Transcripts: Julian Love, Jerry Tillery, Drue Tranquill & Justin Yoon
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Multiple Notre Dame players addressed the media on Thursday as the Irish prepare for a semifinal matchup against the Clemson Tigers in Dallas.
Check out what cornerback Julian Love, defensive lineman Jerry Tillery, linebacker Drue Tranquill and kicker Justin Yoon had to say before the game.
CB JULIAN LOVE
Q: I know you guys are tired of talking about it. You're going to be asked about it all day. Double digits underdogs. Does Notre Dame belong here? Behind the scenes is that just noise or is that motivating for this team?
JULIAN LOVE: “I think what's special about us is that for some guys it is motivational. But then for some guys, it's just noise. I know no one's kind of like putting out to each other, the coach putting it out to motivate us. Everybody takes that their own way, and I think that's what motivates us. A lot of people are motivated. I'm one of those people who doesn't really listen to that. And so, I mean, people are going to talk. They have all year. And we're going to do our job all year and we'll do our job.”
Q: What do you make of the receivers and how do you break them down?
LOVE: “I think they all have their own talent sets, similar to our team. I think you have big strong receivers. Like what is it, [Tee] Higgins and [Justyn] Ross, I think. They're strong, powerful receivers, and you obviously have the experience of Hunter Renfrow, and rightfully so. You have the quick guys, ten (Derion Kendrick) and three (Amari Rodgers) who are speed or horizontal type guys. So I think they're very well rounded in that regard. They have good players in those positions to make plays. And so I think it's very similar to our team which I think is an advantage for us because we've been practicing it all year and this is one team we feel is very similar to our receivers."
Q: So I remember talking to Clark [Lea]. We did your Wake Forest game and Northwestern game. I remember talking to Coach Lea, and he talked about one of the changes from last year to this year that you guys really wanted to work on was reducing or cutting down free access kind of throws and really putting more pressure on taking the slants away, those kind of things. Talk about just some of the technique things you worked on to become better at that?
LOVE: “I think probably that game plan last year was that whole bend on break, make them earn it mentality which is a little similar this year, and last year we kind of played a lot of off coverage and repeated those short routes. And last year a lot of times it didn't kill us at all and we maintained that. And this year we're mixing it up much more because Coach Lea was big on not impeding those throws at all. Really changing that whole mindset.
“That's why you see a lot of press now, you see a mixture of off and press. And I think that's as much he didn't want anything easy for other teams. And it changed from week to week but especially Wake Forest and Northwestern. We really want to kind of apply that pressure and really make them earn even those little throws. That's what those teams kind of lived off of.”
Q: You mentioned the advantage you have going against your receivers that you have, going into a game like this with Clemson's wide receivers. When you're dealing with bigger physical guys, what's the key in terms of defending those kind of receivers?
LOVE: “I mean, it's tough. I'm going to be honest. I'm not the biggest guy, by any means, but I think it's just really going toe to toe and really kind of applying your will to it. And so from Miles [Boykin] and me it's kind of knowing the different releases, getting into the body -- some guys don't mind being pressed, some guys really can't be pressed so it's knowing your opponent. And then kind of taking them off their launching mark. Because if they get comfortable in their jump, they can catch a ball in a big catch radius. Just being kind of -- you try to get to the body before they jump, kind of a mind game. It's like boxing out.
“They can't jump if you're into them. That's my mindset for sure. And putting your hands on and being physical. Everybody likes that aggressive physical play.”
Q: You've got a couple of guys on your coaching staff that you work with that have been former players, great players. What kind of advantage has that been in terms of learning and teaching for you?
LOVE: “I think my whole career the biggest role model and main guideline for improving my game is Todd Lyght. He's my backs coach. He's the guy who offered me -- I was his first commitment when he got to Notre Dame, and we have a good relationship. His mindset in terms of winning at the highest level is always from that, and he brings it to the table every single day. And it's been great. I know how he ticks and he knows how I tick, and I think that's a special thing for sure. He's helped me so much.
“And you have Autry Denson who is a little different. He's a little more composed and well-rounded person in general. And those guys really -- it's always good to pick their brain and see what they're about. And they are about a lot of stuff.”
DL JERRY TILLERY
Q: What was it about this season where it really seemed to come together?
JERRY TILLERY: “Yeah, I think it was our defensive line coach, Coach [Mike] Elston. He was able to put us all in positions to win. And for us to be able to like be in positions to win and, you know, exploit what we do well, I think. And that's really worked out well for us and our team.”
