Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Presser points | by Pat

Charlie had a number of interesting answers from last Sunday and Tuesday's press conferences. As always, I'd recommend reading both transcripts. If you're more of a Cliff Notes type, here's a quick spin through a few answers, starting with a topic that surprisingly has generated some debate among the Irish faithful: Zibby as ND QB at the end of the Duke game.

Personally, I thought it was great to see. Fans of ND and ND opponents alike have criticized Charlie for treating the team like he's still in the NFL and failing to realize his players are college kids, not professionals. So it was great to see Charlie letting the team have some fun and rewarding one of the hardest working players on the team on his Senior Day. But as Charlie explained, Zibby role's as quarterback started on a far more serious note.

Q. Zibby (Tom Zbikowski) talked a little yesterday, if I understood him correctly, that he had practiced some quarterback maybe during the bye week and so forth. I guess my question is trying to read between the lines, was Jimmy to the point physically that in that time frame Zibby was really the backup quarterback those two weeks?

COACH Charlie Weis: Well, put it like this. Jimmy wasn't ready to play, and actually Darren [Bragg] and Justin [Gillett] were running two and three in our normal stuff. So what I had to do was I had to have a package ready -- I had to have a package ready where if Jimmy wasn't healthy, and Evan went down, we needed to have something you could turn to if the regular offense wasn't getting you anything.

So the week of the bye we did -- we spent, you know, two periods, okay, putting in ten plays. So we called it the Zibby ten pack, kind of like that. So we had ten plays that he was involved in of which you saw -- let's see, you probably saw four of them yesterday: Run to the right, run to the left with two backs, and run to the right and a run to the left with one back, and then a hand off. I guess four or five plays, but that was like five of the ten.
Basically it sounds like Zibby was the emergency QB for at least the Navy game while Clausen healed up. Sharpley never went down though so Zibby wasn't needed. And when ND got up by four touchdowns on Duke, Charlie decided to let one of his favorite players take a few snaps behind a largely walk-on offensive line.

I noticed that ND wasn't the only team to let the seniors have some fun at their last home game. As pointed out by EDSBS, Boise State threw a pass to one of their senior offensive lineman (who then struck a Heisman pose and did a Lambeau Leap into the stands) and let a defensive tackle kick an extra point. It wouldn't surprise me to see these kind of Senior Day shenanigans spread to other schools and I think that's great for college football. As with most things there is a line between having fun and rubbing it in, but I don't think playing someone out of position during their last home game is anywhere near a level of taking shots at the end zone late in the 4th when you're already up by 3o or 40. As the pressure, responsibilities, and time commitments on players grow to near professional levels, I think it's great to keep some of the innocent fun of the college game intact. Just watching Darrin Bragg slide around the field just to get his uniform dirty after his turn at quarterback was a great reminder of this.

Moving on to more serious topics, Charlie addressed what his plan of attack would be at the conclusion of one of the worst seasons in ND history.
Q. Probably not going to ask a humorous question, but a couple big picture questions if that's okay. You said earlier in the press conference you said, "I probably made several mistakes this season." Why do you say that?

COACH Charlie Weis: The first thing I have to do, when you're 2-9, you have to start with you. As you go to evaluate what happened in your year, I think you always have to start with you personally. I think that you can start the other way; you can start with the players and work your way up, or you can start with you and work your way down, okay.

So I think that what I'm going to do, the 17th of December, when I'm off the road recruiting, I'm going to start that week, early on that morning on the 17th of December and go through that entire week and try to go through the entire year and evaluate what the problems were. Are they schematics; are they personnel, okay; what exactly the problems are. I'm not even worrying about fixing them yet. I want to first identify what they are, and then after identifying where they are, then you can share the blame after you've done that.

But I think unless you hold yourself accountable, it isn't like one thing; it might be a plethora of things. I really don't know yet at this point until after I've gone ahead and did a full analysis. But once I've identified what the problems are, then you can go about fixing them and some of them can be schematics. Some of them will be X's and O's and some of them might be methodologies of teaching, and there's a lot of different things that could be involved.
It's obvious that Charlie made mistakes and that this season was unacceptable. The good news is that he acknowledges that the program needs a system-wide reboot and he has plans to do so. Part of his plan involve getting a performance review of sorts from his buddies in New England.
Q. Someone pointed out there was a feature on television or interview where you were talking about spending some time with your old team in February or after the season. Just wondered what you hope to get out of that.

COACH Charlie Weis: Well, I think that I've probably made several mistakes this year and in my system. You know, the ones who know my system the best are New England, and I think that those guys would have no problem telling me what things I did right and what things I did wrong.

And the problem sometimes, you go to different coaches for some help, and they don't want to tell you what you did wrong. You know, but I want to know, hey, what would you have done different.

And I think those resources, those people, because we're close enough and have a very close relationship won't be afraid of saying to me, what the heck are you doing, and that's what I want. I want somebody to tell -- to be able to tell me, to say it like that, and I know that those guys would do that.
It's unlikely that the Pats are the only people that Charlie will talk to. They are just the ones mentioned by name in the presser. We'll probably hear more about some of these meeting as the off-season slowly crawls by. In the meantime, we can focus on more immediate concerns, such as the role of Robert Hughes for the upcoming Stanford game.
Q. Do you really need to see what James is doing in practice this week or is there a chance it will be more of a Robert Hughes week?

COACH WEIS: I think because of Robert, James might get healthy quicker (laughter). You know how that goes. I think we'll have to see. Fortunately we have some options at that position. I think when you don't have options, that's when you have more of a problem. We know Armando will always be involved in the mix. Robert stepped up nicely when James went back. We're not looking to write James off. I know when the big boy gets it rolling, I think that gets people healthier quicker.
My guess is that either Allen or Aldridge, if healthy enough, will start. But I expect Hughes to get plenty of carries. Stanford's rush defense is ranked right around were Duke was, so hopefully ND will continue to feature healthy does of the run game.

Finally, Charlie described his feelings as the team heads west for the last game of 2007.
Q. This final game of the season isn't maybe what you envisioned at the beginning of the season. A road trip, chance for the guys to be together. Does that make it a little more special, be away from other distractions, celebrate the fact you worked hard and spent the year together?

COACH WEIS: I think Thanksgiving week is always a special week regardless of who you're playing and where. It's one of my favorite holidays, not because of the food, but because of what it stands for in America. I think it's a time when these guys being together, we're a family oriented team. I think they'll feel that way Thursday when they're having dinner together over here on campus, Friday when we're making that trip, Saturday, realizing this is the last game, let's see if we can't take another step and move it in the right direction.