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    FIGHTING IRISH

    FIGHTING IRISH

    April 18, 2009

    Head Coach Charlie Weis

    On what he learned about the team today...
    "I thought we ran the ball with power inside and our defense was good to the edge and put a lot of heat on the quarterback. Against our defense, opponents are going to spend a lot of time scheming to get their quarterback extra time because they are very athletic. You only saw about a tenth of what they have dialed up. I am very pleased with our efficiency in the running game, and I thought all the runners ran the ball hard. We got a lot of guys involved in the game and we walked out of there with a lot of plays on tape to go ahead and let them see."

    On where he is still looking for answers...
    "Offensively, trying to get all the receivers to get continuity in the pass game, we are still a little rough around the edges. One time Clausen got sacked because a receiver was supposed to run an in-cut but didn't run an in-cut. When guys were not out there the whole spring, you are going to have a couple of things like that. We had a couple of offensive lineman that we need to get back involved to give us some more quality depth. On defense, a couple of our players have not been out there in a team situation all spring so we needed to get them out there. On special teams, I was very happy for Brandon Walker to go out there and nail a 48-yard kick, the only kick he was given."

    On what tells him that they are good enough...
    "I never said we are good enough; we have a lot of room for improvement. I'll let you know that in September. Right now we have a long way to go. I just think that it was a very good spring; we improved in a lot of areas and we have a long way to go to be a really good football team, but at least potentially the elements are in place to be a good team. We still have a lot of work to do."

    On the running game...
    "It has been a major focus. We looked back at all the teams that played in the BCS, took the highs and lows, and said here is what the teams in the BCS is doing, and those teams were averaging over 4.6 yards per carry and we were averaging 3.3. It all starts with the run game. If you can run the ball, everything is easier. Protection is easier, throwing the ball is easier, everything is easier. It all starts with being able to control the line of scrimmage."

     

     

    On quarterback Jimmy Clausen...
    "He is doing a much better job at running the operation. The evolvement from calling plays to running plays to running the offense is really a three-step deal. First, just call the play, then you run the plays, then you run the offense, and that is where he has gotten. He has gotten to the point where he is running the offense and once you get to that point, the sky is the limit."

    On Robert Blanton's interception...
    "He is going to challenge you on routes, especially three-step routes, and that was a three-step route. He drove right inside of [John] Goodman and got the ball. He has ball skills and once he gets the ball in his hands, don't be surprised when the ball ends up in the end zone."

    On the three running backs...
    "I played [Armando] Allen the least today because I wanted to wear Robert [Hughes] and Jonas [Gray] out. In the grand scheme of things, those guys are different types of backs. Allen is the smaller fast guy, Robert is the pounder guy, and Jonas is the guy who's got a lot of both of them in him but with the least amount of experience. I think Jonas benefited today as much as anyone just by the volume of carries he got."

    Honorary Coach Reggie Brooks

    On running backs Armando Allen, Robert Hughes, and Jonas Gray...
    "They are still young backs but I am definitely pleased with what I have seen. It has been a marked improvement."

    On competition between the offensive and defensive lines...
    "[The offensive line] has made some strides, and our defensive line is looking very good. Athletically it was a good challenge. You could see guys were picking up some things, and they were really getting after it and the energy level was up."

    On young players...
    "You can see it's starting to click. For some of the younger guys it's still the mental side of the game where they are still trying to get over the hump, but once they do, they can be a consistently good football team."

    Honorary Coach Justin Tuck

    On the importance of returning to the team...
    "Coach Weis wants us here. We've paved the way for the teams that you see out here. And these guys will do the same thing in five years."

    On the defensive line, in particular Ethan Johnson...
    "These guys are hungry and they gave a lot of effort. These guys are young, and the sky could be the limit for them. They are in a good place. I told these guys that just because it was the spring game doesn't mean that they have to stop working. We need guys to step up on this football team, and Ethan [Johnson] can definitely be one of those guys."

    On his Super Bowl ring and how quickly things have happened for him...
    "Surprised isn't the right word. I would say that I am in a good position. Notre Dame, my family, and my parents have distilled good things in me, allowing me to blossom in the past couple of years, and I'm just thankful for it. Am I surprised? No. I'm just happy to be where I am. And I obviously have a lot of good people around me."

    On the decision to enter the NFL early...
    "Believe me, I've heard about it. But I realize that it was the right decision for me. I graduated, and it was the right decision at the time. It is possible that I could have been the missing piece to the puzzle here to winning a national championship. I'm hearing about it a lot these days; from Brady [Quinn] always, from Victor [Abiamiri], from all the guys that were here. Zibby [Tom Zbikowski] is the worst, though. But you really can't look back on things and say, `What if?' Anything could have happened. But it would have been fun."

    On his impression of Notre Dame's young defensive line...
    "I feel as though they're very versatile. Especially Ethan [Johnson]. That defensive line has the opportunity to make a lot of strides. They're young, but they're athletic. When you have a group like that, and they're very interchangeable, you can do a lot, and offenses really can't get a feel about what you're going to do. Coach Weis and the entire staff can do a lot with them."

    On his feelings about coming back to Notre Dame...
    "Driving in on Thursday night and getting the opportunity to see the moonlight on the Golden Dome was really special. Being here for four years straight, you realize how blessed you were to be here, and you try to be the beast you can as much as possible. Unfortunately, my schedule's kind of hectic, and I don't have a lot of time to get back here. But when I do, I really enjoy it."

