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August 31, 2015

Paul Chryst

Madison, Wisconsin

COACH CHRYST: Well, today and tomorrow are -- so now they don't have class we're able to go on a little different schedule, so we had our first team meeting today at 10:30 and it was fun to be with the guys. You could tell there was an energy, and it was game week upon us and the opportunity to play in this game. It was fun being around our players, and certainly we started the preparation end of last week, but we'll slowly devote it obviously to this week.

I like where the guys are at right now, and I think that we all certainly have a very healthy respect for Alabama, I certainly do, Coach Saban and the coaches they have and the players that they're playing with, but I'm also appreciative and excited to be with the group that I'm with right now and looking forward to a great week of preparation and going down to Dallas and starting off our season.

Q. The last time we got to see practice and what the depth chart says today, it looks like there's some changes on the offensive line. How much time has Hayden Biegel had since he's been able to return, and then can you share with us what allowed Walker Williams to slide into that No. 1 right guard spot?
COACH CHRYST: I think right now Hayden has been in enough different drills and meetings, and also I think because Walker, what he's been able to do, I think that gives us right now our best chance, and yet I think one of the byproducts of the injuries was Micah Kapoi was able to get a lot of work, and so depending on how it goes is how you shuffle that group right there. But Hayden, one thing that has -- kind of right when he first got here, he picked things up pretty well, and you feel like he's a veteran in the way that he approaches it, and then walker was really stressed with a lot of -- he was bouncing around, moving a lot of different places, and I think he's kind of settled into where he can give us some help either at the tackle or guard spot. So that, and the continued development of Micah, I think we certainly have kind of our core depth right now.

Q. Are you concerned at all about the communication between the right side of the offensive line now with guys moving in there kind of getting some of their first experience together? They're picking up stunts and other things on the offensive line. Are you concerned about how they're going to mesh together early on after just coming together now?
COACH CHRYST: You would have liked to have had more snaps, absolutely. But at the same time, they are going through it together, and I think that there can be some benefits from that, as they go through and watch the tape. Bottom line is they've all got to communicate, and that's where I feel very fortunate with Dan Voltz at the center spot. You've got a guy that's got great knowledge of what we're trying to do, played in big games, and I think that we're in pretty good shape right there with Dan directing it. But absolutely, we've got to -- they've got to continue to talk and continue to develop the chemistry, and that you hope is kind of ongoing really until they're done playing here.

Q. The uncertainty at quarterback for Alabama, how does that affect how you prepare?
COACH CHRYST: We kind of knew going in that there was going to be a number of different possibilities, and therefore, I think it allowed us to focus on really what we know of Alabama and what they do.

In every game, there's going to be certain adjustments that need to be made, whether it's something different than what you saw to be with a player that we know. Their center has done a heck of a job. He's a heck of a player. And their left tackle, we have got him on film but maybe something's happened and you have to adjust off that.

But there's nothing you can do about it other than prepare for what you think you might get similar to every game, and every game, you end up having to make adjustments and I think certainly we are going to -- of the game will be no different and we have to make adjustments. That's one thing I do particularly good on defense who have got some veterans. I think they understand the scheme and they understand their role in it.

So I think that it can help so when you do have to make adjustments, they can draw back on experience of something they have done before. So I think that will all have to take place, my guess, on Saturday.

Q. Tanner is listed with the ones at wide receiver. When you consider the fact that he really has not played that full-time since high school, is it even more astonishing that he's in this position?
COACH CHRYST: I think Tanner is really a talented football player and any guy that can play -- he's played and started at quarterback. He's played and started at safety and now he'll play and start at wide receiver.

And yet, I think he is also learning the position. So I think he's going to continue to get better, but he's got a great physical skill set. Does a lot of things naturally well. And then there's parts of any position, for him as a receiver that he will continue to work on and improve some of the small finer points.

And so that's what's kind of exciting for me about Tanner is I think he's a good player that can give our offense an added dimension and yet think he can continue to get better. I think right now we've got five guys that are going to play a lot at the receiver position, and we are going to need all five of them -- and all five of them to continue to grow and develop as this year goes on.

Q. The respect that you have for Alabama, how do you prepare the players to play 2015 Alabama, and not the history and tradition that seems to be every year playing for a National Championship?
COACH CHRYST: I think -- that's a good question. I think that's what helps having some of the guys that we have in the room and that you feel fortunate with.

So our job is to help them make sure they understand that, and it's focusing on this game, this opportunity, the players that are in this game. And I think the guys -- we started talking about that a bit earlier. But haven't felt the need to kind of double-back and keep readdressing it.

