Sept. 23, 2013
September 23, 2013
An Interview With: COACH SMITH, COACH FICKELL & COACH MEYER
Q. Last year in the Wisconsin game, you were very conservative offensively and I know coaches were concerned about not being able to take advantage of what they were giving you, how confident are you this year that if they give you the same kind of look, you’ll be able to take advantage?
COACH SMITH: I think that’s probably the biggest development in the past 12 months has been our development of the skill position, being able to throw the ball more efficiently and some of the things last year that we weren’t comfortable with, we’re more comfortable now.
Obviously that’s been evident through the first four games, and that’s something we have to be able to do. We should have been able to do it last year and we were deficient at times, and this year, that’s something that we are going to rely on, is teams want to do things like Wisconsin did last year against us, we are going to take advantage of what their weakness is, and we feel more competent at doing that now.
Q. When you looked at last year’s game film, are there lots of times you say, oh, this year, we’ll get them on that one?
COACH SMITH: I wouldn’t say a lot of times. You know, they weren’t doing stuff last year that’s that outrageous that you look at and say, my gosh, we need to take advantage of this or this. They just every defense has a weakness somewhere, and last year we didn’t feel great about the weakness that they had attacking it. So this year we feel much better about it for sure.
Q. Can you give an update on James Clark? How is he doing after the injury?
COACH SMITH: He’s doing well. He had an ankle injury and he’s probably done for the year, so we’ll move forward with him.
As far as his mentality and his psyche, he’s doing really well. We were excited about his development and how he was coming but obviously injuries happen in football.
So we are looking forward to an off season for him and getting him stronger and a better understanding of the offense, so we are excited about it.
Q. I imagine he could still red-shirt since it was only in the fourth game.
COACH SMITH: I believe so. I’m not 100 percent positive but I think he can.
Q. Corey Smith, Michael Thomas, I imagine red shirting a freshman is one thing, but when you have to red-shirt an upper classman, I know Urban said you’re not red shirting for sure, but that’s the plan; how tough is that on them? Do you have to play counselor with them?
COACH SMITH: I don’t think it’s tough on them because they see it as a positive for their future. We would hate to just put them in in mop up duty on a game that we wanted to get the starters out and then they waste a whole year kind of not being a contributing factor to the offense.
So I think that they are excited about that, but at the same time, they want to get on the field. The good thing is, we are not saying, hey, you’re going to red-shirt, go over here, we’ll get to you in the off season. They are preparing like they are going to play because at any moment, they could be the guy that has to go in and play.
It’s a good thing because they are going to get a whole year of preparing to play as if they are a starter before they are, so we are excited about it and they are in a good place mentally in how they are handling it and how they are approaching every game.
Q. You guys threw it 34 times in the first half last week. How much of that was in preparation for what you may see this weekend against Wisconsin in terms of blitz schemes, getting the guys prepared for pass blocking and picking up those blitzes?
COACH SMITH: I don’t think if it was necessarily in prep for this game.
I think it was more that that was obviously an area that we needed to improve this year, and when we came out in that game, we threw the ball quite a bit because that’s something that we felt like has made a dramatic improvement and we need to get those live game reps at doing it. Because it’s one thing to be able to do it in practice; it’s another thing to be able to do it in front of 107,000.
So that’s why we did and because that’s what they were giving us. We didn’t go into it saying, hey, let’s work on this, though this and this. It was more, this is what is going to be successful, let’s do it. And it was also beneficial because now we are getting those live game reps at working on that.
Q. How much different Wisconsin’s defensive philosophy this year, as opposed to last year, with the new coordinator?
COACH SMITH: A little bit different. Obviously they are going to play to their personnel; so I don’t know what their philosophy will be down the road, but it’s a little different, a little different than it was last year. Probably a little more man coverage, more press man, a little more challenging for the wide receivers but nothing dramatic.
Q. Devin is averaging 41 yards per touchdown catch. Does that number surprise you, and how do you develop a home run hitting ability like that?
COACH SMITH: It doesn’t really surprise me. He’s a very talented vertical threat.
I mean, where his development has really came has been in the throws that are more intermediate throws; the routes that are more intermediate routes. He’s really taken steps in doing that. As far as the deep routes, he has a better understanding of how to lock a corner’s hips or turn a guy opposite of where he’s trying to go.
So he’s improved, but he’s been a dynamic vertical threat since I got here. He can run, he can run straight line, and the steps he’s made have been more at becoming a receiver as opposed to just a deep threat guy.
