The lengthy Lou Holtz interview continues with Part II, when Holtz discusses great offensive line play, his thoughts on Notre Dame in 2009 and Mark May. Also, the old Notre Dame coach mentions his induction into the Hall of Fame.
Question: You touched on going to the Hall of Fame, being back for the enshrinement. Just your thoughts on being back for the honor and maybe a little more special looking forward to the middle part of the summer being back in South Bend?
LH: "The amazing thing is one of the first things we had to do was look at the induction ceremony and one week of practice, it's 2 ½ days because it's the only practice time we have. But to go into the Hall of Fame is really special. When you first hear it, you go 'Wow. Wow.' Then you have to ask yourself, well, 'Why? Why me? Why not this guy or that guy?' It comes down to two things. It comes down to choices you make and life is a matter of choices and choices have ramifications. I chose a proper wife. It also had to do with other people, the assistant coaches, the players, the administrators, you can't help. You think of the Hall of Fame, you think of Father Hesburgh and Father Joyce that hired me, or Gene Corrigan, the leadership he provided me and taught me about Notre Dame or Dick Rosenthal, one of my very best friends and all he did. The same thing is true with a Willis Casey at N.C. State. You don't go into life saying 'I want to make the Hall of Fame' but when your life comes near an end, and I'm certainly on the downward slope of that bell curve, you just think how lucky you are."
Question: You're in college football still. Do you think Notre Dame has a little bit of momentum back on their side?
LH: "Oh yeah. I think Notre Dame is going to be excellent this year and I say that sincerely. Why? I think they finished with such momentum in the bowl game last year and you have your whole team coming back and these are third-year starters. Your receivers are outstanding and you made coaching staff changes that I think are going to be very, very positive. Randy Hart played for us at Ohio State when I was coaching there under Woody Hayes and won the national championship, great coach. You look at the talent you have and the schedule is very, very favorable. You talk about all the stars being in a row, this might be the year. But I just think that Notre Dame will use the momentum they had. In talking to Charlie (Weis) (Friday) night at dinner, talking about the physical practices he's had all spring and I certainly endorse that. We talked about why I never put a red shirt on a quarterback and he does but I just think that Notre Dame is going to be awfully, awfully good. I really thought they would be last year but I'm more confident than ever. And it's important for Notre Dame football to be good. Make no mistake about it. Notre Dame football is good, there's a lot more interest in college football. And when Notre Dame football is on top, our ratings are up at ESPN, regardless of what Mark May says.
"I joke with that. Mark May's a great person and really doesn't have anything against Notre Dame except this. When he played at Pitt his senior year they were No. 2 in the country and Georgia was No. 1 with Herschel Walker and they are going to go play Georgia for the national championship in the Sugar Bowl. But the Sugar Bowl picked Notre Dame and they never got a chance to win the national championship and he felt Notre Dame got preferential treatment. And it's not just Mark May, it's everyone else on the Pitt team that year that feels that way. But who knows."
Question: Tony Rice throwing out there looks like he can still play. What made him so special?
LH: "I said if he had thrown like that, we would have been a passing team when he was here. It's amazing. He doesn't have his quickness but it's the same Tony Rice. He's bubbly and he's throwing the ball, etc. I am concerned about quarterback other than Tony. We don't have anybody who's really played there but we may look at Jeff Burris and may look at Ambrose Wooden at quarterback also. We're not asking, we're not going to have a first team, second team. We're going to ask guys to play five plays as hard as they can. Then we'll come out, give them mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and try to get them back in another five minutes."
Question: When (former Notre Dame offensive line coach) Joe Moore had those successful offensive lines with you, what did he build them on? What was the premise that he built his offensive lines on?
LH: "I've been fortunate. I spoke at Skip (Holtz's) clinic last week at East Carolina and I talked about how to get the maximum out of your players and I referred to two coaches. Larry Bechtol, who coached for me for 11 years at N.C. State and Arkansas and then about 30 years in the pros, great offensive line coach. And I talked about Joe Moore. When I had great offensive line coaches, we won. The thing about Joe Moore was he believed in what he taught. He wouldn't compromise. I think most coaches that really achieve an awful lot have such confidence in what they are trying to teach that they aren't going to compromise the fundamentals in the way you do things. And you have to believe so strongly in what you're doing that I'm going to insist you do it my way and if it doesn't work, I'll take blame for it. So many people don't want to do that. Joe Moore was willing to stand up and be accounted for. He was tough on his players yet he genuinely cared about them. It all came down to fundamentals and it came down to attitude. But being able to run the football is so important in the long run to the mental makeup of your team. I never wanted people in the locker room to say 'Well, we got beat, but they weren't very tough.' I wanted them to be in the whirlpool, in the training tables, saying 'Well, we don't want to play those suckers again.' We just believed physical football, it starts with your offensive line. I think when the offensive line is the leaders of your football team, you'll usually be pretty good. When your wide receivers and running backs are the leaders, that's a little bit more individualism. But the offensive line, they are togetherness. They don't get publicity and they just take a pride in being the heart and soul of a football team. That's how our offensive lines were with Larry Bechtol. That's the way they were with Joe Moore."
Question: Could a running game that ranks in the 100s the last two years make that leap into prominence?
LH: "Absolutely. The commitment you have and the fundamentals, it makes it even easier because those players will be anxious. You tell me what we have to do. I tell you what, any offensive lineman worth his salt wants to come off the ball and control the line of scrimmage instead of sitting back and being very, very passive. But you've got to be able to do both. But you've got three great running backs coming back. You've got a passing threat. You have wide receivers they have to double cover. It's not like when we played, they put 11 men on the line. We used to call it the 22 play because after the play, there were 22 guys in the pile. But, yeah, I think absolutely they can." For Part I of the conversation with Lou, check it here.