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Bielema talks Nebraska prep at weekly news conference


ON WISCONSIN
<b>Bret Bielema met with the media on Monday.</b>

ON WISCONSIN
Bret Bielema met with the media on Monday.
ON WISCONSIN

Sept. 26, 2011

• Watch Bielema Press Conference Small Video Graphic

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin football head coach Bret Bielema looked back on the No. 7 Badgers' win over South Dakota and looked ahead to Saturday's Big Ten opener vs. No. 8 Nebraska 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: I thought Sunday, after we watched the film, there were some things in all three phrases of the game that were really good teaching (moments). Obviously, in a game like that, I think a lot of people don't realize how much that benefits our football team. A great example is right before the half.

We had three timeouts. They got the ball, and we were able to make a defensive stand. We used two of the timeouts to get the offense the ball back with about two and a half minutes and then be able to get one more touchdown. To be able to do that in a live situation is worth its weight in gold for future games down the road.

We recognized, offensively, Jared Abbrederis. Obviously, a lot of guys had a good game. Nick Toon had another big numbers game but Abby, all over the field, was just doing some unbelievable things, especially as a double returner as well. Defensively, Patrick Butrym had his best game. Special teams, Derek Landisch has been outstanding for us, has grown in every game in his role, really doing some good things. Chukwuma Offor on offensive scout and Cameron Ontko had a good week on defensive scout team.

Injury-wise, Josh Oglesby will be with us this whole week. He basically got in a little bit last Friday, did the pregame warm-ups, but we didn't use him on Saturday. Shelton Johnson should be back Tuesday or Wednesday. I thought Dez (Southward) did a nice job filling in for him on Saturday. We had a couple guys step up in those situations. Patrick Muldoon is back 100 percent full go. He practiced on Sunday, back from the elbow injury, and Konrad Zagzebski actually got in the game, did some good things.

So, getting closer back to full strength. The only two guys that'll be out for the duration since the season has started are obviously Kyle Costigan and Devin Smith, so getting back to being healthy.

Just an exciting time right now, obviously, to open up Big Ten play. But I told our team yesterday, how many times can you as a player or a coach say that you're going to be involved with the start of league play in a new divisional alignment against an opponent the caliber of Nebraska and the tradition, the history, everything that they bring with themselves in addition to being just a really good football team this year, so exciting time.

I think Camp Randall should be rocking. I know I'm excited to see that atmosphere. If it can get anywhere close to the Ohio State game a year ago, just the excitement, the energy, I know our kids really fed off of it, started the game off the right way, so we encourage everybody to get in their seats. For the student newspapers, anything you can do to encourage the students to get there to be in as much red as possible and make that place electric, it should be a great time. So with that, I'll open up for questions.

QUESTION #1: Bret, your counterpart, Bo Pelini, played down the historical significance, but do you want your players to embrace that part of it?

BIELEMA: I do. I don't want to get in a contradiction, but I understand what you're saying. I think it's part of our obligation as coaches. Coach (Barry) Alvarez always kind of emphasized that to the team when I was here with him. Going back to my time prior with other places, the more you can educate the kids on the history of the program and the history of college football, I think, is a great thing.

Kids today are different. The kids that we're recruiting now know Wisconsin as being good their entire lives not only the 17-, 18-year-olds I'm recruiting, but the guys on our team. They don't know Wisconsin as anything but being good, so they don't remember the bad years or the past history. They weren't alive in 1974, the last time these two teams met so it's part of our obligation, and something I think our kids like.

QUESTION #2: Usually, one of the best gauges of how much interest or hype there is for something is what happens to you when you go to the gas station or when you're driving down the street, so in the last few days, what, anything that has happened that you gauge from fans or people on the street?

BIELEMA: I'll go back just even to during the summer and all that stuff. The people, the attention that was drawn to this game, and you know we kind of conduct a one-week mentality, but from ticket requests to people saying things at public events and outings.

During the season, I’m not seeing all that much. When I'm driving in, it's really early. When I'm driving home, it's really late, so you don't see a lot of people. But it's just fun, because I know there is an awareness out there. And something we kind of started last week, I started prepping our kids last Thursday, a little informal team meeting that we have on Thursday nights, I kind of talked about how everybody has a plate, and on that plate you can only put so much.

