Sept. 7, 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.
BIELEMA: Thank you. I thought two things coming out of the game on Saturday that really jumped out to me, and then probably reinforced it on Sunday. It was the way that our kids just started the game. You always worry about a first team and how they start and how they prepare. During fall camp, you hear the phrase, ‘your guys are tired of hitting other people and they just want to go out and hit somebody else in a different color jersey.’ And I thought our guys really, offensively, defensively, and special teams showed up in that regard. They came ready to play.
And then just the things that our guys went through were all significant enough to take away from the performance on the field, but all things that can be easily corrected. I really like the attitude that the kids had after the game, that they knew they hadn’t played the cleanest game ever, and it was much better to win that game 41-21 than it was to maybe win it 41-nothing or 41-3 or 10. It was just a way to emphasize how the bigger picture needs to come clear.
We recognized a couple guys offensively. Several guys did a nice job. I was really pleased with Lance Kendricks. I thought all three running backs did some good things. But the guy we recognized as the offensive MVP was Peter Konz. He played a tremendous football game. You guys know the way he had to miss the last two games of last year, and I thought he just handled his business. Got him on the perimeter on some plays that were very impressive to see a guy that big run and do what he was doing.
Defensively, again, several guys played well. I thought Aaron Henry did a good job, made a couple significant plays, made a big hit, made a third down breakup. A couple of D-linemen played well. J.J. [Watt], Louis [Nzegwu] and David [Gilbert] all had flashes, but the two guys we recognized were Chris Borland and Blake Sorensen. They really played a pretty good football game, and [UNLV] threw a lot of things in there we hadn’t seen or practiced. They did a nice job adjusting on the fly and keeping their composure.
Special teams-wise, a guy that was going at a different speed more than anybody else was Kyle Zuleger. Number 27 was incredible on all phases that he was involved in. His role will expand from here. And also we did a co-MVP on special teams with David Gilbert. He was only on two units. He did a tremendous job on punt return, as well as on kickoff coverage, had a big hit on kickoff coverage.
So those guys got recognized, then a couple of people doing some work for us, scout team-wise. Even though Kyle Costigan had been playing defensive line for us, he had repped at offensive line and did a great job, so we recognized him as our offensive scout. And then our defensive scout was Cameron Ontko, and really like what Cameron’s done and what he’s bringing to the table.
As far as this week, San Jose State played Alabama, did a lot of good things early on in that game, got a little bit overwhelmed in the end. They run the pistol formation, something that we’ve already worked on defensively because of a couple teams in the Big Ten conference have been moving to that, and the offensive coordinator at San Jose State had shown that prior to him coming there. So we’ve gotten quality work there, but that will be a challenge within itself, but I know our guys are snapped in.
We’re actually giving them the day off today, as I do every Monday, but we’ll get back to work tomorrow and move forward. With that, any questions?
QUESTION #1: I’m not sure if this is Brian Lucas’s work or yours on the depth chart, but it looks like you’ve got a slash with [Josh] Oglesby and [Ricky] Wagner at right [tackle]…
QUESTION #1A: Is [Ricky] Wagner pushing him for starting time?
BIELEMA: Yes. I’ve really been excited about the growth Ricky has had and where he goes forward. And Josh, again, has made nice strides, but he had the procedure penalty and some other things that popped up, and those were some loose ends that showed up a year ago, and it’s just something that we’re not going to tolerate. And if he continues to do those things, there will be changes.
I grabbed Ricky yesterday, and we actually had kind of pseudo developmental practice yesterday. Anybody that got less than 20 snaps in the ball game, we went ahead and practiced a pretty good hour session last night in full pads. So they got in at 7:00 a.m., got a couple hours rest, they had lifting in the afternoon, and then they went back to work last night. It’s going to be interesting to see how that baby pans out this week.
Same thing with the guard, [Kevin] Zeitler and [Bill] Nagy will split time with the ones this week, and then also on the game on Saturday.
