"You know, we're just really blessed to have such great talent at the running back position. I don't know that I've ever had as much depth at the running back position in all my years of coaching. All of them can contribute to our success.
"Amir has done some things that we weren't certain that he could do, and that is, run the ball up inside. At first glance, you'd think, well, maybe he's a guy that plays outside more, but he's run the ball inside, has shown his ability to do that, has shown great durability. As you know, he had a couple of injuries early on in his career but made every practice and performed very well.
"So he's got the ability to catch the football. He's got breakaway speed, and he's shown the versatility to play inside and out. So great depth at that position."
Q. As you get closer to the season now and especially with the Temple game plan in, is this Tommy Rees' team at quarterback, or do you have situations where we will see Andrew Hendrix and Malik Zaire?
"We always prepare for all those things. As I said, Tommy Rees is going to be our starter against Temple, but we prepare for all situations. The difference is, as it related to Hendrix, is that he was a niche quarterback for us. He's no longer a niche quarterback. I mean, he can run our offense. Last year, the year before, we had to run special packages for him.
"We're going to take advantage of some of the things he can do. He can run. He's a physical runner. So we may have some more quarterback runs, but it's not going to turn into an option game with him in there. He can run our offense. So we don't have to turn the playbook inside out to put Andrew Hendrix into the game.
"Malik, we would. I mean, we would have to alter significantly what we're doing. He's just not ready to do everything that we want. We're really excited about him as a player and as a quarterback. He's just not at that level yet. He's getting there. It's like anything else. We want him to continue to grow, but he's not at the level of those two guys yet. The difference being Andrew Hendrix is not a niche quarterback anymore. He can do much, much more, and we're very confident, if he has to go in the game, that he can run our offense."
Q. Brian, how down or disappointed were you with Tommy at this time a year ago, and how would you characterize his three years coming in right now?
"I don't know that I would-- I would not put myself in the down or disappointed as much as I've been in college football and around 18 to 21-year-olds all my career. I'd probably say that, in his instance, it was part of a young man growing up.
"And I always-- I'm always looking for the response, you know, how do you respond to making a mistake? I'm always looking, are you going to be accountable when you make a mistake? And I think, when he stepped on that field against Purdue and got booed and responded to that, you know, I was going to be in his corner all the way.
"So I think that's how I would characterize that. So how do I see his-- I don't think the story's written. I think you write the story after he completes his journey here at Notre Dame, and you know what, it could be a really interesting story.
"I think he's had a great camp. I think he's really developed his skill, which I think is very important as part of this story because, look, we could talk about the off-field stuff, and that's really neat, but that doesn't help our football team win games. He had to develop his skill in the off-season, and I've seen tangible evidence of it every day in practice in the way he is throwing the football, getting us in the right place. Now I want to see it on Saturday.
"So I think, at the end of this season, I think we could have a really good story about Tommy Rees."
Q. What did last year show you about him? "Well, it showed me a lot about his competitive drive and his want and desire to go out and want to compete for not only his teammates but for himself and Notre Dame. That's why he's got great respect in the locker room. So you want to push those guys out front. He's got great respect from all of his teammates."
Q. Brian, very broadly, where has Zack Martin upped his game since the BCS Championship?
"Well, I think we measure greatness in so many different ways, but I think one of those areas is to up the game of others around you. I think his ability to bring the play of the line around him to a higher level.
"The stories that I've heard this summer, absolutely incredible, where, as a unit, the starting offensive line would stay together, driven by Zach, to wait for the freshmen to get out of class this summer, to get-- because the workouts do not coincide. The veterans get their workout in, and then the freshmen come from class and get their workouts in at a different time, sometimes lagging by an hour, hour and a half.
"Zach would keep the veteran linemen around for upwards of an hour, hour and a half, so they could work out together. Those-- that doesn't happen. That just does not happen. But because of him, he's been able to up the play of all of our younger players exponentially. So he's made others around him better. I mean, that's the first thing I can see immediately.
"And he's physically stronger at the point of attack. I mean, there's-- I mean, he can handle anybody on our defensive line physically, and I think those two things stand out."
Q. Real briefly, do you have a five-- "Are you saying that I'm long-winded? Is that what you're implying?"
Q. This is a more brief question. "Okay, thank you."
Q. Do you have a five set on the offensive line? Is Stanley penciled in at right tackle or nothing yet? "No. We're still working through that. Ronnie was out with a concussion. He is on track to be back on Monday, if all things continue to move in the right direction. He's gone through his testing, and we expect him, if things continue to go the right way, to be back Monday.
