Oct. 26, 2010
• Watch archived video of Bielema's press conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema met with the media on Tuesday afternoon. He talked about how the team will spend its bye week, while also reflecting on the Iowa contest from Saturday. A full transcript can be found below.
Bret Bielema: After watching the film, we gave MVPs out offensively to Scott Tolzien and Montee Ball. I really can’t say enough about what Montee did, especially after you popped on the film and realized the special little things he did throughout the course of the game. And then defensively, gave it to Ethan Hemer, who got his first start and played really, really, really well. And J.J. Watt, we co-shared that, and I actually just got notification that J.J. was named Lott Player of the Week again, his second week in a row. So he’s getting some nice recognition, and very well deserved. Our offensive scout MVP was Rob Havenstein, and our defensive scout MVP was Marcus Trotter, and our special teams MVP was Brad Nortman.
I thought [Nortman] really has done a nice job during the course of the year and really think he took a step forward. It’s kind of funny because, obviously, that’s a fake, a running play for him, but you could just see the confidence in him swell and hopefully [it] is going to carry him into the next four games.
So we’ll turn our attention to mainly getting ourselves healthy. Right now, a lot of my coaches are out on the road during this week and doing some recruiting. I will be as well, and we’ll have limited practices on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, let them regroup a little bit on Saturday, and come back to work on Sunday. This week will be a little bit of a mixture of one of the things I learned during my time here with [former head] Coach [Barry] Alvarez, [that] is during these bye weeks is to stay with the speed of the game, stay good versus good, and make sure our kids are playing fast. So we’ll do that in a combination of also a Purdue introduction in all three phases.
So with that, I’ll open it up for any questions.
QUESTION #1: Bret, regarding [Ethan] Hemer, I know he had the six tackles, but when you looked at the tape, what specifically did you like about his effort?
BIELEMA: Well, in playing Iowa you really have to hold the point. They really put a big emphasis on moving the line of scrimmage. It was going to be very important for our defensive tackles in general to be able to hold the line of scrimmage, and they did it. Nice job of that. He did a nice job of getting off of blocks and making tackles, like those six tackles. Actually, the only play that he was unblocked on, he missed the tackle. There was only one play on Saturday. I think he was so free he didn’t know how to react, but he did a nice job of using his hands and moving his feet to make plays.
QUESTION #2: Do you expect all your injured guys back, and who are the most serious of the group?
BIELEMA: Kind of a wait and see. We, on Sunday, had treatments. Guys came in, some guys are a little bit better than we thought they’re going to be, some not so much. Some positive things as far as any type of injuries that we needed to x-ray, everything’s come back negative on that regard. So James White was negative. He’s basically got an MCL, a knee sprain, that should get a lot better in a hurry, but if we were to play a game this week, he wouldn’t play, same thing with Lance Kendricks.
But offensively, Peter Konz probably will get some work this week. Nick Toon will be back with us full-go. Then on the defensive side of the ball, Jordan Kohout probably will have limited reps this week, but should be full go next week and move forward. And then really just rest a couple guys that are banged up.
QUESTION #3: If you get most of your kids back, are you kind of anxious to see what this team can look like full strength based on what you’ve done the last two weeks?
BIELEMA: We kind of always talk about getting the next man in here, and I know everybody talks about it, but my guys probably get tired of me talking about it because there’s been so many examples at the beginning of our game week preparation last week. Everybody was making a big deal the first time we went down there and won when I was a head coach, about Tyler Donavan because he’s a quarterback and, as you guys know the storyline that week. But there was also a young man by the name of Ben Strickland, who was starting at corner, who we were very concerned about. And Strick played very well in that game and was critical to us winning that game, along with Tyler Donavan. I just said there’s always going to be there.
[Former head] Coach [Barry] Alvarez came in and talked the week before about the Ohio State game when they won, when players stepped up when the quarterback got injured, when he got strangled, guys came in. It’s just something I think for us, and in particular at Wisconsin, we’ve got to be able to do that. We don’t have enough of the sexy guys. So I’m excited to get them back, but on the same account, the reality is you just got to be able to rep what you got.
QUESTION #4: Bret, early in the year you guys experimented with [Ryan] Groy at fullback, which limited Bradie [Ewing’s] contributions. And now it seems to have swung the other way, and it appears that Bradie’s really being productive. I’m just curious what has changed there, and what do you like about what Bradie is giving you?
