Aug. 6, 2006
COACH WEIS: Well, good afternoon. Welcome back as we get ready to start our 2006 season training camp.
I'll talk a little bit about training camp. I always know when it's time for training camp when my wife tells me, "It's time for you to go." And she's been saying that for about two weeks but last night she definitely gave me a definitive, "it's time for you to go."
I appreciate your patience in the summertime where I think it's really important for both in my case, me personally, my assistant coaches and our players to give them a time away from the media and let them be normal people for a while. And then when we get back to work, obviously your jobs are important to you and we understand that and working with you is obviously important to me. But during vacation time, I think it's important for everyone to be able to get away for a while.
So a little bit of training camp. And really, what's training camp? Training camp is a time where we focus on fundamentals and technique as a coaching staff, and it's also a time where conditioning comes into play. Probably as a coach the most important thing that happens during training camp is evaluations that take place as you start to establish movement within your depth chart. Depth charts change day to day, sometimes practice to practice. But I'm going to give you kind of a lay of the land and my mentality with this training camp so you know how this is going to go.
We're going to use our first 11 practices to practice our offense against our defense, so this way, no game plans will come into play here. This way it gives me a chance to evaluate everyone on the team and start to not jump to any quick decisions as far as who is moving up the charts and who is moving down the charts. At that time we'll be breaking training camp and moving from the west side campus to back over here to our home base over here, the Gug, and we'll then go to into phase two of training camp.
Phase two of training camp is when we start using partner practices to run show teams. When we start carding up different things that you're going to work on during the year that you don't know when you're going to see them. I'll give you a couple of examples there. One of the en vogue things in pro football that's now going into college football are defenses being able to go from a 4 3 defense to a 3 4 defense, and therefore, the blocking schemes or protections that go along coincide with this. So we will at that time use an extensive period of time to block a 3 4 defense, whereas in training camp we will not block a 3 4 defense one time while we're going against our defense.
Once we get past that show team period of training camp, the only period left is to use the extended period to get ready for our first opponent, which is Georgia Tech. And really the whole camp is scheduled to get us ready for Georgia Tech. That's all that's really important, September 2 down in Atlanta.
Now, we understand, we understand that you have to have expectations, but I teach our players, and our coaches for that matter, to be very short sighted when it comes to expectations. So our expectations are to get into great shape to know what to do to go beat Georgia Tech. That's what our expectations are.
We're going to put a lot of extra demands on everyone, starting with myself and the coaching staff. We've met at great length here in the last few days about being more demanding. And one of the reasons why you have to be more demanding, or the obvious reason: The expectations around this football program; therefore, forces you to put more pressure on yourself and your coaches and the players to make sure that they don't buy into the hype and forget what got them to make some improvements.
Let's talk about personnel. So a few updates and I'll go in a couple different directions here. First of all, Abdel Banda was put on medicals and will no longer be a part of the football program. D.J. Hord tore his left Achilles in the weight room. He jumped off a box, his left Achilles snapped and he had surgery on it on July 6 and he'll be gone for the year.
We have three guys that are not ready to go and start at training camp. Instead of giving you my normal cliche of day to day, I'm going to give you the fact that they are probably going to be out a little extended period of time. Chase Anastasio, he's going to run the conditioning test but it looks like he'll be about a week to two weeks out.
Ryan Harris, I'm also going to hold him for a couple of weeks. He's going through some rehab and, you know, we could get him out on the field earlier but he's a veteran guy. I'll have to play it on the safe side. And that gives me a chance to evaluate some people over on that left tackle position. So I'm going to hold him out the first couple of weeks of training camp.
And James Aldridge had a procedure done right after training camp. He's moving along real good. As a matter of fact when we go out practicing, you'll see him run around, he'll look great to you. I don't feel that he's ready to go right now and to be honest with you, I'm not positive if he's going to be ready to go when we start the season. It's not a season ending deal, but I'm not positive he'll be ready for Georgia Tech.
There will be some other guys that go on the day to day program, but those three guys I'm going to hold for maybe a week. But for Ryan probably it's going to be two weeks and James may or may not be ready to go when the season gets going.
And we have a few other additions here. We have some guys who are coming back from injuries, Chris Frome is fully healthy and back from injury and Joe Brockington, they are back and ready to go. Travis Leitko, he's been gone for the year, he's back and he's ready to go. Right now he's on the team as a walk on. He knows that I end up scholarshiping one or more players training camp, so he's trying to earn his scholarship back. Junior Jabbie was gone at the end of the season. We worked out those couple things and he's back, and David Wolke, as you well know, transferred to Western Kentucky.