If you put too much on it, things begin to fall off it. And you've got football. You've got academics. This is a busy time for us academically, you're starting to get into midterms and stuff like that, so our kids really have to be great about where their focus is.

QUESTION #3: Bret, Carl Pelini has said their defense isn't where he expects it to be later in the year, but people always talk about the complexity of that defense and the flexibility, things they can do. As you look at them, as a former defensive coordinator, what jumps out at you what they do that makes it difficult on opposing quarterback?

BIELEMA: Well, I think, first off, they're very fast. I think when they come into this league, what people are going to first realize is, from a personnel standpoint, they're extremely gifted athletically on defense, really having some special players at all three positions -- at the linebacker, DB, and defensive line position, guys that you really have to be aware of where they are at all times.

I think Carl and Bo together, you have two great defensive minds there that, if you really want to have a great (defense), you ought to see those guys talk one time. I'd bet you'd get a live conversation going. But I just think that they really, it is complex but … if you really understand what they're trying to do, it's pretty basic as well in the concepts and ideas.

QUESTION #4: Bret, a couple weeks ago, Bo Pelini said when he coached you in '91 that he couldn't picture you as a head coach. I'm curious, from your vantage point, what you saw from him as a young head coach, and kind of how you guys have maintained that friendship for so many years.

BIELEMA: Well, Bo and I know, basically, common friends very, very well. I've known Bo over the years, and anytime we have any type of coaching convention and stuff like that. But we probably both have come a long way since when we knew each other at that point.

The thing I've admired is he took over a program, and he put his stamp on it right away. I think that the things that he believes in, you see it really come across in the film. Especially defensively, but also offensively, they're very player-oriented. I think they let the players that play well do what they do best. And on the same account, they play very, very fast. I think he has probably evolved as a head coach much the same way I have.

QUESTION #5: Just being intuitive, two of their players on offense, what jumps out at you when you look at Martinez and then Burkhead at I-back?

BIELEMA: Well, I think Burkhead is throwback, a guy that really, the more you watch him play, you realize he really loves the game. I think Martinez, I've been watching him (since) last year because we knew what was coming, but as you study him and watch him now, he is very, very fast. Everybody knows that, but he is, I mean, he pulls away from people.

And in then in the throwing game he lets guys go up and make plays. They have a couple of guys that really can streak down the field. The one thing I've really enjoyed over the last 48 hours watching film is I think Nebraska players are a lot like Wisconsin players for one simple (reason), I think they both really love to play the game. You can see that they truly go 100 miles an hour and really enjoy the environment of a college football game.

QUESTION #6: What, if anything, has jumped out at you about what's transpired with Big Ten teams through nonconference play here?

BIELEMA: To be quite honest, Tom, I haven't watched any Big Ten team, other than catching the highlights on Saturday night. If you're talking about I know there are some teams that lost to FCS teams, and I say it all the time when we go to that Big Ten meetings at the end of July before we kickoff, I wish every team in our league the best of luck and success in September, because we're all affected by it.

QUESTION #7: Has it reinforced somewhat the value of a quarterback nowadays? When you see the teams that are really doing well, they have a, not necessarily even a passing quarterback, just a, kind of a vibrant quarterback to make things happen.

BIELEMA: What I see is, I see teams that traditionally have success have a good system in place, and there's not a lot of change. At least that's the case for us, and that's kind of what we've stuck to. I do think there's a big statement from our program in the fact that I remember a few years back playing an FCS team in Cal Poly (where) I didn't know what was going to be the outcome on Saturday -- had a good idea, an indicator -- and really, all last week, I was in an opinion and a mode and a frame of mind that this was going to be a game that we should be able to play well and play a lot of people.

QUESTION #8: Bret, Montee Ball has undergone maybe two transformations in the last yea, one, between the ears last year after he fell out of the rotation a little bit and then came back at the end, and then physically in the offseason this year. What do you think is more important of those two that have led him to where he is today?

BIELEMA: Well, the immediate effect physically is just the burst in the speed, and the pure things that you see him do on the football field. But a lot of that is because of the heart and mind. A guy that's been in third-down situations where he had to pick up a rush edge, also a guy that there's a play -- and it may go unnoticed by most people -- but early on in that UNLV game, he came free.

