Is this cold weather an advantage when you are playing a southern team this week?"I think it is good timing."
Do you go to the next level with Aldridge now that he has had playing time?"The next level is intertwining him throughout the game. You can't really commit to exactly how that plays out because you don't know how many plays are going to be in a quarter or if there are going to be three and outs. You don't want to say he will play in the third series because if we go three and out twice then Darius has only played six plays and all of a sudden he is out of the game already."
Do you anticipate he will be in the game the first half this week?"I'd like to try and get him in the game the first half. I'd really like to try and do that."
How much stability has middle linebacker Maurice (Crum) given to the linebackers?"I think it's not just to the linebackers; it's been to the whole defense. I think he has been a settling force. Remember he was just learning this for the first time himself, X's and O's-wise. He was learning it, but actually playing the position. As he settled in, I think the defense started to settle down some as well. He was ready to play right at the start of the year. I think his game is markedly improved. It's a little different position when you're inside than when you're outside."
Is he better now than he was in the first game?"He's way better now. He's much improved."
Is Tom Zbikowski the guy that makes sure that the defense is lined up right?"The front seven is really on (Chris) Frome. Zibby and (Chinedum) Ndukwe together, the safeties, are the guys that help coordinate the communications in the secondary. Not that we have been perfect on defense, but the amount of mental errors this year versus last year is like night and day."
Do you expect North Carolina to rotate their quarterbacks like they have recently?"It's interesting how they went by two series at a time. I'm not really sure how it will all play out, but I know you have the junior and the freshman and it looks like they want to get them both time. So we will just have to roll with the punches."
Do you see a trend of coaches being fired during the season but remaining with the team and what is your opinion of this?"I don't know. As a coach you are really in a Catch 22 because really if they fire you, what is the sense of being around there. You want to pack up your stuff and go home; that is what you want to do on the one hand. On the other hand, you have these kids who have been loyal to you and if they ask you to do that, you have to be loyal to them in turn. I'm really unfamiliar with that type of mentality."
Could you talk about some of the freshmen like (Paddy) Mullin, (Bartley) Webb, (Chris) Stewart, and (Dan) Wenger and how are they progressing?"We have been really pleased with the freshmen as a whole. I could talk about each one of those guys individually but that's really not talking about this week's game. I can tell you that we have been very pleased with the progress and the development of our freshmen. And I would say there would be very few, if any, people that don't fit into that category. They are significantly better. They're not just better, they're significantly better."
There are always reports of negative recruiting against you. How much of that do you hear?"Actually, the kids tell you one way or another. They either tell you directly that so and so said this or they ask you questions you know were fed to them. When all of a sudden you're talking to a kid and they ask you something that they didn't come up with on their own (laughing), someone is feeding them that line. So sometimes it's directly and sometimes it's indirectly, but usually you find out from the kids. And you know which guys are saying it most of the time because they will tell you that too. They will tell you schools, and I would never say anything about that directly. Now when I bump into a few people, I will say hello and ask if they would like to have a cup of coffee, and we will chat about our philosophy on that subject. Realistically your hands are tied if you are going to profess not to do it yourself. And what are you going to do about it when they do it? Just represent your school; that's what we do."
Is that the only defense you can take in those situations?"All you can do is, take the high road. The other one is to fight fire with fire, but we won't go there. You can sit there and say, they said this and we will say that, but we are not going there."
When Ryan Harris was being recruited, he said he heard some things about Notre Dame and he had to check them out with Coach Willingham before he committed."We're not going to get into what the lines are, if that's where we are going. I'm not even going there. We know what they are, okay? If you want to know what one of them is, it's the weather. Well, guess what, it's not 85 and balmy here in South Bend today. To counteract that, and as a staff we had this conversation this morning when I say to these guys, all these kids would like to have a run at the NFL eventually. So then I guess you say to them all, I guess you're not going to play for the Bears, right? You're not going to play for the Packers, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, New England, Buffalo, neither team at the Meadowlands – you're not playing there. It gets cold in Denver and Kansas City too. So that's what you counter that one with. You don't sit there and say South Bend is balmy. You just sit there and say, you tell me you'd like to play on Sundays. What do you think it is 85 and sunny every day? It just doesn't work that way. I thought it was wonderful out there today; it was absolutely beautiful."
