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Bielema previews matchup with Northern Illinois at news conference


ON WISCONSIN
<b>Head coach Bret Bielema addressed the media Monday.</b>

ON WISCONSIN
Head coach Bret Bielema addressed the media Monday.
ON WISCONSIN

Sept. 13, 2011

• Watch Bielema Press Conference Small Video Graphic

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin football head coach Bret Bielema looked back on the Badgers' win over Oregon State and discussed their Saturday clash with Northern Illinois during his weekly press conference Monday at Camp Randall Stadium.

Archived video of the media session is available through the link above, and a complete transcript of Bielema's remarks can be found below.


BIELEMA: Sunday, after we had a chance to watch the film, recognized a couple of guys. I thought on offense a lot of guys played well. (Nick) Toon had a good game and Jacob Pedersen, but the guy that jumped out that we gave it to us was Russell Wilson. Defensively, again, to have a shutout against an opponent like that, a lot of guys played well, but two guys probably that jumped out made a big statement.

Antonio Fenelus is really playing at a high level at the corner position, and David Gilbert played his best game to this date. But I thought it was interesting, the Big Ten came out with Mike Taylor as (its) MVP. He played a good game as well. Kind of like last week. We didn't give it to Russell, but (the Big Ten) did, so it's great to see the good players getting recognized.

Special teams, a couple guys really jumped out. (Andrew) Lukasko made that first punt, kind of get a shank, Derek Landisch just continued to grow on the special teams role, but the guy that stood out for us was Brad Nortman. Our offensive scout MVP was Derek Straus. He's done a really nice job for us all fall camp and to where we are today. Defensive scout was Bryce Gilbert, who has continued to do a nice job.

I thought a lot of our guys played well, a lot of big jumps in certain things that we were asking them to do individually as well as units. I thought our linebacker corps stepped up, our back end in the secondary came forward really, really well, and special teams really kind of grew in all four phases.

Injury updates, Devin Smith, we'll know a little bit more by the end of the day today, but he for sure won't play this week and kind of still finding some information out on him today. Patrick Muldoon will be out for at least a week. Kevin Claxton will probably be back to working with us, hopefully, on Tuesday, if not by Wednesday or Thursday. Travis Frederick practiced yesterday, so he'll be back with us, and then Philip Welch is not going to be back with us yet this week. Hopefully, we can get him back in the next week or two.

I'm excited to travel. I think we really tried to emphasize to our guys that to go on the road is a unique preparation, how they've got to handle things, kind of an unusual situation going into Soldier Field, where we don't really know where the fan base is going to be. I think we'll be well represented. I've been told that we had 12,000 tickets. We've sold over 11,000 of those from here through the UW, and, obviously, there's a lot of ticket vendors out there to get tickets down in the Chicago area, so it should be interesting. Do you have questions?

QUESTION #1: Bret, you knowing Dave Doeren as well as you do, what do you think his reaction would be to the amount of points in offense that the two opposing teams have scored on Northern Illinois so far this year?

BIELEMA: Well, he's probably happy for him, and knowing Dave, he's probably watched our film by now, and both of our opponents, I think, as defensive coaches, you always start, if you have that in your background and your history, once you get above that 21-point mark, you kind of start taking extra notice. But I've been very impressed with how well his team has kind of just played clean offense, defense. Two totally different preparations between Army and Kansas, but very, very, I'm sure he's happy. I know he wanted to win that game, but his kids competed all the way through to the end.

QUESTION #2: How much of a blow will Smith's absence be to your defense?

BIELEMA: Well, Devin's a good football player. One of the good things of this, Devin went through probably about a two-week window during fall camp that he was kind of a limited rep guy. I believe it was an abdominal strain that he had. So Cro worked with the ones for an extended period of time. Marcus Cromartie -- we call him Cro -- worked with the ones a lot, and I think he jumped in Saturday and played extremely well, and because he was getting lot of reps in nickel as well.

QUESTION #3: Bret, you see a lot of these shootouts like Northern (Illinois) was involved in the other day in college football these days. Have you had to change how you evaluate defensive success in terms of statistically or anything because of the high scoring offenses nowadays?

BIELEMA: Well, it is a different world. I think you've seen an increase probably over the last ten years. But as far as how I perceive defense, no. To me, you've got to be solid fundamentally. I watched our games, but then I sit back. I'm a college football fan. I sat there Saturday night and kind of was taken back at some of the big plays that happened, or how quickly offenses scored.

