Monday press conference: Barry Alvarez

Barry Alvarez (UW Athletics)

UW coach discussed Joe Stellmacher's injury, special teams play, Brian Calhoun and more

Audio file 1 (5:37) -

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Barry, the last two games, against North Carolina and Michigan, your ability to get the ball to Calhoun out in space as a receiver, I think it's been 11 times you've gotten him the ball, is that what you envisioned when you saw what he could do in the spring and how you guys envisioned the offense developing?

"Well, you like for the ball to be in his hands as many times as you can get it. And if you can get it out in space one-on-one with a linebacker, defensive back, you like your chances with him one-on-one. We did. That was one of the things we envisioned. We also envisioned him jumping out and lining up as a wide receiver and running regular routes as a wide receiver would. So he gives you that flexibility."

Barry, do you have any update on Joe Stellmacher? And Jason Chapman limped off late in the game against Michigan. What's his status?

"I think Chappy was okay. I think he went back in the game, if I wasn't mistaken, if I'm not mistaken. I know he was okay afterwards. The last I heard on Joe, my report yesterday was they thought… he has a stinger. They thought he'd be back by the middle of the week."

Barry, what's Terry Hoeppner brought to the Indiana program?

" I think he's brought really a positive and enthusiastic attitude. You know, Terry is excited. That's the job he wanted. He grew up in Indiana. That's the job that he wanted and is very excited about it. He's been there. He's coached. He's worked his way up through the ranks, been a successful Division I coach at Miami of Ohio, and so he knows how to win. And I think his enthusiasm… is infectious around the state… They've increased season tickets. I think there's much more interest because it's a legitimate, sincere attitude that he's bringing. When you watch the team on film, you see a group of kids that have bought in. They really believe in themselves. They believe in their system. They play very hard. I'm impressed with what he's done with that football team in a short amount of time."

As a guy who's hired coaches in other sports and also now football, is there a preferred path, you know, an assistant or a guy who's had success as a head coach elsewhere? Is there any kind of a preferred path with coaches? "I don't think there's any formula for that. It depends on the individual. A lot of the times the fact that the individual really wants the job and understands the job and understands the issues that come along with the job and is willing to address them and feels very confident that he can win because he knows of the job, and I think Terry fits that bill.

"Many times you see guys take a job and the first thing they start doing is complaining about facilities or complaining about this or they don't have that. You know, that's the wrong guy. You want someone that really knows it and can get after the real issues and do it in a positive way and have a plan to build it. Can be an assistant, could be a head coach."

Coach, the special teams play with Michigan was very solid. Where would you rate the all-around play, especially the kicking, in your time here at Wisconsin?

"I don't know how it could be any better. We've had some excellent kickers here. And we've had some tremendous performances from special teams. I don't know how it could be any better. We probably could have covered (better), and give Michigan credit now. That's one of the better return men [Steve Breaston] in the country. But as far as our kickers…. Taylor's (Mehlhaff) 3-for-3, and in a game where every time you get in the red zone scoring is important. I thought he kicked with a lot of confidence. "And just the way Kenny's (DeBauche) been punting… He is so positive. He has such a feel now as for pooch punt and now he's becoming more and more confident directional kicking, where it's very difficult to get a return if he's putting it on the boundary or pinning the receiver on the boundary or, and like a case with his first punt, kicking it out of bounds inside the 10. I've been very pleased."

Audio file 2 (5:22) –

Barry, I think you mentioned after the game that you thought Taylor needed a game like that. And I'm just curious why you thought so. And also, when you've got a field goal kicker who you trust, who's going to make it, what's the ripple effect on your offensive play calling and how much pressure does that relieve?

"Well, I said he needed it because he's only attempted two and one was a 51-yarder. He needed a day where he had to make kicks and made them. And I think that's one of the positions where confidence is so important. When you have confidence and you're in a rhythm, you feel good about going out there and I feel good about sending him out there. So to have one where you have three opportunities, you knock all three down; some of them, you know, they're not all easy. They're not gimmies….

"You know what, there are times in a game when we get to such-and-such a point and I'll just tell the coordinators we're in four-down territory, you've got four downs, you've got two runs. You know, if it's third-and-five or third-and-four, now that gives them an option. You can throw it on third-and-four or you can run it twice. So if I have confidence in a kicker and we're in there deep enough within his range, I'll tell the guys you've got one shot, you've got one shot and then we're going to kick it. Don't lose any yardage."

Coach, coming off a big win against Michigan and obviously a very formidable opponent, how do you keep this group from overlooking Indiana, who they might not see as a formidable opponent?

"Well, that's part of athletics, and that's something that we'll address with the team and that's being mature enough to handle a big win, putting the win behind you, and then moving forward and focusing and having tremendous preparation this week on Indiana. They're 3-0 and they're a good football team.

