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August 15, 2010

Bret Bielema

THE MODERATOR: Couple things before we get started with Coach Bielema. Starting tomorrow, practice will be open to the media. We have a complete practice and availability schedule in the back. Also, if you've not applied for credentials yet for home games, please do so within the next week. Information on how to apply online is also in the back.
As for today's schedule, Coach Bielema will be up here until about 3:00. After that, we'll move outside to the field to talk to the players and assistant coaches.
If you need to talk to any coaches, we ask that you try and get them first, as they'll probably be heading back up to their office around 3:30.
The players will be out on the field from about 3:00 to 4:00. Some players will be seated as we have in the past, on the field. Usually we put the starters out there for the majority of the time. If there's someone that you don't see, please let me know or a member of my staff and we can grab them. We've got some other commitments they're trying to get done today, too. So there are rosters in the back if you need help identifying any players.
With that, I'll turn it over to Coach Bielema for opening comments and then we'll take questions.
COACH BIELEMA: Thank you, Brian. We're one week into it. We started practice on Monday and had an opportunity to experience some pretty hot and humid weather. I thought that was a great thing for our guys. We had our first scrimmage yesterday.
So we're able to make some moves on the depth chart and get a clearer picture of some of the guys that will be able to help us on both sides of the football as well as in the kicking game.
I like their attitude, their energy. Stayed pretty injury-free to this point. Had a couple of guys come out of yesterday's scrimmage. Doesn't look to be anything long term. Fortunate for that.
And I know that going into the Big Ten media a couple of weeks back, I was amazed at the amount of questions that not only myself but my players got about expansion. And I think it's been a great diversion for us, personally, because that gets people talking about a lot of things other than what we've got going on here.
But I realize this year we have a number of high expectations that are on our radar. And our kids have embraced that and really bought into the mentality of the only way we can even guarantee any success in our first game or the last game of the year, whenever it may be, is just do our work today.
So hopefully you'll see a little bit of that out there when you're talking to the kids today. But I do believe they're buying into that thought and approach and good things will come.
With that, I'll open it up for any questions.
THE MODERATOR: Microphones on each side of the room if you have a question.
COACH BIELEMA: Okay, it's a rap.

Q. You mentioned about expectations. Is there anything at all that you either do differently or try to be more aware of when you're going into a season where there are such high expectations versus maybe when there are low expectations?
COACH BIELEMA: Absolutely. I think a couple of years ago we had low expectations. I really didn't address them at the time. I just made our guys concentrate on what we're doing and where we're going.
And we're not going to change that plan really at all. I know that it's mentioned to them more than I probably even realize, and not only from their parents but their friends, girlfriends, people that they see on an everyday basis.
And, really, if I can say this now more so than any other time during my seven years here and five years of going into it as a head coach, they really do just concentrate on the task at hand. They don't really try to skip a step.
I meet rather routinely with a group called the Badger Council, two players from every position group, and they're voted to that position from within their respective groups.
And I'll kind of talk to them about advanced planning, like some things they want to talk about pregame, post-game for the entire year, the UNLV trip. And those guys kind of just fall in line with what we've already kind of got on the docket. They just really realize that it is what it is and we're going to handle the day as it comes.

Q. How much do you anticipate that as the season goes along you'll probably have a lot of players that are getting the outside pressure of saying just from their family or friends saying, you know what, this year could be real special; you could get to X level, talking Big Ten, or talking about getting to the national championship game. What have you done to say hold on a second, 1-0, 1-0, keep your focus on what you've got going?
COACH BIELEMA: Yeah, you have to continue to address it with them. But, again, they probably learned by experience that the only way you can get to tomorrow is work today, and it's kind of fun to sit back and watch and see it happen, because of the way now these guys, especially our fifth year guys, I saw an interesting quote from Scott Tolzien where he was asked the question about past experiences in everything he's known as a football player at this university has been through me, our staff. There aren't any crossovers now from Coach Alvarez and his staff to where we are today.
So we know all the things they've gone through from the recruiting aspect, if they've ever had any adversity here at University of Wisconsin, it's our staff that dealt with it and that helps the situation as much as anything.

