Coach how did the first day of practice go?"It's the first day and I think what ends up happening is that when you have a conditioning test in the morning, they're pretty gassed and about two-thirds away through the one practice you had, even though it's a half hour longer than you can have in this acclimation period, you can see those far away eyes and then starting to fade. I thought the tempo was good and I thought there was a lot of productive things out there. One thing as you get going, especially with me spending so much time watching the quarterbacks, I'm spending more of my time watching the other positions on tape. I used to be able to go from position to position and spend more time there, but I'm spending almost the entire practice analyzing the quarterback position. Now that might tag along with the other positions as they're with them. I think it went about as expected. The effort was very, very high and I think the legs got heavy toward the end of the practice."
Did any freshmen stand out or impress you?"Once again I think the number one thing I'm doing right now on the field is working with Ron (Powlus) with the quarterbacks. That's the number one thing I'm doing and I think it all starts with making sure we have a quarterback that can win for us. So I'm putting most of my time and effort on the field to everything that relates to that position. So I think I'll start worrying about that after about a week. Right now my analysis of other players comes from watching the tape last night and watching the tape this morning. I met with the offensive coaching staff last night and I met with the defensive coaching staff this morning. So by eight o'clock in the morning I'm pretty well caught up with how things went yesterday."
What was your impression of the quarterbacks yesterday?"I think they all showed some promise. They all threw it okay in relation to who they are. They ran the team okay. I'm actually going to have a meeting from 1:30 to 2:00 today with Ron and the quarterbacks and that whole meeting is going to be about how you carry yourself as the quarterback in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage. The bottom line is when you're an offensive player and the quarterback comes into the huddle, alla Brady for example, he comes in with a presence about him and gets everybody's attention both in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage. You can't take those little nuances for granted. In the past, the first individual, we would go and start throwing. When you start throwing, that's the easy part. Realistically, there's a lot of things we find that is going to be more important to these guys; the little nuances that you take for granted when Brady was the quarterback."
Is this type of meeting new?"No. These are things that we have done in the past based off of the experience level of the position. I expect this to be different next year than it is this year. I think this year this is the approach that you really have to take so that you cover the things in order of importance as they need be to get them ready for practice."
When you get trouble calls like you have a couple times this summer, how do you handle it emotionally?"You try to look at it more like a dad than the head football coach. So I try not to be overemotional anytime you get a phone call about anything. The first thing I like to do is make sure I have all the facts. Sometimes the first thing you hear, and depending upon who you hear it from, might be exact or so far from the truth. I think the first thing you have to do is gather information to make sure you don't make a rash or emotional decision. For example, those two things you are citing were two totally different things. One was my plan of action was to sit back and wait and the other one was, well, you'd better get it rectified or else there's not too much I can do about it. They are two different situations and just like I tell these guys when I'm recruiting them and I tell their parents, when things happen I try to pull myself back and say, ‘If Charlie were in this situation, what would I do?' It's easy just to act rationally if you're not making a mature decision and I try to make it more as a dad than I would as the head coach at Notre Dame."
How do you talk to the players about staying out of trouble?"We address it very heavily because, let's face it, when you're dealing with 18 to 23 year olds and a hundred of them, the odds are there's going to be a couple things that come across your desk; that's the odds. There was one time last year I forewarned them before we went away for a long weekend. And the way I forewarned them was, I read them a week's worth of police blotters of athletes from different levels, and it was pages of things that had happened in just a week. They went away and when they came back there were about eight different people who were arrested in different sports for different things. Fortunately, I have a bunch of intelligent kids and usually they do the right thing which leads to a minimal amount of problems."
Is the Derrell situation out of your hands?"I told him right now in his situation, he is suspended indefinitely which is a very subjective term. I can't deal with anything until he takes care of business both legally and with the school. When that happens, we will revisit it. I spent a lot of time with him and his Mom and we are all on the same page. So, this is not like there are any hidden secrets; we are all on the same page on this one. I think both he and his Mom were very appreciative that I said, ‘Let me wait and see how this all turns out.' The flipside of this is, just like if it was your kid, there are some circumstances where it is more important to clear up the circumstances than it is to play football. In other cases, the circumstances aren't just exactly as they appear and continuing to play football is really the way to go."
Do you believe there are more circumstances than what is on the surface of this situation?"I think I have a pretty good idea of the whole circumstance so the whole issue is what happened in that situation, or any other, is twofold. One are legal issues and the other one is always related to Residence Life. And to me, at Notre Dame, it's not one or the other; no disrespect to a lot of other colleges, but I just can't look at whether a guy is in trouble legally or not, I have to take the fact that this is Notre Dame. There's protocol here and there is Residence Life, and I always have to factor that in when you're going through decision-making."
Given the circumstances you are up against, are your days and hours even more valuable?"It's normally about what I sleep. I wasn't saying it yesterday just because it was opening day but I feel great and to be honest with you, I had more restless sleep here recently because we just put our dog down yesterday. If you want to talk about having more restless sleep, that was more restless sleep because of our dog than anything related to football. I'm like everyone else, I got kids and I got animals and I've got a wife. My restless sleep is very seldom related to something that happens in football because that's what I do for a living."
Is your time-management different because of putting pieces together?"No. This is training camp and you are now in training camp mentality. And training camp mentality is, I'm back to getting here early. If you come by about a quarter to five and stand outside the window, music is playing pretty loudly because I'm not bothering anybody. Then about 6 o'clock, I tone it down as people start to pop into the office and I'm probably on about my eighth cup of coffee about that time. I'm in training camp mentality and that's what you do this time of year."
