Aug. 30, 2010
• Watch Bielema's press conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin football coach Bret Bielema spoke with the media at Monday's press conference. A transcript can be found below.
Bret Bielema: Thank you, Brian. It’s good to be in game week finally. Just give a couple of updates. Culmer St. Jean, who missed some time there at the end, he practiced yesterday, looked to be 100 percent. Kevin Zeitler and Billy Nagy, both who missed a little bit of time, Billy’s been practicing since last Wednesday. Kevin Zeitler will be full-go today. He had a limited practice yesterday. Also, Isaac Anderson moved back today, then also Mike Taylor, ran a little bit towards the end of last week, also ran on Sunday, we’ll bring him with us out on the flight and then kind of be determined later on this week if he plays in the game or is out until next week. With that, I’ll open it up to any questions.
QUESTION #1: Injuries aside, how did you feel the team came through camp and where they’re at preparation week going into week one?
BIELEMA: Rob, I thought the big thing was they worked every day. I never really had to get on them, other than one occasion out of the 20 camp practices before we jumped into UNLV prep, where I didn’t think they really worked the way I wanted them to. So their attitude was great. One of the things that we really stressed was communication, being able to practice the way we have to play at Wisconsin, and they really, really did a nice job with that.
Because of the injuries, we did find some things out. I think at the wide receiver position you saw the development of Nick Toon, more of a complete receiver, more so than he has been in the past, really excited what he brings to the table. And at the tight end position, two guys that really had a nice camp, Jake Byrne and Jacob Pedersen, those guys, we all knew Lance was productive, but we really didn’t know about those other two guys, and I like what those two guys will be able to bring. John Clay has been limited in a little bit, and the emergence of Montee Ball and James White has been very exciting.
QUESTION #2: Bret, last season you did the whole accountability thing, and I think everyone recognized what great benefit that was and how it helped you during the season. Can that become a permanent part of your program, or is it more dependent on who your captains are or the makeup of your team or something like that?
BIELEMA: I think going into the fall camp a year ago, there was, the same expectations within the program that there are this year. It’s just maybe the outside expectations weren’t as high. If accountability factors into that, I know this, a team that’s accountable to one another, without even the coaches getting involved, is probably going to have your best chances to win. And this group really has shown me some signs of doing that, going back to in the winter conditioning, throughout the spring and the summer, but then really this fall, the way they, when they recognize a freshman and saw that he had the ability to maybe help us, staying after and working with him, I guarantee you, our defensive line recognized right away that we needed some defensive tackles to come in. And the way they’ve helped Ethan Hemer . . . but also a true freshman Beau Allen, the best teachers they got are Patrick Butrym and J.J. on how to do things.
That accountability is there, and then you just really hope that some of the stuff that we never see as coaches comes through more so now than ever. You know, what they do in their time away from here, what they do when they’re on their own or when they’re building the relationships that are going to come into play when it’s middle of the third quarter, we’re down by two scores, and we need to rally. That’s when that stuff really shows up.
QUESTION #3: Bret, I think for the most part in camp Brinkley and Fenelus were the starting corners. Is it going to be that way for the opener, and how is that rotation . . .
BIELEMA: Well, we knew Devin would be our starting nickel guy, so he already had that role. But really, those three guys have had the most intense battle throughout all of camp and are playing extremely well. All three of them are playing as good as I’ve ever seen them play. You know, who’s going to get the starting nod will really be determined by how they practice this week. There’s a couple positions where that holds true, and that’s one of them. I really like what’s going on there, and the accountability factor that all three of those guys are showing to the rest of the defense.
Because Devin, Niles, and Antonio, at times, have played really good, sometimes it didn’t fit into the how we needed to do things overall, but right now they’re really getting the bigger picture.
QUESTION #4: How many carries do you think you can count on Clay for these first couple of games while he kind of works back into form?
BIELEMA: That’s a good question. A lot of it’s going to be on how the game flows and how John handles it. I do know this, all three of those running backs are going to play, and they’re all going to play a lot. I’m excited to see what those guys will do. With John, you can see more and more things every day get to where he wants to be, or where we want him to be as well.
But until that becomes something we can count on every play of every game, then that’s when Montee Ball is going to get his chance, and James White will get his chance, and I think, as is the case with all positions, like I just mentioned at the corner, sometimes guys that have been a while, all the sudden they get a lot better in a hurry when they see guys that are willing to carry some yards for them at all positions.
