Can you update us on Ryan Harris?"I'm very encouraged, in fact we just ran ten 80-yard gassers at the end, and he ran all 10 of them. More than anything else, I am concerned about his conditioning and the fact that he could finish all 10 of them was encouraging. We have followed the proper protocol; as he started Thursday he was allowed to start hitting bags and getting in a three-point stance. And he is allowed this Thursday to start hitting people. I will probably be very slow on him hitting people because the first time out guys want to start mauling people, and I want to make sure that I ease into that. I'm gearing toward September 2nd so I will try and stay on my steady pace. Even as a coach you have a tendency to get impatient and want to rush things. But the reality is I'm just gearing toward the 2nd."
Is James Aldridge on track?"Well, he's not ready yet but he is running great; but he is running straight great. As a running back you need to be able to run laterally. Right now he will run straight with anybody. He can run with everybody when it comes to running sprints. But I'm concerned about the plants and pressure you put on with cuts. And I'm always going to err on the side of caution."
Will you comment on the possible NCAA investigation?"What investigation? I was informed about that by Brian (Hardin) yesterday. I called Zibby (Tom Zbikowski) in to find out what was going on as I was unaware of it. I guess there is something in the content of the show which is different than when it is a promo for the show. Usually a promo for a show is when it brings attention to the show. From what I understand this was something that was run during the show which is a totally different viewpoint. I just got hold of Mike Karwoski and put it in the hands of the people who know so I don't try to act like the compliance officer. I just talked to Zibby to find out what happened. Basically, they hand you a piece of paper that tells you what to say. You go ahead and say it and before you know, you have an issue that you make sure you go ahead and get handled rather than me trying to be the compliance office. I talked to all the parties involved so I am well informed to let them know what happened and let them deal with it from there."
Do you expect this issue to be resolved quickly?"I think one of two things will happen and, of course, I'm always looking on behalf of ours – people talk in comparison to the Leinart situation. The difference is, the Leinart situation was run separate than in the content of the show. Obviously, there are a couple of things that could happen depending on what type of an offense it is. But I'm ignorant as to what offense is what. So rather than me act like Mike or the NCAA, I'll just let them go ahead and let them deal with it, but I think it will be taken care of very quickly."
Have you talked to the team about this and warned them about talking to the media?"I talked to them last night about three different issues, but what I don't want to do is tell them not to talk to the media. Because that's the easiest thing to do is to say, okay, don't talk to the media. So now you have to talk about red flags; hey, this is the type of thing that you might be relatively innocent in what you are doing; these are the types of things that could be tip-offs to something that could turn into negativity. So I think it is important to address things that are potential issues, and when there is an issue, whether it is minor or major, I think you should address it right away with the team so the next time somebody is put in a situation, they understand the possible ramifications that come along with it. Of the three things I talked to the team at 8:00 last night, it was the lead one I talked to them about because it was the freshest of the three things."
Is Jeff Samardzija's weight down a little this year?"He's pretty close to the same, just a tad lighter. He is doing a lot of running whereas last year going in at this time, he was running third so those other guys were getting two reps to his one. Now he is the guy running those extra reps. Between Jeff and Rhema (McKnight), they get more reps than anyone else; then (David) Grimes. It's all proportionate when you get to this stage of camp. Once you get to the second phase, it's no longer giving everyone equal reps; now it's get the guys ready to play."
How do Samardzija and McKnight differ from Stovall and Samardzija?"Rhema is a different receiver than Mo was. Mo was your big fade-ball physical receiver. He wasn't going to beat people at the line of scrimmage. In fact that is one thing I had to teach him, the fact that there are different ways of getting open. A lot of times a big receiver thinks he is just going to run by everyone. Keeshon Johnson was the same way when I first got him. He thought he could run by everyone and it just doesn't work that way. So when you get a guy like that you have to teach him to use his strength and body position to get open rather than just outright quickness and speed. Now Rhema has quickness; he has exceptional quickness. So now it is a whole different element to deal with because Rhema can get open on quicks and that was not Mo's game."
