An Interview With: Harrison Smith, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Dayne Crist

Oct. 13, 2010

An Interview With: Harrison Smith, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Dayne Crist

Q. Can you talk about the success you've had playing defense in the red zone this season, and to what do you attribute that?

Harrison Smith: Really I think it started when the staff came in and throughout workouts. Doing an extra sprint here or there. Just when coach says a sudden change and you all run out there and it's just like when you have to throw in an extra rep or something, it's that mind set that you have to turn it up an extra notch. When we get into the red zone, it's time to turn the intensity up and make sure they don't get a touchdown.

KAPRON LEWIS MOORE: Being in the zone, it is a mind set, like this team is not going to score, no matter if they have a long drive going, our ultimate goal is to not let the other team score. So just like Harrison said, going in this summer, starting with the coaching staff, just assume that this was early, you know, being in the red zone is a mind set defensively.

Q. Kap, can you talk about the confidence with three straight wins cheek?

KAPRON LEWIS MOORE: I think the confidence is building and rolling over Boston College and Pittsburgh, that got our confidence going good. Going into this next game there's always room for improvement and we have got to watch them and correct our mistakes and get that confidence rolling.

Q. Harrison, can you talk about that confidence level increasing?

Harrison Smith: Yeah, just like Kap said, once you get a couple of wins and you start seeing yourself making more plays, everybody is just coming together, let's you know that everybody on the team can make plays. And then you know, at the same time, there's a lot of corrections to be made so when you get wins and you still have all of those corrections, even though you did things wrong, you have confident that you can improve that much more.



Q. Have you made sure there's not a letdown against Western Michigan?

Harrison Smith: We are going to approach this week just like any other week. There's no reason not to. We are not 6 0 and the No. 1 team in the country. We are not at that place yet to where we can just roll in to teams that we play.

KAPRON LEWIS MOORE: It's just like Harrison said, we can't take Western Michigan lightly or anything like that. Nothing is going to stage change on the coaching staff and nothing is going to change on our defensive team or anything like that, we are going to approach Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday just like we do any other team.

Q. And talk about (Alex) Carder and being a dual threat and problems he can pose for you guys?

KAPRON LEWIS MOORE: He's a tough kid. He's not scared to take a hit. Watching film, this guy is not like any other quarterback, he's looking for that extra yard and he's a tough kid. He makes some pretty good throws and he has some dynamic receivers that are pretty good and I think it's going to be a great challenge for us this week?

Harrison Smith: He's definitely a competitor and you can see that in just the way that he plays, fighting for every yard that he gets, you see a lot of quarterbacks run out of bounds and he's not like that. He'll fight for the extra yard and he'll put it up for his receivers to make plays. He's a great competitor.

Q. Harrison, Coach Kelly was in here yesterday complimenting your leadership and how that's been an evolution for you in the last six or seven months since you've got here, is this a comfort level, understanding the defense, being a senior? What would you point to?

Harrison Smith: I would say probably all of those things. I've been here more than a lot of the guys and been on the team more that's helped me mature and things like that. And also being comfortable with what they are doing and with the coaches, being on the same page with the coaches, like now, if I make a mistake or something, I don't even have to look at them to know; I already know that I did it. So it's like we are kind of on the same page and there's good communication there. Everything is going well.

Q. Quarterbacks getting more experience is the same held true for you?

Harrison Smith: Yes, definitely, from since when I first started playing to know. Started to notice more and more things. You get a full picture of what the offensive line ends up before the play and you notice which guy is where and from watching film, you know what they might do out of these formations and what they might end up in and things like that. So it's really slowed down a lot.

Q. The concept of giving up big plays is something that's been on the last couple of years and you've really cut that down against the run and against the pass, what would you point to there as far as the reason you guys have been better in not giving up big plays?

Harrison Smith: I think it's just the defense as a whole, kind of coming together and everybody counting on one another. The secondary is counting on Kap and all those guys to get to the quarterback and then we are counting on them to get in our pitch for the run and they are counting on us. Really, we are all just working together and everybody is getting into their assignment where sometimes in the past you may have had two guys doing the same thing and then there's a void somewhere else and that's where it will hit. But this year we have all kind of focused on being that 1/11th of the defense and doing your role and the rest will take care of itself.

Q. Can you follow you up on the 1/11th of the defense, that's not something we have heard in the past but a ton of guys in the last week have used that phrase exactly, what does it mean exactly and why is that so important?

KAPRON LEWIS MOORE: Just like Harrison said, you have to embrace your role. As a defensive lineman, I can't be doing, Ian (Williams) or Ethan's (Johnson) job. I have to do my job. They can't be doing my job. They have to do their job and just like Harrison said, you have to be 1/11th of the defense, and just like, you know, anything, you have all 11 together. It's one whole and it's going to be a great defense?

