Oct. 10, 2011
Watch Bielema Press Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin football head coach Bret Bielema reflected on the No. 4 Badgers' win over Nebraska and the team's bye week while looking ahead to Saturday's matchup with Indiana 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: One thing that really became evident to me during the course of the week after the game, was a lot of people ... as a head coach, I kind of block out what's going on, I don't think our players do, but the fans were unbelievable. I think, in particular, our student section was off the charts.
I actually had a couple of people reference last week some articles that were written from a Nebraska point of view, about how they wish their stadium could be like ours on game day. And, from a storied point of view, that was kind of shocking to me, but, again, kudos to our fans, everybody, all age groups; it was absolutely rocking.
Last week was a great opportunity to get a lot of depth work, a lot of our twos, threes, developmental guys, get some guys healthy. Actually, Kevin Zeitler, the guys that got injured during the game, Kevin's back with us. Woz (Brian Wozniak) should be cleared for Tuesday's practice. Shelton Johnson actually practiced on Sunday and will be back with us. David Gilbert, of course, is out.
One thing that was kind of lost last week in all the hoopla and then all that went into it, was just how good Montee Ball was. Montee was over 150 (yards). He had four touchdowns against a very, very good defense. We're very excited about where he is and where he continues to go.
One of the things that kind of hurt Montee and James was our offensive production. Because we were beating people pretty soundly, they were getting taken out of the game, so their numbers weren't really riveting like they have been in the past, but I can assure you they're playing really good football. Another guy that kind of gets hurt by the same thing is Brad Nortman, just because he hasn't punted the ball that much. He's one of the best in the country at his position.
So I got a chance on Saturday to look at the world of college football. One thing that jumped out to me, and I pointed to our players, if you take a look specifically at Indiana, they take the opening kickoff back for a touchdown. They take a field goal. They go up 10-0, and then the momentum swings with a 77-yard pass play, there's a defensive breakdown, and then also a 66-yard fumble recovery for Illinois that really swung the momentum on that other sideline.
And then you watch Ohio State and Nebraska in the evening and see how big the whole momentum changed and then, caused by a turnover, how much of an effect that can have on a game. So this week, we've got a team, I know that the win-loss record isn't that good, but they've been competitive. To me, a true sign, as a head coach, is if your team is improving each week it makes a big statement to me, and they definitely do that. I think Kevin's doing a nice job there, and you can see him getting better every week.
The last two weeks early against Illinois and then, really, the entire four-quarter game against Penn State the week before, (they are) right there knocking on the door, so it should be an interesting week and I'm excited about our preparation. We got a little bit of a jump last Thursday. A little bit as well, on Sunday, we had a little bit more of an extended practice on Sunday from what we normally do, and now we'll get into a normal workweek with the remaining Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday practice.
QUESTION #1: Your players have had a week of being patted on the back. Do you worry about that, and do you have to bring them down to earth a little?
BIELEMA: A little bit. We addressed that Sunday. Everybody is kind of saying all kinds of things, and coaches included. I told our coaches to be guarded too. We want to keep our edge. One thing that's kind of kept coming up was either by opposing coaches or just people saying things to me and watching us practice, even with NFL scouts, that they say our players are playing with an edge, a certain type of, just little image that's out there, and I'm encouraging our guys to keep the faith.
One of the roles we love to be is a humbler. We got after people pretty good last week and challenged them during the course of the week, so I'm sure they're feeling good, but not that good.
QUESTION #2: Bret, I don't recall any pressure coming off your right side against (Josh) Olgesby last week against Nebraska, and that was his first game back after missing with an injury. How do you think he played, and how do you think he's handled being hurt a lot, in particular, this year and fighting through things?
BIELEMA: The kid's battled through a lot, and for him to come out and play the way he did against good opponents ... a lot of times, when you don't hear anything called, that's a good thing for a tackle position. He did a nice job. Most of the pressure did come up the inside by scheme, but Josh handled himself very well.