Q. Bret, through the first week, among your returning players, have there been a couple of guys who might have been off the radar who are showing you some signs they're ready to help you now?
COACH BIELEMA: That's a good question. I think on defense, one of the guys that's going to jump out to you right away is Marcus Cromartie.
Marcus is probably playing as good of football as he's played since he's been here. This is going into his third year. We kind of challenged him a little bit to step up to the plate and come forward. So he's been interesting.
Dez Southward is another guy that on the back end that we've actually moved into the safety spot and shown some flashes there. He's got as much ability as any safety we have in the program.
So those two guys, I think. On defense, a guy by the name of Kevin Rouse and also Kevin Claxton, both of those guys have been playing at a level that is above what I thought they could be at this point. So both have been a little bit injured. Kevin had some shoulder injury, Kevin had some back, but through this fall camp they've been on board 100 percent to where they need to be.
And then up front, I don't know how much is going to plan out during this next couple of weeks, but Lewis and David both, I thought, could be good players. But they've shown flashes where they could be some exceptional talent.
And D tackle, other than Patrick Butrym, it's just a work in progress. Offensively, the guys we have so many players returning, they're the same players they were and hopefully increase their level a little bit. A guy who jumps out is Jake Byrne at the tight end position.
Lance had a ridiculous catch yesterday. It was exceptional. So he's up to his old games. But Jake, Jake at practice every day going against possibly one of the better defensive ends in our leagues, J.J. Watt is playing at a high level. And to see Jake hold his own and get the better part of J.J. says good things about him.
And at the running back position, Montee Ball stepped up to the plate, not returning, but one of the freshmen, James White, has been an exception. He put on a great show yesterday in a scrimmage. Those guys have kind of jumped out.

Q. You talked before about the importance of seniors and leading and how they play and maybe that was a bit of an issue two years ago when you struggled. Why is it so important?
COACH BIELEMA: Well, it's whoever -- they're at the front of the room for a reason. Everybody looks up to them. They're people that have been there, done that. They've kind of been able to help every one of our guys through difficult times.
I've shared with the team different stories with those seniors that I've dealt with them on a personal level and in the football scheme of things but also personal life.
I've given an opportunity for the guys to get up in front of the room and talk about experiences. And some of those upper classmen, junior and seniors, have shared past things that they felt took away from what we were trying to do and how they can help to avoid it. So you can't blame somebody that doesn't know something they don't know.
You have to be able to educate them and prevent certain things to happen to them. But to have 16 guys at the front of the room that really do understand what it takes to survive this program for four or five years is worth its weight in gold. You can't say enough about it.

Q. A lot of big names returning on offense, John Clay, Scott Tolzien, guys like that. How is the defensive unit holding up, I guess, going against those guys on a day-to-day basis in practice?
COACH BIELEMA: Yesterday's scrimmage, I would say the offense got the better part of our defense early on. But then we went to a third down set, and our defense pretty much ran a shutout. So it was third and one and third and two, third-five, six, eight and nine. So it kind of covered the gamut. They resounded a little bit.
But what I would say, I've stressed to our guys, when we're doing this work, it's tough for people to simulate what we're going through.
We have an offensive line which I think is very talented very good for a defense line, for them to get better to have the ability to work with them every day, in some cases twice a day, is very, very valuable.
But, you know, just like going into yesterday's scrimmage, they're all jacked up. They're going against each other. But we always keep in mind that it's still Wisconsin versus Wisconsin.
And one of the guys that's going to miss a little bit of time, Kevin Zeitler got rolled up from behind last night in practice. And the guys' reactions on the defensive side of the ball were part of that, there was a little bit of a pileup, but Kevin will probably be back within the next week. But you could see how uneasy our defensive guys were because they knew how valuable Kevin was to our team. I think once you get that going, it's pretty special. [
Q. ]Bret, getting back to Cromartie and Byrne for a minute. Some guys develop at different paces. I'm curious in those two cases, why are they giving you flashes they can contribute for you more?
COACH BIELEMA: First, Marcus Cromartie on defense, he's a guy that came in his red shirt year and was really talented athletically. But just needed a year of maturity to develop. And this past year, I think he just didn't see himself getting on the field. So I don't know if he just accepted being a guy that's in the program. And Coach Ash really put some pressure on him in the spring and during the summer.
And I distinctly remember there was one day where I think he had missed a class, and I let him have it pretty good. And Chris did as well.
So I don't know if that turned the light bulb on. But he's coming to camp. He's competed. His nickname is Crow, everybody calls him Crow. And guys are heckling him and giving him a hard time. He's responded differently. A lot of pride in him.
And Jake Byrne, you saw him this week. Jake Byrne physically looks like a different person. He really looks great. Jake has diabetes, so he's on a constant -- he's got an insulin thing on. His size -- he's had to learn how to balance that whole thing out and just -- I believe he had over 45 plays yesterday during that scrimmage and didn't have one mental error, which is a huge jump for him. So I think he really, too, is seeing now, hey, Garrett's not here anymore; it's not the Garrett and Lance show, it could be the Jake and Lance show. See what he's done with it.
And, plus, there's some pretty good players behind him. Brian Wozniak is doing a really good job. You know how you make older players better is get good ones that are younger. They tend to get better in a hurry.

