MIAMI (WBRC) - 2013 DISCOVER BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
JAN. 4 PRESS CONFERENCES
The following is a transcript of remarks provided by the Orange Bowl...
Offensive Coordinator Chuck Martin & Everett Golson
JOHN HUMENIK: We'll go ahead and get started. Here in the main room today we have offensive coordinator Chuck Martin and quarterback Everett Golson.
Q. Chuck, Alabama runs a 3?4 defense, they call that their base, but Nick Saban acknowledges they're only in that about 20 percent of the time. Does that mean that you have to prepare for two defenses, three defenses, nickel, dime and regular? And how complicated is that?
CHUCK MARTIN: Yeah, they're pretty diverse on defense. They use their three?down and four?down packages, much like our defense uses our three?down and four?down packages. That was one of the nice things over the last month was that similar fronts that Alabama uses are the same fronts that Coach Diaco uses on our defense. So when you go against your starters a lot of times it's good work because you're getting speed on speed and big guys on big guys, but the schemes are completely different. The nice thing preparing for us is that the fronts that both teams use, although multiple, it has helped us prepare because we've got to see those every day in practice.
Q. Is quick snap the way to attack that and limit their substitutions?
CHUCK MARTIN: I think at times you can get them, but they've been caught maybe a few times. It seems like every time they get caught out of position before the snap ?? I think one time, Mississippi or Mississippi State hit them on a quick roll hole shot ?? every other time it looked like they went right, they snapped the ball and the other team got no yards. It seems like a good idea when they're subbing to try to get them on their heels, but they typically just get off blocks and just run and make plays anyway. I'm not sure if that's the way to go.
Q. Could you talk about Everett's development, how much he's come along this year. And also, was there a game or a play that he performed and you look at it and you said, he's doing what we want?
CHUCK MARTIN: I think it's just been steady improvement as the year has gone on. The nice thing for him, the difficult thing but the nice thing for him is he got thrown in the fire right away. When you come out and you play three Big Ten teams your first four games and two or three huge rivals your first four games, he didn't get to ease into this thing like some young quarterbacks do, so he got put in a bunch of different situations. But I think it's just been steady progress based on getting out there, getting game experience, learning what we're trying to do offensively at the same time, and then just kind of a steady progression. I'd say for me where it looked like from the box that he was really starting to get comfortable out there was Oklahoma, and not so much based on play and performance but just based on watching him take the field and watching him direct our offenses. Okay, he looks comfortable. I don't know how comfortable he is on the inside, you'd have to ask him, but to me it really looked like to me, okay, he's not worried about too much, he's just kind of running the show out there.
Q. Everett, you talked last year about how being put back onto the scout team in retrospect was good for you.
Talk about that period and how that helped your development.
EVERETT GOLSON: Well, I think me being put back on the scout team, it was just really a humbling experience for me. Coming in, I thought I was ready to play or had that confidence that I was ready to play, but it wasn't that way for me. I think being put back on the scout team, like I said, really humbled me, made me kind of reassess myself.
Q. Chuck, Everett at the beginning wasn't enough, wasn't loud enough, and then he kind of went over the top. You talked about that last month at the media day. Describe how he's become just a better communicator, I guess.
CHUCK MARTIN: Yeah, just everything he does, there's so much going on on the field with the way defenses ?? he was talking about the defense has changed so much, and our offense is pretty sophisticated, there's a lot of communication both verbally and non?verbally that needs to go on all the time. It's just nonstop. Just him getting used to that being on his plate and how to handle it with his offensive linemen, how to communicate with his receivers, and understanding that a little hand signal that's misunderstood can derail the whole play and derail the whole team at that moment. Just different for him than probably what he was used to. Our communication system versus maybe what he was used to in high school, and particularly this year, the amount of checks he does at the line, both run game, pass game, protections. So he's got a lot on his plate and just ?? I think earlier in the year he had it in his head but maybe not got all the way through the ranks all the time, but now if you've watched us the last quarter of the year, at times we're a pretty smooth?flowing outfit out there.
Q. Everett, I was just curious, is there a reason or a story behind why you wear the No. 5?
EVERETT GOLSON: No, not really, I just always wore it from like JV in high school.
Q. You ever wonder how things might have been different had you kept your commitment to North Carolina and gone there instead?
EVERETT GOLSON: I often do sometimes, but I think me praying about it has helped me to make the right decision. To be honest, it wasn't all perfect when I was ?? when I first came in. But just enduring through the adversity, I think I've made the right decision
Q. For the past five weeks your offensive line has heard that Alabama might have the best offensive line of all time possibly or in 20 years. Do you get any kind of a sense that they want to make a statement? And again, from both of your points of view, particularly you, Everett, what do you see when you're behind them?
EVERETT GOLSON: Well, I think not only our offensive line, but I think we as a team want to kind of make a statement, being that we were always counted out from the beginning of the year up until now, we definitely want to make a statement. But you talk about me being behind the offensive line, for me it's been a growing process as far as taking control back there and just kind of communicating with them, and them on the other side just building that confidence in me. So it's been tremendous to have a great offensive line like I do.
CHUCK MARTIN: And I'd say our offensive line is much more concerned with Alabama's very good defensive line. I would say we probably don't know a lot about what's been written about Alabama's offensive line. They've got their own set of issues dealing with the big boys on the other side of the ball.