Q. Is it fair to say you guys are a lot more disciplined defensively now?

KAPRON LEWIS MOORE: Oh, for sure, I think we are a lot more disciplined. We are playing our roles and we are doing everything we can.

Q. Aside from the coaches just saying, hey, just do your job, how do they get that point across in practice or the drills they do, things like is that?

KAPRON LEWIS MOORE: They just say it once, "Do your job." Gets the point across.

Q. In talking to Coach Kelly, he said your aggression and your desire to get after it, it sounds like maybe playing that 1/11th role is kind of difficult for you because you want to be so aggressive and proactive; would that be accurate?

KAPRON LEWIS MOORE: I don't think that's accurate. I love being aggressive and everything, but you know, like I said, I've got to play my role. I think this defense allows us to be aggressive, play physical, without playing outside your role and everything.

Q. Following up with both of you guys with regard to the red zone, the good job you guys have done there, Coach Kelly says everybody talks about the mentality, but I'm wondering what you might be doing differently schematically when you get in a red zone?

Harrison Smith: There's really not too much difference to what goes on once you get into the red zone. There's always different calls for different areas on the field. But it's not a whole lot different. Really it's just a mind set that we have stayed in and we want to move that out to the whole field, too, so that we are not just the best red zone, we are the best in the entire field. So that's something that we need to work on.

Q. What about up front, are you guys doing anything differently?

KAPRON LEWIS MOORE: We are doing everything the defense tells us to do. We are playing our role. We are doing our jobs. We are doing our assignments, but just like Harrison said it is a mind set going into the red zone. Like I said earlier, our mind set, the other team is not going to score on us. Any defense, that's their mind set going into the red zone.

Q. I know you guys try to approach every game the same, so you are usually playing teams that you are familiar with or a team from a BCS conference; what is it like emotionally getting ready for Western Michigan? You probably know guys, usually when you play an opponent, you know guys on the other team; do you guys know anybody from Western Michigan?

KAPRON LEWIS MOORE: I actually know a couple of guys from Western Michigan that are offensive linemen. To answer your question, nobody on the team is taking this game lightly, at all. Like Harrison said earlier, we are not a team that can come into the game and just throw the ball out and, you know, roll over, we can't do that right now. But emotionally, we are all excited and we are playing in a stadium with 81,000, I am getting excited for this game as if it's any other home game?

Q. I know you guys don't play on the same side of the football as Kyle Rudolph, but when you heard the news about him, wonder how you reacted to that?

KAPRON LEWIS MOORE: Anybody that's out for the season, that's not good, and being as great a player as Kyle Rudolph is, that's going to be pretty bad. But that's what it is. (Tyler) Eifert and (Jake) Golic and Mike Ragone, they have some shows to fill, but I think they can do it.

Q. What kind of teammate is Kyle?

Harrison Smith: You can't ask for a better teammate. I mean, not only the fact that he's incredibly gifted and talented, but the things that people don't see is the hard work that he puts in throughout the entire year, not just during the season, but the whole year, you know, getting his body in shape, watching film and just doing all of the little things will be great. And so when you go down with an injury, you obviously feel for a guy who is putting in everything that he has into this program.

Q. And tackling tight ends that are 6 6, 260

Harrison Smith: Luckily there's not too many tight ends like Kyle out there. He's put together like, you know, his body is not one that you see very often. Luckily we don't have to tackle too many guys like him.

Q. A couple of weeks ago can you talk about just where you guys were is the timing of how that happened and how you guys did you see anything or maybe that was just the whole team's attitude and it carried over?

Harrison Smith: That was the whole team's attitude. That wasn't just me speaking; that was the entire team, just the way that we felt. And not that I was trying to be dramatic with that statement or anything like that; that's just how it was. And so I think that's how everyone felt, we kind of decided that it was enough and we just had to start turning it around.

Q. Were there any repercussions of that? Did you get much feedback after that?

Harrison Smith: Not too much. When I said it, I didn't think it was that big of a deal, just because that's I think that wasn't anything new to me. That's just how the team is.

Q. You're at the midway point of the season, now that you have the first half out of the way there's just so much more optimism as you look ahead? I don't know if you can put it in football terms, maybe you're tied at half time?

KAPRON LEWIS MOORE: For sure. These past few games, I feel like, you know, we have shown potential to what these teams can be, and looking forward in the schedule, I think if we play up to our ability, I think we can be successful the second half of the season.

Harrison Smith: We definitely lost some games that we kind of lost. But we turned that arrow from going down and now we got a W and now it's kind of going up. You just have to keep progressing and doing the things that we have been doing to turn that arrow and not start getting complacent. We have had a couple of wins; big deal. Just have to take it one week at a time and keep getting better.

