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    Football Media Day Transcript With Coaches and Players

    FIGHTING IRISH
    FIGHTING IRISH

    FIGHTING IRISH
    Aug. 19, 2014

    Tony Alford - Recruiting Coordinator/Running Backs

    On Cam McDaniel...
    "He is tough and accountable. He wants to be a leader. He wants to lead by example and be the guy who helps the younger guys succeed. He is a team guy and has very high expectations of himself. As a person, he lives his life that way as well and tries to do things the right way. He is a guy that wants to be seen as a leader. Right now, he would be the leader in my room, without question."

    On teaching the younger running backs (life lessons beyond football)...
    "If you come and are diligent about your work, don't tell me how hard it is. If you're diligent and committed about your work, to doing things the right way, that's what will help you down the road. I use this term a lot when I talk to my guys... `Blind Faith.' Most young people need to have `blind faith' and trust in their coaches."

    On what he learned as a young kid and how he relays that message to his running backs...
    "When I was young, I couldn't see past my hand. I thought I had all the answers and luckily, I had some adult people in my life, many of my coaches, that would tell me that I just needed to have `blind faith' and trust in them that this is what's best for me. This is a message I tell my running backs and younger guys on the team. Have `blind faith' and trust in me."

    On players that come back and thank him for lessons learned...
    "Some of the guys I've recruited, including Jonas Gray and Theo Riddick, come back and say what I told them, to the younger guys. This is not me (Alford referring to himself) always presenting the guys with the messages. It's more of the infrastructure that is around them here at Notre Dame. Often times, you don't realize it when you're in the midst of it, but when you look back, that's when you realize it was really special. I'm thankful for the people that have crossed my path, giving me these lessons."

     

     

    Scott Booker - Tight Ends/Special Teams Coordinator

    On Ben Koyack's performance during the pre-season...
    "He's getting comfortable in the role of playing every single down. He's not coming out of the game, attached or detached and being in the backfield, all that type of stuff. He's going to have to continue to be comfortable at and perform at an elite level."

    On Koyack's growth into the starting position, and pushing him faster...
    "You guys can see the improvement that Troy (Niklas) made from 2012 to 2013, you saw the improvement that (Tyler) Eifert made from 2010 when he took over for Kyle (Rudolph) and then in 2011 and 2012. It really just takes game reps, and he's a smart kid and he's going to pick it up quickly. He's played before. I don't want to make it seem like he hasn't played. He's played and made key catches. He had a key catch against Pittsburgh down there, pass interference, and he got a key touchdown against Arizona State to get us started. So, he's made key plays for us. It's just a matter of key plays in and out, being the guy we depend on to work for us. And he will excel in that role."

    On the benefit of Koyack's second half of last season helping the team this year...
    "It always helps. It helped Troy (Niklas) to go through the things he went through in 2012. It helped him to go against Stanford in 2012, similar to how it helped Eifert. There's no doubt it's going to help him this year, what he did in 2013."

    On Koyack being comfortable with speaking up as a leader on the team...
    "This spring and really the last half of the spring, he realized looking around our group and realizing `wow, there's nobody else in our position group.' He also looked at the offense as a whole. We can use him to be more of a vocal leader. Coach Kelly talked to him a little bit about the role of a senior. That's what our program does - it prepares guys to be leaders, both with the Leadership Council and other stuff. So that's the progression."

    On Koyack balancing being a leader and still learning the finer points of his position...
    "I think in order to be great, you have to be able to multi-task. And to be a leader you have to be able to be the guy who's doing everything he's supposed to. And Ben does all that."

    On focusing on special teams in the preseason...
    "It's always been an important part, it's a third of the game. It's definitely an important part. I think we can have our special teams be a weapon this year. I don't want to overanalyze, spend more time or less time this year, but we're doing some different drills and some different things this year that we feel will help us be better on special teams. That's the bottom line. We want to be better at special teams this year, it's a third of the game and it's going to help us win games this year."

    On describing special teams as a `weapon' and being more aggressive with special teams...
    "I think that we're always looking at opportunities as weapons. With special teams, you're out there 30 to 35 plays a game with special teams such as punt, punt returns, kickoffs, kickoff returns, field goal teams etc. Thirty to 35 plays a game add up quickly, so those teams can be weapons and field position is crucial. The schedule we play, we're able to win the field position battle and win a bunch of games.

    Kerry Cooks - Defensive Backs

    On the new defensive system...
    "The system that we were in was awesome. We won a lot of games with that system; I think we were 21-5 over the last two years. There was nothing wrong with the system and the philosophy that we had. The system right now allows these guys to be flexible and be more aggressive, which I think young kids by nature is part of their mentality. Being able to get up into a wide receiver's face and challenge them in press coverage is something these young guys enjoy and like."