Q. Two questions, and they're both about the gap between games: One, how concerned are you just from a rhythm standpoint? Obviously a bowl game there's always a layoff, but this is particularly long for you guys. And secondly, over these six weeks how do you not let the enormity of you could be a national champion quarterback at Notre Dame, how do you not let that consume you?
EVERETT GOLSON: I think you just don't look ahead. We still have to prepare, and that's what has consumed me this far is really preparing and really watching film, breaking down film on Alabama. So that's my main focus.
Q. For Everett and Chuck, when a pocket breaks down and you can extend a play in that film study of Alabama, what have you seen that you think becomes vulnerable or becomes an opportunity against their defense?
EVERETT GOLSON: Well, I think it's tough. They have a great defense, and like I said earlier, they play their responsibilities. So it's going to be hard for us to kind of exploit their defense. But I'm sure just my ability to improvise, and the guys' around me ability to improvise, we'll work something out.
Q. Everett, what's the reception been like back home in Myrtle Beach for you?
EVERETT GOLSON: It's been great. It's been great, going back home for a couple of days, had a chance to see a lot of people, and they were just giving me a lot of encouraging words. It's been great.
Q. What's your relationship with Manti Te'o been?
EVERETT GOLSON: I think me and Manti's relationship grew tremendously this season, and I think one point in the season that really emphasized that was the Oklahoma game. We came in at after time, and I can remember him coming over to me and was like, "We got you. We're going to take care of our part, we got you, whatever you do, we got you." So just having him and having a defensive player just encouraging me like that has helped me out a lot and made me more confident and comfortable.
Q. With this long layoff, were you able to ?? I know you guys do a lot of self ?analysis of what happened during the season and red?zone offense was one of the major hang?ups going through 12 games. How do you approach that, especially considering that Alabama's red?zone defense isn't the one to get healthy again?
CHUCK MARTIN: Yeah, they're not going to get healthy again. We looked at our run game and they're not really healthy to get there, either. No, we looked at all parts of red zone, and particularly since they don't give up many opportunities. Unfortunately you're trying to study the opposing's tape, and there's just not a lot of clips of teams getting down there. And the few clips when teams get inside their 10 so you can really game plan and organize a good plan, the score is typically 48 to nothing, and there's none of the starters on the field for Alabama. It's hard to game plan against what they do late in the game when they're up by 50 points. That's the other task for them is you're trying to see how you can attack them and what they're going to do against you or certain formations, and you know they've got their backups in and they're just kind of finishing out the game. But I think for us it's like any other part of the field, it's execution, it's playing physical, it's in the run game, carving out some space for our running backs, and then obviously in the pass game, giving Everett some time and then him making sure he figures out that coverage and where to get the ball and put the ball in the right place. I don't think there'll be issues structurally for opportunities to make plays, but they're a difficult defense, like you alluded to, difficult defense to get the ball in against.
Q. I believe the only other freshman quarterback to win a National Championship is Jamelle Holieway. What do you remember about him? And have you had anyone like that in your career, a freshman besides Everett, that you had to get ready to win?
CHUCK MARTIN: Yeah, no, I remember Jamelle Holieway and that he was very difficult to tackle. If he had the ball in his hands, it was hard to get him down. No, the only time I've been part of it was, coaches last year at Grand Valley State, we had a freshman quarterback and won the national title. I would say the year was very similar to this year as far as a young guy growing up on the job, and by the time we got to the National Championship game he was a lot different player than he was when he ran out in Dublin, Ireland, against Navy. Very similar from that ?? not very similar style of quarterbacks but very similar in terms of watching a young player grow up and really become a player right in front of your eyes. So very similar to that situation.
Q. Who was that kid?
CHUCK MARTIN: Colin Finnerty. And then he went on to win three, so we're hoping that history repeats itself. Everybody is worried about that next one, we're trying to make this the first of three, actually.
No one thought that was coming out today, huh? You guys are all way too short?minded with your thinking.
Trying to think big picture here. (Smiling).
Q. Everett, I don't know if anybody has mentioned this to you, but there's been talk of you haven't been on this big a stage yet. Can you talk about how big the stage is being the quarterback at Notre Dame. And Coach, talk about what he's seen so far that might prepare him for this kind of a pressure game.
EVERETT GOLSON: Well, I think like you said, it is a big stage, but I think just the person that I am doesn't really ?? I don't ride the wave too much. I'm kind of just focused on what's played between the yard lines, what's played on the field. Can't really focus on everything that's off the field because that's out of my control.
CHUCK MARTIN: I'd say just for him, our schedule, first?ever college game in Dublin, Ireland, first?ever home game against Purdue, road game primetime Michigan State, night game at Notre Dame against Michigan, on the road at Oklahoma, on the road at USC, coming off the bench, doing all the things that he's been through, he's about as battle tested ?? take any other quarterback this year and try to figure out if they've gone through as much as Everett Golson. To me it's not even close. Not even close.
If you look at game by game, and for our football team, we're pretty battle tested. I don't know if we're good enough to beat Alabama, but if we're good enough to beat Alabama, I think our kids have shown that they're a pretty resilient bunch, and they're pretty battle tested whether it be home or away. They've been told for 12 weeks that they weren't good enough to get this far, and somehow we're sitting in front of you guys answering questions. So he's pretty battle tested.