And it looked to me, again, I've got a limited angle. I'm kind of like you guys now. I just have that one angle that I don't have that coach's copy. I don't know what's being called. But when you see guys running free, and some of the big plays that happen, it just really makes you probably reinforce in your mind that much better about how, no matter what the call is, as long as we're all on the same page, you've got a chance.

And even if you've got a bad call in a bad situation, if people are hustling and trying to uphold the principles of defensive philosophy contain the football, cutback, reverse. I mean, if you have those things and in fundamental coverage, whether it's a two high or single high safety or whatever, if you're adhering to good, sound fundamentals, usually, you can play some good defense.

QUESTION #4: How have defenses responded to kind of the wide-open offenses and the spreads and all of the things that have happened offensively in college football?

BIELEMA: How have the defenses responded? Again, I can just talk to our philosophy. I think it all starts up front. We're obviously going to try to limit how much people can run the football against us. I don't care if we're facing a team that throws a football 70 times a game, they're not going to run the football on us, and you build out accordingly.

And if you want to present something to your defense, just don't give up big plays. Make teams earn it. I think I learned a valuable lesson early on as a coach that very few teams can line up and play skelly down the field and not have an incomplete pass. Without any defense even on the field. And for us, defensively, we just want to put them in situations, have success on first down, second down, get to third down, see who wins. And, eventually, hopefully, that theory's going to pull through.

QUESTION #5: Regarding Northern Illinois' offense, it looks like they're multiple, but they run some pistol, which (UNLV) showed you guys. Is there any carryover from that (UNLV) game to this one that can help you? And, also, can you just talk about what (Northern Illinois QB Chandler) Harnish does in that offense, and how effective he is?

BIELEMA: First off, they run the pistol formation. Some similar plays, but, really, out of different sets. UNLV basically was in a tight core formation with a lot of ... a wide receiver off and coming over and creating an unbalanced set, so a little bit different there.

I guess I can see where you draw that conclusion, but probably two different concepts. And then Harnish, he's the guy that makes it all go. You can see that. Extremely gifted athlete. He can run the football, throw the football. But probably more than anything, you can tell he's very smart, very disciplined. I think if he can get five yards, he's going to get it. Instead of trying to get 25, he's going to be a guy that can move the chains, and a guy you really respect off film.

QUESTION #6: I believe you tweeted last night that Devin's going to be out for a while. Do you at least have enough information that this is this potentially season ending?

BIELEMA: I think I said that at the beginning ... he's been at the doctor's office for 15 minutes. I'll tweet tonight anything I find out. How's that? I think we all want to know something. I want to know something. I want to know something during the course of the game, but, basically, the information they've given us is we're going to go. He's going to see a specialist today and find out how much we need to know.

QUESTION #7: You mentioned Cromartie. He had an excellent game against Oregon State, and you talked about how he did in fall camp, but can you talk a little bit more about his value to the defense?

BIELEMA: Yeah. He's going to play corner. Cro's a neat kid, because ... he's a kid that was a Hurricane Katrina transplant. He was from New Orleans and transplanted to Dallas when we signed him and came in. He's got a lot of ability, kind of grew through a maturity phase there.

He's kind of a kid that all the guys like to have a little bit of fun with. He's very competitive, and still, to this day, anytime he makes a play, he draws a reaction not only out of our defense but out of our offense, because he's kind of one of those kids that has that ability to make everybody like you or dislike you.

And, fortunately for us, he's really kind of stepped it up in the last year, and I've noticed a certain sense of maturity going back to last spring. I challenged him. Hey, you don't always have to be the funny guy. You always don't have to be this person that everybody's out there to make a point of. Just be the guy that you can be. And he's really been good.

It was kind of funny though. Thursday is when the Packers played the Saints. I got half a dozen guys in jerseys, and I didn't even know what was going on. Coach Alvarez and I took a walk, and I couldn't figure out why all these kids were on campus wearing Packer jerseys. I figured there was a sale somewhere, and come to find out there was a game that night.

And everybody kind of walked in, and I tried to find Cro, and there he was, front and center. He had a Saints pullover on, and he proclaimed that they were going to win by 14, so he got beat up a little bit on Sunday on that one. But, again, I think just a kid that people want to see him have success. Our defense was excited. I know as soon as Devin went down, there were a lot of guys slapping him on the back encouraging him on the sidelines, and he did some really good things.

