An Interview with Coach Davie
Football coach previews Boston College contest.
Nov. 3, 1998
JOHN HEISLER: Couple of quick announcements for those of you on the satellite, about four minutes of highlights from the Notre Dame - Baylor game last weekend. Kickoff this weekend in Boston is 12:10 eastern time. Our wrap-up with Bob Davie on Sunday is at 11:30. Coach Davie is here, he'll make some opening comments, then take some questions.
COACH DAVIE: First of all, I think it's an exciting time heading into November. There's an awful lot at stake. Also it's a challenging time, just looking at the schedule over the next four weeks. First of all, there are no open dates. Staying healthy, being durable is certainly a key to how successful we can be. The other reason it's challenging, three of the four games we play are on the road. East coast the next couple weeks, finishing up on the west coast.
Also I think we play some excellent teams over the next couple weeks, particularly some offensive teams are really strong. I think we are improving as a football team. Some of the things that you may not notice statistically I think really are worth mentioning. I think one of the reasons we're improving is really negative yardage plays. That's something we really spent a lot of time talking about. If you look at us on defense, we're creating some negative yardage plays. Last year we got a little bit better towards the end of the season. I think we've continued to improve. The last two weeks, we had nine negative plays created on defense against Army, and ten against Baylor. That's 19 negative plays for just about a hundred yards over the last two weeks.
Look at it on the opposite side, we haven't had many negative yardage plays against us, five against Army, two against Baylor. That's 19, for a hundred yards, that we've created, and only seven for 16 yards against us. I think that is a pretty remarkable statistic. The second thing, something that everyone has heard me talk about a lot through the course of the off-season. We had to find a way to get more big plays. I think the statistics bear out the last couple weeks, we've been able to do that.
We consider a big play a run that's over 12 yards, and a pass that's over 16 yards. It's kind of interesting to look at it. On defense, we gave up six against Army, we gave up three against Baylor, so that's nine for 154 yards, big plays against us. On offense, we had 12 for 224 against Army, and ten for 291 against Baylor. 22 big plays we've created for 215, compared to nine other opponents have had for 154 yards. I think that's a couple things. One, I think we're hitting better on defense. We're by no means a dominant defensive football team.
We are still in the building stages on against. I do see light at the end of the tunnel with our defensive football game. We're hitting better. I think the second thing, we do have some big play potential on offense. You never know where that big play is coming. We have some big plays from the fullbacks. We've had a couple big plays from the receivers. We ran a quarterback draw last week for a big play. Certainly I think the scheme has helped us in that area.
The third thing I think that we've talked about now for really a couple years was trying to find a way to make people pay a price for getting up there and playing nine-man fronts or just playing straight man-to-man-coverage on a running down. We addressed that by trying to have some openings in our game plan, which I think helped. But against Army, it was obvious we needed to make some big plays in the passing game on a running down because of the way they played. Last week against Baylor, it was second and two when Jarious hit Malcolm on the long touchdown pass, 35-yard touchdown pass, I believe. It was second and five when Jarious hit Bobby Brown on the six-yard touchdown pass. So we're finally able to get some big plays on running downs in the passing game. I think that's critical.
People will continue, just as we try to do, to crowd the line of scrimmage. I do think that we are playing faster as a team. That's something we also talked about in the off-season. That doesn't have anything to do with speed improvement in the off-season or anything. I think just trying to play at a faster tempo, I think that's one of the reasons also we're starting (inaudible). I think the other thing that I'm pleased with this team, and probably the biggest thing right now, is I think our chemistry is good on this team. I think the attitude continues to be one that's unselfish.
A lot of times that's easier said than done, particularly as you go through the season. You know, you always talk about losing can bring out the worst in you sometimes. You know, winning is the same way if you're not careful. It can either bring out the worst or bring out the best. Obviously, if we continue to be unselfish, I think we can get some momentum in winning. You look at us. We really have two starters at just about every position, except on the offensive line. Certainly, quarterback and tailback. I think that works a couple ways. For us, it's really been positive. We've talked a lot about the competition at positions, but yet trying to bring out the best in each other.