BIELEMA: I think you’re spot on. My guess is, if you asked him, he probably took it a little personal when  started lining up. Bradie Ewing is an unbelievable kid. He is so strong mentally that I think when that situation came up, he knew what he needed to do to get on the field, and he’s playing. Two things that probably have cleaned it up for me, for him, that I’ve witnessed, he’s playing very mean, he’s very aggressive in what he’s doing, and he’s probably learned to block on the move a lot better.
When you’re a running back or he’s used to running the football, he hadn’t really ever trained or been coached up on making blocks while you’re moving, and that’s a unique thing. It’s a lot easier said than done, and he’s gotten really good at that.
QUESTION #5: I was going to ask about the mean streak, because if you look at [Bradie Ewing], he looks like a Boy Scout. But at the Ohio State game, he went at it with somebody, and he gave [Iowa’s Adrian] Clayborn some shots.
BIELEMA: I was at Mendota [Gridiron Club] a week ago, and Bradie is, he’s Mr. Wisconsin. I mean, he probably could be the Governor here at some point in his life. He’s smart, good looking, family is great people, but it took him awhile to learn how to become mean. I’m sure he wasn’t, I know he has one sister, maybe two sisters, he probably wasn’t wrestling with them in the backyard. I mean, he wasn’t a guy that maybe grew up and had to be tough or aggressive.
And since he’s come here, it was last Thursday, I mean, a Thursday practice, and the defense had already gone in, and there’s a fight, there’s a scuffle. I’m like, ‘What, who’s doing that? Nobody fights on Thursdays.” Bradie was mixing it up, I think, with one of the linebackers. I don’t know if it was [Michael] Trotter or [Josh] Harrison, but I was just chuckling to myself because it was a Thursday, we’re in half-pack practice, and Bradie’s getting in a fight. Nothing bad, I mean, it’s just a little push-push.
QUESTION #6: You said this is an important recruiting week. What are some of the recruiting benefits from the last two games, do you think?
BIELEMA: Well we knew this bye week was going to come, and one thing that I’ve stayed pretty true on is using this week the best we can to fill our needs recruiting-wise, assessments, where we’re at, where do we need to get for this class, also in the years ahead. So it takes a little bit of planning, because you’ve got coaches leaving, they aren’t going to be here for meetings.
The thing that’s probably jumped out the last two weeks is the exposure that we’ve gotten and the amount of people that want to jump in our boat. You always want more scholarships, but since I’ve been here, this is probably going to be the least number of kids we can sign, and it comes on a year when you got a lot of kids that maybe want to hop in your boat. So it’s one of those things you just got to work through.
QUESTION #7: Do you need to develop some more playmakers on defense, and where do you think they might come from?
BIELEMA: I think defensively we’re just a bunch of kids that really play hard, they play for four quarters. It may not be the prettiest thing to watch. When you lose Chris [Borland] what you lost is you lost depth. Not only did you lose one of your great players, but Blake [Sorensen], who was really backing up at both spots, now becomes a full-time player that you’re trying to sub in in different areas. Mike [Taylor] playing on half a leg, it’s going to be very important for him to get healthy. Our key playmaker guys coming into the season really aren’t there.
Now J.J [Watt] has developed into something beyond what anybody could think coming in, not if you saw him every day, but he’s really been productive. And then the back end, our corners have played pretty well. They’ve been doing a nice job of covering people up. But again, I would love to have a few more playmakers, but at this point in the season, we kind of are who we are, and you got to play around that and scheme around it.
The number one thing that’s helped us defensively is when we’ve been tested, we’ve responded. You take a look at the Ohio State game, when Scotty [Tolzien] threw the interception, which they responded, and then this last week, when the interception came again, to hold them to a field goal, which ends up being the difference in the game, I like the way our guys believe.
QUESTION #8: With the week off, do you have more time for reflection, maybe, just a little bit over what this program has done in the last two weeks?
BIELEMA: Yeah. I mean, Sunday was, believe me, Sunday was very nice to get up and realize you didn’t need to come in and game plan. I sat at home and had an extra cup of coffee and came in and watched the film. I told myself I wasn’t going to let myself get mad on Sunday watching the film. I looked through the three phases, and then, basically a lot of the coaches are on the road, so you had Sunday night, watching Sunday night football. I hadn’t done that all year. I had an opportunity to do that and have dinner with a couple good friends. So you just, you take a chance to breathe, which I think is very important. But now you hop right into a work mode and watching Purdue. The time for reflection in football really comes at the end of the year.