Q. He had one in the red zone Saturday, but is he more effective when he has the ability to turn on the jets, than in the past I know you’re talking about developing him now.
COACH SMITH: I think he’s become effective in pretty much in any part of the field. But a guy like that with vertical threat, where corners really have to honor him vertically, like you said, 41 yards a touchdown catch is kind of astounding. And they see that on film, so once he has that threat, there is that fear of getting beat deep; everything else opens up.
I mean, he’s as effective anywhere on the field, but with that vertical threat, no different than any receiver. Any time a corner has the threat of a vertical pass, everything else is going to be better.
Q. In four different games, you’ve had two different guys catch two touchdown passes. That keeps everybody happy. Just talk about that dynamic and the idea that your opponents have no idea who is going to be the go to guy any given day?
COACH SMITH: It’s probably the biggest thing we needed to do coming into this year is not just have Philly Brown and Devin Smith running vertical. We needed to establish a wider arsenal of skill players to use.
So that was critical for us, because defenses can take away one guy, one position. But if they have to worry about across the board five skill players at every snap, everything opens up. That was something we really needed to do this year and fortunately it’s happening so far.
Q. In about 80 percent of the minutes your team has played this year, you’ve been up two touchdowns or more. To go into a game which figures to be 17 13, whatever it could end up being, a tight game, competitive game; do you feel your guys are ready to put what they have been through already, the non competitive part of the season to get ready for this part of the season?
COACH SMITH: That’s kind of what our program is built around. Our program is not built to, you know, perform when you’re up by 20. Our whole program is built around, all right, it’s that competitive moment where you’ve got to either win the game or you lose the game, and that’s what we’ve worked on for 12 months is who is going to perform when the pressure is on.
Obviously we haven’t seen it yet this year, but that’s something that’s all we do is prepare our guys to respond to adversity, prepare our guys in a tight situation, pressure on, they have to make the play, they have to.
We feel confident about it because that’s what we’ve done for 12 months is prepare them for that.
Q. What sticks out in your mind from last year’s Wisconsin game?
COACH SMITH: Carlos Hyde’s touchdown in, I believe it was the fourth quarter. Might have been overtime, I can’t remember. But Carlos Hyde’s run, we ran power and he was completely untouched from I think 20 some yards out.
Really, it’s the play that sticks out the most in the whole season. It was a phenomenal job by the offensive line; I mean, really, anyone in this room could have ran it in. He was untouched through the A gap just like he was supposed to.
And it was kind of the essence of the season was our offensive line carried us in that game and when it came to make a play like I just talked about, they made every block, did a great job and he went right in the end zone and we end up winning the game.
Q. Evan Spencer was somebody who was mentioned probably the most out of anybody as one of the most improved players through preseason camp. Where have you seen the biggest leap in his development as a player, and was it nice to see him break through and get some scores here?
COACH SMITH: Every aspect of his game has improved. He was always a very good kid who worked hard, but he’s taken steps to improve the details of being a receiver, and that’s in blocking on the perimeter. That’s in running routes. That’s in getting open on one on one coverage. He’s improved every aspect of his game.
It was great to see him go out and finally get in the end zone and that’s been a lot of that has had a lot to do with kind of the situation we’ve been in and what defenses were giving us as to why he didn’t beforehand but he’s very, very capable and it was good to see him do that.
Q. What was it about him during fall camp that made him stand out from the rest as somebody
COACH SMITH: Probably just consistency. Not that other guys weren’t consistent, but he went from somewhat inconsistent to a very consistent, accountable receiver; and it was a dramatic change from last year to this year where now he’s a guy that you don’t worry about him getting his job done.
Matter of fact sometimes you place him somewhere because you know he will get his job done. And other guys like Philly. We feel, we have great confidence in him, but we started to towards the end of last year, also. So that’s not a dramatic change, it’s just kind of who he became, and Evan took that step this off season.
Q. From your vantage point, how well did Kenny Guiton do Saturday? Looked like they were taking the deep stuff away from you guys, and just talk about the way he looked around the field. What was y’all’s reaction to the way he sort of surveyed the thing and got the ball to the right guy?
COACH SMITH: That’s kind of Kenny’s M.O. Coach Meyer I think called him a distributor. He’s a guy that understands football very, very well, and he prepares himself really well.
And so when we go out there, it’s fun to watch. Fun to watch him just go through his reads progressionally and getting to the guy that the defense is giving him, and it’s really awesome to watch. No better person to watch do it than him just because he’s such a great kid, and you know he’s prepared so hard and so well to do that.
