Junior Running Back Darius Walker
How was your break?"It was relaxing; it really was. I enjoyed myself. I got to go to Chicago with a buddy of mine, off the team. We spent some time with his family there; it was really great."
How did practice go today?"Practice was good. Actually it was very good. Usually the norm coming off a bye week or something like that….the team will come out kind of sluggish or a little rusty, so to speak. But I definitely thought we came out and worked hard and it didn't look like we had missed a beat."
Was coach Weis pleased with practice?"He was. He was really pleased and I think how we kind of saw that. There wasn't a whole lot of yelling (laughter) and telling people what they need to do. He kind of stayed calm the whole practice and that was good."
What are your thoughts on UCLA?"They're a good team….a very solid, solid team. They're very fast. They are smaller guys at their positions, but they are very quick and fast, so that definitely can pose a problem for our offense."
Oregon was able to run against UCLA. What did you see that the Ducks were able to do?"I think the Ducks just came out and played a more physical game than they did. They really came out and were focused on what they had to do. They wanted to run the ball and they continued to run the ball. Their running backs played very well and we got a chance to see some of that. They came out and just kind of beat up on them."
Did you watch much film of UCLA last week?"We got a chance to see a little bit but basically last week, our week off, we were just focusing on getting ourselves better and getting ourselves ready to play."
What did you guys mainly focus on last week?"Just fundamentals. Fundamentals are always key, and that is something if you don't work on, you kind of lose it a little bit, like staying in game shape and staying in game mode. So we really wanted to revert back and start with the basics to make sure that everything was in order."
Are you healed up a little bit?"I would definitely say so. Bye weeks are lovely, especially when ours rolled in directly in the middle of the season, which was really good for us. We played our first six games and then we got a little time off. Now we've got to strap up and go for another six."
What did you do over the bye week?"I did some shopping. (I) got a few extra clothes and everything, and I was excited about that as it picked up my wardrobe a little bit so I can't complain."
Did you check out any games or Chicago nightlife?"Yeah, I got to see a little bit of the nightlife and get some food and stuff in Chicago. I did get a chance to watch the Auburn-Florida game. It was really a fun game to watch."
Any plans for your 21st birthday?"Wow, wow, 21 (laughing). Well, of course I've got a little something to do on that day; besides it being just a special day. So that is what I'm really focused on. But I'll definitely come up with something once the game is over."
What do you think went into today's practice to keep it from being sloppy after the bye week?"I definitely would say that has a lot to do with our leadership and experience. We have a lot of guys who have played considerable time in game, and we kind of understand the system. I think we all knew in general that bye weeks can make you come out rusty for the next game. We all understood that and focused on what we had to do, so we didn't come out like that."
Are you guys a day ahead in your preparation for UCLA?"Exactly, that's the good thing about a bye week, it helps you get a jump on the team that you are playing the next week so we got to see a little early film and do a little early preparation, which was good."
Senior Receiver Jeff Samardzija
After watching some teams over the weekend, does that get you fired up to get back out on the field and hope that you move up in the rankings?"A little bit as a fan. I enjoy watching football, but more so you just have to understand you have to take care of what you do and you can't concentrate too much on what everybody else does. Whatever happens, happens, but the whole weekend was a chance to get away and enjoy the time off, and you worry about football when you get back on campus."
What is your take on the UCLA defense?"I think they understand that their team leans on them, and I think when you watch them they have a confidence about them when they play. They kind of have a swagger that they are a team, not just a defense or an offense. They have a lot of talent and some guys are putting up a lot of numbers. That's definitely something you have to be aware of and understand, and you break down the film to see what you want to do for the game."
It's been 43 years since UCLA and Notre Dame played. Can you sense the excitement of a game like this when you are on the field?"A little bit. They are a big team and a big college program. Anytime you get two big college programs together, there is usually a sense in the air that something is going to happen whether it's a big exciting game, you just have to get up and be ready for it and excited to play."
How much easier is it this week when you don't have to go to classes?"It's amazing. It's a great feeling. It kind of puts you into a different mentality. It actually gets you a little more time to rest. You get a little more time to lay around. The commotion on campus isn't much. You can freely walk to your car and get some food here and there and it's all nice and easy. It's kind of being like a professional athlete in a sense. It's that kind of mentality to have one goal and that's to play the sport you are playing, and it feels good."
What do you think of Piniella being named Cubs manager?"I don't know. I just saw it on Comcast. I haven't heard too much about it. And again, it's football season, so I've tried to steer away from any baseball stuff."
Senior Tight End John Carlson
What did you do on your time off?"I went home to Minnesota."
Is it snowing there already?"No, it's gorgeous in Minnesota this time of year. You should really take a trip up there. I had a nice weekend. I spent a lot of time with my family, my brother and his wife, and my two sisters and their families. It was pretty relaxing. I spent some time with my niece and nephew and watched a little football on TV. Watched my buddy, Anthony (Fasano), and it was a good weekend."
