Feb. 1, 2006
COACH WEIS: This obviously will take a little bit longer than normal because I have several things to talk about.
This time last year, this Wednesday last year, as we were getting ready to play the Eagles in the Super Bowl, had to go through signing day not even being on site, our staff had made a decision at that time to only take 15 players on scholarship. There were another five guys or so that we could have gone ahead and taken just to have 20 bodies out there, but we felt that we would rather save the numbers towards this year's class, towards the future. I wanted to spend a couple of moments explaining the numbers game as it relates to scholarships.
The maximum amount of scholarships that you can give for an entire team is 85. The maximum you can give in one year is 25. The only exception to that would be if you count any scholarships backwards, which is the new craze with the midyear admits, which I'll talk about momentarily.
By only giving 15 scholarships last year, that allows us both this year and next year to load up with full classes because our kids stay in school and graduate. The norm at Notre Dame will be signing 15 to 20 guys. But for this year's class, which I'm going to talk about 27 players and for next year's class, which should be probably a full boat again, this will probably be the only two times in my career here that we have an opportunity to load up with full classes in back to back years because, as I have it projected in 2008, it will be more in the 15 to 20 range, probably closer to the 15 number than the 20 number, not knowing how injuries and everything come into play. The one thing about midyear admits and I'll talk about the three men that we had come in at midyear, in all three of these cases, we can count them backwards towards last year's class. That class of 15 now would go to 16, 17, 18. That would still allow you a spot of 25. That's the way we're viewing this because I wanted to also inform you how it works with walk ons.
As I told you when I first got here, I always think it's important to be able to reward a walk on with a scholarship. Last year we gave three of them out, at least one of them each year as an enticement for kids working hard and getting a scholarship.
If you've been in a program as a walk on for less than two years and earn a scholarship, you have to count on that 25 for that year. If you've been in the program for two years or more, then it just has to count on the 85.
So by having 27 and not 28, it allows me the opportunity to sign a first or second year player as a walk on and be able to grant them a scholarship, whereas if I had gone the full boat, gone to 28, I would not have had that latitude and could only have been rewarded a walk on with a scholarship that had been in the program for more than two years.
As we get going here, obviously there are a lot of people I want to thank before we get to the players. Obviously, our assistant coaches I thought have done a magnificent job, being diligent all the way back from signing day last year. Rob Ianello has done a great job as our recruiting coordinator, spearheading this whole charge, executing this game plan that we implemented last February. I think our player development staff, which we'll talk about here in a couple minutes, Ron Powlus, Dave Peloquin, Kristen Marcuccilli, Tim McDonnell, a lot of people you don't know, they're on site, kind of out of sight, out of mind, have done a wonderful job working together with our entire coaching staff, which would include Ruben (Mendoza) and his staff.
Father Jenkins (University president), Tom Burish (University provost), Dan Saracino (University admissions) who has been absolutely wonderful to work with, very fair, open and honest with us at all times in his decision making when it came to admissions. John Affleck-Graves (University executive vice-president). Kevin White (athletics director), Stan Wilcox, who a lot of you don't know as well, deputy AD, but football is his forte. All the deans and professors who helped us out on game days and recruiting weekends.
Our support staff, Pete D'Alonzo, Colleen Fitzgerald, Kevin Rooney, Hugh Page over in first year freshman studies. All these people deserve a lot of accolades for this class that I'm about to announce.
In addition, I can't announce names because it would be an NCAA violation. You all know it's been well documented about my travels, both the end of April through May, and then it's continued during the whole recruiting process. There have been several alum out there that have flown me privately so I can get to multiple cities, be able to get all over the country. Whether it was the Notre Dame plane or one of these private planes, there are a lot of people that are instrumental in helping get me around to put me in a position where I could get to several sites that I think help close this class.
Let's talk about the class. We have 27 kids, young men, that sent in their faxes today that will be added to the Notre Dame football roster and play for the Irish beginning 2006.
They come from 17 states. We have six offensive linemen, five defensive backs, four wide receivers, three running backs, three defensive linemen, two quarterbacks, two linebackers, one tight end and one kicker. Some stats of note. We offered 58 players scholarships, of which 27 of them committed. That's a 47% average. Basically we're 50/50 on the guys that we offered. We only brought in 37 guys for official visits, and we got 27 committed out of that 37. So that percentage is 73%, which I think is phenomenal.
I think the first three players of note to talk about, I'm going to talk about defense, then offense, then specialists, but I wanted to single these three young men out because they broke ground as a new phase at Notre Dame as midyear admits, James Aldridge, Chris Stewart and George West. I wanted to talk about these three guys because they're already enrolled in school. So far, so good. They've been I've just been with Pete (D'Alonzo) just the other day, and he said that all reports have been that they've settled in nicely. Everything seems to be going along well.
