How long did it take for Coach Minter to get comfortable in the booth during Saturday's game?"Well, all I do know is by the time it got to be the second half, being on that headset, which I am on when we are on defense, you could feel a comfort level setting in. I know you have Rick (Minter) dialed up to talk about that this evening. I'm just telling you from my perspective, I could feel Rick anticipating what was going to happen before it happened and a lot of times, you can't get that same type of feel as a defensive guy on the field as you can upstairs because sometimes you can just see it happening. The other thing that happens when you are upstairs - and I've done that before, the last time I was really upstairs was my first year in New England, the second time after we left the Jets - you can lay everything out there and you have all the information right in front of you. You don't have to think about what's coming up next because you have everything laid out, tendencies, charts, and everything in front of you. Whereas when you are on the sidelines, you just can't do that. You just have to go and have a good memory for what's happening and trust the people upstairs to feed you the right information."
What determines the amount of nickel packages that you use in a game?"It's their personnel, down and distance. For example if they put in two backs and two tight ends and one wide receiver, the odds of you being in a nickel are very small. But if it's second and fifteen and they put in two backs and two receivers and one tight end, which is not a three wide receiver package, very often teams will go to a nickel because it is predicated by down and distance. Sometimes it is predicated by personnel and sometimes it is predicated by down and distance."
Derek Landri has put on about 20 pounds and increased his speed. How can he do this?"Well, I don't know if he's got any faster. He was really quick last year, just a lot smaller. I think what he did do was he didn't lose any speed. That's a more critical evaluation of the fact when you gain over 20 pounds and you lose no quickness. I think that was the critical factor because now when you get banged around by those centers and guards inside, those 300 pounders, a lot of time there are two of them on you, it allows your body to hold up more during the course of the season."
With Brady being down after Saturday's game, how do you deal with him this week?"There are tiers in the week. The week is broken down into different segments. For example you only have so much time you can spend with them so what he and I do, he meets with the quarterbacks and Coach Voss and then he meets with me personally, so he gets double-teamed. We have been able to go back and analyze last week and we have really been able to delve into what we need to do to play better. And I think he's had a pretty good couple of days and he is expected to have a pretty good one on Saturday."
Do you think playing a team like Georgia Tech is an advantage for your opponents because they can see your weaknesses?"I don't look at it as showing your weaknesses. They're a good football team and they show you things that other teams are going to try and do. It's almost like they're tipping you off now. There's a definite pro to having people challenge you because this is a copycat business. When people see something, they say, we'll try to do that because this seemed to give them some problems. At least you can address those things as they come around. You continue to work on them and become better prepared when they come to fruition."
Travis Thomas is sort of a hybrid player. Do you anticipate having more players like this in the future?"I think there is always a place for that. For example, if you have a DB, but let's not create Deion Sanders now, and let's say if you have a corner that runs a 4.3 in the 40 and in high school he played wide receiver and DB. There is no reason to at least not spot him in there as a wide receiver. Sometimes, it's the combination of linebacker and tight end and sometimes it's wide receiver and DB. In Travis's case, it was running back and linebacker. It all depends on the person; it all depends on them. We had guys like Troy Brown that played receiver forever and we had a bunch of injuries in New England and he ended up playing nickel back for half the year and starting. If they have that, you always have to be ready to use it. Why waste a God-given ability. First thing I tell all these guys is I want you to learn the position you're being recruited for, first. Once you have that one down, we'll take a look at you on the other side. In Travis's case, I think by this time he is a proven commodity at running back. So me flipping him over there with minimal reps is not disadvantageous because we trust he'll know what to do and know how to do it."
Is it harder to prepare for a quarterback like Morelli because you only get to see one tape of him?"Well, no, a drop-back quarterback is a drop-back quarterback. He happens to have a strong arm but you go on the premise of a drop-back quarterback. The first time around, it would be harder to get ready for a dual-threat quarterback. Now you're getting ready for a guy with a live arm who wants to stand in the pocket and sling it down the field. I think we have a couple of guys in camp that can at least simulate him in practice and give our defense a good look."
Coming from New Jersey, were you a Penn State fan growing up?"No, no. I always rooted for Notre Dame. I wasn't a rah-rah Notre Dame person. Rutgers wasn't real big at the time so there wasn't really a big in-state school and everyone was basically a pro football fan – I was a Giants fan. When it came to college football, the game that was on every week was Notre Dame and that was the game we watched."
Did you have to go back to Morelli's high school days to get tape?"He played last year. He has 20 throws from last year. We have them all cut out and we have all the plays from last year so we don't have to go back to there. But what you do know is you have prototypical 6-4, 215 pound drop-back quarterback with a strong arm who can sling it down the field. So that's what you have to get ready for. You can name him whatever you want, but his name happens to be Morelli and he's pretty good at doing those things – he can sling it down the field."
After two days of practice this week, are you satisfied that the offensive line has eliminated penalty situations?"In two days, in group drills, we have not had an offensive penalty at the line of scrimmage. We did have one in the line period and that person might still be running; I don't know. The line of scrimmage penalties this week have been greatly decreased."
Notre Dame hasn't been really successful at home in recent years. How do you make this a tougher place to play?"First of all, I'm going to antagonize them like I did last year at that pep rally. I'll antagonize our fans again to try to get them to be extremely loud during the game. Unlike last year, like I said before, where I messed it up – I did, I messed it up acting like it was such a distraction – we're really trying to embrace the home field environment this time and play into it. We have addressed this from day one of the week as well. Last year I kept saying, distraction-distraction; I'm going to the dome pep rally tomorrow night and like everything else, I'm going to try not to mess it up again."
Could you talk about Victor Abiamiri and the front four?"Those guys playing up front are veterans and are in extremely good shape and are quick. They should be one of the strengths of our football team at that position. The defensive line position should be one of the strengths of our football team. Not only are they veterans but they are good football players on top of it. And we'll have to see because it is a week-to-week thing. Hopefully they continue to put pressure on the quarterback and make plays in the running game. I'm counting on them as a group of veteran guys to make a bunch of plays for us."
Do you set goals for the number of sacks?"No, I think pressure is sometimes as important as sacks; making the quarterback throw under duress. Because a lot of time, when you see the 50 percent completions for a game, it wasn't because they got sacked six times, it was because the quarterback felt pressure most of the night. I think pressure has just as much adverse effect on a passing game as a sack does."
Playing with less containment this week, do you think you'll be able to get more pressure on the quarterback?"Once again, it comes down to blocking schemes. The logical thing to say is okay, it's a drop-back quarterback, now you'd better get to him so he can't step into the pocket, but they are a very well coached team as well as blocking schemes go. So you're going to have to come up with some ways to get there and I don't necessarily mean blitzing. You are going to have to find some ways to get there where you can beat their protection schemes as well; that's part of it."