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    Notre Dame Assistant Coaches Media Day Quotes

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    FIGHTING IRISH

    Aug. 16, 2011

    
    Tony Alford • Wide Receivers Coach
    

    On the ability of some of the other receivers to step up without the presence of Michael Floyd...
    "We always go with the 'next man in" theory, if you will. Mike missed the spring and we had other guys who were going to take some snaps and have balls get kicked off so guys still have to go out and play, and we had guys that stepped up and did that. We had guys that performed in the spring, we had guys that performed in the summer, and they're still honing their skills. Obviously it's great to have Mike back, but guys are still competing and playing in their own right."

    On the potential for other players to fall back into Floyd's shadow...
    "It's not about anybody falling into anyone's shadows. Again, we go off of the 'next man in' theory, and when it's your time to play, you need to step up and play. Tyler Eifert is probably the biggest example. Tommy Rees was a good example, Robby Toma was a good example. Guys went down and they weren't in anyone's shadows. They're all on scholarship too, and it's just their opportunity to go out and play more. That's how you have to look at it."

    On Floyd's performance since his return...
    "He's looked great. (Strength & conditioning coach) Paul Longo and his staff have done a great job with him as they have with this entire football team. Mike looks great. He looks as good as he ever has."

    On finding the balance between coaching the other receivers and dealing with Floyd's suspension...
    "As far as my coaching job, it hasn't changed one lick. You coach who's there. You coach the guys that are on the field to play and you don't worry about the ones who aren't, you worry about the ones who are. As far as the big picture goes, that's Coach Kelly. He's the head coach and he makes those calls, and we just coach the guys that are on the field for us every day. So it hasn't affected my coaching. With some young guys playing, it has made me run around a little more just making sure they are lined up properly. But that's coaching, and that's how it's supposed to be. It really hasn't changed how I'm coaching anybody."

    On the positives of the Floyd suspension...
    "What it did is give guys more chances to get reps. It gave guys like Deion Walker a chance to get more repetitions in. So you take your situations and you make them the best you can and deal with it as best you can. Guys got to get more reps, they got to hone their skills and improve on their skill sets as well."

    Kerry Cooks • Cornerbacks Coach

    On any surprises as the season starts...
    "I wouldn't say that there have been any surprises in camp. I guess I would say that I'm excited about the step that Lo Wood has taken. Just how he finished his spring to how he came into camp, but it's not a surprise because the ability was there. Now he just has to continue to find ways to get better at all aspects of his game, and I think he has a great approach right now - from how he's approaching it from a mental standpoint as well as physically."

    On the first things that come to mind when considering Robert Blanton...
    "Ultra-competitive, aggressive, physical, nasty, not in a bad sense but just someone who will refuse to get beaten. He's not one to let his will or his confidence be shaken by anything. It's hard to say (where it comes from). He told me a story about how he grew up with people telling him that he can't do this, he can't do that, that he was too slow, that he was not fast enough, so I think that they way he was treated back in Carolina really carried over into college. He's not the strongest or the fastest guy on the field, but his confidence has allowed him to turn into a really, really good football player."

    On the potential for Gary Gray's play this year...
    "I think his game is in a good spot right now. I think Gary last year came in and was trying to get a feel for who we are and what we are all about. I think that going through a year of our system has put him in a position where he trusts us, he trusts me. He knows that we are only going to put him in the best situation possible. He's a very athletic football player, obviously a very good football player, he's very aggressive, and he's very smart mentally. I've been impressed with how he has handled being a leader so far this camp. Last year, he was very quiet and this year, he is being a little more vocal, particularly with some of the young guys that are behind him (because) he knows that, 'hey, we're going to have to rely on these guys to give us some depth.' He's been awesome at coaching those guys on the field."

    On the progress of the freshman class...
    "Josh Atkinson, Jalen Brown, and Eilar Hardy, they're all going to be very good players. They are all very talented, they can run, flip their hips, and do all of those things that you ask those guys to do from the defensive back standpoint. The thing that they are is freshmen. They don't know what they don't know. They are learning how we do things, what our thoughts are, they are learning how to line up and how to communicate, they are learning how to be on time and how important all those things are. So those guys are going to be really good players for us in the future, and right now they are just working and trying to get it all figured out."