Q. Last spring you mentioned that Coach Kelly had always been one of the most hands?on coaches in America, and he really wanted to get back to that in his third year. Can you talk about how that played out. And Everett, from your perspective, Coach Kelly's role in your development and being hands on.
CHUCK MARTIN: I just think it's been an interesting process this year. I think I would say it's kind of morphed from a time where in spring he was very hands on to where now he kind of likes the way things look out there, and he's probably a little more back to being a little more big picture. I think he was bound and determined to get some things corrected on offense, i.e., turnovers, for the most part, and was really bound and determined to do that in the spring.
And then I think he had a new offensive staff and he had some new players, including a new quarterback. I think once everybody settled in, I think he's a little bit more back to just running the whole outfit, which he's pretty good at.
EVERETT GOLSON: I think for me, talking about coming from the spring, one of my main focuses or one of his main focuses for me was the mechanics of being a quarterback. I think he's helped me out a lot with that, and I've shown progression from the start of the season until now.
Q. Everett, Coach said earlier that he felt like it was the Oklahoma game when things began to come together for you. When do you feel like you began to really feel comfortable out there? And compare how you feel now to how you felt at the beginning of the year.
EVERETT GOLSON: Well, for me, I would think it's probably the Miami game for me, you know, just going through kind of what I've been through, and then coming back and just trying to help this team be successful. You know, I think that built a little bit of confidence in me, and I think it ?? what was instilled in me there showed in the Oklahoma game and the Pitt game. That's it.
Q. Everett, kind of building off that a little bit, you were joking that it was easier for you to go out and practice that it was to talk to the media, you were kind of sweating during that press conference. When did you kind of get comfortable with the spotlight, the attention, and the focus on you as the quarterback at Notre Dame?
EVERETT GOLSON: I think having that from the beginning of the season, I kind of had to. I can remember the first time being ??
CHUCK MARTIN: You can still tell he's more comfortable out there playing than talking to these yahoos.
EVERETT GOLSON: No, the first time it was a little nerve wracking for everybody. I've calmed down a lot.
Q. If I say to you "Theo Riddick", what's the first thing that pops into your head?
CHUCK MARTIN: Pound for pound as good a football player as they make.
Q. Cierre Wood.
CHUCK MARTIN: As explosive a player as they make.
CHUCK MARTIN: Really explosive athlete.
Q. So take me behind, if you can, like into the war room. When you guys know you have these three backs, how did you guys go about determining how you would maximize the three of them?
CHUCK MARTIN: Just based on what they do well day to day. We spent obviously tons of time practicing, and they all get opportunities to run all our plays and then you try to slot the guys in positions where you know they can help the team the most. Whether it be inside run, outside run, pass block in, receiving, different routes, even different style of runs, we try to utilize all their strengths.
The truth be told, they all could be a feature back, they all could do all the things. Everybody is like, he plays more, what's wrong with him? There's nothing wrong with any of the three. We'd like to get George 20 carries a game but there's one football. Coach and I had a discussion at the beginning of the year, "We have to get George more touches," and I'm like, "I'm with you, we've got to run more plays." Whose touches do we want to take away? We don't want to take away any of the three.
It's a credit to all three of them that they've stuck with it and prepared hard every week, and some weeks they've gotten more touches, but that's the nature of the beast. But we're very fortunate to have three very talented kids at that position.
Q. Can you just talk about being from SEC territory, how did you pick Notre Dame? And when you go back home how much do you hear about SEC football and the six National Championships in a row? And do you ever get tired of hearing about the SEC?
EVERETT GOLSON: Well, being that I am from the South, you kind of hear about the SEC schools a lot. I remember I used to get questioned, why didn't you go to South Carolina or any other SEC school? But like I said earlier, God has a plan for me. I feel that I'm at the right place, and that's why I chose Notre Dame
Q. Everett, how does it make you feel to be a part of such a great storied tradition that you guys have there at Notre Dame?
EVERETT GOLSON: Tremendous, tremendous. You know, just being a part of ?? even with this team, just a great group of guys like I do have the opportunity to play with is just tremendous for me. So it's a good feeling.
Q. Would you just talk a little bit about your time at Grand Valley and coming to Muscle Shoals and playing for the National Championship several times, and how it is different on this stage.
CHUCK MARTIN: One, it was awesome every time we went down there. As you know, we couldn't have enjoyed our experiences down there any more. It became a home away from home for us.
Not much different. I know it's a bigger stage. There's more people in the pressroom. There's more fans running around. But it's the same deal. You start preparing in January, and all the time and energy that the players go through and everything you watch them do from on the field, off the field, the summertime to fall camp to all the games, and it's all about trying to get to this moment where next Tuesday we turn our equipment in no matter what. We always talked about that. We want to play until the last day you can turn equipment in, and obviously we're doing that at Notre Dame this year.
To me it's very similar. It doesn't feel any different. I know everybody says, well, it's a bigger stage, and it's not. It's a football game and it's a National Championship game, and fortunately for me it's seven times in 12 years we've gotten to go try to win it all. It's been a good time, more fun than we should be allowed to have, actually.
Q. Did you work out with the receivers at all in the summertime? And if not, how long did it take you to get comfortable, especially with Tyler? And on another note, when Pittsburgh was lining up for the field goal and missed it, how far did your emotions swing?
