Wide Receivers Coach/Recruiting Coordinator Rob Ianello
Do you feel (Jeff) Samardzija has seen much double-teaming so far this year?"I don't think we've seen a lot of double-teaming. We have seen some roll-coverage where you might play three deep and roll to him, but it hasn't been a hard and fast rule at all. Because we do have a talented receiver on the other side and a talented tight end which has really, really helped force defenses to play honest, if that's the proper term."
What was the point of emphasis for Jeff from his junior year to his senior year?"At the end of his junior year, we sat down with every receiver including Jeff and we identified what are the areas of improvement specifically. Then we worked through drills and then when we got back into training camp, we talked about those every day. When you are a receiver, you are talking about sharpness out of your routes, you are talking about sticking DB's, you are talking about competing for the ball, you are talking about all those kind of things and as a coach, you are striving to push your players for perfection knowing you're never going to get it, but you are trying to push to get it all the time."
Do you think Jeff's not being here all summer has been a hindrance?"I think they have worked hard and fast to make up for whatever wasn't there this summer. I won't say that there was anything good or bad. I think the relationship between a receiver and a quarterback is very important and I think for the receivers and the quarterback to be on the same page and there is a feel that goes with that: I know when you run that option route; I know when the guy is playing like that, you're going to break out; I know that when we are running that stick route, you're going to make that move and go here. It's like a point guard has a feel for where the forward is going to be and how I'm going to throw that alley oop. That comes from playing pickup games all the time. I think there is a certain feel that is involved in that. And I believe the more you practice and the more you're playing and the more you're doing things together, you continue to develop that feeling and get comfortable with each other. Fortunately, our receivers have worked with Brady. Brady has been the quarterback here for four years so they have had time with him prior to us getting here and now the time since we've been here getting the system that we've been running. So every day I think you get better; as a football player you get better; you get worse; you never stay the same. After we played Michigan, we needed to improve. We did some things really well against Michigan State and we did some things we have to get better at. And we've got to get back on those things as we did today."
When you are facing a less experienced defense, do you prepare any differently?"We are preparing for what Purdue does. We are preparing to get ourselves better. There are plenty of things the Notre Dame receivers need to improve on first and foremost before you start looking at an opponent. Then what you do in a game plan is prepare how you attack an opponent week to week. And this week it is Purdue and we're going to do the things we need to do to get better to improve and attack them."
What are Purdue's secondary strong points?"They are 4-0 so they are a good football team. They just had a Big Ten win and it's hard to win games in the Big Ten. They play physical and they play aggressive and will be quite a challenge."
How do you teach receivers to improve their moves?"We work on stick moves. We work on sticking routes. We work on double moving guys. We do those types of things and you want to talk about making plays and finishing plays and getting them to finish plays in practice. If they're not finishing plays in practice, stay on them to finish plays in practice. Every play counts, every play counts; you don't know which play is going to decide the game so you have to make every play count."
Senior Receiver Jeff Samardzija
How have you seen teams adjust to you this year to try and take you out of the game?"Obviously, teams are going to be a little more aware of this or that when you're out there so you just have to be on top of your game all the time which forces you to do the right things, and you have to do things perfect all the time."
Have teams tried to press you at the line of scrimmage or double-team you more?"It's been there on and off. When we break down film, we come into the week ready to play and we don't do anything special for me or for anybody else. So it's just about me getting ready to play and making adjustments out on the field if there is something different."
How have you had to adjust your game this year from last year?"Everything just has to be finer. Everything has to be more in tune. You have to dot your I's and cross your T's this year. That's just how it's going to be and it comes down to me and Brady and I think we've been doing a real good job with it. Last week was just another growing week and we're learning from it and moving on."
Purdue was pretty attractive to you coming out of high school. How close were you to going there?"Yeah, being a midwest guy, I was pretty open to any school in the midwest at the beginning of my recruiting process. Obviously, it was pretty hard to start off everyone even, being so close to here and Purdue. Those two teams and Michigan made it a close race and I made my decision early so I would just have to worry about my senior year of football in high school."
Coming out of high school, was their style of offense attractive to you?"Naturally, if you're a receiver and the team is throwing the ball, you're going to consider them. Like I said, I went through the whole process and weighed my options and talked to the right people and here I am and I don't have any regrets."
Is it true that you were ready to commit to Purdue and then Notre Dame offered?"No, I think my Dad was ready for me to commit just because he was a father worrying about me getting hurt or something. (laughter) No, I just talked to a few people and they said, wait it out and make the decision that's best for you. And that's kind of what I did."
Was there one thing that made you decide on Notre Dame?"No there wasn't. It was just kind of Notre Dame. I'm getting old now, being here so long. You're making me go back in the archives. Notre Dame just did it for me. I made a lot of visits here and attended a lot of games and got real close with the coaches."
