Freshman Running Back Robert Hughes
What was it like for you in the Michigan State game where you had a major role and scored a touchdown?"It felt pretty good to help the team and at that time and point the score was 14-17 so I felt that we were back in it and actually had a chance to make a run for it. It felt pretty good."
Did you have many family members in attendance?"Yeah, my mom, my sisters, my uncles; they were in attendance."
Where do you feel you have progressed the most since you came in, in August until now?"I think I have a pretty good grasp about how the coaches want to go about running the offense and how they want me to play and everything. The thing that I still need to work on, and is a major issue, is pass-blocking. That's about it."
What is it about the pass-blocking that's difficult?"It's the whole scheme of things. You have to adjust to how the defense blitzes. You have several jobs and you have to make different reads from linebacker to linebacker. You have to make adjustments on how the defense blitzes. That's the hardest thing."
With the team being 1-7, is this sort of a cultural shock for you?"No, obviously, no one committed here expecting to go 1-7. It happens and such is life."
With this rough start, is the freshman class bonding more and being determined to turn this around?"We don't really look as far as three or four years. Who knows what will happen then. But as a whole class, we go week-in and week-out just trying to prepare for the next game, and we can't do nothing for the past. But we are 1-7 and we are only looking forward to the next game."
What veteran players have helped you make the adjustment this year?"Travis Thomas, Junior Jabbie, and all the older guys."
How do they help you?"They have different techniques and tactics that they use and works for them so they tell me, maybe you should try this or maybe you should try that. And sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. It's all about getting used to the system and you actually being in it."
With the record being 1-7, what is the attitude like on the team?"The attitude is always positive. That's one of the pluses that I notice about the team. We know the season hasn't been going as we wanted it to but everyone is still together, and I think we have even bonded closer."
How has the senior leadership helped the confidence and attitude of the team?"It reflects a lot on them and the coaching staff as far as the whole positive attitude goes. You go to battle. You might win, you might lose, but whatever you do after that, you pick yourself up and you fight again."
Freshman Receiver Duval Kamara
Are you as physical as you want to be at this point?"I'm not as physical as I want to be because I'm always going for improvement. The guys out there are physical. That's a big difference from high school. These guys have been here a couple years and they are 20-21 years old; I'm only 18 so it's a big part of the game."
Does your family get to attend games and what do they think about the way things are going?"My parents have actually been to a few games and if they aren't here, they watch it on TV. My dad is always excited about watching us play. He's a big Notre Dame fan and when we are losing, it's not a good thing with him."
Does he criticize the coaching?"I'm sure anybody would criticize us, but I'm cool with the coaches. The coaches are great. My family loves watching us play."
Was your dad a Notre Dame fan before you came here?"He actually became a Notre Dame fan when I got an offer."
What have you specifically learned about running routes and the play at this level?"At the college level, you have to be precise at everything you do. Like at the top of the routes, you have to come off full speed. You have to extend the guy and have to be precise in everything you do because the corners are that much better than the ones in high school."
Freshman Linebacker Kerry Neal
What do you think you need to improve most right now?"Obviously, getting stronger and just keep learning."
Do you and Brian Smith have a good relationship and like it when No. 56 and No. 58 go into the game together and pin your ears back and go get ‘em?"It's like, yeah man, let's get the sack."
Has it been easier or harder than what you expected?"It's been pretty tough; it's not like high school. You could go out there and make all the plays. Here, you really have to play technique; be fundamentally sound; and not just go out there and be running around. Everybody is good here."
How are you handling being 1-7?"It's been tough, but it's like growing pains. We're still young; we have a lot of freshmen and sophomores playing a lot. So you look at it positively and at the future right now. We still haven't quit. We are working hard and going to finish out the season on a strong note."
How big a role has the senior leadership been in keeping up the confidence and attitude of the team?"Everybody has confidence. I don't see anybody who is down. A lot of teams, if you start off with a bad season, they have little groups and stuff in the locker rooms, but it's still like a big family here. Everybody is one and our leadership is good and all the seniors keep us motivated."
Which veteran players have especially been helpful to you?"Maurice Crum, his locker and my locker are like two over, so we are always talking about the defense and stuff like that."
What specifically does he tell you?"He tells me just to keep working hard. If I mess up on a play, he shows me and encourages me and little things like that."
Freshman Linebacker Brian Smith
Did you expect to play this much and to contribute early when you first came in?"Me, I'm a competitor so I'm always going to push to compete whenever I can. So, when I came here, I didn't really care but I had respect for the guys who were already here. But I really didn't care who they were because I was going to put it upon myself at the end of the day, I was going to get onto the field however I can. It's not just that, I want to help the team as well. Not trying to be selfish, any way I can help the team I want to do it."
When did you feel you were going to be able to play?"It was probably the first day of camp. Coach Brown told me one thing that's going to be natural for me is rushing the passer. And one thing that was not going to be natural was holding the point on the run. The first day, I thought these big linemen. I'm used to dealing with 250-pound linemen back in high school and with these 300-pounders on me, I didn't know how well I was going to adapt to that. After the first day of camp, when I realized I was doing pretty well at that, I thought I was going to have a legitimate shot to play."
Do you see you and Kerry going through all four years and pinning your ears back and sort of developing a tandem?"That was the idea when I first met him. Hey, we look alike and we're sort of the same kind of athlete. How about both of us getting off the edge and going to get the quarterback a couple of times."
How much are you playing on instinct and how much is it you're still learning what to do?"Right now, I'm not where I need to be having the college game instinct because I'm a rookie to this. But over every week, I'm getting a little bit better at having the instincts to play at this level."
Tell us how you felt when you made the interception against BC and took it in for a touchdown?"As soon as I caught the pass, my side vision was cut off and it was me and the end zone and Matt Ryan standing in between us. And it was whoever was going to come out alive out of that one."
Can you talk about the interception and touchdown?"I dropped into the passing lane and acted like I was coming on a blitz. And I guess Matt Ryan saw that coming and he tried to dump the ball off underneath and I stepped right into the lane and took it. And Coach Brown preaches don't just get the turnovers, score with the turnovers. So after that, I had to get into the end zone."
What did the celebration in the end zone feel like for you?"It was insane. I got in the end zone and started running across the end zone headed for the sideline because when the defense makes a big play, they get off the field. And Kerry comes and tackles me and the next thing you know, I've got a million pounds of people on me giving me love."
What's it like dealing with being 1-7?"Of course we don't like being 1-7. No one likes losing at all. But that being said, we can't change that and we can only learn from that. As the old cliché goes, what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. We won't be used to this and it's not going to happen again. We're going to learn from this and we are going to overcome losing and be able to win in the future."
There are a lot of freshmen playing major roles right now and there's a good recruiting class coming in behind you. Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?"There's a light at the end of the tunnel, definitely. But we don't want to say that this season is a failure even though the record might show that we're not as good as we have been in the past. But the guys on the team this year are still great guys and really hard workers and really good competitors and football players. Things just haven't shaken out the way we thought they were supposed to."
How have you young guys been able to keep a positive mindset? "Just by coming out and working hard every day. If we don't work hard, we're going to stay like this and so we have to work hard if we want to win and become a national championship winning team."