It has been reported that some of the players have made physical gains during off-season conditioning. Can you comment on that?"There are some guys that physically are in better condition to get things done. Physically some guys look better and you can tell that it is a year later, and that is a good thing."
Who are some of the guys that you are impressed with?"Without getting into specifics because I haven't sat down and thought about it, but just overall as a group, there are a lot of guys that look good. Almost everybody has made some sort of gain and that's a good thing."
What was your reaction when Charlie told you he was bringing John Tenuta in?"Coach Tenuta is probably one of the better football minds that you will find around. I'm a guy that grew up in Chicago with J.W. and went to Michigan with Bo. My father-in-law was my DB coach; he's a real football coach. I played under Parsells. I played under Belichick. I played under Bobby Ross. So when you add a guy like that, to me, I get excited because he's a football guy. There are some other things; he is a buckeye (laughing). He's from Columbus, but other than that, he's all right."
How do you envision the mechanics working between the two of you?"Just like anybody else's. I came here for one reason, because I want Notre Dame to win. I want Notre Dame to win, and I want Coach Weis to do well. So it's not about whose ideas it is. Who's doing this. Who's doing that. It's about when we go out on the field on Saturday, do we win because that's the only way you feel good on Sunday. If you lose, you feel crappy, and when you can add a coach like Coach Tenuta that has the experience he has and has been there, he's a football guy and all that matters to him is how well we play and do we win. I want to be around guys like that."
With his track record are you concerned about who is considered being in charge?"No, because I know Jerry Capone, one of his buddies, and we already talked about that. I'm comfortable and secure with myself. I know what I can do and his deal is this; he's got a sign that says, ‘There is no limit to what a man can accomplish as long as he doesn't mind who gets the credit.' That's his sign and that's something I've always thought about. I've had that mindset as a player, and I certainly have that mindset as a coach because guys' egos get in the way of accomplishing goals. My ego is not that big where I'm not going to listen to a guy that has been coaching for over 25 years and had the success that he's had. I'm a bigger person than that because at the end, the more I'm around him and the more he talks, the more we bounce ideas off each other, 10 to 15 years from now the better off I will be. When we line up to play in September, Notre Dame is going to put a better product out on the field because Tenuta, Jappy (Oliver) and I can sit down and hash things out and we can come to a better product that will give us a better chance to win. Trust me, that is the only thing that matters if you are a real competitor. Now, if you are a selfish guy, then all you want is people around you that will never give you great ideas, who you can tell what to do and they will never argue with you. If you are a meek guy or a guy that likes attention or if you are just in it for the money, you never grow and your team never grows. I have never been about that. For me, it is not even an issue. All I know is that I have another good football coach on my staff and we can talk about things and when he opens his mouth, I am going to learn something. That's the only thing that matters to me so that when we put a product out on the field, it's a winning product. We will be competitive because we have been coached well and we have been taught well. Fundamentally, we are sound and we will be pretty good. So that's the only thing that really matters."
Will the defense look different this year?"Yeah, we're going to be flying around a lot more. We'll be flying around a lot more, that's how we will look."
In your conversations with John, do you talk about some things you do differently?"Absolutely, it's a two-way street because there are certain things I do and believe in and there are certain things that he does and certain things that Jappy does. So collectively as a group we sit down and say, ‘Okay, what about this? What about that? If we do this, then we have to deal with that.' So that's like an easy one."
We haven't seen a lot of the young guys like Emeka Nwankwo? He's been on the scout team. What are your thoughts? Is he someone who might step in?"You know what, it's really too early to make declarations or expectations, especially for a guy that has never played. They have to earn their stripes. We as a defense have to earn our stripes. So we're just going to learn and get better fundamentally. We're going to mesh the systems together and figure out what we do best, what they struggle with, and we're going to get after some people. And that's how we are going to play and we're going to have fun doing it. Until we get better, who knows, but that's what our goals are."
Coach Weis said he was impressed with David Bruton during winter conditioning. What have you noticed?"Without getting into specifics, I'm just trying to look at the whole picture. But that's one guy who has a few pelts under his belt. So we'll lean on him some. We'll expect big things out of him."
What do you do to bring back the swagger and confidence to the defense?"Like we've talked about from day one, when you step out on the field, you have to believe certain things. You have to believe you are going to play a certain way. There is something that has to happen when you step out on the field. As a player, when you go out there, you walk that line. If nobody ever fears you or you have no effect on the game, then there's a problem. There's a big problem with you as a person or maybe how you play. You always need to impact the game somehow. If I'm a safety and there's a receiver that wants to run across the middle, that's not going to happen. If I'm a linebacker and they have running backs that want to run through, that's not going to happen – if you have the right mind set. So as coaches, we have to call an aggressive game. As players, you have to live up to the game that we call."
Coach Weis has said that he is going to step back from the offense. How do you think that will manifest itself on the field as far as relationships between the head coach and the players?"Without really putting too much thought into it, the good thing about being an assistant coach is you don't have to worry about the things that head coaches deal with. So I just kind of worry about my little part as opposed to trying to worry about my part and worry about Coach and his big part. I think it's got to help, but as I said, I haven't put much thought into it because I have my own issues that I have to get straight."
Can you speak about Mo Crum being a team leader?"I think he is a good leader for us. He is dependable. He practices hard and he is respected and that's always a starting point because your peers have to respect you and your coaches have to respect you. So he's got that and he's got some experience so those are the good things."