Do you have any special thoughts getting ready for the Michigan game?"Honestly, that we just go out and play well as a team; we play well special team-wise and on defense play well and support the guys on offense as much as we can. Those are the only thoughts because that's what really matters regardless of where you play and who you play. The only thing that really matters is what you do when you go out on the field. It's always been like that and will never change for me."
When was the last time you were in Michigan stadium?"It was '98; it was against Purdue. I was released before I signed with the Lions so I went up there and caught a game."
Have a lot of your old teammates talked to you about this game?"Yep, I've had a lot of phone calls from guys I've played with. I was captain of that last team, and it's just a lot of guys wishing me well; guys saying they will be there. There are a lot of guys coming for support and that kind of thing. So that's fine."
Are some of your old friends saying that they hope the ND defense does well but that you lose the game?"Nah, the guys that are really close with me, which are the only guys that I really talk to, they wish me well and they hope we do well and they leave it at that because the people that you really care about, you always want to see them do well, no matter what. And that's how that has played out."
Do you game-plan differently when you know you're going against a freshman quarterback?"I'm not up there, of course, but you would have to think that there is a package and system in place. You have to prepare for that system and once you get into the game, just like any other game, you have to be ready to adjust. It will be important for us to be able to adjust to what they do."
It seems like last week, the four down-linemen had their hands on the ground more. Is this a change in schemes?"I didn't know that but, honestly, I think guys have the ability to put their hands down or up to just change the look. But it's still early in the year and we're still figuring things out. There is some versatility there. You may see some different looks, but for the most part, things stay the same."
You mentioned some guys have the ability to do it either way, but is it their choice?"They know, but we are pretty flexible as to how guys play."
Have you talked to some of the younger guys on defense about the atmosphere at Michigan?"The thing that I have talked to our guys about – on defense and special teams – is when you get out there and you are in this position, this is what you have to do whether it's Ann Arbor or Happy Valley, that doesn't matter. What matters is your assignment, your opponent, and do you win or lose on that particular play. It has nothing to do with me; it's all about our kids. And we're just trying to help our guys get ready and get them prepared; that's what's important. Everything else does not matter."
This is a big rivalry on both sides, do you see differences?"I don't know about differences, but as a player, you feel a particular way and as a coach, you see things from a totally different perspective. It's a rivalry where there's a lot of pride on both sides; a lot of tradition and the teams play relatively hard. So with that being said, it's a good rivalry. I think it's healthy for college football and the focus should be on the kids on the field and the schools. It should not be on things that are said or not said. The only thing that matters is what happens when you tee it up. That's how it always was when I played."
So I guess you don't really care what Mike Hart had to say?"It doesn't matter. He's the captain of that team and he's trying to do what he feels they need. Like I said, I'm not there. I just know when I was the captain, what I did and what our guys do here. And I can't speak for anything else."
Have you tried to use that as a motivator at all with the players?"Well, you know what is said and you talk about it. But at the end of the day, we're Notre Dame and we're trying to win a game, and we haven't done that yet. Our next test or opportunity to do that is Saturday. So we'll show up."
The fact that both teams are looking for their first win; do you use that as a motivator in practice?"Honestly, we're not thinking about what they need to do. It's more of what we have to get done. You can worry about other things and other people all you want, but if you don't get your job done and I don't put the kids in good situations and if they don't execute assignments, it won't be a good day for us. But if we do what we're supposed to do, that gives us a chance."
On a side note, does that Reggie Brooks knockout run in 1992, ring any bells for you?"There are no such things as side notes. It was one of those deals, it was a play and it happened. Like in that game, I had a ton of good plays, but nobody remembers those. That's how life is. It's a good conversation piece for our kids because they rub it in my nose every chance they get. They rub it in my face, you know. Every situation, if you can take something good out of it, if you can poke fun at it, then you do that. Like I said, the season is hard enough and we've gotten off to a rocky start, I think the kids have been good this week."
Are there any specific memories that stick out about playing in Michigan stadium?"In my first game, chasing down the Rocket; they showed that, the guys did. There are a lot of memories especially in that rivalry because you go on, at least I did, I went on and played, and played against some of those guys like Rod Smith and I would see Demetrius (DuBose) and we would talk about different games and things that happened in the game. There are memories there but, actually, this is the first time I have thought about them. Because the focus isn't on what I did or where I played. The focus is, can our kids do a good job of running to the ball? Can they attack the ball? Can they make plays when it goes up in the air? Can we stop the run? Can we stop the pass? Can we play on the same page? Can we support each other? That's what's important. Everything else is like a sideshow."
How do you decide what fronts you are going to use?"We have a couple things that we do. That's what we have, and we just kind of go from there. If it works well, we do it and if it doesn't work so well, then we probably move away from it. We don't have a bunch of things we do."
Can you talk about the depth and versatility in the secondary and the improvement by Darrin Walls?"Darrin is a lot like a lot of the other guys. I think guys have improved. They have challenged each other and have challenged themselves and the things we have asked them to do, they have really worked hard at trying to get those things done. So you have to be encouraged because it's almost across the board. Now some guys have had more strides than others but at the end of the day, all those guys have done well. It's pretty neat to see because they support each other. I've been around a couple of teams like that and they really do support each other and nobody gets jealous and it's pretty cool."
Do you feel he is one of the most improved players?"I wouldn't say that. He is improved, but I wasn't here last year so I don't know how much he has improved. I know he has made strides since I have been here. Coach Lewis has done a great job of getting him prepared and just getting him to work on the things that we want him to work on. He has made improvement but there are a bunch of guys that have done good jobs."
I know you are never satisfied, but is the defense moving in the direction you want it to be?"The kids are playing well, but at the end of the day we're 0 and 2. We haven't done enough to really give our team the chance that we want to give them. Have there been things that we have worked on? Yeah, but we still have a lot of road that we need to travel. So it's an every day deal. You go out and get better and you just go from there."
Do you spend a lot of time working on turnovers, like stripping the ball?"Absolutely, that's the way you can change the game, other than special teams. Special teams is one and then getting turnovers on defense is two. So if you can make that happen and create those; at least you give yourself a chance. And that's all you want is a chance."
Charlie talked about you bringing confidence back to the secondary. How have you done this?"I didn't hear him say it, but I really don't know if it's me. I really think it's more the kids' kind of believing in what they can do. And kind of believing in the things that we ask them to do, and we are pretty demanding. I really don't think it's anything I've done; I think it's more them and that's where it is."
I know you don't want it to be about you, but how do you think you will feel when you walk out on that field on Saturday?"I'll put it like this, Maurice Crum is not going to be thinking about Corwin Brown when he walks out there, and I don't think Trevor (Laws) will. The only guy who probably will, will be Kuntz (Pat). So other than that, it really has little to do with me or where I went to school. But I know for a fact, Kuntzy will be."(laughing)