Q. You just touched on it a minute ago about watching Carlos go 20 yards untouched through the A gap. This seems like almost, my running game is better than your running game, kind of game. Do y’all approach it like that? Is there pride on the line from that standpoint going against Wisconsin which has the big time running attack?
COACH SMITH: Yeah, I mean, I’m sure that Ed Warner would say that there’s a little bit of pride on the line, especially because of stigmas that are associated with the spread offense and kind of untrue things that are said about the spread offense, as if they are all the same. Everyone knows Wisconsin’s run attack and how it’s a power run game and how that’s kind of what they do.
And this is definitely, there’s a little bit of pride in that that’s what we do, too. We are a power run football team. It may be out of different sets; it may not be with a bunch of tight ends and fullbacks and everyone on the field. But we are still going to run right at you and hit you in the mouth, and we are going to run power football.
So there’s definitely some pride in that. Definitely we view this as a chance to just kind of show people that that’s what we are and that’s what we do.
Q. As good a player as he is, what are the challenges of integrating Braxton back into what you do when he’s played, basically one game and your entire offense has played four?
COACH SMITH: I mean, I think there’s definitely some comfort there with Braxton. We went threw all fall camp with him, all spring, and he’s been our quarterback. There’s not a whole lot of discomfort at integrating him back in.
I think it’s just now he’s back healthy. He’s been preparing every week as if he was going to play, and so it’s not like he was gone for two weeks and just came back from vacation. He’s been around and we have been ready for him to come back and whoever the quarterback is, we are ready for him.
Q. Obviously this has been a pretty good rivalry with Ohio State and Wisconsin in recent years. Things have changed; do you miss Bret Bielema this week? (Laughter).
COACH SMITH: Oh, Lord, you always miss great coaches, you know, you always do.
Q. In this game, for any coach, how much do you think a team sort of adopts the personality of its head coach or plays, not just the style of football, but whether it’s this team with Urban Meyer or Wisconsin with Gary Andersen or Bret Bielema, anybody; do teams follow the lead of their head coaches?
COACH SMITH: Absolutely. I think the head coach sets the tone for the program, the mentality of the team, the attitude of the team. I think the head coach is the demeanor you see on Saturday. And no more evident than what we’ve done up to date here, just the intensity that we play with and the physical demeanor; that is who our head coach is and that’s why we play that way.
If you had a what do they call it, a players’ coach, that’s just laid back and all that’s a lot of times what you get on the field, and that’s not something we want and that’s not something we would ever be. But I think that’s I mean, 120 teams in the country all have the demeanor and personality of their head coach. I think that’s consistent throughout the country.
Q. You were with Urban at Bowling Green and you were with him at Florida; is the atmosphere around this program the same as it was or are there any differences?
COACH SMITH: I think it’s very similar. He’s obviously changed over the years just as everyone in the room has. It’s very similar. The program has not changed. The program has been successful since he first took a head coaching job in 2001.
The core foundation of the program is the same as when I walked into Bowling Green at 18 years old. But obviously there’s been developments, enhancements that I don’t know that year to year you can notice that many differences but from 2001 to 2013, there’s been definite change.
Q. What are some of those core things that have kind of led to that success?
COACH SMITH: The foundation?
COACH SMITH: Just what I talked about. Just how the whole program is structured; how everything we do based on developing the mentality and demeanor of the team, just the competitive nature.
Really what Coach Meyer calls competitive excellence, when pressure is on, you’re going to make a play to win the game because you’ve been put in that situation for 12 months and that’s something that’s never changed. And then obviously the core values that we live by and believe in, that we think are absolutely critical to a good football team and a good person and a good player.
Q. You were talking about power running games, I wanted to ask you about Midwestern football; is there still such a thing as Midwestern football? Has it changed and is it still viable in the modern game?
COACH SMITH: You mean as far as I Formation, run game; the stereotypical Midwest offense is what you’re talking about?
Q. Or however you take it, but yeah.
COACH SMITH: I don’t know that it’s changed really nationwide. You watch some of these teams like LSU, how many teams are there running a power run game.
That is an essence of football that really I don’t know that will ever change. You’re going to have your basketball on grass offenses and all these radar crazy defenses, and those things are kind of flavor of the month.
But as far as tried and true, year in, year out, that will stand the test of time, I think a toughness element in your scheme, in your program and your offense and your defense is the only lasting factor.
