Offensive Coordinator Mike Haywood
If Navy is playing a 3-4 quite a bit and then switches to a 4-3, does that change the play that you've sent in?"We send the play in before then because they being 3-4 personnel, and in the 4-3 they move down into a defensive end position, so we just make a different change in the proper ID's we make but the play stays on as called. So it doesn't have a significant impact on everything we do."
Does the Navy scheme remind you of any other teams that you've played in the last couple of years?"Navy from last year (laughing). They are basically doing the same thing. We analyzed the film from the previous year and they are basically doing the same thing with a little bit more blitz. We just have to get prepared for it."
They have what is called a gimmick offense. Could their defense be labeled the same way?"They have undersized players in certain positions. They do a nice job of slanting and angling and moving guys around showing different fronts; not showing their blitz package and hitting it from the run. So they do a nice job of disguising by doing those things, especially things we haven't seen all year."
In trying to establish the run, how does that affect the things that you do in practice?"In one of our periods today, we had a 20-play run period, and basically what we have to do is improve as a unit in running the football. It takes using the same techniques and fundamentals that we have been using throughout the year but just getting better at it. Winning the war in the trenches and backs running with a little more power and running with better vision, and anticipating who the defenders are and understanding where your cuts are prior to the defender attacking you. So we just have to get better at the little things to improve our running game."
What do you do to make this improvement?"We run the same plays over and over again, but maybe from different formations and different defenses. The more times and reps that they can see the same play, gives us a better opportunity to have success."
Darius has had some up and down games. Do you still have faith in his ability?"I think Darius is a good player. Everything goes with the entire running back crew. We have to run with more power. That's the bottom line. We have to improve our yards after touch and our yards after contact. In doing those things, we have to do a better job of cutting back to the inside numbers and setting up the defenders and then running with better pad level and exploding through defenders."
Receivers Coach Rob Ianello
How important is it to develop the young players as third receivers?"You want all of your receivers to be reliable and guys that you can count on; all of them - one, two, three, four – it's third down, throw it my way. That's the mental approach you want to have in the receiver group. Obviously the guy who gets in, in the third receiver sets, he's got a huge role and has to perform at a high level. If you are going to do some things defensively to take away some other guys, that's a great opportunity for that third receiver to step up and make somebody pay. If you are going to double or triple team Michael Jordan, somebody else has to make a shot. That's how Scottie Pippen made millions, by being that kind of player. We're just looking for guys who fit the role and know what to do and be sound fundamentally and do it with great effort all of the time."
Coming out of the bye week, Grimes had eight catches. Was that sort of a point of emphasis getting that third receiver involved?"Our emphasis was on a total improvement and being crisper and being sharper. That was our emphasis in the bye week and the run game and the passing game was all part of that. We were just able to do things a little bit better; a little bit sharper. Some of their coverage on Saturday dictated a few things on Saturday which helped that, and Brady did a great job with the football and David responded. That second to last catch in the game, you couldn't have put that ball anyplace else than where Brady put it. And David made a great catch. There are certain things that really good players hopefully make plays and continue to make plays. Either you get better or worse as a football player, so if you had a performance that you thought was good, then the next performance needs to be better."
Did David slip just before that catch?"Yes, he did. It's amazing when you have your back against the wall, guys find ways to make plays."
How hard is it to tackle Jeff Samardzija?"Jeff has great control of his body and people probably underestimate his strength, his lower body strength and upper body strength. He is really a big man. In the open field you are going to have to be square and you're going to going to have to bring your feet and really tackle him because if you don't, he's going to break some tackles."
When you scrimmage live, does he make some of the defensive secondary players frustrated?"He shows he has great balance and he shows he has great control of his body. He does that on a pretty consistent basis."
Because of the things you mentioned about Jeff, is that some of the reasons he is a good target?"That's part of it, and we have someone we feel comfortable throwing it to. Rhema has done a great job of blocking, so now we have a real good combination of someone able to block and somebody able to catch. That adds another dimension to our offense."
Are you surprised how quickly John Carlson has developed?"We are not surprised with John's development. We felt John was a guy who had a lot of ability and a lot of tools and it is important for him to be successful. We certainly are excited about his emergence. He makes our team stronger. His performance makes our offense stronger and gives us options. We certainly are proud of what he has done so far. We are fortunate that he still has more time with us to continue to develop."
Junior Running Back Darius Walker
Could you talk about Brady Quinn's leadership?"I think Brady's leadership qualities come out in the offensive unit as we have those pressure times with the comebacks or whatever you want to call them. I know everybody in the huddle is looking at Brady to see if he has confidence in the play call or whether he has the confidence that we are going to be able to do it; that it's going to work. His confidence feeds off on everyone in the huddle. He's an incredible player."
Has this changed over the years that you've played with him or has he always had that?"He's always been very confident, but the thing I like about Brady, and the thing that I find interesting about him, is that somehow he seems to just get better and more confident and more comfortable at what he is doing. How that's possible, I don't know because he is at such a higher level than most players. It just seems that every game we play, he gets better."
