UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 6, 2017
Q. Obviously there's expected to be a lot of Georgia fans here, a lot of red in the stands. How important is it for your fans obviously to bring their very best, as well, to counteract that?
DRUE TRANQUILL: I mean, I think it's important, but I think they bring their best every week, at least in the time I've been here. There hasn't been a game even in our downtimes when our fans weren't there filling our stadium, bringing a lot of excitement and enthusiasm, so I expect them to be rocking because in my opinion we've got some of the best fans in the country.
Q. What do you think this atmosphere will be like overall, and how much is this a game a reason why you come to a place like Notre Dame?
DRUE TRANQUILL: Yeah, I think the atmosphere will be great. I think any atmosphere at Notre Dame is incredible, from the walk to the tailgating to just the fans outside the stadium to the fans inside the stadium. When you add the lights in the nighttime a little bit, obviously there's an added aspect to that, and so, yeah, I expect it to be really exciting. A lot of fun.
Q. Does the opponent add to that, as well, being one of the premier programs in the country?
DRUE TRANQUILL: Yeah, I mean, obviously Georgia is a great historic program, and it's an opportunity for us to test ourselves against a conference who has proven itself over the years in the SEC, and so we're excited to go against a tough, physical opponent in Georgia, and you know, see where we stand and also compete against some of the best competition in the country.
Q. How big of a litmus test do you feel this is in the early part of the season?
DRUE TRANQUILL: I mean, we talk a lot about benchmarking ourselves based on the last week, and if we can move the needle each and every day and focus on getting better a little bit each and every day, we're going to be in a good position at the end of the season, and so we look at every game as a test. Every week kind of as studying and preparation, and so it's just another opportunity to see how our preparation stacks against our opponent. Obviously we've got a good opponent this week, and so it'll be a good test for us.
Q. Coach Elko's defenses at Wake Forest were great at creating negative plays. You guy had problems with that last year, but opening week, 11, or about double what you guys averaged per game last year. What is it about his scheme, the way he coaches that allows his players to make so many negative plays, tackles for loss?
DRUE TRANQUILL: I mean, I think when you talk about negative plays, it happens because the defense is able to react fast, and they're able to react in a way that they're confident in their job. And so I've said this time and time again, I think what I appreciate about Coach Elko most is he allows his players to play fast and play free, and he really puts things in a way that allows his players to organize their jobs and their checks in a way that allows them to play fast. And so I think when you see a stat like that, that's the first thing that jumps to my mind is a group of guys who isn't out there necessarily thinking of X, Y and Z, but I know my assignment and I'm going to go play fast and exhibit the traits, the physicality, the speed, the quickness that is why I'm at where I'm at.
Q. And it's not necessarily a big blitzing defense, I don't know how much you guys maybe compare it to last year as far as bringing blitzes. Can you give us a sense of how much of that is part of his schemes?
DRUE TRANQUILL: Yeah, I mean, I think when you say it's not a blitzing scheme, I mean, I think it's well-balanced in a sense that we have our pressures, we have our base defense, we have our heavy defenses. And so it's very balanced in a sense, and I think maybe in a sense of disguising things, and confusing the quarterback and giving him different looks maybe contributes to that, but we still bring our pressures, and we'll bring four, and I think a lot of that probably goes to our defensive line able to move the line of scrimmage and just their development this off-season, and so I think that would be a good thing for our defensive line rather than necessarily just our scheme. I think our defensive line moved the line of scrimmage well and was able to get pressure on the quarterback.
Q. They've got two really good running backs. I think Coach Kelly said yesterday he thinks they'll both end up playing in the NFL. Can you talk about the added challenge that presents, that they can bring in a fresh back several plays into the game and be just as good?
DRUE TRANQUILL: Yeah, I think depth in any college football program, you're going to see success. I think you saw that with our defense last week and just our ability to rotate guys in and keep guys fresh. Whenever you're able to go from first string to second string and rotate guys in and not lose a beat and a step, you're going to be successful and you're going to present a challenge for the opponent.
Q. In terms of you guys, is it more important to prevent them from having sustained drives, trying to get them up the field quickly, because they have that depth?
DRUE TRANQUILL: I think that's one of our goals each and every week is to be successful on 3rd down. If you can make stops on 3rd down and get your offense back on the field, you've obviously got a chance to score more points, which is going to help you win football games.
Q. After the game you mentioned tackling, Greer mentioned it, Coach Kelly mentioned it. When you watched the tape, what was good about it, where do you feel like it can be adjusted or tweaked or improved from last week?
DRUE TRANQUILL: Yeah, I thought our pursuit to the ball was great. I thought on initial contact we struggled at times. Maybe in open space, over-pursuing and taking bad angles, so just improving on our angles in the open field, improving on stepping to contact at first contact and wrapping and not allowing them to use their great balance to spin out of tackles. But I think where we were good was our pursuit to the football. I think you see plays like Jerry Tillery making a tackle 35 yards down the field. I think our pursuit was there. I think our initial contact and stepping into contact could be better and bringing our feet.
Q. Pete asked you a little bit about Georgia's back. I was curious about Chubb in particular. I think he broke seven or eight tackles last week, and that's sort of been his MO. Specifically with him, what does he do well and why is he hard for guys to bring down?