QUESTION #9: With the week off, it comes at a good time, obviously, with injuries and what have you, but the next four teams, I think, are spread offenses, right, so that allows you a little bit more time to prepare.
BIELEMA: You’re right. Even when I first saw the schedule, we’ve got the next two years’ schedule, but you really don’t look at it until like February, and you kind of break it down, and there’s a couple things jumped out to me right away. It was the four non-conference [games], four conference [games], bye week, four conference [games]. You look at it specifically in the scheme of things, really the offenses that were similar were all kind of grouped together from conference play, Ohio State being a little bit different. They do everything, but Michigan State, Iowa, Minnesota, and Ohio State are all kind of similar. And then these next four are spread-type offenses. So personnel, scheme, continuity, it’s something that should be favorable for us.
QUESTION #10: Bret, you addressed this a little bit after the game Saturday, but I’m just curious if you’ve had more time to think about it. The improvement of the special teams, in particular the coverage units, what has been the key? I mean, I’m sure they’re still not exactly where you want them, but they have gotten better. What’s been the reason?
BIELEMA: Well I think there are a couple factors. First off, the coaches that are coaching those units respectively, Charlie [Partridge] coaches the punt and the kickoff coverage, done a tremendous job. Coach [Chris] Ash is working with the punt return unit, is doing a good job, and Rudy [Joe Rudolph] on kickoff return, everything Rudy does is good. I knew that unit would come around sooner than later, and they do a nice job of emphasizing it, and get a couple coaches involved.
I do believe there’s an upgrade in our personnel, the people that are running down there and making plays. On certain units, Lance Kendricks was out there on kickoff return. He also starts on kickoff coverage. So those are little bit more involvement of our really, really good players on those units.
QUESTION #11: You mentioned J.J. Watt’s impact. Are teams trying to run away from him a little bit more, and what are you seeing there?
BIELEMA: I called a timeout in the fourth quarter, they were doing some things, I think, to get away from J.J. just as much as anything. But you know, we do some things with him. He’s all over the place. He plays all four D-line positions, so it’s kind of hard to gauge where he’s going to be all the time. Now 1st and 10 would be a little bit different, but I always tell our coaches, and our players, that is a true sign of respect when somebody starts noticeably game planning around, to avoid you or, on the flip side of it, if they’re trying to find you, is another way to look at it.
QUESTION #12: We were talking with [defensive coordinator] Dave a little bit yesterday about [Kevin] Claxton’s debut at defensive tackle. How did that come about again?
BIELEMA: Ran out of bodies. David Gilbert is the lead guy at that position. David got a little banged up on that play, so he pulled himself out, and Clax had to be the only one that could pop in there at that time. Just really, really thin at that position right there.
QUESTION #13: Aside from the fact that he’s relentless and driven, what is it about [J.J.] Watt that allows him to make so many plays, even against a running game behind the line of scrimmage?
BIELEMA: I believe that, in coaching you’re around certain kids that have a true sense of a higher power. J.J. is a very religious person. He’s a person that is very driven by that kind of thing. And I think when you have someone that that is true, there’s a lot of kids I see this where it’s fake, you come across it and it is, it is what J.J. Watt is. It’s what his family is about. It’s what he’s about. He’s very similar to Chris Maragos a year ago. I think a lot of the same things that separate Chris from the rest of the people is his faith in above, and I see a lot of the same stuff with J.J.
QUESTION #14: Did you see enough from Montee [Ball], especially catching the ball out of the backfield, that even if James [White] is back, you know, you want to work Montee in? Then you get the old problem of working three guys in in prep.
BIELEMA: Yeah. We kind of didn’t want it to happen, but you knew it was going to happen. Since I’ve been here, we’ve never gotten through a season where it wasn’t three running backs have been a factor in our outcome of games. So you don’t know how, you don’t know when, you just know it is going to happen. Thankfully, Montee was able to do that. Now how James comes back, may or may not have him involved in next week’s game plan.
QUESTION #15: You’ve talked a lot about the left side of the line with Gabe [Carimi] and [John] Moffitt, and also [Peter] Konz has gotten a lot of pub, but what about the right side? I mean, you know, [Kevin] Zeitler hasn’t started all year. [Ricky] Wagner hasn’t started all year. How have those guys graded out?
BIELEMA: I think that Kevin Zeitler probably plays the game as hard as anybody on my team. Every snap, I’m talking about every rep of practice, every rep of pre-practice. He is very intense. I’ve said this, he has more conversations with himself before noon than more people have all day. He’s just kind of one of those kids. He is very intense and focused and just love, I love his attitude.