Q. You mentioned Lewis earlier briefly. I was wondering how you feel he's progressed? We have all seen how he does in passing situations, but how he's progressed against the run?
COACH BIELEMA: Good point. For him to play every down he has to be good against the run. Physically he's changed a little bit. He's done a great job with Herb in the weight room.
But one thing Lewis can do, he can run. And everybody thinks that's great. He was an all-state tailback and doing a drill the other day and everybody was kind of wowed by the way Lewis could run. I told him, maybe we'll move you back to tailback. We already have a 255-pound tailback, what's wrong with another one.
But maturity level, too. Being very conscientious and focused in. I think Charlie's really done good job of letting him understand how the work you do during the week really does have an impact on Saturdays.

Q. Bret, Barry used to always quote Lou Holts and say if your leaders came from the offensive line, you had a good chance to be a really good team. Do you believe in that? And how much does the offensive line set the tone for the whole program?
COACH BIELEMA: That's a good point. I heard it through Coach Alvarez. Didn't know he was quoting Lou Holts. I though -- in January I was meeting with Ben Herbert about our strength and conditioning in the winter. We were going to designate six teams that were going to be competitive after every workout where we could build some chemistry.
And those six teams were going to be compiled by a certain number of each position. And right away, when you got groups, you want to have a leader. And Ben and I -- and, actually, it was kind of Ben's thought, but I loved the idea, that we put an offensive lineman in charge of every one of those groups.
We have seven starters back on the offensive line, which is really good when you've only got five spots. But we put six guys that we felt had the respect of everybody in the room. And that's a little bit unusual.
I think if you go to other programs, you're going to put your six marquee guys, the guys you want to go out and visit with. But for us at Wisconsin, the way those guys established themselves can really make the chemistry of the team be built around that. And I gotta put Coach Bostad in a headlock to give the O line a water break. During this past week we went to a two-break system, which the kids have loved.
And, traditionally, linemen have always worked. But I brought them on the changes, because there's a couple of practices where a lot of those guys lost a high percentage of weight. But they definitely know that that group probably works as hard as anybody in our entire program.

Q. What does Nick Toon need to do to take the next step as a wide receiver?
COACH BIELEMA: Nick has matured so much. I said it a couple times publicly, but last spring, in May, he came popping in my office. I keep a jar of bubble gum on my desk. He's come in grabbing piece of gum. And he always has something to say, part of his personality. He was smiling ear to ear.
I said, "You must be done with finals." He goes, "Coach, I'm done with finals. Probably the best semester in my life here at the University of Wisconsin." He got over a 3.5 GPA. And for him to feel that way about himself and what he accomplished there, it's kind of carried over into all aspects of it.
He's one of the first guys at everything. He's so conscientious. He's still a pretty boy. I get on him. He always has to have his jersey the right way, right shoes, and he's going to double spat and all that jazz.
But that's part of who he is. And I can control that. But I like the way he's handled the young players. I like the way that he talks about the bigger picture at the right times. I saw him give a lot of effort in the run game yesterday and some of the blocking that he'd rather run it in or out than dig out the safety. But he's willing to accept and do anything we can to have success here.