    "I think the guys are loving this system and enjoying it. Any time you can coin an NFL system, obviously these guys are here in preparation to try and go to that next level, there's total buy-in right now."

    On freshman cornerback Nick Watkins...
    "Me personally, as a secondary coach, I love long corners. I've seen his length show up time after time and disrupting guys at the line of scrimmage. When he's in cover-two and they're trying to throw the ball over his head and in between him and the safety, he has the reach to bat it down. The volume is a lot right now for a young guy and he's probably not used to the amount of coverages and the things we're asking our corners to do, but he's shown toughness and really good speed. He's a longer corner who's able to open up his hips and run. For him, he just has to learn everything from square one. He's shown me why he was highly recruited. I think he's going to be a really, really good player in the future."

    On senior cornerback Matthias Farley...
    "Matthias is such a versatile and smart guy. He's got that safety body type with corner skills. At the nickel spot, he's progressed night and day from where he was in the spring. That's a tough position to play. Other than corner, that might be one of the toughest spots to play because you're on a slot receiver, you're asked to play man-to-man, you're asked to blitz off the edge and you're asked to play zone coverage. Nowadays, with these spread offenses and the zone-read series, a lot of teams are playing them more on first and second downs. That's a critical position. It's good to have a smart guy there who's played corner and safety who brings ability to do a little bit of everything that you need at that position. He's continuing to move his game forward and I'm pleased with where he's at."

    On sophomore safety Max Redfield...
    "Max Redfield probably is one of the most talented safeties from an athletic ability standpoint in the country. He has awesome range, awesome quickness, awesome speed and he's a physical player. Last year, had we put him on the field early, who knows where he would have been. In high school, he was able to use his athletic ability and roam the field. The difference now is that he's detailed, he's accountable, he's responsible and he's understanding what his role is within the scheme and this defense."

    "He's a little bit more vocal. When he's on the field, he's locked in, focused and he really wants to get it right. It's the heightened alert of importance that he wants to do things the right way."

    Bob Elliott - Outside Linebackers

    On Jaylon Smith's role in the new defensive system...
    "We're primarily a 4-3 (defense), which means the two outside linebackers, depending on how we set our front, could be in the box or out of the box. Jaylon is going to be out of the box and in the box some and so are our Sam linebackers. But the difference is he's predominantly in the box, which is very different for him. His whole high school career he played on the ball and he was a rush end and then he played his first college season on the ball also."

    "He's as smart of a kid as I've ever coached. Coach (Brian) VanGorder has done a great job brining him along. I'm just amazed how he's taken to it. He had to learn completely new footwork and he had to learn new eye progressions. When you're in the box you have to see everything. You have to see the pulling guards, tackles pulling and tight ends that go back behind the line of scrimmage. He's been able to master that, which is amazing. He has very good football intellect and he's a very natural player. One thing that's interesting about Jaylon is that he's so flexible and athletic that he can get his body into a bad position and still get out of it and make a very good play. I've never seen a guy be able to recover from a bad position better than Jaylon."

    "There are a lot of athletes like Jaylon, but they don't combine what Jaylon has up here (mental) with his football intellect and his attitude. Jaylon is a humble guy and he's got a thirst for learning. It's amazing and he works harder at it than anybody. I can't say enough good things about him. I love being around him."

    On sophomore linebacker James Onwualu...
    "We recruited him as a wide receiver. He's from Cretin-Derham in Minneapolis-Saint Paul so we obviously knew he was well coached from a great program. I saw him play during his senior year and I had never seen him on tape because we had recruited him as an offensive player. I saw him play a version of strong safety that had him close to the line of scrimmage. I came back from that trip thinking he might be able to play defense for us as a safety. I had that in the back of my mind and expressed that from time to time. When we went to this scheme, we tried him at safety in the spring for a couple of days, but we were really thinking an outside linebacker, especially at the Sam position in our base front. In his freshman year, he had been a great player for us on special teams. He was physical, played hard and had good footwork and speed so he was a natural."

    Mike Elston - Defensive Line

    On being excited to get back on the field...
    "It is exciting because we have been going at it for a couple of weeks now. To see the development of some of our young guys like Isaac Rochell, just seeing his work and his development come along is exciting. Knowing that we are a week and a half away from competition and finally hitting somebody else, you can start to feel the excitement."