Two other issues. One a guy that you don't know real well, the other one you do, right now you'll see our roster listed at 106. We have a tight end by the name of Michael Planalp who is actually taking the MCATs on August 18, it's a funny story. He asked me if he could have that day off to take the MCATs. I told him, why don't you stay home and study for the MCAT and come back when school starts so you can that you can go ahead and nail those MCATs and do the best you possibly can. So hopefully he'll return to us when school starts. That's the 106 player which gets us to 105.
There's been a lot of word on the street about Travis Thomas, so let's talk about that one. Last spring Travis and I got together and I told him I felt I was one of best 22 players on our team, and I wanted to know if he would be interested in trying to play linebacker on our team. Of course, anyone who looks at a possibility of starting when he's a backup behind Darius would love that opportunity. So last spring we started it and went through the summer, and what I'm going to do is give him an opportunity to be a starting linebacker on our team.
Now I would not let him play defense if it wasn't for the fact that I'm going to give him an opportunity to start. I told everyone we were getting more athletic on defense, he's one of the best tacklers we have on our special teams, played strong safety in high school, he's dying for an opportunity to get on the field on a full time basis and I'm going to give it to him.
Now the logical question will be, let me get this straight, Aldrige isn't ready to go and you're moving Travis over there to defense, Travis is also going to play offense, so I've created a two way monster here. So right now I'm not going to worry about him practicing on offense for the first week at least, see what he can do on defense, if it doesn't pan out, we'll bring him back to offense full time. But we'll give him an opportunity to start at linebacker for us.
Let's talk about some major position battles going into training camp. One of the biggest battles will go on actually is the backup position, that's the backup quarterback. We all know Brady is No. 1, but the two freshmen, Frazer, Jones and Sharpley are going to be given an equal opportunity to be number two. I told Peter his biggest job is developing those three guys and see who ends up winning that competition.
Running back because I'm going to let Travis work over there to be a starting linebacker and because James isn't ready to go, very near. Munir Prince and Luke Schmidt are two freshman; Luke although he'll play halfback and fullback in training camp, those two guys along with Junior can get the ball to the backup carries behind Darius.
Tight end, we have Carlson and Freeman back. The two freshman are going to be pushed along to get ready to go because we really like both Konrad and Will and we expect them to be ready to go as backups behind those two players.
Wide receiver situation is intriguing to me because other than Jeff, who by the way is in great shape, I'm really pleased at what he's done. He's in great shape and so is Rhema. It's really not much of a question about those two guys but after that it's going to be wide open. All of these freshman coming are going to get an opportunity to get into the mix, because other than those two guys, nothing is etched in stone.
It's interesting on the defensive side of the ball now because we have a veteran defensive line and then Leitko is back on top of it, and we have high expectations or our defensive line, really. We'll even talk about the freshman here in a second but in reality we like the fact that both at the defensive line position. And in the secondary position, in the secondary, we returned our first guys and our second guys, and that's not even talking about before all these freshmen coming in; and we all know about Walls and McNeil coming in and competing at corner this year. Going in that gives us six corners walking in the door. Last year we didn't even know who our second starter was. So it's a little different situation on defensive line positions and on the secondary positions.
Probably the two biggest questions on this team are centered around our linebacker position and our special teams, specifically our kickers. We know that Maurice Crum is going to be the leader of our linebackers. Now, you know, is Travis going to start for us? That's yet to be determined. But I can tell that you other than Maurice Crum, the linebacker position is going to be wide open and we're going to be more athletic on this team because we're not going to get beat because of due to lack of team speed.
So we need to find a backup for J.J. Jansen, who did a great job for us last year. Geoff Price had a great spring. Now we need to see what happens when there's some pressure. It's different in the spring when it's not a pressure situation so we have to see what he'll do under pressure.
You know this kicker situation is going to be this competition is going to be wide open. So we'll see what happens, you know, whether Carl, you know, wins the job or whether Burkhart can come in here and win the job. Renkes has kicked here before. This position is going to be wide open but it really should be interesting to see how that pans out.