You look at the strong safety position with Benny and Tony. That's been a good situation for us. The free safety with Johnny and (inaudible). Rush linebacker, now that Grant Irons is back, Lamont Bryant playing well. Brad Williams and BJ Scott, Lance Lagree and Antoine Jones. I could go on. Two tightends, fullbacks. That's proved to be a very positive thing for us. I think that's really a credit to our players because I do think we have an unselfish group that's allowed us to be pretty consistent in what our objectives are, to be better as a team.
There's some things Saturday that we all know we have a long way to go as a football team, but there were things that were really encouraging to me that once again bears out the unselfish part. The first play, the throw back to the quarterback, when Autry threw the interception. For him to track that kid down, make that tackle, give us the opportunity to play defense, that's a heck of a play by a kid that's a fourth-year player, that's 160 yards from breaking the all-time rushing record at Notre Dame. Plus he showed some speed. Those people that say Autry Denson isn't fast, he looked fast on that play. I think it was unselfish for him to chase the kid the length of the field, give our defense a chance to play again, a foundation for which we could play on defense.
The other thing, I think any time sudden change defense, goal line defense (inaudible), that's an attitude. I think our defense, being able to go in and stop them, at least hold them to that field goal. I look at Hunter Smith. Hunter Smith had the opening kickoff, lined the ball on a deadline drive to the 10-yard line. Hunter Smith made the tackle on that play.
Also we asked Hunter Smith to one-step last week punting, which may affect his average. He certainly has a lot riding with the NFL. But that's another thing that's unselfish. Bobby Brown didn't catch a pass until the Arizona State game. Did a remarkable job blocking. Had a bad wrist. First catch against Arizona State, third and ten, first drive of the second half, huge play for us. I kidded Bobby. The reason he had the play against Army, makes the catch, goes down, fumbles the ball. The reason Malcolm recovered that, good things happened, because Bobby was unselfish. Bobby had the 66-yard catch on the second and five, and the happiest guy in the stadium, probably a little bit too happy, was Malcolm Johnson, they had that excessive celebration.
The point I'm making, I think we all see the improvement we need to make as a team. That's obvious. But the most encouraging thing to me is really the unselfishness and the camaraderie and chemistry. I think we can continue to improve as long as we keep our eye on the target when it comes to that, because those things can go either way on you, particularly when the stakes are higher. There's a lot more to gain for individuals as well as teams going late into November. That's something we continue to talk about. The concerns I have right now, there's a bunch of them, things that have kind of popped up the last couple weeks. We've not taken advantage of opportunities quite like we did on offense earlier in the year.
The Army game, down on the first drive, it would have been six and one on the sixth. (inaudible) face penalties. Ended up kicking a field goal. We had a first drive of the second half, we go down, have it first and goal against Army. Bad snap on the field goal, don't score a point. Last week against Baylor, four times we had a fumble on the option, had to throw back to the quarterback, which was intercepted. Fourth and one after they snapped it over the punter's head, didn't score points. First and goal on the five, after Jarious (inaudible) drop.
That's six opportunities the last two weeks we haven't taken advantage of. I think that really becomes a factor the next several weeks because we play some really good offensive teams. Also, as I mentioned before, we need to get some easier scores. We put a tremendous burden on our offense to drive a long way. You think back to ASU, we put some points on the board against a good team, A'Jani Sanders intercepts the ball and runs it in. Stanford, Deveron Harper sacks the quarterback, we get the line on the 30-yard line. Michigan we forced a fumble on the kickoff. We haven't had that the last couple weeks.
Then the last thing, as I've mentioned many times, the field position and the kicking game, for the big play in the kicking game for us instead of against us. Those are some of the things that we kind of continue to highlight as a team. As far as our opponent this week, it's hard for me to imagine this is the only the tenth time that Boston College and Notre Dame have played in football. It's kind of hard to imagine that.
This is my fifth opportunity to play in this game. This is a tremendous rivalry, for a couple obvious reasons. One, that Notre Dame and BC are the only two Division 1A Catholic schools playing football. But it's just a tremendous rivalry. Every year, this is a special game. Boston is a particularly tough place to play. Great atmosphere. The fans are very close to the field. They have those metal bleachers, make a lot of noise. It's a tough place to play. But it's a place we're looking forward to going because it's such a great atmosphere.
