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December 1, 2017

Paul Chryst

Indianapolis, Indiana

THE MODERATOR: I'd like to welcome Paul Chryst with the Wisconsin Badgers.

Q. Coach Meyer just said that J.T. Barrett looks like he's good to go. Didn't commit on whether he's going to play or not, but it kind of goes along with what you said on Sunday, you expect him to play. But how have you guys approached that from a preparation standpoint of which quarterback you'll see?
COACH CHRYST: We've planned all week -- we know we're going to get Ohio State's best. And certainly J.T. Barrett's an unbelievable quarterback. And it's pretty neat what he's done throughout his whole career and certainly what he's done this year.

And he's an important part of it. But you're preparing for their whole team. And certainly our defense is preparing for their whole offense. And they're going to have a quarterback. And we've got to be able to defend it.

Q. Could you speak to how difficult it will be to replace what Zander (Neuville) gave you in the run game and your confidence level in Kyle Penniston to be able to step up in that area?
COACH CHRYST: Zander (Neuville) was, I love what he's given to this team. Like every player that plays a lot and then they don't play, you miss that. And it is an opportunity for Kyle and others to step in and step up. And when I say others, you know, I think that's one part that our team has done well is that when a guy is out certainly the next person in has a opportunity and responsibility to the team.

But I think everyone can help pick up the slack. Really I thought Zander was playing really good football. And so the first part, you're going to miss that. And you feel bad for him because he's missing this opportunity. But others will step in and they've got to step up and that's part of it.

Q. It's amazing how calm you stay in these situations. How on earth have you learned over the years to not get too high or too low and just be yourself?
COACH CHRYST: I think the last part, it's important for you to be yourself. And the game of football is for the players. It's never been about myself. And it's -- your job is how can you help them maximize the opportunity they have and coach them?

And I've been fortunate throughout my career being with other coaches that I've been able to see success and be themselves and have been able to work for coaches that allow you to be yourself and want -- more than anything you want your players to be themselves. That's really what's cool about what we get to do is it's 110, 115 different people and coming together and being one team.

And so, but what makes that team fun is all the different personalities, all the different styles, all the different backgrounds. Everyone's got their own story. I think it's just -- you know, it's important to be who you are.

Q. Both teams have very good offensive lines and very good front sevens. Is winning tomorrow just as simple as winning the line of scrimmage more than the other side?
COACH CHRYST: I think certainly almost every football game that I've been a part of, the offense and defensive line, who wins that is a big part of it. But football is a great team game. It's going to take everyone in all three phases. But certainly part of -- a big part of football is what happens at the line of scrimmage.

Q. What are your impressions of Dwayne Haskins? And also three years ago Cardale Jones came into this game. You obviously weren't the coach. But there was almost no film of him. How much does it help to have at least have some film of him to prepare for?
COACH CHRYST: I think probably the right answer is in how you asked it. It can be beneficial. And if you don't -- certainly you want to get an idea of what you may see. But it's one piece of it. And I think you've got to make sure that our group focuses on the whole picture.

And anytime you've got some film you've got an idea. But there's probably more to it than what you see. And so you have to be careful, I think, of trying to make such a big judgment -- this is what we're going to do, or this is what they did. You know what? It's a really good team and it's a really good offense, and we've got to be able to defend the whole thing.

Q. (Inaudible)?
COACH CHRYST: He's really good. And what makes them good is the whole group.

Q. Obviously coming into the season you knew you had some decent personnel on defense. But how much has it surprised how well Jim (Leonhard) has handled the defense considering just being his first year as a coordinator?
COACH CHRYST: I think Jim's done a really nice job. And Jim has not done it alone. Tim Tibesar has coordinated a number of years. He's been really good. And Inoke Breckterfield is one of the best defensive line coaches in the country. And Bob Bostad brought another look at it, coming traditionally from an offensive background.