EVERETT GOLSON: Well, like I said, I'm not really the person to ride the wave. Definitely you're hoping and praying that he does miss it, so we'll have an opportunity to come down and win it.
But like I said, you talk about working out with the wide receivers, I think that's been an emphasis for me, just for me it was really just trying to gain their trust and showing them that I could get the ball to them, and just getting timing down and stuff like that.
CHUCK MARTIN: We're still working on it with Tyler, just so you know. We've got practice, so we're going to try to get better at it this afternoon.
Q. Do you still play piano, keyboard, drums, and ??
EVERETT GOLSON: Yeah.
Q. How accessible is that stuff to you on campus? And how big a role does that play in your life, be it a break from football?
EVERETT GOLSON: Well, I think music is like my outlet. You talk about how accessible it is, it's very accessible for me because I actually have a keyboard in my room. There's many times where I come from practice or come from class, and I'll just sit down and play. Like I said, it's more so my outlet, kind of lets me get away from hat's actually going on, what I'm actually doing.
Q. You mentioned back in August kind of this great unknown going into the season. You had never really seen obviously Everett play in a game. Is the National Championship almost sort of that great unknown that Navy was, just that none of these players have been in this situation before?
CHUCK MARTIN: Yeah, it is. They'll realize pretty quickly it's like any other game. I'd say the first series isn't.
The first series will be ?? they'll realize the enormity of the moment when they go out there. But once those big guys start chasing them around, kind of instincts take over. I guarantee you the first set of drives they probably won't be thinking this is the National Championship, they'll be thinking, I've got to find a window to throw the ball.
That's the biggest thing, from coach being in some games and me being in a bunch of them, just trying to impart on them what's it going to be like when you go out there, and they want it to be something it isn't. It's just a game. Whoever executes better is going to win the game. Whoever doesn't turn it over, whoever can throw it over the other team's head, that's who is going to win the game. It has nothing to do with the 43 days or all the things that we try to make out, how is the game going to be determined. Execution is going to determine this game, just like it determines every other football game. We've got to keep them in that mind.
Q. Chuck, question for you on your transition: Obviously you went from being a safety coach to running the offense, an offense that lost Michael Floyd and had to replace some pieces. What was that process like for you, and what made you confident that you could be a guy that could go from being a position coach on the defensive side of the ball to running the offense?
CHUCK MARTIN: The confidence part comes from doing it before earlier in my career when I spent 12 years on defense and moved to offense, when I didn't know anything about it really. I thought I did. When you're the head coach you can pretend you know something about anything. So doing that transition before, going from one side of the ball to the other.
And then being here for a couple years and thinking that we had a good plan for how this team could win games, we didn't go over there and just say, what are we going to do now, and there's a lot of discussions involved in how can we win at Notre Dame, what's the right model to win at Notre Dame, and what's the right model to win this football team. The nice thing, we've kind of stuck with the plan, it's been a grind for everyone involved at times, and it's been a process. But what we set out to do probably did a couple years before we thought they were capable, but having some talented players like the ones in these rooms certainly help out.
But just doing it before, going from defense to offense, and then having the familiarity with our program and our kids and saying this is how Notre Dame is going to get back on top, this is how they're going to win football games.
Q. Talk about any pregame traditions that you have or rituals or anything you see in the locker room, anything interesting that you guys see as you prep minutes up to the game.
EVERETT GOLSON: I don't think it's ?? for me, I know personally it's not a ?? I don't really have any pregame rituals. I think maybe the only thing is I sing a little bit, and some of the guys will sing a little bit, too. But we're mostly like focused for the most part, just focused on the test that we have ahead.
CHUCK MARTIN: Yeah, we have no superstitions, zero. Everybody wants to find ?? actually I have one: When you walk in the locker room to address your guys, there's a lot of really good players in there. That's my superstition. If you go in there and you look, that Everett Golson, he's a pretty good player. Other than that, we try not to do anything the same way twice because then we can never be off schedule, we can never ?? we didn't put our socks on the right way today. There's a lot of things that can creep in your mind and help you lose a game. We try to stay away from those.
Q. You spoke a few minutes ago about not riding the wave, particularly in that Pitt game. What was that like when that Pitt game was over?
EVERETT GOLSON: It was tremendous. It was a real enjoyable time, just for the Notre Dame community.
You talk about the game, I think certain situations that was in that game allowed for me not to, unless my confidence would have been shot, talking about me throwing that pick late in the game. If I would have got down on myself or not believed, we wouldn't be sitting here today.
So I think me ?? like I said, me not riding that wave, and me just always believing that we were going to win and having that confidence has helped us get to this point right now.
Q. After all the wins, all the victories, all the practice, inevitably there's going to be those two plays and some of us in the media are going to say there's that victory and the luck of the Irish. Is that something you relish or is that something that drives you nuts when they declare your victory luck when really it's your talent?
CHUCK MARTIN: Well, I think in life there's a certain amount of luck in everything that happens every day.
People always wish you good luck, and I always tell them, hey, we'll take all the luck we can get. People that have been around team sports in general, and particularly football, know that if you prepare the right way and you do the right things all the time or you try to do things the right way all the time, none of us do it but we all try to, it seems like those teams get a lot luckier than other teams. There's certain people that have won a lot of games and there's certain players that have won a lot of games. And the ones that lose never get deemed lucky, so the ones that win are always going to get deemed lucky. So we don't mind it too much.