I know just in talking with the NFL people, they were, they're just excited about the way he's playing, and I think it speaks true testament to him as a person. Here's a classic example, last week, he practiced on Wednesday, but we backed him off on Thursday just to try to give him a couple days rest.
QUESTION #3: Coach, can you talk a little bit more about Montee Ball? When I've talked to him this season, he's very businesslike, wants to get the job done on the field. Can you talk about his approach and just your thoughts on his approach?
BIELEMA: Obviously, there's a physical transformation last January, February, but to me, there's been a mental, again, like a little bit of an edge. I actually brought in two juniors, two guys that I think are playing extremely well just to kind of take this bye week together and give them a little -- Peter Konz, at his position, and Montee Ball -- about life down the road at the end of the year, what we can do for them to help them explore their opportunities or chances in the NFL.
And, Montee, you could tell he appreciated where I was coming from, but it was more from his mom and dad. I brought them in and kind of talked to him. And Montee's just like, `Coach, I just want to get to this next game.' And his dad kind of made a comment about being ahead of Indiana, and Montee was the first one to correct his father about one game at a time.
So I just, I think that Montee has bought into the way we prepare. I think he really likes having the combination with him and Russell in there together, and James does a nice job off the bench. And Montee's just a lot more mentally into it, I think, than ever before.
QUESTION #4: You mentioned Nortman's lack of work. Is it easier for a senior to handle that and perform at a high level when he doesn't get a lot of opportunities?
BIELEMA: Brad's as mentally tough as I've had at that position. Usually kickers and punters are a little off-center, but he's been really good. He handles the pooch game as well so it really brings down his average. He doesn't even think about that. I called just some people that are involved ... again, last week, I always take my bye week to kind of get a little bit of perspective on things, and I reached out to the two senior bowl games just to let them know that don't bypass my punter because he doesn't have the numbers. Don't penalize him for being good on offense.
QUESTION #5: Bret, when you scored the 83 last year, some people, including myself, were a little critical initially. But do you think in the long term that did more benefit than harm to the program given all the attention it generated?
BIELEMA: I understand 83 points. Especially, you've been covering the Badgers for a long time. That's a lot of points, and it raises eyebrows. But the thing I said at the time was I think it's raised an eyebrow because it's Wisconsin. It's not, that went on, you could've pointed out a dozen of those times from other teams.
But there was a late defensive score. There were some things... I had my, literally, my fifth string quarterback in there and he scores on a naked play, so the stars were kind of aligned for us that day. And I do believe it's created a little bit of a talk about Wisconsin, a little bit of a buzz, the way we finished last year and the way we're playing this year.
QUESTION #6: Bret, when (Brian) Wozniak went down early in that game, you guys had to throw (Sam) Arneson in there again. And I'm just curious, it looked like there were a couple of plays he really handled his blocking assignments well. What did you see on tape?
BIELEMA: Huge. I think the very first play in there was a zone play to our left, and he blocked the defensive end, finished the play. Sam's been impressive ever since fall camp. He was a kid, in recruiting, every time you saw him whether it was two weeks later or a month later, he kept getting bigger and bigger and more physical. And the thing that really jumped out was how well he caught the ball, body control and really did a nice job just throwing and catching, and then he really took the blocking assignments. I think Joe's (Rudolph) been impressed with him, and we have overall.
QUESTION #7: Bret, can you talk about the weight loss also that Beau Allen went through? I mean, that hasn't gotten a lot of publicity, as much as Montee did . . . it really has helped him kind of play at a high level where he put . . . games.
BIELEMA: It (was) a little bit more magnitude with Beau. I think we're talking about 30 pounds instead of 10 or 15. But, Beau, again, I think he kind of saw that he could be a lot more explosive at a lower weight and did a nice job of getting it off and then putting it back on correctly.
I think Charlie (Partridge) and myself both have been kind of poised for Beau to take a big jump here in the last couple weeks and moving into these next two weeks, because he's really come in and played as a freshman. I think he played more off ability than skills and knowing what he's supposed to be doing, but he has really done a nice job during practice and playing at a pretty high level right now.
