Musings from Maragos

After two standout seasons in the Wisconsin secondary, Chris Maragos is collecting a NFL paycheck in San Francisco, having just been activated to the 49ers active roster. He also joins Badger Nation for a weekly insider look at Wisconsin football, talking this week about then-No.1 Ohio State and looking ahead to No.13 Iowa.

MADISON - It's been a pretty good week for former safety Chris Maragos.

Not only did the former Wisconsin safety get activated to the San Francisco 49ers active roster, Maragos sat at home and watched his former team thump Ohio State, breaking a three-game losing streak in the series.

Maragos continues his weekly feature with Badger Nation, talking about the Buckeyes and the Hawkeyes.

Badger Nation: As an alumni and a guy that knows these players well, how thrilled are you not that they won, but how they beat Ohio State? We had been talking for weeks about when is this team going to play a full 60 minutes and they certainly did that Saturday.

Maragos: I think every week we talked about once they get clicking, it's going to click. I told you that it's a group of guys that loves to play football, plays hard and plays for each other. When you have a group of guys like that, eventually it will click. That's what you saw. You could see it in the defensive backs and how well they are playing together. You can see how well they are playing individually and as collective units. It was a convincing win.

Badger Nation: From a scheme standpoint, what did Dave Doeren and the defense do differently in defending Pryor than they maybe haven't done in past years? It seemed like he was more under control for the most part.

Maragos: Yeah, I think the biggest thing with a guy like Pryor, you want to make him get outside of his comfort zone. When he gets flushed out of the pocket or gets into a situation where he is a run, pass threat, that's tough on defenses. I thought they did a phenomenal job of containing him and making sure when he did get out of the pocket, they gave him some different looks. I think that's one of his weaknesses, where he has to do enough to defeat you mentally. When you throw different things at him to keep him guess, that's where he struggles. He's a tremendous athlete, but that's a way to exploit him and that was a big key.

Badger Nation: How impresses were you with Antonio Fenelus' pass defense? He was step-for-step with his receivers to knock up some big plays and he delivered some big hits.

Maragos: Huge. Watching Antonio since the day he stepped on camps, you saw something special in him because of the way he competes. I think he is really coming into his own. I think he understands what type of player he is, what his strengths and weaknesses are and he's really playing to those. He seems really comfortable there and once you start feeling comfortable in a defensive scheme as a defensive back, that's when you can start playing fast and loose. That's when you can really make some plays and really make a difference, and that's what you are seeing. You see a guy like Niles Brinkley with a lot of experience. There were some balls in the air deep and he broke some passes up. All those things factor into it, and those guys take it personal.

Badger Nation: Watching the game, was there anything you could pick out that the defense didn't do well that they'll need to really clean up before this Saturday?

Maragos: When you beat the number one team in the nation pretty convincingly, it's hard to pick out the bad things. I think one of the things that the guys are going to need to continue to build off this success. That's the biggest mistake the Ohio State game to have, that it was such an emotional win and that was it and things are going to start to roll. This game at Iowa is going to be a tough one. They are a really solid football team. The biggest thing is that there are going to be some mistakes, but it's a game of human error and those things are going to happen. I know those guys are going to be focused on this week.

Badger Nation: Having been in that locker room, do you think it's pretty easy to get excited about playing Iowa, maybe more so than getting up for Minnesota?

Maragos: To be honest, just the bitterness we had last year with the Iowa and how we felt about it, this game is the one the guys have been thinking about for awhile. It's one that they really want to win. Wisconsin will be ready and Iowa will be ready. It will be a tough game, but I think the guys have the ability to go out there and put things together.

Badger Nation: In Cover 2 and Cover 3 defense, what are the big differences between those schemes in the college level and the professional level?

Maragos: The covers are totally different from each other but pretty similar from college to the pros. Where the weaknesses are in Cover 2 is the middle of the field is open, meaning you have split safeties. You have two safeties high, leaving the middle of the field open with the corners are playing in the flats. You're exposed to a lot of deep in routes. With Cover 3, it really exposes the quick game on the outside because you are going to have linebackers dropping to the flat, so the flats are vulnerable to quicker players. Of course when you run four vertical and you've got safeties deep and two corners deep in Cover 3, it's called a stretch on the middle high safety because he has two coverages on either side of him.

I think the biggest thing I see in the professional level is the guys on defense know where the weaknesses are and are very conscious of the weaknesses when they play. If they are playing a smart quarterback, they have an idea where the ball is going to go based on what coverage they are in and make their breaks. You see guys that really understand coverages in college and they can put themselves in good positions to make plays. That's what I tried to pride myself on is understand what coverage we are in and knowing where the likely area the ball is going to go because of the weakness in the defense.

Badger Nation: You've gone against Scott Tolzien for three years and we haven't seen him unleash the deep ball yet. In your experience going against him, how well does he throw the deep ball?

Maragos: I'd say he's a good deep ball thrower. I don't want to say he's average because he's not, but the thing I notice playing defense against him, he always understood where the ball needed to go. It was really frustrating, because you would never make any plays playing against him. He's so good at putting the ball in the right spot. He does such a good job controlling the offense and it frustrates the defensive backs because you're going out there trying to make plays. He picks you a part. In games, you are playing against quarterbacks that are technically sound or accurate and you go, ‘Oh, this is nice.' Scotty prepared us so well going against him during the course of the week because when you get to the game, guys were making plays on throws that Scotty would normally make.

Badger Nation: You're 6-1 after picking the upset. From the sound of it, I think you're going to be sticking with the Badgers on this one …

Maragos: I'm picking them to win because I am thinking they are going to win. I think this is a game where the Badgers understand what's at stake. They understand that they just beat the number one team in the country and nothing is guaranteed this week. I have been in that locker room and the coaches are going to be harping on the fact that last week is last week. These guys are going to be ready to play and I think they match up really well. Iowa plays really good defense, but I think the Wisconsin offense is really strong. I am going to say 28-20 Badgers.

Badger Nation: Speaking of locker rooms, is Iowa's pink locker room so overrated? Does it really have an effect on how a team comes out and plays with your mind or is blown out of proportion?

Maragos: When you go in, the urinals are pink, the toilets are pick and everything else is pink. I never felt it plays with your mind. The only advantage is that it would is guys would be going, ‘Boy look at this place. Look how stupid it looks.' Maybe it distracts the guys off the game and gets them more in a joking mood. I don't think it makes you play softer or makes you more timid. It's more ridiculous than anything.

Badger Nation: I would be foolish not to ask about you moving up the active roster. Tell me how you found out and your excitement level of officially being on an NFL roster?

Maragos: We were in meetings watching the game film and making corrections. Bill Nayes, who was the football operations guy at Wisconsin, is the football operations guy for the 49ers. He came to our meeting when we were watching film, said he needed to see me and told me that I wasn't in trouble or anything. I didn't know if they were going to let me go or anything. They shook my hand and told me that I got activated to their roster. It was definitely very exciting and gives me a tremendous opportunity. In my career, that's all I can really ask for and wanted. I don't want any promises, juts an opportunity. I've made the most of my opportunities so far in my career and hopefully God willing, I can go out there, compete and do the best job I can to help this organization win some games.

Editors Note: Wearing No.40, Maragos' experts to be involved in the special teams game when the 49ers travel to Carolina and play the Panthers.


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