I think the biggest thing that makes it tough, they're an excellent football team, especially on offense this year. They played a good schedule. Got off to a 3-0 start. Obviously, Georgia Tech in Atlanta the first game, 41-34, I believe. Really a good offensive football team. They have an excellent back. I think probably the best back we've played against this year. 186 yards against Virginia Tech, excellent run defense. 200 yards against Georgia Tech, (inaudible).
Quarterback is mobile, really runs around, moves around, throws well on the run. Offensive line is huge, all of them over 300 some pounds. Their center and guard are really outstanding players. They have two premiere players on the offensive line. The wide receivers, seems like they've been there a long time (inaudible). They're a talented offensive team. They're averaging close to 30 points a game, 430 yards a game rushing. Defensively they move around a lot. That's kind of been their pattern over the last couple years.
They run a lot of zone blitz, zone fire. I think they have an excellent nose guard. They're strong up front, big, strong players in the front. Special teams, field goal kicker is eight for ten, 53 yard field goal, the punter is averaging 41. We realize to go up there and win, we have to play better, we have to have a great week in practice. This will be -- this is going to be a tough football game, a very tough place to play.
I'll be happy to answer any questions you have.
Q. You were talking about the fact that you were able to make some big plays on short yardage, running second downs, et cetera. How much of that is preprogrammed and how much of is that Jarious at the line taking advantage of what he sees?
COACH DAVIE: I think usually it is preplanned, try to get him in specific situations. As always, it's the player stepping up and making those plays. That's been the big difference. Last week against Army, we had two situations on post patterns, we had a chance to get big plays. So certainly players came back and made some big things happen. The catch by Malcolm was outstanding, underthrown fade. Certainly Bobby Brown came up and stuttered, acted like he was going to crack, and ran by the corner. I thought Bobby showed good speed. It's a good plan, but as always, every team every week has good plans. It comes down to the players making plays.
Q. Is Jarious changing a lot of plays on the line?
COACH DAVIE: Not quite as much as we've done in the past. That's one thing I think in trying to get us to play faster, trying to get us to be more aggressive, we have in some ways minimized those audibles at the line of scrimmage. We still do it. Any time you're up there checking plays a lot, it's been my opinion that it sometimes takes away from your aggressiveness on offense. Something we tried to get away from, especially in the Michigan State game when we had difficulty with the crowd noises.
Q. You mentioned that Hunter was one-stepping last week. Put a lot of time into punt protection. Is there one thing you're seeing is your zone side having problems, man side having problems that each team is picking on, or the whole unit?
COACH DAVIE: I think what it is, is that blood in the water. Those sharks, they sense that they can get one. Really, we're no different than anyone else. We spend a tremendous amount of time watching those tapes. Seems like in college football right now the way people are protecting, if you really make a strong commitment to go after the punter, you're going to come close just about every time.
It really comes down to the snapper and the punter and their operation time maybe more than the protection. Seems like everybody that tries to rush usually has success, but they can't always get there if the punter gets it off. It was a little bit that way against Baylor, as well. They got some pressure on them, but we were able to get the ball off. I don't think it's as much scheme, although we've worked extremely hard at doing some different things with it, as much as us getting good snaps and getting the ball off. That's where really we've had the problem. That was just a missed assignment.
Q. Just wanted to ask you a little built about guarding against a letdown against a Boston College team that you consider a good offensive team, but one that is three and five, having lost five in a row.
COACH DAVIE: You may not have had a chance to watch us play as much as some of these guys sitting here. We're not a team that takes anyone or anything for granted. When you look at those tapes, I mean in all sincerity, when you watch those tapes, you watch Boston, you see what a good football team they are. There's been really very few people, if anyone, that has slowed that offense down. I know Virginia Tech shut them out in a rainstorm up there on a Thursday night, but they didn't exactly shut them down.
Boston College had some opportunities to score. So it's been pretty easy for us every week to keep our eye on the target, particularly because of the type of team we are. It seems like every week when we leave that stadium, we realize that there's a lot of things that we could have done better. Because of being that type of team, we're not going to overlook anyone.
Q. Has your team put together a complete game, in your estimation?
COACH DAVIE: You know, it's interesting. In my opinion, probably the three best games we've played have been Michigan, Arizona State, and I think probably Baylor. All three of those games, special teams goals have been the highest in the games. In other words, we have a special team goal board. In those game, we've been eight goals or above.
