Nov. 5, 2012
• Watch Bielema News Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin football head coach Bret Bielema spoke about the change at quarterback and how the team is preparing for Indiana’s up-tempo offense in this week's Monday press conference.
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: Had a good bye week, I think. Had an opportunity to get healthy. Took our guys into work on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, game Saturday, kind of get their legs back under them and move forward.
I thought Sunday's practice was exceptional, came out with good energy, excited to get out there. As far as injury wise, Rick Wagner practiced last Thursday, practiced all yesterday. Should be with us full go all this week, no problems, no issues there. Tyler Dippel is back with us as well. All the other guys that were injured, other than Joel (Stave), should be back with us, other than the guys that had permanent surgeries that weren't with us before that.
Otherwise, everybody should be back with us. Excited to go to Indiana. Obviously, a big game in the Leaders Division. I know a lot was made with the Purdue game earlier in the year. I just felt at that time a lot of football to be played to see where people were going be at, didn't really stress the importance, but our guys are very well aware of the numbers and how things will align when we go over to Indiana.
I don't think you'll have our guys talking about that much. You'll hear them talk about the opportunity to play Indiana, the next game on their schedule. We have a three game schedule that we have to complete before we move on to the next phase of our season, and I think they'll take it as a one game approach, as they have every year here in November, and hopefully have a positive result.
With that, open it up for questions.
Question: How was (Rick) Wagner playing when he got hurt? Are the scouts as high on him as they were at the start of the year?
Bielema: I think early on, Tom, he had to battle through some things. Obviously, we had the transition with his coach and all that goes into it. He was really starting to play extremely well. I think they're excited about his overall talents.
One thing I'll say to the scouts as they come through, there's probably only one Joe Thomas in your lifetime, extremely talented football player at the tackle position. The next first round draft pick I had was Gabe Carimi. He's probably somewhere in the middle of those guys.
I think he brings to the table the one thing about Rick that people lose sight of -- he only played a couple of years of high school football, came in at tight end. So his years of football at the tackle position are in front of him. His best years are definitely in the years to come.
Question: I imagine I could write you out a seven figure check and you probably wouldn't cough up the information, but can you share your battle plan with the quarterbacks.
Bielema: Yeah. I want to see you write a seven figure check first. Monopoly money.
I know where we're going to go. I'm not ditching the question. We've got a 2 p.m. staff today, as we always do on Monday, we'll come up with our plan moving forward.
I will say this. I think Curt (Phillips) and Danny (O’Brien) both last week knew that everything was being watched and being monitored. Both of them, Wednesday and Thursday in particular, practiced extremely well. Obviously, one of the guys with the ones, he has a little bit of an advantage. That's why I purposely went ones, ones, twos, twos, just to kind of match up our best against offense and defense.
Both of them have their own set of skills. I don't think the offense changes much when they're in there. I won't name a starter publically. Our kids will know Tuesday moving forward. We'll keep our quarterbacks off limits, kind of one of the things I've always done when we have a transition at quarterbacks this week.
It will be fun. I think our guys, Curt and Danny, I think, both have kind of a special relationship just because, I think the way Danny started off being a starter, and Curt being very disappointed in that. And Joel (Stave) to hop in there. I think Danny and Curt could kind of spend some time together there on the sidelines as well as in practices. Now they both know what's in front of us, and I think they both want Wisconsin to win. It's going to be interesting to see how it all plays out.
Question: Bret, your defense has played pretty actually, very well all year, occasional lapse here and there. Is there another step in this defense, another step it can take?
Bielema: I think so, Tom. Case in point would be our last game. You're only as good as your last, and you only are remembered for how you finish games. We obviously weren't able to close it out the way we wanted.
What I thought we've done this year better than anything, we've just had so many guys step into roles as players have gotten injured and moved into some positions and done very, very well. Obviously, that last pass was caught against a redshirt freshman that's playing against another young player I don't know if the Michigan State kid is a freshman or a sophomore.
