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Q. After losing Jared Abbrederis, how do you address the wide receiver position?
As I said earlier, the challenge is going to be by those numbers I discussed earlier: We have to replace Jared with two or three players. Now, there's some young men in that program that Wisconsin football means a lot to. Kenzel Doe has had an unbelievable offseason, a very good spring, became dynamic at the end of the year in the return game. He'll be a presence for us in that situation. Jordan Fredrick has had his role. Alex Erickson has had his role.
The challenge is for the youth to step up. If those kids that are in the program that have experience at wide receiver have made the strides I believe they've made, and we can have three of those five youthful kids that I talked about, the ones in the program and the ones that are just new to the program, we can replace Jared by numbers.
But we're not going to have Jared out there at this point. Somebody's going to have to catch a lot of balls and do a lot of special things to be put in that pedestal.
With Scheelhaase gone, how has the offensive line adjusted to kind of making those adjustments with the new -- possibly a new quarterback?
Well, Nathan was an outstanding football player for us, and will always be missed. He's a record-setter and a great human being. But I think that our maturity of our offensive line, having four guys back that have played a lot of football together has been -- the spring, we really didn't have issues with that.
Coach Cubit does put a lot in the hands of our quarterbacks, making adjustments on the line of scrimmage. So the communication is very, very important from a quarterback to the offensive line.
But again, I think through the maturity level of the four starters that we have back on the offensive line, we had very few mistakes throughout spring and those guys continue to work by themselves this summer. So we don't have those type of mistakes.Wisconsin hosts Illinois for its conference home opener on October 11 (kickoff TBA)
Mark, you said it, you're the hunted, not the hunter. Obviously your goals and your message to your team doesn't change, but there could be things that change about how other teams see you. How do you change -- what kinds of things do you expect to see from other teams? And talk a little bit more about the difference between being a team that has a chip on its shoulder to being the favorite.
Well, first of all, I termed ourselves one of the hunted. So I think that's important to recognize. Not the hunted.
And secondly, we've always been about just taking care of ourselves. We're not looking for any entitlement, anybody to put us up there. We'll get what we earned. Every game will be a challenge, beginning with our first game. Everything that we do will start fresh and have to be earned.
And I really don't know how to really just to respond any differently. That's who we are. That's what we've done. We've had a knack for winning football games these last couple of years, but we've also taken a step back at times. And it's important that we understand that we've done that and we've stuck our foot in the ground and driven forward when those things have happened.
We found the inches last year, as I said. We have to continue to find those inches and gain even more ground, because, you know, respectability can fly right out the window on us. I understand that. So it's what we've done lately that you're basically judged on, and we continue to build our future as we move forward.After playing seven times in the last seven years, all games decided by 10 points or less, Michigan State and Wisconsin will not play again until 2016
Wondering, coming from the ACC, is there a certain type of player that you recruit when you're in that conference, and is there another type of player that you have to turn your attention to towards recruiting in the Big Ten now?
The thing that, from a recruiting standpoint, we have a philosophy of who we are offensively and defensively and what we want to do special teams. We're not going to change the type of young man that we want to recruit to the University of Maryland just because we're coming to the Big Ten.
We have things that we believe in and what we want to do and all's we're going to do is we're going to continue to recruit that model and continue to recruit the business student-athletes that we can that fit what we want at the University of Maryland.
And again, we want to recruit the biggest, the fastest, the strongest players that we can in order to give us a chance to be able to compete for championships here in the Big Ten. And the one thing that we have seen by being a part of the Big Ten now is it's really enhanced our recruiting.
We've expanded a little bit from our foothold that we were in, and kids want to be a part of being in the Big Ten in terms of the exposure that you get through the Big Ten Network. The opportunity to play bowl games in California, Texas, Florida, New York, Detroit, that's something that's very, very appealing.And so again, we're already seeing those benefits from a recruiting standpoint, but we're not going to change the model that we have based on maybe what everybody else does.
Wisconsin and Maryland will meet for the first time on October 25 in Madison (kickoff TBA)
Jake Rudock, your young quarterback, at times he struggled last year. What type of improvements has he made from last year to this year?
A year ago at this time we didn't know if we had a quarterback on our roster that could play and compete in the league. And neither one -- Jake had not taken a snap; certainly C.J. Beathard had been redshirted. We liked what we saw leading up to the season. We don't hit our quarterbacks in practice. We didn't really know what his level of toughness would be.
And I think he did a lot of great things in his first year as a quarterback for us. And the big thing about it, he's a really smart guy. He's an extremely hardworking guy. Critical of his own performance. So he learns and improves. And he's got great toughness. He's got all the attributes I think of being a good quarterback. Good leader, respected by his teammates.
And it's like any position. People tend to get better if they've got the right attitude, a good skill set. And I think we saw that with Jake in the spring. He's certainly more confident. You can't hand confidence to a player; they've got to go out and earn it on the field.