Is it harder being a known commodity this year?"I don't know, last year you might say it was a surprise or whatever. But surprises don't last too long, so after a few games they were kind of doing the same thing they are doing now. Like I said, you have to go out there and understand your situation and what is going to happen. You have to understand that you have to be on top of your game every week. Whoever you're playing is trying to knock you off so you have to stay on top of your game."
Do you and the other receivers feel more comfortable with the no-huddle offense?"I don't know, but obviously as a receiver you don't mind when you're flinging it around the field. As a whole offense, I can't really speak to that. Personally, I just like to go out and run plays that the offense has confidence in. Whether that's the no-huddle or running three tight ends or whatever, that's what I want the offense to do. Throughout the week, you have to find out what feels good out there and where you can have confidence in the game."
Senior Tight-End John Carlson
What is the focus this week?"We need to make improvements and be as ready as possible for what they're going to give us."
Third-down conversions have been a problem this year, but is there another way to explain the slow start by the offense?"I'm not really sure. I'll leave that to the coaches."
Later in the game, you guys seemed to get in a rhythm but that doesn't happen early on. Can you explain that?"I can't speak for the rest of the team but for me personally, I feel that I'm as focused at the beginning of the game as I am at the end of the game, and I feel like I have the same energy level. Whether that permeates the team, I'm not sure. It comes down to execution and we need to do a better job."
What do you take from the Michigan State game into this week's game?"Really, this week is all about Purdue. We just need to make improvements every week. Come in and practice hard and try to get a little better every day."
It was stated that Coach Weis said, "It's a 60-minute game." What does that mean to you?"Consistency and executing on every play; it's very simple, take care. For me personally, I need to take care of my responsibilities on every play and that's all I can do."
What are the biggest strides you have made from last year to this year?"Obviously, I've gotten more experience with Anthony Fasano not being here. I'm put in position to take all the reps in practice and the games. I still feel like I'm a young player even though I'm a senior. I really haven't taken as many reps as a lot of guys have, so really, experience is the most important thing I have gained."
Is there a big difference in the rhythm when you guys go no-huddle?"I feel that sometimes it helps our offense get into a rhythm. And as a tight end or any other position, it is better to be in a rhythm, obviously. I like going no-huddle because a lot of the time the defense isn't ready for it. I like no-huddle as much as going out of a huddle."
What do you expect from the Purdue defense?"They're 4-0. We need to do everything we can this week to prepare for them, and it's going to be a dogfight."
What's one area of improvement you need to focus on this week?"Every week it's the same thing, improving on blocking, improving on route technique, generally it's improving consistency on a play-by-play basis; just getting my job done on every play."
Coach Weis is aware of everything that goes on. Are you harder on yourself than what he is?"I'd like to think so. I hope I have the highest expectations for myself."
Senior Lineman Bob Morton
How do you evaluate balance in a game?"Balance is a feel for the game. I think there's a time when the ball is thrown 50 times and there will be times when it's run 40 or 50 times. As an offensive lineman, the balance you want to feel is the lack of balance the defensive lineman has because he doesn't know what's coming next."
How do you evaluate the success of the offensive line after a game?"It's the balance that we just talked about. Statistics don't mean a thing to me. When the coaches give you statistics, they mean something, but outside of that, it really doesn't mean anything to me. Looking at the film, you can remember what you were thinking during a certain play and how you were feeling during the drive. What we're trying to do is find a personal balance."
You've been outscored a lot in the first quarter. How do you turn that in your favor?"Personally, I have to do more to help the team progress and I think individually we want to better ourselves and as a unit play better and start faster."
What do you remember about the Purdue game last year and how you guys were progressing? And how would you compare that to where you are this year?"I didn't play. It was weird to be third person at that point because things really started to click. I was trying to make sure my cog was fitting in with the gears that were rolling. I really can't give a better educated answer because I was outside looking in."
How does the word balance apply to this team and Coach Weis stating that it's a 60-minute game?"Regardless of the ups and downs we've had, the experienced guys we have keep a pretty even keel. So we just need to keep a solid level of intensity from the first quarter through the fourth. That's every team's goal and that's ours. And that is what we are bettering ourselves individually and as a team to accomplish."
How important is John Carlson to the running game and the overall team?"John Carlson is the model American. He is just a solid citizen and he is a hard-worker all of the time. No matter what the play is, he is always giving the effort. His motor is constantly running and that's all you can ask from a teammate. He is a brother-in-arms and no matter what happens, he is never going to give up on a play. And I think we have seen that so far this year. It's really sweet when that sixth lineman gets to run the ball 70 yards down the field."