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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 1, 2010
Q. Coach Diaco said yesterday he'd almost prefer to keep it a little more simple to make sure everybody knows how to do their job and does their job well and plays fast. Does playing a guy like Marve whose run-pass threat, make complicate that and make it more difficult to keep it simple?
HARRISON SMITH: Yeah, he's a real athletic guy. From the tapes when he was playing at Miami, he can scramble around and throw the ball down field. So you know just keeping it simple is kind of a way to lock on to your assignment instead of worrying about if he's going to run or pass. Just do what you know you have to do and the rest will take care of itself.
Q. Starting with you, Manti. I think I talked to you about this the other day, Harrison. But just the whole idea of keeping it more simple and being on the same page. With last year's systems, were they just that much more complicated and complex, or why is it that you guys all seem to be or you seem to be saying that you are on the same page entering the season?
MANTI TE'O: Well, last year they had their -- they had that scheme. This year we have a totally different scheme. And with each coach they bring their different types of play to the table. Of course, Coach Diaco just likes to keep it simple. And he just wants us to execute and make sure that we play to our best ability on each play.
Q. Do you feel that you can just play more free and easy and not be bogged down maybe by concepts and what this guy's doing, what that guy's doing?
MANTI TE'O: Definitely when you don't have to worry about making checks, making these calls. When you have to think about what he's doing, what am I supposed to do, what is my teammate supposed to do, it kind of takes away from the whole meaning behind playing football. The meaning of the defense just to make sure the offense doesn't score.
When you're thinking about all these things, not that it doesn't matter, but all these things that kind of slows you down a little, it's a little difficult.
Q. Harrison, it's the same way for you in the secondary? You have less checks, you have less changes pre-snap than you had before?
HARRISON SMITH: Yeah, I would say so. But also just kind of emphasis that the coaches have been putting on running full speed. Not just running to the ball to run to the ball, but running to the ball to make a big hit and getting there with a bad attitude is something that you might not think about, but it's something that really makes a difference.
Q. A little confused as to who on the team was asked to -- some of you guys were asked to do some research on former Notre Dame players or legendary Notre Dame players, you were, Harrison?
HARRISON SMITH: Yeah, back in the spring I did. It was just kind of my position.
Q. What do you know about Todd Lyght?
HARRISON SMITH: Just kind of an overview of his career. He was an All American.
Q. He was a corner, not a safety.
HARRISON SMITH: No, he wasn't. No, he wasn't a safety.
Q. Manti, did you have to do something?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, basically all the linebackers we had to do like Harrison did, look at the All American linebackers and learn about them and further our knowledge about the game, and how they played the game, and how we can hopefully become like them.
Q. You didn't have one specific guy that you had to research, or you did and you don't remember who it is?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, I did. I forget. It was one of the more modern ones.
Q. You guys have been going up against the spread in practice all spring, does that help at all on Saturday?
HARRISON SMITH: I would think it will, especially with the speed of the offense that we've been going against. Kind of have gotten our conditioning better, gotten us better communicating pre-snap. So I think being conditioned to do those things will help us when it comes game time. The intensity is already at a higher level.
Q. Manti, Lou Holtz has said that he thought last year's offense was good enough to be in a BCS game, the defense held it back. He said he thinks the offense is good enough again this year, and the big question is can the defense be good enough too? Do you think that's true, and how do you approach that?
MANTI TE'O: I think that's very true. The saying defenses win championships. You can have the best offense, but if you don't have a defense that can stop the offense from scoring, you're going to have some trouble. Look at Alabama last year.
Though they had Mark Ingram the Heisman Trophy winner, they also had the top defense in the country. And that's what helped them. I think that's what led them to the kind of success that they had. We all know that in order for us to be BCS considered, we have to have a great defense, and that's what we're working for every day.
Q. Harrison, with the lack of depth in the secondary, how does that affect the game plan and maybe some schemes that you implement?
