly, making the calls more quickly, whatever it is, keeping that tempo going, it's kind of tough.
But I know that, you know, the coaches are definitely conscious of that and are definitely working to correct that this week.

Q. Jimmy?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: Yeah, I think the same thing. Ever since I got here it seemed like just having that sense of urgency in a two-minute drill has kind of brought the best out of us just, you know, 'cause the tempo is upbeat, guys are getting to the line of scrimmage, making calls, we're just going real fast. I think that's helped us. At the end of games it's obviously crunch time. I think the same thing goes when we've done it early on in the games.
To be honest, we're trying to figure out, you know, the answer to that question. There's just a lot of different reasons. You know, we're just trying to find that one reason.

Q. This may be way off base, but could it be that you are so comfortable in tight games, if the game continues to be tight, you know you'll be able to fight through it, you can keep hanging around, We'll get 'em at the end because we're comfortable doing that?
ERIC OLSEN: I think that helps. I don't think it's a matter of guys coming out lackadaisical at the beginning of the game at all. I kind of sit around and like to watch other guys on the team, watch them get hyped up before the game, jumping around in the tunnel. If you can't get excited before a college football game, you're not human.
Our guys are definitely excited. They come out flying around. I think our experience, being in those situations a lot, definitely helps us out, where other teams that don't have that experience might slip up here and there in little spots, give us an advantage. I think that experience factor definitely gives us an advantage in those situations.

Q. Coach Weis said something about turning this game over to the players, three players talked after practice yesterday. What do you think the benefit of that is for this team? Are you some of the guys that are going to be talking after practice today? What is the message there?
ERIC OLSEN: I think, you know, the benefit of that is that the players don't have to kind of hear the same message from the coaches over and over. Obviously we're 10 weeks into the season now. There's only so much that the coaches can say or do to try to get us motivated and stuff. It really comes down to, this late in the season, the players motivating each other. It starts with guys like Jimmy and myself and the other captains right on through the rest of the roster.
I think Coach Weis putting the tempo and everything on the shoulders of the older guys, the leaders this week in practice, definitely helps us out because it gives kind of like a fresh breath of air for the guys, something a little bit different. It means a lot to the seniors, you know, whether it's a guy that plays every single snap or a guy that doesn't play at all, that this is the last time in the stadium. That's motivation in itself. I think all that, putting it on these guys, kind of works together, you know, definitely helping out the team this week.

Q. Eric, if you could just talk about the Notre Dame experience. If somebody didn't know what Notre Dame football was, talk about the time you've been here, how you would describe it.
ERIC OLSEN: That's a loaded question.
You know, Notre Dame football is something that's so rich in tradition, so rich in history, that it's really hard to describe it in a few sentences or a few words.
But, you know, for me personally, it's definitely been up and down, you know, whether it's winning games, losing games, personal stuff on and off the field. In the end, you have to look at the big picture. I kind of said this to guys earlier in the week, to play football at Notre Dame is a big-time accomplishment. To play major, Division I-A college football is the closest step to playing professional football. Sometimes guys get caught up in having to get up early and work out, or having to go to class. They really don't see the big picture of how big an accomplishment this is in someone's life. If a lot of these guys go on and do nothing else, which none of them will, everyone is going to go on to do something great with the degrees they're getting from here, whether it's the NFL or what, if you go on and do nothing else, you know, playing football for the University of Notre Dame and graduating from this place is a hell of an accomplishment and, you know, just looking at the big picture of that, how much it means to be from a place like this, how special that is, is really something.
It's hard to really describe it, like I said. But, I mean, I think that does a pretty good job of summing it up.

Q. If you could talk about the coaches, we saw them in practice, saw you working in practice, the storm that's surrounding the program right now, just how they're handling what is going on with you guys.
ERIC OLSEN: Well, I mean, it starts with Coach Weis obviously right on through the rest of the coaches. I mean, obviously the media is starting to come up with certain things and rumors and whatnot, speculations of what's going to happen.
But whether something is going to happen or not, the coaches have really done a good job making sure their heads are staying in the program, with the players, not changing their outlook on anything or their perspective on anything, just showing up for work the same way they've been all season long.

Q. Is it frustrating to you at all to see the things being said?
ERIC OLSEN: For me personally it is because, you know, especially things about Coach Weis, because he's definitely been there through some of the tough times in my life whether it's football related or not. He's kind of like a father figure for me. When people attack him or say things about him, it personally offends me.
It comes with the job. He knows that more than anybody else, just to calm me down a little bit, because I kind of get worked up. You have to take the good with the bad when you're in the spotlight like he is, like the team is. It's just part of the job.