So I think it’s changing; it’s evolving. There’s different ways to do it, different ways to get to it but I think that’s something that’s never going to change, that toughness, the power run game, the defense that’s built on the D line. Those are things that are universal.
Q. When you have two quarterbacks, play calling can change a little bit. Curious how it effects your coaching the receivers, do the routes adjust a little bit or do you worry about blocking more with Braxton because he’ll run a bit more?
COACH SMITH: Our offense really doesn’t change a ton. There may be certain plays that we like better with Braxton or that we like better with Kenny or that we like better with whoever.
But as far as coaching the receivers, it’s really no different. I mean, there’s going to be perimeter runs. There’s going to be interior runs. There’s going to be drop back passes, break contain. That stuff is not that much different. I don’t coach them any different I won’t coach them any different than I did last week or the week before when Braxton was or was not playing.
Q. Is it easier when you’re playing when their preference is to come right at you, run at you?
COACH FICKELL: No, I mean, there’s no disguise as to what they are going to do. I don’t think it’s changed probably in Wisconsin in a long time and that doesn’t make it any easier by any means.
The unique thing about college football in general is each and every week, you’re going to get something a bit different, and you know, you have to be able to do it, adapt and adjust and do some things different at times, too.
Two weeks ago we were at Cal, and that was a unique, different offense. You wouldn’t say that this is a unique, different offense, but in the offenses that you normally play, this is a unique, different offense that is going to run the ball right at you and be a bit more of a smashmouth and do what they do.
Q. I know it’s tough to play true freshman but what’s holding Mike Mitchell back, is it knowledge of the defense or what’s holding him back in your opinion?
COACH FICKELL: Again, sometimes those young guys, their opportunities are going to arise at certain times. And then just like last week, you have a situation, do you want to really put a guy in in that situation, or do you try to hold him and not know, you know, what the future holds, as a redshirt or something like that.
There’s a few guys, we have about six of those guys that we had highlighted, that we were going to hold and if we have to, we’ll go ahead and put them in. But for right now, the situation has not arisen or really come up that we have to have him.
But it’s still a lot he still takes reps with us. He still gets the best of both worlds right now, and he’s willing and able and the opportunity has to arise.
Q. We’ve seen linebackers who were not playing defensively earlier in their career earn their stripes on special teams. Is he a guy that you could see play on special teams?
COACH FICKELL: He’s listed on basically every single one of them, but it’s one of those things Coach does a really good job of. He’s on top of it. If a guy is not going to have an opportunity to get reps and play some on those situations defense and it’s not just really, truly play. But legitimately down at the other end, getting ones and two reps; that they are actually getting a situation where they are going to get better and they are going to learn the defense, and he does a good job of trying to hold them.
Q. Coach Meyer has said many times this year that the depth situation at linebacker has been one of his big concerns and stuff. Will this be a true test of that this week? What’s your feeling about the depth in your room there?
COACH FICKELL: Well, no, it’s every week. We are developing young guys. You know, like I said, we got one guy with any true experience and that’s Ryan Shazier. And at points in time in most of those games he’s gone down, and we’ve had a true freshman go in and take his spot.
There’s definitely that. We have a bunch of guys; we probably have ten guys in that room we have a couple guys that are walk ons that get a lot of reps. Doesn’t matter if they are a walk on or scholarship guy. They are getting reps and they are having an opportunity to get in there.
The thing that you see out of that room is there’s a lot of guys that aren’t there; in the last four or five years, we have had probably five or six guys that for different reasons are not still in that room. So we are missing those guys that are in their fourth year, maybe they are a fourth year walk on or a fourth year scholarship guy. We’ve had a couple guys with career ending shoulder, career ending head injury, career ending heart injury.
So there’s a lot of different things that have put us in that situation, but we are still developing and we have got some depth issues.
Q. Do linebackers look forward to a week like this where they know sort of what’s coming, two running backs at over 140 yards last week at Purdue
COACH FICKELL: I would hope so. There’s a lot of them that do. They will. I mean, again, it’s like I said, it’s not as tricky as you might think, but that doesn’t make it easy. Some people say, wow, this isn’t a tough one to prepare for. Oh, yeah, it is.
Every one is tough to prepare for because sometimes you don’t know, and there’s different situations and this is a unique offense in the sense that we don’t see it every day. We don’t see three tight ends on the field or two backs in a lot of the situations and the things we have done whether we are playing our offense or any other offense we’ve played this year.
I don’t think we’ve played against a 22 I don’t think we’ve had a snap of 22 personnel this year on a Saturday afternoon, and we’ll see plenty of it this week.
