Simmons Talks About Linebackers

Notre Dame linebackers coach Bob Simmons is one of the most experienced coaches on the Irish staff. He began his coaching career in 1976 as an assistant at Bowling Green. From 1995-2000, Simmons was the head coach at Oklahoma State compiling a record of 30-38. He joined Tyrone Willingham's staff in 2002, and under his leadership the Irish linebackers have shown a hard-nosed aggressive style of play. Irish Eyes had the opportunity to speak with Simmons after a recent practice.

Many Irish fans are still reeling from the disheartening loss to Boston College this past weekend. It is tough for fans to understand how this game got away from the Irish, and it will be awhile before the hurt goes away.

We asked Coach Simmons about the attitude of the players as they returned to the practice field, and how the coaching staff will help the players regain their confidence before the play Tennessee next Saturday.

"I thought the attitude was good," Simmons said. "Obviously when you come off a ballgame you expected to win and played the way we did, you have a couple of days to reflect and now it is time to get back to business. We don't have a game this week so it's back to fundamentals.

"You know all you can do is explain to them the reasons in terms of performance and show them the belief that we are still a good football team as long as we do the things that are necessary to win. And they know they are in a good program and now is the time to look at those things like we did as a staff and as a team and talk about it, and now it is time to move forward."

In the third quarter of the Boston College game, it appeared the Eagles had made some adjustments to their offense as they out-gained the Irish 202-13 in the quarter. We asked Simmons if they did anything different in the second half that surprised the coaching staff.

"They did what they did in the first half," Simmons said. "Obviously they threw some passes that we could have played the ball better and the same thing with the running game. Coach Baer talks about when you are out there making those kinds of plays, and we didn't. That third quarter we didn't perform the way we did the first two quarters.

"We were up 20-7 in the first half. The fact that we played at a high level is what coach has been talking about and to maintain that high level through execution. Those are the kinds of things we have to continue to do to be the kind of football team that coach wants us to be."

When asked to evaluate the performance of his linebackers to this point in the season the former head coach stated, "Boy that's a tough question because I like the performance as a whole in terms of guys showing leadership abilities and making plays," Simmons said. "I think they are always up there as far as tackles are concerned and our consistency has been somewhat good you know. But people like to rate on wins and loses, but we have bounced back when we have had losses, and that is what I am counting on them to do right now.

"I have two fifth year seniors and a guy who has played. Brandon Hoyte and Derek Curry have done a great job as they know our defense and getting people lined up and trying to stay positive. And you ask those guys to really perform at that level when they play and remain consistent.

"For the most part they have been consistent. When you have wins and losses, it's your seniors who are the ones who really come to the forefront. And that is where I think, along with the other seniors on this football team, they need to rally and finish out and have a great season."

The Irish will lose starting linebackers Derek Curry, Mike Goolsby and Brandon Hoyte to graduation this year which means some of the younger players will need to step up. Simmons said he's excited to see some of his young linebackers get a chance.

"They're bright and still young so in other words they are still learning," the veteran coach told us. "Maurice Crum, Abdel Banda are still in that learning stage. Nick Borseti has helped us a little bit. All the young guys' experience will probably come more in the spring than now.

"The hardest things for young guys is learning the game, their techniques, and the defense and understanding how everything fits. The good thing about Crum is that he is so athletic, but learning concepts of the defenses is rather hard and that is what has slowed some of our young guys down. But as they get comfortable with that and learn our system, then those guys end up playing."

Notre Dame has a bye this week and Simmons said the bye came at the right time for the Irish.

"Any off week is a little different pace for you because you don't have a game, and sometimes it is welcome. When you have three, four, five games straight, it's sometimes good to take time reflect on what you are doing and get refocused.

"A bye week is always getting back to the kind of things, which is a cliché, but fundamentals. They are keys to our success and coach Willingham emphasizes that and you take time to do that. But you also take time to look at your opponent and work a little bit on what your game plan is going to be. I have watched a little of the Tennessee tape and looking at what they do. They are a real good football team.

"Also recruiting is a part of this week and going out on the road, but the important thing is to make sure the team is ready to go and they as stay sharp as possible without having to play a game." Top Stories