I didn't exactly answer the question, but the three best games we've played have been Michigan, Arizona State and Baylor. To answer your question, I don't think that we've played the best game that we're capable of playing. I think our team would agree that we can and we're going to have to play better.
Q. You referred to the tradition of the rivalry of this series. Was it ever put into jeopardy, given what happened last year at the pep rally where you had some BC students heckling your players? Michael Wadsworth was considering not renewing the contract with Boston College. Would you like to see the series continue?
COACH DAVIE: Oh, yeah. I think it's a great series. I think it's a natural rivalry. I think Boston, although it's a hostile place to play, is a great atmosphere to play in. I was at the pep rally last year when there was some heckling going on, but you're pretty resilient here at Notre Dame. You're going to get a little bit of heckling here.
Q. Did they heckle you?
COACH DAVIE: I certainly didn't overreact to that. I know none of our players overreacted. In fact, I hadn't even thought of that until you brought it up.
Q. Did they heckle you, though?
COACH DAVIE: I don't think. Maybe I just didn't hear it. I thought it was all kind of a good-natured thing. At least that's how we perceived it. It hasn't really been an issue at all, as far as our coaches and the football team. I really haven't heard anything about that. I don't think that's an issue at all.
Q. Talk a little bit about Autry Denson, his overall career at Notre Dame, aiming for the most total yards in rushing and also for touchdowns, how much he's meant to this team.
COACH DAVIE: Well, he's been a rock for us. He's been a very consistent performer, not only on the game field, but just as importantly on the practice field. He's a guy that I enjoy being around because he enjoys football so much. He watches the game, likes pro football, likes college football, he's a guy that enjoys football. That's struck me from his first day as a freshman. He enjoys the game. Obviously the statistics, what he's done on the field, I think speaks for itself. But he's really a neat person. He in no way has a big ego. He just likes football, he likes to go out there and play.
He's the kind of guy I really enjoy being around. I enjoy the heck out of Autry Denson. I'm going to miss him next year for as much the off-the-field part of it, just what he brings as far as his personality, as well as all those yards.
Q. Talk a little bit about the defensive play this season. You touched upon it earlier. What do you see as the things that are looking up for defense this season?
COACH DAVIE: Well, I think we continue to improve, realize as the statistics bear out, we're not a dominant defense. We are an improving defense that I think plays hard. We're tackling better. We have good camaraderie on defense. But I really think we'll be tested this week. I think as far as balance, the best offensive team we've played. They're able to run the football extremely well, with big linemen, good schemes, good backs. They also throw it. I think we're an improving team. I think this next week will be a huge test for our defense because Boston College is well balanced, really does an excellent job.
Q. How has Jarious evolved in his role as a starting quarterback week-to-week to where he is now?
COACH DAVIE: Well, as you know, Jarious had been here three years with Ron. I think he benefitted tremendously from that. I also think the fact that Jarious was able to become the quarterback when we had a scheme implemented to really take advantage of his talents has helped Jarious. He's been able to proceed with confidence. I think that's really important. So I think he's handled the situation well. I think Jarious is a natural leader because of his personality, because of his hard-nose approach to football.
I've mentioned, these guys have heard this story a hundred times, he threw three interceptions in a spring game, we weren't tackling the quarterback in the spring game. He went over and laid three hits on the defensive backs, made the interceptions. Ran a reverse against Army last week. He had the best block of the football game, probably the best contact play of the football game, when he blocked on a reverse that Hunter ran. Because of his personality, because of him being even-keeled, I think he's a natural leader, and I think he's been able to become a real confident quarterback, as you see the improvements he's made through the year. I think he's really settled in well. I think he's really a good player.
I think Jarious really has a strong arm and I think he has a good understanding of the game. With each week, once again, this week will be the only eighth game he started. Each week it's a new experience. Playing away from home, certainly in front of that, with that environment up there, it will be another challenge for him.
Q. Can you see his confidence off the field as well as on the field gaining each week as he plays?
COACH DAVIE: I think that's probably where his strength lies, is that he hasn't changed one bit. He's been exactly the same person he was beginning of the season, he's that same type of person now. I think that probably is the reason that he's so unflappable on the field. I said this before, he doesn't take himself too serious. He takes that job real serious, but he doesn't take himself so serious. I mean that as a compliment.
