Rick Minter Transcript

Irish defensive coordinator Rick Minter met with the media after Friday's practice to talk about the progress of the defense thus far. Minter had a lot to say so I thought I'd transcribe his words for everyone to read instead of three minutes of video.

Rick Minter On Weis giving the tight ends grief about Victor Abiamiri dominating them:

"I've said all along for a team to be good your seniors have to play good. I think Victor is at that point in his career where he's very confident and ready to take his game to highest level. I'm pleased with his progress to this point."

"I'd have to say it's a tossup. They're giving good effort, learning every day. Remember, that's the one spot with Mo (Maurice Crum) moving inside that we're totally raw at along with WILL. It's a battle. We're comfortable with who we have and how they're competing and how they're trying hard. I'd say it's a two-horse race right now."

On if Mitchell Thomas and Vernaglia had done anything to separate themselves at this point.

"No, they haven't done anything to separate. They've done everything I've asked them to do. Playing hard, contributing, learning what to do. This is a new experience for both of them."

On if the move for Maurice Crum to MIKE has been a natural move for him.

"I think once you're a good football player, it really doesn't matter where you play. He's growing every day with it, doing a nice job. We always overreact a little bit to the SAM, MIKE, WILL, APACHE. A good football player can play about anywhere off the line of scrimmage. Whether you're slightly inside or slightly outside really doesn't matter much. It's very minor when you're on the inside rather than on the outside. It's very comfortable to slide four feet to your left or right. He's also done a nice job with the leadership aspects of what we require out of the position."

On what aspects of linebacker play comes easy to Travis Thomas

"When we say go, he goes. His athleticism is a nice addition. You have a chance on defense when you can run. A lot has been made about our defense and what it can and can't do, but when you can run on defense, it gives you so many more opportunities to make plays—both in the run and certainly on the pass. His speed speed, athleticism, and his toughness—which was already well defined long before he moved to linebacker. He's a warrior. He's really a good kid to be around." On if all indications are that he's staying at linebacker>

"I think so. I'm going to keep coaching him until somebody tells me he's not there anymore. Right now it's going real good. His learning curve is still real steep, but I've been very, very pleased. Everyday I look at the tape, there will be corrections, but it's more intensity about listening and learning and trying to make a place for himself. The thing that goes unnoticed is the praise we should give this guy for being so unselfish to say ‘that's what I'll do for the team.' It may help him in the long run, but this has been a move for the betterment of our team. Particularly being a team captain, that's a display of loyalty and teamsmanship."

On if Leitko continues to impress.

"What you have with Travis is you have rust. When you miss football for a year or two you digress. Here's a young man who's come back in excellent shape and conditioning. Particularly to have missed so much time, and yet to jump out there to start competing. He's going to jump into the depth chart and have a chance to play for us a little bit."

On implementing more defensive backs into the scheme in nickel and dime situations.

"Keep in mind last year you didn't hear us talk about that a great deal because we only had four defensive backs, occasionally five. I played three linebackers and I played four DBs, sometimes five, but that's about it. We think the secondary becomes one of our strengths due to the experience factor and now due to the additions, in other words due the maturity and growth of the second-year players that were in that class last year and the red-shirt thirds, and even the influx of freshmen, makes those returning starters look a little bit better."

On if they are more able to go nickel and dime.

On if he was uncomfortable last year not being able to play much nickel and dime.

"What's in the past is in the past. We coach what we had. We did what we could do. We kind of grew into doing it more and more as the year went on. Leo (Ferrine) played a whole lot more as the year went on. Now our team is just a little bit deeper than it was a year ago."

On his first impressions of the freshmen.

"You'd like to say ‘I'll answer that question in two years.' That's when he should be showing his true colors. In our situation, we are pressed to get guys into roles as quick as possible. Here at Notre Dame we hope to recruit a good, solid student athlete, not only physically gifted, but mentally able to come in and adjust. We're pleased with the group as a whole. I think there's a lot of upside in the class. Some are going to excel this year. Some will be a year away from excelling. I think there are positives about every one of them. The quicker we can define roles and help develop the process and expedite the process, the better off our team and program will be."

On Maurice Richardson working with the defensive line and if that is a permanent move.

"No, I don't know if that's permanent. It's just a situation where I sent him down there for a couple of days and lets see what he can do to help us do some other things, get a little quicker in spaces. If it works, it works, if it doesn't, OK. He was recruited as a linebacker, and every intention now or down the road he'll play linebacker. Right now, if he can do other things to help our team, maybe that's a role for him."

On where Leitko will fit in on the defense—defensive tackle or defensive end.

"He needs to become a guy that's smart enough to do multiple things….kind of like a Chris Frome type of guy. As long as he can help us and push the guys in front of him and find some playing time, the better off we're going to be. I think what I'm pleased thus far on defense is our competition level. In other words, you have a better team, and you have a better practice, therefore around, the team is better when there's competition within the ranks pushing each other. Right now he's playing himself into a position to start pushing people. That makes the guys in front of him better and it makes our team deeper. And that's not the only spot. We're not where we want to be overall, but it is a more positive situation in the fact that we have more bodies that I think are quality to work with for the upcoming year."

On if the weight loss for Ndukwe has been a good thing.

"Charlie was right. I think he made the suggestion to do it and he did it. I think the guy has done wonders. There wasn't much wrong with his speed. Nedu is still a guy who can run very, very well. But now he's lost the body fat, he's trimmed down and he's done a nice job. He's really one of our positives in fall camp….just cometing, taking his game to a different level. It's paid off for him. I'm very pleased with him."

On how the defense is holding up when the No. 1 defense goes against No. 1 offense.

"They compete real hard and that's all I want them to do. They're going to win plays and the defense is going to win plays. I want them to compete because they need to realize they're going against some of the best guys around and that's the only way you get better. I'm glad that Charlie likes going one-on-one and challenging and going the best on the best. More than anything, it's the emotion, the attitude we bring and the competition level we bring every day along with the techniques and fundamentals."

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