Coach, have you decided who is and who isn't on the bus?"There's anywhere from zero to four more spots. Normally, I told them I don't put up a list until Thursday, but it's a little different deal with the first game because you've had so much time to prepare for it. Right now, I've put up a tentative list for them but based on watching the tape of today and getting through tomorrow, I might not take any more than what's on the list or I might take up to four more."
How many on the list are freshmen?"I'd have to think and go through and count; I really didn't think about it. If you give me a minute, I will think about it. (Pause) I'd say about seventeen; somewhere in that neighborhood give or take a couple, but that's close. There are still a few more things possibly to be decided."
Zibby and the whole defense seem to have a chip on their shoulders after the Fiesta Bowl loss and all the talk about the defense being weak. What do you think about this attitude?"It's no big secret how the season ended. It leaves a really bad taste in your mouth. When you had what everyone considered a half-way decent year and you walk off the field with a team getting 617 yards against you, seriously, that's not the way you want to end the year. So you have to live with that the whole off-season. The whole off-season is remembered by what happened in the last game. No one remembers really too much about what happened in the early games, it's how the season ends. So I think they have had a lot of time to reflect on that and they worked really hard and let's see if that hard work and the tweaks in the system and the hard work by all these guys pay dividends. I think they're counting on it and so am I."
Is it better to face a dual-threat quarterback early in the season or later in the season?"I would rather face him first, if that's what you're saying. I think this would be even a tougher task if you faced them right in the middle of the year. I'll give you an example. Like when you play Navy, all of a sudden, it's in the middle of the year and you play Navy and that offense that they run; not many teams run that. And when you get one week to get ready for an offense like that, it's quite challenging. So in this case, when you have a top-line wide receiver, you've got quality depth at running back, you have some big bodies at tight end and fullback, and you've got a veteran offensive line, you have an elusive quarterback as a dual threat, it's never good, but it's better to do it now when you have all the extra time to scheme things rather than if you just had a regular 20-hour work week."
How is Leo Ferrine progressing?"He's one of those guys right on the cusp and his on-the-cusp is different as he has been up and down health-wise. He's missed some time, then he's in, then he's out. It's not a question about if he's one of the guys that's good enough to play, it's whether he is ready enough to play or not. I'm not taking people just to take them. Every once in a while you will take a freshman for the learning experience of seeing what it's like when you're on the road. But right now, we have a lot at stake in this opener, and I'm not into this being a pleasure trip. Guys that go to this game, if we need to, they are going to be ready to play in this game. I would say he's close. He and I had this conversation just today."
Do you see (Brian) Mattes rotating in like he did last year?"I would say not equal. Last year it was a four-for-three, and it was a very even rotation. I think you have three starters and a backup. I can very easily see Brian playing in the game at left tackle, left guard, and right guard. I can very easily see him playing all three of those spots in the game."
Have there been any game-day coaching assignment changes?"As a matter of fact, we are making a shift on defense. Rick (Minter) is going up into the box for the first time in 22 years. And Bill Lewis is coming down. Part of it is communication with the secondary. Jeff (Burrow) works with Bill with the secondary so he's up with Rick. I felt some of our biggest problems last year was communication problems in the secondary. And I felt the easiest way to take care of that problem was to have the DB coach down on the sidelines. We had to do some practice sessions over in the stadium to see if Rick would feel comfortable in doing that or not, because if he didn't feel comfortable in doing it, I wouldn't make the switch. There's some give and take. What's more important, I obviously want Rick to feel comfortable calling the game. I know he hasn't been up in the booth for awhile but as a play-caller you have a whole different perspective of the game being up in the box because you have less distractions and you see the game a whole lot better. Every time we went into the stadium at night, we went into the booth and worked it out that way. After the second time, he was ready to roll, because I'm asking him, I'm not mandating, hey, what we are going to do, but that's what we're doing."
You seemed a little animated in practice today. How closely do you watch the players as individuals?"For a good portion of practice, everybody gets to practice their position before you go to show teams. And a lot of time, I am watching positions because I'm trying to decide, am I going to take this guy or that guy. And I have other people watching along with me and when I find a guy who doesn't look like they want to get their turns in reps, that doesn't fire me up too much. Do your reps and go through there, especially when I'm evaluating guys going to the game or not going to the game."
What is there left for you and the staff to do this week?"Normally we would still have red zone and goal line and two minutes to do, but we have done them multiple times; red zone, goal line, and two minutes. I have tried to peak them physically for the game, so tomorrow will be a glorified Friday practice at just a higher tempo. It will be, go over all the exotics on special teams and the tricks that could show up that you don't practice; like a surprise on-side kick. It's not something that you go and practice all the time. Because you have extra time now, now's the time to do it. This will be more of a tune up, move the field kind of thing where you go down and distance. And go down the field and actually simulate playing in the game."
How much input did you want to have, or have, on Brady's Heisman campaign, or lack of?"What I did with John (Heisler) and Doug (Walker) last spring, I said I felt it would be better to address it on the front end rather than it being an ongoing issue throughout the season. So I just told them whatever we are going to do, I want it out of the way before the year comes around. With these magazines and all the other one-on-one deals that people try to get to when it comes to that, I said once the season starts - and this week is the season - the best way for him to get noticed is by how he plays. It's not how he talks. It's not by how he interviews and not by how he looks. It's by how he plays. I was all for getting any pub out for the kid, just as long as when it was time to play ball, we could play ball."
Did you talk to him or care whether he had his own website and stuff like that?"I don't care; I really don't care. I expect our guys not to be selfish players and not to be all about them. I have a website and all it does is go right to Hannah and Friends. It's just so somebody doesn't have my name; that's all. You click and there it goes to Hannah and Friends. It's not like I'm going to start charging people ten dollars so I can tell them the inside scoop of what's happening with Notre Dame football."
Last year at this time, there seemed to be a lack of confidence by the fans in the team. And now the fans have high expectations and a lot of confidence in this team. How do you keep a balance and the team focused?"I have a whole bunch of press clippings from down in Atlanta that seem to differ with that opinion. I happened to read a whole bunch of them and highlight a whole bunch of them and lay them in their lockers. There are a lot of people down there on that team that thinks just the opposite. We're not the only team playing here. And they know this other team is going to be ready to go and they're fired up for it. It's their home opener and it's a highly ranked team and they have had great success against highly ranked teams and home openers. So they have every reason to believe they are going to win the game too. It doesn't take much to go back and look at the history of Georgia Tech to know you are going against a formidable foe."