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July 24, 2017

Paul Chryst

Chicago, Illinois

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst.

PAUL CHRYST: Certainly I'm very thankful to be here and representing the University of Wisconsin. Also came down with three of our players, I think great representatives of our team, of the program, and that's tight end Troy Fumagalli, linebacker Jack Cichy, and linebacker T.J. Edwards.

Certainly appreciate what this group has done to this point in the year, and looking forward to starting our camp this Friday and maximize the opportunity that is this season.


Q. With Jim Leonhard coming on board and having a full spring season and going into the fall, how have the players responded to such a young coach and maybe the different energy that he brings?
PAUL CHRYST: Well, I think that we're excited that Jim is coordinating our defense. And I think they got to know him certainly as a coach last year. He was on our staff. And our players have gone through transitions. This will be the third defensive coordinator in three years. And I think one of the best qualities that Jimmy has is he understands football, but, more importantly, he understands players.

And I think he along with our defensive staff -- Tim Tibesar, Inoke Breckterfield, Bob Bostad -- have done a great job of making sure the transition is as smooth as it can be.

And players know -- like I said, they know Jimmy, they know how he communicates with him. It's one of his strengths. He's a tremendous connector, connector of people, and so it's been good.

And there's going to be change regardless, whether Justin stayed or not. We've lost some really good players on our defense, and we've got players that are stepping into new roles.

And so there's going to be a bit of a change, and I think all those involved have handled that well, and we're looking forward to starting camp.

Q. You guys obviously experience teams coming off a season where you had three close losses last year. So what talking points do you have with the team about those three close losses and how close you were to the Big Ten title?
PAUL CHRYST: I think that all your experiences you want to learn from, and we try to spend time with the players talking about what can we learn from, be it the close losses you referenced, the close wins, anything that you go through.

And I think that I like this team and this group. And we've got a lot of guys that have played in a number of big games and won a lot of them and have lost some of them.

And they do a good job, I think, of sharing that with the other kids, of how you approach it. And I think the biggest thing we've got to do is give ourselves the best chance each week, because we know every game is a great opportunity.

And I think that's one thing that a lot of those kids I think learned last year, and we've got to make sure that we take what was learned and continue to build on the way you approach each week.

But we do have a lot of guys, really good senior class, a lot of guys that have played in a lot of big games, and they're learning as they go through it. But I think together we've just got to make sure we keep our focus where it should be.

Q. 21-6, I believe, in the past two years. What is your level of confidence with the direction of Wisconsin football right now?
PAUL CHRYST: Well, I think we've had really good players and fortunate to be the head coach and to do it with a talented staff and good staff, and certainly with the direction of Coach Alvarez and the athletics department, ton of support.

But we've got players that I think are good players. I know they're good players. And the team matters to them and they're working. And they've been around. They've been in games and been in big games.

Like I said, we haven't won all of them, but there's things you can take away from that. I think one of the best traits of our team is the older kids do a great job of passing along messages that are pertinent to the younger kids.

So I feel very fortunate to coach the kids we are coaching right now, and certainly have an opportunity this year to have a good team. Now we've gotta go do it. And that's the fun part. It's the journey of the college season.

Q. I was wondering what do you think about the idea that Ohio State in a couple of polls has been described as an overwhelming favorite for this league again this year, what's your take on that, and how specifically do you see the West shaping up?
PAUL CHRYST: Well, certainly a ton of respect for Ohio State and obviously Coach Meyer and the players they have. We played against them last year, a really good football team.

And I think that all the -- that's what's great about this season is you have to go play it. And all the talk doesn't really matter. And so don't spend a lot of time, energy, thinking about what's being said. You try to focus your energy and your players' energy on what you can control, what you can best put your energy into, and that's the fun part.

In less than a week here we go into fall camp, and that's a huge phase for us to get ready for the season. We just want to maximize that.

But certainly there's a lot of really good football teams in this conference. It's what makes the Big Ten special, and great players, great coaches. Traditionally great programs. That's why very thankful to be a part of the Big Ten. And like I said when I first spoke today, that's why I'm so appreciative and thankful to be at Wisconsin, because we're part of that.

Q. You have made tremendous inroads in this '18 recruiting class, going into the state of Michigan. I know you specifically can't talk recruits, but can you talk about the state of Michigan becoming a high priority in your Wisconsin recruiting, please?
PAUL CHRYST: You know, for us, in recruiting, we're always going to start in Wisconsin. And I think if we can keep the best players in the state there, it gives us a really good chance. And then it's going out wherever we go, and certainly going to start in the Big Ten footprint, but finding kids that are a good fit for Wisconsin.

I think that's the key to recruiting is finding kids that certainly athletically, but academically, socially, you know, personality, all that, that fit Wisconsin, and that's where it can kind of go in different space. But really in the end it's about individuals and them finding the right fit and for us the right fit at Wisconsin.


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