Paul Chryst has returned home. The former backup quarterback for the Badgers was hired as Wisconsin’s coach after former coach Gary Anderson bolted to Oregon St. after Wisconsin lost to Ohio St. in the Big 10 Championship game. Chryst has quite a task in front of him. The Badgers open the season on September 5 as 10.5 point underdogs to Alabama. Chryst spoke about the team yesterday:
COACH CHRYST: Thank you and during these press conferences. I’ve been told a number of times by Brian to say that we’re excited, but I really am excited to get this thing going.
Certainly tomorrow starts it and proud of the way the kids worked this summer, and I’ve enjoyed continuing to get to know this team. As I think about our team right now, much like probably every team in America, you’ve got different tiers or categories of guys, and right now I think we’ve got a group of players that have played a lot of football and started and won a lot of games.
I think of Mike Caputo and Darius Hillary, Sojourn’s coming back, and you’ve got Schoberts and Vince that have played a lot of football there. Offensively Tyler has played a lot of football and Joel has played a lot of games and won, and Alex has been a part of that. Then you’ve got another group that even a guy like Corey that’s played a lot of football but Corey’s entering into a new role.
So we’ve got some of these older guys that have been around the program, and it’s Rob Wheelwright and Reggie Love, and they, for whatever reason, maybe haven’t contributed, whether it’s depth or they weren’t ready yet, but that is the group I think if they can jump in and elevate their game. At tight end you lose Sam Arneson, so now it’s Austin’s turn. Fu’s played a role, but his role’s going to change. Defensively Arthur Goldberg, Leon Jacobs, there is a group of guys like that that they’ve either entered into a new role or their role’s going to expand, and I think that can push your team to another level.
Then you’ve got a group of young guys that I’m anxious to find out who they are and what they can do and what their role could be, and that to me is the fun part of fall camp is finding out your team. We know the guys in the past. The one thing I’ve always been impressed with particularly here with the group of guys that there are guys that will get better, have gotten better this summer, and I’m anxious to see who those guys are.
We’ve got a chance with a bunch of players coming together and form the team that we’re going to be. Training camp is kind of the last phase before the season gets going, and we couldn’t be more excited to start practice tomorrow.
Q. Can you talk about the decision to move T.J. to outside linebacker and D’Cota back to safety? Do you see any other position changes that could happen from the spring to now?
COACH CHRYST: I don’t foresee any changes right now where we’re coming in and saying this is going to happen. T.J.’s a guy that I think he’s I don’t know totally who he is. He got hurt in the spring, so he’s limited. But I think he’s a football player and just in trying to maybe give him the best spot. And I don’t know if it’s a final move yet for him, but it’s a game of chance while he’s recovering to get a feel for that position, and I think he’s a guy that can add value to our team and maybe on the defensive side of the ball might be the best way for it.
Then D’Cota, same thing. Didn’t play in the spring, but kind of looking at where we’re at as a team, I think every position move it’s got to be right for the individual and best for your team, and I think those ones seem like they are, and I’m anxious to find out. I know they’re both excited about it.
I would think through the course of camp there will be one or two. I don’t know what they are. But I think it’s our job to make sure we’re using each player that’s good for him, that’s got to be right for the player but also what’s best for this team.
Q. Can you take us through the process of Kellen Jones ending up here, and how much of that helped in terms of depth on the inside?
COACH CHRYST: Yeah, I’m hoping we’re excited to have Kellen here, and as we went through, I remember it was in July, and Tim Tibesar had been involved with Kellen before he went to Clemson, and so Tim kind of knew about him. I had a chance to speak with Dabo and find out about Kellen. Then it was just seeing we had him up for a visit and wanted the guys around him. I think like all transfer situations that it’s really important that it’s right for the individual, and he’s got a limited window and can be right for our team, and wanted our team, as many guys that could be around him. They liked felt good with him and Kellen felt good.
So I’m excited, just like you said, that he does give us a chance to have some depth and maybe if nothing else maybe keeps from freshmen having to play maybe a day earlier than he should. So, like a lot of these guys you want to find out who they are and what they are. But guys are excited and we’re certainly excited to have them, so it’s about a three or four week process.