QUESTION #8: Bret, Chris Ash was talking about David Gilbert's play in the game and just about his improvement in general, and, obviously, kids get better as they get older, but what's been the biggest difference between last year and this year for him?

BIELEMA: David has always been genetically gifted. He looks really good. He's very well put together. I think the thing that he's probably taken to the football field now is the fundamentals that Coach (Charlie) Partridge teaches every play. And if he really understands how his feet got to work, how his hands got to work, how his placement, on how he strikes his hands on a player, his gap responsibility.

I saw David, and a lot of times, kids take a big step when they kind of have that, for lack of a better term, that killer mentality, that sense of, okay, I got something here. And I know on Saturday, he was having his way with an offensive tackle a couple of different times. And he, I walked in the locker room at halftime. Usually, I kind of come in and give my score is zero, zero. We're going to play well. Let's hydrate.

And David's going nuts about `Whoever gets this guy, you should own him. He can't block.' It was like a little, raging little man coming right in front of us. And he had been this nice, baby-faced David Gilbert who I'd saw kind of grow into a man right in front of us.

QUESTION #9: Is it also a fact, of the fact that he looks bigger, thicker, and stronger, and can probably do more things physically?

BIELEMA: He can. He's always been gifted. I remember his freshman year when he jumped over the ... he's just naturally had some intangibles that a lot of people don't have, don't have the same blessings that he does.

And he's kind of, when a kid has those, sometimes he doesn't know how much he really potentially has in his hands, and I think that light bulb has finally come on. Again, I think not completely two different people from Marcus, but I think David's really matured and really come into his own own personality of who he can be, and, hopefully, it's going to continue to grow.

I saw him last night. We were eating dinner, and I said, `Now I want two.' And he said, thank you. I said, no, no, you haven't had two yet. First one wasn't what we've wanted. Last week was. Let's put two together.

QUESTION #10: Dave Doeren had the unfortunate experience. One of his players got shot in the offseason. I don't know if you've ever been through anything comparable, but as a young head coach, what's that experience like when you know you're responsible for 120 players? Is that one of the biggest adjustments you have to go through?

BIELEMA: It is. Dave and I talk all the time. We probably won't talk at all this week, but I reached out to him as soon as I saw that. And he'd actually had been at the hospital, I think I got a hold of him at like 7 or 8 in the morning. He'd been at the hospital with him all night, just gotten home, and he said, nobody ever really prepared me for this one. I said, well, thankfully it hasn't happened.

A tragedy like that, but you're dealing with kids 18 to 22. A lot of times, the most common tragedy you have to work a young man through is the death of a grandparent, usually, or someone that's close to them that they've never really experienced.

And I think then you rely on your own life lessons. It's been well documented I lost a sister when I was in college, so I can always go back to the trials and tribulations I had there as a player. But as a coach, you learn these things, and Dave's a well-rounded individual. The experience he has is, he's a father. I'm not, so he kind of has that upper hand on me.

But I think you've just got to go back to who you are in those situations and really be compassionate and realize the bigger picture of things. I shared with my guys yesterday the (Brent) Greenwood kid from Iowa, I'm sure a lot of you saw that, I mean, a guy that we respected on the football field as much as anybody. And the thing he's going right now in the family, and I'm sure it affects players on their team, so you've got to realize the human element of it.

I was sitting there Saturday and saw Coach (Jerry) Kill, a guy a respect and admire to the biggest degree in our profession, and to see what he had gone through, I was just taken aback and really was glued to that TV as much as everybody else was, because there's that human element to our profession that makes everything real.

QUESTION #11: Bret, going back to your defense for a second. Did you learn anything about the depth that you have, and particularly when Muldoon went out. Obviously, he's kind of a backup, but Claxton not playing and . . .

BIELEMA: Yeah. I was excited to see Ethan (Armstrong). Ethan's been very impressive since he came here and is playing as good of football as he has since he's been here. I really felt going into fall camp that at the defensive line, we were five and five. I felt good about five D-tackles and five D-ends, and Patrick was in that.

So now to see Tyler Dippel and then a guy that's right on the edge there as . . . is Konrad Zagzebski, so we are probably deeper at those positions than we ever have been. Now I want to be deeper at corner, obviously.

But as a coaching staff, I think we've built up in areas where we haven't been strong in the past. For Ryan Groy to step in and do what he did on Saturday and really not, no one ever really wrote about what Ryan Groy didn't do. He just went out and did what he did, and I think that's the fun part about being where we're at right now.