Q. Yesterday Coach Molnar said that while losing Rudolph has been negative, he feels like for you over the long haul it would be a big positive. How do you see that and what does this force you to do? How does this force you to grow up as a quarterback a little bit?

Dayne Crist: Any time you lose a guy like Kyle, it's incredibly tough on your offense, especially with just the dominance that he's had since he's been here. The matchups that he creates with other guys, it's always a match up that's in our favor. So I think with what he was saying, I think what it will really do is force me to continue to have faith in my reads and make sure that I'm upping my game because I don't have a guy that I can just rely on that I know is going to win. It's going to force me to be more accurate with everything and just make better decisions over time.

Q. Have there been times in the past where you come to the line and thinking I'm going to throw to Kyle

Dayne Crist: There's been a lot. That happens pretty frequently. Again, you know that you can just count on him to get open, to catch the ball; there's no worry. In situations like that, it will be third and short with a throw called, you're already thinking about the next play, because you know that he's just going to catch it. I mean, that's Kyle. That's what happens. Now it will just force you, again, to be a better player and to be a better leader on the offense and developing the other guys and making great throws and great decisions.

Q. When a lot of people look at the running stat for Notre Dame, they look at carries and yards, but there are a lot of half pass plays for the offense, what does that do for the offense overall and how does that keep the defense off balance?

Dayne Crist: In the spread and this is something that I learned since I just continue to gain knowledge of spread philosophy, you really want to work with a five to six man box in the run game. You can get away with running with a six man box, but it's a little more difficult, because I mean, obviously you've got five guys blocking most of the time. So it really depends on your box counts. We normally have a player that we are throwing off of; so if he's playing in run support, we are throwing to where he can't cover. So that's just a lot of times that you see what we are doing with swings and just things like that. So I mean, that's part of the spread philosophy and how we run things, and you can say, well, man, they are really not running the ball that much, why aren't they running more. Well, then you see Theo catch the ball and has a seven yard average on catching swings, that's basically like a great run for us. That's just kind of how that will develop and continue to develop. Teams will either play one way or another, but that's just kind of why that run stat is a little off.

Q. There's a play that we have seen the last couple of weeks where you almost throw like a basketball chest pass to Armando; the first time you see it, it almost looks like you're asking to fumble the ball.

Dayne Crist: That's literally how it was explained to me when they were teaching the technique back in the spring of how to get that, and it just goes it's a quick option almost off of an end. If we continue to see that he's playing a certain way, that's just our answer to the way certain defensive ends play. But really, it's just like a chest pass just like you said in basketball.

Q. The touchdown that wasn't Michael, how you saw that play unfold and just how lethal that play can be?

Dayne Crist: That's a great man route, something that we practice that we've had, really, in the inventory of our offense every week. It's just a great man beater and it gave us man as we expected and I didn't see Theo pick anyone. I just saw him on his back, so I was even a little bit more confused as to what happened. But it really played out like it had in practice, and it's a play that, you know, we can definitely come back to.

Q. The coaches said yesterday that when we call that play, okay, we know this is going a long way; when that play came in and you saw how the defense was playing, were you like, this is a touchdown or huge game?

Dayne Crist: Yeah, I'm not going to say I saw a touchdown, but it looked pretty good in our favor. It was definitely everything lined up the way we wanted to. But I mean, that's football. Things go one way or the other.

Q. Can you just talk about the confidence level of the teams right now and how much the win helps you guys going into this week?

Dayne Crist: It means a lot for our offense. It means a lot for our team. Guys are understanding the right way to practice and showing up in ways in practice and their preparation and things like that. Guys have learned how to figure it out and put together a great week of practice and a great ask Saturday. So it went a long way for our team and right now is something that we want to continue to build on.

Q. Now do you try to avoid a letdown? People are going to talk all week about how you're playing Western Michigan, you should win by 50

Dayne Crist: No, we are not good enough to have that mentality yet. Coach Kelly has made that clear to us in that Western Michigan, he's shown us statistical proof of teams that they have beaten or been very close to beating in games where I'm sure those teams went in overlooking a Western Michigan opponent. But they do some good things on offense, they do some good things on defense. It's just like any other game. If you don't prepare in a winning way, you're going to get beat. We are not just good enough to roll it out yet and see where the chips fall. We really have to go in and prepare and do everything that we need to do.

Q. How did you celebrate your 21st birthday Saturday night?

Dayne Crist: I was really just happy to be with my family and friends, really exhausted after the games and happy both my parents made it in and had friends in from out of town and really just everyone was more happy than anything celebrating the win.

Q. Kyle doesn't seem like the kind of guy who would whine about anything, and he said as far back as July did you guys know this whole time?