Do you feel well rested coming back or is that pretty much thrown out the window after the first practice?"No, no, definitely I feel rested. It was good to get out of here and kind of take a deep breath and recover a little bit physically and get some good home-cooked meals. It was a good weekend."
What is one thing on offense as a group that needs to be improved?"It's hard to pinpoint that but I think consistency has been a focus of ours the last few games. And I think that is something we need to carry over into the second half of the season."
Any reaction to the BCS standings or do you even pay attention to that?"To be honest, I didn't even look. I heard some guys talking but it doesn't matter right now."
Why would you guys not want to know what the standings are?"Why does it matter? We're not playing a bowl game tomorrow. It really doesn't matter until the end of the year."
How was it getting back out there today? Did you guys feel rusty?"I didn't feel that we were rusty. There are obviously some things like a missed block here or something that doesn't quite click, but I felt overall that things were moving around pretty well."
What games did you watch over the weekend?"I watched most of the Penn State-Michigan game and watched Anthony's game Sunday, the Cowboys."
Did you see the Miami-Florida International game?"I didn't see the game but saw some of the - I don't know if I would call them highlights; low lights perhaps - but I did see that."
As a player is it hard to fathom that kind of action?"I have never been in that situation so it is really hard for me to comment on that."
Did you ever expect that you would line up at fullback?"With this offense, the tight end position has to be versatile. The tight end has to be able to do a number of things and I'm put in that position."
How many reps do you get at the fullback position in practice?"We kind of mix things up and do a little bit of everything."
Senior Offensive Lineman Ryan Harris
You've had a chance to watch tape of UCLA, what is your opinion of them?"They are a fast team. All PAC 10 teams are fast and have great athletes. From a defensive standpoint, they play with speed and have a lot of different blitzes, and their defensive line is very athletic."
When they have defensive ends that rotate from one side to the other, how big a problem is that?"You have to be ready to see both ends. They are similar players, but both do different things, and you just have to be prepared for that and know your assignments."
Do you expect to communicate more with Sam Young in this game where the defensive ends do rotate?"Definitely, if we see a tendency or something, we'll communicate that, but that's in every game but especially when you're going to see guys flip back and forth like that."
How did you spend your fall break?"I went home and relaxed and watched my little five-year-old brother's soccer game. I couldn't be happier at home and watching television and seeing some of the other college football games."
Did his team win?"Yes, absolutely, and he scored three goals, too. It's always good to be home, and I definitely ate a lot of Grandma's cooking and I'm happy to be back too."
Does that good feeling last or does it usually end after the first practice?"Pretty much the day you know you are going back, you have to start getting mentally ready. It's good to be home, but you spend so much time here and you spend so much time around the guys, it's good to be back."
What is the one thing the offense needs to improve upon in the next six games?"Consistency. We have to get more consistent across the board. As an offensive line we have to get more consistent and performance-wise as an offense, we need to score more points consistently."
How do you go about doing that?"Practice consistency. Practice to have few mental mistakes and try to practice perfect, and that should help your consistency on game day."
Did the head coach seem well rested after his break?"Coach always seems well rested (laughing). He always has energy at practice, so we can never tell with him."
With no classes this week, is everybody catching up on their reading of "No Excuses," the book by coach Weis, or has anybody seen it in the locker room?"I heard he had a book signing but I didn't know if it was his book or what. It was not required reading. I think we have enough material on him we could write our own books, so we'll stay with that."
How do you think the offensive line did at practice today?"I think we were definitely intense, even more intense than we have been in weeks prior. We have goals that we want to accomplish, and I think when you break up the season into two parts like this, you really get a chance to start over and to say we're not going to wait until the end of the year. We're not going to work on it in the off-season. We're going to attack it now and correct our mistakes now."
What did you learn from the first six games of the season?"One of the things we learned as a team is that we feed off each other. As an offense, when we score points, the defense plays better. Our defense enjoys the game and has a lot less pressure on them. When special teams have a big play, the offense and defense feed off of that. We learned that when we play well together, good things will happen. As an offense we learned that when we play consistent, we're pretty dominant in games. We also learned when we make mistakes; they can be costly even if they are few."
As Sam Young's mentor, what would you say he has improved on the most?"He has settled in and has started to go past other people's expectations and really create his own. And that is something that takes time for young players, especially a player like Sam Young. Everybody said he is going to do this thing or that thing, and I think he has found out he has to play with his own expectations."
What are your thoughts about only having six more regular season games at Notre Dame?"I'm definitely cognizant that I'm running out of time. I'm confident in these young players, like Sam Young and John Sullivan, and passing the torch to someone who is ready and willing to do. There are good players coming up behind us, and I just want to focus on playing with these guys and having the best six games of our career."
Is there a sense of urgency right now for you seniors?"We just want to play well and, like I said, breaking up the season into two parts really makes you focus, especially when you can't wait until the end of the year because you don't have an end of the year. You know what you're doing wrong, let's fix it, and let's go."