"I thought the offensive line sucked it up because they were playing for both teams. There were a couple long runs by Travis (Thomas) and Darius (Walker), and it was good to see those pop out of there. We threw the ball downfield a bunch, and that was part of the plan. One of the reasons being that Jeff (Samardzija) being here so infrequently, you really don't have great timing in the passing game at this time with his involvement. And I'm not overly worried about that because I want him to finish out the baseball season strong and then get back here and we'll work on the timing in the summer.
"There were good things out there and there were bad things out there. We were a little sloppy at times. It was good to see (Geoff) Price hit the ball multiple times for 50 yards plus. And that lifts my spirits. Evan (Sharpley) was 10-12 in the passing game and that was encouraging. Overall, I don't have too many emotional highs or emotional lows other than the fact I thought it was a really great feeling out there, and we basically walked out of there without too many bumps or bruises."
How would you evaluate the defense through the spring and today?"I think it has been pretty obvious that one of the things we have done in the spring is to keep it pretty simple to make sure we could evaluate their athletic ability based on them not having to think what they had to do. Too many times when we start scheming on offense or defense, the players start thinking about what they're doing instead of just going out there and playing. I think that's a positive when you just play a base defense and be able to hold up pretty well. Once you get to that point, it becomes a fine line when you get into game plan, how much you are going to risk in personnel mismatches by just lining up and playing. At least we're finding out that we can line up and play and we're also developing some depth that we didn't have this time last year."
Could you talk about the development of Mitchell Thomas?"Mitchell has always had the athletic ability and when we started spring, I had him over as an outside linebacker backup, working with the first group as an inside linebacker. I think if he gets into a comfort zone and knows what to do and turn him loose, he can definitely be an asset this year."
How important was the fun atmosphere of this day and game to you and the program?"When I went to school here, it was always a festive event. It always felt like today. And we have worked hard to create that atmosphere again. We had 3,500 people at the baseball game last night; we had 600 Monogram winners with us last night; and it's just nice to have this many people feel part of the program. We, the coaches and team, understand that we are just part of this whole deal at Notre Dame. The more people who feel they are a part of it, the more people will take ownership in this whole program."
Did David Grimes' performance today move him into the third receiver spot?"David has done a nice job for us. He has real good quickness and hands. The only play I was really disappointed in him was not the drop, it was when he caught the ball on a crossing route, which he was running too short to start off with, and he catches the ball and goes backward instead of forward. And we'll have that conversation on Friday."
How would you assess Jeff Samardzija's performance today?"Obviously he's a front-line receiver, and we have a couple of them. It's a blessing to have Rhema McKnight back here for another year. I was talking with one of the scouts from the Patriots during pre-game. We were looking at 5 and 83 and they were saying, wow. We have a couple legitimate receivers now and you can match those two up with anybody. They are two front-line receivers."
Would you talk about Travis Thomas and his game today and how he has come along this spring?"That's Travis Thomas, he is going to pound you, pound you, pound you, and hit you in the mouth. Travis is very unique because there are few offensive players that have defensive mentality. He plays the game like a linebacker and that's how he plays the game, like a linebacker. He may not read the front the way Darius does, but you'd better get out of the way because he is going to try and run you over. He's a nice change-of-pace guy from the first guy because one guy's going to make you miss and the next guy is going to look for you and try to run you over."
Did Sharpley's performance today earn him the No. 2 spot?"I haven't watched the tape yet, and I never do anything without watching the tape. I do know he had stats, but he also fumbled the snap in the middle of a drive. Completing 10-12 passes, that's a good day. He held up well for himself today."
As you move out of spring, what are your concerns and focus for the next stage?"Recruiting. That's all I'm thinking about right now and that flight out and hitting the road is the only thing I'm thinking about. I'll come back late Thursday night and we have a combine coming in Saturday and a couple unofficial visits coming in, and I have a 6:00 meeting with the team after my 5:00 haircut. The next thing I have to do is continue to upgrade the talent here at Notre Dame."
