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CHICAGO – The best quote from the 11 other Big Ten coaches, including some that directly involve the University of Wisconsin.
Tim Beckman, Illinois
How would you characterize the talent and depth that you inherited when you took the job and where's the program at now in those records?
When we came in, I would say the inherited depth was an issue. I brought that up last year. We've been able to add 33 new faces, as I mentioned.
Does that bring depth? There's no question. We went out and got some junior college football players that brought age to our program. Age, not in the fact that they've played Big Ten football, but they have played some brand of college, even though it's junior college football.
It's very important for us to bring age to the program. That's why we signed five. We will have to continually do that in my opinion for the next two to possibly three years, to make sure that we have a balance in our program from senior down to freshman class. So again, we'll be young, but we will be and what I've seen since December, a very eager football team and a very eager football team to be better as a family.
Wisconsin travels to Champaign, Ill., for a primetime game on October 19. The game will be televised at 7 p.m. on the Big Ten Network
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
Over the past few years in the recruiting trail, you've gone into the state of Wisconsin a little more. Could you talk about why Wisconsin, considering the rest of the Big Ten footprint and a lot more players in Ohio and Michigan and everything like that?
Wisconsin is relatively close to Michigan when you look at it on a map. I know the Great Lakes are right there. But Brad Salem, our recruiting coordinator, the coach that recruits up there, has done an outstanding job. He's got ties up there. Good football.
We think we found a little bit of a niche. Trae Waynes will be a outstanding player for us, probably a four year starter or three year starter these next three years. Tremendous athlete. And we've won some on some players up there. We've got some other guys, like Mark Scarpinato, R.J. Shelton is a guy who has come down. Chmura has come in.
So we've got some guys that I think are going to make a mark on our football team and we're going to continue recruiting the Midwest as a level one recruiting area for us that's relatively close for us, and if you take the ferry you're 60 miles away, so we're good to go.
After playing seven times in the last six years, all games decided by 10 points or less, Michigan State and Wisconsin will not play again until 2016
In recent years, you guys have had a lot of run of bad luck at the tailback position but seems like entering this, you feel pretty confident having at a lot of depth at this position, at least more in recent years. Explain how you feel about that.
I never feel too good about that position. But we're certainly further ahead than we were last year. Last year at this time, quite frankly, we didn't know if we had a Big Ten running back. And Damon Bullock, I think when he was playing, did an excellent job. I think he's grown a lot in 12 months' time, and we're really excited to see how he performs this year.
Mark Weisman at this time last year, we thought he would be a pretty good fullback. And I'll backtrack. Going into spring a year ago, we weren't sure if he'd block or not. He proved that he could do that. And we kind of stumbled into him as a running back during the course of last year.
So with those two guys alone we feel a lot better about where we're at. Both those players have improved since last fall.
Jordan Canzeri rejoins our team. He's healthy, had a good spring. Got a couple of younger players on our roster. Excited to see how they perform in August and some incoming players, too. We're excited. All that being said, from experience, it's hard to feel too good or too comfortable about any one position.
Playing for the first time since 2010, Wisconsin will go to Iowa City on November 2 (kickoff TBA)
You talked about the difficult schedule. You guys start with three opponents all breaking in new head coaches. How does that kind of adjust how you guys prepare for them in the summer?
Our schedule, there's no question we're not afraid to play anyone. We went into the season last year playing three BCS teams in the nonconference and had great success. Originally on the schedule we had three BCS teams this year, and obviously that changed and now we're playing two BCS teams to begin.
Anytime there's coaching changes, it's a challenge on our staff. And that's probably what I'm most proud of. As you look back over the last couple of years, our staff has done a terrific job, especially in our nonconference games preparing in a little bit of an abstract way. We had to go look at different teams when coaches have been at different institutions, maybe even looking at NFL tape if that's where the coordinator came from. And our staff has done a terrific job.
I think our blueprint for that success speaks for itself with having success in the opener. It's going to be a great challenge, especially going out and playing at Cal and kicking off 7:30 local, which will be 9:30 on our bodies. We'll adjust our practice plan accordingly that week.
We've already kind of looked at the roadmap and you hear me say a lot the blueprint of what we're going to do, and there will be definite tweaks and adjustments to our preparation.
At the end of the day, it's how we prepare and what we do to determine if we're prepared for that game.
Wisconsin with host Northwestern at 2:30 p.m. on October 12. The game will be Wisconsin's Homecoming game (kickoff TBA)
Darrell Hazel, Purdue
You said you and your coaching staff has a vision to change Purdue football to where it should be. Where do you think that should be, and what is it going to take to get to that level?
One of the first things that I said to our team, very first team meeting on that Sunday night, was Purdue was always a team that's perceived in the middle of the Big Ten. Never up here, never down here.
And I told them it's going to take a lot of work but we're going to climb ourselves out of the middle and we're going to put this program on national prominence for a long point in time.
I think it all starts with your self image. How we see ourselves. And that's where it all starts, because if you don't see yourselves as a champion, no one else is going to see yourselves as a champion.
And then you have to put the work in. Obviously we want to change our image. We want to be a tougher football team. We want to be a smarter football team and play with greater discipline.
Wisconsin will host Purdue in the conference opener for both teams on September 21 (kickoff TBA)
Brady Hoke, Michigan
Q. It seems like the trend in college football is to get more toward the spread offenses, put people in space. You're obviously going back to your pro style offense. Could you talk about that, what you like about that?
I think everyone believes in a philosophy, obviously. We all have our own quirks and beliefs. But I think the physicalness that the game of football needs to be played with, I'm of the feeling that playing physical football, some pro style, and then there will be multiple enough personnel groups that I think that will be big.