James we all know is from Merrillville here in state. As a matter of fact, he's originally from St. Louis. We'll talk about Munir Prince and Paddy Mullen later. Munir Prince is one of his boys from junior high school back in St. Louis. All he's done is rush for 41 touchdowns in the last two years. This year he rushed for 21 touchdowns. Last year he rushed for 20 touchdowns. He's had 1,400 rushing yards this year, 2,000 yards the year before. He can do it all. We're excited to have him here at the semester so we can get him involved in the spring. He is a threat out of the backfield as well as running the ball. We're really excited to have him here.
Chris Stewart, he's a big man, 6'5", 340. He might be 340-plus right now. We're working on that 340 number. He'll be one of the biggest people on this field next year, also one of the most athletic. Here is a guy who down at the All American game is doing splits. I don't know how many 340 pounders are sitting there doing splits out there in the middle of the field. When he walks in the door, he's an impressive looking guy, got great size, moves very well. Played basketball in high school, as well. He had over a hundred pancake blocks. Pancake is when you take a guy, knock him on his back. I mean, we're really happy to get him out of Texas, come up and join us.
Another guy down in Oklahoma, George West. He's played wide receiver. He's played DB. He has a reputation of being the best returner in the country. As a matter of fact, he scored seven times on special teams, four on punt returns and three on kickoff returns, regarded as one of the premiere guys in the country. It's kind of funny, when I talked to a bunch of people when I was in the Southwest with all these seven on seven camps they were having, the one thing they all come back to me and tell me about, George West, no one could ever cover him. They said he's fast, lightning fast, lightning quick.
One of the big things we were trying to do this year is upgrade the speed of this football team. I think that George is somebody who brings that to the table at the wide receiver position as well as a returner.
Let's go to defense. We added two defensive ends in John Ryan and Kallen Wade. John is from Cleveland. I mean, there's a guy that gets after the quarterback. He's got a lot of pass rush ability. That's one of the things we wanted to do. We wanted to bring in some pass rushers. Six sacks this year, 14 hurries. We learned a lot more about him when he was at our camp last summer. We're really excited about his ability to get after the quarterback.
The same could be true for Kallen Wade coming in here from Cincinnati. He started his career as a safety, as a matter of fact. He's as athletic as they come. As a junior, he had 13 sacks. This year they changed their scheme and moved him into almost a five technique or three technique sometimes even. A lot of times they played an odd scheme, moved him inside so he was out of his natural niche as a pass rusher. This guy reminds me a lot of a young Jason Taylor. He looks like him, he plays like him. Let's hope he produces like him when he gets in school.
Paddy Mullen is a guy that a lot of you people kind of had pegged as a tight end. Paddy definitely has tight end ability. It's not impossible that he ends up playing there. We're counting on Paddy to come in here as a defensive tackle. I was down to see here recently. He's 6'5", 265 pounds, great shape, going through this great program that he's working on in St. Louis. Here is another guy who gets after the quarterback. He had seven sacks, two fumble recoveries this year. Their team won the state championship. A big, big, big year by their team. He started the year at tight end for them. He had a little production. They actually moved him as an offensive lineman. I'm not counting out the possibility of him playing tight end, but we're counting on him getting in the mix walking in the door at defensive tackle.
As far as our linebackers go, we brought in two guys, both from Georgia. Morrice Richardson is a Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Georgia. He was both a defensive end and a rush linebacker. I watched the second game of the year. He had 18 tackles in one game in the second game of the year. He ended up with 85 tackles and 12 sacks. Here is a very athletic linebacker who also has pass rush ability. One of the things we said we were going to do this year is get some more guys in here that could get after the quarterback. Here is another guy who brings that to the table.
Toryan on the other hand Morrice, he's out of Westlake, College Park, Georgia, Westlake High School. We also brought in Toryan Smith out of Rome High School in Rome, Georgia. He's a true middle linebacker, tackle to tackle get after your butt. Had 112 tackles, 19 tackles for losses, eight sacks, three interceptions as a junior. Then this year he had 117 tackles and 20 tackles for loss and eight sacks in 2005. He's a Mike linebacker. He should be able to get himself into the mix early. We're counting on that. We obviously have a number of guys looking to replace Corey Mays with his departure, but I'm expecting Toryan to come in here and get in the mix right off the back.
Five defensive backs. Two corners. We're excited to get Raeshon McNeil out of Davie High School in North Carolina and Darrin Walls out of Woodland Hills in Pittsburgh. Both these guys were frontline corners that we had earmarked from day one. We felt we had to go out and get us some cover corners that could play, play at a young age. Both these guys are frontline players. Raeshon, six interceptions, 42 tackles as a senior. He also is a returner. He had a kick off and two punt returns for touchdowns. Finished with 15 career interceptions. Anyone wants to know about his cover ability, just go watch the highlights of the All American game where he's supposed to be playing against the best and is shutting everybody down.
Darrin Walls was also picked to play in the All American game. He had to have shoulder surgery done. A lot of players would have waited till after the All American game to get their kudos. He decided right after the season was over to get his shoulder fixed right off the bat so he could be healthy and ready to go earlier for us. I appreciate that because it was a very unselfish act on his part to go ahead and do that. Four year letter winner. 124 career tackles, 16 interceptions. He's also played on the offensive side of the ball. What I like about both these guys is they both have return ability and great ball skills as they've been stars on both offense and defense.
