Sept. 25, 2012
• Watch Bielema News Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin football head coach Bret Bielema spoke about the start of Big Ten Conference play, quarterback Joel Stave and the way recruiting has changed at his weekly news conference at Camp Randall Stadium Monday.
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: Just to piggy back what Brian just discussed, it was something very apparent to me when I first came here, the emphasis coach (Barry) Alvarez put on guys volunteering for community service. I carried forward some of the things that he had done and then also enhanced it, made it a competition within the team as well as one within the athletic department. During my seven years I would say that probably have been blown away by the way are kids respond to different things that they do. Whether it's the Friday visits to the American Family Children's Hospital, whether it's reading in classes. We make our guys do two hours of community service for a year, and a lot of them end up going way beyond that, just because it's something they really haven't been exposed to, the environments they come from, the homes or whatever, and it's something neat that the administration is putting it out there because it really does make our kids, who kind of walk around and think they're kind of invincible. Some of the things they see on a daily basis really makes them appreciate all the things that they get here at the university. I commend them for that.
As far as the football program, took Sunday to sit back, take a look at the film. Saw a lot of positive things offensively. I thought there were some times that it really, really looked clean and did some of the things we've been trying to get back to and obviously certain players jumped out too.
I thought a lot of guys did well. First starts with Kyle Costigan and Joel Stave. Both getting their first starts ever and both of them played pretty well but we gave our offensive MVP to Jared Abbrederis, just the way he returned and the way he broke open the game, very, very special. But again a lot of positives out there defensively. We split the MVP between Chris Borland and Ethan Hemer. He's played a lot of really good football games. But that was one that he was in the right gap at all the right times, stayed on his feet. Sometimes defensive tackles, it's hard to get them maybe the headlines that they deserve. But Ethan and Beau Allen really all year have been playing pretty good.
And special teams, it was really for one play but it was a play that really affected the game. It was the co-MVP between Konrad Zagzebski who blocked the PAT and Devin Smith who returned it for the two points going in the other direction. Some positives coming out of there. As far as injury wise, don't really have anything new on Montee (Ball). He was really upbeat after the game. I talked to him late Saturday night, about 8 or 9, and he was really upbeat where he was at.
We didn't take anybody out on the field yesterday on Sunday. We just thought we needed to jump on the film, get a couple of shots of Nebraska in our guys mind.
We’d normally take two days off, which we've done. A lot of guys up watching film. We just thought we needed a 48 hour window to get ourselves healthy. Montee will get evaluated and has a possibility of practicing on Tuesday. We'll see where that goes. If not, obviously, we'll take it as the week moves forward. I know he's very encouraging about where he's at. At the defensive end.
Tyler Dippel and David (Gilbert) up in the office last night, they're both very encouraged. Should be returned for those guys at practice Tuesday, if not for sure Wednesday. And then Brendan Kelly would not have practiced on Sunday, but hopefully get him back on the field Tuesday or Wednesday. Excited about the way the other guys played. Other than that everybody that popped out of that game should be back in their being healthy. With that, we'll open it up for questions.
Question: When you say Montee (Ball) is going to be evaluated, are you referring to cognitive tests for concussion?
Question: Is it pretty simple, that if he passes the test and he's cleared, that you'll play him, or is it deeper than that?
Bielema: No. I think where he's at right now, I go back to just seeing some of the things that Montee has gone through in the past. He came back from the one before the season ever started obviously with the incident fairly quick. Again, my hands are off on that situation. I know the things they said to me that he took on Sunday were very, very low, no overly concerned to keep him out for this week.
Question: Bret, are the two concussions close enough that that raises any type of red flag?
Bielema: I don't think that this one on Saturday, he was definitely, some symptoms, a little bit but he wasn't knocked out cold or anything like that. Like you see certain guys, that just as a head coach, you can kind of almost gauge by what initially happens and how severe it is. But, again, every kid just handles it a little bit different.
Question: You mentioned (Kyle) Costigan. What specifically did you see once you looked at the tape that you liked in him? For his first start.