Q. Is Tanner McEvoy still going to be playing a hybrid role between safety and receiver or is he leaning the one way or the other now?
COACH CHRYST: He’s going to do both. I think one thing, he had a lot of spring at the safety position, and that was certainly a place where he had some comfort in, and we’re going to start him in the spring or in the fall here at camp more at the receiver spot. Let him get a feel for that, get comfortable, and yet our plan is to use him both ways.
Q. Joel comes into this camp with a lot more certainty about where he stands. How much of a difference can that make for a guy that has dealt with a lot of uncertainty going into the last two camps?
COACH CHRYST: I can’t speak for Joel on that, but I think he’s earned that right and I’m excited with what he’s done this summer. I think that Joel’s in a really good spot. I like that he has an edge to him. I think he’s got some tangible areas that he knows he can work on to get better, and I think he’s confident going in and anxious to get to work.
He was the first guy that I first player I saw this morning. I would think that it would be good for him, but I think he’s earned everything that he’s gotten to this point. And Joel’s like all of our seniors, you know, they need to have their best year for us to be as good a team as we can. I think to this point he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do, and now we’ve got fall camp and he’s still got more opportunities to get better, but I like where he’s at certainly.
Q. You’ve always talked about the importance of adding state kids whether it’s a walk on or scholarship. You have a couple kids who appear to be transferring, one Ramczyk from Stevens Point and (Indiscernible) from Whitewater. Are those examples of kids that maybe if you didn’t get a look early you’ve asked them to walk on before, or how did that process get started with those two guys?
COACH CHRYST: Both those two specifically, and I think all of those when you’re talking about transfers, they’re going to reach out to us first. Wouldn’t want to be going and trying to scour the rosters and see who would come. They reached out and we knew enough about them that if that was what was best for them academically to come to school here, we certainly wanted them to be on this team.
So we’re excited about those two players, but different though than the high school kid where you actively recruited them, I think here you respond to something more than going out and recruiting it.
Q. You said of the offense over the years how things have been built on the offensive line. How confident are you in what you have considering you only have two starters back from a year ago?
COACH CHRYST: That to me is one of those areas that when it first opened up, Ray Ball, Walker Williams have been in the program for a number of years. Ray has played I think a little bit more than Walker. Can they elevate? And a lot of it is being consistent. I think they’ve shown both care a ton. I mean, I love that part of it. They work and then there is going to be a group of young guys that need to step in.
Right now today I couldn’t tell you who the starting five are. That was one of the things I think that spring ball we were able to identify the pool of who the offensive linemen could be, but we didn’t solidify who the starting five were, and that’s going to be one of the things that we’ve got to solidify in fall camp.
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COACH CHRYST: Every place I’ve been, not that I’ve been to a thousand or anything, but we’ve had walk ons that have contributed, and yet I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been here longest or know this place, the history of this place better than any school. It sure seems like it’s special and unique with the walk on program. All it is is we know that there’s guys that we’re not a hundred percent right in the whole recruiting process. There are guys that get overlooked.
I think it is a place though where guys come and see that they are treated fairly, they will be given opportunity, and I think that helps us. So I think any time you’ve got a good program, that those when you’ve got it going and we had the depth at positions, that’s when the program was healthy, the next guys step in.
You look back and say, boy, that whole roster was playing after college, and I think the same thing with the walk on program. You go and you look and you can name the walk ons that have been contributors, that have been significant starters, and been All Stars, All Americans here. So I think there is something truly special here with the walk on program because it’s been proven.
Q. It looks like Moorman is not listed on the camp roster, and I saw the picture of him with the boot and the scooter. Do you know how long he’s going to be out? Is it likely he’s headed for red shirt because of the injury?
COACH CHRYST: Most likely he’s going to be out three to four weeks, so he can come and he can be here and get treatment and all that. There are a number of guys that were in the spring not a number, but Hemer, Aidan McNamara, that aren’t completely healthy or cleared for practice, so we want to go with the 105 that you get to bring to camp. We want to make sure they’re all healthy bodies.