QUESTION #12: Have you guys made a determination, for example, say, if one of your starting corners tweaks an ankle in a game or something like that, is out for a short period of time, do you just pop in one of the young guys, or do you...

BIELEMA: Yeah. (Peniel Jean) got in a little bit at the end. I withheld Darius (Hillary). At halftime, I knew it wasn't good about Devin, but, again, I didn't know the extent, or if we're talking a week, two weeks, if we're talking a season, because nothing can be verified until they kind of get a look in there today.

Darius Hillary has been right on the cusp of playing, and (we) haven't played him on special teams. Now you've got Derek Landisch really, really becoming good in a hurry. Sam Arneson got in there the other day. Melvin Gordon ... irritated his groin area last week, so we held off playing him really much the other day.

But with these practices, we've see these freshmen get really good. So I'm excited about Darius Hillary and Devin Gaulden. We'll get back into working on the field this week. So he's a guy that has expressed, since day one, that as soon as he gets back out there, he wants to play.

QUESTION #13: Is corner maybe the toughest position for a freshman?

BIELEMA: Yes and no. I mean, if you're going to be able to play as a corner, and we really feel that you physically can play, it means you're really gifted athletically. But I look at Antonio, both our corners this year, Antonio Fenelus and Devin Smith, both played as freshman.

And now Devin's season's in jeopardy, and if he comes back, he'd be a fifth-year senior in a very strange and unusual way. But Antonio Fenelus, I remember he was really impressive in fall camp. He tweaked his ankle, sat out for like three or four weeks. He was mad when he came in. He thought Coach (Kerry) Cooks -- I remember I had so many meetings with Antonio -- because he thought Coach Cooks was playing his favorites and all this jazz. And I would say, yeah, coaches play favorites. They play the best players, and that's how it works.

But Antonio is playing at level right now that is very fun to watch. He's competing on every ball. Nobody watches more film than him. He's a very serious and a very good student of the game, and it's just fun to watch him have success.

QUESTION #14: Does your offense kind of lick its chops a little bit knowing how much teams have been able to run on Northern Illinois through the first two games? Then that's obviously what you guys want to do.

BIELEMA: Yeah. I think our offense is going to be the same every defense we approach. We're going to find out what their strengths are, their weaknesses, and try to take advantage of what we do well and find the right balance. Obviously, Saturday was a classic example of Oregon State wasn't going to allow us to run the football, and we had to go to the air, which we were able to do. And then it kind of loosened things up for the second half. So I like our offense and I think that they're excited to play any snap.

QUESTION #15: Do you know if Shelton Johnson's a guy who can give you, play in the slot and give you some versatility. But the play he made on the fourth down on the fly sweep, threw the guy out of bounds, is that one aspect you're looking from, physical play out of him still?

BIELEMA: Yeah. It was fun. I kind of had a feeling Shelton was going to play a good game. His father was in the stands on Friday, and I think that's the first time he'd been here this year. I don't think he came to the first (game). I told Shelton we're going to try to get his dad here for every game just because, he just played, Shelton had a certain confidence to him.

I think the game is slowing down for him. I saw him make a couple physical plays. And I'll go back to Shelton's first year. As some of you might remember, he ran down David Gilbert from about 20 yards away, and I realized he had speed. And to kind of like just put it all together, he's just done a really nice job of working through the details of learning the position, learning the calls, and how he needs to fit.

QUESTION #16: You just talked about Ryan Groy a minute ago. Do you anticipate a little bit of a positional battle this week going into that game between him and Frederick, or anything, do you know who will start?

BIELEMA: I do. Travis, I just saw him in the hallway, and Travis felt really good yesterday running around, and I know he's excited to get into Tuesday and see exactly where he's at. I know Ryan Groy will not give up that position willingly, and I think Bo's (Bob Bostad) even talked about putting him over on the right side and battling it up with Kevin (Zeitler). So Ryan is, I've said it all along, probably our most gifted athlete on the offensive line physically, and now that he's getting some game reps, it's pretty fun to watch him grow confidence.

QUESTION #17: You mentioned Devin Gaulden. I know a couple of the guys spoke highly of what they thought he could help, potentially, but is it realistic for him to be able to contribute this year given how much time he's missed, including all of camp?

