Senior Running Back Travis Thomas
With a new quarterback, do you think the coaches will lean a little bit more on the running backs?"I'd like to think that they would like to lean on the running backs. That's what we're there for. We want to carry the ball as much as we can but I believe in the coaches and I believe we'll get the quarterbacks ready to pull their own weight."
From your position standpoint, what does camp have to get done before the first game?"From the running backs standpoint, we have to get the timing and things down; just get the kinks out. Keep running around and getting comfortable with what we are doing so that we can go out there and just react."
Coach says no way is this a rebuilding year and he doesn't even have that word in his vocabulary, and he says he owes the nine fifth-year seniors a chance to win now. How do you feel about this?"It makes you feel confident. The nine fifth-year seniors who came back are all starters as it currently stands right now and that's leadership in itself, and I think the guys that are going to be around them are going to feed off this and pick up the tempo on their own."
How do you respond about rebuilding not being in the vocabulary?"We echo it every day because we're not rebuilding and we're not having any setbacks and that's the mind frame we're going into this camp with. We're going into this camp trying to earn respect because no one is giving it to us. And the one thing we're trying to do is get better as a team."
Is the chip on the shoulder back?"Absolutely, I think you could say it's probably similar to Coach Weis's first year here. Everyone is real hungry and everyone has written us off before the season has even started. I kind of feel like that same mentality is coming back."
How did Darius Walker's decision affect your football future?"It gave me the opportunity to get more carries and to show what I can really do and shine. With him being there, he took most of the carries and I would come in, in certain situations; particularly short yardage. But now I get to show my overall game. So I just think it opened up a spot for me."
Do you feel you earned the starting job in the spring?"Yes, I do."
When you guys are sitting around and hear all the negatives about this team – in fact you may start out 1-7. How do you handle this?"It's normal; we're always out there overrated or not going to be any good anyway, so what difference does it make. We're facing the same thing every year. We just have to handle business in camp and take the responsibility upon ourselves to be ready for Georgia Tech."
Senior Defensive Back Tom Zbikowski
There are a lot of negative reports about your play last year. How did you handle this?"Bottle it up and let it out this year."
Do you feel like the defense has the opportunity to lead this year, especially in the early going?"I think with our track record on the defense, we have a lot to prove on the defensive side. I know with Coach Brown coming in, he wants to really make a statement on defense and we do too. A new philosophy, new coach, new start; hopefully it will all work out."
Could you talk a little bit about Coach Brown and what he brings?"He brings some intensity during practice and when we're scrimmaging and stuff, he is always challenging us to compete against the offense. It will really be interesting to see how it goes when it is closer to game time. Because I haven't really seen him game plan or what he will install for each game."
Since you won't have a heavy class load this year, what will you do with your extra time?"Extra film, taking care of your body, making sure you're healthy all the time, but definitely extra film and meeting time with Coach Brown and Coach Lewis."
What are you doing as far as school right now and do you have a degree?"If you are a fifth year, you have to take three classes. And that's pretty much what I'll be doing."
Which three classes?"I don't even know what they are (laughing); human mythology, business management and family, and a psychology course."
Are these classes towards a Master's?"It's sort of hard to explain how Notre Dame does its fifth-year program. We have to get into grad school but we don't take grad classes. Plus I don't think it's a good idea to be taking grad classes during the year because it would be tough to keep up with the regular grad students."
Is the chip on your shoulder and brash attitude back?"I can't wait to get on the field today. I know we're not in pads but just working and using training camp is something to get yourself ready for the season. You want to go out there and get better each day. I know people say this all the time, but that's what you actually have to do."
How uncomfortable was the 2006 season for Tom Zbikowski?"It was just a learning experience. I know going in as a team, we didn't really live up to the expectations as we should have. We probably should have won the national championship. That's that; and it's really in the past and you can't worry about what's in the past."
When people say to you, this is a rebuilding year, how do you respond?"I just keep quiet because it's not going to be anything good that I say back to that person."
Is this secondary in a better position to stop big plays, and if so, why?"I think Coach Brown coming in with different stuff that we are going to be doing; it's really more of attacking the football. That's what he's all about; attacking the football and making big plays. There's a little different attitude change and we're going to be more hungry and wanting to make big plays."
Senior Defensive Lineman Trevor Laws
How do you feel about the new defense?"I'm excited about being out there on the end. I actually feel there are a lot of plays to be made when you're on the outside and coming off the edge. They didn't have to sell it to me; I'm part of this program so it's just a change."
How would you describe Coach Brown?"He's a great coach and definitely brings a lot of energy; a whole different vibe. He's always jumping around yelling at you and motivating you and it really makes you play better."
So he's pretty active out there on the field?"He definitely gets excited (laughing). He's out there motivating players and he's a players' coach. He's a good guy to play for."
With a new defense, new quarterback, new coach, is there a lot of pressure on you guys?"I think we're pretty far along. We've been working on this ever since last spring. We've had a lot of time and a lot of meetings. We've come along, but there are definitely improvements to be made in this fall camp and that's what it is for. There are definitely things that need to be proven but I think we're pretty confident."
What went into your decision to return for a fifth year?"A lot of things; just talking with the guys that were coming back. We all kind of talked about it and made a decision to come back for our team; for ourselves, and for our futures in the NFL. We want to improve our skills because we know another year of playing for Notre Dame, there are more chances to get to the next level."
As you were feeling out the NFL, where did they say you might go?"I really don't know; I heard a lot of different stuff. It's hard for me to tell where I could have gone. I didn't go through the combines or work out or anything like that."
What are you pursuing academically this year?"Right now, doing my sociology classes and trying to get as much out of Notre Dame for free and trying to be the best I can."
Senior Tight End John Carlson
Being a captain, does that put more pressure and responsibility on you?"I don't feel like it puts more responsibility on my shoulders because as a fifth-year player, it is my responsibility to help out the younger guys, but it's really an honor."
Last year at this time, you did not receive a lot of attention from the media and now today we're all crowded around you. How do you feel about that situation?"Honestly, it doesn't matter. I know that sounds silly. It doesn't matter at all. Ryan Harris was my roommate last year and he has a magnet on my refrigerator at home and it was by Horace Greeley and it talks about how fame is a vapor. Well, I don't know how long everything is going to last and I don't know how long people will perceive me as a good tight end. All I can do is work hard every day and try to improve and kind of let the chips fall where they may."
What do you hope the story of this football team will be in January?"That's a hard question to answer because I'm not going to make any bold predictions. But I don't like to lose and I'm just going to say that and I know we have eight other fifth-year players and they don't like to lose and we have a bunch of younger guys and they don't like to lose and I know our coaches don't like to lose. I'm just going to say I don't like to lose and we're just going to try hard not to lose."
What is your opinion of the three quarterbacks?"They're all talented players and they all work hard and whoever rises to the top is going to be the quarterback. And I'll be behind whoever wins the spot."
With this being your fifth camp, will you do anything differently and do you feel more comfortable at this time?"I guess I'm a little more comfortable because I know what to expect. But it doesn't change my approach. I still try to go into every practice and meeting and try to critique myself and hopefully make some improvements every day. It's pretty basic but I try to get a little better every day and hopefully put the team and myself in a position to have a good year."
Are you your toughest critic?"I like to think so. At times the coaches are pretty hard on me, but I think I'm my biggest critic."