    On the leadership this year...
    "You would think that we had three guys, really four, who were starters for us last year. Jamoris [Slaughter] played a lot, Zeke [Motta] played a lot, Harrison [Smith], RJ [Blanton], and Gary [Gray], all those guys have game experience. So the leadership is already there and those guys have take that role. They have taken the younger guys under their wing, they have showed them how to set the tempo for practice, they have showed them some of their mistakes as they're running off the field saying, 'this is how you should look at this,' or 'this is what I would have done.' So I feel like we have a lot of leadership, we have a lot of guys that have played a lot of football for us, and they're still working on their game to take it to the next level, but they've done a great job of setting the tone."

    Bob Diaco • Defensive Coordinator/Inside Linebackers Coach

    On what he's looking for in a potential Notre Dame football player...
    "It's not so critical that the players are a finished product coming out of high school because this institution is the very best at not only educating, but also leading in my opinion. If the player will work at it and show persistence, he may not be the brightest or best leader, but if he has the tangible traits, he will be able to be successful on the field and in the class. I'm looking for a worker, because we know we will get them ready to be a winner on the football field. I'm sure the school is confident that we will be able to produce a dynamic person."

    On the best thing about coaching at Notre Dame...
    "I love being around the staff that Coach Kelly put together. We have a shared mission. But maybe even more than that, the University's mission is 100 percent aligned with what I have grown up with and the mission that I'm on. It's so nice to be lockstep with the institution and their ideology. It's also nice to bring in players that are predisposed to that way as well."

    On the progression of the linebackers...
    "The linebackers are improving and are moving their game along. We are moving along and trying to reach towards that 300 and 400 level of teaching. The WILL linebacker is shaping up where the two players there can go in and play competitively and win their individual matchups. The MIKE linebacker may be the most efficient position at this point for a multitude of reasons and there will be enough at the outside linebacker position to have a rotation if that is necessary."

    On whether he sees any carryover from the successful end to last season...
    "Any time confusion is eliminated through the duplication of reps, studying film and sitting in the meeting room, a player can really start showing progress on the field. When there is confusion, players won't cut loose, and so we are all constantly working towards eliminating confusion. Having continuity allows players to think faster and play faster and in turn be happier in their roles."

    On the difference between years one and two on defense...
    "The players have greater understanding of how the game needs to be conducted defensively to have a great defense. We have five particular things that are present in every film session and practice for the unit and each position has three particular things they work on in practice. They have bought into the concepts and understand the importance of them. We feel like those ideas are who they are apart of now. The players have ownership of them now and we think that will be a big difference between year one and two."

    On the leaders on the defense...
    "Manti Te'o, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Robert Blanton, Gary Greg, Harrison Smith, Ethan Johnson and Darius Fleming are all doing a terrific job of leading the younger guys. They are expected to share with the younger players the culture of the university, the culture of Coach Kelly's football program and the ideology of what creates great defense and they are doing a great job of doing that."

    Mike Denbrock • Tight Ends Coach

    On some of the traits that he looks for in a potential Notre Dame football player...
    "It has to be an individual that takes their academics seriously. They have to be a player that is willing to work at it and willing to roll up their sleeves on the academic side of things in order to do the things that it takes to be successful at a competitive academic institution. Athletically, we need someone to do the things that our offense requires such as getting out in space as a skill position player, and being a little bit leaner from an offensive line standpoint and being able to move your feet. A quarterback has to be a great decision-maker, while the defense has to be able to run and be aggressive. From a person standpoint, we try to dig as deep as we can into the character of the individual. We will talk to anyone that can give us an idea about the recruit and whether they will be a good fit here, because they have to be a good fit, and not everyone will be a good fit. Notre Dame is an unbelievably special place."

    On his favorite thing about coaching at Notre Dame...
    "It is definitely the players and the program, although there is a million things that I could talk about. We go from player one to 105 with the type of player I just described to you. That makes my job a lot easier and really fun."

    On the tight ends' progress in practice thus far...
    "I think we are making a lot of strides, especially on being more physical at the point of attack. We are getting more consistent when we are running the football. We are getting better at being able to match up and get after people physically when we have too. I believe you will see the things that a Notre Dame tight end should be doing."