Q. You mentioned D tackle's a work in progress. Is that your biggest question mark?
COACH BIELEMA: Well, just because we're a little unproven there. Patrick Butrym is playing as good as he's ever played. And when you guys come out to practice, he's got both thumbs in a cast. So he's a little bit hindered by that. But that will be fine by game time.
But that's a limiting factor. But a couple guys, Ethan Hemer, one of the ones that took over Jordan Kohout's spot, and Eriks Briedis, changed the way he looks from where he came in to where he is now.
And a freshman by the name of Beau Allen that's been very impressive through fall camp. Gotta get rid of some habits that are naturally engrained in him. But he's doing a good job trying to buy in how we do what we do at D tackle, and hopefully he'll be able to help us contribute a pretty significant amount.

Q. How fearful are you that the Mike Taylor situation could be long term and how has he been holding up with the news?
COACH BIELEMA: I've had seven knee surgeries myself, and every time I have a player that's going into multiple surgery situations, Mike's going to have a procedure done on Tuesday that looks like it could be anywhere from a two- to four-week rehab. But it's something that's not uncommon. It's very common amongst the knee injury that he had and just kind of reaggravated an area and hopefully that's going to be through.
I know Mike's got those questions. Anytime you go back into that knee for the second time you have the fear or the frightening fact. But we'll share some experiences with him, plus let him know that he won't be put on that field until he's 100 percent ready.

Q. Are you planning on him being out?
COACH BIELEMA: Of the opener? For the opener, for sure. But I do think he could make it back in time, just based on the timeline that Mike's followed in the past. But for sure having him in a position that he could help us going into Big Ten play for sure.

Q. You mentioned the offensive line and those guys had a -- Beau had a lot of shifting to do around with that group last year. With Zeitler out now is Nagy filling in for him? And I assume you have a lot of bodies in there?
COACH BIELEMA: Nagy -- and Nagy was actually on a tie with going into fall camp. We had Kevin and Billy on the same line. So I know that's why Kevin's extremely upset because anybody that knows Kevin, he doesn't want to miss one minute of practice, let alone looks like he might be gone for a week or so.
But he's basically got a high ankle sprain. Every case is a little bit different. I learned that term from Haden Frye. I still don't know what it means. It's one of those high ankle sprains.
Billy, you know, the thing I've really enjoyed, Billy going into his senior year, unfortunately last year he got injured in a motor scooter accident that never even occurred on the football field, and he really, all year, just battled it. Couldn't -- we tried everything.
They've done everything they could to try and help him. But he's finally being healthy. So Billy is more than an adequate starter. Ryan Groy is really probably playing as good as could be expected for his youth. Ryan runs and is athletic. And Gabe Carimi will tell you, he can't beat Ryan Groy in any race or competition that involves speed and agility. So Ryan's got more than enough ability, just needs some game experience. And Travis Frederick can pop over there to guard as well as anybody.

Q. You mentioned Kendricks and a catch he had being sick the other day. You had obviously a great line of tight ends at this program the last five, ten years. Is there a mold that he fits best into compared to some of those other guys? And what makes him unique and special?
COACH BIELEMA: I would say Lance is kind of his own individual. He's not like Garrett. He's not like Travis. If anybody, he might be a little bit more like OD. Although he never was in a program with OD. Just his athleticism.
Lance was a high level recruit. We weren't sure we were going to get him. He was recruited nationally as a track athlete, as well as a football player. He was highly decorated. And he wasn't near as big as he is now.
So that's why I kind of give credit to Lance. His mom and dad did a great job of instilling some work ethic in him, and him coming in here from King High School, come a million miles physically, and Lance has really done a good job of taking all the distractions that come away from football and just honing in on them where they are now.
He really has got a sense of maturity to him and a sense of presence that I've never seen until this year.