QUESTION #8: Bret, I think when Scott Tolzien was here, you did a lot of the run-pass options for him at the line of scrimmage. Do you do the same things with Russell? How does he handle that part? And on almost every play, does he have a run-pass option?
BIELEMA: Not every play, but a lot of them. It's probably, basically the same thing. You've got to take what you've got. And I would Paul (Chryst) might be a better indicator on that, but just off the top of my head, I'd say it's pretty much exactly even, because just off the reads of what the defense is giving you and keeping us balanced within our system.
QUESTION #9: You talked about the players, wanting them to keep their edge from the last game. How long did you let them celebrate the big win, and when did you sort of try and get back to business, and what did you try to tell them?
BIELEMA: It was a happy locker room, no doubt, on Saturday. And, Sunday, when they brought them over, I kind of laid out the schedule and told them you've earned this. You've earned this time to relax and gather yourself. But right away, we brought them in and lifted them on Tuesday and grinded them out.
And I told my coaches Tuesday and Wednesday, let's make sure everything's perfect and detail-oriented. I've got to be careful, I've got a couple of coaches, you tell them to get after them, and they get after them pretty good, so we've got to be guarded. I walked off the field on Wednesday, and I remember I said to myself, I hope I feel a lot better tomorrow, just because there was a lot of yelling and screaming, which was good. I think the players wanted it.
QUESTION #10: Bret, you guys have been traditionally good on third downs, offense converting, but this year the numbers are ridiculously high. What's been the difference this year, in your mind, if you could list a couple factors?
BIELEMA: Well, the one that's going to jump off and be the biggest difference is just the decisions that Russell (Wilson) can make when the play breaks down. By that, I just mean we may have the exact same route, the same protection called that we did last year with Scotty, maybe if they're rushing four, covering with seven, the answers aren't there. The route didn't happen the way we want it to.
Now Russell can improvise, and that's the part that, to me, would be the biggest challenge in defending us is the ability for Russell to make something out of nothing. I'll go back. The first time it really happened was we were in an empty set and down in Northern Illinois, and they ran a full-out blitz. You have a guy free to the quarterback, free, and he makes them miss. Another guy's coming back in, and he makes him miss, and that's when I began to really see the effects of what his feet can do.
The great thing is he's the last guy that wants to go to that. I mean, he goes to it when he knows it's the right answer, but kind of like Tom's question a minute ago about run-pass, I would say that Russell probably favors going to the run game more heavily than you would ever imagine, more so even than Scotty, just because he knows we're very good at it and he knows it's effective.
QUESTION #11: What more can you tell us about Indiana, and do you see Coach (Kevin) Wilson kind of putting his stamp on that program early?
BIELEMA: One-hundred percent. I believe that I've just heard from a couple of references that the score from a year ago, I think is put in more than one spot in their locker room, and it's a point of emphasis. I think a lot of coaches, when they're taking over a program, would do that.
I've known Kevin for a long time, when he was in our league as an assistant coach and then, obviously, at Oklahoma. You can see the run game from the Oklahoma side of things, but they also hired coaches from the Michigan staff that were with Rich Rod(riguez) last year, and you can see that, those kind of plays coming for the quarterback run game, especially with the more athletic quarterback in there.
They're playing better and tougher, more aggressive on defense, and they have a system and a scheme. I know a couple of the defensive coaches that, I know the background that they're from, and you can really see that the fundamentals are being stressed.
QUESTION #12: Is the (Kevin) Claxton-(Ethan) Armstrong battle still open competition, and do they bring different things to that spot?
BIELEMA: They do. That's a great question. I just talked with Hux (assistant coach Dave Huxtable) yesterday. Clax kind of took himself out of it for a while there, because he was injured. And then we wanted to give Ethan a little bit of time to rest last week, just because he had a sore shoulder. So they both have been kind of splitting reps. And what we basically did this week is we said, let's have an open competition. Whoever practices close, practices best during the week if it's close, you'd obviously go with the senior just because he's earned that right. But if there's a big difference, then we'll go Ethan, I think he is very explosive. He can make a lot of plays.