"But you have to be mature enough to let that win go and, start refocusing on 1-0. And we'll address that when we meet. We don't meet with the kids until this afternoon, so that's our approach. And actually, we're going to get the Michigan game, put that to rest very quickly compared to what we've done the last few weeks with our teams. We're going to jump into Indiana sooner than we normally would."

Barry, do you feel that you and your coaches have done a good job of that over the years, of getting kids to put games like signature games like the Michigan game behind them and coming out to play the next week?

"I really, I don't know, Tom. You can go back and check it. I don't have enough time to go back and research that. But I think in our championship years obviously we have, obviously we did." Barry, a lot of guys, a lot of your players after the game talked about how important it was to win for you in your final outing against Michigan. I know you had the announcement about your final year over before the season. What's your response, I mean, to that sort of feeling. This is going to continue obviously?

"I was asked something after the game, actually before the game and after the game about my record against Lloyd Carr. And it's not about Lloyd Carr. It's just to win Saturday. You know, you don't go into games and look at your record or think about (that); I wouldn't ask the kids to win it for me or anything.

"It's about this football team and us as a staff just trying to get maximum potential out of them and get them to play hard. So that's not, right now it's not important to me. I just want to go on and have a good year. I want to, you know, prepare the guys the best we can and move forward. It's not about my last year or anything like that. I try to stay away from that."

Barry, it looks as if Indiana can throw and can run. Powers has a lot of touchdown passes. But you look at the rushing yards, they're putting up some pretty good numbers too there. Does Hoeppner just kind of deviate whatever or… would he rather pass or throw?

"No, I think they're balanced. They do both. You know, we went back and studied a lot of Miami of Ohio schemes, both sides of the ball, and he's pretty consistent what they did there. You know, they'll give you a lot of different looks. They'll give you two backs in the backfield. They'll give you two tight ends, one back in the backfield, two tight ends, two wides. They'll give you the shotgun spread stuff that people are doing right now. You'll see a little of everything. You'll see a lot of the stuff that we do… They run a little option just to make you defend it. Quarterback's mobile but a good thrower. But I would say they're very multiple in their offense. And the thing that I'm impressed with, he's been able to get it across well and I'm sure with a week off that they'll be able to add a little bit more to their offense."

Audio file 3 (5:44) -

Barry, what's more noteworthy from your perspective, the play of your defensive line given the personnel losses in the off-season and the injuries or the way the secondary seems to be getting, making some strides, given what happened in that opener, and that you guys are still shuttling some people in and out at times?

"Well, we're using a lot of different people in the secondary, try to keep guys fresh and try to teach specifics to different guys, whether it be nickel or dime or some different schemes, doing both. Which is the most significant? They're both significant. I wouldn't want to say one is more significant than the other, but I've been very impressed with how the guys that are still healthy in the defensive line have stepped up and played regardless of age or regardless of how much experience they've had.

"The same thing in the secondary. You know, guys like Allen Langford, we're putting him up against some good people, guys that have been productive, that can really run and ask him to play press man on them.

"Jack [Ikegwuonu] and the rest of those guys, there are a lot of young people in there playing. And I've been pleased how they've responded. And the thing I like, I see improvement every week and that's important, particularly with a young team, that we continue to improve every week."

During the second half, especially in the Bowling Green game and then last week, the defense has really made big strides. How much of that is just adjustments at halftime and are there any other factors that go into that?

"I think in this game a lot of it was just settling everyone down. There are some adjustments. Obviously in those two games in particular there were a lot of adjustments, and I think it's just not making the adjustments. The kids have to understand the adjustments and that's, it works fast in that halftime now.

"We go in and the defense and offense meet separately and decide what's going on, see what's hurt them, and make their adjustments. Then they run in. They have about five, 10, less than 10 minutes with the players to make those actual adjustments. Those guys have to absorb it and really understand what they're talking about, and then more importantly, carry that out onto the field. So I think the adjustments have been excellent and that's probably the most important thing."

Coach, other than the big win over Temple, Marcus Randle El has played sparingly. How satisfied are you with his development and do you expect him to make any sort of impact at all this season?

"Well, Marcus was injured. That's why he hasn't played much. He didn't make the trip to North Carolina because of an injury, and I think that has helped him… He had worked his way in through camp and was going to be right in the rotation and in the mix and playing, but the injury, I think he hurt it during the Temple game. It slowed him down, slowed his progress down, but he was in the mix. And for the guys who watch practice during two-a-days, you saw that he was going to be, he would be someone that we could work in and someone we could count on."

Back at Big Ten Media Day, Terry had mentioned that one of the models he could use for building his program was looking at yours and what you've done here at Wisconsin. How does that make you feel when you hear now guys saying that they're following the Barry Alvarez model and what he did at Wisconsin in trying to build a program, especially in the Big Ten?