    On the mentality of the players after the loss of a player...
    "I think the guys are seeing it as opportunities when someone goes down or someone is not there for injury or whatever. I think the guys are stepping in and I think we have very good leadership developing along the defensive line, which has been a struggle to capture over the last couple of years. I think the leadership now is starting to solidify and the guys are doing a good job of bringing the young guys along."

    On the importance of the new rules of allowing coach and player interaction in June...
    "With the new rules in June, it was great when we were able to work with them. All the freshmen were there for a few practices, which was nice. They got to see my coaching style and more importantly Coach (Brian) VanGorder's coaching style. It is going to really help out as a lot of them of are going to play."

    On Sheldon Day ...
    "I recruited Sheldon (Day) from high school and Sheldon came in and had success early but he had some upperclassmen that had some strong personalities so he really wasn't able to grow in the leadership role. So that took a backseat to his development. He has always been very productive on the field and now he has the whole complement of his leadership, bringing other guys with him and the production on the field is as high if not higher than it ever has been. Knock on wood, Sheldon is going to have one heck of a year."

    On the additional responsibilities of defensive linemen in the new defensive scheme ...
    "There is a tremendous amount on their plates and it is exciting as it is more opportunities for them to make big plays and the guys are excited about that. It is a more aggressive style. The guys can get to the edge and run off the football. But it is a lot more technical."

    On the younger defensive linemen...
    "We signed a heck of a group of young players. The young defensive players are going to be really good. The problem is they are just in situations right now that due to lack of depth they are going to have to play. But we knew Daniel Cage was going to have to give us some depth. We knew Jhonny Williams was going to have to come off the edge. We knew those guys were going to have to play."

    On Isaac Rochell...
    "I am excited about Isaac Rochell's development right now. He is playing more confident. He is playing more physical. He is playing with better pad level. We are still continuing to work on the pass rush, which is going to be a critical place for him to grow in. But he is playing faster and more aggressive which in this scheme is needed."

    Harry Hiestand - Offensive Line

    On the offensive line potentially being the strongest position group despite the losses of Zack Martin and Chris Watt...
    "We definitely miss those guys, no question. Those guys are special guys, but this group works hard and is making progress. They're benefitting from having watched how Zack and Chris did their work and their business and came in every day. So there's some good steady improvement happening because they learned that work ethic. There's no better way to learn it than by example and you can always refer to the example those guys set."

    On [Steve] Elmer going from left guard in the spring to right tackle...
    "Steve's more of a tackle athlete with his size, his length. At that time we had guys out, two guys out in this group in the spring so we want to always play at full strength regardless of if it's spring or fall. We always want to play at full strength. The best guys are on the field with the first team and that's fair to our offense and all the skill players who are trying to improve and get better. Our first team needs to be our best guys, so Steve played guard, and then when we got those guys back he moved back to his natural tackle position."

    On what the left guard position will look like and the possibility of rotating between Conor Hanratty and Mark Harrell...
    "Possibly, they're close enough in ability that we would definitely consider it. Right now both guys are hurt, but veteran guys who we'd pretty much know what we'd get, they're pretty even so I could see us doing something like that. I'm talking with coach [Kelly] about it more as we finish up the week."

    On the evaluation period of preseason, and moving players around in positions to get the unit he wants for games...
    "Well they haven't moved a lot this preseason. Mike (McGlinchey) has been at left tackle pretty much every snap and (Matt) Hegarty's been at guard for every snap until today. Today's the first day we worked him at center because he's our backup center so I wanted to give him as long as he could to work it out at left guard. He went in today and did a good job at center so that was good to see. He's banked a lot of hours and work at the center position. That can be an adventure, especially if your center is struggling, nothing can work. It was good to be able to see him jump right back in there, so it's just a process of guys continually working and rotating through and playing next to each other. That's what we're doing and that's what this time of year is for."

    On playing faster on offense this year impacting the offensive line...
    "The biggest thing is practice at the speed he (Coach Kelly) wants us to play in the game. When we're moving quickly, you just don't have as much time to sit and mull things over. So you have to learn to make quicker decisions. It's not necessarily harder, it's just a matter of focus - if you let them just stand there they'll stand for three minutes talking about how they're going to block something. They'll condition to how we go, and earlier it's always harder because you're hearing new things and seeing new defenses. You're installing new plays that haven't been done since spring. So you don't connect the dots as fast, but now we're much more comfortable with moving faster because we're more familiar with what we're seeing from our defense."

    Matt LaFleur - Quarterbacks

    On coaching with Brian Kelly...
    "I've known him for a very long time and I know that he has high expectations, not only for the coaches, but also for the players and specifically those in the quarterback position."