Bielema: You know what, Jeff, two things. First, just the energy he brought. I thought he was engaged. He was very excited to get the start. Early on, you'll see there's some plays where he gets on the right guy, covers him up, stays on him, gives our guys a chance to have success. There was a number of plays early on in the first quarter that were really just a read away or a guy away from holding on to a block.
Just moving at the line of scrimmage too. There were several times on Sunday where I'd watch the first angle is from the side where I'd see the movement off the line of scrimmage like we've been trying to talk about trying to get done, and it was definitely very apparent, for him especially.
Question: Bret, I know James White's stats weren't eye popping, but did he show you something on his run, between the tackles especially?
Bielema: He did. It's just been a while since we've seen him in that role, but I thought he was exceptional. Melvin (Gordon) had a couple of those runs, and he had the big 100 yarder and everyone wanted to draw attention to that, and he did phenomenal. But I couldn't be more proud of those two guys. A, the preparation they put in, the patience they showed and then when Montee (Ball) went down, they were excited about the opportunity. The fun part for me was to watch it after the game, and nobody was more excited for those two guys than Montee himself.
That wasn't just playing it up. That's truly how that room feels. I think James and Montee, in particular, are very, very close, roommates and great kids that go through everything together. Very happy for those two.
Question: What kind of atmosphere do you expect in Lincoln, especially given the way Wisconsin welcomed Nebraska to Big Ten football last year?
Bielema: Obviously, when Nebraska was added, we knew we were getting a great team with a very long history of winning football games. I've had the pleasure or the opportunity… I don't know if it’s pleasure of playing in Memorial Stadium. First went over there when I was a young assistant at Iowa.
Like I said many times, I think the stadium itself has a Big Ten feel to it. The fans are on top of you. They're very engaging. They've won a lot of football games over there. So I know they're expecting to see a great game. I'm not oblivious to the fact that last year, when they came here, it was a game that had a lot of hype a lot of buildup. Similar to what we're trying to get going this year. Both teams aren't ranked as high, but some of the same things going forward.
It’s a night game. Two of the premiere schools that are Adidas schools. So there are a lot of different things playing into it.
Question: Bret, last week you were talking about the blocking, particularly in the run game. When you focused on the tight ends, you said they hadn't been getting the job as well. Did anybody, especially (Jacob) Pedersen and (Brian) Wozniak, did they step it up against UTEP?
Bielema: Those two in particular were very, very, much improved. I thought Ped (Jacob Pedersen) and Woz (Brian Wozniak) during the week you saw them doing some things. I thought coach (eddie) Faulkner did a great job with them during the course of the week. Setting up some drills some emphasis on it. And you definitely saw it again on Sunday. Something you can't really pick up during the game but just the movement off the line of scrimmage, getting up to second levels and some things like that.
Question: You mentioned getting the jump and looking at the Nebraska tape. What jumps out to you about their offense this year versus last year? There’s been a lot made about the improvement of (Taylor) Martinez, especially.
Bielema: Martinez has always been an exciting player. Last year's prep, when we’re getting ready for them, of all the games we watched from the year prior, it was a new prep for us. We hadn't played them. I knew he who he was I knew he was a good player. I’m a big of, Bo (Pelini) and I know each other for a long time, so I always kind of followed Nebraska.
But this year's film, all the games after that we played, that they played after our game, you saw them getting better, and there's been a spiked improvement this year, just the numbers he's purely put out there, the production. He looks to be faster to me this year. When he does run the football, that long play he broke versus UCLA. I think UCLA's got some fast players, and that really showed up.
Around him, he's got I know Rex doesn't have huge numbers on the year, but him and number 8 have done a nice job bouncing in there and making some good plays. I thought last year's wide receiver corps was kind of underestimated, and I think the same thing this year. I think they're very, very good players that are very fast. Got a tight end, 81, who does a lot of really good things. I know they lost some guys up front, offense line wise.
Martinez to this point has performed as well as anybody in our conference numbers wise. I know everybody's got… we had a Heisman hopeful to begin with and everything else. But Martinez, some of those numbers are pretty hard to beat.
Question: Bret, after the game, you talked about penalties on special teams, the two on the punter, running into and roughing. Were the punt blocks on in both of those instances?
Question: Can you just explain the rationale, I guess individually, what you're trying to get at the time, whether it was turning momentum around in your favor or what?