Was the 20-run play during practice today something new or have you always done that?"We always do that sort of thing. Practice is just us focusing on ourselves as usual. We kind of work on some fundamental things and techniques and work on the things we need to do to get Notre Dame better."
Can you talk about your feelings about the Navy traditions and all that stuff?"The thing that I remember about Navy, the last two times we have played them, is that these guys never give up. Regardless of what the score is in the game, they are playing at the highest speed that they can possibly play every play. I think that kind of shows what kind of team and players they are, because they never give up. We at Notre Dame have a lot of respect for Navy and everything that they do for us outside of the football field; so we just want to show those guys respect and love."
What's going on with the run game? Why is it so stagnant?"I think at the beginning of the season, the running game wasn't where it should have been quote unquote. It was because we started slow. There were a bunch of times early in the season when we were down early, and when you're down early you're not going to run the ball a whole lot. Those are some of the reasons we couldn't get it going because we were down and you had to pass to try and get back in the game. Of course, the last game we just felt we needed to play better ourselves after watching the film and learned from our mistakes and the things we did wrong and just move on and get ready for this week."
What are some of the things that you feel that you need to correct as far as the running game?"Critiquing myself, as far as the play goes, I always feel I could be more physical--read quicker; get to the hole faster, those sorts of things. Being able to read my blockers a lot faster because that always helps to understand where blockers are trying to take them or where the hole may possibly be. Of course, that helps you get there quicker."
Do you consider yourself to be a physical back?"Of course I consider myself a physical back, but I think at the same time I can also work on that. It's sort of different from a running back's perspective because when you're going against 300-pound guys, you don't want to be too physical. You want to be shifty on those guys. When you have the DB's or the smaller type players coming at you, then it's time to be physical."
Sophomore Receiver David Grimes
After Saturday's game, do you think defenses will begin to play you differently?"No, I don't think so. Our offense has a lot of fire power so a defense can't just concentrate on one person. We have two receivers who are really great so they can't just concentrate on one."
What has it been like learning from Jeff (Samardzija) and Rhema (McKnight) and last year with Maurice (Stovall)?"They have been through it all. They have been through down seasons and good seasons, so they taught me a lot, to be humble, take things in stride, and how to improve my game and things like that."
Last year when Rhema was hurt and standing on the sidelines, did you stay close to him to sort of get some tips?"Sure, but before I got here, Coach Weis paired us up so Rhema was kind of like my big brother. Me and Rhema talk all the time."
How important is it for you to step up as the third receiver for the second part of the season?"I think wherever you can get help is a plus. Obviously, teams are going to double Jeff and double Rhema and put guys in the box to stop the run so the third wide receiver is a big plus for the team."
Do you think of yourself as the third receiver?"Yes, that's my role now. I want to improve and be number one eventually."
Tell us what happened on that second play of the last drive and your catch."I ran a comeback and stumbled out of my break. When I regained my balance, the ball was right in front of me so I caught it."
Was there a moment of panic when you slipped and saw the ball coming right at you?"Not at all; I think if we could pull up some film from practice, I think I did it several times before so I'm pretty used to it."
Would you say that's your biggest catch here so far?"It was a big catch, yes, I would say so."
Senior Receiver Jeff Samardzija
Do you expect Navy to throw a bunch of different coverages at you?"There are some different coverages. There are some things you have seen and some you haven't seen. But it is just a variation of a lot of different looks that you have to be ready for. With a team like that, with a bunch of smart guys and with an extra week to prepare, you just have to be ready for anything."
What's it like playing against Navy and all their responsibilities outside of football?"It's pretty amazing to think about what they do. We might come around campus and cry and whine about having to go to a music class or something, and they have to go do everything that they do for this country. The responsibility they have is way beyond anything that we have, and you have to play with respect. These are the teams you like to play against because we like to think of ourselves as a team that goes out there and plays the game the right way and have fun doing it. That's the same with them. I'm sure they love going out there and playing football instead of doing any other type of drills they do. I'm not sure what kind of drills they do but I'm sure football is a lot more fun. They enjoy playing the game and we enjoy playing the game, and that's why it makes such a good story when we go out and play each other."
David Grimes had eight catches Saturday. How important is it to get some depth at your position?"It's great to have a third guy that you can go to out there, and for Brady to have a third read out there is a whole lot better than just having two guys to go to. On top of that you have to have a third guy in case something happens. You never know what to expect in a game, so having a guy you have a lot of confidence in is great. Grimes has been there all season, it's just this last game he had more opportunities to make some plays. Thinking back on it, I think he made every play he had a chance to. On top of that, he blocks real well and is a solid guy to have out there."
Early in your career wasn't this sort of your role? What is it like to play that role?"No doubt, it's tough. It's tough for any guy on the team who is not playing all the time or starting, whatever. Because you are a competitor you want to be out there all the time and personally it is about taking opportunities and understanding the situation. I was playing with Rhema and Mo and was a sophomore coming up. They had been there two or three years and they can play ball too. So it wasn't like I felt I was being gypped. It just meant that I had to work a little bit harder and take advantage of opportunities when I got them."