    On his (LaFleur's) career as a quarterback's coach (NFL vs. College)...
    "When you come down to it, football is football, but there is a lot of differences between the college game and the pro game. First of all, you have to look at the field. Obviously, the hashes are much wider in the college game and some of the rules are different, but ultimately when you are coaching the quarterback, there is so much carryover between the college and the pro game."

    On LaFleur showing film of pro quarterbacks...
    "I show them film that I've acquired from the NFL all the time. I think those guys like to see that. They like to watch RGIII (Robert Griffin III), Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. They also, like watching a guy like Russell Wilson, because they are both running and throwing quarterbacks."

    On Everett Golson...
    "One thing that I've noticed is his leadership. He took control right from the get-go, not only with the offense, but also with the team. I feel like the guys look to him as a leader."

    Mike Denbrock - Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers

    On the wide receivers working with head coach Brian Kelly during his medical absence...
    "They probably had the brightest smiles on their faces when I showed back up in the building. But along those lines, I think it was great for the wide receivers, and I think it helped their learning curve, to really have the guy who's going to call the players in their room actually explaining his vision and what he say. It's one thing for me to try to translate his wishes to them, but for them to firsthand hear from him and be with him every day was a great thing."

    On increasing the tempo of the offense...
    "I think in their minds, the faster the better. I think they like the potential of the explosiveness of keeping the defense on their heels, dictating the tempo of play to the defense instead of being so reactionary. That's the best way to describe the way we've played offense for the past couple years. Maybe we've been a little too analytical and precise about being in the exact play at the exact time. I think we've got playmakers in places where, once they get the ball in space, they're going to be able to do exciting things with it. So I think tempo and the way that you go about it helps those things."

    On improving results in the red zone...
    "For me it always starts with scheme first. And we have. We've really kind of studied how we've done it. I think you need to be able to run the football down there and be willing to stick with it and not necessarily throw it over the goal line every time. We actually need to impose our will on the defense a little bit when we get down there, because it's such confined spaces. And then I think we have some guys in some spots that can make some of the plays that maybe we missed on in the last couple years. All of those things: first, analyzing the schemes and doing the right thing; secondly, being a little more patient with the run and grinding on people because we have the ability to do that."

    Paul Longo - Director of Football Strength and Conditioning

    On sophomore linebacker Jaylon Smith...
    "Physically, he's very gifted. I definitely wouldn't take full credit on his physical capabilities because he came in with a lot of physical capabilities. He's improved them, he's got great stamina and more than anything his intensity and his love of the game is second to none. Whenever he does anything it's at the absolute top level whether it's film or weight training."

    "He hadn't weight trained much before he got here. He's really improved a lot in that area and it has and will continue to show in his stamina. He has the lowest body fat on the team; it was measured at 3.9% and that's unbelievable. There's a three-percent variance so it's probably closer to 5%. He got measured on the BodPod like they do at the NFL Combine."

    On if anything changed in the training program based on the new defensive system...
    "We made some adjustments based upon how we're going to play the game. We made some tweaks with how we train them. We don't have to be quite so big up front. We want to be a little more quick."

    On the importance of the science side of training...
    "It's actually a passion and one of the main goals of Jack Swarbrick and that's awesome when your athletics director gets that end of it. For me, it's great. We (strength & conditioning coaches, nutritionist, athletic trainers) all have to be on the same page when you're training a person. It's not just what they're doing the two hours they're with me. We've been making steps and we're continuing to make steps that integrate how all of us work together."

    Brian VanGorder - Defensive Coordinator/Inside Linebackers

    Recap of fall camp and how the installation of the defense has been...
    "I think it's been a typical fall camp regarding a new system. You've got new players coming in, freshmen. A lot of early struggles in terms of learning. Again, for the older guys, it's new language, new schematics for them. Although, for the most part, the guys that worked with us in the spring have really, really progressed well. And I think our freshmen have done well. They've experienced a heavy volume and a different kind of execution level here in college football, so it's on them a little bit right now. We have to keep pushing them through, but overall, I'm real pleased with the attitude, the conviction to learn, to improve and to get better. It's been consistent."

    On contact work since (the team) has been in pads...
    "It's a fine line in respects to decision-making and how you approach it. With some of the contact emphasis and concussion issues, it echoes from the NFL right down into college football, high school football and throughout our game. But, I think the group work that we get, you know, you can really emphasize it in a controlled drill and still be effective. I think we've done enough to give our guys a realistic view of speed to tackle and contact in those kinds of things. So, I feel good about it right now. I feel good."