Bielema: Two things. We didn't rush any punts the week before. UTEP had not had a punt blocked this year, but there were several that had gotten close. So, by game plan, we felt good about a couple of the blocks that we had.
Obviously, when you call a punt block, the rationale would be to block the punt.
Question: The one at the end of the half.
Bielema: Yeah, I called two time outs to call, absolutely. The first one was… they do a little bit of emotional… they do some rugby to it and made some adjustment to our guys on the sidelines. Really felt, if we could get ourselves guys in a situation to put our unit back out there, we'd have a chance to block the punt. Didn't happen.
They did a nice job of converting it into three points. I think, as a head coach, I've always been aggressive in nature. I think you have to be understanding of where you are, but I thought with a new quarterback and all of that, we wanted to try to get plus, just to put it on film, I think some of these games early on, you really want to be able to show your future opponents what you're capable of doing. That was something, kind of game plan before the game even started.
Question: If Montee (Ball) is able to go against Nebraska, do you still hope to get Melvin (Gordon) in there at least for some carries given the way that he performed this week?
Bielema: Absolutely. I think going into the first game where we were against UNI, now going into game five against Nebraska, Melvin is a guy who's shown he can play at this level. He's very smooth in the way he runs. Just got to continue to be guarded about how we're using him. There was some things he didn't specifically do mentally wise that we gotta to make sure he’s locked into and we’re not putting too much on his plate, that and some of the things he’s doing on special teams. By Thursday, we'll know where Montee's at and then kind of come up with a plan on how to use both Melvin and James (White) accordingly.
Question: Bret, this seems like a tough week to have any issues at defensive end. How challenging is it for your defensive ends against their option and then with the escapability of (Taylor) Martinez?
Bielema: He brings a unique challenge in the fact of what he's able to do both with his feet and with his arm.
That's the part if you're going to purely grade him on how is Martinez different, he's really done a nice job of throwing the football down the field vertically in conjunction with all the things that he’s done in years past or the last two years on film.
The option game is a threat just because they bring a variety of different looks and different formations, different motions. And if he's getting an open hole, he can outrun any DB we got and any linebacker. That's a tremendous challenge for us, and I think that's just doubled or amplified because of what he's been able to do in the play action passes off of it.
Question: If for some reason (Montee) Ball can't go this week and your top two guys are (James) White and (Melvin) Gordon, do you contemplate taking Gordon off of kickoff just as a precaution?
Bielema: Two fold. We've had this discussion because of the job Kenzel (Doe) did on the punt return game. I’m sure you saw that on Saturday. We took James out of there and put Kenzel back there. Kyle Zuleger is also, has done a nice job as the off returner with Kenzel maybe as the primary returner.
Melvin, there’s two of those kick returns were literally one guy away, and he's such a straight ahead speed runner. As we move through the week, we'll definitely make decisions where guys are on special teams and return game especially.
Question: Do you have someone on your scout team that can somewhat simulate what he's capable of doing?
Bielema: We have a scout team quarterback that we bring into fall camp, with that idea and a twofold this year. Chase Knox has done that, but Lance Baretz is who simulated Taylor last year as well as this year already. He's done a nice job for us. A guy that can really run and does a nice job of throwing the football.
Question: Bret, now that you’ve seen it for a couple years how has Nebraska entering the Big Ten changed the recruiting landscape in the Midwest? I know you guys haven't changed who you recruit, but with them involved with some similarities, how have they changed how you guys approach things?
Bielema: In the last year, there's been a definite change just because of I think they kind of to me, it became a little more apparent they were putting more of an emphasis on the Midwest, even here in the state of Wisconsin. Last year, the last two signing classes, we battled them out a little bit on certain guys, but this year definitely seeing an increase in that.
And an area we both traditionally recruited is Ohio and both from Youngstown. He’s got a lot of connections there and the state of Ohio; he knows how good that is. We obviously do as well. And then in the state of Florida, that's kind of an area where teams are either kind of like fully engaged or they just go down there a little bit. Nebraska is definitely fully engaged down there. On the kids that we traditionally recruit, a lot of times it gets down to schools like that. Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan State traditionally down in south Florida as well.