Now, obviously, you know, before I turn it over to some questions, obviously you know, dealing with the media, I'm going to have Brian give you a list of availability. I will tell you this: Besides your standard 20 minutes that everyone whines about that I give you during practice, next Saturday morning I'm going to have the whole practice open for you, and we'll be in full pads the whole practice. So it's not going to be just a dog and pony show right there. I'm going to give that you as one practice so that will be the one day. And I know the easiest way to your guys' hearts is to feed you, so we'll feed you afterwards. (Laughter).
So that's what we'll do next Saturday. We'll be going two days, we'll be going full pads in the morning and we'll go uppers in the evening, and there will be no access in the evening because I think you will all have your story. This way you can go see your significant others, take them out for dinner on Saturday night because you're not going to be able to come to practice anyway.
Please follow the protocol. Don't try to go behind the scenes to try to get to any of the guys. For those of you in the know, we have been pretty accessible. I also have a whole schedule set for when assistant coaches are available. Like the first three days when you first get going, it will be me and the players. But after the first three days, I'll take two days off myself and make all the offensive coaches available one day and all the defensive coaches available the next day so this way you guys can get your stories in training camp. Brian has a schedule that's going to be like this. It's going to tell you when the times are for our whole training camp and tell you who is available on one day so you'll be all set and ready to go.
With that being said, hopefully I didn't bore you too much and I'll open it up to some questions.
Q. You said you started the process with Travis Thomas last spring. What did you start?
COACH WEIS: First thing we did, when you have a kid who it's his fourth year in the program and he's a great athlete and a backup, you look at your linebacker position and you see that you're not real happy with the speed that you have at the position. Well, then you have to figure out where the answers are. Now are the answers are the freshman coming in, Smith and Richardson, or do you have the answers currently here already on your team.
And coming from the Patriot mentality, you always try to build from within; that's what I did. I evaluated our team to try to feel who I had the best opportunity to go over there and not just to go over there but go over there and play. So I went back and researched. He went to high school in Pennsylvania, he was a great defensive player when he was in high school. I went, he was also one of our best tacklers on special teams. So we started talking then and started meeting with Rick then. It's been an ongoing process. It's not like we're going to go out there and wing it. He knows if I need him on the second play of the game to carry the ball, he'll be ready to go and do that, too.
What he did is all summer long see, I don't do it when you guys are around. So all summer long when I'm not there, the whole summer, he worked at linebacker, that's captain's practices. We're not there. So I'm interested just like you to see what this project looks like.
Q. Do you have a specific linebacker position you're looking at him as?
COACH WEIS: I'm looking to put him in at the weak side linebacker where he gets a chance to run or he's covered up and gets to run. I'm off on a tangent right here, but I changed the name of our one linebacker to the Sam, or strong side linebacker. In a time of political incorrectness I just didn't feel comfortable with Apache. I'm serious, that's why I did it. So I changed the same name of it to just Sam, Mike and Will. So the Will is the weak side linebacker. Right now that's where Travis would be playing.
Q. And you mentioned, if he starts, he would be a starting linebacker but you would still play him someplace on offense?
COACH WEIS: Well, it's going to depend on James and Munir and Luke. If I have as much confidence in the freshman, you know I'm not afraid to play the freshman so I have as much confidence in the freshman as I think I'm going to, I might not need to but I know one thing I'm not going to go in here saying, well, what am I going to do if Darius goes down and not have an answer, so you need to have your bases covered just in case that happens.
Q. And with Mo, at what point do you get to him, where you say, okay, this is where we're going to settle on his position?
COACH WEIS: Well, we're settled. He's walking in the door playing one, and for him, right now right now, we're actually going to move him to the middle and let him have the opportunity to make the most plays. And then what we're going to do is, let's say, from Borseti or Brockington or Scott Smith, or one of those guys come along and they prove to be one of the best three linebackers, we know we always can move Maurice back out to Sam. We know we can do that.
But right now, I want the guy leading the defense to be in the middle of the defense, and I think Maurice will be the guy that's clearly leading the defense.
Q. And beyond better speed at linebacker, more athleticism, what leads you to believe that the defense will be better this year?
COACH WEIS: Well, we have a lot of reasons to believe that, and you know sometimes experience can be a negative, not a positive. Everyone says, well you have to have everyone back. It's what they are doing being back. I think that both on a coaching side and players side, we have fixed a lot of problems, and I expect that to show up early in the season.
A lot of times in the first year, not to go off on a tangent but a lot of times in your first year, you're just putting it in and not really having a chance to tweak it. I think that we've had time to research evaluation and some other outside resources, put us in position to take it to a different level than where we were at last year.