EVERETT GOLSON: I think for me it's like a combination of luck and preparing. And when you said that I started to think about the Pitt game. We were somewhat lucky that he missed the field goal, but we were also prepared to drive down the field and win for ourselves.
CHUCK MARTIN: The other thing is, too, when you look at games, they remember the last ?? was Pitt lucky when we fumbled the ball going in with no one touching our tailback? Was Pitt lucky maybe when we had an opportunity to throw an inside vertical in the first quarter to a guy wide open?
EVERETT GOLSON: (Laughs).
CHUCK MARTIN: So there's hundreds of plays, you guys just tend to pick out one or two that you remember.
We remember a lot more than you guys do.
Q. Can you talk about the TJ Jones' development at receiver. And at a place like Notre Dame where tradition seems to matter so much, how much more pressure is there on legacy kids?
CHUCK MARTIN: Yeah, I think there's a little bit more just because everybody talks about, why is that kid there? Is he there because he's a good player or because he's the son of a former great Notre Dame player? So you have that burden when you're a legacy kid, which is unfair. But I think they get it because they've been around it.
Biggest thing from TJ is he's always been an excellent game player. His ball skills are ridiculous. It's hard to throw a ball he won't catch for you. He's a great route runner. He's super quick. He understands the game, he's tough. He has all the traits. He'd probably love to be 6'5", maybe a little bigger, but that's not how he is.
The biggest thing he's really helped our team is how he practices because he's probably a little bit known as a gamer, and kind of prepared enough to get ?? but him practicing not always made him a better player but probably marginally better because he's always played really good in games for us, but really set the tone for a new receiving group, a young receiving group with Michael leaving a big void there. He's really set the tone as leadership for our offense how he practices every day, which is what we're most thankful for him because we knew he could play.
Q. Everett, what's the best advice that you got coming into this game, and where did it come from?
EVERETT GOLSON: The best advice?
CHUCK MARTIN: Better be something I told you. (Laughter.)
EVERETT GOLSON: Let me see. The race is not given to the swift or the strong. I'm paraphrasing. But ??
CHUCK MARTIN: I definitely didn't tell him this one.
EVERETT GOLSON: ?? but it's given to the one that endures to the end. Like you said, we're obviously the underdogs coming into this game, but I think that kind of really dissuades what we're talking about going into the game. Alabama has, like I said, a great defense, great team, bigger, faster, stronger. But it's really about who's going to endure to the end and play hard for four quarters.
Q. You've got so much experience on both sides of the ball for a long time. Can you remember a time when it has not been about controlling those A and B gaps? In other words, spread option offenses, you've still got to run the ball and stop the run up front.
CHUCK MARTIN: Yeah, no, the game is a pretty simple game that a lot of coaches and media try to make it more difficult than it is. No matter what defense that you put together, you don't put guys in every gap, and when guys aren't in the gap Alabama is going to take advantage of that, Notre Dame is going to take advantage of that. As big and strong as both front sevens are, if there's somebody not in a gap, air is not very big and strong. That's what both teams are trying to do, carve out some space in the run game and make sure their team has no space. Obviously both teams very good offensive lines and very good running backs, so you can't give them a lot of room. Both teams' running backs proved that; you give them a little bit and they'll take a lot.
It's very simple, it's preparation. Kids understand it's not always your scheme, but it's your kids understanding your scheme is actually more important than the Xs and Os putting together. And getting the kids buying in and to believe in that, that it's not about running around chicken with a head cut off and trying to make every play, and being 1/11 of our offense or 1/11 of our defense.
Q. Everett, earlier you said growing up in South Carolina you heard so much about the SEC but that you were very happy with your decision to go to Notre Dame. That being said, how much are you looking forward to not just taking on Alabama but personally taking on the SEC?
EVERETT GOLSON: Well, I really didn't think of it like that. I just kind of see it as not necessarily just the SEC, I see it as another game. I see it as an opportunity for us to win the National Championship. So I think that's what I take it on as.
Q. Chuck, can you describe how patient you had to be with Everett early on and how he tested it and when you felt like the light went on.
CHUCK MARTIN: The thing for us with Everett is our confidence never wavered in anything he was going to become. We were just pushing the envelope to how quickly we could get him to the level we knew he could play. So there was never ?? patience I guess is the right word, but in our mind we never really viewed it as ?? he was our guy, and we knew mentally what he was capable of doing, we knew physically what he was capable of doing, and we knew there was going to be a maturation process like any other young, particularly at the quarterback position at the University of Notre Dame.
It's no different anywhere, just people want it to happen today and he wanted it to happen today and so did we. But we were more realistic, we were probably more realistic than him. He probably put more pressure on himself and had higher demands of how quickly he wanted to play at the level he knew he could play. So for us it was just a matter of keep evaluating day by day where he's at and what buttons to push and just getting to know him because it's hard, you put in the offense and you teach them all the ?? he talked about the technical part of his footwork and you talk about the reads and all that, and he had all that stuff down a long time ago. Now it was trying to get him to play comfortable and relaxed and communicate and all the other things that go into that position.
It was just a process, and we knew we were going to stick with it. I don't know that he knew we were always going to stick with it, but there was never any doubt in our mind of what he was going to become for us.