Q. Joel Hale was counted on at start of the year to be a leader; how has his play and leadership been?
COACH FICKELL: It’s been great. Joel is one of those guys we picked out this past week.
Joel is a unique individual, just like a lot of nose guards, as you know. But he’s one of those guys that’s not looking for a lot of credit in some different situations. He’s a guy that gets subbed in for a lot of different times.
But the one thing you can say about Joel, the reason you say he’s a leader, is because he makes others around him better. He truly cares about others around him every bit as much as he cares about himself.
He was more excited for those guys that got an opportunity to play last week, some of the guys from that room, than he was about himself getting an opportunity to play or sack or anything.
So he brings a lot of energy and he brings a lot of leadership in that mind.
Q. For guys like Joel Hale and Chris Carter, guys on the interior line, how big a game is this for those guys?
COACH FICKELL: It’s huge. The game is won up front, and I don’t care what kind of game it is, I don’t care whether it’s Cal and they are throwing the ball 75 percent of the time or whoever it is but the game is won up front. And it will be evident this week: Whether it’s their offensive line or our defensive line, or our offensive line or their defensive line; that’s where the game is going to be won.
I know people are going to say, it’s going to come down to making tackles and stopping big plays and things like that, but we do a great job up front, we’ll be in good shape. If we don’t do a great job up front, we’ll have a tough time.
That doesn’t mean the back seven don’t have to play, as well. The linebackers and things are every bit a part of stopping and fitting that run and being a part of that front seven, but those guys up front is where the game is won and lost.
Q. There’s been so much talk the last couple weeks about Kenny Guiton changing over the last year and a half, whether he can play at other schools now. Is it possible you to take us back to the 2011 version and you were looking at your quarterback situation and maybe why he couldn’t fit in or what he wasn’t doing then at that time?
COACH FICKELL: Well, I’ve been hit in the head way too many times to go back to 2011. Maybe that’s the nose guard in me. All I can say is, obviously on the defensive side of the ball, we love we love seeing Kenny out there. Whether we are playing against him during camp, he’s just a guy that has a great passion and energy.
There’s a lot of guys that take some different time to learn the game of football, and there’s a lot of guys that take time to figure out how important it is to them. When they do finally make those decisions, the ability is there.
And I think that’s one thing that you can give complete credit to Kenny Guiton for is the guy loves he’s got a great passion for the game of football, whether he’s just found it, whether he had it, it was hidden a little bit, and sometimes when you know what you’re doing, that passion shows a little more. When you don’t have confidence in really what you’re doing, it’s hard to show that passion and energy.
So I tried to tell those guys in the linebacker room sometimes: Go sit in Latin class; go pick a Spanish class or go pick French class, and you’re a guy that’s really going to be intent and you go in there Spanish 2 or Spanish 3 and you pay attention; but you have no idea what they are saying, you’re not going to pick anything up. And sometimes that’s just how it happens, even in football.
Those guys sit in a linebacker room or the quarterback room and as things are flying by them, and they can’t slow the game down, it can steal your passion, it can steal your energy and it can steal your growth. And sometimes it takes guys a little bit longer to do. Whether it’s taken him longer or not, you definitely see it from him.
Q. Coach Meyer said in his radio show last week about how much he’s enjoyed the work that the scout team has given this year. In your years as a coach, can you put into words how important it is to get a good look in practice every week from that team, especially in a week like this where they are going from one extreme the past couple of weeks, big passing team to power running team and having to switch gears here?
COACH FICKELL: It’s invaluable. The unique thing is, like you said, these guys will have to be in here and really good a good job of figuring out who they are, because they don’t zone block the same way we zone block. They don’t pass set the same way we pass set, and what we expect those guys to be able to do is to do exactly what the other team does, and they have to take pride in it.
We say it, to every one of our groups: Take pride in what you do. I don’t care whether you think you’re playing on Saturday or not, take pride in what you do, and we’ll be a lot better team with those guys taking pride in it. We have tailbacks that have to come in and have to study the steps, the way that their tailbacks take steps. They don’t do them the same way we do.
And when the come out on Tuesday, if they don’t take the steps the way that we expect them to take the steps, just like Wisconsin will this week, we’ll be up their rear every bit as much as we are up our guys’ rear. And sometimes they take pride in that, and that’s where when they really truly have good groups like that, guys take pride in what they do. Whether they are a walk on, scholarship guy, doesn’t matter. Every guy is pretty much treated the same and has to have the same effort and intensity and taking pride in what they do.