Q. You were talking this week again that you don't take anyone for granted. It doesn't sound like this team ever has to battle complacency. While you like to see your team blow a team out, does that help from a coaching standpoint because they're aware they're not a dominant team, and they prepare maybe a little bit more cautiously with every particular game, allowing a coach not to have to dwell on the fact they might go into any game overconfident?
COACH DAVIE: Well, I think going into every game, we talked about this last week, going into the Baylor game, I think it's obvious that this team has confidence, that if it is close, somehow, some way, one side of the ball or the other, or some individual will step up and make a play if it is close. So there's no panic. Also, I think if you don't pay a whole lot of attention to what outside people think the score should be, in those situations where it's close, I don't think you're going to panic then. I've been in those games when you pay a whole lot of attention to how many points you're supposed to win by, you're not ahead, you panic as a result of that.
I think this team does have confidence that it can win the close games. As I told our team before the Baylor game, I said, "Look, I have a lot of confidence that if it's close, based on how we've done over the last several weeks, we'll find a way to pull this out." But it doesn't have to be close. We don't have to keep proving that point. That's kind of the mind set we've had.
One thing we've talked about also is trying to come out and play a total game from start to finish, and in all areas. Until we do that, it's going to continue to be close. So I do think this team has the confidence if it continues to play hard, that good things will eventually happen because of the way we pulled some games out.
Q. You do need confidence when you go on the road. This is a team that really hasn't been on the road that much this year. One of those games they were pretty soundly beaten, Michigan State. Does it help to be taking that much confidence on the road right now? Is now about as good a time as any, given the makeup of this team, for this team to go on the road?
COACH DAVIE: Well, I think that's why I said this next month is going to be such a challenge, because three of those four games are on the road. Certainly, we were rocked up in Michigan State. Took us a couple weeks to get over that. We had the open date. We pulled through the Purdue game at the end of that game, that was huge. Got our feet back on the ground, got back to where we were after the Michigan game. The Arizona State game can do nothing but help our confidence. That was an amazing atmosphere out there. So it certainly helps that we have won on the road, but we also know that what you did in Tempe has absolutely no bearing what you're going to do in Boston. But certainly you do understand that if you can control the things you can control and play well enough, that you can win on the road. But it really comes down to how you play.
Q. You probably answered this already, but when you talk about the tradition and the rivalry and all that, it's kind of almost cliche, but do the records go out the window in a game like this because of the tradition?
COACH DAVIE: There's no question about that. That's one of the things I think is so difficult. I certainly don't know all the intricacies of how they judge strength of schedule, but there's no way to put the factor in there of the specific matchups and the intensity that's a result of that. Just like last week, we played Baylor. I read somewhere from a Waco release or something, that Baylor brought more fans to the Notre Dame game than they have to any game since the early '60s when they went up to Arkansas.
Two weeks ago we out to Arizona State, or three weeks ago. There's been some good football in Sun Devil Stadium with Arizona State, but reports were that that was the toughest ticket to get in the history of Arizona State football.
Certainly Notre Dame-Boston College, brings out a lot of those game emotions because of the rivalry. There's just no way to put a computer index or a computer report on those things. That's why I think coaching at Notre Dame and playing at Notre Dame is different, because every week it is going to be that kind of an atmosphere. Call it a bowl game type atmosphere, call it a tremendous rivalry atmosphere, but every time you play, there's no empty seats. There's always a national television audience. There's always a lot of people that have a lot of emotions. The Boston College game is another game like that. So, yeah, I think particularly here at Notre Dame, in my five years, I've seen you throw the record out every week you play here, whether it's Boston College, Army or whoever. It's going to be that kind of a situation because of a lot of the things involved with Notre Dame football.
JOHN HEISLER: We'll take some questions from people here in person.
COACH DAVIE: I think so. I try to use that as a positive, in that it makes you stronger. Certainly, yeah, week after week after week of playing those games, it can have an effect on you, but I would like to think that it can be a positive effect and you can gain confidence from that. Also because of experience, it shows you how focused you have to be. I think in some ways it keeps you from being blindsided. That's the positive. Certainly you'd like to play some games where you can go out there and have a chance to win easily.