    On what Jaylon Smith brings to this defense...
    "He's an awfully good player. He's still learning, and he approaches it every day with a great attitude. He wants to learn, he wants to improve and he wants to get better. The physical traits are obvious. I mean, just a really, really good football player who carries a great attitude into it. It's going to be exciting watching him get better week-by-week. He's a high impact player."

    On Joe Schmidt being a coach on the field...
    "No, I wouldn't say coach, but he's smart. He's real smart and he runs the defense. I can say that in all my years in football and coordinating defenses, he's right at the top in terms of his ability to learn, his ability to communicate, make the proper checks and do all the things we ask of him. He's very good."

    On the adjustment of coaching day-to-day with this level of player versus in the NFL...
    "I think that the college player is so much more developmental than the pro player. I do say that a little bit reluctantly because dealing with rookies even in the NFL and teaching them the pro game is a struggle. It's a struggle for them. All these guys are so developmental in the game. Now, for me, that's a good thing in respects that I still like to coach from a developmental standpoint. It's constant. It's occurring on every play. You've just got to stay focused and stay on it, and keep the standards and expectations on top of the players. Again, it's a different league because there's so much of it. But the kids have been receptive to it. I think they understand that my style of coaching and our style of coaching aren't personal. It's the act itself and getting it right. They've approached it in a very mature, matter of fact way. It's a grind. It's hard work."

    On seeing a lot of 4-3 in fall camp, maybe more so than the 3-4 last year...
    "I think we'll do a lot of things schematically and have some different looks, but still looking at the 4-3 as our best suit from a personnel standpoint right now. Again, we want to graduate ourselves to a defense that can do a lot and give you a lot of different looks. From those looks, you can do a lot in the coverage behind it and make the offense work."

    On Jhonny Williams...
    "Well, I think most of the freshmen that will play for us, they currently carry physical traits that allow them to be able to play, but they've got such a long way to go in terms of learning the game, learning situational football and learning the fundamentals and techniques associated with it. It's a rough road for them. They're going to make mistakes. Jhonny's got some speed and suddenness. That's obvious what he has. He's still in the learning process. We'll see. Hopefully that continues to grow. Again, for him and some of the other guys, they've just got really solid physical traits. That's obvious to all of us. We're trying to grow their game. Maybe early on if we play a freshman, he's an eight to 10 rep guy. We continue to grow through the process and into the season and maybe he'll become a 20 to 25-rep guy and maybe even a starter."

    On Jhonny Williams' potential as a player...
    "Again, that's a hard question for me to answer. Again, right now, we can see the physical traits, but let's go see how it looks with an opponent across from him and in front of 80,000 people. It's loud. You guys are writing about it. Let's see how the players hold up. At this point in time, we don't know."

    On the tenets of a Brian VanGorder defense...
    "I think that the fundamentals of the game are always critical. We want to start there. We want to be good and solid with fundamentals, techniques and the development of those things with players. And then, again, going back to what the player does best and building the scheme that allows us to feature that part. Sometimes, it also involves scheming to hide, maybe, a weakness. Fundamentals, effort, effort, effort and a defense that can constantly be changing based on the development of players and new players coming in."

    On trying to sneak a peek of #19 down on the offense (QB Montgomery VanGorder, Brian's son)...
    "Yeah, a little bit (laughing). I called the defense the other day. I found out what (the offense) was running, so I called the defense and, you know, he came out with the ball for about a 10-yard run. He thought he was great on it, but I kind of winked at him and let him know it was a little coordinator gift."

    On the value of Cody Riggs...
    "Valuable. Cody brings in a lot of experience. I think his value will grow starting here as we compete. Any time you come in new, even though you've got the experience, you try to blend in. You try to find your way, leadership role and stuff. I think once we enter competition here, Cody's words of wisdom and leadership will grow through the year. His value is being able to play corner and play nickel. He was at Florida with Coach Muschamp. He's been through a lot of scheme work in his career. His value to us has been invaluable, so to speak. It's been great to have him."

    Matthias Farley - Senior - Defensive Back

    How are you learning and dealing with the dual role of nickel and safety...
    "Playing nickel really helps you understand how everything else fits together. In the spring, I had a couple practices, here and there, playing corner as well. So, that got me thinking like a cornerback would think. And then, you are connected to the corner and you are connected to the safety while you are in the nickel. You really get to see how everything fits from one perspective. So, when moving back, you can see when you're the a safety how when the corner doesn't do this or doesn't do that, it makes a big difference, whether its positive or negative. So, knowing how to see it from a safety's perspective as well as a corner's perspective really helps you."