Q. Could you compare, I know they’re different people, different times, but could you compare the process by which Kellen came here and the process by which Russell came here? Were there parallels that really mattered to this team and to you when they came through?
COACH CHRYST: Yeah, I think the parallels are trying to, in a short period of time, trying to make sure that it’s the right fit both individually for Kellen and Russell at the time and for our team. So I think those are parallels. I think that’s what helped.
I think in going back that was one of the things that I know impacted Russell’s decision, and our players accepting Russell, was the visit and interaction they had before it was a done deal. So I think we tried to I thought that was a good thing that we could take away from that.
Certainly the individual and the storyline is different, right. But I think there were some parallels that you try to draw on, and that was, to me, most importantly, making sure that there was opportunity. Because it wouldn’t have done Kellen any good if there wasn’t opportunity, and at the same time, making sure that our guys on the current roster felt like Kellen was a good fit.
Q. By those who are paid to make such predictions, there are a lot of people who would like your team to win the West and be in the Big Ten Championship game. But nobody seems to be picking anybody but Ohio State to win the conference. Are you a favorite or an underdog or does it matter to you going into the season?
COACH CHRYST: Doesn’t matter a bit. Our goal, my intentions is to every day work to make sure we become the best team we can be. That’s why you play the games and you earn the right for whatever you get. That’s the exciting part is working with these guys and maximizing their individual abilities, and our team trying to maximize who we are and who we’ve become as a team. All the other stuff doesn’t really mean anything.
Q. The flip side of that is a lot of the powers in the east this year with Ohio State and Michigan State, no big secret there. Do you see this year maybe as an opportunity, a special opportunity that you could capitalize on because those teams are not on your schedule?
COACH CHRYST: Personally you focus, I focus just on what matters most, and that is who is on our schedule this year. And I feel and told the kids this and told our staff this, there is not a team on the schedule that we couldn’t beat, and there is not a team on the schedule that we couldn’t lose to. That is the great challenge and opportunities every week you get to play the game.
All the other things are probably things that you guys got to pay attention to. But right now you want to maximize every opportunity you get, and we’ve got 12, and we hope to earn the right to play more.
Q. What did you see from T.J. Edwards in the spring? What was your comfort level with him stepping in there?
COACH CHRYST: I thought T.J. finished the spring, was gaining confidence. I think it carried over. That was one that I know Ross and guys in the weight room talked about. We got to be with him more. So I think he certainly wasn’t perfect in the spring, but I think he did some things where it got him some confidence and he took that confidence and put it into his summer preparation.
So I’m excited to see him tomorrow really going forward because I think that’s a lot of it’s what we’ve got to do as coaches is how do you give a kid confidence, and then that confidence builds him up a little bit. It makes him see something that is maybe more attainable. They become better and that’s how you keep trying to grow.
So I think T.J.’s kind of in that group where he put the work in, he had opportunity, took advantage of it, that gave him some confidence, and he needs to keep building on that.
Q. There was a little bit of a debate while you were in Chicago about whether your program’s an iPhone or a flip phone. Was that a teaching moment, and if so, what was the lesson for your players?
COACH CHRYST: Brian just taught about that that today, absolutely teaching. The point that I thought was accurate that Brian made was that there is a whole context about how you can take part of what you say, and that certainly isn’t what in talking to Corey, you know, he was not trying to be disrespectful in anyway, but it’s a good illustration of what you say and it’s not always going to be the whole context.
Just what you said in the question was there is a statement in that, and it’s not, I don’t think, what Corey meant totally, but they’re all teachable moments.
Q. This group of kids, especially the upperclassmen, have been through a lot of coaching change, position coaches, coordinators, head coaches. How has this group handled them?
COACH CHRYST: I hesitate only because I don’t know, as you get to know them, you only know what you see right now. I think your question of the position coaches, it’s more than just a head coach change. I think the amount of time you spend with your position coach, the amount of time you spend in the weight room, there are a lot of changes. And I think that there was some relief at some positions because some of those older kids who were affected mostly by the change had some familiarity with myself, Rudy, Settle, Ross was around.