COACH DAVIE: I tried as hard as I could. Being an assistant, I didn't have a whole lot of leverage (laughter). That wasn't exactly a democracy, which I can understand. It's the same way now. We did the right thing. Coach Holtz made obviously the right decisions. The right decision was made. I really tease him more about that than I really (inaudible).
COACH DAVIE: I think it's critical that we do the same thing. Probably because whenever I've been in a situation where you tried to do something different, it never seems -- you always kick yourself for doing that. We're going to continue to have the same plan, we're going to have the same plan with Eric Chappell. Won't have the same plan with Hunter Smith. We're going to go ahead forward. We're not going to chance it.
COACH DAVIE: Autry would be the first to tell you that there's areas that he needs to improve. We do our little double slot package. Autry is improving in that, particularly as a blocker. Autry (inaudible) pass protection, an area he has made some improvement on, but he needs more improvement. All of those things will help him have a total package. It's obvious he needs to improve on his throwing abilities, his decision making in the passing game, although he's not going to get a whole lot of opportunities to work than it anymore. Yeah, he continues to improve. He improves because he works hard. He has tremendous pride, he really has tremendous pride. But he is improving.
COACH DAVIE: I'm not an expert on that. It's just hard for me to imagine that a guy that has accomplished as much at Notre Dame would not be successful. To know him personally, you're around his work ethic, work habits, to see how much pride he has, it's hard to imagine that he wouldn't be successful. Probably going to grade out a lot better doing those things than what people realize. He's a heck of a lot better athlete than what he gets credit for. He kind of got that stigma attached that he's not tremendously fast, not tremendously strong and fit. For the total package, I'd like to have him on my team.
Q. You mentioned his personality is infectious. Has it helped the team much? Do you see it rubbing off on a team?
COACH DAVIE: I think Jarious Jackson and Autry Denson, Bobby Howard, Jimmy Friday, those kids all have the same type of personality. Pretty steady in the boat, pretty solid. As I mentioned before, I think the biggest thing, unselfish. I think that's also helped this football team not focus too much on outside issues. I think that helps. If you don't get all caught up in yourself, I think that helps. I think just keeping things on an even keel, applauding the hits.
Q. You talked about your team playing at a faster pace. Is that something that you knew in time was going to come as soon as a comfort zone developed defensively?
COACH DAVIE: I think that's been -- I said last year, the biggest disappointment I had last year, being a head coach for the first time, I've always taken pride when I was a defensive coordinator of getting kids to play hard, I mean, look like an aggressive, attacking-type team. I'm not talking about blitzing, I'm just talking about playing factor. That's something that really disappointed me and really disappointed this staff. So our plan, starting from right after that game, was to figure out how we could get our kids to play harder. That's off-season, it's all those things. But it's also (inaudible).
How do we practice? What kind of options do we run? What about our schemes on defense? Doing something that we felt we could be consistent with all year. Then I think also in spring training, you only have ten days basically. How many of those days are even full-contact days? Go in there with a specific plan of things we know we're going to do this. Don't do things that you're not going to do (inaudible). I think we're starting to evolve where we have systems in place where we're going to be even more aggressive as we move forward. We have to be. We're still not anywhere near where we should be as far as being a dominant-type defense or dominant offense.
But with the continuance of recruiting, that's critical. We have to continue to upgrade our talent. With staying consistent in what we're teaching and how we're doing things, we will become a more aggressive team. It's not going to happen overnight. That's playing faster, it's all those things. That's an easy thing to say and a hard thing to do. If you look at our receivers, to me our receivers look faster now than our receivers looked. They're not all of a sudden out there running faster 40 times, but they're playing faster. Our DB's look a little more confident, aggressive. It's playing the game (inaudible).
COACH DAVIE: I agree with that. Cooper, even Benny. I think it's being in the system, being consistent. It's a lot of different issues to try to become a more aggressive football team. That's something that -- we're going to get that done. It may take longer than what people want it to be, but we will become an aggressive football team.