Q. Allow me to set this up ever so slightly, speaking about the fanfare for this season already, from the obvious nice ranking in the polls, the Heisman Trophy candidate, all the way to the not so obvious; I saw somebody auctioning off their house for the Penn State weekend to cater to out of town fans. That hoopla and fanfare, is that how you want it, is that how you prefer it?
COACH WEIS: Well, you'd much rather be perceived as one of the good guys rather than one of the crumby guys. So the thing is, I think just human nature is to get caught up in that, and I'm not talking as a fan now but participants. Many times human nature is to get caught up in that.
I've been involved with three different programs that after having a good year, everyone got caught up and we had a bad year. It happened twice in New England and once with the Jets where we had a good year and then we had a setback and I'm hoping that my experiences with those different programs that where you had a year where there was progress followed by a setback year.
I'll cite one example that we learned in New England. We won the Super Bowl XXXVI and next year went 9 7 and didn't make the playoffs. So we won Super Bowl XXXVIII, that wasn't going to happen again in XXXIX, which we won again. But it was from our experience in the year of Super Bowl XXXVII, it was that experience of being flat and coming out and going 9 7 that I'm hoping to use as our teaching tool here. I'm not going to be I'm not going to be very patient with anyone who is showing any signs of that.
Q. So I'm following, specifically how do you reel that stuff in from your guys, what can you control, and what do you wish you could control that you might not be able to?
COACH WEIS: Well, first of all, I'm putting a lot of demand on my assistant coaches. They have been clearly told, you know, what my expectations are for this training camp and leading right to the opener. I think that if you can get everyone focused on the fundamentals, techniques, getting into shape and the evaluation and Georgia Tech only, if you can get them just to deal with those elements right there, I'm hoping that you ask questions today, you know of our assistant coaches and our players. If that message keeps oncoming through to you, at least we're starting off on the right track. If I have guys out there telling you, yeah, we're trying to win a National Championship, then I know that I have a lot of work to do.
Q. Does the fact that Notre Dame, other than winning back to back seasons in '98, and '99, not since, does that make it easier for you to sell that message do you think?
COACH WEIS: First of all I don't care about '98 or '99 or back to back and I don't care about the past. I only care about the present and the future. I don't even care about last year to tell you the truth. I think that since the day I've walked in the door, I've tried to break every season into a bunch of one game entities, and I think that's the only perspective you can have if you want to be a winning program.
Every year no matter whether it's this year or ten years from now, you should be just breaking it up to one game at a time and try to win the next one. I think if you go with that mentality, you're going to win a lot more than you're going to lose.
Q. Last year you ran through you used it twice before where you saw it happen inaudible?
COACH WEIS: But the experience that happened the first time, the last time was one that I finally figured out how you have to do it. The only way of doing it, Tom, is by being more demanding, which I stated earlier and I mean that in a nice way. I'm going to be much more demanding.
Q. Do you feel like that was one of the big problems last year, the defense being too slow?
COACH WEIS: No, I think that we played slow sometimes. That doesn't mean we ran slow. There's a difference now, and sometimes when you play slow you think too much and that's true on anyone who plays football. Anyone who has to think about what to do, you can't just go out there and let it loose, is going to be hesitant. I think that was one of our big focuses in the off season.
Q. Are you confident that the defense will be coaches say that defense wins championships, do you think the defense will be in that range?
COACH WEIS: Put it like this: They are going to be played as the underdog the whole time, and it's something that psychologically is easy for me to play on. "You guys aren't any good, anyway. That's what everyone is telling you, anyway." They might hear that once or twice, about every five minutes.
Q. How's Rhema McKnight and what are your expectations for him?
COACH WEIS: He was our No. 1 wide receiver in the second game last year, to be honest with you he is in a lot better shape now than in game two last year, because he's on a mission. He's had a long time to get ready for this. And no one is more ready than him. I mean, he's in phenomenal shape. I don't think there's any football player that wouldn't have a little hesitancy where he can get hit, and I think he wants to get hit. Let's get hit and get it over with, because until you do, it's just like a batter that just got hit by a pitch. Until you get back in the batter's box and hit a ball you're going to be thinking about getting hit by that pitch again.
I think he needs to go out there and get banged around a little bit. I'd say in talking to Ruben, because we met on our conditioning of our team, I don't think he feels that there's anyone in any better condition than he is.