Q. Same question, Jimmy. You have such a close relationship. Just when you hear the negative things, I'm sure there's times when you just want to jump out and protect or get into that protect mode and say some things. You understand where it would go if you do.
JIMMY CLAUSEN: Yeah, you know, it's definitely tough. You know, to be honest, I've said this many times, the coaches can only do so much. They can't play on Saturdays. That just puts all the pressure on, you know, the hundred guys that are in the locker room. We just have to perform better. The coaches have done a great job this season, the previous seasons, of getting us ready to play, you know, having great game plans.
Like I said before, we just as a team have to play better. I think that's what it comes down to, is just going out to practice, practicing better, you know, just getting ready to go, you know, playing better on Saturdays and coming up with a victory.

Q. Do you visualize that perfect game on offense, defense, special teams? It is still possible you throw a couple games together here, a little momentum, heading towards a Bowl, it could make decisions tough for some people.
JIMMY CLAUSEN: That's definitely what we're trying to do. You know, we had a meeting yesterday before practice. We said there's nothing we can control other than going out to practice each and every day, you know, getting better, going out on Saturdays and performing. That's all we can control, all we've been able to control this whole season.
To be honest, we're not at a place we wanted to be before the season, but we still have two games left. You know, there's a lot to play for. To be honest, you know, that's what we're doing each and every day, going out to practice. We want to get better as a team. No one's throwing in the towel. That's what we have to do, is get better, play better on Saturdays.

Q. If this is your last game at Notre Dame Stadium, is it something that you appreciate what people have done here for you and where you've come from the time you walked in as that kid coming in in a limo?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: Yeah, I obviously appreciate everything that everyone has done for me ever since I came to Notre Dame. You know, I couldn't thank all the coaches, Coach Weis especially, you know, for everything he's done for me, whether it's on the field, off the field.
Notre Dame is just a great place, you know, surrounded by so many great people. It's just, you know, a comfortable place to be. You know, growing up in your life, you're changing every and every day. It's just a great place to do that.

Q. Is it fair to ask if you've grown more as a football player or as a person? Do you feel both have come your way?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: Yeah, I feel I've grown as a person off the field and on the field. You know, it's something that, you know, I was looking forward to coming out of high school, just how am I going to change on the field and off the field. You know, it's pretty spectacular to see, you know, where I've come from.

Q. Can you guys just each talk about from when you got here to where the program is now, what you think the progress has been made, if you think there's been significant progress, what your feelings are on the growth of the program over the last couple years.
ERIC OLSEN: I think, you know, from my freshman year to my sophomore year, going from a Sugar Bowl team to a 3-9 team was obviously a difficult transition. Obviously we lost a lot of stars, NFL players from that team. That made it really tough for young guys to step up. We were kind of thrown into the fire a little bit. It's no one's fault. But it was rough.
I think that from that point all the way till now, you know, I mean, obviously we don't have a perfect season going right now, but I think there's been so much growth as football players and as human beings, you know, like Jimmy just answered a question before, guys have matured so much, have learned how to handle the stress, learned how to handle different situations, you know, just kids that are coming in, whether they're 17, 18 years old, they're really growing up to be men now.
For me, I've been here all the way from the beginning, all the way from that Sugar Bowl year. It's interesting to see how things come full circle. We're kind of back to those men it seemed like we had as seniors when I was a freshman. Now that I'm one of the older guys on the team, seeing those other guys in the class grow up around me, it's something special, it's something fun. The friendships, the relationships have really been awesome. As football players, too, guys really starting to step up, understand, whether it's the schemes or everything that comes with playing offense, defense, special teams, it's really interesting to see all these guys grow in different ways.

Q. Jimmy, your take of where the program is from when you first got here?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: You know, I think we've grown as a team. First off, I think the chemistry from when I came in to now is, you know, a lot different. You know, I give a lot of credit to all the older guys, the seniors, fifth-year guys, that have led the way for all the younger guys. Just to go from a 3-9 team to a 7-6 team last year to where we are right now. I know we're 6-4. But to be honest, I don't think any of the guys on the team, you know, view ourselves as a 6-4 team, even though that's what we're living right now. We've just come so far. You know, like I said, we still have unfinished business that we have to take care of.