Are you on pace with your recruiting with just having two more home games?"Obviously, we'll hit the road the day after USC officially, but I have seven guys heading out of here tomorrow night to get out there on Friday. Then they will get back on Friday and we will have a whole bunch of guys in here on Saturday. It's a scramble because you have 2007's; you have 2008's; you have kids who have already said yes; you have kids who haven't said yes; you have kids you haven't offered; there are a lot of different things going on at the same time. But I think we have a very good plan."
North Carolina gives up a lot of rushing yards statistically. Is this the kind of game where the running game will be a priority for you?"We intend to run the football in this game, but we'll throw it too. If I go into the game saying we are going to try and run it for 300 and not throw it, they just load up on the run. So we will do both, but we intend to continue our improvement in the run game. That's one of our goals going in."
Will you get a chance to watch the Louisville-West Virginia game?"I'll get a chance to watch a part of it, because I'm just like everyone else, I'm a college football fan. I really don't care who wins. Whoever wins, wins. These are two of the top teams in the country that are undefeated, so why wouldn't I be intrigued how that plays out. I'm really more worried about getting ready for North Carolina."
Why is it that drop-back passers seem to have more success in the NFL than the mobile quarterbacks?"The NFL is not tailor-made for rolling out and exposing your quarterback to a bunch of hits. No one runs the option. If they do, it's on third and one. Pittsburgh was running some of those ones where they would take either Ward or Randle-El or one of those guys who had previously played quarterback, but they certainly aren't doing it with their quarterback. In college, you let a quarterback run the option. If he gets hit, he gets hit. In the NFL, if the quarterback is running the option, it's all men on the quarterback to try to knock him out of the game. So that's why drop-back quarterbacks are usually what they are looking for first. Now those guys are having success, it's not like there aren't guys having success, but I think almost every system is made to protect the quarterback and let him throw it from the pocket."
Are the hits on the quarterbacks in the NFL more devastating than on college quarterbacks?"Yes, significantly; the mentality is a little different too because they see a quarterback out there almost always going down feet-first to protect themselves. So if they have the ball, oh, it's like Christmas."
Some of the players mentioned yesterday about getting CD's to study the games. How does this change the way the coaches and players watch film?"You can still only have 20 hours with them; that's the whole thing. You can only watch minimal amount of tape with them. For example, the players' day off is Monday, but Brady is here a good portion of Mondays watching game tape; and he has watched some on Sunday already and he takes DVD's home with him. We can only be with them for 20 hours; we can't mandate anymore than that. So after that, you give them an opportunity to watch more if their schedule provides it. If a kid has a midterm tomorrow, the last thing he is going to be doing is watching tape."
Do the CD's have voiceovers directing the players to watch this or watch that?"No the voiceover kind of stuff we do when we are doing installation; not like weekly installation. Right now, it would be like game tapes or cut-ups. For example, we got into third down today. So what we could do was put in every third down they have had this year on one thing so they can watch third and one, third and two, third and three, third and four, right on down the line. When Brady first watches tape, he wants to watch game tape so it's continuous as to what happened in the game. So when he comes in and we say, hey, did you watch the Tennessee game or in this case he would say, did you watch Virginia last week? Did you see when Virginia did this or he might go back a couple games earlier or all the way back and say, I watched the Clemson game earlier in the year because Clemson had a big game against North Carolina and I saw they were doing this. They have plenty of opportunity to watch a lot of tape. In my case, I try to watch every game so I try to watch from the first play of the year right to when they play. Players don't always have that luxury with the class schedule they have."
Is there any way to prove that they have watched the tape that they say they have?"It's funny you ask that because we used to sometimes in the NFL give them a blank tape and say, how was that tape? And they would answer, oh yeah, it was pretty good. The guys that ask for them intend to use them. We don't make them take them. We give tests, like on Thursdays our team meeting is a test. We do it every Thursday; I give a test to the whole team. So it's kind of embarrassing if you don't know the answers to the questions. So you'd better have done your studying because we don't wait until game day because Thursday is like the last day of the week. On Thursday we give them an oral test with the whole team there. And then every position coach gives every player a written test the day before the game. Then they go over them in their meetings to make sure everybody knows what to do mentally, at least on paper."