The answer to the second part of your question is I have very high expectations for Rhema. I hope they double team Jeff every day because Rhema will have a field day.
Q. Your secondary was an area that you voiced some concern about during the Blue Gold press conference.
COACH WEIS: What exactly did I say? Just remind me what I said before I comment on that.
Q. I believe you talked about incoming freshmen that will contribute in that area, at least that's what I got out of it. Are there some freshmen coming in and people that are still with the program, how do you see your secondary functioning this year?
COACH WEIS: Well, let's talk a little bit because I mentioned the fact that our two deep is all back. Let's talk about the fact that we have five incoming defensive backs that all have a whole bunch of ability. You know, the thing is that I don't like to hand freshmen anything. I really think that they have to earn their keep. But there is no doubt about the cover ability of those two corners and there's no doubt about the range and hitting ability of those three safeties. So the thing is, how quick are they going to get on the field. That I can't answer.
You know, they are going to answer that, not me. And I don't care if the guy playing is a freshman or a senior, but I just want the guest guys out there. It's usually pretty easy if you go by the old Parcells' mentality; you just go by what you see.
Q. You talked about the backup quarterback position, can you talk about Demetrius Jones and what you see in him and?
COACH WEIS: First of all, I loved Demetrius in high school. Really at this point it's Demetrius, Zach and Evan, and it's just a wide open competition. They all bring something different to the table but do I envision Demetrius being a quarterback at Notre Dame, absolutely. I didn't bring Demetrius in here to play wide receiver. I brought him in here to play him at quarterback.
Q. Can you talk about Hord and how significant that injury is?
COACH WEIS: Well, D.J. you're talking about? Well, he tore that Achilles, and it was really disheartening because we had him moving up the depth chart and looked like he would end the season as a possible at least No. 2 walking in. So it's a little disheartening for him when you're in great shape and ready to go and a freak injury happens. I mean, this was a non contact injury.
I remember a game back with the Jets where Vinny Testaverde on our first game of the year is handing off to Curtis man, first game of the year, first quarter, just handed it off to him and tore his Achilles and he's gone for the year. There's your starting quarterback, gone.
It's disheartening for him. He's had his surgery on July 6 and he's on his way back. It's just that he probably won't be back and ready to go until about next winter.
Q. You said back in the spring that you were not satisfied last year, that this team is not satisfied this year and you have greater expectations.
COACH WEIS: That's right.
Q. Now since then you've seen No. 1 ranking, No. 2 ranking, many coaches sitting in your chair would be downplaying it. Why do you not follow that prior sort of way of thinking?
COACH WEIS: I really don't care what they think. I really don't care. I really don't care what they think. We're just trying to beat Georgia Tech. Really that's all we're trying to do. Guys who have been around all the time know that's the way I think and I honestly can tell you, I'm not worried about rankings, I'm not worried about anything else other than getting the team ready to beat Georgia Tech.
Ask Auburn about that one. That's probably how they went out last year when we went out against Georgia Tech. Last time I checked they were playing at home and they lost.
Q. You started that by saying "I don't really care"
COACH WEIS: I don't care what other people think.
Q. You're the coach at an independent program, so you don't have to worry about being in a conference where you might have to defend other programs, support other programs. Do you like this position, do you like the position of whether people like you and Notre Dame, dislike you and Notre Dame and it doesn't matter to you?
COACH WEIS: Do I like to be independent, is that the question? Absolutely. Okay, but really, the bottom line is really not about being independent or being in a conference. My only job is to represent Notre Dame. I really don't care about anybody else. I just care about Notre Dame, that's it. No one else really matters.
Q. Last thing for you, I know you don't like to dwell on the past but now that you've had some time to do some reflection, you went through a dire situation years ago and you now have a dream job. Have you had a moment to reflect about where you are now considering where you once were?
COACH WEIS: Well, I'd like to answer that in about ten or 15 years, because hopefully ten or 15 years from now, this stage of my life will be deemed successful and I can tell you after being a head coach in college for one year, you really haven't done anything yet. I think that I'm going to be judged by what happens in ten or 15 years from now, not what happened in 2005. Hopefully 15 years from now I'll be able to sit back and reflect and feel proud of what I've done. Really I haven't done very much yet.
Q. You said that you don't care obviously about the hype and where you are in the rankings, how do you approach the team, do you try to insulate them from the hype?