And he doesn't have a rearview mirror. He doesn't have, but he was able to pick his feet up, because there was a guy trying to clip his heels. And I had one NFL scout say to me, ‘Bret, how many times did you coach that?’ Or like making a joke. Realize and understand he's doing some things naturally and instinctive that a lot of people just don't do.

QUESTION #9: You've obviously seen a lot of really good defensive fronts over the years, Iowa and Ohio State. Does Nebraska's compare, and what does this challenge do for your offensive linemen? How jacked up do they get?

BIELEMA: I think exact comparison to last year when we were getting ready to play Ohio State at home under the lights, national, big-picture stage. Iowa had a great defensive line, really, all four positions. And Nebraska, Crick, whether he plays or not, they're still a very good, very dominant, very aggressive, physical group, so there will be a lot of carryover from that to this year.

And our offensive line wants to get all these accolades and all this, which is very well deserved. Obviously, they've been as good as anybody out there. I thought it was interesting that Sports Illustrated contacted us and has an article that'll come out this week on our offensive line play.

At first wasn't going to do it, and I kind of decided to let it happen. They did it last week, so it wasn't a distraction to our preparation this week. But how many times has Sports Illustrated asked come in and asked to do an article on offensive linemen? It's very rare.

QUESTION #10: Talk about the importance of seeing how your kids react in certain situations. The one situation maybe they haven't been in the nonconference is being in a four-quarter game. Is there any downside to that as you see, as a coach, so far from what you've gone through the first four games?

BIELEMA: Yeah. That's why we did keep, through the last three games, we kept the majority of our starters started the fourth quarter. I wanted them to get through the third quarter Jump Around to be quite honest, to get through into the fourth quarter and start preparation.

We've done some things. We've brought them back on Sunday and conditioned them a little bit more. We haven't been in a competitive situation much beyond the second quarter, but that is something I'm not really concerned a great deal about with this group because of the way they think, because of the way they're wired.

QUESTION #11: Do you think your defense has faced some things in the non-conference schedule to get ready for Nebraska's offense in terms of tempo and a mobile quarterback?

BIELEMA: Yeah. Northern Illinois was about as quick a tempo as, I think they're going to be a quicker tempo than Nebraska. So Nebraska runs a no huddle … I do know they quicken the pace a little bit here and there. They had some things you can really see off the TV copy. But, again, we haven't been tested in four-quarter game with that type of tempo. That's the part that we've got to understand.

QUESTION #12: Bret, if I remember correctly, you had Jeff Lewis run quarterback on the scout team last year against somebody, because he was fast. Who do you tab to try to replicate Martinez's speed, and do you anticipate there's going to be an adjustment period in game for your defenders who haven't seen that?

BIELEMA: (Lance) Baretz is the guy that, if you actually lined up our entire football team, it kind of surprised me, Herbs (strength coach Ben Herbert) told me this during the summer, he might be the fastest guy on our football team. Lance has got extremely quick feet, so he's been doing a nice job, really, since preparing against Northern Illinois. We actually grabbed (Joel) Stave, Stav comes down and throws skelly against our one and two (defense), so it's kind of a mixed bag there. But Lance, I'm not saying he's Taylor Martinez, otherwise he might be playing, but he's doing a really nice job of simulating him.

QUESTION #13: Coach, kind along the same lines as Rob's question. You always talk about how the team overcomes, the first time they face adversity, you didn't face a lot of adversity in the non-conference schedule, how prepared do you think the guys are?

BIELEMA: Well, I think in the first quarter of Northern Illinois, and, obviously, this past weekend, we did have a little adversity in all three phases of the game, offense, defense, and special teams, and we made a big deal of it on our Sunday teaching. So, again, nothing on our schedule to this date will be Nebraska. I get it. But I have seen them react favorably, and we talk about it all the time.

And (we have) a good core of what helped us win last year against ... Ohio State and Iowa and a lot of those guys are back. Jake Byrne and (Jacob) Pedersen came in for Lance Kendricks when he went down. We had a number of the O-linemen that are with us right now that went in when guys went down last year. And, of course, the running backs, both of those guys came in when John Clay and James White got hurt last year in those two respective games. So a lot of those guys are back and, hopefully, will be able to respond the same way.