    Honorary Coach Bertrand Berry

    On potential improvements for the upcoming season...
    "I would say, from a defensive standpoint, that the one thing they need to do is get in shape. A lot of these guys, particularly the younger guys, were getting a little winded out there, and when you get winded that's when you find the mental breakdowns. A lot of times, that's just due to a lack of being in shape, so they just need to do a little extra running. They seem to have a lot of talent out on the field. It's exciting to see [Robert Blanton], and the offense looked good. There were some plays out there where they looked very solid at running back. The one place where I saw glaring need was in the endurance level, on the defensive front in particular. Those guys really need to take advantage of the summer program and get some extra running in. As long as they are in shape, they should be a pretty formidable group. They are going to be a shorter but faster group, so they're going to have to rely a lot on speed and scheme to make things happen. They can get it done. It's just a matter of them wanting to and whether or not they can perform on Saturdays.

    Robert Blanton - So. - Cornerback

    On his interception returned for a touchdown...
    "Coach [Corwin] Brown made a great call. [Jimmy Clausen] just threw the ball right to me. It wasn't too hard. Jimmy told me thank him later. I had some great blocking from the defensive line and safeties. Coach Brown teaches us everyday that we have to score because we have no offense."

    On the secondary unit...
    "I like to think that we have strength as a unit. We have a great linebacker core. We have a great defensive line as well. Our defensive backs complement them. Anybody can play, and anybody can start. We're all competing with each other."

    On the defense's "duck, duck, goose" celebration...
    "I don't know whose idea that was, but it was probably the tightest celebration I've ever seen. I was running down the field and Kyle McCarthy was yelling `duck, duck, goose.' Somebody had planned the celebration out before. I didn't worry about looking stupid because you only live once so you have to have some fun."

    On his improvement from last fall...
    "I understand the defense a lot more. I'm starting to learn what the defense is doing which helps out a lot."

    On the defense's view of the game's scoring system...
    "We don't worry about the score too much. We just worry about our assignments and doing what we're supposed to do. We worry about the gaps we're supposed to fill. You don't get points for tackles and turnovers in a real game. We're just out here to make plays and compete. In the spring, it's not about winning or losing, it's about getting better."

    On the defense's improvement on their speed...
    "When you know what you're doing, you play faster. It has nothing to do with how fast somebody is. When you know where you're supposed to be, everyone is faster. When everybody is working together, we're really fast."

    On going up against wide receiver Michael Floyd...
    "It's one of my favorite things to do. I know that he is going to beat me sometimes and challenge me."

    Armando Allen - Junior - Halfback

    On the game in general...
    "I felt like it was really important to go out there and just have fun. I give all the credit to the fact that we had a good spring, so I just give it all to that."

    On winning MVP...
    "No, not at all [I won't be holding this over other peoples' heads]. We all know that we come out here and we practice, and we practice hard. We all do everything as a team and me winning a trophy is like the whole offense getting it altogether.

    On the spring practice and its reflection for the fall...
    "We go out there on a competitive level; we compete every day. That's the biggest key; we go out there and we go full speed and we'll continue that throughout the summer. We'll eventually have everybody on the same page come September."

    On whether there is more pressure for the guys to run the ball...
    "I don't think there's pressure; there is just a motivational step for us, just to sit down and know we have a lot of ropes still. I think we've carried out real well in practice and watching games."

    On differences in the offensive line...
    "The offensive line is doing great, and we go and compete everyday. To see them out there and see them having fun is great."

    On taking this team from where it was the last two years to a BCS level...
    "Just having everybody on the same page is key. Everyone being on the same page and going out there and working every day is very important. And now that the Spring is over, we can't take a rest, and we need to go in on Monday and keep on working our hearts out."

    On having a successful running game helping Clausen...
    "I think it can help them out majorly; it's one of the biggest keys for a quarterback to have a good running game because it takes a lot of pressure off of him. It can be tremendously beneficial to him."

    On the overall running game's progress in the spring...
    "I think Coach [Weis] is a good coach, always forcing you to compete at a high level. So I think competing at a high level really opened up a lot of doors for everyone, from the offensive line to receivers to even the quarterback."

    On improvement in the spring...
    "I guess everybody had a good spring, and everyone had a good improvement. That was our main focus, to be on the same page and working together."

    On Jimmy Clausen's game and spring season...
    "Jimmy was really relaxed today. Things didn't always go right and he stayed calm, and that was the biggest thing for him. He had a great spring and today was just another practice. I know it's over, but we still have Monday workouts and the summer to get better."

    On Jimmy Clausen as a player and a leader...
    "I personally have seen him develop a lot; just from my freshman year until now, he's become more of a vocal leader, leading by example, which is what you need out of a quarterback, and he's doing excellent."

    On Charlie's feelings towards the game results...
    "I think he's pretty happy; I think the defense came out and played the game, and I guess you could say the scoring system kind of screwed them over, but hey, we're not complaining."

    On where ND's offense will make a big step this year...
    "Just being on the same page, like I said before, I think as a group, being able to run the ball and being able to pass the ball."

    On the pressure of the game...
    "We don't look it as pressure; we work with each other everyday, so we kind of know what we expect. To be honest with you, we go out there and we work hard every day, and the only thing we can do is work hard, so there is no such thing as pressure for us right now."

    On the meaning of the same page for him...
    "Just when we go out and play a game and everything is clicking; you have the running game clicking, you have the passing game clicking, and everybody is on the same page. Everybody knows each other's assignments, not just their own assignment; like I know the offensive line, who they are going to block, and I know Jimmy's progression on the field, and everything that's going on. We just want all eleven players as a unit on the same page; it's a big deal for us."

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