"I just think that's natural. I did the same thing. I saw what (former Michigan State coach) George Perles did and I watched how he built his program. I think the natural thing to do is, and he's not the only one. If you go ask (Iowa coach) Kirk Ferentz, Kirk will tell you the same thing.

"You take someone who took a program that's similar to what you're inheriting and see what they did, how they did it, kind of what their plan and what their model was, and see how it fits, you know, what your situation is and try to implement it. But that just makes sense to do. You're not going to go in and follow Michigan's plan because you don't have anything in common with them, other than you're playing the same sport.

"You know, so take somebody that was down flat on their back, how did they do it, and let's see if we can't do the same thing."

Barry, did the other two marquee match-ups Saturday, the results of those, surprise you, Minnesota's double overtime or the way Ohio State handled Iowa?

"The Minnesota/Purdue game, if you followed that series, they have had some wild shootouts. I thought it would be a great game, which it was, and we were able to see most of it. And I didn't know who would win. I thought it would go down to the wire. You know, they've had those see-saw games as long as I can remember.

"I am surprised at the Ohio State/Iowa score. You know, the fact that Ohio State fumbled twice inside the 10-yard line, had a punt return called back, so maybe that score really wasn't any indication of what the game was like. And I watched most of that game too. That did surprise me."

Barry, last week you guys talked about using Travis Beckum as an end in obvious passing situations if necessary. Was that a one-shot, one-week deal or is that still going to be available this week and beyond?

"Well, it's not, we didn't move him there just for passing situations. If you watched the game Saturday closely you saw him in on goal-line situations. So, no, it's a permanent move."

Audio file 4 (4:36) -

Barry, the last minute of the game against Michigan, is your mind running 100 miles a minute, you know, are your ears open to everybody or just certain people? And when it gets down to crunch time, is that the best part of your job, when it comes down to maybe a call that you have to make and then watching your players execute it?

"Only if it works… I'm hooked up with both sides of the ball. I flip back and forth. But, you know, we're talking over the series what we want to do, what we're looking for, and actually (receivers coach) Henry Mason is the one that, who's on the sidelines, looked at me and said, ‘They're flying out of there and what they're doing, I think a quarterback draw, I think the quarterback draw is there if we want it.'

"And, I mean, that struck a nerve with me. I thought it'd be a great call. And just relayed that to the other guys and decided to do it. If we don't get in, we call, use our timeout and decide what we want to do on fourth down."

Is that the best part of your job when it gets to that point?

"When it gets there, I mean, that's fun. That's the fun part, when you're getting down, you win or lose, it's a chess game and you make a call and particularly when you win. It's wonderful."

You've done a lot of good things on offense without a whole lot of big plays or big chunks. Do you think that'll be a part of this offense and have you kind of made up for it by sustaining drives and being good in the red zone so far?

"Well, you know, we won two games with big plays. I think that defense we played Saturday has a lot to do with, you know, whether you get big chunks or not. I think that's a defense that was really, it was leading our league (prior to Saturday), that is very good. They're physical up front and they run so well, it's hard to get anything cheap or anything bit on Michigan. I think North Carolina was the same way. They really had a lot of speed.

"So rather than try to get greedy, we go in with a plan on what we're going to do. But I don't think that's necessarily the case every week. It depends on the match-ups and what you think you have. I think we're a team that can have more explosives. So it's not, every week's not going to be like last week was, but I think we can hit some big ones with our personnel."

With Brian Calhoun on pace for almost 400 carries this year, are you afraid of him wearing down by the end of the season and possibly without him playing last year, you know, just getting tired frankly?

"That's an original question. You put a lot of thought into that, didn't you? We've kind of addressed that every week since we've started, how many carries he has and how many he can handle, will have, can he hold up? He feels good. Brian, you know, he has the option to come out whenever he's winded. I think he's really a well-conditioned athlete. It's hard for me to take him out of the game when he's not, when he feels good, particularly when the game's in balance…

"We can't be stubborn and I think we're going to have to make a plan for early in the game to get Booker (Stanley) in, because Booker is an excellent back and has played well for us, to get him in the game and just be smart, you know, with the number of games that we have left. But saying that, I think you ask Brian how he feels, I talked to him yesterday, he felt great. And after every game it's been the same way. And I don't know if he'll play against a more physical defense or be hit as much as he was Saturday."

Barry, did you think that was Dontez Sanders' best game and you think getting pulled out early maybe helped settle him down a little bit?

"You know what? I don't know if it was his best game. I think he played well. The thing I like about Tez, boy, he brings a lot of personality to the defense and a lot of life to the defense. And he was in on a lot of tackles. You know, he runs people down. He's all over the place. He had, on one of the plays he blitzed, they popped it, and he made the tackle 20 yards down the field. I mean, he uses his speed. So, you see him all over the place. But I'm not sure whether that was his best game, but I thought he played well."

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