COACH WEIS: Honestly I use my New Jersey rhetoric and I just rag them all the time. That's the honest answer. Every time that Quinn throws an incomplete pass, he already knows it's coming. You can ask him because he already knows it's coming. And I will say, "Yeah, there's my Heisman Trophy winner." Or every time Samardzija drops the ball, I'll say, "Yeah, you'd better get that fastball geared up." You just know that it's going it be a regular it is going to be a comedy act in training camp because, you know, I've been working on my lines here all summer. But really, that's how I do it. And they know me by now.
The difference between last year and this year is now they know me and they already know it's coming. I mean, Brady and I had this conversation the other day; he's miserable because he knows he's going to be the public sacrificial lamb.
Q. You mentioned Brady, the first time he's been mentioned this whole press conference. Talk about obviously he showed great improvement last year on the field during the fall. What kind of improvement did he make in the spring to take him to an even higher level?
COACH WEIS: See, when you put in an offense, it's sort of like what we're talking about with the defense before, where you put it in, but you don't have a chance to tweak it. When we put in the offense last year, we were able to put in a substantial amount of the offense because he was able to grasp, but there's a difference between being able to grasp it and being able to take it mentally to another level.
So now you give him more things to do, not necessarily call a whole bunch more plays, because I don't believe that you have to reinvent the wheel. You can give him more responsibility and I think that that's what he's done a great job of in the off season about being able to take this stuff to another level. We'll just see how that works out.
Q. You can't go past a magazine stand without him looking back at you from the cover of something. How well equipped is he to deal with this fishbowl that he's in right now? You go on Internet and people are saying, "Oh, I saw Brady outside Crate and Barrel."
COACH WEIS: First of all, he's a very well grounded kid, a very well grounded kid. But no matter how well grounded you are, we can act like everyone is oblivious to that, but no one is oblivious to it. I think that what we have to do is do our best here protect him as much as we can and realize it's going to be part of the daily rigors he's going to have to deal with.
This summer, he's had an opportunity to speak to a number of the guys that play his position on Sundays. He's had an opportunity to speak to a number of them. And they have been able to give him advice that I can't give him. I only can give him advice coming from a coach, but I can't give him advice like Tommy (Brady) can or like Peyton (Manning) can or like Brett Favre did. He's talked to some people that tried to tell him how it really works, and I'm just a football coach. I think that those guys are the ones that have tried to help him keep him well grounded.
Q. This is your second year here and your system in place, is that an advantage, and do you feel more confident heading into this year knowing what you have?
COACH WEIS: I think every year it's going to change based on everything is based on in our system, everything is based on what the quarterback can do as far as what you call, it's based on what the quarterback can do. Obviously you have to deal with the components you have with a veteran offensive line, that helps. I'm not really thinking too much when you have four starters back on your offensive line, Harris, Sully and Horton and it eases your pain a little bit. Well, what do I have to do to protect the offensive line. Those type of things help.
So personnel definitely dictates a lot of what you do. But when you have a veteran offensive line, when you have veteran tight ends, both John and Marcus are experienced, you have a veteran running back and veteran ran wide receivers; when you have a bunch of veteran players here, then what you have to do is see what you can do mentally to take it to expand and expound on what you do.
Q. Any thoughts on what that might be?
COACH WEIS: Well, we'll find out, won't we.
Q. What do you plan on doing to simulate game conditions? How do you anticipate figuring out who your kicker is going to be before the first game?
COACH WEIS: First of all, we are going to chart every kick from when they step on the field right through training camp so that I can make an objective opinion, not swayed by one good day or one bad day. We are going to be making as much pressure as you could put on the guy in practice, that's how much he's going to have. Like it might dictate whether the team runs or doesn't run at the end of practice. I always found that to be a very big deterrent.
Q. Your goal is to get your best 22 guys on the field, but with the kind of depth you have coming back at the secondaries, any thoughts of other guys that might get a look?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that we'll look at not only we will look, we have looked at a number of packages to get more of them involved, not less. So if you are asking whether or not you can see multiple DBs put on the field, yes, you can see multiple DBs put on the field. But we'll have to wait and see how it goes yet.
I don't want to write linebackers off, because we'll have to see how it goes because there are a lot of guys that showed a lot of promise, (Mitchell) Thomas and Anthony (Vernaglia) showed a lot of promise in the spring. Before I say they are not playing, well, let's see how good they are doing.
Q. On special teams last year, you could have been more effective on things like kick return, I get a feeling you're looking for some significant progress?