HARRISON SMITH: Well, the big slogan here is "next man in." So even though we don't have a lot of depth, it doesn't really change the schemes. I mean, the coaches expect everybody that they put out there to be able to go out and play and get the job done.
So that's not something that's changed the schemes or anything. It's just where, you know, you've got to stay healthy and you've got to make sure all the guys around you are staying healthy and you're doing what you can.
Q. Keith Smith had a pretty good game last year down in West Lafayette. Talk about the match-up against Keith, and how good are the other complimentary wide receivers around Keith Smith?
HARRISON SMITH: He's one heck of a player. He can pretty much do anything that they ask of him. As far as the other guys, we haven't seen all of them. But they all look like big, physical guys who are athletic and can all go up and get the ball.
So really they all look the part. They look like great athletes, great receivers. So just matching up with those guys is a challenge that we look forward to.
Q. Manti, having been through a full season now, as you get ready for the first game, how difficult is it to avoid peaking emotionally too early, because there is a lot of build up for you for this first game? Is it easy to stay relaxed and stay in the moment and not peak too soon emotionally?
MANTI TE'O: Everybody's different, but you have to stay calm. You can't let your emotions get the best of you, because that's when you start making mistakes. You have to stay calm, stay level headed and approach the game like a professional, and that's what we're doing.
We all know it's exciting. The opener is always exciting. We're all excited to go against somebody different. But we're just practicing, and we're trying to stay calm and just prepare the best we can.
Q. I know your father is somebody you look to for guidance, and both in football on and off the field. How about -- I mean, is there a former Notre Dame player you've connected with or somebody in the pros that you've either connected with or you've kind of watched them?
MANTI TE'O: Do you mean like have I communicated with them or do I watch them and see how they play?
Q. Either way.
MANTI TE'O: Well, I kind of have always watched Ray Lewis. I've always watched Ray Lewis that's because he's the best at what he does. And if you want to be the best at what you do, you have to be the best.
I watch Ray Lewis not because of the hits he makes or his leadership, but because he's always where the ball is, and that's something a linebacker has to do. You have to be where the ball is. Ray Lewis knows how to move. He knows how to motivate his players. He's just an all around great leader and a great football player. And I look up to him.
I try to, you know base my game off of what he does. But also at the same time implement the things that I do.
Q. When you found out in this scheme you were going to be in the middle of things, what was your reaction to that did this seem to be more in line with what Ray Lewis was doing too?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, I'm more comfortable being in the middle. I'm more comfortable being in the center of things so I can see. I'm more comfortable being in the middle of the defense. So it was nothing new to me.
I was just very excited to start working on the new defense that we had, and start working with my teammates to hopefully make our defense a Top 10 defense in the country.
Q. The statistics last year's defense weren't good. As you go to this year and you have confidence that things are going to be different, where's that confidence coming from? Is it the scheme? Do you have different techniques that you buy into? Is it all the work you did in the off-season? Where's that coming from?
MANTI TE'O: The thing is it's coming from each other. Pretty much our defense is the same guys that were here last year. So we've been through that. We've been through what we had to go through last year. We've seen the mistakes that we've made and we know the corrections to those mistakes. So I think it comes from each other. Pair that up with the coaching staff that helps facilitate the energy that is needed for a Division 1 football team, it's pretty easy.
HARRISON SMITH: I would say the mindset just from the players and the coaches that we go through the off-season, just like Manti was saying. Even though last year didn't go out we planned, every year is a new year and a new opportunity to prove ourselves.
Q. Harrison, you seemed like the guy that bought in pretty early. I think everybody had their own timetable. What was it about this coaching staff and maybe particularly on the defense that made you say, okay, they know what they're doing, this is a good change?
HARRISON SMITH: Just the way that they came in. They didn't try to make it like them versus us, which I've heard happens a lot of times there's a coaching change. We all need to unite as fast as we can, that way we can work towards the things that we want to accomplish.
