The inquiring mind of Joe Schmidt

When defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder can’t see what happened from his sideline vantage point, he can count on Joe Schmidt to be his eyes on the field.

If Joe Schmidt’s body moved as fast as his mind, they wouldn’t be talking about a how an undersized linebacker patrols the middle of the second rung of the Notre Dame defense.

But what Schmidt may lack in measurables, he compensates with a complex, never-at-rest mind that is a big reason why he was Notre Dame’s most valuable player in 2014 despite playing just seven-and-a-half games.

“I have a lot of questions all the time,” laughed Schmidt.

“I kind of just ask whenever it comes to mind. Sometimes that creates a little friction. But I’m always thinking and I always have to know why. Sometimes I just ask too many questions. I’ve got to be better at understanding the time and the place.”

Schmidt’s always had a natural curiosity to know, and with a mind that readily computes the information fed to his brain, it seems to trigger a question…and another…and another.

“He has good questions,” said Notre Dame defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, to whom most of Schmidt’s inquiries are directed. “Joe is not a football coach; he’s just a very bright player.

“On the field, Joe will bring a good question. His thoughts and his details require a lot of conversation because he doesn’t want any gray area. He wants it very detailed and exact because he feels like when he’s on the field, he’s not just learning middle linebacker; he’s learning all the positions. He wants to make sure (his teammates) can trust him and that he’s on top of what everybody is doing.”

Because VanGorder chooses to coordinate the Irish defense on game day from the Irish sideline, his vantage point can be distorted. Schmidt serves as his eyes on the field, particularly when the action plays out near the opposing team’s sideline.

“When you’re standing on the sideline watching a game, it’s hard to see,” said VanGorder, who said he’s never seriously considered coordinating the defense from the press box on game day. “One of the valuable things you learn as a coach is a player who can tell you exactly what happened on something you can’t see.

“I had a player today, when I asked him to tell me what he saw, he couldn’t. It was a young player and he came right in, watched the film, and came up to tell me. I’m like, ‘How do even forget that as a player that that’s what happened in that scenario?’

“With Joe, I can ask him what happened on the belly play and with the one-technique, and he’s got a good idea what happened.”

For an information junkie like Schmidt, VanGorder’s complex pro-style defense piques his curiosity. Once a wave of information is floated the defense’s way, Schmidt wants to know the inner-workings of the process. He wants to break it down and understand the nuances of the call, the reason behind it, and the benefits – as well as the pitfalls -- that can result.

“The learning curve is different for everyone,” Schmidt said. “Some guys might get it right away; others it takes a few years. From Year A to Year B, there’s no way to quantify the increase in knowledge, but it’s definitely two different time points on everyone’s learning curve so it’s good that we’re further down that curve.

“We really are learning something new every day, and that’s what makes it fun. That’s why we have such a fun defense to play in. It’s a great time for me. It’s intellectually stimulating and it’s physically stimulating.”

The challenge is for Schmidt to pick his spots to ask his many questions, which generally is better served in the meeting room.

“You have to balance it,” Schmidt said. “You can’t ask too many questions where all of a sudden, you’re paralyzed in thought. There’s a balance there that you have to find and that comes with maturity and understanding.

“It’s still just a puzzle and you’re trying to fit the pieces in the right place. For me, that’s where I’m at in my mental game.”

VanGorder will take all the questions Schmidt has to offer.

“With the young players, sometimes their questions are more about the organization of the question,” VanGorder said. “We could skip a lot of things if it was just asked this way.

“We like to have quick talk in football. If the questions are direct, then we can have really good conversation. Joe is as bright a football player as I’ve ever coached.”

 


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories

\r\n\r\n

If Joe Schmidt’s body moved as fast as his mind, they wouldn’t be talking about a how an undersized linebacker patrols the middle of the second rung of the Notre Dame defense.

\r\n

But what Schmidt may lack in measurables, he compensates with a complex, never-at-rest mind that is a big reason why he was Notre Dame’s most valuable player in 2014 despite playing just seven-and-a-half games.

\r\n

“I have a lot of questions all the time,” laughed Schmidt.

\r\n

“I kind of just ask whenever it comes to mind. Sometimes that creates a little friction. But I’m always thinking and I always have to know why. Sometimes I just ask too many questions. I’ve got to be better at understanding the time and the place.”

\r\n

Schmidt’s always had a natural curiosity to know, and with a mind that readily computes the information fed to his brain, it seems to trigger a question…and another…and another.

\r\n

“He has good questions,” said Notre Dame defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, to whom most of Schmidt’s inquiries are directed. “Joe is not a football coach; he’s just a very bright player.

\r\n

“On the field, Joe will bring a good question. His thoughts and his details require a lot of conversation because he doesn’t want any gray area. He wants it very detailed and exact because he feels like when he’s on the field, he’s not just learning middle linebacker; he’s learning all the positions. He wants to make sure (his teammates) can trust him and that he’s on top of what everybody is doing.”

\r\n

Because VanGorder chooses to coordinate the Irish defense on game day from the Irish sideline, his vantage point can be distorted. Schmidt serves as his eyes on the field, particularly when the action plays out near the opposing team’s sideline.

\r\n

“When you’re standing on the sideline watching a game, it’s hard to see,” said VanGorder, who said he’s never seriously considered coordinating the defense from the press box on game day. “One of the valuable things you learn as a coach is a player who can tell you exactly what happened on something you can’t see.