"Steve Elmer has done a great job. I think everybody knows about his ability to go in there and compete. But it's not something that we're ready to commit to right now. Both of those guys are going to play. Elmer and Stanley are going to play. As I cautioned everybody earlier, we like them both, and they're both really good. So I think we should all be very excited that both of those guys can come in and help us win."
Q. Some people look on paper, Tommy Rees, 14-4 as a starter, senior, returning as a starter. They would think he would be a surefire captain. Why is he not a captain?
"There's so many things that I look at when it comes to captains, and it doesn't have to do with just being the quarterback and having a 14-4 record. That's a valid criteria, but I look at so many different things.
"I mean, there's-- for me, balance on offense and defense. Sometimes I don't like to have too many offensive guys over defensive guys. It really-- to me, there's just so many different things. I make gut instinct calls on guys. Tommy's got a lot on his plate, being the quarterback at Notre Dame too. And I'm not saying one is-- but I take all of those things into consideration, but there's not really just a box of checklists that I go through. I look at everything and then try to make the best decision for the team and the best fits that I see across the board.
"I think you can make the case for a number of guys to be captains, but I look at everything, and it's both on the field, off the field, all those things are important to me."
Q. You mentioned some of the things about Tommy Rees with his attitude, what's different with that, and off the field and all that. Maybe the assessment of him is unfair. I think a lot of people thought that there were physical limitations that contribute to him maybe not having big numbers in 2011. Do you feel comfortable with what he's able to do physically from a deep throw standpoint, from a footwork standpoint?
" I do. I do. He can do the things that we want him to do in terms of pushing the ball down the field vertically. He doesn't have the arm strength that Everett Golson does, but if he's on time, if he's reading it properly, if he's doing all the right things, he can get the ball to exactly where we need him to get it.
"He's matured as an individual as well, and all of those things, I have been able to see firsthand. There's no reason why he can't do the things that we're asking him to do, and he's shown us that he can do them."
Q. How conscious will you be of how you deal with Tommy Rees on Saturdays in comparison to the last time he was your full-time quarterback? In that does he have a little bit more leeway? Will you be a little bit more understanding? Does he have more input?
"I think my relationship with Tommy has evolved and grown over the last couple years. I think my relationships with the entire football team has grown and evolved over the last couple of years. I think this whole football program has changed over the last few years under my leadership, and I have changed as we have grown together.
"Now, I still reserve the right to bark at them if it doesn't go the way I expect it to go, but I don't see those-- our practices run so much-- so much better on a day-to-day basis because we're all on the same page and we're all speaking the same language."
Q. Brian, here in the back. You mentioned in the answer about your relationship with Tommy Rees that it has changed, and you said that you have changed as well. How have you changed over your time here at Notre Dame?
" I mean, there's so many things. I mean, I think we all get the opportunity to grow in so many ways in our life. I think I do a better job as a parent, balancing my schedule. I think I do a better job at delegating. I do a better job of not listening to you guys as much. That's helping me a lot.
"I just think, when you're the head coach at Notre Dame, it's so important that on a day-to-day basis, that you keep in perspective why you're doing this job, and that is you want to be around 18 to 21-year-old kids that are the best and the brightest in the world, and that's why you're doing this job. You're not doing it for any other reason. And keeping that in perspective.
"Yes, I understand I'm an ambassador for the University of Notre Dame and I've got all these other things that I have to do, but I've now kept it in perspective that I'm coaching 18 to 21-year-olds. So it's allowed me to stay focused on that, and it's helped me stay centered from that perspective. So all of those things, it's helped me immensely."
Q. A couple weeks ago, when we asked you about Everett Golson, you didn't know exactly what his plans were for the fall. Have those been finalized?
"Yeah, I talked to him yesterday. He's been working out in Chicago. His plan right now is to spend some time with George Whitfield. George is an established quarterback coach out in San Diego. He's planning on spending probably two months out there in San Diego to really work-- you know, most of it is having the right training partners, as you know, receivers, and having somebody that can film him and obviously spend time on his footwork and physical development and keeping him sharp.
"So he's going to spend some time out there, and I think that's during most of the inclement weather time, and then he'll be back in the Midwest probably around Thanksgiving and then settle back here in Notre Dame around the holidays."
Q. So he won't be involved in classes? 'No, he does not-- he does not need to take any classes, and his advising has been such that he's not really needed to take any classes."