Coach Weis began by giving a brief overview of the spring game plan and the naming of the captains for the upcoming season."Just to give you a little layout from now until the rest of the spring, when we come back next week, my press conference will be mainly to go over the spring game. I'll give you rosters for the spring game, and I'll tell you how we are going to play the game. Obviously, with the number of offensive linemen I had to be creative, but I've already figured that out and that will be the theme of that press conference when I meet with you next Wednesday. So you guys will have enough time to get all that information together before the spring game itself and that will lead into the weekend.
"Today, what I'm going to do is address the captains for this season. Once again we have a repeat captain from the offensive side of the ball which is Brady Quinn in a runaway vote. I think he did a great job last year especially as being picked as an underclassman. I was really proud of the way he handled himself on and off the field, and I think the team really looks to Brady for leadership which he provides, and I think he is exactly what you are looking for when you are looking for someone to represent one side of the ball and I think he is a great representative. Obviously on the defensive side of the ball, Brandon Hoyte has gone on to graduate and give the NFL a shot, so we have a new defensive captain and that is going to be Tommy Zbikowski. I don't know if I am going to be able to take this for a whole year, listening to some guy from the south side of Chicago, but he definitely exemplifies the toughness that I look for in players. I really admire the way he has grown on and off the field, especially academically. We are addressing the academics of all our players today as we prepare to take off for Easter and get ready for the last month of the year. Tommy is doing great in school and things are going in the right direction, and I think the players turn to him for leadership, and I think he will be a good exemplary captain for us.
"This year we are doing something a little different than last year. Last year we named special teams' captains each week and one of the reasons I did it that way was, I didn't know how our players would play on special teams. So this year we are naming a third captain; so we will have tri-captains this year and we will not have weekly captains on special teams. We will have a captain on offense, defense, and special teams. For the offensive captain, only the offensive guys voted and only the defensive guys voted for the defensive captain, but the entire team voted for the special teams' captain and their choices came from the kickers, snappers, and in addition we gave them a handful of guys who were most productive on special teams last year. The tri-captain we will have for coming football team is Travis Thomas. One more side note on Zibby; we all know about this dog and pony show at Madison Square Garden on June 10, but Doug Walker is going to have a press conference here for Zibby on the Monday after the spring game the 24th at 3:00 p.m. right here. I'll be on the road recruiting so I will be out of town but Doug will be here and we might have someone from compliance here as well to make sure we don't get ourselves into any issues as far as questions we can and cannot answer as it relates to his impending boxing match. We figured we should provide a venue where people could ask questions not related to football but to boxing and Tommy and I sat down, and I told him we would set time for him after the spring game was over."
It may be easy to select captains in the spring but how hard is it to select other team leaders?"I'm holding on the leadership committee until the end of training camp because when you have a great number of people going out and an even bigger number of people coming in this year, with 25 new players coming in June, and the transition that is going on. Last year I felt that the nuts and bolts of our team were already on campus at this time and I was looking for the leadership to be set up before we went to summer. This year what I would like to do is see how those battles play out for leadership, especially with 25 new guys coming in that will be looking for older players to guide them as well. So we are going to continue to have a leadership committee but that committee will be voted on at the end of training camp, not at this time."
Could a player be selected as a leader if you didn't want him to be one?"First of all that, would never happen here. It might happen someplace else but it is not happening here. They're going to pick someone that exemplifies what Notre Dame stands for. Going through and counting the votes with a couple of my guys, these elections were not little groups or pockets of guys voting for different people. These were people they think are Notre Dame guys. The thing we do is run it through the Faculty Council to make sure everyone is in good standing and to make sure they haven't been in any trouble and to see that they are in good standing academically. So realistically a kid that has been in trouble or in academic trouble would get nixed and the vote wouldn't make any difference."
Could you talk about Travis Thomas's special team play and where he is as a running back?"There were a handful of guys coming out of last year that we felt had clearly established themselves as the core guys on special teams to start off with. You had Travis and you had John Carlson, Chase Anastasio, Mitchell Thomas, Marcus Freeman and a group of guys that were on all of the core special teams, so going into this year at least now you know where the actual contenders are coming from are the guys who just didn't take reps but made plays. I think the one thing Travis brings on offense, besides being a core special teams guy, is a dependable running back where you are not really afraid to call the same plays. If I setting up the game plan for Travis to be the lead runner I'm going to tweak it a little bit from Darius [Walker] being the lead runner because they have different styles of running. If Darius goes down or comes in and out of the game I'm not afraid to put Travis in the game because I have a lot of confidence in him as a player."
Brady has shown he is a leader; what other areas does he need to make progress in?"I put more intellectual demands on him. For example sometimes when you look at a play in a game and it is a completed pass you say it's a nice job, but I might be mad because he didn't go to the guy he was supposed to. In other words if I call a play that is based on progression and the first guy he was supposed to throw it to was the guy in the flat, if he's open and he is uncovered but he throws the ball down the field for a 15 yard gain, you are going to say good job and move the chain. I will now say to him what was your first read and was he open? Did you see him? Did you even look at him? How I just presented this to you is exactly what I do to him. So what you are trying to do is to take him to a whole different level of thought process. It isn't physical because physically his tools are very good. You can work on mechanics and that is what Peter Vass spends a lot of time on including fundamentals and techniques, but I am trying to force the thought process to a higher level now. You definitely adjust how you teach based on how the guy that is playing can handle it. I like the challenge of having someone like Brady because if I slip up he knows it. I can't hide if I make a mistake with him because if I call a play a little bit wrong he says, like you mean like this. He loves it too because it's like, I got you, because I obviously make some mistakes too. I will call a right formation play that we are running to the left and I call the formation with the run to the right and he will say you mean to the left. There are some guys where I could tweak a play and call it wrong by mistake and they would just go ahead and call it wrong and just go ahead and run the wrong play then come over and say, you said this. But Brady won't do that. He'll fix it and that's what the good ones that can think on a higher level will do and he progressed to this point last season. In the spring it was just tell me what to do, but that's not Brady Quinn. He's always asking how to get better."