I think these guys have a tremendous focus right now about them and I think it comes from the leadership in the locker room.

Q. Do you have any concern about Tanner in terms of his health? I know he tweaked something in his left leg at the end of last week.
COACH CHRYST: No, I think just talking to him earlier, and certainly with all the guys that are coming off of injury, the early part of the week, got to balance it and make sure that they are getting themselves to be the most healthy they can be and yet also getting the work and repetition.

The amount of time off -- Saturday wasn't a real rigorous practice and Sunday was off and today we'll do a walk through and today we'll do our first full practice.

Q. Sorry if I missed this, you were talking about the wide receivers. Who would be the fifth guy?
COACH CHRYST: I think Jazz might not have been on it. I think Jazz Peavy, he's done some really good things and Jazz will certainly be a guy that will factor in.

Q. Is Tanner a receiver, as opposed to safety, because that's his best spot, or is it more of a need issue?
COACH CHRYST: I think it's important, any time you're with individuals, it has to be good for the individual and it has to be good for the team.

Certainly I think that he can add value to our team playing receiver, and we know that he can add value at the safety spot. And I also think that it's got to work for both for it to be a good decision and a good thing, and I think right now, Tanner feels that and I also believe that.

Q. And just how frustrating was it to go through fall camp to see your O-line guys get injured, knowing that you got Alabama the first week?
COACH CHRYST: I think you're frustrated for them as much as anything. These kids put a ton of time and work into this, and the last thing they want to do is not participate. All the guys that missed some time, there's not one -- the first thing is you felt bad. But you see the look on their face -- you guys see it when you're with them and they want to participate and they want to be able to play.

Yet we all know it's part of it, and not just football. It's part of sports in general. And our job is to help them get through it and help them recover as best you can, and also there's opportunity to present it and it's our job to help those others take advantage of those opportunities.

Absolutely you'd like to have every one for every practice. I tell the team all the time, we're best when we have everyone, and yet that seldom happens, but that's the goal.

Q. In researching Alabama and trying to figure out how to game plan, do you reach out to Brett at all or did he reach out to you at all in the last few months?
COACH CHRYST: You know, I was impressed with watching the of tape of Arkansas against Alabama. I've talked to Brett some, but a lot of it -- and each coach is different. I know we've got some coaches on the staff that like to call around and find out as much as they can. I've always been one to just watch the film and trust the film.

And also, I think that it's important, as you prepare for any game, the focus is still, first and foremost, on the things you can control, and that's your own team, your players. And then you just have to make sure that they are prepared for and that you are doing the right things schematically and whatnot.

But I've always, just rather spend more time watching the tape than being on the phone.

Q. This program has been a Top-25 school for quite some time now. Getting ahead of myself a little bit, but what do you think it would mean to this program to get a win against Alabama in terms of a national reputation, or just starting your reputation here as coach?
COACH CHRYST: Certainly I don't think this game is anything to do with -- it's not about me, and I've never gone into a game where I felt that it was about me. And I think that this game is a big game, and it's probably happening because of what both programs have done previous years.

And I think we've talked to the players about that, and yet this game is solely about these two teams Saturday night. I think at the end of a season, at the end of whatever, as you can look back and say, what does it mean.

What it really means is we've got a great opportunity to play against a heck of a football team that has recent and long tradition, and most importantly, it's the start of our season. And what a great opportunity we have to go play at an unbelievable venue against a really, really good football team. I think that's what's got our kids excited and that's what's got me excited.

Q. If you had your druthers, would you schedule a game like this right now the of gate?
COACH CHRYST: I've been at a couple different places where we've had really big games early. They are fun to be in, and I think you do find out a lot about your team.

I've always thought that the older players, for the guys that have played a lot of football, they really get excited about these games.

I think the younger players, it does provide them with a great opportunity to learn quickly what it's all about. I've always been appreciative of the opportunities you get to play really good teams or in big games and whatnot, and I think I've admitted (ph) it enough that every game does feel like that big game.

Certainly we know this is different. But I think you want to have a team and an approach that whenever you get to play, you're ready to play and you maximize that opportunity. And whether it's early in the season, middle or late, just happy to be playing the game and you want to be as prepared that you go out and play as well as you can.

Q. Dave has had some pretty good defenses here the last two years. Do you see this defense improving on what he's done the last two years and if so, how so?
COACH CHRYST: Yeah, I think that other than watching the film, I feel more knowledgeable talking about this group right now, but I think that we've got -- I'm excited about what they have been doing, and I see them getting better.