Q. Do you watch what your guys say on Twitter, aware of the Twitter prank with Curt Phillips and J.J. Watt?
COACH BIELEMA: It was a good way to point out how bad some things could be just in a joking sense. I'm sure Curt didn't expect his tweet to be the 6:00 news that night. I was oblivious. Not to disappoint anybody, but I don't watch any media during the day or anything. At night I'll catch whatever I can.
But I come up for a team meeting at 6:30 and J.J. is standing where I usually walk in, and he's got this blank face and he's like, "Coach, I didn't tweet. I didn't do anything." I go, "J.J., what are you talking about?" And he goes Curt -- he didn't say Curt. "Somebody grabbed my phone and tweeted that I was moving to D tackle." I started laughing. Who cares. Like, that's news?
And he's like, "Well, I didn't do it." And then I go, "Do you know who did it?" "Curt Phillips, but I'm going to -- I'm going to get him." I go, "All right. That's good."
Actually, we just had a little media day ourselves in the team room to kind of talk about what to expect. And we used that case in point. It's a now society. And when you guys go to those sources and you -- I'm not telling you how to do your job, but it was never checked or solidified through Brian or myself.
And we pointed out to those kids, it seems like a harmless prank can be something that's pretty serious. And I gave them the example a year ago at this time, I believe it was a week later in camp, I let -- usually when I give the kids a night off or any type of break I don't do it until the day of. Because I know how they do. They'll try to plan something out. I don't know what they're going to come up with. You give these guys ten minutes and they can come up with anything, let alone a day.
So I'd let them know they would have the evening off from morning until night. When we got together for the afternoon practice, it was brought to my attention that several of the kids had tweeted they couldn't wait to go to the concert in Milwaukee that night.
And so I got done with practice and I had this little information in the back of my head. I said, "How many guys are going to the concert in Milwaukee? I know you're going," started pointing out three, four guys. They're like, "Oh."
So as a coach I can use it as well as a great resource. So that information is public knowledge. It's quotable. It's things that are out there that are real, and they have to be aware of that.

Q. Did you ever think about shutting down --
COACH BIELEMA: I don't. If you're a head coach or a team that has so many rules to keep track of things and monitor them, that's all you spend your time doing. I'd rather try to mold our guys into being constructive about the way they think and the way they act so that I don't have to type -- you know now, a kid's being a knucklehead, one that's tweeting some things that are not very good or shouldn't be seen, then I can limit it on a case-by-case scenario.

Q. When you look at the total package of this team, on field, off field, leadership, talent, the whole gamut, how does it compare with the championship team you played on and the championship team you coached with at K-State?
COACH BIELEMA: You know, I've thought about that. And I don't dwell on it much with our players. But you do reference back to certain things you experienced in the past.
And I shared with our players the other day, as a player, won a Big Ten championship as a player. As a coach I've won, one as an assistant coach and coordinator, but never done it as a head coach. I can honestly tell our guys, from the makeup of our room, not only from a talent level, but also from a history level and a perspective of how they handle their business, they have just as good a chance as anybody.
They know how to do what they need to do. The thing I can't simulate in practice as much as I'd like to, I can't put them down by 14 points going into the third quarter or fourth quarter and see how they're going to respond. But you can definitely test them in little areas to try and find their response mechanism. If they just listen, if they communicate well, I asked them to do two things well at the beginning of camp. I asked them to communicate. Whether it be with their coaches, with their players. Whatever level, they need to be great communicators. And they need to embrace physical toughness. If they can do those two things, we'll have a chance.

Q. Can you talk about the goofy things that players do, is that a sign of a loose team, despite all the expectations?
COACH BIELEMA: Especially Curt Phillips of all people, you know? Quarterback and D end, I don't know how much they interact, but I think J.J. gets beat up a little bit now and then because he's the ultimate tweeter, I think, if that's the right verbiage.
But Curt Phillips, he's got a little personality to him. The first day, Sunday, we come in and he kind of catches your eye. He's sitting in the third row. Scotty is up in the front row. Curt Phillips has a Scott Tolzien jersey on, a No. 16 red and white jersey. And of course Scotty says, "What are you doing with a Joe Montana jersey on?" Which I found was very funny.
But he's just got a little something to him. I did a pairing the other day where each guy had to sit down with a member of the team. And we didn't go out to the hotel this year. I just -- it's amazing, you give 18-year-old kids like 1800 wings and a chance to sit down in the evening and they thought it was like having -- they thought I was the nicest guy in the world.
I made them sit down with somebody on the team and answer three questions. I wanted to know their hometown, middle name and the proudest thing they've ever accomplished in their life, either individually or collectively as a team.
Just the announcements, I'm giving these pairings, like the first one was John Moffitt paired with Jean Peniel. Freshman. Everybody started howling. I introduced John Clay and Warren Herring, and everybody was beating each other up, a chemistry that is fun to sit back and watch when it's appropriate.