Does Samardzija have quicks?"He has quicks and for a tall guy that's why he gets open so many times, because people see this tall, lanky guy, but he is deceptively fast and has very good quicks. Those are the terms that pro scouts use when they talk about people. Quicks is one of the key things on every form of every team in the league. They talk about exceptional quicks which is getting in and out of breaks and shake-and-bake when somebody is going to cover man-for-man."
Has Ambrose Wooden bumped his game to another level?"He's had a good camp and one of the reasons, besides him working hard, is he has people breathing down his neck. I think when you really don't feel threatened on the depth chart, the obvious thing is to become a tad bit complacent; not that you don't work hard but you know you're going to be out there. But now because we have more competition, everybody is fighting for playing time. And that's a good thing and he has been way better in camp this year than he was last year. You tell them you are first until someone beats you out; that's how you say it. Because I don't think you hand anybody anything. I don't think there is an ownership of a position but there is a proper way you handle it. I think when somebody has a position and it's theirs, someone else is going to have to take it from you; you just don't give it away."
You used the term "trust" a lot. How many of the firsts and seconds in the secondary do you trust?"I would say double digits. I would say about 10. Last year I could say about four or five; so I would say twice as many. I'll give you an example, Terrail Lambert - he didn't see the field much last year and I'm not saying he is a starter, but Terrail Lambert has had a great camp. And I have a lot of confidence in him, and I have told him that several times. I said, you know, I am getting more confident in you every day. So now you're not afraid to play him. As I told you, when we're going out there the first game of the year, in addition to the fact that we have multiple packages where we were more simplistic last year, just the fact that you have to be able to beat the heat and humidity, you can't do that if you are not willing to use your depth. If you are just going to keep your front guys in all the time, then you're just opening up a can of worms."
Have you prepared for the heat and humidity?"We have done it once so far; we practiced inside and cranked it up and it was miserable; which was perfect. The thing is, I was the only one who knew it was going to be miserable. So they go into the Loftus and it isn't like Club Med with the doors open and the fans blowing. The fans were blowing but it was a different kind of temperature. We did it at night when it was hot in there; about 90. It was humid in there. And I turned to a couple of those guys from Georgia, of which we have a few, and said, look familiar? Just trying to send a message to them that this is what it's going to be like. I have a venue where I can do that; it might not be outside, but I can create that environment inside."
How big an advantage is it to have the freshmen come in for the whole summer?"I think it was the same last year when the NCAA started letting you bring them in, in summer school. I think the first thing they do is come in, in shape. When the freshmen first come in, they don't really know what shape really is. They are at high school shape; they don't know the difference between high school shape and college shape. It's just like when college guys go to the pros; once again they don't understand the difference because it changes again. But the fact that they are in shape, that is one less element they have to worry about as they are going through the preparation to go ahead and get going. Having training camp before school starts, and school starts on Tuesday, all the freshmen were excused last night at 5:00 for freshman orientation so they weren't here last night, they weren't here today, and they'll be back tomorrow afternoon. That's like a day and a half when they have quality of life and get to be freshmen. But everything now is going to change for them again because they went from the slow pace in the summertime of taking six hours and getting in condition. To go full-fledged training camp where you go from 6:00 in the morning to 11:00 at night; now they're going to have to intertwine the 20-hour football week with a class schedule. The hardest part for the freshmen is about to hit this Tuesday; because it is clearly the hardest part. The hardest part is when you have to transition from being a football player to a student athlete; that is definitely the hardest part."
Do the freshmen that came in, in January, have an advantage over the summer freshmen?"The one intrinsic value of coming in midyear is that you have already been there; done that. And you are already past that stage; that is definitely an up-tick. The only negative about coming in at midyear - actually, there are two things - the schedules at Notre Dame are usually scheduled first semester, second semester. So that's one thing. But more importantly, I always like seniors being seniors; going to the senior prom, graduating with their boys, you know what I'm saying. Just like all of us when we were in high school. It wasn't like any of us sitting in this room were thinking that we were going to leave midyear of our senior year. I kind of like them being able to enjoy that because once June 18 or June 20 rolls around, they're mine for the next five years."