Sergio Brown, we have identified trying to get back into the Chicago area. Obviously, Sergio coming out of Proviso East, got us a big athletic safety that can run. State qualifier in the long jump. Played wide receiver. Had over 700 all purpose yards on offense, scored four touchdowns, 41 tackles, a couple sacks, intercepted six passes, broke up 18 more. As a senior safety, had a punt return for a touchdown as well. Has been a three year starter.
Another athletic safety, Jashaad Gaines out of Las Vegas. He is the Gatorade Player of the Year in Las Vegas, by the way. Their team wins the state championship. They shut the team out, 23 to nothing. Part of a defense that allowed only 28 points in the last eight games. He had 55 tackles, 13 passes broken up, a couple interceptions as a senior. He also played some offense. He also runs track. One of the edges we had with him is his sister Tulyah, a sophomore on our women's basketball team, you have a proud mother there because now you got son and daughter both here at ND. Now she can just wear our colors all the time, not worry about being torn between what school she's rooting for.
We have Leonard Gordon, our last DB, is capable of playing both corner and safety walking in the door, which makes him kind of intriguing to me. He had 90 tackles, two interceptions, that were both returned for touchdowns in 2005. He had 128 tackles and five interceptions as a junior. He played on a team that was ranked No. 1 in Kentucky for most of an unbeaten season. Fine young man out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. We're really happy to have him here. That rounds out our defensive class.
On offense, it all started with us identifying that we wanted to bring in two quarterbacks. We feel that we got two great leaders in Zach Frazer, Demetrius Jones. Both these guys, once they committed to us, went out of their way to on their own encourage other guys to be part of this class, like true leaders would do. You know, you can't give them phone numbers. That's illegal. That's an NCAA violation. They have to go ahead and track the guys down and work them. Both these guys did this. We appreciate their efforts both on and off the field as being part of this class.
Zach threw for 1,800 yards, nine touchdowns as a senior. His junior class, they were loaded. He threw for a Pennsylvania record 3,674, 27 touchdowns, ran in another 12 touchdowns. These were guys that we identified very early in the process. We're very happy to have Zach on board.
Same could be said with Demetrius Jones, Gatorade Player of the Year in Illinois. The one thing, everyone has him pegged as a dual threat quarterback, can beat you with his arms and legs. I told him I want him to throw the ball first. He's on the same page with me. He threw for 2,000 yards, 25 touchdowns his senior year. He's out of Morgan Park, Corey Mays' high school in Chicago. He's kind of infectious, fun to be around. He, like Zach, both these guys are great football players who did a great job helping us close out this recruiting class.
James Aldridge at running back. Munir Prince, Gatorade Player of the Year in Missouri by the way, he and Paddy both are out of DeSmet there in St. Louis for Pat Mahoney. He's a dynamic back who can do it all. He can run. He can catch. He's been good in the rush game. My defensive coaches are killing me to try to get him at corner. By the way, he's not going to corner, Rick (Minter), if you're listening to me anywhere, okay? 3,680 rushing yards, 50 total touchdowns. He's been timed at a 10.4 at the 100, 21 at the 200. He's a great kid. I'm really happy to have him.
Just the opposite of that, we got the big bruiser in Luke Schmidt, Gatorade Player of the Year in Indiana. One thing in common as you hear. Either I'm in cahoots with Gatorade or we got a lot of good football players. 6'3", probably bigger than that. He's a powerful and fast back, can play fullback and halfback. He's had back to back 2,000 yard seasons, rushed for 2,239 rushing yards, 32 touchdowns as a senior. Scored 41 touchdowns as a junior. I mean, this kid, he's a dynamic football player. Between James and Munir and Luke, we have quite a lot of versatility coming out of our backfield to add to the returning stable of backs we have now.
Tight end we got coming in is Konrad Reuland from Mission Viejo with Coach Johnson. I appreciate the fact he didn't wire him in, help corral him to stay in California. He's 6'6", 240 tight end, big, physical. By the way, he's matched up against a 7'2" center in basketball tonight. I said I'd be mad at him if he just didn't take him to the hole every time he got the ball in this basketball game tonight. He had more production in his junior year than senior year because his team was rolling up such big numbers this year, it didn't force him to throw the ball nearly as much as they did before. Their high school record while I was there was 39 2. We're really, really happy to have Konrad here. We're really happy to be able to take one out of Southern California. It's a tough thing to do.
Wide receivers, I've already mentioned George West. Barry Gallup, Gatorade Player of the Year from Massachusetts. Barry is one of the guys I identified early. The tough thing for Barry, his dad is the director of football operations at Boston College. There was a lot of affinity, he has a lot of respect for Coach O'Brien and everyone from Boston College. I think he fell in love with Notre Dame, and we fell in love with him. He's another one of those infectious type of guys. He finished his career with 70 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. This year he only had eight catches at 29 yards a catch, but he also rushed for 1300 yards and scored 26 touchdowns.