Q. So many guys coming back on offense, but especially at key positions, Scott and John specifically. How much of a comfort level do you have and how much of a luxury is that for you to know you have two proven guys at those key positions?
COACH BIELEMA: It's great. It's one thing for me to feel comfortable. But it's more important for the guys in the huddle to feel comfortable. And Scotty has a presence and awareness. He can't try to do too much. But he's definitely a guy that knows everything that's going on and how to handle the situations.
John Clay is a very talented player, but, you know, he's continued to improve, just the little things of his game. Proper footwork, consistent footwork. Playing when he's tired.
But, again, John Clay would be the first to tell you: Montee Ball looks pretty good. And James White put on a show yesterday that if you ask any of our guys was very, very impressive. So we're going to run the football here, and we're going to put up the numbers. And the jersey that's carrying the ball is really immaterial, because we're going to do what we do and we're going to do it well. So if you want to be that guy, you need to be out there. And if you want to be the guy in waiting, just take advantage of the opportunity you get. And our guys are doing it.

Q. I don't know if you were among the chosen to join Nick Saban's conference call, but do you have a thought on what's going on down there with regards to agents? Do you have those problems here? Do you have to -- have you contemplated putting restrictions on scouts and that type of thing?
COACH BIELEMA: When that whole thing blew up, and it was ironic, not ironic because I think there's a common theme because there's the four SEC schools all at once. I was really glad it doesn't become news until it happens to one of the SEC schools.
I think that's a great thing that kind of brought it to light. Because I don't have as many maybe of those type of players as those other guys, so it's not at that high level. But we have our issues.
I remember going back and sitting in my first Big Ten meetings with head coaches, and it was a real point of emphasis with Michigan and Ohio State, what can we do as coaches to monitor it.
And two critical things I think have been brought up and hopefully they come full circle, is if the NFL gets involved. And obviously we've got a commissioner that, the NFL has a league commissioner that has been very aggressive in all actions. And to me this is just as important as anything out there, because these guys are messing with the lives of not only the players that they're involved with but now you talk about the repercussions of players that come after them, and head coaches.
We can educate, put a lot out there. I think if the NFL gets involved, and also if they really back up what they're saying about suspensions. And for some of these agents, just kicking them out for a year, you start talking a five-year suspension or something that has a significant value on them financially, it will get their attention, because it's wrong what's going on.
You take a young man that's come here and he's -- I've got guys at the Regent. Isn't exactly the Ritz-Carlton over here. The apartment complex is nice. I'm not taking anything away from the Regent.
But that's sometimes the best environment they live in. You have someone that comes in and says we can provide this, this and this, just don't tell your coach about it, it can be a real tempting thing. It's real. It's out there. It can be a distraction.
You saw John Clay commented and a couple other guys talked about how much they're letting their parents handle it. I think that does happen for the most part here.
But there are bad people everywhere involved. The bad part, too, of that whole thing, there are a couple of agents that make it bad for everybody. There's so many good examples out there of people that do it the right way and are up front about how they handle their business that it's bad that they all get thrown in together.

Q. You mentioned players feeling comfortable out there. Are you feeling more comfortable as a head coach?
COACH BIELEMA: It was really hot. But I talk. I do my due diligence. But I also believe in my offensive coordinator, my defensive coordinator.
We have three coaches that will direct all the special teams. And it's nice to kind of just sit back and hear what you've been saying for so long just automatically get brought up. I'll hit on the points that I need to. But it's true, like I said earlier about the players being in the room, it's also true about our staff. I know I've got a couple of additions here from a year ago, but they think along the lines we do. And it's just a fun thing to come to work every day and know the product that's already there.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Coach.

End of FastScripts

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