BIELEMA: It'll be a wait and see, Jeff. But I kind of said in early conversations with Devin, he's a tremendous competitor. And I basically said, hey, if we can get you going by conference play, and he's like, coach, I'm all in. So I think the idea, he did a lot on Sunday.

He was going to come in today. I haven't had a chance to visit with the trainers. We've got a staff meeting at 2:00, and they'll tell us how he felt today, and he may be able to do a little bit tomorrow. If he can do a little bit tomorrow, maybe he can do more Wednesday. If we can't get him this week, I think next week would be a viable option.

QUESTION #18: Bret, you talked about tickets in your opening, it sounds like, overall, ticket sales aren't going as well as Northern Illinois had hoped, that they had designs on maybe selling that place out like they did when Iowa came to Soldier Field a few years back. Are you surprised that the ticket sales haven't been better given the proximity of . . .

BIELEMA: I know when this thing presented itself, it was basically a carbon copy off of the contract that Iowa signed, and we were moving. But I think the thing that's different, and ou can do your research, I've got better things to do, but I think the prices have changed significantly, and so I think that may have as big a factor as anything. I'm sure we're probably higher ranked than Iowa was at that time, and I think Northern Illinois is probably maybe a little better ball club than they were that year too. So it probably gets down to the finances, and what people can afford or not afford.

QUESTION #19: Bret, what did you like from Manasseh Garner last week, just kind of getting back into kind of the game prep, and what are your plans with him going forward this week?

BIELEMA: I've always been a big fan of Manasseh. He came back faster than everybody thought he would with that groin injury and the surgery he had. And I know this. Manasseh likes football, and he's very good at it. So we repped him in quite a bit, probably threw a lot at him.

He got in there a little bit the other day. I think he can be a key contributor for us on special teams, but I really think, I know Russell likes him, and, hopefully, he's going to be able to step into the role within our offensive package that can be unique to him. I mean, he's a big body that can run, and in a blocking game, he can in our run game, he can really get after people.

QUESTION #20: Bret, you mentioned (Sam) Arneson playing. And early on, I think the plan was bring him along, and if we don't need to use him, use him. What was the tipping point that led to the decision to play him?

BIELEMA: Sam's been very good. He's got in every situation. He was running against the ones and not holding anything back. He's been a kid, to me, that's been very surprising how well he catches the football. We did a little twos and threes work yesterday. I kept the ones out of everything. But he caught a streak down the middle that was pretty impressive, so we were right there.

And, actually, Sherard (Cadogan) hasn't been out there as much, so we've had to use him more than not. And we're like why are we repping this kid 50, 60 practice snaps, and he's not getting out there? Sherard is in a boot now until Wednesday, or until tomorrow, and, hopefully, he'll practice on Tuesday or Wednesday.

So we're going to let Sherard stay kind of just at fullback, and we'll work Sammy into his rotation. So, really, we just have the four tight ends. We've got Jake and Jake and, I call them Jacob and Jake, but you can call them Upper Peninsula or Arkansas, whichever you want. And then, really, it's Woz (Brian Wozniak). But Woz has been injury prone so you just have that thing. Let's roll with Sam, and he did a nice job.

QUESTION #21: Coach, can you take time to worry about the tendencies that Coach Doeren might know about your defensive guys? I think Aaron sort of talked about it, that they know each other. He knows what their weaknesses and strengths.

BIELEMA: Yeah. I would say that that was probably a driving force going back to last spring when we were beginning to formulate with Chris (Ash) and Charlie (Partridge) what they're doing. I said, hey, here's a perfect time to kind of change all the signals, communications, the things that Dave would know, because I knew this was going to be an opponent coming up on our schedule.

And that can be kind of a little bit of a mind jam for you too. For instance, a couple of years ago when there was a big deal about Northwestern. Now, through the course of time, we found out that all they did is told their players to mimic every signal that we gave. They didn't even know what they were meaning. But it messed with our kids' heads, so there's a little bit of a mind game out there, I'm sure. And it's fun to take place of that as players and coaches.

QUESTION #22: A question on Gaulden again. Was it a stress fracture, and they had to insert a rod in his leg?

BIELEMA: Again, you're beyond my medical terms, but, yeah, I think it was that. It wasn't a full-blown fracture, and it's probably something that had been there for quite a long time. Devin was running track. I think he'd said when he visited with the trainers that this is something that he felt going back into the spring of his senior year, and then he kind of backed off running. Then, once he got in the heavy part of our running program here this summer, he complained about it and that's when they found it.

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