This year, the way they got him the ball more was as a running back. He'll clearly come in here as a wide receiver. As long as he doesn't get hurt playing hockey here at this time, which he's involved in, we're really looking forward to getting him out here.
I talked about George and Barry, shorter wide receivers. Now we can come with Richard Jackson and Robby Parris, our taller wide receivers. Richard is 6'3". By the way, Barry played at Belmont Hill High School. Big thing, more of a prep school. But we're really happy to have him.
Out of East Ridge High School in Claremont, Florida, we have Richard Jackson coming in. His team has played for three consecutive undefeated regular season wins. That's 31 straight. This year he had 42 catches for 576, which is a 13.7 average, five touchdowns. What Richard really brings is size and speed to the group. I always like when you're looking at wide receivers. Just like I talked about the versatility with the running backs, I like versatility with the wide receivers.
Richard brings something different than what Barry and George bring. Robby is more along the same mould. He's another big wide receiver. Robby Parris out of St. Ignatius. Once again, another big wide receiver. He only played six games before he hurt his hip. He's fine, playing hoops now. He caught 32 passes for 675 yards and 12 touchdowns in six games. Anyone who is local, all you have to do is go to the game against Pennsylvania this year when he caught 10 passes for 240 yards and four touchdowns. I am hoping that him playing in South Bend, maybe that's a good thing. Going after those stats, you know, that would be a positive. Once again, he's the high school team of John Ryan, who I mentioned earlier.
Last but not least on offense, I'd like to talk about the offensive line. I've already talked about Chris Stewart. We have another five guys coming in. Let's talk about two of the three two of them, Matt Carufel, Gatorade Player of the Year in Minnesota. He had 74 pancake blocks as a junior. He averaged 13 pancakes a game as a senior. He's been a three year starter. We've had good success taking him out of Cretin Derham Hall High School there in Minnesota. He's another along the line of players that have come out of that school. We're really, really excited about having a physical player like Matt to come in here and help solidify our interior offensive line.
The same could be said for Eric Olsen. Eric is coming out of Brooklyn Poly Prep. From Staten Island. He's the Gatorade Player of the Year in New York. He played both offensive tackle and defensive end. I see him playing either offensive tackle or offensive guard for us. He's a three year starter. Didn't allow a sack his entire career.
Interesting highlight, sidebar on him. He's a standout lacrosse player. This might be a new trend for us. We might start looking for some of these lacrosse players playing football. I'll just leave it at that. That information will be coming at a later date.
Bartley Webb. We got him out of Springdale, Arkansas. We're real excited to get him off of that perfect state championship team. This guy is a very, very defined pass, block tackle. Allowed only two sacks in two years. Of all the guys I've seen, this is one of the most polished pass blocking tackles I've seen coming out of high school in my short time back into the college ranks.
Dan Wenger, we've got two guys coming from St. Thomas Aquinas down there in Fort Lauderdale from Coach Smith. The one thing different thing about him from everyone else is Dan is a center. Although he can play both guards, it's rare that you could find a true center that that's what he's been his whole career. The center is the leader of your offense. Offensive line, just like the quarterback is the leader of the whole offense. I mean, their offense was able to roll up over 4,600 yards this year. He's been the starter there forever. I think that we're really happy to be able to find a guy that is a potential answer to what happens when some of these guys we have are ready to depart in the next year or two.
Last but not least is Sam Young. Dan's teammate from Aquinas. The Gatorade Player of the Year in Florida. Sam didn't give us a sack his junior or senior year. Sam is a big man. 6'7", 292. Bartley was 6'7", 290. I think Sam is more about 6'8", 300 and thin. My wife looked at him last week when we had dinner, my wife goes, "In all those years in the NFL, I never remember them looking as big as this guy." He is just a big man walking through the door. This guy could have gone anywhere, as a lot of these guys could. Came right down to the end. He picked us and really put a smile on my face. We're very happy to have Sam here. We're very thankful that he ended up choosing us as well as the other 26 position players I've talked about.
Last but not least, a guy who might have as much pressure on him as anyone, Ryan Burkhart, our local Northwood High School guy here from Indiana. Last year I went and watched him kick. He's got pop every time he hits the ball. It just pops. It's always good when you hear a kicker hit the ball, and you hear "pop." He can kick off, he can kick it deep, kick field goals from long range. He can do some punting, as well.
We've told Ryan that we're expecting him to come in here as a freshman and compete for playing time from the second he walks in the door. I think that's what he's expecting from us.
That was a summary of the 27 young men that we're bringing in here. First, like I said, I wanted, besides giving a lot of people thanks, wanted to give you a little thought process of mine, stemming all the way back to signing last year and letting you know the numbers games and the walk ons and scholarships, how that all works so that you understand the game plan that we had in mind and what exactly we were trying to do.
Q. Did you anticipate getting so far ahead of the process with the early commitments as you did? Do you anticipate in the future that that will be the norm?