QUESTION #13: What do you think it gives you getting (Philip) Welch back at this point? And it's his senior year, and he's missed a lot what do you make of his frame of mind now?
BIELEMA: Well, first of all from what I've witnessed him, his leg is very strong right now, very accurate. I don't know if he's missed a field goal. And we do a little, I don't know if you guys have seen this, we do a machine gun, rapid-fire field goals at the beginning of practice, and he's been 100 percent on hits.
Obviously, the one got blocked, but that was no fault of his own. We just got kind of rooted out of the A-gap. I think he's excited to play. One of the things that I've learned over the years is when your holder kind of looks at you a certain way and nods like, `He's on, game on,' I know when Taylor Melhaff was really kicking extremely well, Kenny DeBauche just kind of used to look at me and say, `Coach.'
Because I'll ask the kickers how far out you can kick, and they all think they can hit a 75-yard field goal, of course. But when I asked them, and you'll see a holder really feel confident, they almost, I almost feel that a holder, if he's got a great relationship, can tell you more than a kicker, and I know Brad (Nortman) was feeling really good about Philip's situation.
QUESTION #14: Bret, do you have any update on (Jon) Budmayr now, he's kind of progressed the last couple of weeks?
BIELEMA: Jonny, he's basically around, him and Curt Phillips both. One's got a black sleeve on his leg and a brace, and the other one's got a black, it almost looks like a matching set on his arm. It's never good when it's your two other quarterbacks. But Jonny Bud has been getting some sensations in his fingers and getting a little bit of movement in the two fingers, and, again, they just basically can't give us a timeframe on when those things are going to come about, but he seems to be progressing and hopefully continues to go down that road.
QUESTION #15: Kind of back to the kicking for a little bit. I talked to Charlie (Partridge) about you guys mentioned having Welch and Lerner split the kickoffs in some fashion. Do you anticipate that will help Lerner, both physically and maybe mentally, if there's less pressure on him?
BIELEMA: I could see that. And again, the thing that was happening with (Alec) Lerner was you were averaging 40 points a game or more. That means you're kicking off seven, eight times a game, and his body wasn't able to handle it that much. Phil continues to be good in the field goal area. What I wouldn't want to do is make Phil do something that might take away from that area if we had to start kicking off. Actually, Kyle French hit two great kickoffs on Sunday's practice, so I think we've got three guys there to play with. Kyle French with kickoffs.
QUESTION #16: Are you going to go with Welch and Lerner? Is that still the plan?
BIELEMA: On kickoffs? No. Not on kickoffs. Right now, Lerner's got it all the way through. French is in there a little bit as well. We haven't had hit, we haven't had Philip hit a kickoff yet.
QUESTION #17: The athletic department started a Twitter campaign for Russell Wilson's Heisman candidacy. I know you're on Twitter. What do you, do you like that? What do you make of it? It's already got lots of followers.
BIELEMA: I guess when we began to see Russell start to play well in front of our eyes and began to hear the hype, then I had a meeting with Brian (Lucas), I guess, and said, `Hey, what do we have to do to move forward? The kid's earned an honest, legitimate shot of being in the Heisman talk. What can we do to help it?'
And he'd already kind of set the wheels in motion. I talked to Coach Alvarez about when Ron Dayne was here, but I think the world has changed a lot over the last maybe 10 years. All of the major awards are won on the field. I don't think there's a campaign. I don't think you can put a poster up in the middle of New York City or anything like that stuff. I think it's about what you do on the field. I believe that Russell buys into it.
I think our kids enjoy being around that kind of conversation, that our O-line will take pride in thinking they might be blocking for a Doak Walker candidate as well as a Heisman Trophy candidate at the quarterback position, so I think that really became evident, you know.
You look at last year's situation. I mean, Cam (Newton), nobody even heard of him other than a couple of signings, and he ends up winning the Heisman because of what he did on the field. And he, obviously, was doing a lot more off the field to take away, two different situations in its entirety, but that's when it really became clear to me you've really just got to play well, and your team play well, and you've got a chance.