But then also, kind of a new area for us is just west. And I would say that the kids that we've recruited for our offense, we are finding that we're battling Nebraska quite often on some of those same type of kids.
Question: You mentioned after the game some of the young guys on kickoff coverage. It looked like (Lance) Baretz was active on it. But I’m also curious, I know it starts with the kickers. It looked like Andy Buh has that group playing pretty well from what I can remember of with some of the drills he ran.
Bielema: Yeah, Andy's got a nice plan. I think this is a kickoff coverage unit that he brought with him. He spent a lot of time during the off season concentrating on it. He's got unique ways of presenting it to the kids. There's a constitution that our kids recite on a daily basis. It's kind of fun.
I remember last spring I came down into a special teams meeting and sounded like I was outside of club whatever. There was some heavy beats going on, and I walk in, and he's up there bopping his head. The kids didn't know what the heck to think of it, but they just kind of rolled with it.
There's some things. He's definitely got the kids being contagious. They’re excited to be on that group. And really, it's some no name guys. Not being disrespectful. It’s guys that are making plays that just aren't up there playing with our starting unit. Connor O'Neill has been a standout in that group. Derek Watt. That was Beretz's first time, and we tried to get him involved because he's so engaged. Jake Stengel was another kid. I think that was his first couple reps and he got on that ball on a fumble.
A number of guys. Terrence Floyd, Michael Caputo. There are a couple of starters, Devin Smith and Dezmen Southward in there. A bunch of guys that are role players that are playing very, very well.
Question: Bret, you mentioned Nebraska fans were very engaged in your meetings when you were down there. Just from your experiences, are they maybe some of the most knowledgeable fans and maybe the most appreciative fans that you might run into?
Bielema: I would say that. I go back to just the experience that I’ve had there. I don't know if I notice it as much as a head coach because I've got my head set on all the time. Back when you coached on one side of the ball, after you got your corrections, you kind of watched, and they're engaged in the game. They're definitely very educated to the game. They appreciate good football. It's not just folklore. They do applaud you when you go off the field. If they win.
I would say there's a definite difference when it doesn't go their way. I think there's a lot I thought when Nebraska was being added, just with coach (Barry) Alvarez's background and his history and me being able to see both sides of it, I thought it would be a nice addition to the league because they really truly enjoy the game the way it's supposed to be played. Their kids play that way. Their coaches coach that way. And hopefully it's a fun little rivalry we can get going.
Question: At least for media and fans, it seems to be the theme down there is Nebraska trying to get revenge for what happened here last year. You guys have been installed as an underdog, at least points wise, double digit this year. Can any of that matter can either team have an advantage using that chip on their shoulder, so to speak, this week?
Bielema: Oh, yeah, it is what it is. I could have wrote that headline last week. After the game was over, I knew that was going to be a factor. It was really a pretty competitive game, if you remember. They jumped out, caused a fumble on Abby (Jared Abbrederis), and had some momentum, and our guys swung it back on our side.
The second half was one that was obviously, we executed very, very well, took advantage of an interception early in the second half. This is a different team. I'm excited because this club that I'm coaching has gotten better the last two weeks without a doubt. We made some changes. We made some obvious changes, ones that's well documented. There's a lot of changes that no one in this room has any idea what we did.
It was things I knew we had to accomplish and things that our staff brought to our attention. We're a program that's moving forward. I think they're one that obviously they had a little bit of a setback at the UCLA game, but responded very, very well the next two weeks and have won some games pretty handily against the last two opponents. They're a very well coached football team. They've got a lot of really good players, and I know they're playing extremely well.
I think the challenge to our guys is where do you want to be? You've done a good job of battling yourself back. You're a 3-1 team. You're entering conference play where everybody's 0-0. And it's your opportunity to see exactly where we want to go. And how far we've come in the last two weeks.
Question: Bret, you said last week that (Joel) Stave had a little kid left in him. How do you help him mature this week to prepare for such a hostile Nebraska environment?
Bielema: I guess Joel and myself and my coaches are having a discussion with him three years from now and he's started every game from now till then, he's going to be the same kid. He really likes to have fun with it. He enjoys life. That's what I mean by that side of it.