Q. The Wisconsin quarterbacks, they seem to have two or three, but what does Gordon bring to the table? What jumps out on table when you study him and what makes him dangerous?
COACH FICKELL: You know what, to be honest with you, they are both very good. But I think you see a little bit more Gordon, you’ve seen in the past he was more a jet sweep guy. He was a guy that they would put in as their second and third tailback.
But they have got, the speed combined with the ability to break tackles is something that you don’t always see. Some guys, you’ve got in the past, they have had a Ron Dayne or one of those guys that’s 250 pounds and a big, bruiser downhill in the past and now with Montee Ball and a couple of these guys, they have guys that have it both. They have got guys that are slashing and have speed ability, but they can run between the tackles and be physical.
Obviously they do a good job at figuring out what it is they are looking for, recruit to it and then develop it. You know, it’s no coincidence that year in and year out, they have got some really good guys doing exactly what they expect them to do.
Q. How much does the offense look pretty much the same for Wisconsin as it did under Bret Bielema or how has it changed?
COACH FICKELL: There’s not a ton of differences. I don’t know if that was completely by design, that’s probably good coaching to realize when you come in and evaluate what you do have and a program that you’re taking over and the situation in which you’re taking over, you have to give them a lot of credit.
I think last year at the beginning of the year Wisconsin in the first three or four games, maybe were one and two and they were throwing the ball maybe 50 percent of the time and then they switched back after two or three games last year and went back to Wisconsin football and I’m sure it didn’t take long for coach to figure it out when he came in there and took over a program that was in good shape to figure out they are going to do what they do well. There’s not a whole lot of changes.
Q. Different topic, but a couple guys on this team, whether it’s Darryl Baldwin, Chase Farris or Billy Price, who has started on defense and moved to offense or vice versa; at this level, is it hard to do, not that hard to do, for guys to switch from one side of the ball to the other side of the ball, specifically on the two lines.
COACH FICKELL: I think it might be a little bit easier to switch over to the defensive side of the ball, just with the knowledge of what you have to learn maybe.
But the reality is, all those guys have ability, they came here for a reason whether they recruited them or walked on, they still have ability and to really find where your heart is and where your passion is, you just have a chance to play a little bit better.
Just like we talked about, how can you learn the game. Well, if you don’t have a passion and pride and love for the game it’s really hard to learn. And once you do, you’ve got a chance to learn it, whether it’s offensive line or defensive line.
But the reality is you have to see that light sometimes. You have to have those opportunities and in those situations; you see a guy like Chase Farris have an opportunity to come over to defense. Maybe he was growing and was not thriving as much on offense, but now all of a sudden there’s a real opportunity and a light shining down that gives him a little bit more of that passion and energy and you can see him grow.
It’s either way, they can do it, but the reality is it’s what is deep down in their heart. Just like when we recruit a kid, we say, what position are you going to play. Well, when you get here, a lot of times you’ll figure it out. Where your heart is and where your mind is, that’s where you’ll have a better chance to play because that’s where your passion and energy are going to be.
Q. Talk about Jared Abbrederis, their wide receiver, seems to be able to get open and make the big catch. What stands out about him on video when you catch those guys?
COACH FICKELL: He’s a gamer. I’m sure he practices the same way. Here is a guy that, whether they are asking him to crack in 22 personnel and get himself in the box and crack the linebacker or the safety moving down in there; or the chance to have the guy that is going to take a shot on him. When there’s one wide out a lot of times, there’s only one guy that has a chance to sometimes throw the ball up to.
But I think that obviously they have had confidence in him and this is the third year he’s going to be that guy. And when you develop confidence, and the coaches and everybody has got confidence in somebody, they give him opportunities, and that’s what I think you really see. Not that Wisconsin always does that, but when you know people are going to load the box and play a lot of single coverage out there, you have a lot of confidence in the guy you’ve got out there, why not take some shots at him; and you have seen him do it for the last three years and they will continue to do it; not just because of what he ran a 40 yard dash in or why they recruited him, but for the things he has shown and the unselfishness to block really, really well which gives him an opportunity to have a chance to get open on some of them deep shots.
COACH MEYER: Thanks for coming. I thought our guys played, came out of the chute, four games in a row where they came out fast, played hard. That’s the sign of guys that like to play. My concern in a game like that is not respect the game and not show up the right way. Have respect for Florida A&M but want to make sure our guys did come out and they practiced hard, and they did. They played well.
Big one, Big Ten season starts. This is obviously our goal, our focus, and to make it through the preseason undefeated, which we wanted to have happen, but our goal is to the Big Ten.