Q: I was curious, I read a couple of interesting articles this week that talked about and actually Drue [Tranquill] was quoted a couple of things, talked about one of the changes he saw in you over the last year or so, a couple of years, just your approach to the game, your approach to your preparation, those kind of things. What changed or what kind of kicked in for you that made you take it a little differently than you had in the past?
TILLERY: “I think it started in the off-season, with the renewed commitment that we made in the off-season to working harder and playing together. And I think that has really shown up this season. And someone asked earlier about what was the difference between the '16 team that won four games and this one that was undefeated. I think it was the work in the off-season that we put in. I think we've all worked so hard together, we've all done so much and we lean on that when we're in tough situations. And I think that's what's helped us.”
Q: For you personally and your preparation in terms of studying film or watching opponents and offensive linemen, you know, how have you grown and improved in that respect in terms of your studying of the game?
TILLERY: “Oh, I've learned a lot really. I think like kind of the maturation process of a player is just first, you're just in the system, right? You just do what it says to do on the line, on the page, without really understanding the bigger picture, right? How it all fits out. How you fit the run play, how you rush the passer and your rush lanes. So I think I've grown to understand, you know, the whole defense like all of the intent we're trying to get accomplished. And I think that that's allowed me to better execute what is there but also with the understanding of what we're trying to do, you know, broadly, more broadly on the defensive end.”
Q: You guys -- a lot of teams do this, but you guys probably as much as anybody rotate so many guys in your defensive run, a lot of depth. How important has that been in terms of keeping guys healthy and then keeping guys fresh late in games when you need to really try to create some pressure?
TILLERY: “I think even more than that it's just keeping guys engaged mentally because if you're week after week not playing at all, then that weighs on your buy-in, that weighs on your work ethic, how hard you work. And I think that especially for the young guys that this happens to and they're able to better invest time and work and practice in the film room to stay engaged. And they know they're -- everyone can play. We rotate a lot of guys, got a lot of people stay fresh. It's helped us win a lot of games. And so I think that that's really been the key to our success.”
Q: Is there any sense -- and I know you guys are above petty little things -- but any sense that there's so much talk and emphasis on Clemson's defensive line that you guys get a little bit of chip saying hey, we've got a pretty good group ourselves?
TILLERY: “I think we're pretty good, too. I think they have a talented defensive line but so do we. They have a lot of playmakers up there, but we've made a lot of plays, too. But that's always the story when Notre Dame's playing. When we played Michigan, that's what they were saying. Oh, Michigan's defensive line, they're so great. When we played Syracuse, they've got a lot of good players on their D-line. It was all about them. We've played a lot of defensive lines and it's always them. But people aren't really talking about us until after the game.”
Q: That's probably better, right?
TILLERY: “Exactly. So that's what we'll be waiting for.”
LB DRUE TRANQUILL
Q: I know last time Notre Dame was on the stage you weren't here, the 2012 season. Clearly Alabama has beaten a lot of good teams. Alabama has overwhelmed, but it seems like people remember Notre Dame losing to Alabama. Why do you think that's the case? DRUE TRANQUILL: “I think a lot of times Notre Dame has a historic tradition of national championships but we haven't won a national championship in 30 years and that's something a lot of us take a lot of pride in, bringing a new dawn to Notre Dame football and that tradition.
“To see Notre Dame on that stage in '12 and to fall short I think was probably disappointing to a lot of fans, and certainly provided a lot of air for a lot of people who didn't like Notre Dame around the country. We're more focused on this year. We're not trying to be '12. We want to be our own unique team, and we talk about putting our own name on the wall. So we're excited to do that Saturday night against Clemson.”
Q: How important is it for this team, 2018 team, to finish where you are and to finish it out, now that you're here?
TRANQUILL: “I mean, first and foremost it's important to us. It's important to us as a team because we've shed so many blood, sweat, and tears since January. Just in our off-season training, throughout the season, all the setbacks we've come through, all the injuries guys have battled through to get back on the field, that all culminates itself Saturday night against Clemson and we've got to bring our best. Certainly the playoffs because you've got a great group of teams with a lot of talent, a lot of experience, and may the best man win.”
Q: It's funny to talk about Notre Dame as the Playoff newcomer because it's such a young system.
TRANQUILL: “It's a young system and Alabama and Clemson have very much dominated it in years past and Oklahoma has been a part of it as well. And so yeah, we're the only team that hasn't been in the playoffs yet, but I don't know, I get an air that it feels like we've been here before even though we haven't.”