I'll tell you this, as a competitor, he's very hard on himself. He's very engaged to the game. The thing I love about him was his responses on Saturday when he didn't have a good play. He was very, very determined to find the answers. There was a protection issue that I know him and Freddy worked out on the sidelines. Very, very thorough in his discussion there.
You know what, I would also say this and this really was something I tried to observe during the course of the game. I purposely, after a series or within a series, was kind of standing off to the side and watched Danny O'Brien and Curt Phillips handle Joel. I couldn't be prouder of those two guys. They were doing everything they could to make the game better for Joel. I think that in a lot of places that maybe necessarily wouldn't have popped up, including after the interception. They were trying to do everything they could to explain what just happened and why the results were what they were.
I think Joel will take a big step this week during practice. Hopefully, good things will continue to follow.
Question: Bret, another recruiting question. Have you had any philosophy change about offering juniors? And is there a downside to going after younger guys in high school earlier in the recruiting process?
Bielema: Tom, I think, if anybody really followed us and knew the correct information, we kind of actually took a little bit of a longer process to offering. I just think it was something that we want to be thorough in what we were doing. We spun it to the parents and the kids. Listen, we're not throwing around offers like they're nickels out there. We're kind of throwing them around like they're manhole covers. We're just really, really slow in the process. Because I want to make sure we have a thorough process.
Also, academically at the University of Wisconsin, a lot of times kids don't take the ACT and SAT until the junior years in high school. We have a formula we lay out pretty clear that a kid has to have a certain GPA and a qualifying test score or a number that I see that indicates, if he's not quite there, he's going to get there before we can offer him a scholarship because everything is just so much more advanced.
You can't really apply for the University of Wisconsin until your senior year anyways because they're not going to take the transcripts. They're not going to allow a sophomore to be admitted or anything like that. There's a reason behind that madness, but then on the flip side of it, in today's world, as time sensitive as everything is, the Twitter world, the Facebook world, the instant messaging, all that stuff escalates the recruiting process so much.
So we have offered more juniors. The reality of it, you're offering them sometimes as sophomores in the spring semester of their sophomore year. I'll be the first to admit I've offered a freshman. I offered an eighth grader, but we just don't publicize it in the past. It's something that was kind of a forced thing.
I bet you, if you could ask every head coach in the country, they would rather wait, but if you really truly are going to stay on top of the best recruits in the country, especially geographically, it's just a matter of fact now.
Question: Bret, I think in the past when you talked about Russell Wilson's preparation, you might imagine he would go on a website and kind of get the layout of the stadium maybe. I don't know if (Joel) Stave is that attention to detail oriented. What do you think is going to be his biggest challenge Saturday? Is he's passed his first start. This is going to be a little different.
Bielema: I think it's going to get down to kind of a little expansion of what he's already dealt with. It's not what happens, it's how you react to what happens. That means, how do you react to a first down play that, like there's a play on Saturday we gained nine yards. Second and one. All of a sudden, it's first and 20 because we had a holding call by the right tackle. How do we respond to that?
I thought two of Joel's best plays on Saturday were plays that broke down. He scrambled and made a positive gain out of it. That's having a positive reaction to a negative situation. To be on the road, to play in a hostile environment, to play Nebraska's defense, that's a lot of negatives working against you, but he has to have faith in the guys around him. I think we've got to come up with a plan that doesn't put a lot of stresses on him after the snap. Makes some reads and reactions before the snap but once that pay begins to unfold where am I going with the football and what am I doing.
Jeff, obviously, you know where I'm coming from. There's a lot of things that being on the road are a little different than being at home. But I will share this with you. When we put him in the game two weeks ago, it was a 14-3 ball game. I know we were at home. Some of the home crowd wasn't real happy. So there was that to deal with. Just the complex and the dynamics of going in the game, and he handled it like a trooper. Saturday, again, probably the best drive I’ll go back to even the drive before it that stalled out. They pulled within seven, and he took them right down the field. We took a shot in the end zone, didn't make it happen. Third down was a completion, but they tackled Abby (Jared Abbrederis) before the first.
We went out, we missed a field goal. I mean he took that drive right down the field. And to come back out and do it after they had come within four points that said a lot to me about what he's made of.