It’s a little bit, but I don’t know if that’s a real thing, and none of them would have scripted going through the change that they did. I think that I’ve appreciated the way they’ve allowed us back in. I think that looking back I feel fortunate to have gone through this as a player, myself, and with the last team that I joined. And yet each individual I think the first thing when there is change is how does this affect me? Some it’s a good thing, and some they’re nervous because they liked what they had, and think you’ve got to just acknowledge it and be straight with them all and I think that’s maybe helped in the transition.
But there is a transition. They still don’t know what fall camp is going to be like. They think they know. There are rumors going around. We’ll try to address it with them, but I think they’re getting the idea it’s a great time of the year. The most fun they’ll ever have.
Q. You’ve got, including yourself, some coaches who played here. You’ve got some grad assistants, several of them who have played here. Specifically about the grad assistants, I’m curious, I’m sure you didn’t just add them because of their ties to the program. But in addition to what you think they can add because of what’s between their ears, what can your ties to the program help as an intangible giving to this program?
COACH CHRYST: I think with that group specifically they’ve been in these players’ shoes. Good coaching is helping your players, helping them grow. I think they’ve got enough separation from when they played that they kind of have a clear perspective on it. I’m excited for our players to get to know them and get started. I think Ethan probably played and Antonio played the closest with some of these guys. But even there is some separation.
But all, I think, can bring a unique perspective. I think even just last week we were talking about some of the things just as a staff, and when they spoke I think a lot of our coaches, I was really interested to hear what Billy said, what Ethan said. Because you think as a coach maybe one thing, but is it real? Is it taken that way by the players or what is their perspective?
So I feel really fortunate to have that group of guys and I think last year the same guys said the same things, and I thought it applied. Here it’s probably another couple of layers that it gives you. But you value their opinion wherever you’re at, but I think it’s got a little bit more here because I think they can talk about so many more of the layers that our guys deal with, and it’s good for us. Maybe they don’t even share it with the players all of it, but they do share it with the coaches. I feel really fortunate to have that group of guys. Had to work for that one.
Q. How much of a head start does it give your defense when you’re able to retain a guy like David Aranda and keep the same system on that side of the ball?
COACH CHRYST: Certainly I think there is a comfort level for a lot of the guys. Yet one of the qualities that I appreciate about Dave is that he’s going to try to read and tear it to this group, and there have been changes on defense. So there is still going to be some new learning for guys, and some of it is because guys are in different roles. Some of it is because there is a new person in that.
But I think it’s helped. Especially we’ve got some of our older players; we’ve got some guys on the defensive side of the ball that I’m glad that Vince and Schobert aren’t going through as much new learning. They can focus on getting better and not just learning the playbook.
Q. On the other side of the ball, talk about sometimes the quarterback being an extension of the coaches. Is it the same what is it that coach Rudolph brings to the table that best aligns with your line of thinking and coaching?
COACH CHRYST: Certainly Joe and I are a lot of us we shared a lot of years together and I think believe in a lot of the same core principals approach. Yet I think that we complement each other. So I’ve always enjoyed working with Joe and getting his perspective. I’m excited for this group, individually for the offensive line, but I think for this team to get a feel for. And Joe’s got tremendous passion for the game and for this place.
But I think that on some of the big core stuff, you know, we see it eye to eye, and then if he challenges me in a way that I appreciate, and I think I give him enough headaches that he deals with me.
Q. How do you like where Corey is physically coming into camp given the increased role he’s going to play? And what is the ideal workload for him during camp?
COACH CHRYST: I like the work that he’s done this summer. We talked about this. He’s smart enough to take note of what the guys ahead of him are doing, and that’s a great gift that players can give to each other. He was smart enough to see it, but James and Melvin helped to show him the way.
The load, it’s all projection right now. He doesn’t know. I don’t know because he hasn’t been in that. But I think that he knows what’s coming and that he’s embracing it and he’s excited about that role.
But I couldn’t tell you right now if he’s a guy that you’ve got to say this is X number of carries a game or half or whatever it is, and that’s where we’ve just got to he may have an idea, but he doesn’t know. So I think we’ve just got things you work through.