COACH WEIS: That was uncharted territory for me because I had not been in college since '89. In '89, everyone signed in February. Everyone went to their five visits in December and January and signed in February.
Obviously, I got a lot of guidance from Rob (Ianello), Mike Haywood, a lot of the guys who had been recruiting coordinators. They kind of guided me towards how this has all been pushed up so much.
But coming into the start of training camp, when we were already halfway home, when we already had about 14 guys in the bank already, it's kind of let me know this is the way the territory is now run. That's why we really have been active this month.
We only had one official visit the whole month of January. That was Sam Young. We've been spending the whole month of January between me going and seeing every guy that's a 'yes' here, which I went and saw every guy. Everything has been junior recruiting.
Q. Do you think kids are a little bit more inclined nowadays to commit early or do you think it's the procedure that you followed?
COACH WEIS: They're more inclined to commit early for a couple of reasons. One is the fact that most programs, I know like our unwritten policy will be if you're committed to us, we're committed to you, then you end up getting hurt, we're going to honor that scholarship.
One of the risks these players take, if they know where they want to go, now it's August and you have five schools you're down to, if you get hurt, you could lose a $250,000 scholarship. That's the risk you take. That's one of the reasons why a lot of these guys are going they're going to unofficial visits so early and going to all these one day camps in the summertime. I think a lot of them want to have their decision made before their senior year even starts.
Q. When you see Sam Young on tape, what do you see?
COACH WEIS: I see what I've been used to seeing for a lot of years, that's what I see, only as a high school kid. I see a man playing amongst boys at the high school level.
Now, obviously this is going to be a different deal because you're going to have a higher level of competition.
Q. There was a recent accusation of a recruiting analyst as far as his involvement in steering a player toward Notre Dame. What is your perspective on that? What is your involvement with people in that industry?
COACH WEIS: It's important to have communication with all the people involved with those type of services personally. I tried to have relationships with all of them because there's a they can talk to people year round all the time, where we're limited to when we can talk to the players. It's a different set of rules for those guys than the rules we have.
I'm familiar with that situation you're talking about. You know, that's kind of a "he said, she said" type of deal. I'm not going to say that either side is unethical. I know the one guy a lot more than I know the kid. I have a lot of respect for the one guy. But if I just sit there and say the kid's full of it, you know, I wasn't there. All I know is I would find it tough to imagine anyone in any recruiting service telling a kid, "Go to such and such a school." I would have a tough time fathoming that happening.
Q. You mentioned you visited with a lot of the committed players. Did you find that you had to (inaudible) any of them or were they pretty firm on their commitment?
COACH WEIS: Very few did I have to. We had a couple bumps. You've read about a couple of things that happened down at the end.
The fact is, every one of our guys told me, "Hey, I'm committed, you're committed." If you're going to be honest and faithful and trusting, if you're going to expect them to trust you, then you have to trust them also. I think it has to be a two way street. All 27 of these guys have shown that to be the case.
This was a no sweat day. This was kind of anti climactic to sit up there, wondering how everything is going to happen. Everything just kind of fell in line. They faxed, they called, we talked to them, we'd move on. I have to say, down the road, this is probably smooth sailing. What it really allowed us to do is we're going to need to have another killer class next year. It allowed us to really get a big jump start on next year's class.
Q. You mentioned Toryan and Burkhart as a couple of kids that you hoped or expected would be in the mix. Are you expecting most of these kids to be in the mix or certain positions where there's not going to be opportunity?
COACH WEIS: Remember, over the last three years, the numbers have been lower as far as signing goes. What happens then is your roster is thin. That doesn't mean you don't have players, but your roster is thin. What that does, it opens up opportunities for guys to play earlier in the career.
I would hope that three years from now I would not have the same be representing the same thing I'm representing now because now you'd have high numbers in all these positions. Now you'd only be spotting, taking a guy here, here and here.
Any time you have a senior starter departing, that position is wide open. When you talk about Toryan or you talk about Ryan, you're talking about two guys that have senior starters departing. Any time there's a senior starter departing, you'd have to say there's a possibility for a young guy to work his way into the mix faster.
That doesn't mean that any senior that's returning is etched in stone. If a young guy can come in, I'm not in love with anybody. I'm in love with the guys that give me the best chance of winning. If a freshman can come in and beat out a senior, so be it. That's what gets you fired, playing guys just because, "He's a senior, so I'm going to play him because he's a senior." You got to play the guys that give you the best chance of winning.
Q. Were you satisfied with the breakdown in terms of positions, that you got the number of people in the positions you wanted?
COACH WEIS: Yes. As a matter of fact, I was satisfied. Our biggest areas of concern, numbers wise this year, we were going to overload on offensive line and defensive backs. We wanted to make sure we got two quarterbacks. Really, if you looked at the three things we wanted to do: overload on offensive line and defensive backs and get us two quarterbacks. Now, that doesn't mean all the other positions weren't critical positions. It just meant that you can only set so many priorities when you go in. This way allows to you have a different set of priorities going into the next year's class.