DRUE TRANQUILL: I mean, I think you look at a back that's very balanced. At about 5'10", 230, he's got a little bit lower center of gravity, so he's able to kind of maneuver tackles and exhibits great balance, and also great explosiveness in the hole and great vision. Whenever you have a back with all those traits, he presents a challenge.
Q. In terms of like sort of the big game atmosphere here, what's the biggest that you've played in, either in your career here or just at Notre Dame Stadium?
DRUE TRANQUILL: I think first thing that probably comes to my mind is probably just because I was a freshman and I had never played in such big games before, but being down at Florida State, I just remember like not being able to hear. Obviously that was a big game, but it was probably more so I was just a freshman and hadn't been on necessarily the big stage before. You go from playing in high school to college, but every stage it seems like here week to week just seems to be incredible. The fans are always rocking, and it seems that Notre Dame always gets their opponents' best. We expect that from Georgia. Doesn't matter who they bring in here. Jacob Eason, freshman quarterback, doesn't really matter. I think we are going to get their best. So yeah, it's going to be a challenge.
Q. For games here, I know you don't practice any differently based on the stature of the opponent, you probably don't watch film any differently, so at what points in the week does it feel different, does it feel like, oh, it's Georgia or it's Texas or a bigger name opponent, whether in class or going to the stadium on Saturday, some of those types of moments?
DRUE TRANQUILL: I mean, I'd say the only way it feels different is in the ticket demand and trying to get tickets for our family and guys are like, I don't have any tickets left this week. And so probably just the fan demand for tickets is what I'd say.
Q. You were just talking earlier about what you guys hope to clean up tackling wise, you like the pursuit but not finishing those tackles. Yesterday Coach Kelly was talking about how he sees that as an improvement that's kind of made as the season goes on as guys get used to the angles. Is that how you see it being in the trenches there, just as the season progresses you get a little more used to where your body is going and where you can expect the running back to go?
DRUE TRANQUILL: Yeah, you've always heard the clichÃ© that practice makes perfect, and obviously in fall camp and during the week in practice, you're not going to be pursuing your guys the way that you're going to pursue the opponent in a game. Obviously those angles are going to get better as you play more games and get more snaps under your belt and also just the initial contact there, as well. Definitely something that improves as the season goes on, but we want to accelerate that process as fast as we can.
Q. Not having that time to really clean it up because you have these big games early in the schedule, how do you try to accelerate that process?
DRUE TRANQUILL: I think a big thing that we've practiced on this off-season has been mental rehearsal, and so just running those snaps through your head and being able to physiologically actually get your muscles prepared through mental rehearsal, that's been a big key for me at least, and so although you might not be getting as many physical reps in practice at tackling, just running those plays through your head and seeing yourself make those tackles is a big way that guys have been able to prepare.
Q. I know you said you as a group pursued the football well, but I imagine in game 1 no matter how much you practiced and went live, it's just a pace and a different feel than anything that you can really be prepared for that first time fully live.
DRUE TRANQUILL: Yeah. To that note, though, I think we've got a lot of great backs on our team. Obviously you see that last week. They just crushed it, along with our offensive line. So the chances we did get to go live against their offense, they presented an enormous challenge for us as a defense, which really helped us, I think, prepare and head into the first game, but obviously game speed is something you try to simulate in practice but you'll never quite get there, and so obviously it was great to get our young guys some experience in the first game heading into week 2 here, but you're absolutely right, it's not necessarily something you can simulate in practice.
Q. I know you said it doesn't matter to you really which quarterback is in there, but when you have a guy that's making his first career start and based upon what he did against App State, looks like a lot of three-step drops, getting rid of the football. Is it frustrating when a quarterback, if that's the approach where it doesn't really give you guys a chance to get in his face with the pass rush?
DRUE TRANQUILL: I mean, I think Georgia's coaches are probably listening to that same stuff, and I'm going to think that they're going to bring a pretty balanced game plan in here that might have him in the three-step early to get him comfortable, but the kid is a talented kid. He didn't go to Georgia for nothing. He's got a great arm, and so obviously we don't have a lot of film on him, but we hear the kid is a gamer, and I'm assuming his coaches and his staff are going to do a great job having him ready to play, having him feeling confident. I'd imagine you have to feel confident with the guys surrounding you on offense, so it's going to present a challenge nonetheless, and I expect him to come in with a balanced approach and still throw the football.
Q. With their two running backs, Chubb and Michel, do you have to be aware who's in the game pre-snap just because their styles are a little bit different?
DRUE TRANQUILL: Yeah, I mean, obviously I think it's something as you study film throughout the week, you see the different styles, how they approach the line of scrimmage, the moves they're making in space, is he a speed-to-power guy, is he moving laterally. So that's kind of stuff that you study on your own and have in your own back pocket. I think we're more concerned with personnel groupings and not so much as is Chubb on the field versus Michel. I think they're both great backs, and I think whoever is in, we're going to have to bring a great sense of physicality and understanding to our play.
Q. You guys play against a bunch of ACC teams. You're a little bit familiar with the Pac-12 and Big Ten, but you've never played SEC. Do you have an opinion as to what the best conference in the country is like we tend to have an opinion in the media?
DRUE TRANQUILL: I mean, growing up I was an Auburn fan, and so I always rooted for Auburn and the SEC. But I'm going to stick one out there for the independent conference and say that's the best conference in football.
Q. You, BYU, Army?
DRUE TRANQUILL: Exactly, yeah, Notre Dame.
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