We're excited about the fact that he's still got two years left and C.J. Beathard has three years left. So we've got two players now at that position that have played, that competed. And like I mentioned about Brandon, I think they've got tremendous room for continued growth, and that's exciting to all of us.After beating Iowa, 20-7, in Iowa City last season, Wisconsin will go back to Iowa City on November 22 (kickoff TBA)
Q. You said you're going to get back to who you are. How did you lose track of who you are and how do you get back to getting that?
I think we lost track from, first of all, not sticking to what we value. You look at the way we didn't respond very well from things that were out of our control, and that's been the hallmark of our program. And that's ultimately my responsibility as a leader. And so I took that personally this offseason, and we really worked hard in everything that we did to put our guys in difficult situations to force them to respond. And that was just disappointing a year ago. And, again, football, 72-degree room or training camp, when everybody's feeling great, it's easy to respond. But when adversity strikes, we didn't do a good enough job of that a year ago.
I look at the way we played up front on both sides of the ball. We were not successful enough to be consistent in this league from stopping the run, running the ball, protecting the quarterback, knocking the quarterback down defensively, all those types of things.
So I'm not going to bore you with all the minor details, but we've got a lot of work to do. I really like the new rule change we've been able to have this summer where we've been able to have a chance to spend time with our guys.
We know more about our football team today than maybe in the past through going through summer workouts. I think we're in a positive place moving forward, but a lot of work to do here, especially on the defensive line with as many guys we had out in spring practice.
But all those guys I expect to be ready to go when we start practice a week from now, and that's going to be a critical position and critical position battles that we'll need to figure out pretty quickly.Wisconsin will travel to Northwestern for the Big Ten opener on Oct.4. The Badgers haven’t won in Evanston, Ill., since 1999.(kickoff TBA)
Want to ask about your quarterback situation. Gary Nova had an up-and-down season last year. How are you going to approach that going into the start of preseason camp, and who are some of the people you're looking for at that position?
Gary will go out with the first team when we go out there for the first practice. And if we had to play a game today, Gary would be our starter. I haven't officially named a starter yet.
But Gary's done an excellent job this offseason of really improving his decision-making. It's never been about making the throws for Gary. Gary can make all the throws. He's got excellent arm talent, the ability to locate the ball. He's athletic to move around in the pocket. So it's never been about that. It's really just being a consistent decision-maker, and I think he is really taking to what Ralph has been preaching. He went through 15 spring practices, threw one interception in 15 practices. I think that was a good start.
I think he's had an excellent summer program. I think he's done a good job of leading all the other players on offense. And now he's got to take that into training camp and make sure when he shows up first day of training camp, he's a better player than he was when we ended the spring game.Wisconsin and Rutgers will meet for the first time on November 1 in Piscataway, N.J. (kickoff TBA)
Some of your players last week talked about you crying and saying you weren't going to leave Vanderbilt just before you did, and then at Penn State you talked about better facilities at Vanderbilt than there. I'm curious, were you misquoted, or were those comments disingenuous?
Well, this is what I've learned. There's no good way to leave. When you invest so much in a place and you invest so much in people, there's no good way to leave. There's going to be hurt feelings.I've read a lot of different ways the way people leave, and we tried to do it the right way. We stayed, had a team meeting, addressed the team and said goodbye. But I hope over time that people look back and realize how much we cared and how much we invested in that program and in those kids and in that community. That's what I hope. Wisconsin takes a two-year hiatus from playing the Nittany Lions in the regular season, which might be a good thing considering UW is 1-4 against Penn State in the last five meetings.
Q. Coach, talk a little bit about your second season at the helm. First season, you're new to the program, you don't do as well as you want to. But things are -- you got a lot of players coming back. Talk a little bit about what that means and what you look forward to this year as you start your second season?
Here's the biggest thing that I've learned when you take over a program. And nobody's at fault, but there's so much learning that has to happen in that first year, how you want things done. And it's not only coaches to coaches. It's coaches to players, to equipment people, to trainers. So it's a learning process.
And at this junction, as a staff, as equipment -- everybody knows where they're supposed to be. And I think that's the biggest maturity you make as a program between years one and year two.
Our players, they know what the expectations are from the coaches. So we've made -- you'll be impressed on the significant strides that we've made as a program.
Wisconsin will travel to West Lafayette, Ind., on Nov.8. Badgers have won the last eight games in the series (kickoff TBA)
We're going into a new era with college football with the playoff in the '14 playoff, last year the Big Ten kind of struggled in the marquee non-conference games. This year the list of them is top to bottom you play Notre Dame and Michigan State's playing Oregon. How important for the Big Ten and its champion, whoever gets out of this conference, will it be for the conference as a whole to do better in those non-conference games?
First and foremost, we're very proud of the Big Ten Conference. Very proud of the schools and the competition and the way our teams play and how our schools from an academic standpoint graduate student-athletes.