QUESTION #14: Bret, at the top, you mentioned Shelton Johnson may be back either Tuesday or Wednesday. If he's not back until Wednesday, is that enough time to see that he can play. And if he can't go, what's your comfort level based on what you saw with Dezmen in the last game?

BIELEMA: Actually, Dez was ahead of Shelton, was playing better than him in fall camp, and then it kind of flipped on it a little bit. And Dez actually had an ankle issue, which gave Shelton the opportunity, and Shelton just really took full advantage of it.

Shelton was playing at a pretty high level. He was a guy that I was really excited about the way he was playing. If Shelton isn't going by Thursday, we, probably, as long as Dez continues to do what he's doing, I don't have any problems starting him and letting him play out there a little bit. And then as far as the comfort of putting Shelton in there, if he can run and do the things physically that you need to do, I wouldn't have any hesitation to put him in there with very little practice, just because it would have been his fifth start, and he's pretty comfortable.

QUESTION #15: Chris Borland seems a lot more comfortable in the middle now. Can you just talk about his importance in getting ready, especially for a mobile quarterback, his ability to play on the field?

BIELEMA: I think No. 44, and  No. 53 (Mike Taylor), when you sit down and watch the coaches’ film, those guys are pretty fast. I always thought great linebackers were guys that were could erase mistakes, and Chris can do that. On the same account, he gets ahead of things. He overran two plays on Saturday that were big plays for them. So I think the more games he plays, actually, the more practice he has, the better Chris is going to become and, fortunately for us, he's gotten better every game.

QUESTION #16: Bret, how many stories has Barry shared with you about his days at Nebraska, and do you think he'll be flipping a two-headed coin on Saturday?

BIELEMA: No, no. I know where coach's loyalties are. I guess I've heard him when he gets around his cronies, some of his old buddies that he played with come back all the time for games, and I get to hear stories, and I do remember. You guys probably know, what years did Coach Alvarez play, ’50, ’60 something? Whatever.

I’ll never forget this, we were at a Badger event. I think we were at Nakoma Country Club, and he had a bunch of people around, and he was talking about this big game his junior year, senior year, and it was maybe ’69 that he played in, and he's going on and on, and he keeps hitting me. He goes, ‘Do you remember that, remember that?’ I'm kind of just going along with it, and he starts naming off all these players. ‘Do you remember him?’

I go, ‘Coach, you're talking about 1969, right?’ He goes, ‘Yes.’ I go, ‘I was born in ’70. I wasn't even breathing yet.’ And he's like, geez and then he kind of goes back to his thoughts. But I'm excited. I didn't know if he'd want to be the guest captain, but when I sat down and was trying to evaluate; the first thing we do is we actually take an NFL schedule and see who has a bye week the week we have a home game, and that's how we go about it at first. And nothing was matching up for Nebraska, and I kind of just said, well, the guy that makes the most sense would be Coach Alvarez, and when I approached him, he was all over it, so it should be fun to see.

QUESTION #17: Bret, with all the attention and everything from media to, obviously, the fans and ticket requests and everything that goes with it, is this one of those weeks with the players where you have to guard against them getting overhyped, getting caught up, where they've spent themselves by Thursday or Friday before you even hit the game?

BIELEMA: A little bit. Again, I go back to we talked about it during fall camp. I let some cameras in, things I've never done before, and things really got to a point where the cameras, it's like they weren't even there. Our guys weren't doing anything different. I wasn't doing anything different.

This week, there's not going to be anything involved when we're at practice but there was some outside interest out of the norm, and we're doing that all yesterday and today. So when we get into our workweek on Tuesday, we'll be able to focus on what we need to do.

But sometimes it's not the media, and it's not the obligations we would ask them to do. It's the family requests, the friend’s request, the people that want to come into town on Wednesday and Thursday instead of Friday. So that's what you've kind of be guarded about.

But on the same account, we've worked very hard to get ourselves in the position we are today. I saw that in Brian (Lucas’) press release. This is the first time there's been two top-10 teams ranked since 19 whatever it was, ’64, ’62. Hey, we're here. We don't plan on leaving, so let's take advantage of some of the opportunities that are coming in front of us.