And then at right tackle, really had a good thing going with Josh [Oglesby] and Ricky. Josh, unfortunately, is going through what he’s going through right now is a tough thing, but I think he’s got a resilient attitude. And Ricky, for coming in and doing what he’s done, and that first week getting a banged up shoulder and coming back, he’s played extremely well. He probably has as many knockdowns as anybody on our entire offensive line, as far as getting guys on the ground during live game situations. So he’s really bought into what Bo [offensive line coach Bob Bostad] has been preaching and the overall effect on our team has been very positive.
QUESTION #16: You talked about the physical standpoint of having a week off and getting some guys back. From a mental standpoint, how important is it for your kids just from two emotional games to get a little bit more time off?
BIELEMA: I think huge. I knew we would physically be up to the challenge last week, but it was the mental edge that also makes a physical impact on you as well. If you’re ready to play physically, but you’re not mentally believing that, you’re going to have problems. And that was a key factor in last week, kind of a steady crescendo all week. We weren’t fire and brimstone early on. We just kind of build it up, build it up, and come Friday and Saturday was awesome, just the environment, the locker room, coming out was really, really good.
So it was good, I literally gave them all of Sunday off; they didn’t see us. Monday they automatically have off by NCAA rules. We stayed true with that just to let them breathe and absorb the moment as well. But now we’re going to snap them in. I know everybody is going to want to talk about things down the line, but there will be nothing but focus on Wisconsin and Purdue. That’s the only thing that we can let. Everybody is going to assume we can do certain things down the line but they’re the same people that thought we were going to lose the last two, so that’s how quick the things can change.
QUESTION #17: Was Josh [Oglesby’s] knee situation just a continuation of the previous thing or did he aggravate it again or?
BIELEMA: When he first did it, they did all the same tests that they found this last one on, so he did it sometime between now and then. There was a practice, I believe it was a Tuesday practice. Josh, as you guys know, he’s a great kid. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and when he got removed because of injury, and then he was kind of feeling good, he would practice, but he wasn’t, I could tell he wasn’t 100 percent. He didn’t have the same things.
I remember watching the Ohio State game, and I’m like, ‘Well, let’s get Josh in there. There’s some plays last year where he really handled Ohio State in the run game.’ And you know, then it was that Tuesday practice, his knee just swelled up like crazy, and knew something was wrong. And then they went in, and it’s a pretty big, it’s pretty significant knee injury that’s going to take a three to four month healing process.
It’s not easy for him. Josh has a unique story with me because I remember I was still his assistant, didn’t even know I was going to be the head coach, but I can recognize 6’5, 325 pound sophomore in high school that we were going to want this kid. And I remember he came up the next year, and he’s like, ‘Coach, these guys don’t believe me.’ I’m like, ‘What do you mean?’ He goes, ‘They don’t believe that I can do the splits.’ And I’m like, ‘Josh, I know you can do the splits, but I’ll hold your pads.’
So he literally hands me the pads, and he bet like 20 kids a pizza, so he got like 20 pizzas. Knowing Josh, he probably ate them. But he just flopped right down and did the splits, got up, smiled, and walked away. And I just fell in love with his personality. A lot of times my parents get to meet recruits when they’re coming through or something, bump into them. My mom and dad always ask about Josh because he’s got that personality. So I want him to have success.
You know what my bet is? Everything goes all right with this surgery, Josh is going to come back and have one special senior year. I really believe he’s going to be destined to do that.
QUESTION #18: Scott Tolzien’s always been considered a leader in the program, but over the last two weeks have you seen him take it to maybe a new level?
BIELEMA: I have, and in difficult times. I’ve seen his response to his two interceptions be about as positive as you can. I noticed at one point, I believe it was second down on the series that actually got the four downs on the last drive, and after second down he was clapping his hands. He smacked somebody on the back. He knew he was going to have success. That’s the part that’s probably separated him, in my mind. I always knew he was great. He’s always going to have great academics. He’s always going to say the right things. He’s always going to do the right things. But when things are hard or when you have a bad play, how are you going to respond.
QUESTION #19: Just to clarify on Josh [Oglesby], it’s the knee he hurt against San Jose State, that’s the knee we’re talking about here?
BIELEMA: You know what, I wouldn’t be able to say that right now. But the last injury, the surgery that’s having now he probably did last Tuesday in practice. I couldn’t tell you which knee it is.