QUESTION #5: Bret, you mentioned that there will be a couple positions that will be determined by practice this week. In addition to corner, what else?
BIELEMA: Corner, running back, wide receiver. At tight end, we’re kind of set on the roles at that position. You guys aren’t going to write about it, but a neat little battle at right guard between Kevin Zeitler and Billy Nagy. Kevin is just getting back into it and he really, Kevin wants to be that guy. Billy wants to be that guy. So you got a nice thing brewing there.
And then on the defensive side of the ball, Jordan Kohout and Patrick [Butrym] have probably separated themselves as the two starters, but the next three guys, [Ethan] Hemer, Beau Allen, and Eriks Briedis have got a nice thing going. And then at the opposite end spot, between Louis Nzegwu and David Gilbert. Really any position you see on our depth chart that’s listed, those positions that are slashed, those are legit deals.
QUESTION #6: Bret, what are some of the challenges in preparing for a season opener, particularly one on the road against a team that has a first year head coach that you don’t know a lot about?
BIELEMA: Well, fortunately, we do know a lot about Bobby Hauck. Bobby is a tremendous football coach, who has won everywhere he’s been, and especially at Montana coming in. He brought his entire staff with him. So anytime your opener is a new staff, there’s a lot of uncertainties, with the punt formation, for instance. UNLV ran a shield punt a year ago, but Bobby’s always been a traditional punt formation, so we don’t know which one we’re going to get there. It’s totally different preparation for both.
Offensively, we haven’t been able to watch them live, so you got to kind of read through the articles, and you got two quarterbacks that are battling out. You got running backs, I believe four guys that are in competition for what they’re doing. Offensive line sounds like it’s been a little bit jumbled up. Defensively, they do return a lot of players, but exactly how they’re going to line up. Bobby’s a 4-3 guy, but you also read the kids talking about a blitz package. So it’s going to have to be, as in most cases, it is this way in every game, but what Wisconsin has to do, we have to do what we do better than they do, and that means just forcing the ways of how we prepare and how we get ready for a game and being able to adjust to the little nuances of what they show us.
QUESTION #7: Bret, with all the coaching changes . . . on special teams, what do you hope to gain by that?
BIELEMA: Well, production. I’d like to gain results, go ahead. You know the part that I’ve really enjoyed is it’s four new minds working on one unit, and it kind of brings a fresh approach for the kids. I really have respect to Charlie. He’s been with me in a couple years, leaning on him last two before he’s taken over now. He’s going to run both those kick coverage units. Joe Rudolph, just the pride and the detail that he’s putting into it and the research he’s done. And then Chris [Ash], Chris is a real fiery guy, and he wants results. So I enjoy it. I’m involved in all four phases. The part that I’m really looking forward to seeing is results on the field.
QUESTION #8: Do all four of those guys have to be on the field on game day?
BIELEMA: They don’t necessarily, but all four will. Joe [Rudolph] traditionally has been up in the box, but he’ll be down on the field, and Chris [Ash] will be on the field, and Charlie [Partridge] always has been. But for instance, with a kicking game, two teams that are always during a timeout or kickoff return and kickoff coverage, it’s always after a score and you always have time to kind of gather your thoughts and remove yourself from where you are in the game. But punt and punt return, because Chris and Charlie will be coaching, those [players] will still come to me as a point, and they’ll, we’ll either A, decide before the game on game plan what we’re going to do, or I’ll just say check with them on third down, ‘hey, what are we going to do here, what’s the call?’ and then I’ll relay it to the kids to take out on the field.
QUESTION #9: Kind of following up that season opening theme, every other game this year you’ll have tape of your own team to be able to look back and see how they do in game-like situations. How much different, how much nervous energy is there in seeing how some of your own guys are going to react for the first time in a game this year and with it being on the road as well?
BIELEMA: There’s always that level of excitement. Hopefully it’s not nervous. Nerves come in from within, so hopefully you feel confident about what you’re doing. I know there’s certain guys that maybe, Rob, haven’t been at the forefront of what they’re doing, some of the guys I’ve mentioned. Lance Kendricks, I know what he’s going to do at tight end. I think it’s going to be even better, but what’s Jake Byrne going to do? How’s Jacob Pedersen going to do?