Do you have any comments on the polls and rankings?"I think it's a lot more important where you are ranked at the end, rather than the beginning. There's going to be a lot of flux in those ratings. There are teams that aren't ranked that are going to end up in the top ten – look, we were one of them last year. We were a team that was unranked and we ended up playing in a BCS game last year. There's going to be another team doing the same thing, just like last year. There are teams in the top ten who before too long won't be there. I'm not worrying where we are now; I'm more concerned where we will be at the end of the year."
Are the freshmen competing for tight end position and wide receiver position facing information overload at this time?"That definitely factors in, but most of them are starting to get past that stage now. Almost all of them are getting past the information overload stage because actually we start cutting back now, not putting in more. Because now it is like the old analogy, you throw it all against the wall and see what sticks. As we now get ready to go into phase three, which we are going to start on Tuesday, now all they are doing is gearing themselves to one team stuff and one set of plays offensively and defensively. So it isn't 250 different plays and formations, there might be 50. So now you have a better chance to produce against that when you know what you are looking at and it isn't what is going to happen on this play. So that starts to settle in and then it comes down to who can handle the transition the best, and it might not be a freshman. It might be a backup who has been waiting in the wings. It all depends on how it plays out. The freshmen are the newest faces, but there are always guys that you weren't counting on, all of a sudden coming to the forefront."
Is Darrin Bragg one of the guys in the mix?"He has a chance to be anywhere from four to ten; that's where he can be. The best part about that, you know who controls that? Him. I don't really control that, he controls that because you either produce or you don't produce. And I try not to fall in love with anybody and just go with what I see. He has a few more opportunities to stake his claim."
Have you decided on a number one kicker yet?"No, I won't announce that until game week. I'm charting everything that is happening right there and the guy who is doing the best and is most consistent will be the guy who goes. Once again, I'm working a couple guys at kickoff and field goals every day. And I'm round-robining things. Different guys will be kicking here in the next few days and instead of it being like an open competition, it's going to start closing down some. When I make a decision, I will let you know. I'm not looking at having any big surprises and that's true with the whole rest of the depth chart. When I feel I've got it etched in stone, I will let everyone know and I won't let you guys be the last to know."
You hear a lot of talk about the change in attitude about the team. Do you feel you led a resurgence last year?"I don't know. I wasn't here before last year. So I'm just going by what's happened since I've been here, and I really don't have a reference point what was happening before I got here. I didn't coach the last team, I don't know the last team, and I wasn't watching the games. I was getting ready for my own games. All I want is our team to improve from the year before and it has improved across the board. I made plenty of mistakes my first year; our assistants did; the players did, and I'm hoping unilaterally across the board we are better in every facet this year than we were last year. And I'm hoping consistently that ends up being the case. That we are steady-eddie than up-and-down."
Do you prepare the team differently for going on the road and how do you like playing on the road?"I like going on the road and enjoy going on the road and I'm going to try to enjoy being at home a little more this year. I'm going to try and not start off 0-2 this year. But I enjoy going on the road because it plays to my psyche of us-against-the-world mentality. It's just us in the locker room; there will be a few fans there. But basically it's going to be all them and probably hostile and just the way you want it. I like to play to that psyche."
Lots of talk by alums and others about Notre Dame ending the national championship drought, what do you think about this?"Would I love for us to win it all – yes. I would love for us to have won it all last year though. We had an opportunity last year and we didn't. But would I like to win it this year – yes. Would I like to win it next year – you betcha. And the year after, sign me up. We are worrying about Georgia Tech. I do not say one word about those two terms. The two words I am using is Georgia and Tech. Realistically, it is the best way to keep your team focused if you truly look at one opponent at a time. Because if you don't, you're going to get beat. And that's the way I have to look at it."