One of the big questions on the street, "What are we going to do to improve the defensive line?" We brought in three guys that get after the passer. A lot of guys had Paddy pegged as just a tight end. They didn't realize what our thought process was all along because we're not allowed to talk about any of these guys until after signing day.
We lose Brian Beidatsch, we replace him with Paddy, we move on. Next year we'll prioritize where we have to put our areas of concern the most. You're trying to appease the numbers at every position, which we achieved all our minimum goals at every position. We also achieved our maximum goals on the areas where we wanted to load up on. I think that was just as critical.
Q. You mentioned the two quarterbacks. There was a lot of speculation late in the process there might be a third quarterback. Was that ever a thought?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think we all know who we're talking about. He really wanted to come. It would have been nice if that would have worked out. The way it worked out for everybody involved is the best for everyone involved. It's really important when these kids trust what you're saying and you say, "This is what we're going to do." If you go back on your word, you're going to have a problem. It's great to know that guys want to come jump on board, but you also have to be true to your word at the same time. There becomes a conflict sometimes. As a coach you say, "Let's take him, let's take him." As a guy trying to set up a program, you have to be true to your word.
Q. Chris Stewart mentioned how much the current players had an effect on his recruitment, that he really admired what they had been through, really thought they sold the program well.
COACH WEIS: That was the last comment I was going to say, but because you brought it up. Our players did a great job as hosts for these players. Unlike some other places, we never tell them what to say. We do not tell them anything. We don't say, "Tell them this, tell them that." We just say, "Go hang with the fellas, see if they you or not. If you don't fit, don't come."
I'm going to tell you an interesting story, not just how great a job our own players did, but I'm going to tell you how great a job our recruits did. Sam Young is here today because of our recruits. When Sam Young was down at the All American game, he observed how close our recruits were hanging out together at the All American game. Then he looked at the recruits from all the other teams that were kind of going their own ways. This is exactly what he told me. He told me he decided right then where he was going, but he played me till the end, of course. I talked to him about payback this morning when I talked to him. Of course, that was after the fax had come across (laughter).
But he had told me the determining factor had been watching the camaraderie of our recruits down at the All American game. I think that was the same reason, like Chris is talking about, how our players did such a great job with them on campus, without being force fed, say this or say that. They just kind of hang out.
We aren't like a lot of other places. Our guys sometimes go bowling or go play video games or go watch movies. This isn't just going out and being wild and crazy all the time. You want to know, sometimes that's the type of kid that that's what they're looking for. Not everyone is looking to be that wild and crazy guy.
Q. On the offensive line, you talked about loading up there. Talk about the approach of staying patient with offers, evaluating kids. I think Bartley was the first guy to jump on board. Talk about how you were able to stay patient there, not go out and offer a kid like you felt you could get right away.
COACH WEIS: We kind of thought we were in pretty good shape with a lot of people. We knew where the contenders were. We knew where the next tier was. But we wanted to make sure we landed at least five.
Now, we were willing to take more than five, but our minimum was five. But we needed to make sure we got us at least two tackles. We need to make sure we got us a center. We needed to make sure that we got some guys that could play guard.
In this case right here, like Eric could play inside or outside. Dan is a pure center. Bartley and Sam are tackles all the way. Chris has been a guard most of his career. Matt has been a guard most of his career.
We kind of felt we had a pretty good shot at a lot of these guys, but we did not want to reach at this position. We needed guys that felt that they could earn their way into the two deep walking in the door.
We don't guarantee anything, okay? I think that although it might be perceived as patient, I think that we thought that we had a pretty good chance at a lot of the guys we got.
Q. The concept of early playing time, can you quantify how much of a difference you felt like that actually made?
COACH WEIS: Well, look at it, this year we played six offensive linemen. That's what we played. Out of those six offensive linemen, two of them are gone. Dan Stevenson and Mark LeVoir are both going on to the NFL. That means four of those guys are returning. Out of those four guys, three of them are gone next year. That leaves you with one. That leaves really John Sullivan is the only possible guy that played this year out of those six guys. The only possible guy who played this year, meaningful playing time, being on the team two years from now.
You're an offensive lineman, all you have to do is look at the numbers. It's a pretty easy representation when you're going ahead and showing a guy. It's kind of a scary thought that this year we only played with six, but it also was enticing to these guys when you're going out there trying to recruit them.
Q. Talking to Paddy, he played tight end, offensive tackle (inaudible)?
COACH WEIS: On the contrary, he has played defensive tackle a lot. That's the reason he played that for the last two years. As a matter of fact, he played two years ago when he had his broken wrist, that's where he played exclusively. That's what Paddy has been playing. Everyone went and pegged him a tight end. Go check the numbers. That's where he's been playing.