Q: There's been some talk about Coach [Brian] Kelly's different demeanor and approach to things. Those of us not around the program very much, as a player what has been the most noticeable, whether it's gradual or sudden change?
TRANQUILL: “I think first and foremost what I appreciate and admire about Coach Kelly is his ability to have a vision and put pieces in place to achieve that vision. I think you see that in 2016 when we're coming off a turbulent time and his ability to rally the troops in a time of heartache and of trial. It was very admirable. I've always been very appreciative to Coach Kelly because he believed in me when not many coaches did and gave me an offer to play football at Notre Dame. And so he's a very generous man, and I'm very thankful for that.”
Q: If there was one thing maybe you could put your finger on, is it a different guy or a different approach or –
TRANQUILL: “I mean, I think like many coaches he has times where he's going to get on you and then times where he's going to be more relaxed and get to know you more as a person. I think he's very balanced in that regard. I think a lot of people just see the screaming Coach [Brian] Kelly on the sidelines in games. That's not who he is as a person, as a coach. Certainly when he's inspiring and engaging our team, he'll get excited and get riled up, but he's a great football coach. He's been in the business a long time doing it and he's had great success.”
Q: Not trying to compare the '12 and '18, but in '12 some things happened, some breaks fell the right way for Notre Dame to be in that situation. Now it seems the foundation is firmer and more sustained. Do you get that sense, that the foundation at Notre Dame has reset kind of?
TRANQUILL: “I mean, I wasn't even a Notre Dame fan in 2012 so I have no idea what was going on. I do know that, you know, we started kind of this rebuilding process last year. Guys like Mike McGlinchey, Quenton Nelson, those guys did a tremendous job of starting groundwork and laying a foundation. We're in a position now we're 12-0 and have a chance to compete for a national championship, and certainly departing leaders like myself hope that this legacy continues. If you achieve something one year but don't leave a lasting legacy, it's almost a little bittersweet in a sense. So I certainly believe we have the guys in the locker room and the coaches in place to continue that tradition. That's something only time can tell.”
K JUSTIN YOON
Q: Just talk about this facility. You're playing here all week. It's a little unique.
JUSTIN YOON: "Definitely phenomenal place. I'm probably never going to forget this place. It's a different dome atmosphere. I'm totally in love with this turf, especially. I just love how flat it is, and it's perfect for kickers. You can't get a more beautiful field. Maybe ND, but that's about it. It's just phenomenal, and I really appreciate being here. Fortunate enough to be here."
Q: Have you gotten used to people introducing you as all-time leading scorer?
YOON: "Not yet. I don't think so. I'm speechless at this point. Like I said, all I've been doing every day is making sure I do what I need to do for this team. It's all about making sure we win. Before I knew it, it happened. So I think it's a lot of fan support I get that helps me get through every game. So I'm really truly grateful for everything that's happened to me."
Q: As a placekicker people know you kick field goals and your job is to make them go through the uprights and make points. Another job is kickoffs and that's a lot more complicated than people think. What do you need to do to limit returns?
YOON: "I think the way Coach [Brian] Kelly always talks about if you can get it as deep as you can, then you will help our team, so I think that's the most important thing. If I can get it within like five yards deep to ten yards deep, that's the most important thing. I don't know what their schemes are. We're going to play our schemes."
Q: Every now and then the kicker gets to be the last man on the field.
YOON: "I focus in on what I do. I don't think about what other people do. What I don't need to think about is this is the last kick, oh, my God. That's going to freak me out. There's obviously going to be some nerves, I'll be aware of that, but if I can calm myself at that moment and produce what I have been capable of doing in time, I think that will help me get through what I need to do."
Q: I've heard you talked about in the NFL draft circles. What are your thoughts after you graduate, NFL maybe? They're saying draft or free agency. You've got Notre Dame leading all-time scorer. Thoughts on the NFL or what are you going to do after? What are you majoring in right now?
YOON: I'm a finance major. You go to university for a reason. You go to get an education, a degree. So I'm fortunate enough to be able to graduate soon and, in fact, this December or January I'll be graduating. And so I'll have that behind me and to face whatever challenges I have trying to get a job. So that's always good, a plus. But like I said, if I'm trying to go further and go to the NFL, it's not just given to you. It's something that you work for, especially a kicker. So hopefully I'll be one of the fortunate ones to get there. If not, like I say, I have something to go back upon."