QUESTION #2: Any update on [Chris] Borland, and was the surgical procedure he had supposed to fix this problem?
BIELEMA: Yeah. Chris, of course, in his self-diagnosis, is completely healed right now. But he didn’t do anything yesterday. We don’t do anything today. Tomorrow we’ll wait and see whether how much we get out of him. Probably will be no contact, for sure. The surgery that he had, our doctors had explained to me was before when this would happen, his shoulder would basically slide out. But now that they’ve tied it down, when it begins to do that, he feels it more, which is why he was in increased pain.
So the full test that we want to do won’t be done until Tuesday. I know they’re trying to schedule it either tomorrow afternoon or Wednesday they’ll give it a real detailed look, but what we feel pretty good about him playing this weekend.
QUESTION #3: Bret, I think after the game you even mentioned [Ricky] Wagner’s weight gain since he got here, and I know he was a basketball player and a tight end. But what do you like about him and what have you liked about his development to this point that leads you to believe you can put him at right tackle . . .
BIELEMA: Well, he’s gone from 262 to 326, I believe, and he’s still got all those athleticisms that got him those basketball scholarship opportunities. He’s a real quiet kid, goes about a business in his own way and, probably of anything, is he just lacks the confidence that you’d like . . . like to be a little bit more confident, and I’ve kind of talked to him about that. And he’s our next best option for us at that tackle position. Casey Dehn would be another guy, but Casey was limited. He missed about two and a half weeks of fall camp, so he’d be another guy that would give us another option at tackle.
QUESTION #4: Bret, you mentioned all three running backs did some good things. How difficult is it to use three running backs at the same time, and what do you look for to make determining factor as to what you use, how you use them?
BIELEMA: Well, you know, John Clay got the first carry just because he’s kind of been there, done that, and has had the most experience. But the part I like about all three guys is they all kind of have different skill sets. James White, that first play from the line of scrimmage could have been a touchdown if David [Gilreath] would have held his block a little bit longer. [White] made a nice read, bounced it out, just a little isolation play to the left side. I don’t know if those other two guys could have done that exact same thing on that play.
But on the same account, when you’re pounding it up inside, some of those quick hits where you got to bounce off of people, John and Montee [Ball] have a little bit better chance of having success on some of those plays. So it’s not as clear-cut as that, but they do a nice job. If you see them tapping their head, that’s exactly what I mean, ‘I’m tired, let me come out.’ And I tell you what, to have a fresh running back in there every three to four plays, doing what Wisconsin does, is a true advantage for us.
Last year, you had John and Montee, but then it was John and Zach [Brown]. It was never three guys that were so consistent. And if you really watch the film in the third and fourth quarter, there’s a difference in how the defense was able to respond to some of those running plays.
QUESTION #5: Getting back to Wagner, how do you healthily put on weight like that?
BIELEMA: How do we help him?
QUESTION #5A: How do you do that in a healthy form? How do you get from where he was to where he is and do it in a healthy way with him?
BIELEMA: He did it in a very short amount of time. I remember he came on campus, and I asked him if he weighed 260. That’s what he said he weighed. I thought he was lighter than that. But he really had big gains in a short amount of time. He worked with our strength and conditioning. Ricky had not done an extensive amount of one sport specific training. That’s probably what the biggest difference, I think, is.
He’s a kid that was playing basketball. He was involved in so many other areas. Now you’re sport specific and you train. When guys come in as redshirt freshmen, for instance, we have a different lifting program for our guys that aren’t playing versus the guys that are playing. We’ll have a three day, four day program versus an in-season two day-a-week schedule for the guys that are playing right now.
They’re going through, just like in the winter when we go through a six to eight weeks winter conditioning, where we have our biggest gains from a weight gain and a strength gain, and then we do another one in the summer. They go through 16 weeks of it in the fall, our big guys, our O-line, D-line, and that’s when we’ve really been able to have some big gains. That’s when you saw Tyler Dippel go from being a fullback, maybe undersized D-lineman, and now he’s a 260-pound guy. Wasn’t a significant [gain, like Ricky], but you know, Ricky, he’s also 6’6. If you stand next to Ricky, he’s got that big body.
