Coach, you've said you might play as many as six corners in the game. Would that be the same situation with outside linebackers?
"I don't think there would be anywhere near six. But there are a couple of guys playing outside linebacker who also put their hands on the ground as potential pass-rushers. So there might be six guys listed in the base depth chart as outside linebackers that could show up in a game, but some of them would become more pass-rushers than they would be true outside linebackers."
Are you absolutely sure who the starting quarterback will be?
"I'm absolutely sure who the starting quarterback is. Why are you harping on the same thing? (with irritation) I'm not being disrespectful to you guys. I've already said the policy. Let it go. Do you think I am going to be so fickled that I'm not going to know who the quarterback is going to be? I never want to be disrespectful to you guys, and I won't, and I'm not going to lie to you. But I've already told you why I'm doing what I am doing. You want me to answer the question or do you want to answer the question? You answer the question for me. The question is we are repping three quarterbacks; and we are repping three quarterbacks. You asked me if I knew who the starting quarterback is and the answer is yes. I'm repping all three quarterbacks with the first offense; not with the second offense; not with the third offense – all three of them are getting reps with the first group."
When did you know when the starting quarterback was going to be?
"Me, personally, probably in the last week or two weeks."
Does the starting quarterback know it's him?
"I'm not positive if he knows, because if I told him, he would have to lie to you if you asked him a question. If I sit there and tell him he's the starting quarterback; then you ask him if he's the starting quarterback and he has to lie to you, then I put him in a bad situation. I feel very uncomfortable, as you guys do too, this is not some gimmick I'm trying to do. I'm trying to be as honest and fair on this issue as I possibly can. When we go out for kickoff, there will certainly be a starting quarterback. I think they have a pretty good understanding of what their roles are, but all three of those guys, may God strike me dead, are repping with the first group on offense; not with the second; not with the third. They're all repping with the first group; all three of them."
When will you tell the quarterback and team?
"If they haven't figured it out by now, they're not very smart."
Where does Ian Williams stand as far as the depth chart?
"First of all, he's got the perfect nose-tackle body; the 6'2" 300 pounder guy, that's what you look for in the 34 defense at the nose. Body-wise he actually has a better body to play the position than Pat (Kuntz) does. Pat's played so stout in there that nobody has challenged to remove him. They're just challenging to take some reps off of him so we can try not to get worn out like we have sometimes in the past. We're trying to get some guys that we can rotate in there so we're not playing in the fourth quarter with guys that are sucking wind."
Is that a position where you need to have depth in the rotation?
"Absolutely, because you, more than any other position, get beat up the most at nose tackle. Because you have double teams coming from the right guard; you have double teams coming from the left guard; it's really a tough position physically."
Where is Robert Hughes in the mix?
"He's definitely in the mix. Sometimes when I answer questions, it sounds a tad evasive when I am saying things, but I very easily see all five of those halfbacks playing in the game - now in different roles and different amounts - but I see them all playing in the game."
Would you say he is a power-back?
"He is a unique back in that he has running ability and skills and visions of a smaller guy, but he has a body of a bigger guy. Another thing he has is soft hands. The future is very bright for Robert Hughes. He's coming in at a good time where he is not just outright being thrown to the wolves."
Using five different running backs, is that a challenge for the offensive line?
"It would if you were using the same package. There are a couple of guys that are the same here and a couple who are the same over here. So those guys are interchangeable. But you can't do the same exact thing with this guy or this guy because it doesn't make sense. I try to give you an analogy of something I can relate to in the past without giving you all my stuff. Like if I have Kevin Faulk and Cory Dillon; I have two guys who can both play but they don't do the same things. The line knows who is in based off what we are doing."
With depth at positions, does that sort of eliminate some of the fatigue issues of the past seasons?
"In the past, we didn't play very many guys and when you don't play guys, it's for one or two reasons. Usually, the most obvious reason is that you don't have enough confidence in your backups to put them in there, and you would rather play with a tired starter than a backup. I've been saying all camp now that there is more competition, which means the drop from the first guy to the second is not as significant so you'd rather get him in there and get him some time, like Ian. Pat's playing very, very well, but Pat playing every down in the game is not very practical. In the past, we might not have had Ian Williams behind there that you feel confident that can go in and take a good number of reps away from him. So you keep him fresh so you're sitting there in the fourth quarter without people looking for oxygen."
How important a luxury is that?
"When you build competition on your team, some people think when you have competition you don't have confidence in the guys that are playing, but that's not really the case. It means you have more confidence in more players so you're not as afraid to go ahead and interchange people and worry about who's in there. There have been times in the past where I have limited what I have called based on who's in the game. I say, ‘I'd better not call that; I'd better not call that; and he goes out and somebody else comes in and I'd better not call that; I'd better not call that.' We're getting close to the point where you really don't have to worry when one guy goes in and another guy comes out, you can keep calling the same game plan and you don't have to think of much. On the coaching end of it, you really want to do your thinking on the front end; not as much during the game, based off which people you are putting on the field."
Are you getting close to a resolution on the three kickers?"
"I think we are there too. The three-man competition really turned into a two-man competition and, when it is all said and done, one will be doing one and one will be doing the other. It's really playing itself out; that we go by what we see. We have one more big special teams practice prior to true Georgia Tech week and that is Sunday night when we go in the stadium. First half hour of practice after warm-ups is going to be all dedicated to special teams and then we will start nailing things down."
Is this an easy position to objectively solve?
"It's very objective, but the problem is, as you saw the one day you guys came to practice and there were some fans out there, all of a sudden, the same thing you saw in practice was different when there were some fans around. So students can go to practice Sunday night, it's student appreciation day, you're not a student by the way (laughing). I'm trying to create an atmosphere where there are some people in the stands and we'll see how they do."
