Monday Morning Maragos

After two standout seasons in the Wisconsin secondary, Chris Maragos is collecting a NFL paycheck with the San Francisco 49ers. He also joins Badger Nation for a weekly insider look at Wisconsin football, talking this week about San Jose State.

MADISON - Sitting down with a former San Jose State Spartan and current 49ers practice squad player, Chris Maragos was ready to show off how dominant his former team can be.

That showing of dominance will have to wait for another week.

No.11 Wisconsin got the win Saturday, beating San Jose State 27-14, but there were plenty of problems, missteps and disappointments that need to be correct before Arizona State comes to town this weekend. Maragos explains.

Talking to the players coming out from the locker room, they were happy with the win, but viewed the game as more of a step sideways than a step forward. From your viewpoint and knowing those guys, were you disappointed with how they performed overall?

Maragos: I think the biggest thing really is when you get the opportunity a play a team like that from a (lesser conference), the important thing is to get the win. But, you really want to steamroll some people and really get a convincing win over a team like that to build some confidence, really get the offense rolling and work on some different things that you might not do during the course of the game. I think the biggest thing is you want to handle a team better than they did, no doubt.

On the touchdown pass in the fourth quarter that Niles Brinkley was defending, did Niles defend that about as well as he could have defended that receiver or did he make a mistake in his coverage that could have avoided the touchdown?

Maragos: I think Niles was in great position. That part of the field is the hardest part to defend, espeically with the pass being thrown to the back shoulder. He has his back turned to the quarterback and he kind of threw behind him, and the receiver had his head back and was able to stop and make an acrobatic catch. Honestly, plays like that are going to happen, but I thought he played it well. Coaches will always say they can play a play better, but he was in good position to maybe try to pull an arm and maybe strip the ball out late.

What did Jay Valai do correctly or incorrectly on that long pass play near the end of the first half? Niles was in step-for-step coverage and Valai was responsible for help defense. It appeared like he took a bad route to the ball and took himself out of the play. When you are in that position providing help defense, what's the right thing and what did Valai not do?

Maragos: Usually when you are in a position like that, it depends on what type of coverage you are in. If you are in some kind of core coverage, a safety is usually going to provide some type of underneath presence and the cornerback will be over the top, running with the play like that. Putting yourself in position and going to make a play on the ball is really key, and I think Jay Valai obviously didn't make the play. It was what it was.

It was a post route, so probably Jay was thinking the receiver was going to run some type of dig back to the middle and he was going to cut it off or the receiver was going to run a timing route/thin post that is called a ‘skinny eight' where they throw the pass real quick. He might bit off that and missed it was a true post, so he came off that in hoping to provide coverage but ended up having the ball thrown over the top. Again, plays like that schematically, there's different ways to play different techniques. It looked like he thought it was going to be a dig or a skinny eight.

Being a defensive guy and seeing your defense give up only three scores through eight quarters against two teams that are hard measuring sticks because they aren't the best competition, how do you feel they have played overall from a technique and schematic point of view?

Maragos: Well … with teams like that, you are going to get their best shot. You're going to get certain plays that you might not get against certain teams you are going to play against in the Big Ten, so you have to be ready for everything. J.J. Watt providing the presence up front has been real dominant, and he's really stood out on the field. There's been some role players that are doing good things.

I think the defense is coming together, but there a lot of things they need to work on. I saw a lot of missed tackles in the game, especially that one long run on that bubble pass that had four missed tackles. The biggest thing is to get the guy down and give your defense another chance to play again. They have been playing extremely well but to be a great defense and be competitive in the Big Ten, you have to take care of the details, continue to learn and continue to get better.

What's the harder thing to overcome as a defensive guy – a missed tackle that leads to a big play or a missed assignment/coverage that leads to a big play?

Maragos: I am more disappointed in a blown coverage, although neither of them are very good. Anytime you are blowing a coverage or missing an assignment, it's a disaster for a big play. If you miss a tackle, hopefully you are missing them with good enough leverage that you have teammates running to the ball to come up and tackle. The biggest thing as a d-back is that the heat is all on you. As a defensive lineman or a linebacker, there's always another line of defense. If a DB messes up, it's going to the goal line. It's a high-pressured position to be in and you have to be detailed to play the position.

As a former walk-on from in-state, how much are you enjoying watching Jared Abbrederis play?

Maragos: He's been fun to watch. Guys have trouble judging his speed and how to cover him, which is why I think he was catching all those deep balls during spring drills. For a guy that was a walk-on and come in during his first year of eligibility and do what he did on Saturday, lead the team in catches in front of those fans, that kid has a heart that's special. He's got something inside of him and somebody that people should get excited about for the future because he is really under developed right now. He's only going to get bigger. He's got the tools to be a good player. That was exciting.

For a guy that has little experience as a wide receiver and step in those roles is huge for a guy his age. I can remember where I was at his age and playing at that level, and it's special.

Do you remember Steven Threet from his time at Michigan, now at Arizona State?

Maragos: Yeah, I do. That was my redshirt junior year and we played them at Michigan. He was a pretty smart guy, seemed like he had a really good arm and that he could control the defense. I don't think he was exactly what Michigan wanted in terms of running the offense that they run. I think that's what led to the transfer, but I remember him for sure.

For your senior class and for the contributors that were involved in that game, was that Michigan game was one of the most disappointing experiences in recent memory?

Maragos: I'll tell you what, that was a real disappointing game. We felt like we had controlled that game. I think part of that year was that was a big game for us because we lost that game and things started to unravel for us. That was a tough game. We were up 19-0, but we were dominated that game and left a ton of points out on the field. We should have scored a lot more than that, and didn't show it. Obviously with some miscues, teams can get back in the ball game, like we have seen with this team this year.

That's why I think as a team and an athlete, whenever you think you have arrived, you've got in the bag and the coast is clear, that's the worst position to be in because at any given point, any given team can beat you. Look at San Jose State, you leave the door open for a team like that and you give them life. You look at the dynamics of that game: the offense was rolling on the first drive and moving at will, defense was going three-and-out and everybody was performing well. Then you have the fumble and things just went out of rhythm. The biggest thing is that they have the athletes to try and make it a game, which is what people saw. You have to put teams away and not give them a chance to come back.

A BCS opponent is coming to Camp Randall on national television with No.11 Wisconsin playing against Arizona State. What's your prediction on how this game is going to shake out? Can the offense play better and can the defense continue to have that spark?

Maragos: I think Arizona State is going to be a good match-up for the Badgers. They have some players, like their quarterback and running backs, that can make some noise and make it tough. I think our linemen are going to out match them, but it's going to come down to guys making plays and taking care of the little details. I think it's definitely going to be a good, tough test, but what I like about those guys is they are never going to be satisfied and they are always going to improve. I love those guys because of that. They have great leadership on their team and they are going to continue to work to perfect their craft.

I think you will continue to see the Badgers make strides and they are going to be better each week. I am 2-0 thus far and I think the Badgers will definitely win this one. I don't know too much about Arizona State's defense, but I am thinking 31-21 for this one.

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