\r\n

“I had a player today, when I asked him to tell me what he saw, he couldn’t. It was a young player and he came right in, watched the film, and came up to tell me. I’m like, ‘How do even forget that as a player that that’s what happened in that scenario?’

\r\n

“With Joe, I can ask him what happened on the belly play and with the one-technique, and he’s got a good idea what happened.”

\r\n

For an information junkie like Schmidt, VanGorder’s complex pro-style defense piques his curiosity. Once a wave of information is floated the defense’s way, Schmidt wants to know the inner-workings of the process. He wants to break it down and understand the nuances of the call, the reason behind it, and the benefits – as well as the pitfalls -- that can result.

\r\n

“The learning curve is different for everyone,” Schmidt said. “Some guys might get it right away; others it takes a few years. From Year A to Year B, there’s no way to quantify the increase in knowledge, but it’s definitely two different time points on everyone’s learning curve so it’s good that we’re further down that curve.

\r\n

“We really are learning something new every day, and that’s what makes it fun. That’s why we have such a fun defense to play in. It’s a great time for me. It’s intellectually stimulating and it’s physically stimulating.”

\r\n

The challenge is for Schmidt to pick his spots to ask his many questions, which generally is better served in the meeting room.

\r\n

“You have to balance it,” Schmidt said. “You can’t ask too many questions where all of a sudden, you’re paralyzed in thought. There’s a balance there that you have to find and that comes with maturity and understanding.

\r\n

“It’s still just a puzzle and you’re trying to fit the pieces in the right place. For me, that’s where I’m at in my mental game.”

\r\n

VanGorder will take all the questions Schmidt has to offer.

\r\n

“With the young players, sometimes their questions are more about the organization of the question,” VanGorder said. “We could skip a lot of things if it was just asked this way.

\r\n

“We like to have quick talk in football. If the questions are direct, then we can have really good conversation. Joe is as bright a football player as I’ve ever coached.”

\r\n

 

\r\n\r\n

See what Notre Dame fans are saying here

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If Joe Schmidt’s body moved as fast as his mind, they wouldn’t be talking about a how an undersized linebacker patrols the middle of the second rung of the Notre Dame defense.

But what Schmidt may lack in measurables, he compensates with a complex, never-at-rest mind that is a big reason why he was Notre Dame’s most valuable player in 2014 despite playing just seven-and-a-half games.

“I have a lot of questions all the time,” laughed Schmidt.

“I kind of just ask whenever it comes to mind. Sometimes that creates a little friction. But I’m always thinking and I always have to know why. Sometimes I just ask too many questions. I’ve got to be better at understanding the time and the place.”

Schmidt’s always had a natural curiosity to know, and with a mind that readily computes the information fed to his brain, it seems to trigger a question…and another…and another.

“He has good questions,” said Notre Dame defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, to whom most of Schmidt’s inquiries are directed. “Joe is not a football coach; he’s just a very bright player.

“On the field, Joe will bring a good question. His thoughts and his details require a lot of conversation because he doesn’t want any gray area. He wants it very detailed and exact because he feels like when he’s on the field, he’s not just learning middle linebacker; he’s learning all the positions. He wants to make sure (his teammates) can trust him and that he’s on top of what everybody is doing.”

Because VanGorder chooses to coordinate the Irish defense on game day from the Irish sideline, his vantage point can be distorted. Schmidt serves as his eyes on the field, particularly when the action plays out near the opposing team’s sideline.

“When you’re standing on the sideline watching a game, it’s hard to see,” said VanGorder, who said he’s never seriously considered coordinating the defense from the press box on game day. “One of the valuable things you learn as a coach is a player who can tell you exactly what happened on something you can’t see.

“I had a player today, when I asked him to tell me what he saw, he couldn’t. It was a young player and he came right in, watched the film, and came up to tell me. I’m like, ‘How do even forget that as a player that that’s what happened in that scenario?’

“With Joe, I can ask him what happened on the belly play and with the one-technique, and he’s got a good idea what happened.”

For an information junkie like Schmidt, VanGorder’s complex pro-style defense piques his curiosity. Once a wave of information is floated the defense’s way, Schmidt wants to know the inner-workings of the process. He wants to break it down and understand the nuances of the call, the reason behind it, and the benefits – as well as the pitfalls -- that can result.

“The learning curve is different for everyone,” Schmidt said. “Some guys might get it right away; others it takes a few years. From Year A to Year B, there’s no way to quantify the increase in knowledge, but it’s definitely two different time points on everyone’s learning curve so it’s good that we’re further down that curve.

“We really are learning something new every day, and that’s what makes it fun. That’s why we have such a fun defense to play in. It’s a great time for me. It’s intellectually stimulating and it’s physically stimulating.”

The challenge is for Schmidt to pick his spots to ask his many questions, which generally is better served in the meeting room.

“You have to balance it,” Schmidt said. “You can’t ask too many questions where all of a sudden, you’re paralyzed in thought. There’s a balance there that you have to find and that comes with maturity and understanding.

“It’s still just a puzzle and you’re trying to fit the pieces in the right place. For me, that’s where I’m at in my mental game.”

VanGorder will take all the questions Schmidt has to offer.

“With the young players, sometimes their questions are more about the organization of the question,” VanGorder said. “We could skip a lot of things if it was just asked this way.

“We like to have quick talk in football. If the questions are direct, then we can have really good conversation. Joe is as bright a football player as I’ve ever coached.”

 

See what Notre Dame fans are saying here

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