Q. When you look at his game, what does he do well there?
COACH WEIS: He gets after the passer. The one thing we really want to do, even Morrice Richardson and Toryan Smith, you notice the numbers of sacks and pressures. We wanted guys that could get after the passer. If you just sit back there and wait all day, you can't blitz on every down just to create pressure. Sooner or later some guys are going to have to win some one on one battles. We wanted some guys that could get after the passer. Paddy showed inside rush. Kallen and John have shown outside rush. Both our linebackers have shown rush ability, as well.
Q. You talked about the trend towards early commitment. There are always going to be the guys who are going to commit the last day. Will you be willing to wait for a commitment?
COACH WEIS: Absolutely. If a kid is good enough, you have to wait. You have to wait. Now, you can't do that with very many of them because you have holes to fill. But if it comes down to the last day, if Sam Young came down to today, it came down to us, the other school he was interested in, it came down to today, we would have been waiting till today. Even if you lose out on him, because you're not going to win out on all of them, okay? But I think once you identify key players, the ones you have to wait on, yes, you'd have to wait till signing day.
Q. How comfortable are you that two top flight quarterbacks like this can coexist together?
COACH WEIS: I think they both have a great opportunity. A year from now, that No. 10 is going to graduate and go onto the NFL. It's wide open. If I were a quarterback, I would have been standing in line to get on board here. Now between the guys we already have here and those two guys, may the best man win, let's go. That's a great opportunity.
Q. When you look, with D.J. (Fitzpatrick) here, he was so established as a kicker and punter, not a lot of technique needed work on. As you come in with a freshman that you want to compete, is there somebody on staff that actually coaches kicking technique? Is that up to camps?
COACH WEIS: We do a couple things. Obviously, Brian (Polian) is our special teams coach. We have a couple resources to help out on that. You have to be careful because there are only certain things you can do legally. You have to make sure you limit them to those things.
Q. When we try to sort of piece the puzzle together, put guys potentially where they could land, any decisions on the fifth year guys? Anything you can announce?
COACH WEIS: I'm not going to go over that right now. They all know where they stand. There are a lot of guys that are graduating, moving on. Some of those guys are coming back. We'll probably hold off till March 22nd when we put out a spring game roster, till everything is finalized. These guys still have to go through applying for a fifth year.
Just because I say that I want them for a fifth year, they still have to go through a process and be accepted for a fifth year as well. By March 22, when we kickoff spring ball, we'll have all that stuff settled by then.
Q. What do you know today about recruiting that you didn't know a year ago or 15 months ago?
COACH WEIS: First of all, it's a 12 month year job. You can never take time off from recruiting. Vacation time doesn't mean recruiting stops. I think technology has been a significant factor in recruiting. Text messages, obviously a little bit controversial. Down there at the convention, because we use it extensively here, some people don't use it as much because it doesn't count as a phone call. I think technology comes into play.
It comes down to having a game plan and just treating it like anything else. Have a game plan, set the game plan, go out there and try to execute it, realize that there's going to be bumps in the road. You can't just assume that you're going to win. Just because a kid is from a Catholic school five miles away here, you offer him, doesn't mean you're getting him. You can't say, "We're Notre Dame, so everyone is going to want to come here." You need to go out and get 'em. You need to go out and represent your school and be aggressive in recruiting. You can't be stagnant and just take for granted that people are going to come here.
The game has changed in recruiting, and it's a much earlier game. You better be on them early and make as few mistakes as you possibly can, because everyone will make them, but you better get on them early and you better get them on board.
Q. What do you think the future is with the text messaging?
COACH WEIS: Well, we bought at least another year. I know that we're totally in favor of using text messaging because our staff has been very adept at using it. The people that are the detractors of text messaging are saying that the kids would be bothered in class. They're basically the ones that don't know how to use it themselves, so therefore they're against using it.
We obviously don't fit into that mould.
Q. What is it like conducting a recruiting campaign, I know you haven't been dealing with it till last year, that is so public now, information spreads so rapidly?
COACH WEIS: Here is one of the biggest problems I have. You guys will get a chuckle. I can't get them to shut their mouths until after they're here. The players can say whatever they want until they're here. Once they're here, maybe the rules might change a little bit.
But sometimes it's not just the kids who talk. Sometimes it's the parents. Sometimes the parents like the recruiting process more than the kids do. You don't know how many times I've had a conversation with a kid, I don't want to read this online today. I'll have a conversation and say something to them. But people can't help themselves. It's unbelievable.
Q. Some of the parents like being quoted?
COACH WEIS: Oh, they love the limelight. Not all of them. Some of them want it to be all about the kid. There are parents that really enjoy their involvement in the process.
Q. Changing the subject, we haven't spoken to you since the Fiesta Bowl.
COACH WEIS: We lost.
Q. When you lost the first two times, you put a lot of the blame on yourself for that. Did you view this in a similar manner or when you went back and looked at it, it was Ohio State, Jim Tressel in the fifth year of his program against Charlie Weis in the first year, too good for you?
COACH WEIS: I'm never big on excuses. First of all, you have to give credit, they were a good football team and they deserved to win the game. What I'm going to have to review is the whole preparation time, the long lapse between November 26th and January 2nd. Now you're hoping it's January 8. You're hoping. You don't know if that's the case. It could go all the way from November 26 to January 8.