Dayne Crist: He's one of my best friends and you know I knew how bad he was hurting, but again, he is such a tough kid that he's not going to tell you about it. So you can tell he's going to down play everything that is apparently wrong. But you can tell he was hurting for a while, and it was something where you just didn't know if he was prone to hamstrings or whatever it was. But he's a kid that just shows up regardless every day, and just puts in his work.

Q. Even last week when he dropped a pass, very uncharacteristic, what's the connection between that and the pain he was dealing with?

Dayne Crist: If it contributed to his play, he's hurting bad, because the kid is tough and the kid will play under any circumstances. He'll show up and he'll play. Those are some things within the course of the game where when I saw those things happen, I knew that something wasn't right. And then, you know, soon after, he was kind of shut down. You have to tip your hat off to him and to his courage and how far he's come with playing with this injury and still been such a leader on offense, and still dominant, not 100%, that says a lot about Kyle as a player, and just the toughness overall is something that I don't think can be matched.

Q. This is pure conjecture, but do you think you will play with him again here?

Dayne Crist: I sure hope so but again right now is not even the appropriate time to talk about it. Really, I'm his friend first and teammate second. I'm just worried about him making sure he has a safe surgery. Going through it, I know how tough a time it is. Right now I'm just here as a friend for support and a player on his team that wants to continue winning games. We haven't even had that conversation yet. It's something that we won't have until it's an appropriate time. Right now I'm just here to be a friend and supportive and do everything I can just to help him out.

Q. You must have known that one pass you threw to him where he had to stretch out and really could not do it, you probably knew then

Dayne Crist: Yeah that was the first big indicator. He can move for as big as he is; I would not put a ball that far if I didn't think he could go get it. I knew then just kind of seeing him limp off afterwards, he was hurting. But it's a tough situation and something we obviously wish we weren't in but just have to deal with what's in front of us right now.

Q. Following up in front of that wide position, I know Coach Kelly has said he could have used so many tight ends, what are the advantages and disadvantages of not having a tight end in the wide position?

Dayne Crist: You mean playing with someone else that's playing that position or playing without a tight end and more receivers?

Q. More receivers. Somebody has to fill the wide slot.

Dayne Crist: Not a tight end, okay. Well, you gain a little bit, you lose a little bit. With as much as we throw the ball, you're getting another receiver on the field which could in turn toss a matchup because it's a receiver, truly on a linebacker, more times than not. But again, it's tough for them to get in the run and ask those guys to block in the same way that a tight end could. With Kyle, we really had the best of both worlds and he was the best tight end in the country and could do both those things. Now you are really choosing your personnel wisely and using those players and those situations, but however I have a ton of confidence in our other two tight ends, Mike Ragone and Tyler Eifert, they are great players and doing some good things for us, as well. We will continue to brings those guys along and get better with those guys because that's really our focus right now.

Q. Where do you feel you are in terms of the possession throws that Coach Kelly talked about earlier in the season? Are you making improvement there? Is that a footwork issue when you don't make those throws or is it more

Dayne Crist: No, there's more decision than anything else. That's just a decision not to go there, as opposed to trying to force a tighter ball a little bit deeper down the field. But I think that we are continuing to improve every week, and I know you're hearing the same thing from me every week, but that's really how I feel. It feels a little bit more comfortable each week. I'm definitely gaining a little bit more game experience every week and some things that I can take with me and apply the next week. So you know, not to keep answering the same way, but I mean, that's how it feels. I really do feel like we are improving each week.

Q. Halfway through your first season as a starter, what do you feel that you've done pretty well up to this point?

Dayne Crist: I think that I've managed the offense pretty well. I think that there's obviously some things that I need to do better and from that regard, I'm never satisfied with that even if I've never played better or worse. Overall game management, I've been very comfortable with and kind of understanding how this thing has got to go and progress. Not saying that we are there right now, but I have a great understanding of where that needs to go.

Q. And how do you think you've done since you and Coach Kelly had the talk about maybe wearing your emotions on your sleeve a little bit, how has that part of your game developed?

Dayne Crist: A lot better. I think that's definitely improved. I understood what he was talking about and I think the biggest advocation of that has been in practice; you play how you practice. The more I can do that in practice, I think the better that we'll become. And as a leader of the offense, it's just making sure that your brain practices every day. He challenged yesterday to bring more energy to practice each and every day and that will be an emphasis for me today, bringing guys' energy and bringing guys along, and like you said, wearing that a little more on my sleeve.

Q. What do you call that when you pitch that ahead to Armando? What do you call that chest pass to the running back?

Dayne Crist: I don't know. It really is a chest pass like it is in basketball. It's looks like a two hand option pitch really. We can run the same play with me running and optioning it to him but that's just our way of pitching off.

Q. Did it feel weird the first couple of times you did it?

Dayne Crist: I felt like we were going to fumble. But it feels more natural the more times you're able to do and would he have done it quite a bit and it was something that we practice.

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