I think that we could have strength in numbers with the defensive front line. A big question mark going into camp was inside linebacker and maybe depth at inside lining backer, and I think we found some depth there. I think we've developed some depth at the cornerback position. Derrick Tindal will be able to play in the nickel spot, and I think Natrell keeps developing and growing.

We are certainly going to be tested this season a number of different ways. But I do think there's great chemistry on our defense and I think our players certainly believe and trust and appreciate what Dave and the defensive front coaches, how they are coaching them and how they put them in positions to play.

So I'm looking forward to seeing us play and also how we develop and grow as a defense. I think it has a chance to be a good defense.

Q. I know this game was scheduled a while ago, but what do you think of the Big Ten's philosophy about non-conference scheduling moving forward and how it relates to the bigger picture of the post-season?
COACH CHRYST: I think there's a lot of people have spent time -- and I know Coach Alvarez has been a major voice in that. And I think that's why guys want to come to Wisconsin and play in big games and play against quality opponents. I think it's -- I like it.

Q. You've coached in big venues like the Rose Bowl where guys can kind of have that staring-around, looking-at-the-atmosphere-type moment. Do you have to coach and prepare your players for that, as well, and going to a Jerry Dome or World or whatever it is with a huge scoreboard like that and a video screen?
COACH CHRYST: Yeah, I think it's something that you know is different. And talking to different people that have played there -- we want to expose our kids to it. We are going to get off the plane and we are going to go see the stadium. We want them to enjoy that. It's a pretty neat deal for our kids to be able to play there.

We'll go back in Saturday and have a little bit of a walk-through on Saturday during the day. So I think I want them to feel the stadium and embrace it and understand it's a heck of an opportunity to be able to play there. And I think if we go there a couple times, no matter what stadium games have been in, the players, the game settles in really fast, and it's all about what happens between the lines.

But before that, I want them to be able to enjoy the opportunities that they are getting and not take those for granted. And yet I think that the focus needs to be and will be on the game at hand and getting to play the game. That's what you're going to remember the most.

Q. Two questions. First, Walker Williams and Hayden Biegel, are they 100 percent full-go for Saturday?
COACH CHRYST: Yeah, we're going to practice them right now. Feel good about that.

Q. You named Joel the starter the first day of spring ball. Was the intent to give him confidence doing it that early, or you knew he was your best option? What was kind of the reason why you came out that early and gave him the job?
COACH CHRYST: I mean, you name your starters when you know who is going to start. Unless something happened different, Joel was going to be our starter. I think he's earned the right, you know, Joel's -- I saw the other day, he's 21-7. He's played a lot of games and he's played a lot of big games.

I think he's grown through all those, and it's well documented, his experiences, positive and the struggles he's gone through. And yet I think I've been impressed with how he's going to come out the other end of it. I think he gives our team the best chance to win and I like the way that he's approached spring ball in the summer and fall camp, and he's doing everything he can to work each day.

And yet I think he's also got a poise about him that I think it's important for our team, our offense, to know that they have got someone they can trust. And our players do trust Joel and they know he's in it for them, and our players know Joel is a great teammate and he'll do anything for that group on and off the field. And I think he's got more than enough talent to be a really good quarterback.

Q. From what you've seen on film, how formidable is that Alabama front seven in particular?
COACH CHRYST: I think they are a really good defense, and I think that depending on when you're looking at it, if you're looking at the run game, you see the strength of their defense is their front seven.

Then you look at the passing, and you say, the strength of their defense is -- more what looks to be like they are doing some shuffling, but it's the D-Line, the linebacker, the secondary, they have got guys coming back. And they are replacing one in the defensive front line, one at the linebacker spot. All those guys have played a lot of football. I think it's a really good defense. I.

Think it's a good defense, certainly schematically and also I think their players understand what they are doing and they are talented. Our players recognize that, and I think that's what also gets them excited to play a team in a defense like we are going to face Saturday.

Q. The last Badger team to play in the AT&T Stadium was the basketball team in the Final Four. Have you talked to Bo about the stadium or any quirky things he found when he played there?
COACH CHRYST: I did. And you guys all know the answer: I don't know what it was (Laughter).

Q. Disappointing --
COACH CHRYST: No, all is right in the world. (Laughter).

Q. He was speaking in a different language?
COACH CHRYST: No, I understood every word. (Laughter).

Q. Your first Pittsburgh team obviously finished well, but had a rough start in the opening game. Do you wipe that from the memory bank or did you learn anything from that?
COACH CHRYST: I think you learn from every game that you're associated with. I don't think it means anything or has any carryover to this game. I said that to our team the year after our first game, and the next one, the guys that actually participated in it.

I think you always want to try to find anything you can from your experiences and learn from them.

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