Do we want to win every game? There's no question every guy who is going to be at this podium, they want to win every game. And when you talk about the non-conference schedule, we welcome those challenges. I know our conference does and I think our conference is going to play very well in those games.Wisconsin and Michigan haven’t played since 2010 and won’t play against until 2016
You guys have lost 10 straight now against Wisconsin, meaning 10 straight games, without Paul Bunyan's axe. How important is that obviously to get back on that winning track, not just obviously from a record standpoint, but from a recruiting standpoint and just for school pride, especially with it being the border battle?
Absolutely. And, you know, I think what our job is as coaches and most programs that we've taken over, there's a lot of things that hadn't been done for a while, and you take steps at doing that.I think we understand for us to be successful and win the Big Ten and take our strides farther along in our program, you know, you have to beat the border schools. So there's certainly focus on that. But we focus on everybody.
But we're well aware of that situation. And as you take steps, those are games you gotta win. And they're both -- Wisconsin, Iowa are very well coached and got good players. But we have to step our game up, and I think our kids are excited about that.
And I think we know what we need to do. We just gotta go out and do it. But, you know, there's a lot of things that we haven't done in a while, and we've done a lot of those things a year ago. But we have to continue to make strides to take care of that, because when you do, you're going to be successful because of the programs that are our border schools.
When you get that done, you've got a chance to compete for the Big Ten title.Wisconsin will host Minnesota in the regular season finale on November 29 (kickoff TBA)
How stacked is the East Division, and what are your thoughts on getting through that division?
East Division is very strong. As we get close to the season, start looking at the schedule, there's a tough run. We have three very tough road games. But the East is strong. And I have learned a long time ago you control what you can. Scheduling is certainly not who is in the East and who is on the other side.
But very strong conference. You can tell by the recruiting, too, on that side, some very good recruiting that's been going on. So that's going to be a challenge.The Buckeyes are off the schedule this year for Wisconsin
What do you think can be done to stop some of the recruit flipping epidemic that's happening in college football?
Well, I said what was it about a month ago, maybe two months ago -- it all kind of runs together for me -- I said publicly I believe it would be a great idea if we would look at maybe getting rid of Signing Day. That's something that I think would make a lot of sense.
As far as, hey, you come to an agreement, somebody commits to your school, you've made a commitment to a young man to come play in your program, why do we have to wait to any certain day? Why don't we just go ahead and let's sign on the dotted line, let's get it over with and move forward.
And obviously that's different than the way things have been for a long time. I think it makes a lot of sense. I think it would change things in a lot of ways. I think it would slow down some of the early offers. I think it would slow down some of the ridiculous things that go on on both ends, on the institution's side of things and as far as the recruit's.
And there's a lot of things that go on that I believe in our program what we try to do is teach kids to do things the right way.
And really I think that goes throughout the Big Ten Conference. I think this conference does things the right way. It's about integrity. You're teaching kids to live up to their word of what it means to be a teammate.
It's not about any individual; it's about a team. There's a bigger picture involved. And I think sometimes the way the recruiting process works is that contradictory to what we're trying to teach these kids and how we're trying to develop these kids in the long run to be successful, not only as football players and as athletes, but beyond, as husbands, as fathers, and their professions, and sometimes we always talk about having to de-recruit kids and some of that has just -- it's made up of kind of the way the process is set up.
And I think there's some things that could be done, and I think that would be a big step in the right direction.
What did Brian Knorr show you in the interview process to make you hire him, and how good does your defense have to be this year for you guys to win big?I had a previous relationship with Brian, going back to those days at Miami of Ohio and he was with Coach Grobe at Ohio U, so we'd always cross paths, knew him. What I did, when we were looking at the direction, we made a lot of improvement, but we had not -- we just have not improved defensively like I thought we needed to in the time, in a timely fashion that we needed to. Again, we're not expecting it to be lights out, but you just want to see some consistent, constant improvement. And as we end the season, we kind of took our time, evaled ourselves, thought we should go in a different direction. My first thought was not identifying a person. I looked at teams that I thought were comparable to us, talent-wise, who they played, and statistically for a couple, three years, who had played pretty good. And Brian's numbers coming out of Wake Forest had been top 40 defense for a couple of years in a row. Of course I knew him and was very comfortable with him. But what I was looking for, again, wasn't an unproven guy, but someone I thought that had played solid, competitive defense, because I think if we could just be competitive and get a few stops, everybody -- I always kind of almost laugh, they say, you know, your offense versus your defense going fast, if we get a couple of stops and get the ball back, think how much better the offense could be. So I don't use that offense hurting the defense. I think we complement each other. So we played a lot of young guys last year. We recruited 15 guys to that side of the ball. Got 10 guys back, and you'll see some young guys in the mix. We're going to be young, we're going to be more athletic, we're making a change, we're going to be a work in progress. But from what I saw in spring, we're going to be significantly improved on D. The Hoosiers are off the schedule this year for Wisconsin