linebacker Blake Sorensen
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Q. What's your senior year been like? I mean you were coming in as the fourth linebacker behind Chris, Mike and Culmer. And Chris goes down. You've had a pretty solid senior year. Just kind of talk about your year in general.
BLAKE SORENSEN: Sure. My year's been unbelievable. Team wise, we're playing in the Rose Bowl, and that's been awesome. I got more time this year, thought I was productive and made some plays, and I was able to be a key component of the defense, so it's been a lot of fun.
Q. Where does your versatility as a linebacker come from, that you can really play, if you need to, any of the three positions? Is that something that you learned in high school or is that something that was kind of cultivated when you came here?
BLAKE SORENSEN: I think it was kind of cultivated when I came here. My first two years I played all three spots. I didn't really know where I'd fit in, and it ended up helping me.
I was able to shuffle around, and this year I kind of settled in to one spot, but give a lot of credit to the coaches. They did a great job.
Q. Offensively, TCU, do they have as many play makers as any team you've faced this year, from the quarterback to the running game, many wide receivers? Are they as talented as anyone you've played this year?
BLAKE SORENSEN: I would say. It starts with their quarterback. Andy Dalton is a great quarterback, and they have a lot of speed at the skill positions. So yeah, they have definitely as much talent as we've seen this year.
Q. How does Kerley compare?
BLAKE SORENSEN: He's a special player. They put the ball in his hands any way they can. And he's quick; he's fast, and he's tough to tackle. So it'll be a big challenge for us.
Q. Can you talk a little bit also about Dave Doeren and what he's meant to you in your career? And his skill set is linebacker. Can you talk about how he's helped make you the kind of player you are and have the season you did this year?
BLAKE SORENSEN: Yeah. I owe a lot of my career to Coach Doeren. He's been a huge part of my success. Ever since I came in, he's a tough, hard-nose coach. Made me learn the defense, made me who I am today.
Q. How was working with Culmer and Mike helped you guys just overall defensively this year? Just with obviously Culmer, his veteran, experience, and then with Mike, with his natural ability?
BLAKE SORENSEN: Yeah. Those guys are great to work with. They're both playing to their own strengths. Like I say, Culmer, he's a veteran; he knows everything. And Mike's just a special player. He's going to be a great linebacker here, but it means a lot. Really close to those guys off the field, and there's no better way to cap it off than a Rose Bowl.
Q. How do you think the senior class kind of has grown together? Throw your coach in there, too, because he's been with you through all the years. How have you guys kind of grown from the very good first season, kind of a dip in the middle and now you guys are back on the rise again.
BLAKE SORENSEN: I think we've really matured a lot, kind of created our own legacy. I had a good year, had a couple down years. We really gelled together and worked hard through these last two years, kind of made our own mark, and I think we did that.
Q. How big of a stepping stone do you think this game could be to take this program even higher the next couple of years, because as experienced and talented as the senior class is, you guys have a lot of good players coming back next year. Could you talk about the stepping stone that this game could potentially be?
BLAKE SORENSEN: Yeah. It could be huge. Coming off last year we beat Miami and that was a really big boost in the off season, and a Rose Bowl win means a lot more than that. So it's big for the under class and big for the tradition of the program and big for moving forward.
Q. Who are you worried about on the TCU offense? Who scares you, besides Kerley?
BLAKE SORENSEN: Yeah. I'd say Andy Dalton is a guy that I've really been impressed watching film of him.
Q. What's impressed you?
BLAKE SORENSEN: You can just tell he really leads that offense. He's kind of like -- the guy's been compared to Tolzien. He can run as well. He really commands that offense, and when guys aren't open, he can run for first downs. He's a great athlete.
Another thing, their backs really run hard. They'll put their head down and run right over you.
Q. You had mentioned the senior class and kind of growing together. How would you describe how your coach has changed in the last five years?
BLAKE SORENSEN: Yeah. I think he'll be the first one to admit he's grown just as much as his players have. Kind of going back to that Michigan State incident, you know, he got a penalty. And you know, he put blame on himself right after that. He looked at himself after the season and said he needed to change, and he put a lot on us as well.
Yeah. I think everyone has grown with the team, starting at the top with Coach Bielema.