QUESTION #6: Speaking of 260, the announcers kept saying John Clay was 265. Is he that big? Can he work himself into better shape here? Is that what you’re anticipating, I guess?
BIELEMA: Yeah. Absolutely. I think even today I know I saw, I came in and walked down. We had treatments this morning from 9:00 to 11:00, and I walked through the weight room, and John was in an individual workout with [strength coach Ben] Herbert. So I mean, it’s a constant process with him and something he’s aware of. I believe he was 52 on Thursday, we weigh guys on Tuesday or Thursday. You know, you can’t always believe what you hear on TV, you guys. You should know that.
But what I’m excited about is, I don’t think he’s where he needs to be physically yet, but to me he even looked faster than he did a year ago on certain plays. There was a play, I know what it was, it was the first play we went to team-up inside and, there was a lot of discussion amongst us coaches about who’s going to play, what kind of reps, what kind of play, and you heard me describe this before. We did a little inside zone play. The first play was one over as a two D, the first snap of pregame warmup, and it’s, he was downhill. We make them sprint 20 yards, and I just looked at [running backs] Coach [John] Settle, and we both just kind of smiled because you could tell that that little pop was there. So I think more conditioning and more reps, the better he’s going to be.
QUESTION #7: Bret, when you guys went to a number two offensive line in the second half, [Peter] Konz was at center, Travis Frederick was not on the field, are you toying an idea with the redshirt with him?
BIELEMA: Yeah. I thought I maybe even said that before. [Travis] is kind of in the same boat with Zach Brown, that if there’s a guy that we could protect. One thing that wasn’t there yesterday that will be there with us in the future, Jake Current practiced yesterday. Jake has played for us every year and has played center and guard, kind of same thing as Travis. So if there’s a way that we could get Travis through this year, we will.
If Pete wasn’t our center, our next guy in there would be John Moffitt. And if John Moffitt isn’t in there, then we’d probably move Billy Nagy to left guard and Kevin Zeitler would be our right guard, and then our second string fullback, Ryan Groy, would be our second string guard. So we’re probably the only team in the country that can say that, but it’s just kind of what we do here.
QUESTION #8: Bret, regarding John Clay again, last week I believe the play outlined for him was 15, 20 snaps. Having seen what you saw from three guys, do you see that expanding this week? Do you see it staying the same, how?
BIELEMA: I really think, Andy, it depends on the day. It depends on who we’re playing and also who’s hot. I really like what we got going there. And to be quite honest, all three of those running backs, don’t get me wrong, I understand running backs want numbers and they want yards, but I really do believe they know the fresher they are, the better they are, the more productive they are, and the more chances you’re going to, now, get to have success.
After the first series, we wanted to go John and Montee [Ball], if things continued to pan out. And I loved that first series. There were two third down completions, but it was pretty much we were pounding it up in there and John ended up getting the score. Then right away on the second series with the big pass play to David [Gilreath], I was on the offensive headset, and I heard [running backs coach] John [Settle] yell, ‘Montee go!’ And I looked at John [Clay], because I was kind of waiting for a reaction, and Johnny was just, he was just into the game; wasn’t ‘I want that touchdown.’
John Clay, because of what he’s done in the past and because of what’s out there, is a preseason Heisman candidate, in certain people’s minds, I don’t know how real it is, every touchdown matters. But all John Clay wanted to see right there was us score a touchdown, and I think that speaks volumes about him, but also about what we have here. I think we got a selfless team.
QUESTION #9: How do you think Ryan Groy did at fullback in his first game, and how much more do you expect to utilize that throughout the season?
