Talk about Navy. They have trouble defending against the pass. I imagine your receivers are looking forward to this."Well, we're just trying to improve. We have lots to improve on. We've had a steady flow of things each week that we need to get better at. The biggest thing for us in the room is for us to improve. We have critical things we need to improve on and I thought we had made strides each week and there are a few instances that we didn't make as many strides. We just have to keep coming and keep improving. The open date gave us a chance to work on some fundamentals. And hopefully we'll take those fundamentals and carry them over to the game plan and then carry the game plan over to Saturday. That's what we're trying to do."
How much progress has Golden Tate made over these past two weeks?"I think we've been able to isolate some instances where we've been working against our defense and not worrying about a game plan. So it's not as much about the execution of the game plan as the execution of what we are doing. I think that helps tremendously with young players; to be able to just play. And we're not worrying about, okay if he does this; we do this based upon this team does it this way. So I think in the beginning of the week we were able to do that against our defense and then have some periods where we are obviously preparing for Navy working their game plan. But just being able to work one-on-one several different times, which we've done during the open date, is tremendously beneficial to a bunch of young receivers."
Golden said his first couple practices were disasters. Would you assess them in the same way?"He's being a little hard on himself. I think, like any freshman, the more you are out there and the more you get repetitions and the more you get experiences of doing things, you're going to be better. He's no different than anybody else and the more he gets a chance to work, the better he will be and each day there's a little bit more progress. Each day you can identify, this is really, really good but we have to do this better. This one here is really good, keep doing it. Kids need feedback and young kids need feedback more than anything. Not that older kids don't, but young kids are running a route and coming back and looking at you to see if I did that right; opposed to having the confidence that they've done it so many different times that they know they've done it right. When they haven't done it quite right, they know why they haven't done it right. That's what we are trying to get to and we have our work cut out for us to keep doing that."
How has his route-running improved, or has it improved?"It expands every day. We did one-on-one the other day and I didn't let him run a go-route; he ran everything but, so certain things like that just to try to keep him improving and keep him coming."
When you're dealing with such a young group of receivers, do you see their confidence come and go on a daily basis?"I don't think on a daily basis, but it comes in segments. We have this down; now we have to go to this. When we get this down; then we have to go to this. So it comes in segments. I think as we have gone through the season, we have a pretty good understanding as a group where we are at; where we are trying to go; and the journey is the destination. That's what we are trying to get done and every day we're trying to work toward that. It's a good group to coach; they are energetic and they'll have fun out there working. It's not pulling teeth to get them to come to work every day. In the room we have attention and we're making progress and we're a work in progress. We've made progress and we'll continue to make progress on a daily basis."
Can you talk about Duval Kamara? He seems to be a little more polished as a receiver. Does he have things to smooth out?"He has plenty of things to smooth out; he does. He's no different than any other freshman. There are some things he has done well and there are some things he has done well to the naked eye that he could do better out there. He has shown up in games and has made plays for us which again helps his confidence grow and helps him think, ‘I've done this; I can do this again; I can do this here.' What happens with a young player, and the receivers group is all young players, is that each week changes. What USC did is different than what Navy did and, because of that, you have to be able to adjust with that. With a young group, that's part of the growing pains sometimes."
You have most of your receivers coming back. Does that change your approach?"We know in the group, okay, we know that nobody in the room is changing. I'm coaching them and they're all back. From that standpoint, we are not worrying about anything else but continuing to improve. These next four weeks are huge for our improvement and our development in the offense. We have to grab some momentum for our group in these next four weeks, and we have to grab some momentum for the offense in these next four weeks and improve and show progress and carry that over into December and when we come back after break. All of those things have to happen but what we need to be able to do is not look past today. As a group, that's what we are trying to do. Everybody in that room comes back and everybody wants to talk about tomorrow; we need to get today squared away. If we can just take care of today and show progress today, tomorrow we can go back out and build on that progress. And you can build on it the next day and the next day. And because everybody is going to be back as a group, then we can carry that over into the big picture later on. We're trying to get better today so we can build on that for tomorrow and carry that through to game day because game day is the most important day of the week."
A player like Duval has size. Can size compensate for the shortcomings you have as a receiver in terms of being polished?"I would think there are certain things you can bring to your game that can make up for lack of experience. Speed can make up for lack of experience; size can make up for lack of experience. So if you have someone who has those things; that helps because if you're deficient in an area, you have to have something to overcome that deficiency. Experience is your deficiency; then you have to have something to overcome that inexperience. We've had three weeks of training camp and we've had eight games, so we're gaining experience. We've got twelve weeks of experience right now, so we ought to be able to show progress and that's what we're talking about in that room; it's time to show progress."
Can you talk about the bye week and recruiting?"It was busy. We used up four of our possible six allowable days to recruit during the bye week. Coach Weis was out and all of us on the staff were out from one to four days and it was really busy. We were able to see some of the guys we are currently recruiting in the '08 class and we were able to see some guys we are potentially going to recruit in the '09 class."
With the kids that you talked to, has this season been an issue with them?"I think everybody understands the future of this program. Everybody understands the great institution that we have here and the value of a Notre Dame education and the value of playing here and the opportunities ahead of themselves. I think all of that is greatly understood throughout the country with high school coaches and high school recruits whether you are a 2008 or 2009. I think that's the message that has permeated from this staff from the head coach through the staff and that's the message that will continue to be permeated. So far, we feel like we have made some progress."