    What is tougher for you, the coverage or being two yards off the line...
    "It's definitely an adjustment. I enjoy being closer to the line of scrimmage. But you really have to train your eyes in different ways. Things are on you a lot quicker. And that comes with repetition, becoming more comfortable with the position, but I definitely enjoy being closer to the line."

    Is it odd to mentor the guy (Cody Riggs) that is really going against you in that spot...
    "No, you know we have always had the `next man in' philosophy. So, there are two of us Cody (Riggs) and I. If something happens to one of us the other has to be ready, so there are no secrets. He is giving me a lot of advice, from how he has played it in previous years at Florida. We kind of bounce ideas off each other, try to watch each other while we are in, try to critique everything and every play honestly and try to push each other to get better."

    Things people will notice about this year's defense that may be a little different.
    "Obviously, it is an entirely different system. It's a system that you have a defensive coordinator coming from the NFL, so there are more pieces and things going on that we may not do or have done under our old defensive coordinator. You will see a lot quicker line up and just go, a fast pace defense."

    Everett Golson - Senior - Quarterback

    On being excited for the season...
    "I am definitely excited. I'm counting down the days. I can't wait."

    On the offense this year ...
    "I think we could be pretty talented. We have a lot of potential for sure. I think we can be pretty effective on the offensive side of the ball.

    "I think we have established what we want to do. I think the coaches have done a great job of portraying the message about what type of team we want to be. We want to be aggressive and we want to really beat you on the offensive side, which was different from 2012 when we played a little more conservative and to our strength, which was the defense. We want to beat you on the offensive side this year."

    On having Matt LaFleur as a quarterback coach...
    "It helps so much having him (Matt LaFleur) here. It's the first time I've really had a quarterback coach going through my years here. When Coach Denbrock is looking at the big scheme of things and how the play works, coach LaFleur is looking at if you took your three-step drop or your two hitches so that definitely helps my footwork and cleaning up a lot of things."

    On being eager to play on Saturdays again...
    "I am eager. I am one of those guys that take pride in preparation, too. I like the practices. For instance we did [the] two-minute [drill] today. I love things like that. It really gets you ready for the game."

    On building a connection with the wide receiver group...
    "I think we have definitely built a rapport. It takes time for sure. It takes repetition. I have been seeing a lot of Corey [Robinson] in the spring and the offseason. I think we have really built that connection.

    "I think the good part of it was I was here for the spring and we went through the spring together. It was not as disjointed as you would think. There was definitely some progress that needed to be made."

    On becoming more responsible and a better leader...
    "First off, that is just me being young. I have definitely grown up and matured. I think that the main difference was me just maturing."

    On being a leader of the team...
    "For the simple fact that we don't have as many guys - all those seniors that are now gone. I look up now and I'm the senior so I have to be the leader of this team."

    On being a natural leader...
    "Just how I was raised. I've always been that guy to be set apart. I don't really follow what everyone else is doing. I think that is what made me a natural leader."

    On what can be learned in terms of leadership from Manti Te'o...
    "I think Manti did a great job with the defense. I think what made him a great leader was that he was not only able to do his job but he was able to help others do their job. I think that was very important to the success of the defense. I now implement that on the offensive side."

    On the knowledge of the offense...
    "I have studied a lot of film now. I am not where I was in 2012. A lot of stuff was new to me [then]. I didn't really know what they wanted in the offense. Now I am able to understand what they want. I am able to understand and have more conversations even with the coaches. I don't think there is necessarily anybody like Tommy [Rees] that I would talk to right now, but I definitely talk with the coaches. We bounce ideas off each other and help each other see what the other sees."

    On his confidence level entering the season...
    "I feel a lot different now. I think what has helped my confidence is having such a great defensive coordinator like Coach Brian VanGorder. We have seen a lot of different disguises and different blitzes from this spring to now. I think seeing those types of looks and now being able to protect myself from things like that is where the confidence comes from."

    On being thankful for the opportunity to play for Notre Dame...
    "This is one of the greatest schools in the country. Being the quarterback here at a premier football school is exciting. It really is. I realized that in 2012 but never as much as I have now just from everything that I have been through and coming back here and having a community that supports me. I am definitely thankful for it."

    On having to earn the starting quarterback job...
    "I knew it wouldn't be right if it was given to me. I had to come back in here and be named the starter. I guess you can use the BCS game [as a reason to simply be named the starter], but at the end of the day that doesn't matter. That was the 2012 team. This is a new era. I knew I wasn't going to just come back in and start. Honestly I didn't want that. I wanted to compete. I don't think that came from the adversity. I think that is who I am. I am a competitor. I love to compete."