Because of the youth at quarterback, do you have to be more aggressive in your selection?"Let me answer it this way, if you were surrounded by a bunch of stud complementary players – like if we had the best offensive line and tight ends and wide receivers and running backs in the country – you could play with a guy that just manages the game. I've seen several teams go on to win championships with a quarterback who just manages the team. Now, when you're playing with a more inexperienced lot like we are this year, you can't just count on a guy just to manage the team because the only games you are going to win are the games you are supposed to win. Those nail-biter games, the ones that could go either way, are a pretty even match up on paper. If you want to win a fair amount of those, you can't take the easy way out and go the safe route."
Would it be fair to say you would try to use the clock on a more consistent basis?"As far as how you play the game, you don't change the way you play the game. You don't make the decision who you are going to pick at quarterback just to manage the team. I can manage the clock by calls. In other words, I don't have to put that on them because how I set up plays – like sometimes we play games where punting is okay; you play a field-position game. But it is all related to how powerful the other team's offense is; and how their defense is; you have to look on a game-by-game basis on whether you want to try and win the game by 17-14 or are you going to try and win the game 41-38. You have to look at who you are playing against and try to make that decision. But the number one thing you have to do is figure out how you are going to try and win the game. When we come in every Tuesday for a game, I try to give them, ‘This is what we are going to do to win the game.' I never say, ‘I hope we can do this.' You have to give them a game plan and you can't wait until game day to tell them how you are going to do that. That's why you do all that due diligence on Sunday and Monday after you have played on Saturday to start getting ready for the next opponent."
Would you consider moving Trevor Laws back to a nose position?"No. I could not see that happening. Trevor is our left end. We talked about some starting jobs that are open; that one is closed. Okay? You can pen that one in."
How has Asaph Schwapp come along since spring?"Fortunately, he is no longer hurt. He has been on and off the last year in chains because of his knee. So this is the first time in a while that he is uninhibited. Actually, Asaph is not in his element until Friday because Asaph really doesn't get the chance to do what Asaph does until you put full pads on. It's kind of tough to run nine-on-seven and things we are doing here when you can only put helmets on. They won't even let us use those protective shells here for the first couple of days that they've let us use in the past. They're off-limits now too. With linemen and physical players like Asaph, he really doesn't get into his element until he can actually start hitting them for real. He will hit you and he'll hit you hard. Pound for pound he might be the strongest guy we have. He is a powerful person."
Last spring you mentioned that Evan Sharpley had the ability to run the operation. Could you talk about this?"I'll give you the simple answer because there is really a more complex answer. Play-call comes in and I give it to Coach Haywood; he gives it to the quarterback; and he looks on his wristband; he knows what the play is and goes into the huddle. Now how he relays that information and the temperament he relays that information with and how he can look into your eyes with an air of confidence when he's in there; all those things, some of them subjective are what those players are seeing in return. Anyone who has been doing it with the good guys, which Evan had been doing last year because he was number two, when he pops in there, you can sit there and call the play with confidence. That always gives the team a lot of confidence. Now, it still is going to come down to what you do when you've got the ball in your hands, but that's what we're talking about when running the operation. Then going to the line of scrimmage and getting the team set; if there's any motion; if there's any shifting; identifying the mike which has a lot to do with how we block both fronts and protection and blitzes. All those things you can do before you have the ball in your hands so anyone with experience is going to do it better than a guy without experience."
How difficult will it be for these young quarterbacks to learn to check at the line?"I think all three of them are going to be able to do it over the 90 percentile. What I have to do is cut down on some of the things I expanded with Brady. As you first pick a new quarterback, one of the things you can do is overload a quarterback by asking them to do more than they're ready to do initially mentally. By having 1,500 checks with me in there, they're a bit confusing. It got to be, when we were in two-minute, I could give Brady a signal and do something like this (one hand on the other) and he would have a formation, the protection, and a play. That comes with non-verbal communication between the sideline and the quarterback where he was that sure of himself when he was doing those things. You have to grow to that but all three of those guys are going to be able to run it between 90 and 100. Too many coaches in this position, when you go from an experienced guy to an inexperienced guy, let their ego get the best of them when it comes to calling plays. They like a play, but the quarterback doesn't understand the play and they call it anyway. Usually it's set up for failure. So what you have to do is minimize the times you call those things and even eliminate those things so you can put them in a position where they have more confidence in what they are doing."
At what stage in your career were you that guy?"When I was younger, I had all the answers; like most young coaches have all the answers. But what happens is you get hardened over the years and you realize that just didn't cut it. You made a mistake here; I could have done it better there; so you learn from those experiences and its part of the maturing process of a coach."
When in your coaching career did quarterbacks become your thing?"As Coach Parcells put me in a position to spend an extensive amount of time with the quarterbacks when we were with the Jets, we went with a wide range of people in a short amount of time. We had Neil O'Donnell; we had Glenn Foley; we had Vinny Testaverde; we would go all the way to Ray Lucas, who at the time was a practice squad wide receiver. He ended up starting eight games for us and going 6 and 2. So you had Vinny Testaverde, who went to the Pro Bowl in '98, who you are coaching versus Ray, who at the time was a scout team wide receiver, who was on the practice squad. And the next week he started for us as quarterback. So you can't do the same things with the same guys. You have to look at one guy and the other guy and say, ‘Okay, let's tone it down.' Now the other thing that has to happen is the team has to understand the game has to be played differently; like different guys have to pick up the slack at different positions when you are in that position. That's some of the encouraging things that I see with this team is that there are several guys that are taking on more responsibility on their own shoulders without me having to do it."