Q. What do you see from UConn's defense, what problems can they pose for you?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: To be honest, they're real similar to Pitt's defense. They got a good front four. Their linebackers run well. Their secondary is pretty good. You know, they play a lot of cover four, cover eight. You know, those guys can run to the ball and, you know, definitely get after the passer.
ERIC OLSEN: Yeah, they are really similar to Pitt. You know, I think their coaches really do a good job of putting their players in position to make plays. You know, they have real good athletes up front that do make a lot of plays. I know they have one guy that rushes off the edge, has 10 and a half sacks on the season. I think he's second in college football. That definitely poses a threat to us as an offensive line. Just like every other week, we're going to have to play our best game to beat these guys.

Q. In talking to a couple of your teammates yesterday, they described their tenure here as a rollercoaster ride. I'm wondering if each of you could just describe the good and the bad, how you felt about the several years that you've been here.
ERIC OLSEN: I think that's an interesting way of describing it, you know, a rollercoaster. It definitely has had ups and downs for me personally. But at the same time I think, you know, all the negative stuff or any of the negative stuff that has taken place has definitely, you know, shaped me into who I am today and I've used those negative experiences as learning experiences. I think that doing so kind of turned them into a positive for me.
I mean, obviously not winning football games is not a good thing and it's really tough to make that into a good thing. But learning what it takes to win football games out of those situations, learning from my mistakes personally and stuff has definitely helped me out.
While it has been up and down, you know, as far as football goes around here, I've had a tremendous experience here, built great relationships with all my teammates and my coaches, professors, students on campus. I really have had a great time.
JIMMY CLAUSEN: I think the one thing that Eric just said is, you know, just learning through all, you know, the rough times we've begun through. A 3-9 season, for me personally in high school, we really didn't lose. You know, just coming here and experiencing something, you know, totally different than I'm used to was hard for me.
You know, now when we have a loss, I take it way differently than how I did my freshman year. It's just the way that, you know, winning games, losing games, has just totally changed for me. My outlook on different things has changed tremendously.

Q. If you had to describe to an outsider, you hear the cackling about Coach Weis' future, if you could put into perspective why you want to see him come back, what would you say?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: You know, Coach Weis is I think just a great fit for what Notre Dame stands for and what this university is looking for. And to be honest, like I've said before, you know, a lot of people don't know who Coach Weis is, what he's all about. He's a loving, caring guy. He treats all the guys on the team exactly the same as he treats his son Charlie, Jr. He's just so good with handling people and situations.
You know, like I said, you know, he's the reason why I came to Notre Dame. If he wasn't here, I probably wouldn't be here right now.
ERIC OLSEN: Right, you know, people don't know who Coach Weis is as a person, just like they don't know any other college football coach. I mean, you only see who he is in the press conferences or, you know, on the sidelines.
You know, the kind of guy he is, I mean, he's so loyal to his friends and his boys and the people that he really cares about. You know, I say 'his boys,' all the guys on the team, he looks at us like we're his sons. The other coaches and stuff, he's so loyal to us, he would never throw any of us under the bus, even if it's our fault. He always takes the blame, he always takes the brunt of anything from the media and the fans and everything.
I mean, Coach Weis, you know, people don't really know the real him. Like Jimmy said, he's a real family-oriented guy that cares a lot. If people really knew who he was as a person, you know, he stands for everything a Notre Dame man should stand for. That's a big thing that's really overlooked.
As far as winning football games and stuff, he always wants to do it right the way. He's never going to cheat, he's never going to lie, he's never going to do anything dishonest and do things the wrong way like a lot of programs do sometimes whether it's intentional or not. He really prides himself on doing things the right way around here and I think that's overlooked by a lot of people.

Q. You're 6-4, all four losses within a minute of the end of the game, you're in it. Is the lynch mob a little bit spoiled, the people who are already talking about the next coach? Do they have it better than they realize?
ERIC OLSEN: You know, that's tough. I think Coach Parcells is quoted for saying, You are what your record is or something like that. I think it's tough to kind of argue, We were close in this game, we were close in that game. If you look at UConn, their record is 4-5, but they've lost all games by a total of 15 points. I mean, it's really tough to say that. But, I mean, at the same time we're trying to not -- I don't know. It's really a tough question honestly. It's tough to say what could have or would have happened because what happened did happen. You just have to keep going on from there really.

Q. Has this coaching staff put in a team that people should say, They're not a hapless team, this is a coaching staff that's done a good job with the players it has?
ERIC OLSEN: Definitely. I mean, Pittsburgh was ranked eighth in some polls, 12th in other polls. Came down to the last minute. We lost by five points. We were able to hang with some of the best teams in the country. I don't think anybody should say we're not worth anything, we're garbage or anything like that.
Obviously a 6-4 record is not what we wanted it to be. But if you look at how close we've been, been able to compete with everyone, whereas we've not been able to do that in the past, it's clear to see the changes that have been made around here.