The line is kind of guys that we already know what they’ve been able to do, see how they perform. I’m interested to see how our defensive guys handle adversity. I think that’s a real big question on how they need to handle their approach. And you know, for the most part, any newcomer, James White, he’s been really impressive out there, but, hey, it’s game time and those guys are wearing different colors. What’s going to happen? So it will be an interesting thing for a couple of guys.
QUESTION #10: Bret, can you refresh our memory, when Pat Muldoon hurt his knee, when he had the surgery, and what has he been able to show you in his comeback, and how close is he being to pre-injury form?
BIELEMA: Pat injured his ACL last year, I think it was in the middle of October, it was right about mid-point centers. We waited about three weeks for him to have his rehab, and he’s been really, really steady and done a great job. Had a minor setback in the other knee, ironically, during the summer, so he’s kind of went through a double whammy.
One of the interesting battles that wasn’t on the starting line was who was going to back up J.J. Watt and bring that, and Tyler Dippel and Patrick were involved in that battle, and I think Pat’s probably won out here towards the end. He’s a guy, without that injury, my guess, might have been pushing for a starting role over on that other side. Pat is an extremely talented young man that comes from a great program, St. X [Saint Xavier] over in Cincinnati, and he’s going to play a lot of football for us, and his knee gets better every day.
QUESTION #11: Bret, I know you guys were having a personnel meeting yesterday. Is there any update on the scholarship situation with walk-ons?
BIELEMA: Yeah. There are a lot of rules that go into when players being awarded scholarships, whether they count on certain years on your scholarship signing. So I’ve got a couple guys in mind. We’re not going to announce it until tomorrow to the team. The way the NCAA rules work is as long as they sign their scholarship papers before Thursday, then there isn’t any issues, so we’ll probably take it up to that.
QUESTION #12: UNLV’s run defense, obviously, was one of the worst in the country last year. How do you guard in game planning to maybe not show too many wrinkles or what do you do, trying not to get too cute in the game plan perhaps, when you’re facing a team like that because you’ll put things on tape for opponents . . .
BIELEMA: Boy, one thing you’ll never accuse our offense of being cute. We can bypass that one pretty quickly. But I do think that, if you scout Wisconsin, we’ve got some pin pole series, we got some zone concepts that we carry through every game. It doesn’t matter, all 12 games last year [we did it]. We’re not hiding anything about what we do. What I really enjoy is I love the creativity that [offensive coordinator] Paul [Chryst] brings to the table. And if he finds a player that can do some special things, how to highlight that.
During fall camp, we’ve seen how we can do some of those things up front because we do have so many offensive linemen that have played and seen a variety of different looks already in game-time situations. The schemes that we use, you really feel you should be able to bring those to the table and not have much, if any, road bumps based on what someone’s showing you schematically.
Now if you’ve got a guy that’s playing great three technique or five technique, that’s a different issue, but. We’ll get into this ballgame, we’ll do what we have to do to be successful, and then next week when we face San Jose State, they’re actually playing Alabama, so it’s not exactly an easy task that they’re up to there as well. So it’s fun. I actually enjoy games more when you get more film to figure out what people’s strengths and weaknesses are just because that’s what you truly are in the game for to study.
QUESTION #13: Bret, given the emergence of White at tailback, where does that leave Zach Brown?
BIELEMA: Good question. You know, right now what we’re trying to do with Zach is, he’s actually battled through some knee tendonitis that’s really limited him during fall camp. So he’s healthy now. He’ll travel with us to UNLV. He and I had a discussion, along with [running backs] Coach [John Settle], others involved that if we can preserve his redshirt year, we would opt to do that, as long as we, unforeseen, don’t get into a situation where we lose one or two of our main three guys.
Plus two guys there that I would be excited to see in a ballgame would be Bradie Ewing, just because he’s just kind of one of those guys that, I don’t know. You always think I’m trying to get somebody out there better. He might not be gifted as athletically or physically, but any time Bradie gets his hands on the football, he looks really, really good. So if he gets in there, I think that’s something that, and then Kyle Zuleger really came out of nowhere. We put [him] over [at running back] because of the numbers in the spring, yet every time he hops in there, he’s got a big gain. So those two guys I wouldn’t be afraid at all to see.