COACH WEIS: Well, kickoff return was one of our weakest things. But in hindsight we might have been doing too much, not too little. Sometimes you try to do too much, you know, try to do too many things, that's one of the areas that Brian has spent a bunch of time dealing with multiple special teams coaches in the NFL here starting from last spring through to the summer.
And I think we have a lot better plan on how we're going to attack them. Obviously we have more returners coming in here, but a lot of them are young, and more returners coming into play, but I think that we have a better idea of simplifying our scheme, getting athletes out there and let's see what we can do.
Q. Having such dangerous opponent to start the season like Georgia Tech does that help get the players attention?
COACH WEIS: Well, they are helping me out a little bit. They are helping me out a little bit by things that they say, so it's always nice when they help you out a little bit. We're not looking at them, you know, we're not worried about them. We're worried about those other teams we play. Trust me, we're worrying about them. We are not going to go down there, rah rah, win one for the Gipper, when we go down there. We're to go down and see how we fair.
Q. Zbikowski, what does he need to improve on from last year?
COACH WEIS: His left jab. I think Tommy played pretty well for us. Obviously his he makes a whole bunch of plays for us, he's a ball hog, he's a tackler. You know, he's a competitor. The one thing he obviously likes to do is he likes getting as close to the line of scrimmage as fast as he can, but sometimes you leave yourself vulnerable when you do that.
So that was one area we told him to continue to work on and that's true with any good player, doesn't make matter what level you play on, they want to go make plays. Patience.
Q. Can you tell me what sets Notre Dame apart, makes it so unique like from any place you've ever coached at before in football?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that we were talking about that independent nature of Notre Dame before. I think that good or bad, we are judged because we're independent, like we almost have an attitude, like we are holier than thou, which we certainly are not. But because we're independent, sometimes we're labeled that way.
I think the bottom line is when you're isolated and you stand by yourself, you then can get put on a pedestal where people can either support you or take shots at you. I try to use the analogy, and people may agree or disagree, growing up a Yankee fan, I always found the National League no matter where you went, people had an opinion on the Yankees. They either liked them or disliked them. I think that's very similar in its own way to what we have to deal with.
We just try to do things right. I would like to think that people would respect us for the way we run the program, whether you like us or not is really not that relevant. You know, we are just looking for respect, not to be liked or disliked.
Q. How do you expect you have to be different from year one versus year two as you get ready to go?
COACH WEIS: First of all I think we have more answers to the questions going in than we did at this time last year, which allows you to put more on those guys shoulders. There were a number of questions going into training camp, we had no clue what the answers were this year. We were still evolving as we go through there. I think that that would be the No. 1 way it would be different. I think that's the first way is because you know the answers to the test, it allows you to take it to a different level even in practice. And No. 2, you have to be sure from the head coach right through the assistant coaches that we're more demanding on the players than we even were last year, and that's part of my responsibility.
Q. Off the beaten path a little bit, have you had a chance to look at and evaluate some of the new rule changes, speeding up the game, have you given it any thought at all?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, I looked at them. Some of them are comical. Some of them make sense. The rules are the rules. I'm not in there voting for them.
The one thing I do like is trying to make the replay more consistent. I think that's very smart to try to make the replay more consistent because I thought that was a joke. But I think that, you know, I mean, I don't understand that the kicker kicks it, the clock starts. I don't understand the mentality there.
But mine is not to judge. I just play whatever the rules are. Just make sure I know what they are. Make sure you know what the rules are so you don't walk out and all of a sudden have the official say, they changed that rule and you don't know. I think that's one thing you have to make sure you prepare yourself for.
Q. Is there any correlation between playing four teams consecutively from the same conference than versus in the NFL playing four division rivals in a row?
COACH WEIS: Only if you're in a conference. That's the difference. To me, because we're independent, every game counts the same. But there's a saying in the NFL, though, because it's really not comparable, the saying in the NFL is when you play a division opponent, it counts twice, not once.
Because you're beating them two games in the standing, not one game in the standings, okay, whereas when you're an independent, every game Georgia Tech is the most important game we have, but it's no less or no more important than the four Big 10 teams that follow afterward. They are no different. They all count the same.
Q. Did it affect the preparation for the coaches at all in terms of playing four in a row style wise?
COACH WEIS: No, I think that we have spent a lot of time preparing personnel wise and mentality wise in the off season. But right now, you have to focus all of your energy just on one opponent.