Q. When did you think the light went on?
CHUCK MARTIN: Yeah, I thought he looked most comfortable ?? he says Miami, which makes sense, which was before that. But for me it wasn't ?? the frustrating thing for me because we had conversations after things that happened on the field, and he would see it. I was like, dude, did you ?? "yeah, I see it." Okay. He would be telling me like I would be going to correct something. But the comfort level was he was seeing it at a very young age. The frustrating thing was he was seeing it and not always reacting to it.
But I felt like just how he ran on the field at Oklahoma gave our whole team confidence because he seemed very comfortable and calm out there, not that he's always calm talked to him knows his non?verbals on the field were outstanding that night, and to me that's the night that I really saw the maturation.
Q. What specific difficulties have you encountered in game planning for this Alabama defense?
CHUCK MARTIN: The specific thing is how good they are, because there are certain things that structurally ?? okay, run game, we should be able to do this, like if other teams lined up like this, we would run this run play, and itwould be pretty successful. Now can we block them? Can we actually execute the block? And then the same thing in the pass game: This looks like it would have a chance for success, but can we get open on that corner or can we protect the quarterback long enough?
And then if you get ?? like most teams, but they're more so than some that we've gone up against, if you get to 3rd and long, they throw a lot of stuff at you, and then it becomes more problematic to see what they're doing, and then they do a good job of if your quarterback checks and they change the defense right after he checks or what he just checked for is no longer there, now they do a very good job of when they get you in 3rd and long. I went through the 3rd and long ?? they've gotten more fumbles and interceptions and sacks than they've given up 1st downs on 3rd and 7?plus, which is ?? if you want to get demoralized if you're a Notre Dame fan, watch the Alabama 3rd and 7 plus tape, which we did one morning, and then we called it a day after that because we were all demoralized. If they just punted on 3rd down the whole season against Alabama than actually going for it on 3rd and 7?plus. They do a very good job in those situations.
Q. You kind of alluded to some of this, but there's this perception that if you give Saban a month plus to prepare for anybody, he'll take any offense apart. How much does that play into changes you may or may not make in a game like this, and how much do you look back at the LSU game and the Texas game to see how they might have changed what they do?
CHUCK MARTIN: I mean, they kind of do what they do. Obviously everybody has a little bit of a 3rd down wrinkle, but they've had so much success, you don't anticipate them, other than a wrinkle on a blitz here or there, changing their defense. No one moved the ball against them Notre Dame, for as long as I can remember, so why would they change for the University of Notre Dame. If they did change drastically that would be heck of compliment.
I don't anticipate that. I think structure we can have some confidence that we know what we are going to get in certain situations and certain formations, and they have enough in their package that there's enough there to keep you off balance.
But both teams have 43 days to prepare, and both teams know what the other teams have done to get here, and both teams know their tendencies. They know our tendencies pretty well, but we know our tendencies pretty well, too. It'll be a fun night when it comes to the chess match part of it.
Q. Everett, can you describe your experiences since getting down here to South Florida and how the events leading up to the game have affected your preparation for the game?
EVERETT GOLSON: Well, I don't think it affected my preparation. It's been a great time being down here in South Beach. But like I said, it hasn't affected my preparation partially due to the fact that my preparation didn't start when I got here; it was 43 days or however many or so days before this that I've been preparing.
So I'm still preparing the same way.
Q. Everett, I know that the former starter Rees led the winning drive in the opener and that you didn't start against Miami. I guess you were benched for breaking a team rule or something. But I'm wondering, your relationship with him, has it been awkward at times? Have you been humbled at times during the season? What have you learned from that? And just talk about your relationship.
EVERETT GOLSON: It hasn't been awkward at all. I think Tommy Rees, being there in the beginning for me, has helped me out tremendously, kind of helped me to become the player that I am and become more confident in my play.
You talk about me being put out those games, it was for the betterment of the team. At the time, to be honest, I couldn't see it because the competitor in me wanted to be on the field, but the coaches did what was best for the team, and that's why we're 12?0 today.
And like I said, Tommy has been great. He's been nothing but professional, nothing but a friend to me through this whole process.
Q. I don't know how much Coach Martin knows about this, but coming out of high school you had actually hoped to play both college basketball and football. Whatever happened to that? Did you ever talk to Coach Brey about it? I know you talked to Coach Williams. If you had gone to North Carolina do you think there was a chance that that would have happened?
EVERETT GOLSON: Well, me and Coach Brey, exchanged words but nothing too solid to really stick.
Obviously basketball is my love. That's what I love. But my primary right now is football. I'd like to say I would like to have the chance of playing basketball someday here. But like I said, football is my primary, and what I'm focused on right now is the National Championship
Q. If you had gone to North Carolina do you think there was a chance you'd be playing both?
EVERETT GOLSON: Maybe so, but you can never say.
CHUCK MARTIN: He's pretty good at his hobby, this being his hobby. Primary love basketball is just what he does on the side, he's actually pretty decent at.
Q. How much have you guys watched the Texas A & M film, and what did they do so well against Alabama that got them to win that football game?
CHUCK MARTIN: They had it 21?0 in the first quarter, got a couple short fields, their quarterback did a good job improvising on some key snaps in the first quarter and hurt them with his legs. Obviously a couple of huge scrambles and an infamous touchdown play that he pulled off.