BIELEMA: I thought he really did a nice job. [UNLV] used a little tactic that a lot of teams try to do is come in and they just dive at our guys’ ankles and then our guys got an answer for that later on as well. So there were certain things that he had to adjust to, game speed-wise. He’s very excited to expand his role, whatever fashion we go. He’s trying to barter with me whether his first touch of the ball should be a carry or a catch, and he’s got his own opinions on that. I’m not saying he’s going to get either, but it’s just, it’s given. It’s nice to see guys that have roles that just get everybody excited.
Our offensive guys, when we call, 22 big or 21 big or whatever we naturally say big guys getting in, and there’s just a feeling on the sidelines as well as in the huddle, Ryan’s in at a fullback and it’s gone well. Our defense wasn’t necessarily excited about it when it happened during practice, but when they hear it on the sidelines, then they know as well. We knew the first play was going to be 22 big, Ryan Groy was going to be in at fullback, and we were going to roll. And for it to gain, what did it gain, 15 yards on the first one, everybody just got jacked up, and it’s another great plan and another good way to carry it out.
QUESTION #10: In your experience, are you of the belief that the biggest improvement or adjustment that you see from a team is from week one to week two, after getting that initial game out of the way?
BIELEMA: I do think there’s significant, I don’t know if it’s going to be the biggest. Obviously, going into game two you hope it is, but, I think a lot too, we had enough young guys that played well: Jacob Pedersen catching his first ball, guys got experience on the offensive line. James White and Beau Allen made significant improvement during the flow of the game. So you really got to believe some of those guys are going to have huge steps.
Guys that have been playing for so long, I mean, how much better is Gabe Carimi going to get? You know, you want him to play his best football, but I don’t know if you’re going to see this huge jump. But I do think there is a certain amount of that in you guys’s vocabulary of coach speak. I do really believe that it is true.
QUESTION #11: In your 3-3-5, I know [Kevin] Rouse got one of the two sacks, along with [Chris] Borland. Has Rouse found a little niche there that he can contribute?
BIELEMA: He has, Jeff. Kevin was a highly recruited kid that has been anxious and eager, and he’s a pleasing young man, and he wants to, he came from a great high school program. Joliet Catholic is a great high school program, and he just hadn’t been able to get out there and has gone through so much for him to get out there.
There was a lot of anxiety or a lot of, not anxiety, but just happiness for him when I saw him make that play because he’d done so much. That package right there, it’s really designed to create confusion in the offensive line, and he came free and ran it up from the back side. Now I’m an endless, I wish he would have taken a strip at the ball, strip attempt at the ball, but I think Kevin’s got to find, found a nice little niche for us in that package.
QUESTION #12: You’re playing so many guys, is this your best depth, do you think, and what are all the benefits, besides the obvious of, you know, having experience and injuries and stuff but, to playing that many guys?
BIELEMA: I think we’ve built a roster, just the way we’ve been able to recruit. To be quite honest, I think this might be our talented freshmen class coming in, but we only play two guys. Whereas my first year, I think we played seven, eight, nine guys, and next year it got a little bit lower. So hopefully that’s an indication of your talent is better and then that kind of comes out in what you’re saying. But a guy like Kevin Claxton to get in there and get some reps the other day too.
I mean, at the defensive line, we played five guys at both, we break it down in two positions, inside and outside, so we played five D-ins and five D-tackles. We played five linebackers, played three safeties, played three corners. That’s a good thing. And then at wide receiver we just have a lot of different answers. Jared [Abbrederis] came in. It was kind of nice, little guy got bounced around a little bit, but then in the end in that last score over around the left edge there, he was blocking his tail off.
So to get that many guys through and to get that rotation going, now the next position we’d really like to get it going is probably quarterback.
QUESTION #13: Coach, your defensive ends had a lot of success getting hands up on balls. I know J.J. [Watt] almost got his hands around one. Is that something that you spend a lot of time teaching, or do you kind of have to have a knack to be able to do that?