    On the differences after he returned...
    "The biggest difference for me was when I left there was a whole crop of players that were not there when I came back. It was kind of ridiculous for me to see the clean sweep of everyone coming in. It was definitely a little bit new in that regard."

    Sheldon Day - Junior - Defensive End

    On advice to freshmen...
    "Play with confidence. Everything is about your swagger - how you feel about things, how you approach things. I feel like as a young guy you have to come in with some swagger and confidence and know that your ability will exceed your nervousness."

    On his leadership this year...
    "I've been breaking everything down, just the entire game. Having to know the coverages and trying to know the entire defense and not just what the line does. When it comes to the defensive line, I'm trying to teach them that if they miss with their hands, I'm not letting that go over - or, if they don't run off the ball and little things like that. I'm trying to correct all the little things so we can be great... I've changed a lot. I used to be this shy guy. Well, I wouldn't call me shy. I just used to sit back and observe things and now I'm up front saying things, communicating, just trying to be the best football player I can be and the best teammate I can be."

    On confidence in the defense...
    "I have a lot of confidence. It's been a blessing having coach VanGorder come and be our defensive coordinator. It's definitely been a good change and more aggressive change so I feel very confident in this defense."

    On his versatility...
    "I like moving around because you can try to hide me or get me on the best matchups. Moving around is definitely a fun thing because you get to learn all the positions and get a feel for the game. You get to use your attributes to your best ability."

    On other teams focusing on him...
    "It's just a good feeling knowing that you're being that singled out guy. They're saying `We need to block number 91.' When that focus is all on you, it kind of builds up the excitement to play in the game. I wouldn't call it pressure; I would see it as a challenge or something like that. If you think you can double team me, well let's see you do it."

    Joe Schmidt - Senior - Linebacker

    On Sheldon Day's importance ...
    "He's hugely important. I love playing with Sheldon. He's a great leader and teammate. He's always caring about everyone else and talking a lot. Talking from the lineman isn't always what you've got going on. It's awesome. He's awesome to play with."

    On team's leadership...
    "I think we've got a lot of older guys that have stepped into some roles. Trying not to get too specific, I think that I've tried to do everything I can to lead this defense in a lot of different ways. I think leadership happens in different ways every day. There are guys that come to work every day and it doesn't matter how old you are. You can lead by example every day by busting your butt."

    On seeing himself as a leader...
    "I think you kind of have to. I think as the Mike (middle) linebacker you drive the defense and you drive the team. You have to get all the young guys on the same page and the defense on the same page. It's something that I've tried to embrace and it's something that I'll look to do this entire season."

    On adjusting to the new system...
    "It wasn't easy. This is an NFL scheme, but I think that what I try to bring is leadership, communication and trying to put everybody in the right spot to make plays. I want to be very productive within the scheme and I think I can. I move myself around a lot and put myself in good positions to make plays. What I really want to do is drive it from the inside and make sure if I can move James (Onwaulu) three yards here or there or talk to Jaylon (Smith) and help him out, that the system lets us do that. But really what I want to do is put guys in the right positions to be productive and make big plays. That's really what I'm focusing on because I want to do whatever it takes to make this defense successful and I feel that's where I can have the greatest impact."

    On sophomore Jaylon Smith...
    "Jaylon's special, man. I don't know, I really don't know. He's passionate about the game, passionate about his brothers on the team and he is a specimen. He's the definition of a specimen. He's got like three-percent body fat and he weighs 235. He's a pretty unique athlete and you combine that with his desire with the want to help people and make people better. It's pretty awesome. I love playing with him."

    Corey Robinson - Sophomore - Wide Receiver

    On the difference between this year and last year for him...
    "I'm learning the offense as a whole, you know conceptually, whereas last year it was just bits and pieces, trying to memorize certain things. This year we had coach Kelly doing our position group for a week and he brought the whole offense together for us and helped to make sense of it for us in the position room. Like you're not running this route just to get open, you're going to run this route to open up the slots or open up the back coming out - understanding football as a game."

    On working directly with coach Kelly...
    "It was a little different, a little intense, but it was great at the same time. We really fixed some problems we were having, some recurring issues, and he really simplified things for us. (He) said this is what I want, and he was very clear, `this is what I want, this is what I don't want' and that was really helpful because when you get the message from the top that's what we're trying to do in the first place."

    On playing with Everett...
    "When I first came in during the spring I was able to play with him, but obviously not during the fall, so being back out there with Everett is great. He's so talented. The dude is unbelievable. So, now just trying to get him to trust us and reestablish that timing and establish the trust with us being out of the break when he needs us to be and you can count on us to make big plays. Like I said, he has every tool. He's a great player, so that's where we're at now."

