Could you talk about John Ryan and his play?"He has been good. He is dependable and has some versatility and is pretty sharp; like he will remind you he is the sack leader out there. He has done well."
Has he done anything that has been a pleasant surprise?"I have high expectations for all of the guys so when they do things out there, I'm not really surprised. I'm pleased but not surprised. He holds the point well and does some things well; decent coverage. So that's good."
Would you classify Anthony Vernaglia as a hybrid-type player?"Because of his athleticism, we have been able to move him around and play him in different spots. He's pretty sharp also and he can handle things; play one position and another position; multiple positions. So he is good in that aspect."
How much does the team lose emotionally when Mo Crum isn't on the field?"Well, anytime one of your leaders is not there in a physical capacity, it takes something away. He provides that spark because he makes plays. He gets guys going. He makes the calls and when you don't have that, of course, there is a little something missing in one standpoint, but there is also an opportunity for other guys to step up."
What do you like about Dwight Stephenson and what keeps him on the field?"He is a steady, hard-worker, total team guy. He works. It doesn't matter if he is playing or watching someone else play, he always has a good attitude and that is what you want. You want team guys and he has done well in that regard."
What is the challenge in preparing for two different quarterbacks?"Really, you prepare for the system that they run. It's not like one runs the option and the other is a drop-back passer. It's the USC system that we have to get ready for and that's enough to think about, honestly. So you just prepare for what they do. Whoever is back there will be handing the ball off and throwing and doing the things they do. They have done them fairly well."
Their running backs have different styles. What kind of challenge is that for the defense?"Well, you go back to basic fundamentals and you try to keep them inside and in front regardless who it is. You want to come to balance when you have the opportunity to tackle them and try to get as many guys as you can to the ball. That's what you are looking at more than anything else."
Do you not think about who it is?"You have to think about who it is because, from that standpoint, some guys are faster; some guys run with more power; some guys when they get in the hole are going to put their shoulder down; while others will give you a couple moves; some guys like to hit the crease when they see it; and some guys like to bounce it out. You have to kind of understand who you are playing against and be ready for that."
Do the players care about rivalries like the fans do?"The players care. They care because it's bragging rights and it's a pride factor. You have friends on some of those other teams and sometimes you have enemies. And you care about your school. I think, really, no matter who you're playing against and you care about your school, there's an incentive to win. And then when you are looking at two programs with the tradition that Notre Dame has and USC has, you just add that into the mix. So, absolutely."
What is the challenge for the defense in this game?"Our incentive is that we're playing against a bunch of good guys and any one of them can hurt you. It's a big challenge for us and we like that challenge. You have to be prepared. This is one you have to make sure you're ready for."
Did you watch the 2005 game and what was your impression?"Absolutely. Absolutely. I had an attachment because Charlie was here so, of course, I was watching the game and I played for Pete for a short period. So I watched the game and it was an exciting game. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a very exciting game."
Had you expected this from them?"With freshmen you really don't know, but you would like to think that they can get certain things done. They have done some things well."
There was a play in the BC game where Brian Smith lined up at nose guard. Was this a substitution error or was that planned?"If he was lined up there, we were thinking about doing it (laughing)."
How do you feel you have adjusted as a coordinator through the first half of the season?"I haven't thought about how I have adjusted. The only thing I have thought about is that you go from game to game; after the previous game, you look back and there are things that you think about and you say, ‘Well, I wish I had done this,' or maybe, ‘Next time I would like to do this better.' But from the standpoint of how I have adjusted, I haven't really sat down and thought about that because as soon as the game is over, you are already on to the next one. You are thinking about the issues you have to address. It's been a learning experience, that's for sure, and I have learned a lot. Once the season is all said and done, when you can go back and look and study things, then there may be some more definite answers."
Coach Weis says that the defense picked up in the second half of the Purdue game. Is there something you can put your finger on or is there some point that made this change came about?"I think more than anything else, at some point you have to say, ‘Enough is enough,' at some point. And I think everyone has to do that; not just the players, the coaches; you have to look at yourself and you have to see exactly what you are doing; see how you are delivering your message and the players have to look at how they are receiving the message. I think collectively, when everyone does that, you can make strides and you can get things done. I think we have been building up to that anyway. That first half, we didn't play nowhere near like we thought we could play."
What do you mean by enough is enough?"It's different when you're not sure, but when you know you can do better, that's what's disappointing. It's not always somebody else's fault; it's everybody and everybody has to look at it. But from my standpoint, I have to say exactly where are we and what are we going to do and who can do it? Then we just go from there as a group. Going into that game, we didn't think it would go like it did the first half. We were thinking more along the lines of the second half."
Do you feel the players proved it to themselves the second half?"I believe so; you get confidence from demonstrated performance. And when you go out and do it, everybody says, ‘Okay, see, I can do this; we can do this. This is what we can get accomplished.' So maybe we made some strides there; I believe so."
Would you talk about the resiliency of Trevor Laws?"It's one of those deals where he comes out so hard and he plays so hard. Human nature is to have a letdown, especially when you're in a season like we're having. I've said it before, this is a different place and we have different kids and he is just one of them; he is a senior. When I say he works; he works, and he plays. It's one of those deals where you say that dude is still playing hard. He is spinning; he is fighting off blocks; it doesn't matter if he's playing against guys "that are the best." He's done it every week. And that's encouraging because it gives the young guys something to see."