Q. Were you surprised by that, that he got that penalty? What do you recall about that?
BLAKE SORENSEN: That whole game was disappointing, but I think at some point the game in that season was kind of a turning point. A lot of things changed after that. We really changed the way we work, and it's led to this.
Q. You got an offense at Wisconsin that looks a lot like TCU's offense from the standpoint of running backs and people that can catch the ball. I know the styles are different. Compare those.
BLAKE SORENSEN: Yeah. I think the first you look at offensive line, both big, strong guys that can move people. Quarterbacks are both leaders on the team, both poised guys. And you know, both teams have fast guys.
Kerley is a great weapon for them. Kind of like we have David Gilreath for us. So like you said, different styles, but similarities are pretty similar.
COACH DOEREN: Just start off saying how excited we are to be here. Finally got a chance yesterday to get the guys up on the grass after all the rain and slide around a little bit. But I know they've been practicing here for seems like a month getting ready for this game and just really excited and pleased and proud of everything that these guys have done and look forward to playing on Saturday.
Dave, any Bowl question is how do you keep guys sharp after a month between games? What's your method?
COACH DOEREN: Well, they've got a pretty good process. Coach Alvarez kind of set the schedule, and his Bowl record speaks for itself. I don't know if Bret has kind of adhered to it. But we give the guys a little bit of a break after the last game, try to get everybody healthy and our strength staff gets them built back up body wise and get the younger guys a lot of time and let them kind of coach them up, kind of refreshes them mentally and physically. And then once we get back going, it's almost like two a days as far as the tempo. We have long practices and we tackle and make it as game like as possible. Now it's more just polishing things.
I know they're sick of hitting each other. It's a long prep, there's no doubt. But there's – the schedule that's been set has been very successful.
Dave, do you think you enjoyed this whole Bowl process any more this year because of your situation knowing that you're going to be leaving? You maybe will appreciate the players or anything else a little differently?
COACH DOEREN: I mean, it's definitely a closing moment as far as what I've done here, and it's been emotional. These two guys here sitting with me, I've been with them their whole careers. In coaching you don't always get to follow a guy from recruiting to graduation, and so that's a really special deal for me as a coach.
Obviously playing in the Rose Bowl, whether I was staying or going, would be special. There's not many guys that can say they coached a team in this football game. And to make it my last game, you know, at Wisconsin, it's been a very special week.
For the players, along those same lines, how big a deal is it for you to still have Coach Doeren here through the Bowl game?
BLAKE SORENSEN: Yeah, I think it's been great. Coach Doeren wouldn't have it any other way. He started the season with us and obviously he's going to finish it with us. So it means a lot. A lot of coaches you see around college football going and take other jobs and leave teams, so it means a lot for the players, and we want to finish this thing right.
CULMER ST. JEAN: Yeah, it's definitely a big deal. I'm happy that he's here. Coach Doeren is all I know, and he coached me up and he sculpted me into the player that I am today. I appreciate him for staying. We all know what to expect from him. He hasn't changed one bit even though he has an opportunity to be a head coach. We all know it's a special moment. We hope to send him out on the right note.
This is for Blake and Culmer. How do you feed off of J.J. Watt's energy? He shared with me a story after the Northwestern game about how Jay Valai came up to him and said block an extra point and he did it, and Jay was like shaking his head how this guy does all this stuff:
BLAKE SORENSEN: Yeah, he's great to play with. He's a high energy guy. He never stops playing, and really he makes everyone better. When you're out there and you see J.J. making a play, it makes you want to do the same thing. It's an honor to play with him, and he's carried us all year, and hopefully we can keep that going.
CULMER ST. JEAN: Yeah, J.J. is a phenomenal player. He's a tempo setter, allows us to play at a high level, and he makes plays when it's necessary, allows us to get off the field, and having somebody like that makes it a lot easier to be a linebacker.
Coach Doeren, along the same lines, what does J.J. bring to this defense and what dimensions that you can play with him with?
COACH DOEREN: Well, I mean, obviously he creates a situation for an offense where they've got to account for him all the time. I think that creates opportunity for other guys. When everything is centered around how to block a certain player, it opens up doors for other guys to produce.
