Monday's Musings from Maragos

After two standout seasons in the Wisconsin secondary, Chris Maragos bring his knowledge to Badgers Nation for a weekly insider look at Wisconsin football, breakdown down this week Wisconsin's defensive performance against UNLV and some of the off-the-field challenges facing Oregon State.

Badger Nation: Wisconsin's defense was thrown a major curveball Thursday when UNLV started running the Pistol offense, which UW hadn't prepared for. As a football player who has prepared for days for an opponent, how difficult is it to scrap everything you had studied and watched and try to install a new defense on the sidelines with a game going on?

Chris Maragos: I've never been a part of a game where you had to complete change, but there definitely have been a lot of packages and formations you had to switch. The biggest thing is that the coaching staff, from what they can call, the way they game plan and the way they prepare, it's hard to make a lot of calls that would put a defense in the right position based on those tendencies the offense is running. It definitely can make things difficult.

Badger Nation: Knowing that they had to install a new defense on the sidelines in short time, how impressed or unimpressed were you with Wisconsin's defensive performance against UNLV, especially in the first half limiting the Rebels to three points?

Maragos: Just based on what those guys are doing, they have a lot of talent on defense. The big thing I can say is that they have to tackle better. That's the thing that really stood out to me. If you are going to miss, miss with leverage. When you are in your first live game and you are going full speed and getting used to your angles and different body movements from players, it's an adjustment and most players catch up pretty quickly.

Badger Nation: There were a lot of bad themes in 2008 for Wisconsin and one of them was bad tackling. It seems the last two years the missed tackles have been cut in half. Was what the main thing you guys did after that season to get better at tackling? It's all about technique, but it's also about the mentality to be aggressive, correct?

Maragos: That's exactly it. Those are definitely the two things that you have to take into consideration. At every practice, we had a tackling circuit and had a few different stations where we worked on different drills to improve our fundamentals. I also think as the year goes on, you get used to your speed and how you approach things and how to take the air out of a play, especially as a defensive back. I think it's one of those things that you just have to feel it and it starts coming natural once you get into a rhythm.

Badger Nation: What can a player work on to go from a good tackler to an exceptional tackler, especially a defensive back who is on the last line of defense?

Maragos: I think is it taking the air out of the play, which is really the tackles we are making in our position. You have got to close the distance between yourself and a player. If you give them too much room, that's more room for that player to do something to make you miss. You got to know within your defensive scheme where your help is with the run fits, where the pursuit is coming from, what leg you are going to shoot for to make the play and what angle the guy is running from. All those things factor in to what you are going to do out there and how you are going to approach it. It's all about getting after a guy.

Badger Nation: How hard is it after a month of practicing and preparing for that first game to take everything you have learned and apply it in the first game? Is it hard to jump into that first week right away?

Maragos: It's not hard, but it's different. In practice, we're going to have different periods that simulate different scenarios and down and distances. There are so many things that happen in the games that it all mixes while practices are structured and more individualized. You've got to know the flow of the game, get a feel for it and really hustle to knock that rust off.

Badger Nation: Would you say that Wisconsin's defense in the opener was very vanilla, not doing too many things to put too much on tape for future opponents? For most of the game, Wisconsin appeared comfortable in its base defense and 3-3-5 defense.

Maragos: It seemed like they were trying to run plays that they are good at and they are trying to be really good at what they do. I have always heard that you don't need to run these magical defenses to be successful. If you know how to run the right defenses, you should be able to execute, play the call and go play. I think the biggest thing as the year goes on is that they will be able to evolve, being able to put different guys in different situations and I think you'll see a lot of great things out of that defense.

Badger Nation: In your three years at Wisconsin, when traditionally did the coaching staff give the defense the whole playbook for a game? When did you feel you could intermix your whole playbook easily?

Maragos: I would say that you go through camp and spring ball, you are going to install everything that you are going to run that season. The first few games, you get a feel for things and see what works and what doesn't and as the season goes on, you are going to continue sprinkle in some new things and different looks and change things. It all depends on the guys on defense, too. If they can handle more, the coaches are going to put more in and do more things dynamically.

Badger Nation: When you watched Chris Borland play at the mike linebacker for the first time, how do you think he did with his plays and with the way he positioned the defense with his calls and reads?

Maragos: I think he did good. Obviously it's a different position, but the guy is such a natural player. He has really progressed, especially since he had so much time off. He's not going to change what he is or the type of player he is. I think every player along side of him is going to play just as hard as him. I think it's going to be fun watching these guys progress. You start out with the base foundation and as the season goes on, things continue to evolve and that's when you see the team come together.

Badger Nation: Coaches say the biggest jump on the field happens from week one to week two. In the years you played in '08 and '09, what do you remember the biggest jump being from the opener to week two?

Maragos: I would say that the first game has so much emotional, going through a rough summer camp, spring ball and summer workouts that you are just excited to get out there and fly around. The second game I think you see a lot more technique because guys settle down a lot more, they get a little more comfortable playing at game speed, they get used to the calls and how to run those calls in game situations. I think you see a lot of guys settle down and a lot of guys really improve their technique and let their skills take over.

Badger Nation: With Saturday's game being a 9 a.m. Pacific time. With you having been on the West Coast for two seasons, how big of adjustment is it jumping a couple time zones and playing a game the next day? How does it affect the body?

Maragos: No question. It's definitely going to play into the Badgers' advantage. When you think about it, the game is at 11 a.m. The wake-up call will be around 6:30/7 a.m. Those guys will be waking up around 4:30 Pacific time. They are going to have to get ready to rock and roll real early, but I am sure they'll get a good wake-up call with Camp Randall rocking.

Badger Nation: When you came to Lambeau Field for a noon kickoff, how did your preparations change throughout the course of the week leading up to the game? Did you move your schedule up to try and adjust?

Maragos: I think we were up earlier and we did some work a little earlier. Not a whole lot earlier, but just getting our body used to being up and moving around. Your body gets in a routine and your body has a certain time it wants to eat and get loose. It would be to Oregon State's benefit to switch up the schedule a little bit.

Badger Nation: You're 1-0 with your picks, so what is your prediction for this weekend's Wisconsin game?

Maragos: This is what I'll say. I'll say Badgers win, 55-17.

Join the Badger conversation on Facebook! Go to our Facebook page and "like" us!

For more Badger sports news, notes and discussion, especially on game day, follow Badger Nation on Twitter @TheBadgerNation

Badger Nation Top Stories