So we have a lot of respect for Wisconsin, two great backs, I don’t know where the heck they keep getting these guys but they have great backs, and we have our hands full. They have an excellent coach, and in my opinion, they are the King of the Big Ten right now and this is an opportunity to go compete with a team that’s competed in the Rose Bowl the last few years.
So I’ll take any questions.
Q. How much of the stuff that you guys have done offensively, there’s been some spread, some power, some swinging gate on the PAT kicks. How much are you guys throwing out in terms of if you had to scout this team, how much is there to prepare for in a given week?
COACH MEYER: Well, I think that’s a big part of what we do, I get the luxury of sitting on both sides, in the defensive meetings room a lot, I’ll listen. I know there’s only two days of preparation, Tuesday and Wednesday.
So we try to give a lot of stuff, like a lot of teams do, and it might look like it’s completely different but a lot of the blocking schemes are the same as just a lot of window dressing. So we try to give as many try to water down the preparation of the opponent, if that makes sense to you. That’s why we do some of that stuff.
Q. With Braxton and Kenny possibly playing on the field together at the same time, is that something you float out there or is that a reality?
COACH MEYER: I don’t know if that’s reality. I keep thinking I just love both those players. I think they are go players but I don’t know what that gives you. If Kenny was a better wide receiver than one of our receivers, he would be playing receiver; if Braxton was a better running back or something, but they are not.
And so someone has to come off the field. I just I haven’t decided how we are going to do it. I know Braxton, if he has a good week of practice, will start. We’ll see how practice goes this week.
Q. When you said after the game that you had hoped that Braxton would be able to play, but he said he wasn’t ready can you clarify the process of what happened?
COACH MEYER: I hoped all week that we could get him in there, even if it’s just for a few series, but it just wasn’t stable and it would have been not right.
And it wasn’t just Braxton; it was myself, the strength coach and quarterback coach all got together. A lot of things happen at quarterback position; someone falls on you, even if you are handing them my idea is just get him in the game, and it was a mutual decision; it was probably not in the best interest to play him.
Q. And how much more confident are you this week that he will be ready?
COACH MEYER: What I saw yesterday, much more confident. I mean, he had a very good day yesterday. We practiced pretty hard yesterday. Because a lot of guys normally Sundays are the guys the week before, I think they played 95 plays, so we didn’t practice real hard. Matter of fact we didn’t practice at all.
And then you try to just get a lot of work with down the line guys, but the offensive line, they didn’t play a whole first quarter. And so a good majority of the guys were out in the second quarter. We practiced real hard yesterday.
Q. Put a number on it?
COACH MEYER: Percent? I’m saying he’s around 90 right now. He’ll be a hundred by next week, I’m hoping.
Q. Going through your box scores here, you’ve played 240 minutes, 206 of those minutes your team has been ahead by two touchdowns or more. How do you flip that switch to play a 60 minute game and these guys have to go back to playing 80 snaps and just be ready for a competitive football game?
COACH MEYER: I think that’s the way we practice. I’d like to think that our guy get prepared for those kind of situations with the way we practice Tuesdays are, I’ve been told, Tuesdays are every bit as hard or harder than some game days. So that’s kind of the way we do our business around here.
That is a concern, though, when you get to the fourth quarter and we are at the Cal game, the way we treated the Cal game was that that kind of offense we were facing, we were in a four minute mode, slowed it down, and our kids learned how to play the entire game that day.
Q. Two comfort questions. How comfortable are you with Braxton shaking off the rust, and he’s going into a situation now, a Big Ten team, where does that stand. And No. 2, Kenny has been described as a distributor; if things happen with Braxton, how comfortable are you that Kenny can take you where you want to go? Is he capable?
COACH MEYER: That’s a tough question. I will tell you this; that I am very comfortable with both quarterbacks. Braxton, I imagine, will be any great player, any player has a little bit of rust. That’s what I was hoping to get out of the way last week. So I’m going to practice him real hard this week.
Braxton is 12 0 as a starter 13 0 I guess as a starter, has done very well, improved through spring practice.
Kenny Guiton is the guy to me that has shown me he can go in, and I didn’t know that. Even last year against Purdue, he came and he won, but I just didn’t see it in practice enough. I’m one of those guys, I don’t believe in gamers. That word doesn’t exist here. It’s a practicer, is what we call them. And I just didn’t see it.
