Is Jimmy Clausen progressing after the first four practices?"It's four days and I think he has made some progress and we have seen some encouraging signs. It's way too early for me to be jumping on anyone's band wagon. He's done some encouraging things in the first four days."
What are you looking for in a new quarterback in this system?"To me everyone's new in the system because I'm kind of starting from scratch. So he's really not behind on that end because I'm installing everything as if they're hearing it the first time. But because he doesn't have the luxury of having heard the terminology and running the whole operation before in the system, I think it's more than the plays themselves, it's how they run the operation. I've been very encouraged by that because that's the first part of being a quarterback, being able to take the play call and calling it in the huddle, get to the line of scrimmage, and just run the operation. He's handled that part relatively smoothly."
How has Hord (D.J.) looked after the first four practices?"He looks rusty. He doesn't look hurt. He just looks rusty. Because we don't take them to the ground in practice unless we create a scrimmage situation when we take them to the ground, I think somewhere along the line I'm going to have to create for him a take-him-to-the-ground situation to kind of get it out of the way because anyone coming off a knee, Achilles, anything in your lower legs, it's just waiting to get that first one out of the way to make sure that they know they're structurally sound."
After four days, what do you know about your team that you didn't know before?"Put it like this, if you think we're looking like the Bad News Bears out there, that's certainly not the case. So I think that's the first thing; you look out there and you know there's a lot of changes going on in personnel and schemes and everything else and you look like a solid team that's in the fourth day of training camp. So I guess it's an off-handed compliment I'm saying to the team. The fact that I'm not looking out there and saying, ‘Oh my God, what are we going to do?' just like any other year, four days into training camp. So I would say that's an encouraging sign; not a discouraging sign."
Is Saturday's practice format going to be any different?"I'm not really sure how that's going to go yet. There will be some scrimmage situations involved though. It's not like I can hide any players or do a secret depth chart or anything like that. There's not that many guys out there basically. We have guys rolling through two units and a couple extras. That's what we have. Of course there are things that you work on that you never show. But I don't think you'll be discouraged with the volume of things we will do that day."
With the loss of players through graduation, how important is it having the eight fifth-year players as leaders for the young guys?"First of all I think all nine of them have a chance; not just eight of them. I'm saying Dwight Stephenson has a chance to be playing too. I think it would have been a little bit more of a scary situation for me if that large a number this year would not have requested or applied for a fifth year and had it granted. Just take all nine of them and take them out of the mix; just take them all out of there. I would still be trying to find a way to be overly optimistic, but I think you can't be a phony either. I think that would have been a lot more of a scary situation than what it is."
What was behind the decision for Dwight Stephenson seeking a fifth year?"He came here to play and has never really played. He came to me and said I would like to apply for a fifth year and I asked him why. He said that he has gone through some trials and tribulations here; he had to sit out sometime and he didn't want to leave here saying to himself; what if. So he's coming back to give it one more shot of getting on the field."
Was Justin Brown at practice today or did I just miss him in the numbers?"Justin Brown was in class today. He was there on Saturday; he's not hurt or anything. I have a couple class situations and the springtime is the only time that you have some latitude to do a couple things. You'll see occasionally some people not out there. If somebody was hurt, like I did with Gary, I would let you know. There isn't anybody who would miss any time from what I have seen right now."
You mentioned starting from scratch with the quarterbacks. Does that include Evan Sharpley who has had two years in the system?"Everyone's getting the same coaching; no one is getting less and no one is getting more. They are getting exactly the same. I would say if there is anyone who has a slight advantage through experience, it would be him. Not necessarily the playing time, but the fact he has been around me a lot when I'd be talking to Brady. He'd be right there. I think that's a plus for Evan. But when it's all said and done, every one of them is hearing the same stuff. When I'm talking to Evan, the other three guys are hearing everything I'm saying. If this was the season, whoever the quarterback might be, the other three guys might not be sitting there when I'm talking to that guy. That's the big difference."
Has a two-deep depth chart been established?"There is no established two-deep. There are guys we put out there first; there are guys we put out there second; or we move them back and forth. There are very few guys etched in stone; like they're in. Trevor Laws, he's going to start. John Sullivan, sure he's starting. John Carlson, you betcha; he's starting too. We're not even close to determining how we set up a depth chart to get ready to go into training camp. Because that's what we are trying to, right now by the end of spring ball, establish a depth chart. Because when the next 15 guys come in, we are going to have to find out what they can do and find out if they are capable of playing early-on in their careers or if we have to wait on them. So that's what we are doing right now."