And then the other thing that they did is in key 3rd down situations, they had more success against Alabama than probably anyone else. They actually ?? in some very adverse, made some huge catches right at the sticks and found some ways to get 1st downs. And then they made some plays in the fourth quarter.
So jumping out, I don't anticipate being up 21?0 the first quarter, but that would be absolutely nice if that would ever happen. But 3rd downs were key for them, and then their quarterback ad?libbing a little bit, and when things weren't there, he made three or four plays. So we're planning on him doing the same thing for us, that when we call a lousy play, he just ad?libs a little bit, make something happen, which he has a tendency to do at times, which we really like.
Q. How much harder was it to get the ball to Eifert this year? How did he deal with that? And how is his backup Niklas doing in terms of being an heir apparent to that position?
CHUCK MARTIN: There's no heir apparent to what Tyler can do in the pass game for us. Even yesterday we threw three or four balls that I actually stopped, looked away because I knew they were incomplete passes, and then heard somebody yell, "great catch, Tyler." I'm like, he caught that one?
His ability to run and catch and his target being so tall is obviously ?? you're not going to replace it. But Troy has done a great job. He's really been our starting tight end because we move Tyler all over the place and done an unbelievable job blocking. Our offensive line has gotten a lot of credit for our run game along with our backs, but our tight ends are huge. Tyler has done a great job blocking and Troy has done a great job blocking, too.
It's harder to get to him this year because he is he's our go?to guy. When everybody was doubling Floyd, you've got some favorable match?ups with Eifert and now he is Floyd. Why don't you throw to him more in the red zone? You ever hear of Houdini try to find one?on?one match?ups in the red zone for Eifert because you design your whole offense, throw 80, then there's two guys pre?snap line all over him, and you can't just keep jamming the ball.
We try to find some one?on?one matches, but it's been very difficult, no doubt.
Q. You've been a head coach before, obviously lower level. You have aspirations to do that again at the FBS level, and if so, what sort of is the threshold, going from Notre Dame assistant to head coach at another FBS school? What are the criteria?
CHUCK MARTIN: I'm not sure I understand the question. The threshold meaning what?
Q. It's a pretty good gig I think being offensive coordinator at Notre Dame. What's the threshold FBS coaching job, I've really got to take this one, or do you wait for the perfect gig?
CHUCK MARTIN: Yeah, I don't know. I just think the situation, the place. I don't think there's a master plan, and I don't think of it near enough. I'm told all the time about that I don't ?? I've been fortunate in my career. I've always believed what my dad taught me, keep your head down and work hard and it'll all sort itself out. When I got into this thing way back when, I probably didn't have the pedigree or I ?? typically you play at a bigger school and you end up starting a little bit higher up, and I went to some great places and kind of mumbled around for a while.
To me keep working, keep winning and opportunities come and you evaluate the opportunities. If it's the right opportunity for your wife and kids, you do it. If it's not, you won't. And certainly your point of being the offensive coordinator at Notre Dame, there's less jobs that look appealing that ?? I've gotten some phone calls the last couple years that five years ago I would have pinched myself if I got the call, and I'm scratching my head like, am I really not interested in this? What the heck is the matter with you. It's been a fun journey. I try not to worry about it, otherwise it'll drive you nuts.
Q. A lot of the players in the other room said that you being offensive coordinator there's been a simplification of things this year. Why did you think things needed to be simplified and how did you do that to get this offense moving along when you took over?
CHUCK MARTIN: Well, I think it starts with the offensive staff being on the same page all the time, and walking out to the practice field with a plan, whether it's a good plan or a bad plan, walk out there with a plan and make sure the kids understand the plan and why we're doing the things we're doing. It becomes simpler for these guys when you're not going with the military "you do this because I'm the coach and you say it," and they'll do it because that's how kids, athletes are trained. If you tell them what to do, hey, shut up and do it, they'll shut up and do it because that's how they're wired. But they'll think it's simpler when they understand why you're doing it. Okay, we're running this route versus this coverage and here's why we're going to do it and this is why it's going to be successful, and then they look at it, and we're fortunate at Notre Dame we've got some very, very, very intellectual kids that they want to know the whys. Everett doesn't want to just see a new route and say, okay, I'll run it, Coach. And then he goes and studies tape, like he's talked about a bunch, and he looks at the tape, okay. If he has questions, he comes back and he's like, I know what we're trying to do, but I see this guy that might be here on this, and then we kind of collaborate and work together.
I think getting our kids to understand the whys and not so much the hows has been a big benefit and something that they take a lot of comfort in.
Q. Tell me, do you think there's any weaknesses in this Alabama defense that you can exploit personally? And how does it feel to play in the biggest game of your life?
EVERETT GOLSON: Is this for me?
CHUCK MARTIN: I'm not playing, dude. The spread would be a lot higher if I was.
EVERETT GOLSON: Like we've said time and time again, Alabama has a great defense, and there's many things that they do, talking about switching out from three down to four down, just simple things like that that you have to prepare for or you have to have it instituted. But for me it's definitely going to be a great opportunity to compete for this National Championship, so I'm looking forward to it.
OT Zach Martin
On the experience since arriving…
"Everything has been great since we arrived. We practiced yesterday at the Dolphins facility, which was pretty cool. The biggest thing right now is just getting used to the weather. It has been about 20 degrees up in South Bend and we were practicing indoors, so now we have to get used to 80 degree heat down here, which we will."