I saw improvement, improvement, improvement; but that’s where you have to go back and Tom Herman is a heck of a quarterback coach, and that’s easy to identify that when you see the improvement Kenny Guiton has made. I made this comment before Kenny Guiton, why didn’t he play two years ago? Because Kenny wasn’t good enough. He wasn’t. Why didn’t he play last year? Because Kenny Guiton wasn’t good enough. Why is he playing this year? Because he’s good enough. And that’s because Kenny worked his tail off and his quarterback coach and him, there’s a really good mesh between those two people right now and that’s why he’s become a very good quarterback.
Q. As you watch Wisconsin on video, do they look a lot different on defense? What do you see? Obviously they have changed their scheme, base scheme.
COACH MEYER: A lot different. They are very active. Last year they ran, they were not very multiple on defense last year. Very well coached. Obviously they shut us down pretty good last year.
I think they have got very, very good players that are tough, great technique, sound. They are doing a little more creativity on defense than they did last year. They are playing the 3 4 and the 4 3. So throughout college football, you can see how that does cause problems. It’s a little bit like our defense; we do a little bit of both, but it’s a much different scheme than it was a year ago.
Q. Is there a certain thing as gearing up your offense from a pride standpoint of, those guys have the reputed great power game, show them what you’ve got type thing. Obviously Carlos Hyde had a huge run last year that kind of did that, but is that part of the prep this week?
COACH MEYER: I hear that sometimes, I want to win the game and all focus is on winning the game. If you have to evaluate what we are offensively, power football was a big part of that. Especially with 34 back. So there will be power, but it’s not trying to show something. It’s trying to find a way to stay in that left hand of the column at the end of the day.
Q. This series has hinged on one play it seems like ever since before you were here, when Earle was here, a lot of close games. What do you remember most about last year’s close game, and when you were at Florida, was there a team that you played that you thought, oh, my gosh, this is going to be like war?
COACH MEYER: It is appreciate that question. It is very much a game that I think our players and their players know that it’s going to come down this will be one that I think this will be a classic game.
As much as you like coaching in those games, it might be one sided where you get a bunch of guys in, there’s also the competitive spirit of the whole thing where you know the preparation has got to be, cross all the T’s, dot all the I’s.
Certainly I’ve been in those kind of rivalry games or games where you know, just that it is going to come down to one or two series to win this game. And that’s I think our veterans understand that.
And the play and series that I remember last year was the one where we stop them on the goal line stand, and I’m so angry we didn’t get a first down and finish the game the right way and then they go down and score and send it to over time.
I also remember there were a lot of people on that sideline behind me that believed we were going to win that game. You saw the energy on the sideline. That was a very close unit last year, so this will be a classic game.
Q. What about when you were at Florida?
COACH MEYER: Oh, yeah, all of them. LSU.
Q. There’s been so much conversation about your defensive front seven for nine months now; do you need this one to figure out just where they are at?
COACH MEYER: Exactly. Yeah, they have not received the challenge yet like this one. Cal was a tremendous challenge but that was more we were playing dime defense and it was all about pass rush. We were really hoping to get Adolphus back. This is going to be you have two backs averaging I think 150 each, and this will be the biggest challenge to this point, maybe the rest of the year, for our defensive front seven en.
Q. Do you anticipate putting some of that dime and penny stuff on the shelf?
COACH MEYER: You’d have to ask Luke. I have spent very little time with him so far, kicking and offense today. Tomorrow I’ll go visit with them more a little bit. I know we’ve had coverings about this outfit before, because the run game’s real, and you get embarrassed real fast like a lot of teams. If you’re not gap sound and handling your business.
Q. Do you expect to have Washington and Bennett this week?
COACH MEYER: Bennett for sure 100 percent and Adolphus Washington I would say probably. He did some stuff yesterday but it’s a lingering injury. Bennett is good to go.
Q. You’ve been dealing with this with Braxton and Corey Linsley; how did Corey through all that handle himself and getting back?
COACH MEYER: Like a pro. It’s one thing, Braxton is handling himself like a pro. Very proud of the way he went about his business. Yesterday he stayed after and did a lot of conditioning. Very proud of the way Carlos Hyde handled it was a different situation, but regardless, he’s not playing those snaps and our strength coach, that part of our program, our kids handle themselves, or they had better because they are just not going to play. Those guys you mentioned, they handled themselves like pros.
Q. I know you have a good relationship with Gary Anderson but do you miss Bret Bielema much in a week like that at all?
COACH MEYER: No, I’m good with Gary. I think (laughter) I’m good. You guys have a great day.