These guys are going to get better. I think our defense is good this year, but hopefully are the stepping stones for something better next year. Closing out games would probably be the number one thing.
Question: What do you look for the most in practice when you're choosing a quarterback? Is it limiting turnovers? Leadership?
Bielema: Two things. One thing that we're able to see now that's different to me, it's a little bit different. Game ten versus game one, you kind of know what you have now offensively.
You have a group of running backs you feel pretty confident about with James (White) and Montee (Ball). You have a group of tight ends with Arnie (Sam Arneson), Woz (Brian Wozniak), and Ped (Jacob Pedersen) that you feel good about. You’ve got a group of wide receivers where you want more. We all know what Abby (Jared Abbrederis) can bring, but you have the development of a couple of other guys that you feel strong about the wide receiver corps. And offensive line now with Rick (Wagner) back in there, you've got a lot of veteran players around the quarterback.
So they don't have to maybe do some extraordinary things. They just have to do the little things well take care of the football, move the chains, hit the guy that's open, make the correct call at the line of scrimmage, get us out of a bad call, be able to handle the flow of the game, and those things all kind of can be simulated during practice, but you have to be based a lot off what you see during the game.
Question: How has Joel (Stave) been doing since the injury, and have you had a chance to talk with him?
Bielema: Yeah, he's you know, I think it's difficult. I was kind of watching him over here. I think I said last week, you kind of have to watch him. He wants to get involved a little bit too much. You see him throwing the football around a little and getting a little too close to the action. I'm like, buddy, you have a broken bone. Let's stay away from the action. Let's stay over to the side. He naturally just wants to be engaged.
I think it's going to be a difficult thing. I learned a lot about him during that moment of the game. He was very upset emotionally. I think it physically hurt him, but he also had tears of emotion. You don't ever want to see your players cry, but you know what I mean? I knew how much it meant to him not to be out there, and I think it's good for our players to see that as well.
We'll see. It's going to be interesting because he literally can't do anything for the next eight weeks, but he can definitely get better.
He's got to process the game. We won't be able to take him to Indiana, but he can work all this week during practices and see how the game plan comes together. He hasn't been a starter against Indiana, but he hopefully will be in the future.
Question: Bret, back to the defense for a second. A guy like Darius Hillary had been doing solid things, I think, for the most part, but then gave up that touchdown pass against Michigan State. Do you have any concern how that’s going to affect him? That's probably his first moment of significant disappointment. How he's going to bounce back from it.
Bielema: First and foremost, he's a great kid. Obviously, his dad was an NFL football player and knows the trials and tribulations of playing in college football as well as at a higher level. Mom and he raised a great kid. So I know that part is real.
He was very, very emotional in the locker room. I specifically went over to him after the game and said, hey, I'm going to remember a lot more of your great plays rather than that play moving forward. I think he takes things in stride.
As coaches, we've got to protect them a little bit too. We had him lined up on the inside as slot receiver against the closest throw for a quarterback. So we've got to make sure we're doing all the right things there. They were able to execute on that snap, and we weren't. That's just part of the learning process.
But my guess is you're going to hear a lot of great things about Darius Hillary in years to come.
Question: The way Indiana has bounced back this season, what's impressed you most about them?
Bielema: Yeah, I guess because they won their first two, dropped five, is that what you're talking about? And then won the last two.
They're very good offensively. I think they know their demons. They handle the up tempo offense as good as anybody. They really executed very, very well. You'll see a lot of times on film where defenses don't have their eyes in the right places just because they're getting the ball snapped so fast.
They've been able to play through critical situations. I think on defense the part that I would say is they're very opportunistic. You saw a big pick in the red zone against Iowa that really turned the tide of that game. They've taken advantage of some special teams plays that were really, really big.