Q. How much has the package expanded for Eric Chappell or how much will it expand this week?
COACH DAVIE: As I mentioned, we'll have the same package. Eric will know the entire package, which he knows. But when he practices, he'll practice specific things, continue to try to do those things in he goes in the game. He gets more reps at what he's going to do in the game. With Hunter, I mean, obviously I hope you see Hunter as the punter (laughter).
COACH DAVIE: I think it's probably coincidence. I mean, last year -- I coached defense a long time, I know at A&M, you would get a lot of credit for making halftime adjustments. There are times you do, but the bottom line, it's the plan that you go into the game with is usually so well thought out that there's very few surprises when you make adjustments. I look at it more, as I said last year when we were struggling (inaudible), we were not a very good conditioned team, got beaten down. We didn't execute. You know, we're a little bit better-conditioned team, we execute a little bit better. Probably didn't deserve the (inaudible) of not making adjustments last year. Probably don't deserve the credit for making adjustments this year. I think more of it comes in those things I was just talking about, the bigger picture of just being a better team.
COACH DAVIE: I think, as you know, and when I played, the same things you do over and over again is what you do the best (inaudible). Even with terminology, when you hear the same calls over and over, you get in a comfort zone. Any time you have to expand your terminology and come up with different names, gets kids tippy-toeing a little bit. Simplifying things, having a tight package, is without a doubt the most important thing. Also having enough things where -- enough things to be diverse, but you have your core of things you do.
A lot of people use wristbands. I've never been a big wristband guy. I've never liked them on defense. I hate to look down myself, I hate to have players on the field that have to look down because they get nervous. 25 second clock is ticking, people coming up the line of scrimmage, you have kids looking at their wrist. I'd much rather signal things. There's times on offense when the calls get so lengthy that you have to use them, but I don't particularly like them.
COACH DAVIE: You always think back to the things that happened. Probably like most guys in college, I was a senior in college, not really sure what I wanted to do. I was going to get my degree in education. I really thought I would probably go teach in high school and coach. I knew I wanted to do something with athletics. I wasn't completely sure. Then I was going to be a school teacher, high school coach, coach high school football. We were struggling.
It was my senior year. The year before, we had been a nine and two team or ten and two team, had lost to Delaware in the playoffs. Cliff was the quarterback, six foot five guy. We threw it around, had a great receiving tightend (inaudible). But then my senior year, Gene DeFillipo came in, he came in with (inaudible). He was 22, 23 years old, had been a GA at Tennessee. We were a ten and two team. He comes in and puts (inaudible). We have a six foot five quarterback, tremendous receiving tightend. We put in a split back. About the fourth game in the year, we were struggling, we were about three and one, but we weren't scoring points. He came by to my dorm room. We just sat and talked about what was going on with the team, what the kids thought, what we thought we could do better, trying to get a pulse on things.
After that conversation, he said, "Have you ever thought about going into coaching?" I said, "Yeah, I'm thinking about coaching high school." He said, "No, I'm talking about college coach." I said, "How do you even do that?" He said, "You have to become a graduate assistant like I did at Tennessee, then proceed on." I graduated that December. (Inaudible) had become the head football coach at -- Johnny went to Tennessee, Jackie was the head coach. I went to see Jackie and said, "I want to be a graduate assistant." He looked at me like I was crazy. I said, "I'll come by here and I'll volunteer. I'll move back to Pittsburgh with my parents, I'll come by and volunteer." I did that until about May, I guess. Jackie called me and said, "I got good news for you, I'm hiring you as the GA." Jimmy Johnson was on that staff, a lot of guys.
Gene DeFillipo was the one that even educated me on how to go about becoming a graduate assistant. Kind of neat now that he's the athletic director at Boston College. I still get mad at him sometimes (laughter).
Q. Speaking of tightends, people think back of Notre Dame, Boston College, think about Pete Mitchell dragging across the middle. Do they still feature the tightend as much as they have in the past?
COACH DAVIE: They have an excellent tightend, runs extremely well. They were more of a tightend oriented passing team back then. Then also when Dan Henning was the coach, they were -- they have a good tightend, but they don't highlight the tightend quite as much.
COACH DAVIE: Actually, there was another time we had a play called to the tightend. We had to check off because of a blitz. Getting the ball in Jabari Holloway's hands is critical. We try to do that each and every week. We only threw the ball, what, nine times last week, nine or ten times. There wasn't a whole lot of opportunity. We only threw it nine (laughter). There just wasn't a whole lot of opportunity.