QUESTION #18: Bret, you no longer have a 250-pound hammer at tailback, or even the way Montee's changed himself, not even a 230-pounder. Are you pretty confident in your ability to grind it out or convert short yardage and things like that now that you're getting into playing Big Ten defense?

BIELEMA: I am, just because of the people we have in front of them in Bradie (Ewing) and the tight ends. And I think we're probably more explosive than we've ever been, and you've seen that probably in the big plays we've gotten. I understand we don't have that real big back like we had probably when P.J. (Hill) and John (Clay), and obviously, Ron Dayne before I was here, but I like the running backs we have. I wouldn't really trade them in for anything.

QUESTION #19: I know you got a lot of questions in Chicago about the similarity of your program and Nebraska. Do you think there's anything there, and what stands out if there is anything?

BIELEMA: I think, first off, look at both of our athletic directors. Both of them are former coaches that had College Football Hall of Fame careers. I mentioned this in Chicago, but I had heard Tom Osborne speak on three different occasions as a young coach, and to have the opportunity to sit next to him on a bus ride in Chicago to an event was awesome, just the knowledge that man carries.

And then for both of them to guide an athletic department now, I'm sure if you talk to any coach in Nebraska just like you would here in Wisconsin, to have an AD that was a former coach is worth its weight in gold. And then just the program's philosophies, I think, are a lot alike. The history of maybe a strong running game and playing good, solid defense since we've been successful here at Wisconsin.

I think there's a lot of little things... Don't get me wrong. You watch Nebraska's offense, you watch our offense, it's two different animals. That's why I do think, for us, an advantage we will have is it's very tough for a Nebraska roster to simulate our roster as far as putting scout teamwork together. I don't even know if they have fullback or a tight end that kind of does the same things that we do.

QUESTION #20: Bret, they've got their cornerback, Dennard, back last week. I'm assuming you guys have seen film on him from previous years. Bo says he wouldn't trade him for any corner in the country. What do you see when you look at that kid, why he's so good?

BIELEMA: Well the first game back, you're going to have some issues, but they had two good corners last year, and he just is extremely quick. You can tell he's got some natural instincts. He's a fighter. I can see how he fits right into what Bo's mentality is. He's very aggressive, and that comes as second nature to him. There's no hesitation in any action that, his body just naturally has quick responses to everything he sees.

QUESTION #21: You probably can't predict their defensive mentality or whatever, but I'm assuming they're going to probably try to put him on Toon. Do you think with what Nick has shown this year that he's up to that challenge to this point?

BIELEMA: The best thing we've got going for us right now is the combination of No. 1 (Toon) and No. 4 (Abbrederis). I get it. I think the reason that Nick's been able to have some productive numbers is because of No. 4 and No. 48 (Pedersen). You have another wide receiver who can get behind you and get the deep ball thrown to him, and then you have Pedersen in the play-action game and just normal route running, that's pretty special.

QUESTION #22: It seemed like (Tyler) Dippel got a lot of snaps. I know he stood out in kick coverage, made a jump there, but is he, he's always seemed to be a high motor guy, is he starting to get his assignments down and be a little more consistent that way?

BIELEMA: I think you're exactly right, Tom. The best thing to happen to him, I don't know if you remember, he jumped offsides early in the game, the first or second game. I mean, I lit him up pretty good, and I know Charlie (Partridge) did. Hey, you can't cost us penalties. You can't play. We can't put you out there excited to watch you play and have negative reactions.

And I think he, from that point forward, has really grown. He's been a man-child on kickoff coverage. He's getting more and more reps. He was, actually, played himself through a little bit of an injury. His knee kind of swelled up on him a little bit, and he just battled himself right through it. Him and Konrad Zagzebski both, that's why I was excited, I think both of those guys, high motor guys, high energy, pretty intelligent kids that can really help us with some specific roles here in league play.

QUESTION #23: Is the plan to still have Alec (Lerner) handle kickoffs this week?

BIELEMA: Yes, Alec and then, actually, Philip Welch will kick with us on Wednesday, so there's a chance that Phil might be back with us in some capacity this Saturday as well.

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