Just emotionally, you can see how well they're playing. They're playing at an extreme high. They're a 4-5 football team that has a chance to win a championship, talking Rose Bowl and all that jazz. And they're playing with really good confidence. I'll give Kevin (Wilson) credit for that.
Question: Is it a bit of an oddity, Bret, to have a meaningful game against Iowa or Indiana. Excuse me.
Bielema: That's all right. I see where you're going, but since I've been here and especially the last three years, the month of November are all big games. It doesn't matter really what your opponent is or who it is, the games in the month of November matter.
When I saw this schedule come out two or three years ago, I remember looking at it and taking a rough sketch of it and realize that we have Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State at the end of the year and knew those were going to be games that mattered.
So for us here at Wisconsin, to have a game in November matter really isn't new, but I get where you're coming from Indiana's point of view. They've earned their right to get there, and obviously they're going to want to try to defend it to the fullest.
Question: Since we won't know for a while who you're going to go with at quarterback, can you just talk about the specific strengths in each of the guys.
Bielema: I think, obviously, Danny (O’Brien) has started games already this year. He started three football games. He's come in in a couple of others. He brings experience in the system that we already have. I think Danny understands the dynamics of a football game, how you've got to be able to convert on third downs. I think he understands the importance of ball security now more than ever.
One thing that we have continued to stress with him is just know that every play matters, every down matters, whether it's getting rid of the football on a sack situation or being able to make sure everything is right in the huddle before we leave it.
I think Curt (Phillips), just the perseverance and the battle he's been through to get to where he is today, kids rally around him extremely well. He did a lot to get to where he is, and sometimes when you have that in somebody, it's very hard to deny them the opportunity to have success.
So they all bring and Curt's a runner. He's a guy that can move the football around a little bit with his arm and with his feet.
Question: When the season started, you knew you were going to be pretty young at wide receiver after Jared (Abbrederis). At this stage of the season, do you feel like you've gotten what you wanted or what you hoped from the rest of those guys?
Bielema: I think, as a head coach, you always want more. Just specifically, I've been very, very happy with Jordan Fredrick. I think he's continued to let us see that he can grow and continue as a football player. He's going to have certain limitations, but I think he knows those, and as coaches we do. He's caught the ball extremely well.
Kenzel Doe has continued to show us flashes we get excited about. Chase Hammond is a guy I feel sorry for because, as soon as he starts to feel good, he'll have that foot flare up a little bit and just has never been able to be totally healthy. Jeff Duckworth, again, the same guy. He's had a little bit of a sore back, so he's been limited. We didn't practice him last week, but he showed up last night at practice and looked well.
It's a host of characters in there. But the other thing I kind of said to our guys last week, as we get closer to the end of the season as coaches, we have to make decisions where we're going with recruiting. Are we going to sign one more wide receiver? Are we going to sign one more DB? Where are we at with things? What can they bring to the table?
If a guy is in year two or three here and he hasn't produced yet, you'd better start thinking about what you're going to do or somebody's going to go right by you.
Question: Bret, back to Darius Hillary for a second. Just from a technique standpoint on that play, did he do everything that he's taught to try to defend the back shoulder throw? And second part of the question, in hindsight, would you have wanted to see him? You mentioned he was on a slot guy, which is an easier throw. Would you have wanted to see him on the outside receiver if you had to do it over again?
Bielema: It kind of reminds me a bit, right there, he's playing nickel. That was kind of the position that Devin Smith was in, if you remember back three years ago, he kind of had that stretch where everything was a struggle, everything was getting completed on him. It got to be a little bit of a mental game versus a physical game. That's what we want to try and protect.
As far as on that specific play, yeah, I mean, his alignment was good, and they executed a pretty good throw on the back shoulder throw. In certain situations down there in the red zone, you want to take away leverage by where your help is. It was a pitch and a catch and a good job by them. Again, I think he'll take a step forward.
Question: Would you consider playing both quarterbacks, or are you just going to go with one guy?