You had mentioned earlier that you had been more patient this season than in the past. Travis Thomas says that you are a player's coach. How do you feel about that?
"Oh, don't say that. I think that every one of you guys that have been around here for awhile realizes that this team is different than last year's team. Different in the fact that there's not the same level of experience as there was last year. I think part of your job as a coach is that you can't stay the same if your team has changed. You have to figure out what is the best approach to get the most out of your team. That doesn't mean I haven't been tough on them. It just means that I've bitten my tongue much more often than I have in my entire coaching career to make sure that I don't send somebody deep into the tank too quickly."
When the freshmen are interviewed tomorrow, will we hear some stock answers and phrases?
"In the past, what they do is go to our captains and leadership committee and it almost always comes back to the ‘getting on the bus' phrase. That was really my message the first year to the freshmen. So now that they know your modus operandi, they already know what you've said to those guys, you don't have to sent the message anymore because they go to the guys and say, ‘What should I say?' and they say, ‘I'm trying to get on the bus.' So I imagine without me having to say it, the odds of them saying that are probably pretty good."
How would you describe this freshman group?
"I've been very happy with the addition of the freshman group. I'm very glad they are here, and I'm very glad a lot of them are very close; appear ready to play at an early stage. I told you one of the first days that you asked me, there are going to be some of them and they are going to be out there; and they are going to be out there against Georgia Tech. It's not going to be, let's wait three or four games; they're going to be out there."
Would you say by them playing right away, they are not really allowed to be freshmen?
"Well, what happens is that by the end of the year, you hope they are not freshmen. When you start off, that's what they are. Hopefully with playing time and exposure and playing at home with 80,000 and going on the road in hostile environments and lots of noise, hopefully they adapt and start getting used to that."
What is your opinion about playing freshman linemen versus red-shirting freshman linemen?
"We've had heavy conversations about that. We talked about that subject this morning; whether or not we should get them some exposure and get their feet wet. Usually, there's a very strong positive effect the following year and the year after that if they have just kind of got it out of their system. So it's a Catch-22 and you go back and forth; you really don't know because all our guys graduate. You don't even know who's going to be around in the fifth year. This is a very unusual year to have so many fifth-year guys on the team at the same time."
Could you give us an update on Derrell Hand?
"He's going to get some results on Monday. We have been texting back and forth and he's going to get some results on Monday. So one way or another, we'll have results on Monday and I will act accordingly."
Do you have to talk to players about websites such as My Space and My Facebook for example?
"I am a little bit concerned about that stuff as a dad. I don't know which one is which, but one is more high-school related and one is more college-related. I know my kid has one of them, but he doesn't use his name so I don't have everybody in the free world trying to get hold of Charlie Weis (laughing). It's a sign of the time. I'm not naïve but a little ignorant on the ramifications of those websites. I refrain from judgment on them because I've never been on one so I couldn't tell you."
With more depth on the team this year, has camp been more physical than in the past?
"Yes, until the last couple of days because now I'm in the mode of starting to get their legs back. It would be a big mistake by the head coach if you didn't utilize one of the rare opportunities where you have two weeks to get ready for a team. It would be a big mistake if you didn't use that opportunity to try and make sure their legs are back. So until about two days ago it was full pads, full pads, full pads; and when you have full pads, you have a lot more contact. One of the reasons I just put them in uppers or shells; that logically cuts down on the hitting."
How much contact will there be between now and September 1st?
"We'll go full pads on Sunday and Monday and we'll probably go full pads or uppers on Tuesday; as I'm treating this week - Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday - as Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. So Thursday is going to be a bonus day; a tone-down day so that come Saturday they'll have no excuse to not have their legs underneath them and have fresh legs."
Tony Dungy is often referred to as a player's coach. How do you view that term?
"Tony is a lot nicer guy than I am. First of all, I'm never in the business of trying to get the players to like me. That's never been my manner of coaching. I want the players to respect me; I'm not looking for them to like me. I feel confident that our team respects our coaching staff. I think the player's coach sometimes goes with personality. I've never been one of those lovey-dovey types; that's never been my way. I think when they know that you are fair and that you are honest and they know you are being respectful and they also know you are cognizant of how to try to get the team in a position to win, I think that's all they can ask of you."
Do you want them to like you when you are recruiting them?
"You tell them the same thing I am telling you now. I tell them honestly, you don't come here for me; you come here for Notre Dame. In reality the assistant coaches get a lot closer to the players than the head coach does. And the reason for that is, I'm the one who is going to have to discipline them. I'm the one who is going to make the decision who is playing and who is not playing. And I tell them that on the front end. If I have an offensive lineman I am recruiting, whether they like me or not is not as important as if they like Latina (John) or whether they like Ruben (Mendoza) because the two guys they are going to spend most of their time with the next four years are going to be their position coach and their strength coach. So I would rather they like them. That's who I like for them to like, but as long as you tell them that and don't try to act like you are boys and try to act like you are buddy buddy, I think they will always respect you."
When you were recruiting Jimmy (Clausen), Evan (Sharpley), and Demetrius (Jones) as quarterbacks, what were you looking for and what were your first impressions?
"They were all different players. When you watched them play, there were physical values that stood out on tape because you can't feel the emotional values. You're not at the game so you can't watch how they run the team. You can go by hearsay and research but realistically you watch them play and watch how quickly they go through progression. They're going to throw a pass, you watch what they do with the ball in their hands; you try to think along with them and how quickly their mind responds to things that happen on the field. In all three of their cases, I kind of liked what I saw."