To his credit, he hasn't allowed the double teams or the protections to affect his production. So it's been fun to be around him. Obviously for me it's great because I can move him around and do some things with him. The thing about J.J. that's special, there's a lot of good players in college football, but his ability to learn and do multiple things puts him in a position to be special for us because we can play him in a lot of different spots.
Dave, is Patrick Butrym one of those guys that just keep quietly rising up the charts and just does his job, or how do you view his role?
COACH DOEREN: Yeah, Pat is definitely an accountable and dependable guy. Three of the words we talk about all the time on defense is smart, tough, dependable. If we're those three things then we've got a chance. Pat is one of those guys. He works, he's a technician. Very rarely is he out of position, and that's what makes him great, and he plays hard. He's not a flashy guy, he's not overly productive, but at the same time he's always in the right place, he's doing things the way he's coached to do and he does them consistently. As a coach you know where he's going to show up, and you know what his weaknesses are and you can try to help him.
If you could just talk about some of the challenges of going up against a veteran quarterback like Andy Dalton, one with BCS experience:
COACH DOEREN: I think Andy is a very good football player. Obviously when you start as many games as he has and won as many games, he's the manager of their team, he does a very good job of getting them in the right place, getting the ball to the right people. He's got a quick release. He doesn't take sacks. He's a good football player, and he's well coached. Their offense has a lot of different things that they do. Schematically he understands it, and he's a lot like Scott Tolzien. He's a little more athletic than Scott, but they're very similar in how they effect their offense.
How rare is for a guy like J.J. to go from MAC tight end to All American defensive end in just a couple years?
COACH DOEREN: I've never heard of it before, so it's pretty rare. His journey is – it's unreal, to think that he was 6'4", 210 in high school and nobody recruited him, and now he's 6'6", 290, and everyone is telling him he should leave college early. What he's done is tremendous.
Do you remember him in high school, and did you guys look at him at all?
COACH DOEREN: We did. You know, obviously he was an offensive guy at the time. I know we talked a lot about him. For whatever reason obviously you'd like to take every guy you can in the state, and we didn't, and I don't remember the conversation specifically because he was an offensive player at the time. I know Coach Bielema puts a lot of time and effort into keeping those guys in the state.
Obviously we didn't look very good when he transferred back and became our best player, but it all worked out in the end, you know.
What kind of problems does Jeremy Kerley present to a defense?
COACH DOEREN: Obviously tackling a guy like him in the open field is the first problem. He's a tremendous athlete. He's a gifted runner. He breaks tackles and makes things happen after the catch. They move him around offensively, too, where you can't just pinpoint where he is all the time. But defensively we have to account for him all the time. The guys know what he's all about and what he presents, and we've got to do a great job of leveraging him and getting a lot of people to him.
In previous years when Wisconsin has come out here to the Rose Bowl there was always this question of whether they could handle the speed of the Pac 10 teams. It seems like it's almost the reverse in this situation, how people are looking at it, and I'm curious if you think TCU fits into the style of play that the Big Ten has. Do they remind you of a Big Ten team?
CULMER ST. JEAN: Well, watching film to see what TCU puts on film, they remind us of a lot of Big Ten teams. They have a dual offense. They run some similar to Michigan and Purdue and then also have a power type offense like Michigan State, and they also kind of look like Ohio State with the receivers and the type of quarterback they have. So they do – they're very similar to the teams that we played earlier this season, and it seems like it's a culmination of games that we played, and we're just putting it all together and playing the final game.
For Blake and Culmer, obviously you guys lost Chris early in the season. Just as a linebacking group, how did you guys address that and obviously keep it together to get to this point?
BLAKE SORENSEN: Yeah, Chris was an unbelievable player, but we've got a lot of talented guys in the linebacking group. I think Coach Doeren really stressed depth as a unit, and it really showed this year that we had a lot of guys play, Culmer and myself and Mike Taylor was in there, he's healthy and he's a great player, so the only thing – coaching was a lot of it. We prepared that when guys are down, the next guy stepped in, and I think it really helped out.
Wisconsin linebacker Blake Sorensen addresses the media Wednesday morning at the Los Angeles Marriott, three days before the 97th Rose Bowl.