BIELEMA: Well, you got to have a knack and you also got to be tall. That usually helps. And J.J., I give him heat every time he gets his hands on the ball that. You guys saw that he was in on our offensive series on the goal line, short yardage, because he was a tight end. He was a tight end at Central Michigan, and he’s always reminding me of that.
But he’s got a knack for timing and it’s not just a matter of being the right guy, you kind of have to read the quarterback’s eyes and put your hands, because there’s a lot of times you see hands that are at the level to knock a ball down, but they can’t do it. So, yeah, it’s something I know Coach [Charlie] Partridge teaches, but there is a little bit of a knack there.
QUESTION #14: Coach, San Jose State lost 48-3 in their first game, but what kinds of things are you able to take from that tape when you look at it?
BIELEMA: Well, when you watch them offensively, they went right down the field that first series against Alabama, and Alabama’s a very good football team. So you can show them that. I think they have good skill on the perimeter, at the wide receiver position. Their quarterback isn’t afraid to sling it around in there. Defensively play very, very hard, and that’s the part I always admire. Regardless of how well you play, it’s how hard you play, and they were playing hard in all facets of the game. So they weren’t intimidated at all going in there, and I don’t expect anything except that . . . them to show up here.
QUESTION #15: Going back to that game tape, did you find yourself, were you tempted at all to measure what your team is against the defending national champions, maybe watching what they do a little bit and gauging personnel in that regard?
BIELEMA: Not really. It’s a thought that goes through your mind in all that is in it, but you really do, at least for me as a coach, when you’re first watching film, you’re just interested in how they play, and it’s regardless of who they’re playing. You lose sight that it’s Alabama. You realize it and you understand it when you see certain guys do certain things, but you’re more focused on what San Jose State is doing. But I’m sure, as you have already probably got that as a storyline topic, are going to draw that, even the score or whatever it ends up being, people are going to naturally draw that comparison, which, I guess that’s what you got to do.
QUESTION #16: Kyle Jefferson caught a pass on Saturday, and some fans might have even not known that he was still with the program since it seems like a lifetime ago when he was maybe going to be a starting receiver with this team. What have you seen through him going through all the trials and tribulations physically and everything he’s had to go through and the level of satisfaction still seeing here and contributing?
BIELEMA: First, Kyle Jefferson is a phenomenal human being. He came in, and for him to go through where he’s gotten to today, I actually kind of suggested to him last spring in preparation for spring ball, ‘hey, if there’s a way that we could reserve you and, you know, put a redshirt on you because we got so many seniors and I don’t know . . . your playing.’ His answer immediately was, ‘Coach, I’m a senior. I want to stay with this class. I want to graduate.’ And that spoke to me right there how confident he was in what he was doing.
And then I do a little thing on Sundays where I will show all of our offensive touchdowns and big plays on defense. So we showed a touchdown, but before the touchdown, I’m going to say this, this touchdown was set up, for instance, on the first series, John Clay gets all the accolades because he scored our first touchdown, but it was a third down catch by David Gilreath and Lance Kendricks that made the drive happen.
And so later on, the first touchdown in the second half was a nice run by John Clay, but it was a really nice bootleg pass that Kyle Jefferson had caught. So I said, ‘You know, this drive, this touchdown became a reality because of what?’ and I said, What happened, Kyle?’ And Kyle said, “I caught a pass,” and everybody just started laughing because it was kind of like, I wanted people to realize that Kyle had an effect on us having success, and it’s something that we haven’t heard for a while, and that was important.
QUESTION #17: Bret, you mentioned obviously there were some things about cleaning up. I’m just curious, when you guys looked at the red zone proficiency, there were a couple times you guys had to settle for field goals and that. What did you see that stalled those drives?