QUESTION #14: Coach, how do you think John [Clay] handles publicity, just in general, and off the field with sort of the accolades and expectations that have sort of been placed on him?
BIELEMA: Well, we’ve put in a lot of time with it. I think we did some nice things before Big Ten meetings and tried to educate him on how things sound when he comes across. One thing I always admire about him, he’s always given respect back to his offensive line. He doesn’t talk about, everybody asks him about the Heisman, he says, ‘well, you know, it’s team award and I’ll get recognized for what our team does.’ So I like the things that he does, but you’re still dealing with a young man that’s got a lot getting thrown at him. So we try to constantly give him constant education and see how he handles it. If there’s things we can help him out with, we’ll critique him and move ourselves forward. But you know, for the most part, I’ve liked how he’s handled it.
QUESTION #15: . . . did you have confidence in him to handle some of this? I mean, was there a point that . . .
BIELEMA: I remember last year, was it Wofford where he had three fumbles or whatever it was, I can’t remember the exact numbers, and he didn’t show up to talk to [the media]. And then you guys get your nose out of line and everybody’s mad at John because he didn’t come talk to you. And I understand why he didn’t come, and I understand why you guys were upset because you wanted copy.
So the Northwestern game came about, and it wasn’t an easy locker room for anybody, but John was pretty broken down, and I knew he was being requested, so I just went over to him and explained to him, ‘John, you didn’t lose this game, and a lot of people are going to say things or write things, but you the only way you can control what you say is if you go out there and talk to them.’ And I encouraged him to go out and speak, and he did, and we moved past that day, and he had a great Hawaii game and went on to have a good Miami game, and hopefully that moves forward.
So it’s a growing process. I mean, if I had gone over as a head coach after the Wofford game and said, ‘hey, you need to go out and do it,’ but I kind of left him alone, because I just wanted him to make his own decisions. But it’s a process for everybody.
QUESTION #16: One more John Clay question, if you don’t mind. He was so good in the fourth quarter last year. Do you think you’ll have to rely on him quite as much, and do you think splitting up the carries early maybe he’ll be even better in the fourth quarter now?
BIELEMA: Well, if we’re using him in the fourth quarter, that usually means we’re ahead, so I like that plan. But the thing that we train for as a football team, and I go back to my time during Coach Alvarez first time we were getting ready to play Ohio State, we don’t do anything special that week to beat Ohio State. You train 365 days a year to play this game the way we play it, and we play it in a unique way that makes people take notice. And John just happens to fit the mold. But you know, if it’s John, and again, if it’s James White or if it’s Montee Ball, whoever’s in there is going to play our style of ball. And you know, if John is getting those reps, that’s great. It’s going to be great for him, and hopefully great for us. But whoever it is is going to get those yards and we’ll get the production.
QUESTION #17: Trips for this program to Las Vegas in the past have brought some unique situations. Do the guys on the team, are they aware of those at all? Does it change your preparations at all, like bringing flotation devices or your own generators or things like that?
BIELEMA: I would say the Wisconsin players probably know the history, and I made a reference last year in a spring meeting about playing UNLV and about how we hoped the lights came on, I had to tell what that meant for more than half the room. And then there’s just a handful of guys that were with us on this last trip, the last time we went back there that. [It] was a good game and we had to pull it out in the fourth quarter.
So you know, for us, we’re just telling everybody to concentrate on playing that opening game. It happens to be in Vegas and you can say whatever you want. It’s going to be a night game. It’s going to be a challenge just to make sure kids are prepared to stay in it all day, to get ready for the kickoff that night. Because a lot of times, in early games, games are easily lost rather than won, guys given away the football, guys not being smart about penalties and discipline and turnovers. So we just want to make sure we’re doing things right.
QUESTION #18: Are your guys prepared for 100 degree temperatures?
BIELEMA: Well, as much as we can. I like the fact that we’re going to get a little bit hotter this week. I told the team last night, I saw that, our kick is at 8:01 or 8:06. It depends on the flow of the game, but sunset in Vegas next Saturday is at 7:06 p.m., and it’s supposed to be 101 degrees and should get cooler as the night goes on. They’re going to have to play in it as well. We’ll go through a hydration process and try to make our guys as educated as possible, but it’s going to be different for us.