So I've loved what Jimmy has done. He stayed true to who he is. And I think our whole staff has done a great job of knowing our team, knowing our players and helping them with schemes that they can do, that they understand and it's been -- it's taken everyone. I guess that's my point. And Jim does a great job of communicating and teaching, all those.

But I think our defense has been successful. It's been a good year. We're going to get tested in a different way tomorrow night. But what they've done to this point has been because of everyone. And certainly Jimmy's a big part of it. But it's players, coaches, everyone coming together.

Q. Winning this game would kind of lift this program to the College Football Playoff probably for the first time in program history. Do you guys feel that this is arguably the biggest game in program history?
COACH CHRYST: This game, I know our team is proud to have earned the right to play here. It's all about winning the Big Ten Championship. And that's huge. And what comes after that, whatever it is, we'll embrace it.

And yet the best way to enjoy the moment -- and I think be the best in those moments, is to be just that, be there. And it's about tomorrow night's game, playing against a really good Ohio State football team. And if you win, you are Big Ten champions, and that's big.

Q. Following up on that, how do you maintain the focus? It seems like each week you've been able to keep these guys focused on the very next thing and not looking past the bigger picture? How do you work on that when a week like this is so big and the scrutiny is so much?
COACH CHRYST: I think one thing is that that's always been our approach. So whether it was a couple years ago, last year, this year -- and what it really stems from is that these players spend a lot of time preparing for the season.

And the team, on our schedule was 12 games. And yet the players aren't guaranteed those games and the games are the best part of it all.

I don't think -- if you were to ask a player, what's the best part of playing, probably it's not winter conditioning, it's probably not spring football, it's probably not fall camp, it's the games.

And to be able to get to play those games, not every player is guaranteed those games. Jack Cichy is captain for us. Misses this whole season, missed six or seven games last year.

So you want them to enjoy and appreciate the opportunity that they get each week. And beautiful thing about a season is it's a journey. But it's made up, you can put it in a nice, little, it's one week, one week at a time. And then you take that week, and it's one day at a time.

And I think that's how you enjoy it all. And I think that's also the best way to approach it and be in that moment. And really nothing else matters other than that moment. So why don't you be in it and make the most of it.

So when you do come across, whatever it is -- and certainly there's -- our guys are excited to be here. They appreciate it. They know it just doesn't happen. But I think there's a consistency to it and an approach that they're used to, so that they can kind of stay the course and keep a focus on the now.

Q. Looking back on that game against Ohio State at Camp Randall last year. Obviously that was a high profile game as well. Do you think that game kind of lead up to this year especially for a lot of the younger players like Alex who got the experience of the high pressure game?
COACH CHRYST: I think that every time a player -- heck, a coach -- gets to be part of a game, you hope to draw something from it. And so our seniors have more experiences to draw on. I think you take a little bit from every one of them, probably.

So you would hope that those who played in that game took something from it that helped them go forward, that it was a, quote/unquote, big game, or maybe it was something that happened in the game. You draw on all of your experiences. And that's, I think, one way you can grow as an individual.

And I know we've got guys that tried to do that, and then take away from everything that they do. And I think it's one good way to improve.

Q. You did lose very close games in the Big Ten Championship and to Ohio State last season. You have a chance to accomplish both of those things tomorrow night. How much motivation has that given to this team that lost the Big Ten Championship last year and lost to an Ohio State team where they have a chance to win both of those tomorrow night?
COACH CHRYST: If you were to ask -- and we do -- each player what's their why? Why are you doing what you're doing? For every player it's a different why. And just what we were talking about, all those experiences come in. How do you handle it in this situation?

It's not that simple where you just say, well -- you can't make up for what happened. But you can learn from them. And I think every guy takes it differently.

And, so, I would hope that all of our players take away something from each opportunity and that they can use that on the next game or the next opportunity that they have.

Q. Wondering if you could elaborate on something you said a while ago about your defense. You said you were going to get tested in a different way tomorrow night. Can you elaborate what you mean there by, I guess, specifically about Ohio State's offense?
COACH CHRYST: I think it's a really good offense and we haven't played them yet. And I think it's different than any offense we've played to this point.