Q. We've been in this room more time than you actually had playing time as a freshman, Eric. My question is, if you had another year to come back, you had a choice that the guy next to you has, do you have any idea what you would do?
ERIC OLSEN: If I had another year, I mean, I would definitely take it for sure. You know, it takes you a couple years to really get it around here. What I mean by 'get it,' is understand how things work, how to manage your time, really like come into your own. Another year would definitely help me out.
But as a freshman, I was trying to get on the field at all cost. Whether it was one minute or a hundred minutes, I was trying to get on the field and working my butt off to do so. So I definitely have no complaints or anything like that.
But, I mean, definitely having more time here would definitely be valuable.

Q. Jimmy, if you had to rate the people, the players who spoke, would Eric's speech be up near the top? I don't know if you've spoken yet, Eric.
JIMMY CLAUSEN: Eric's speech?

Q. Coach Weis told us that different players would be talking to the team after practice.
JIMMY CLAUSEN: Right. Well, a few players talked yesterday, and none of them were captains. Me and Eric talked a little bit before the meeting yesterday in practice. We'll probably talk at the end of practice, whether it's today, tomorrow or Friday. Eric really hasn't talked to the team yet.

Q. What is the simplest message each of you want to convey when you talk to the team?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: You know, it's different for everybody. To be honest, the guys can say whatever they want to say, talk about their experience, talk about what they think needs to happen for the rest of the season, whatever the case may be is what they're going to talk about. To be honest, I have no idea what each and every guy is going to talk about.

Q. What about yourself?
JIMMY CLAUSEN: You know, yesterday I just talked about finishing the season. We've worked so hard as a team in the off-season to get ready to make a run for the BCS, national championship. We can't get there now. But, to be honest, there's a lot more to be played for. To throw in the towel right now would just be awful for all of us who have put in so much time and so much work in the off-season. We just can't do that.
To be honest, this last game for the seniors is something special. Last year, like I told the team yesterday, I felt really bad walking off that field, just knowing all those seniors are never going to have the opportunity to go back and play at Notre Dame Stadium and get a victory. Just seeing those guys walk out of there with a loss was awful. I don't want that to happen to any of the seniors this year.
ERIC OLSEN: To kind of go on what Jimmy was saying about throwing in the towel. My message is kind of just to cherish it. Like I said before, playing football at this place is really something special. It's really an accomplishment for someone to do in their life.
You know, as far as the season goes, whatever's going to happen, whether it's post-season as far as a Bowl game or stuff, doesn't really matter. You can't throw away any game. You're not going to have football forever. Whether you're going to go on to the NFL and play 10 years, or after this is over, high school, you don't have football forever. Whether you're a freshman or a senior, whether this is your last home game or the last home game of your first season, you got to cherish every game because you're never going to have them back, have this experience again. For me personally I know I'm trying to do that as much as I can.
Injuries can happen at any time and it can be over just like that. That's my message really, just for everyone to cherish it, don't throw away any game, whether you're playing or not, just soak in that experience of running out in the tunnel, being around this building, practicing, everything, I think that's the biggest thing.

Q. Eric, Coach Verducci was saying the past four games you really have played to another level. Is there something that caused that, something that clicked? What happened in the past couple games for you?
ERIC OLSEN: I think, you know, just being more comfortable, having the responsibility of snapping, making the calls, getting the experience through the first half the season and stuff has really helped me out. Again, I'm just trying to work every day in practice, every game, trying to get better and putting the other guys on the line in the best position to be successful, just not taking any day or any rep for granted, trying to make the most of it.

Q. You said from the beginning that you feel comfortable at center. Did something click that made it more comfortable or has it just been a gradual process?
ERIC OLSEN: Yeah, I don't know if it's really something specifically that clicked. It kind of has been a pretty gradual process. Working with Jimmy, he definitely helps me out, gives me pointers here and there, how to make his job easier. Working with the guards and the tackles, they give me the same kind of pointers, help me out, too. It's been step by step. It's really been fun for me.

Q. You were part of the first full recruiting class for Coach Weis, came in highly touted. A lot of players left. What do you think the legacy of that class will be?
ERIC OLSEN: I don't know. You know, it's tough to say. We have unfortunately lost a lot of players for all kinds of different reasons. But I think that first recruiting class kind of got the ball rolling, kind of set somewhat of a foundation. There's enough core players on the team that are from that recruiting class still around here and have had an impact. I think, you know, we've kind of set the foundation for all the great recruiting classes that have followed us.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, everyone.

End of FastScripts

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