    On eagerness for the season to start...
    "I'm very eager. Camp is a marathon. Every day is just inching forward and I can't wait to have everybody back on campus, and having the lights on and 80,000 fans filling the stands and being able to play in front of a crowd. When you score a touchdown it's not going to be coach yelling at you to bring the ball back over here- everyone is going to be cheering. That's going to be really fun I'm excited."

    Nick Martin - Senior - Center

    On the difference between the line this year and last year ...
    "I think it's a completely different animal. We obviously have some guys coming back. Some guys have shuffled around and have the ability to play multiple positions and training camp is the first time we played together as a group. It's been great. They're great players and great guys. Everyone wants to play football. They have a passion for the game in the film room and on the field and it's really good to be able to finally play next to each other."

    On blocking for this group of running backs...
    "We have phenomenal backs. We have guys that you want to block for and when you have that it makes it so much easier. You know when you're finishing a block and you look up and see guys diving and clawing, fighting for two extra yards, you love that. You run up and you pick them up and say `let's keep going!'

    On becoming a leader after his brother (2013 captain Zack) graduated...
    "Obviously when he was here he was one of the best leaders to come through Notre Dame and he did his thing when he was here. But, now that he's gone, I've learned from him and it's my time to step up."

    On the difference between Everett's leadership now and two years ago...
    "I've been so proud of Everett. He's been awesome in the huddle - vocally, getting guys hyped, having fun, getting us lined up on the ball - he's dong an unbelievable job. I think it was something I hoped for and it's come true. It's definitely not surprising and it's always something he had in him. He had a great season in 2012 and he's really showing it now."

    Kyle Brindza - Senior - Kicker/Punter

    On senior year ...
    "People always say that it is the time of your life. I'm living it and I love every bit of it."

    On taking responsibility of kicking and punting and if it was expected to get all jobs...
    "It was expected coming out of high school. I wasn't going to come to Notre Dame as just a kicker or a punter. Every aspect of the kicking or punting game I want to mean me. If something happens such as kicking or punting, I don't want it to be on someone else's shoulders. I want it to be on me. I like that pressure. I am not a normal kicker as I always say. I am one of the few that likes pressure, and that's when I feel I perform the best."

    On why he's more accurate when it is a bigger game or a bigger moment...
    "Pressure... I love pressure. Those D-linemen chirping at you, I love it. Its cool that they are 6'6 300 pounds, but I don't care I'm going to put it through the uprights. Another thing is that your team is counting on you."

    Ben Koyack - Senior - Tight End

    On the need to replace the production you lost with losing TJ Jones to graduation...
    "There are plenty of guys on this team that are great at doing what they do catching balls. Everyone wants to step and say we can take some balls here. I definitely try to step up when a play needs to be made. I do what I can in practice to try and be someone who makes that play. We have a lot of other guys that do the same thing I do."

    On where your focus lies...
    "I couldn't say that I had to focus on one more than the other, because when you focus on one side over the other that's when maybe one side will drop off. One day we will be working on blocking, and then we will run down and do stuff where we are catching the ball. I might miss a block one day or miss a few passes another, but we can never stop working."

    On (freshmen tight end Tyler) Luatua...
    "He is a great guy. He has done a great job learning and absorbing the offense. He, as well as any other guy in the group, has been doing a great job busting their butts. They take some coaching and they take a while, especially the two freshman. It's never easy to come in here and get yelled at for a play. They bounce back and do a great job and have been really helpful."

    On the growth of Durham Smythe over a short period of time...
    "Durham has done a great job, especially over summer. It has felt like he is a completely different person. He kind of came out of his shell a little bit. He was running routes and blocking well. That is something I think he has been doing a great job of... he showed the coaches in the spring that he was very capable and he has only improved since then."

    Jaylon Smith • Sophomore • Linebacker

    On the difficulty of taking a back seat as a freshman...
    "No it wasn't a tough transition at all. You go from eighth grade to high school at the back seat, and then you go from your senior year of high school to first year of college. It's all a transition. You have to humble yourself and let everything go and just learn from the leaders."

    On a player that you took some leadership qualities from last season...
    "I would say Prince Shembo. Just the whole work ethic and really the whole base of you get what you earn. So me watching him and valuing the way he practices is something that I have evolved into my game."

    Danny Spond as mentor last year...
    "Danny Spond taught me a lot about consistency, and doing things on a consistent basis from the way I train to the way I eat."

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