Q. This being a big game and you having a very talented freshman running back, is there any worries about that, that he might get caught up in the lights? Or is he showing this season that Jonathan can handle these situations?
COACH CHRYST: I've loved the way that Jonathan has gone about this whole season. And a lot of people would argue that every game he plays is a big game.

And certainly this one we're playing for the Big Ten Championship. And that's all part of -- he's not done that. So it's a new experience for him. I've loved the way that he's approached every new experience that he's gone through this year. And he doesn't have to go through it alone either.

I think our players do a great job of helping each other, passing along information, helping guys, particularly younger players, navigate whatever waters it is, whether it's on campus, this class, whether it's in-season workouts, whether it's how you film study, whether it's what are the best places to go eat.

I think our guys really do a good job of taking the younger ones and helping pass along information that eventually the person has to own. And I've really been impressed -- that's one thing I think I've been most impressed with J.T. this year is how he's been able to be in that moment and appreciate it and enjoy it but keep working. And so I know he's excited.

Q. Michael Deiter, what has he done to contribute to the team's success? He plays a key position on the line, but what stands out to you about the success that he's had to help you guys as a whole to be successful this season?
COACH CHRYST: Michael's been great. And he's an unbelievable worker. He enjoys playing. He enjoys being with the guys. He brings great energy. And on the field he's played center, guard and tackle. He's a guy that will doing anything for this team, and I think he's playing at a really good level. So he's a good football player, great teammate. I think he's a leader on this team.

I've loved being around him. Loved seeing his growth. We saw him his freshman year, sophomore year. This is now his third year. It's fun to see a player's growth. But he's a huge part of this team.

Q. You guys being 12-0 and going into this game and a lot of people still saying who have they beaten, do you feel like you guys, your players have a chip on your shoulder going into this game and wanting to prove that they're as good as their record indicates?
COACH CHRYST: I know our players are excited about this game because we get to play against a really talented, well-coached, good Ohio State football team. And it's for the Big Ten Championship. That's the focus. That's what they're talking about, and that's what we feel.

Q. There was a time where the Big Ten Championship was everything and then you went to the Rose Bowl. But now you have the playoff out there, it's being discussed as much as your players, you want to shield them from it. Does that add a level of difficulty for you and other coaches that it's not just about a league championship but it's about this other system and getting into the final four?
COACH CHRYST: I certainly can't speak for everyone but I know what's in front of us right now and it's exciting. And there's a challenge to that. And so it hasn't been hard for our group to be able to lock in to this week. So I don't know if I can speak nor would I want to for everyone.

Q. Ohio State has accumulated talent at a pretty remarkable pace in the recruiting rankings since Urban Meyer took over in 2012. I think there's, without question, they're maybe one of the more talented teams if not the most talented team in college football from a natural talent standpoint --

Q. From facing natural athletes -- when it comes to facing natural athletes like that with the depth they have, what different challenges does it provide or pose for you as a coaching staff to get them prepared maybe even more so than another team that doesn't have that natural ability?
COACH CHRYST: I mean, you prepare to play the game. And it's a really -- what you're saying, talented, but they're a well-coached, good football team, and it's a football game. And that's what we focus on, how to play our best football and give ourselves a chance.

You want to give them the best chance they can and go out and play. It's about football. And it's a really good football team, really good football team. And certainly they've got the talent. But they're well-coached. And that's what you prepare for is to play the game. And we want our players to have the best chance. And I feel good about the way they prepared. Now we get to go play the game.

Q. Along those lines, do you pay any attention at all to recruiting rankings, stars, et cetera? And in general what do you look for when you're recruiting a player?
COACH CHRYST: What we look for is -- I think it starts with do you think they're a good enough football player to help you? Then it's getting to know them. Would they be a great fit for this team? And if they're a great fit for our team, then they still have to decide if Wisconsin is a great fit for them. That's two. And that's the biggest thing we focus on.


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