Bielema: You guys are getting too detailed. I think, as a coach, even going into this year, every game we faced, you go in with a starter, and really the only person that's going to take him out of that is if he's removed for a physical reason or you have a specific plan for the other guy, just kind of like what we've done in the past with Curt (Phillips) and also Danny O'Brien at the end of the Nebraska game.
For the most part, I would say no, it's one guy in, and you hope he takes the ride and runs.
Question: You talked before about the defense closing out games. What goes into that? Is there maybe a fatigue factor or a focus factor? Strategy?
Bielema: Results. Probably just results. I think results are what determines your reputation, your record, however you want to say it. I don't think there was any fatigue factor. Our guys were pretty energized, and just bottom line, somebody's got to win and somebody's got to lose. Unfortunately, we weren't able to win that one.
Question: I know you're not always a big fan of stories about coaches going back to places they used to coach, but Matt Canada went to Indiana and spent a lot of time there. Any sense of the meaning of this game for him to go back there?
Bielema: I think so. We actually have another player, Max Dedmond, who's a graduate assistant for us that played at IU. I'm well aware of Matt's history there and all that goes into it. Got a little bit of that when we went to the Purdue game. His mom and dad are both Purdue people.
I don't mind stories, just when they're not about me. I'm excited for Matt. I know he feels a little bit of, I'm sure, same thing we all do when we're going back to our alma mater. My guess is he'll put together a good plan and hopefully execute it out there. It's probably a side story off of what's really going to happen.
Question: Do you think the bigger issue with Indiana's offense is scheme or personnel?
Bielema: Probably a little bit of both. They rotate quarterbacks. They had a quarterback earlier in the year. Indiana has always had great skill. I think they've always had, even going back to when I was a player, they've always had a great running back, great skill around them. Seems like they've always had one or two receivers like they have now.
I think the scheme obviously, because of the tempo and what it goes at, is a very unique challenge for you. Not like anyone else in the league, but they just seem to go a little bit faster. And they definitely throw the ball very, very efficiently. I don't know what their numbers are, but when they really when they're in their stretches where it's kind of like bing, bing, bing, bing, bing, it's efficient throws, catches, and the results are first downs that keep the ball moving.
And obviously, I think, a big play in that Iowa game was when they found the guy broke open down the field and he was able to convert that. The thing that jumped out to me, I was sitting there watching on my couch. As coach, you're processing the game plan but also just trying to enjoy the game. I knew, when that kid started scrambling around, something was going to happen on that back end. That's really what broke the game open.
Question: Bret, given the way Kyle French has kicked the ball the last couple of weeks, is he going to handle both placements and kickoffs?
Bielema: For sure he'll handle placements. Kickoffs a little bit will be determined by what the wind conditions are and what we feel we want to do with the kick. I've really seen Kyle's confidence growing and beginning to move him forward.
I will say that Jack (Russell), every opportunity we've given him, he's handled every pretty well. Kyle for sure will handle the placements, and kickoff duties will depend on what the scenario was.
Question: Danny (O’Brien) came in, obviously, the opening day starter, and then he went behind Joel (Stave), and now he's competing with Curt (Phillips). What have been the biggest factors? This guy comes in probably being a two year starter. What have been the biggest factors of him sliding down the depth chart?
Bielema: I wouldn't say he slid down as much as other people moved up. Joel proved to us he deserves the opportunity to get in there, that's when I made the transition to where we are today. Again, be determined at a later point. I don't think Danny's lost anything by sliding down. It's more other people have performed and earned an opportunity to get out there. That's more than anything.
Question: Indiana's really been able to get after the quarterback recently. How does that affect you guys going into Sunday, especially with two new guys?
Bielema: Against Illinois, I believe they had seven sacks. I don't know how many they had against Iowa but got after them. We always look at what our opponents have given up.