In my mind that made a lot of sense to me. We're all here. Why wouldn't we try to get together and be the best that we can be? That was the thing that really made me buy in.
Q. Going back to Marve. How have you prepared for him being that he's been a quarterback at Division 1 before but at a different school? Have you been looking at him in Miami?
MANTI TE'O: Yeah, everybody knows he didn't play last year or he had to sit out since he transferred. We've been watching film on him from Miami and seeing how he moves and the things he does, and the tendencies he has. So that's what we've been preparing for for Marve.
Q. Is that difficult knowing he's in a different system or different coaching staff trying to figure out what he might do two years removed from now he's more mature?
MANTI TE'O: I don't think it's difficult. Every athlete plays the game the way he knows how. It doesn't matter what system he's in, he'll play the game the best way he knows how to. So whether he is in the spread offense, pro offense, he'll still throw the same way. He'll still run the same way, look the same way in certain situations.
So in that case it wasn't really hard, but we know that he's a dynamic player, and just on Saturday we have to just bring our A-game and go for the victory.
Q. Harrison, just balancing playing in a different system versus where he might be now?
HARRISON SMITH: Kind of the same thing Manti said. You can just tell the things that he's going to do the same, like running and throwing. I mean, he's also a little older now, so he's probably more mature and probably understands the game a little better. So it's just something that you've got to take into account when you're playing against him. But for the most part, you know kind of see what type of player he is from that film.
Q. Coach Kelly was in here talking about his motivational style. How would you describe him as a motivator? How does he get his point across? What buttons does he push as a head coach?
MANTI TE'O: He's pretty straightforward with his approach. Every now and then if he thinks we need a pick me up, he'll make a joke or something that gets the energy of the team up. He's just kind of a guy that can feel what the team's feeling. If he needs to get us riled up, he'll step in.
But he's also wanted us to take that part where the players, if some of the players notice that the energy's low, then we need to pick it up and get the team going. So it's kind of something that he's kind of shown us the way, and he wants us to take that over.
Q. Either of you guys remember a moment where he did throw in a joke or interject something on a practice that might have been dragging on or, you know, kind of a little down?
MANTI TE'O: It's just many different situations. He'll either make a joke or he'll kind of pick out somebody that is doing something pretty funny that kind of lightens the mood a little bit. So I can't really pick out any --
HARRISON SMITH: There was one day in training camp where our practices were two hours long, and we were warming up and he's like, all right, I'm helping you out today. It's only two hours. And in our mind it seemed like that practice was going like that. Just like the way he said it. He's just kind of like playing a mind game with us and we were like okay, two hours isn't that bad. It just kind of made practice easier.
MANTI TE'O: Sitting in camp, and before Coach Kelly walks out the door to come down here to the team, usually the team's talking among each other. We got into impersonations, and people started impersonating other people on the team. Started doing things about other coaches.
And Coach Kelly I saw him walk in, and everybody started to, you know, quiet down a little bit. But he kind of just you know told us keep going, keep going. Those are the kind of things he does. He doesn't really need to crack a joke. He'll just do something to lighten the mood a little bit.
Q. Anybody impersonate him?
MANTI TE'O: No, nobody dares to impersonate Coach Kelly.
Q. Obviously you guys are excited for your game on Saturday. But can you just talk about how excited you are to see college football start again and what do you guys plan on doing?
HARRISON SMITH: I was talking about it with my roommate. We were looking up the schedule because we know games start tomorrow night, and we were just excited to see some of the match-ups coming up. You know all the hype they created around the start of the year for college football, there is nothing else like it. So being involved with it just makes it that much more special.
MANTI TE'O: Tomorrow Hawaii plays USC, so I'll be watching that game. But I'm very excited for our season to start. I'm excited to go to the hotel, chill with the boys for a little bit, get ready for the game. Wake up, turn on the TV and watch college football and get ready for our game. So it's a very exciting part of the year for us. We're excited.
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