Is Coach Haywood spending most of his time with the running backs right now and how are the backs progressing?"I would say the majority of the time he is with the running backs, yes sir. I am very encouraged by the running back position; I am very encouraged."
Are you trying to establish a pecking order with the wide receivers before the freshmen come in?"That's a good question. It's a little different at the wide receiver position because there's a large number of guys. Some guys are moving up and some guys are actually moving down on a daily basis. There are some guys even after four days that are beginning to separate a little bit from the pack, and it might be separate two from three or three from four or four from five; but they're starting to show some separation from some people. And once again, the second part of your question is right, you have those two receivers coming in and when they get in here we're going to have to find out what they can do; to find out if they can get into the mix freshman year or easing them into it. Right now, I don't know who the second receiver is for sure. And I don't know who three is and I don't know who four is and I don't know who five is. But based off four days of practice at least I can pick two, three, and four based off four days of practice. Now of course that might change over the next 11 practices. But right now some people look better than others."
Is there a thought that you have to have a tall receiver in that mix?"Absolutely not, I started one year with Deion Branch, Troy Brown, and David Patton and I don't think any of them were over 5'10" but they all claimed they were."
What do you expect for Brady Quinn on draft day?"To be going early. Put it like this, Charlie has a baseball game that day at 3:00 and a good portion of my staff will be in Texas at one of those camps. I won't be there. BP starts at 2:00. He'll be gone before BP starts."
How good can he be?"First thing, I think he can play early. I think when you are going to invest millions of dollars in a guy high in the draft at that position, you're counting on him playing early and I think he's ready to play early. I think that's significant because in this day of free agency you no longer have the luxury of taking somebody that high in the draft and sitting there for a few years while you are waiting for him to get ready to play. You'd better be able to put him in there and play him."
A lot of Notre Dame fans think if he goes to teams like the Raiders or the Lions, it will be a bad situation. Do you think it would be better for him to drop in the draft and go with a better team?"Who is that though? The Raiders have a new coaching staff and we don't know how the Raiders are going to be. Every day these things change. With free agency the Lions just picked up two offensive linemen today. So what does that mean? Every day it changes. I just told him, your favorite team is the one that takes him because that's the one that's going to be paying the check."
In the last 15 or 17 years, the Notre Dame quarterbacks taken in the draft haven't fared well. Do you think Brady will break that trend?"Whether or not he'll be a good quarterback in the NFL, book it. And I don't think I need to say why. I think everything about him points to being a successful quarterback in the NFL. The way he carries himself on and off the field, his athletic ability, his moxie, his leadership, that special ‘it' that certain people have; well he has it. I'm a big Brady Quinn fan. Put it like this, if I was a head coach in the NFL, he could play for me."
Do any of the four quarterbacks so far in spring practice have the so-called ‘it'?"Let's let them get through shell-shock first of all. There's a lot of pressure right now on these guys. They're getting a lot of coaching from Ron (Powlus) and myself and the other coaches, especially Coach Haywood at certain times. But they are getting a lot of coaching and they are getting scrutinized and they know this is a competition and everything they do is part of the evaluation. Thrown in on top of that, everybody in the free world knows that there is going to be a new quarterback at Notre Dame. We'll find out if somebody has that ‘something' when the time comes, but right now I think it would be a little early in the evaluation period to come out with that one."
Does competition, no matter what position, make the team better or are there some negative aspects to competition?"Competition is always a good thing as long as it is handled the right way. I've seen people turn a competitive situation into a total travesty; into a three-ring circus. I think it is important to get a handle on it. Just imagine if I came in right now and told you everything that happened in practice today and did that on a daily basis. People across America would be drooling over that feed. You just can't do it that way. It's part of my job to protect them so we don't create a situation like that. I think competition is always good. I don't see a downside to competition."
Has anybody caught your eye that didn't play last year?"The problem is there are a bunch of people who fall into that category. It's not just one; it's a bunch of them. I want to get through Saturday before I start commenting more on individuals. I want to get through Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday where I get three more days, where we're kind of at the halfway mark. It's almost like I take a step back and go through, okay, there's a lot of encouraging signs, because I don't want to be premature in touting someone today and have them lay an egg on Wednesday."