I think a couple of things come into play there. You've got to be able to get rid of the football when you've got pressure. But on the same account, you've got to be sound in their protections. I think (Larry) Black, their defensive tackle, is an exceptional football player. You put him in one on one situations, he can make anybody look silly.
We've got to be sure in what we're doing from a protection standpoint but also be clear on what we're asking our guys to execute.
Question: Bret, I know you can't talk about specific recruits, but I wanted to ask you about developing a pipeline on the East Coast. How important is it for this program going forward?
Bielema: Northeast or Southeast?
Question: The East Coast. Anywhere on the East Coast.
Bielema: I'll go back to when I first took over one of the studies I did before I took over as a head coach was look at coach (Barry) Alvarez's past ten years and where players were coming from, how long they contributed, how many of them were multiple year starters, how many ended up being All Big Ten, and on the flip side, the guys that were kind of a bust. The guys that really were recruited, whether they were under recruited or highly recruited or whatever but never really produced.
The highest productive state by far was Wisconsin. That's why you've seen a continued emphasis from us in the state. One area that I was really trying to force feed was the East Coast. I didn't have a strong recruiter. I put John Settle out there originally.
I do think there's certain parts of the country that anybody not anybody. You can kind of go in there, if you do things right, if you handle your business, you're efficient with your time, you deliver what you say you're going to deliver, you go in and tell the coach, hey, I'm going to do this, this, and this, and you follow through, you're going to be able to recruit. For instance, like when I went to South Florida.
The East Coast, it's a little different. If you aren't from there, they tend to maybe don't open their arms as much as you would expect. It was difficult for my first out to really break in there. When I hired Thomas Hammock and started putting him out there, he slowly began to make some headway. Our first East Coast guys were Joe Brennan and Sherard Cadogan. Obviously, Joe is no longer here, and Sherard plays on a limited basis. But two good kids from a good program and it's continued to grow from there.
When a kid is here on campus, I can get the AD involved, and he is excited when we've got an East Coast kid because he knows how productive that area has been for us. If we can continue to make that area grow, it's going to be a positive for us.
Also, the dynamic that I really didn't realize until I came here is how many East Coast kids are from here that have nothing to do with academics. You know how many New Yorkers and East Coast people in general that are here as regular students, and that makes a big difference too.
Question: You mentioned your November record a couple of times. What are the factors that have gone into making you so good during the month?
Bielema: Did I talk about that? I just talked about it being November. Two things. First off, Ben Herbert and what we do in the weight room, we talk about finishing things. Not just finishing games, but finishing seasons. Put a huge emphasis on, to point out earlier what was asked, the month of November is when you win championships. It's when you whether it was the old system or the system we're in now, you have to close out your season to be able to get to where you want to be, and that's a huge emphasis with our guys.
Not just now that we're in November, but really throughout the course of the year. I was kind of when I sat there on Saturday, I saw Michigan State Nebraska going at it, and I think Mark (Dantonio) was 12 4, and Bo (Pelini) was 13 and whatever it was, right there, really good records as well. I think that part jumped out to me, the teams that traditionally have been in the hunt have been really strong in November, and fortunately we've been one of those teams.
Question: Bret, you've mentioned Indiana's tempo that they play with offensively. You guys, like a lot of teams, like to do sub packages on defense. Have guys struggled to get into their packages on time against Indiana? How strong of a factor might that be this week?
Bielema: That's a big coaching point and also a point for the officials, Jeff. Sometimes Indiana doesn't sub. If they don't sub, you don't have a choice. You can't sub because you can't get your personnel out there. If they make a substitution, then you're allowed to make a substitution. You kind of are playing dictated by the speed of the offense.
I found it interesting a couple of weeks ago when Nick Saban made those comments, he was talking strictly about substitution. One of the things we strongly believe in here is we play four to five defensive tackles and four to five defensive ends. When those guys have to play a 10 to 12 play scripted set, it's a different game for them.
So it's something that we have to prepare for as coaches and also have to be cognizant of in our schemes.