I understand that you have recently obtained the No. 1 quarterback in the country. What other offensive tools have you been able to acquire this year?"I would never do anything that would put me in jeopardy with the NCAA rules, which is what I would be doing if I truly answered this question. All I can tell you is that it is my job to get the best players at every position that we can; that can read and write. And that's what I'm trying to do, and it isn't just offensive skill players; it's offensive linemen, defensive linemen, linebackers - it's linebackers that can run – it's safeties, it's corners, it's kickers. It's my job to try to get us better at every single position."
On the last drive of the game, did the offense pick it up or did the defense break down?"I'm not sure, but I'm glad we kicked the field goal because I didn't know what I was going to do with overtime. There were different meals being served on Monday based on the outcome of this game and I was genuinely concerned. I didn't say too much during the game, but I did say, center the ball and kick the field goal. And we had missed a couple and like the rest of you, I was saying, please go through and let's get out of here. You'll have to ask the players about the type of meals."
Were you concerned about missing two field goals?"Yes, missing any field goal concerns me."
Because of the missed field goals, was it your plan to have him try another field goal under pressure?"That was exactly the thought process. I figured the guy had missed a couple and kicked an extra point, even though it wasn't the pressure of a real game, it still was the last play of the game. You kick the field goal and you either go into overtime or win the game in regulation. It's just like when a quarterback throws an interception, it's always good to come right out and throw a pass right off the bat and get it out of the way. It's the same way with field goals, if you miss a couple, you give him the opportunity to improve his confidence, and I think that is what you should try to do, especially in a game like this."
Can you talk about Terrail Lambert's play this spring?"He's done a nice job in the spring of having a better understanding of the defense. Terrail has never had a problem athletically in being able to play, but sometimes a new defense takes some people a little longer to pick it up. I think he feels more comfortable with the defense this year than he did last year."
What did you think of the dance in the end zone?"I think it was pretty sweet, but we gave them a fifteen-yard penalty anyway. I thought it looked pretty good, what did you think? It was fifteen yards, though, for a lack of imagination."
Big plays were a concern last year. Was that a concern today?"It's always a concern, but it's less of a concern. For example, the pass that went for a touchdown was against Cover 3. So the concern then is not scheme, the concern is being in Cover 3 and hitting the long bomb."
Are you happy with Ronald Talley as the other defensive end?"Till somebody plays better than Ronald Talley, I'm happy with him. I'm happy with whoever is playing and right now no one has been able to take that spot away from him. I believe spots have to be earned, I don't hand them out to anybody."
How would you assess the three freshmen this spring?"I believe indoctrinating them into your system is one thing, but I also don't believe in throwing them to the wolves. I think this spring was critically helpful to each one of them, for different reasons. Why it helped Chris (Stewart) was different than it helped George (West) and was different why it helped James (Aldridge). It was definitely, in all three cases, valuable to them being in here this semester. They have gained ownership in this team and now they are not recruits anymore; now they are part of it and I think they are pretty excited to be here."
How has James Aldridge learned and progressed this spring?"Anytime you come from a high school program where you basically hand the ball off to the right and to the left and just run to daylight, which most high school programs are, and now all of a sudden you have to schematically be working on blitz pickups and route running. And now actually reading the defensive fronts to determine where a ball is supposed to go based off a blocking scheme, that's a huge, huge difference. It's not run to the right, run to the left, and run to daylight anymore. It's okay, this fullback is coming down and going to block this 3 Technique at this angle, so take a little wider angle on this one and expect to hit the B gap. Now the guards aren't covered, so we're coming right at the nose instead, so take a little tighter angle and try to hit it right at the guard's butt. I don't think he quite knows that at this point."
What kind of pros are Anthony Fasano and Corey Mays going to make?"I don't just isolate Anthony and Corey because I'm rooting for all of them. I think one thing that has happened more than anything else this year that is favorable for them, is that they have a rapport with guys from the NFL because of so many friends that I have. Now these guys can call me up, and they know they have been weathered the way pros are weathered. And I'll just leave it at that. But they know when these guys have been hammered the way pro guys have been hammered, they're always willing to take a chance on them a little bit earlier because they know they're not going to have to start from scratch weaning them in to what the pros are all about. You think college football is a fast game, try going to the next level. There's no comparison, it's like night and day."