I think also with Devin at quarterback, you still have an opportunity to do some of the things out of the spread that may be there. But I think the physicalness that will help your defense, when you run some downhill schemes, the combination blocks. I'm an old defensive line coach, still am, and I think teaching that every day and going through that every day is something that's important.
Wisconsin and Michigan haven't played since 2010 and won't play against until 2016
Jerry Kill, Minnesota
I know it's not this year, but starting next year through 2017, you guys end the season playing Wisconsin. I know how much that rivalry means to you. Just talk about what it would be like to finish the season playing such a long time rival with Wisconsin.
I think the great thing about our rivalry with Wisconsin is its history. And that's what football's all about. And certainly at the end of the year, it's a tremendous game for both schools and it's an exciting time.
The great thing about the Big Ten is all the rivalry games that we have, and we play a lot of Bowl games within our system, so to speak. So it will be exciting time. And what I'm excited about, I think our football team's getting better. That always makes rivalries a lot more important. So that's where we're at with that.
Wisconsin will travel to Minnesota for the Badgers' final conference road game on November 23 (kickoff TBA)
Two part question for you. Can you talk about the conversation you had with Barry Alvarez when he called you to ask about Gary Andersen, and can you talk a little bit about the relationship that you and Gary have built over several years?
Gary Andersen first of all, I have great respect for Coach Alvarez, have for many, many years, and I was honored when he asked me for my opinion.
And Gary Andersen as a head coach, I think it's now the 12th year made some very, very important hires in my career, and some guys have gone on to be very successful head coaches. I think we've had 11 guys that have been on our coaching staff since, what was it, 2001. But Gary I would put in one of the top two, three hires I've ever made, the recommendation of Utah's head coach, Kyle Whittingham. He made a direct impact on our program, and I couldn't be more proud of who he is as a person. And I think he's at the right place, a great school with a great athletic director, and really proud of Gary Andersen.
Wisconsin opens the Big Ten road season with a primetime game at Ohio State on Sept. 28. The game will be 7 p.m. on either ABC, ESPN or ESPN2.
Bill O'Brien, Penn State
Ideally, when would you like to decide on who the starting quarterback will be?
I think you have to make a decision about halfway through training camp, I really do. I think in order to give that guy, whoever that guy will be, Tyler Ferguson or Christian Hackenberg, in order to give him enough time to prepare for an excellent Syracuse team that throws a lot at you defensively, you have to give them a couple of weeks to get ready for the first game at the very least, especially a young quarterback.
Probably halfway through, we'll have enough valuation of our practice film and all the different things that go into being the starting quarterback at Penn State, not only on the practice field but in the meeting room, and we'll make a good decision. We'll do what's best for the football team.
Again, it's an exciting time for us. It's not a time we look at as: Woe is me. It's more of a time exactly the opposite of that. We look at the fact that we have a chance to work with two really talented young quarterbacks. So it's an exciting time for us at Penn State and one we're looking forward to when training camp starts.
For the third straight season, Wisconsin will close the season against Penn State. The Badgers will host the Nittany Lions on November 26 (kickoff TBA)
Bo Pelini, Nebraska
The losses that you guys had last year were kind of shock you to the core type losses with what you gave up defensively these kinds of things in these games. You're known as a defensive coach. What are the things that you and your staff did this off season, the soul searching, the studying, whatever it was, to improve scheme wise, whatever it needed to be, to work on those things that happened in those games?
It's nothing magical. It's about getting better. It's about tackling better, executing better.
It's not a scheme thing. It's not a at the end of the day you have to execute. And when those things happen, they happen for a reason. We've studied it. We've addressed it. Going to continue to work and we need to be better, more consistent than we were last year.
You look at the wins we had and where we rank nationally in total defense in total wins and obviously a couple of the losses that we had, especially ones where we gave up a lot of points and a lot of yards. And there's not much the room for error isn't there anymore. Utah was playing the spread out teams and you play some good football teams and when some things you face some adversity early on you can't let it turn the other way on you.
Like I said, fundamentally, technique wise and execution wise, we need to be better. We need to be better consistently because when you're not, those bad things can happen to you.
Nebraska will have to sit on its 70-31 Big Ten championship game defeat to Wisconsin for one more year, as the Badgers and Cornhuskers will meet every season starting in 2014
You guys have a lot of players returning. Seems like you still have a lot of youth on your team. I guess what is the approach working with this group and getting ready to take it to the next level?
Great point. And we have a lot of players returning that need to be better, because from where we were to where we want to be, that's why I think it's critical that we did have a positive winter spring, and we'll see how summer's been. I think hopefully that's been very, very positive.
But we're still maybe a sophomore junior team. And we probably just signed on paper you don't play the game on paper and you can't believe every recruiting service and recruiting rating until guys really perform.
But we probably have got the most gifted class showing up as day one freshmen when we show up next Friday. But we're really a junior team. Offensively, offense has a chance to be pretty solid.
But if you look at it, you've got Kofi Hughes and Duwyce Wilson. Kofi is here with us, a senior. Duwyce Wilson, a receiver. Ted Bolser, tight end. Stephen Houston as running back. That's the only four guys that crack the two deep. Defensively, our best players will be our young players, freshmen and sophomores.
So we're building. We're growing. We are, though, a veteran team. I think we're going to be fifth or sixth in the country with returning guys with starts. So we do have guys that are battle tested. We have guys that are getting more mature, but I do think we're a young team growing and there's a lot of growth potential with our football program in these next few years.
Wisconsin will host Indiana on November 16 (kickoff TBA)