    Mike Elston • Defensive Line/Special Teams Coach

    On where the team is now compared to this time a year ago...
    "Learning how to practice is one of the biggest hurdles for young players and for the entire team. Now that we are transitioning into year two, the continuity of the staff, along with the players on the defensive line allows the guys to develop better leadership skills, and bring the younger kids along. You are always going to have younger kids added to your position, and the one main jump that we have taken this year is our upper classman this year have much more leadership."

    On how the upperclassmen have responded to the fanfare of the freshmen ...
    "I think our guys that are in the first couple of groups have responded very well. (Ethan Johnson, Sean Cwynar, Kapron Lewis-Moore) have continued to grow their game. They did a good job last year, but they are even better now because of the offseason conditioning and their strength. They have really improved on all of our liabilities from a year ago so that will make us a much stronger group."

    On the chemistry of the younger players with the older players...
    "I think it's a good mixture of competitiveness and mentoring. In order to be a great defensive line, you have to have the competition that makes the first group better, and the second group grinding to get better than the first group. However, there is a lot of coaching by the older players to the younger players, and they take it very well."

    On where the players are on grasping the scheme of the return game...
    "We have really improved our scheme this year, and our guys' knowledge of the scheme this year. If you look at last year's personnel, it is not just the returner and the scheme, it is also the guys blocking for him. We had five or six freshmen out there with Danny Smith, (Austin) Collinsworth among others trying to hold up and block the guys that were out there that might have been physically stronger than our freshmen. Now, we have guys that have the experience and have the physicality at those positions that will be able to block the guy across from them."

    Tim Hinton • Running Backs Coach

    On Cierre Wood's improvement...
    "On top of everything else, he has brought a much more physical aspect to his game. He has become a student of the game. He is doing well in the classroom part of football. He understands the schematics of the play and knows the looks a lot better, and he has the ability to execute the plays better and at a faster speed with more confidence. He has also done better with his vision in the run game."

    On Jonas Gray's role in the offense this year...
    "He is going to see lots of time this year. He is in every mix; he is going to compete every day and will see lots of minutes this year. He is truly one of the players we expect great things from this fall. You will not have a one-running back system anymore; someone will get nicked up and someone will get hurt. You will have to be able to put another guy in the game and you never want to change paces when you do so. He may be a different style of runner, he may be a different style of player, but you still have to go out and execute your style of offense."

    Chuck Martin • Safeties Coach/Recruiting Coordinator

    On how much better Harrison Smith can be after his strong 2010 finish...
    "Every kid has a learning curve, and he is no exception. He went through some growing pains as a young player and then he finally hit his stride last season, so there isn't as big of an upside as the young guys. He definitely still has room to grow in his tackling ability, which was a huge gain last year, but he is still not there. We cut out a lot of clips from last year where he missed a tackle, where he can improve. He is such a smart player already, but knowledge grows in guys every day so you will continue to see him get smarter. He will be able to go into practice thinking about how to stop an offense this year instead of thinking where he should be in our defense since this is his second year in the system. So you will see a better player this year."

    On how he works with Harrison Smith on his leadership...
    "We talk about it a lot. Every kid is different when it comes to leadership. They always have to be themselves, and they always need to fall back to their personality, and Harrison is a pretty quiet guy off the field, but you get onto the field and he is as good of a communicator as I have ever been around. He leads by example so we just let him do his thing out there. He is definitely the quarterback of our defense."

    On the characteristics of this team that make him believe this season could be special...
    "I think the togetherness and the family feeling of this team really is huge. Our kids are all so close, and this coaching staff is so close to each other, which has been a huge part of Coach Kelly's programs over the years. The work ethic of these kids is unbelievable. We just have such great kids, which is a by-product of coaching at Notre Dame - we attract great kids. People will say that is hogwash; well, that is because they don't know these kids. They are special people. Those are all important characteristics for winning teams."

    On Bennett Jackson and Lo Wood...
    "They have both come a long way from the spring. They both have worked hard because they knew, coming out of spring (practice), that they were the backups based on the depth of our football team. I think that has inspired them to work as hard as they have to get better. I think they realized that they weren't ready to play in a game at the Notre Dame level, and over the summer they worked their way into game-ready condition."