I mean, New Year's Day, BCS Championship game. I think that I'm really going to have to go back. I really haven't had time to really think this through yet, but think about the whole time frame of not the two week period like a Super Bowl, but that over a month period, how to get your guys best ready to go with that huge time frame involved.
Q. (Inaudible question about the team not playing its best in the Fiesta Bowl)?
COACH WEIS: As I watched the game, we were doing things we don't normally do. We dropped balls that we normally don't drop. There were things we did in that game that we don't normally do. You have to come back, what do you attribute that to? Rather than attribute it just to the players messing up, which is the easy way out, "It's the players fault," that's the easy way of doing it, I think the more important thing is to really go back and try to figure out not just what happened, that's the easy part, but why that happened. I already got the what down, but I don't have the why yet.
Q. Would you support an early football signing period?
COACH WEIS: I actually brought it up at the head coach's meeting. The assistant coaches had encouraged about an early signing period being in November. I actually would like it to be in August. I would like it to be before football season actually starts because my feeling is, if a kid wants to commit to us before a season starts, let's get it over with before the season starts. This way the kids and their parents will know that if something happens to them in football season, they don't have to hold anything back because if something happens to them, we'll honor their commitment.
That's what I recommended at the head coaches meeting this year down there in Dallas.
Q. Do you think the early signing period would make the in-season recruiting easier?
COACH WEIS: I'm never afraid of working. But at the same time I think that it protects the players as much as protecting us. Both sides win if you have that. We win because you already have them. They win because they're protected if something happens to them. It's a win win situation, from my perspective.
Q. Do you think the early signing period will happen?
COACH WEIS: I don't know. I brought it up. It wasn't like it got unanimous vote. I brought it up because I thought that my date was a little different. A lot of people were talking about November, early signing day. I thought August was a little more practical personally.
Q. Are you proud of the fact that the kids who applied in June committed to Notre Dame?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, I'm proud of those kids, and I'm also proud of our staff for making sure they stayed on top of these kids to make sure that that didn't happen. Like you said, there's a lot of people involved in this process, but our staff did a great job. Means we were recruiting the right type of kids because they were guys that stuck true to their word.
Q. What is the difference between recruiting rankings and Charlie Weis rankings?
COACH WEIS: Here is the only benefit of recruiting rankings: the kids for the next year read those rankings. But really, what do I care? If I like a player, what do I care whether somebody else likes him? It's just whether I like him or not. But people are influenced by those type of things. People are influenced by ratings. They're influenced by it, right or wrong.
As far as a football player, I could really care less. If I think a kid is a really good player, what do I care if he's half a star player somewhere else? Obviously, I think he's pretty good or else I wouldn't be offering him a scholarship that is worth a lot of money here at Notre Dame.
Q. Did this class meet your expectations?
COACH WEIS: I'd say this year was beyond my initial expectations, to be able to fulfill so many needs with such quality young men that fit the three things that we talk about: good kids that can read and write, but they can play. I was really, really happy with this class.
I've told everyone in this class that this was going to be the class that started Notre Dame back to the top. That doesn't mean we don't have a chance to compete this year and next year. I'm talking about perennially being at the top.
It's easy for a team once in a while to have a good year. A lot of times they flounder afterwards. That's not what we're shooting for here. We want to be a top team every year. I think this team sets the foundation.
My comment about next year, because it will be the last time I could see maybe in my career that we're able to go with two full classes back to back, it's going to be just as critical next year to even try to do even better than we did this year, if that's possible.
Q. Just wanted to get back to you keeping your word during recruiting?
COACH WEIS: I think it gets very enticing when another kid at another position, let's say a seventh offensive lineman wants to come, let's say a third quarterback wants to come, let's say a sixth DB wants to come, you tell the guys this is what you're going to do. Now if you go back to those guys and say, "I'm going to take another one of these guys." All those guys sit there and say, "Great, we get another great football here, but what about us? This is what you told us you were going to do." It doesn't make a difference what position it's at. I think these kids don't want to be lied to, just like we don't want to be lied to either.
I think as a coach, you really got to bite your tongue because it's really tough not to take good football players, okay, but at the same time I think that you have an obligation. This has to be a two way street, not a one way street.
Q. Can you comment further on Eric, what you liked about him, where you think he fits in for you guys?
COACH WEIS: I'll tell you what, first of all, nice to get a couple of Northeasterners back in here now. Just walking into the school, watching him play, watching him how he carries himself, he's a big, physical, rugged guy, all day tough, just the typical guy I'm used to being around for most of my life. He just seems to fit what we're looking for here in our program.
JOHN HEISLER: As Charlie said, spring practice starts on March 22nd. The Blue Gold game is April 22nd. I know there's been some confusion whether it's the 22nd or the 29th. The game is the 22nd.
COACH WEIS: There's no confusion on my part. It's the 22nd at 1:30 (laughter).