On Alabama's defensive line…
"I think collectively they will be the toughest defensive line we face. We have played some talented players, but collectively Alabama is the most talented. They are big, physical and have guys that can stop the run. They can also get after the quarterback, so we will have to be on our game."
On the style of Alabama's defense…
"They are similar to our defense, which we see every day. They have big d-linemen who can stop the run and rush the passer. Also, Alabama has mobile linebackers who can make big plays and an active secondary, so very similar to our defense. We will have to be ready."
On what it will take to be successful…
"Executing will be key. We have to be able to execute and not give the defense anything. From what we've seen on film, Alabama's defense is very good so we do not want to shoot ourselves in the foot."
On the acclimation to South Florida…
"The first day with the weather was a little tough, but that's just flying the day before and going from 20 degrees to 80 degrees. It takes about a day to get used to it. We will be fine."
On praise for Alabama's defense…
"They are a very talented group obviously. We try not to listen to that, and I know our team is trying to stay out of what the media is saying. They are talented, but we know our offensive line has put in the work and is ready to go out and give it our all and prove that we are pretty good too."
On being the underdog…
"Whenever you are the underdog you get tired of hearing stuff, but we are not worried about that. We are here to win a football game, not listen to all the talk."
On preparations for the game…
"I think we have done a great job all year in avoiding distractions. Coach [Brian] Kelly and the staff have prepared us each week as if it is a one-game season. Everyone talks about all the time since the last game, but I think it's gone really fast. It hasn't been that big a deal since we were practicing up there and now down here. We are doing what we have done all season in preparing for the game, not changing anything from the routine."
TE Tyler Eifert
On Alabama's defense
"They are just a sound defense that's physical, is fast, and flies around. They got great cover guys and a great front seven, just all around a good defense. They will be the best defense we face all year. We've seen a good front seven before [and] we've played some good corners, but just as a whole they're a complete defense."
On toughest challenge in this game
"To stay patient with the game plan. It's going to be a long, tough game [so] we got to stick with it and keep grinding."
On QB Everett Golson
"He's been prepared well, he's had a great month of preparation and I think he will do just fine. He's gotten a lot better. Anytime you're a young quarterback and you get some more time and start, you're going to get better and get more experience. I think he's taken the coaching better from the coaches and understanding what their looking for in the offense and that's really helped him."
On Notre Dame's greatest asset
"We are a team that will play for four quarters and we got great lineman on defense and offense."
On Alabama being through this before
"It's got to be helpful just to have been through the preparation [with]having so much time off and knowing what to expect come game time."
WR TJ Jones
On the adjustment to being in South Florida:
"It's been a little difficult, especially the weather. It's a lot warmer down here than we're used to. Even up in South Bend we were practicing inside and the humidity down here you just can't duplicate up there, so it's been kind of difficult."
On what it means for Notre Dame to be in this position
"I think now it has a lot to do with restoring Notre Dame to glory. Last one was in '88; it's been a while. People expect Notre Dame to be great; they expect greatness of us. So winning that national title would bring that buzz back to Notre Dame that they've been missing for the past couple of years."
On the magnitude of these two schools
"People always say that in order to be the best you've got to beat the best. Alabama, just like Notre Dame, has been one of the best through history and most recently they've been one of the best teams in about the last five years. So if we want to be the number one team in the nation and go undefeated, we have to beat an Alabama-caliber team."
On how it has been having such a long break from football
"It's been slow and painful. There's a lot of anxiety; you're ready to play. And finally getting down here, with all the weeks you've sat out of practice, I guess it's here now and we're excited."
On how Everett Golson is going to handle the pressure
"I think he's going to handle it fine, just like he's handled the spotlight in other games this year. What we have to do as players is not blow this game up to bigger than what the national championship is. There's obviously going to be added pressure from it being the national championship but we just have to know how to control that and play our game."
RB Theo Riddick
On how real this moment is now that they are down in South Florida...
"You start to get the buzz. You start to get a little more intense. It's really like a reality check. We had so much time off and to be down here, everything starts to hit you."
On what is the best part of Alabama's defense and what is the key to moving the ball...
"That front four. Very good and very powerful. A lot of teams have had a hard time moving [the ball]. We've got to pass the ball and we've got to run the ball. You can't become one dimensional against this team because they can light us up in a heartbeat."
On trying to balance enjoying this trip and being focused for the game...
"I mean you've got to have fun at the same time. You can't be uptight your full time here. We realize that. We are the type of team that we know when to have fun and we know when to take things a little more serious."
On overcoming the pressure of this big game…
"To be honest with you, personally I don't feel the pressure. I think as a bunch, I don't think we feel the pressure. We just go out there and we have fun and we play for each other."
On how much contact has there been in practice...
"We have had a lot of contact to be honest with you. Fortunately everyone is healthy, so thats a good thing. You have got to have that. We haven't played in a long time and you need that contact."
On how much it helps being back to a normal practice routine
"Yeah. Definitely. It's been such a long time without playing. To get back on your regular schedule, it just helps tremendously."
On what are Notre Dame's greatest assests entering this game…
"Our versatility. We have so many guys that are playmakers and that can do so many things. You just can't lock in on one player."