COACH DAVIE: Mike Gandy, came in on the goal line situation. Did a pretty good job. Be awhile till he touches the ball. You may see him back in there again.
Q. Comment on Wisne, Rosenthal and Ridder?
COACH DAVIE: First of all with Tim Ridder, Tim Ridder has improved a lot as a football player. I think it's helped that he's locked into one position. He's such a smart kid and can do some different things that you have a tendency to want to move him around. I think it's helped that he's been at strong guard. I also think that Mike Gandy has helped him, because Tim doesn't play (inaudible), although he does play a majority of the game. Tim has had a good year, good, solid year.
Jerry Wisne, without a doubt, one of the most impressive linemen I've ever been around. Six foot six, 300 pounds, has nine percent body fat. The average body fat in the NFL I think for offensive linemen is over 20. He benches 225 42 times, which I think the NFL record might have been 38 or 39. The guy is unbelievable. He's still young. It's unfortunate that his freshman here he was put in a football game against Vanderbilt and played five plays, third game of the year, never played again, lost that year. He could really benefit >from another year in the program because he is young, he is developing. I mean, the best is ahead of him. But he is young from an experience standpoint, even though he's played a lot.
The third one was Mike Rosenthal. Mike is having a good year. The thing I like about Mike, he's been a good player, he's been a grade leader. There's a tremendous camaraderie on the offensive line. They do a lot of things together, they eat together on their own, stay after practice together on their own. A big reason is because of Mike. Especially with the young players. We've got some young players, Black, (inaudible), Brennan, he has done a great job of keeping those kids after, bringing those kids along.
COACH DAVIE: He had a wrist injury his freshman year. We're in the process of seeing if that could be maybe reason for a medical situation, but we'll just have to wait and see on that.
COACH DAVIE: We just talked a little bit last night, had the same conversation. I've seen Mike McNair and Lapinski as two really quick-starting fullbacks that have some speed. I think both those kids are good young fullbacks. Spring will be a big key for Mike McNair. I'm anxious to watch him. It's exciting if you can get a fullback who is an explosive runner that can really just hit (inaudible).
Saturday we ran some dives, I like the fact that he's a quick starter. Then Carlos is a young, talented player that can run. He's a little bit raw. He's evolving as he goes through this, but unlimited just natural ability, I think. He needs (inaudible) are really talented, along with (inaudible). If we can get those three years, Rocky, Carlos and (inaudible), there's just three talented young linebackers. It's really early to make strong statements, but just physically, the type of kids they are (inaudible).
COACH DAVIE: I think any system there's going to be concerns. The positive thing is a lot of thought has gone into it, there's a lot of diversity in the system. I mean, it's probably as good as we can have right now as far as systems go without actually having a playoff. I'm really not concerned about it at all. That's not coach talk. It's winning for us. If you win, the rest will be icing on the cake. I have no concerns at all about it. In fact, I'm probably as interested as you are, on a week-to-week basis. It has no bearing on what our emotions are or no bearing on what our situation is because it's obvious we can't control that.
COACH DAVIE: I think the system is as good as the system can be right now.
Q. As you looked ahead last winter, reviewed the things that had to be changed, looking at the progress made to this point, next year, is this program ahead of schedule as far as any schedule you may have had in your mind?
COACH DAVIE: I don't think at Notre Dame, just because you're six and one right now, that you can say anything's ahead of schedule. I mean, that's what Notre Dame expected, that's what Notre Dame will continue to be expected to be because of the high expectation. I think from where we were last year at this time, from a talent level standpoint, I just think we have a lot more things in place right now. I think the future is bright.
The thing that concerns me is the schedule over the next several years. It's an incredible schedule. Never know how those things are going to play out. But on paper, it's really an incredible schedule. The next key for us obviously is to continue to win and continue to recruit. I think those two things go hand-in-hand, particularly when you're in the second or third year of a program. It's critical that we keep winning. We need to follow that class up we had last year with another class. In that sense, it's critical for us. To do, that I think you have to win.
JOHN HEISLER: Thank you, everybody.
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