BIELEMA: Well, I think a great one is what I just mentioned earlier, you know, James [White’s] first carry could have been a touchdown, and he got knocked out, I guess it was the nine-yard-line, and we stalled out there. There were different things, I think, because of the flow of the game. If it was a different situation, I might have went for it, but like at the end of the game, there was a particular point where I wanted to see how our other units worked. I was pretty sure our offense was working well. I was pretty sure our defense. I wanted to see us make field goals. I wanted to see us punt.
There at the end, I think there was, what, a minute something on the clock, and it was a fourth and half a yard. I got to believe I’m going to get that, but I wanted to see, Brad [Nortman] hadn’t really turned one over in the punt game, and I wanted to see it happen. Fortunately for us, I’m never going to say fortunate in regards to penalties, but we lined up and we lined up with our left side was a little bit too far off the ball, and we had a five yard infraction, which resulted in 14 yards in change of possession, or in hidden yardage. To me, that was awesome to be able to say that when you’re winning by 20 points against UNLV, than have it be when you’re down by 10 against an opponent in the future and it ends up being the difference in the game.
QUESTION #18: Follow-up to [Kyle] Jefferson. Especially with so much talk about head injuries and concussions, he’s taken some hits in the past that maybe some guys don’t come back from. Was there ever a time in your dealing with him where you thought maybe it wasn’t in his best interest to be back on the field playing, or he maybe waivered a bit on that?
BIELEMA: Not from my knowledge. I mean, I talked to him about it. It’s a very real thing. Kyle is a gumball guy. He’s always coming in my office and grabbing gumballs. Kyle wants to talk, and it’s great, because he comes from that type of environment. After that second one, when he didn’t remember anything for a while, I know it was very, very scary, but the great thing about our medical people is they’re never going to put him out there unless he’s cleared. And they were very clear to me about when he could return, and we didn’t push that envelope at all.
As he gets more and more confidence in what he’s doing, he’s really had a pretty good fall camp, and he has got talent. He did a great job on the track team. He’s a kid that has a lot of pride. I guarantee Glenville [High School] is playing today at 12:00 on national TV, I’ll guarantee he’s watching them. He’s probably got on all the Glenville gear somewhere, just because that’s the kind of kid he is. He’s got a lot of pride.
QUESTION #19: Bret, what are some of the changes you’ve seen in David Gilbert from the 17-year-old kid who showed up a year ago?
BIELEMA: Well, he’s quite a bit heavier. He’s at 245, 250 [pounds]. Physically, he came in as a gifted player, athlete, but there’s just certain areas that he shows. But he’s still only 18 years old and, believe me, he shows that more than not. Him and Tyler Dippel were roommates, and probably not a good choice of us to put them together. Everybody leaves the hotel on Saturday, and with the idea that we’re going to go to play the game. When the game is done, we’re going to get on the bus, and we’re going to go get on the airplane and fly home.
Tyler and David came down and didn’t pack their bags, so they left for the stadium with all their stuff still in their room. So we had to make some special circumstances to get their [belongings], and I came to David today, sitting in the locker room. Said, ‘David, I might be mistaken, but didn’t you travel to every game last year?’ And he goes, ‘Yeah, yeah.’ But he knew how to get to me, he goes, “I was concentrating so much on the game, coach” which then I’m like, okay, all right. He’s got a little bit of brown nose in him, but he’s good with it.
QUESTION #20: Do you expect to see Mike Taylor out there this week?
BIELEMA: I do. I figured you guys would hone in on that, for those of you that were there [in Las Vegas]. He went through pregame warmup on Saturday and felt really good. He even made a comment about, ‘Geez, I wish I had practiced Thursday, I could play today.’ What we’ll do is ease him into Tuesday and, actually Curt [Phillips] went last night. Curt went in a team period where somebody was coming right up in his face, and he kind of had to move real quick, and everybody kind of, I looked, and Paul Chryst looked, and Curt turned around and smiled at me. You definitely like that reaction. Mike didn’t go yesterday, but he’ll go on Tuesday’s practice against scouts, and we’ll just kind of play out from where it goes.