    Charley Molnar • Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach

    On the leadership of a quarterback...
    "Leadership is a very important quality for any quarterback. We're looking for leadership each and every day. We watch their demeanor and we watch their reaction. We watch how their teammates respond to them when they go out on the field. If the team is excited when a guy goes in and make plays, obviously they have a good feeling about that guy. The best way for the team to buy into a particular quarterback is, number one, he doesn't turn the ball over, and number two, he has the ability to make plays when there's nothing there."

    On what Notre Dame looks for in a quarterback...
    "We're really looking for guys that the players respond to. And as far as the day-to-day grind, we're looking for a guy that can come to work each and every day with a demeanor of 'I'm coming out here to get better, and not only to make myself better, but to make our football team better'. Right now, we have two guys who are really doing a great job of doing it. It's a close call, and we're not ready to make that decision yet because we don't have to. We have more time and I'm sure Coach Kelly will use due diligence and will make the call when the time is right."

    On the differences between Tommy Rees and Dayne Crist...
    "The differences are, number one, physical, you can see the difference. Dayne is a lot bigger and heavier and stronger, and probably has a slightly stronger arm. Tommy's biggest difference is maybe he gets the ball out of his hands a little bit faster than Dayne does, and he's tremendously accurate. Those differences stand out, but all in all, they're both the same style of quarterback. They're trained to take what the defense gives them, to make quick decisions, to be smart with the football and to give our team the best chance to win. "

    On the possible effects of Crist's and Rees' ages on the decision for starting QB...
    "Zero. The guy who gives us the best chance to win in 2011 will be our quarterback."

    On what improvements both Crist and Rees could make in their game...
    "The number one thing is for those guys is to cut down on their turnovers, their interceptions and their bad decisions. I think both guys have improved in that area, neither one is perfect. So, we're really trying to get both guys to do that. Also, when the defense gives it to us, we want both of them to tuck the ball and run, and get some yardage for us. Right now, they both like to keep their eyes down the field, which is what we want them to do, and look for a receiver, but if there's nothing there, we want them to tuck the ball and run, and get us five or six yards."

    On the young quarterbacks (Everett Golson and Andrew Hendrix) and their roles in 2011...
    "I think it's really good that we have two guys that can go out and start and we can win with. I also like the fact that we have two young guys that will be battling over the next several years to be the quarterback of the future. Both of those guys are so promising that we really felt it was important give them work early during camp, but also we had to be smart and not to do anything to hurt our development for 2011. We gave them the right amount of work, I think it was the right measure, and we're backing off a little bit on them right now. The battle between who is number three and four right now is ongoing, and that will go on every single day from now until the bowl game. That's just the way that's going to play itself out."

    Also on freshmen QBs...
    "Well, realistically I see both of those guys getting on the field for Notre Dame. They are both talented young men. Will they have to go in to the football game to help us win the game at that point? Hopefully, that won't be the case. Hopefully we can get them in the game and get them some experience. Both of them have distinct skill sets that really set them apart from a lot of other quarterbacks, not only in our program, but anywhere. They both have tremendously strong arms, they're both fast decision makes, and can really make plays with their feet. They're both really talented football players and they're a lot better now than they were during spring football, and I anticipate them being a lot better at the end of the year than they are today."

    Ed Warriner • Offensive Line Coach/Running Game Coordinator

    On Christian Lombard's continued development in blocking...
    "He's really talented physically, he has all the physical tools. His confidence is growing and when he 'gets it,' his physical skills will show. He has to have the ability to knock people off the football, ability in the run game and ability to reduce his mistakes to the point where he won't be making mistakes to hurt the football team. He has to continue to get better at blocking on the edge to turn back the rush, but we have seen progress on all avenues."

    On freshman Nick Martin's abilities so far in camp...
    "Nick Martin has had a couple good days of practice; we really like what he has done. He has a bright future where we might have another really good 'Martin' coming on. There is a chance that Nick can go out there and compete. The thought that he is a freshman, he's late into camp, he has early school, it really hasn't affected him. He has been competing and has shown great promise."

     

     

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