A high school player in the state, Maragos got a chance to walk-on to the Badgers' football program in 2007 after two uneventful seasons at Western Michigan. From there he changed positions, started two seasons at safety and became a team captain on a 10-win team in 2009.
Now as he prepares for his third year in the National Football League, he kicks off his third year with Badgernation.com to break down the Badgers.
Every Monday, Maragos will breakdown the previous week's game and answering subscriber questions posted on the insider board. Using his knowledge of Wisconsin's defense and its personnel, Maragos' contributions give added insight to Wisconsin football.
This week, Maragos addresses the season-opening win, talks about some of the challenges the Badgers faced Saturday and addresses some of the problems facing a team heading to the Pacific Northwest.
A lot of players after the game talked about how important it was for them to have this ‘wake-up call' learning lesson in a win right away rather than suffering it in a loss. They felt it was good to reinforce the need to be crisp on everything no matter who they play. Do you remember some of the learning lessons you experienced in your three years?
Maragos: The lessons definitely can come from wins, but there are certain facets and ways you want to execute in a win. The good thing is you can learn from mistakes a lot easier from wins than you would if you had a loss. Corrections in wins are a lot easier to take. With that being said, I think all the guys realize that it really takes all 11 guys to make it work. Ten guys being on and one guy being off doesn't work on a play. You really need to have a complete game to have success.
The two touchdowns that came in the fourth quarter both came on identical wheel routes. First off, tell me the main differences from Wisconsin's base 4-3 defense and the third-down 3-3-5 defense. How do the responsibilities really change on the field with the extra defensive back?
Maragos: Basically what you are trying to do and what the differences are is the majority of the time you run similar calls out of those packages, except you are going to bring in a defensive back that can replace a linebacker or drop an extra linebacker back into coverage. What Wisconsin likes to do is put Chris Borland on the defensive line instead of a rush defensive end, and things like that. Basically you are going to substitute a better athlete to get some more athleticism and speed, but you are going to have a lot of the same run fits and different player being able to execute those things. It allows you to blitz out of different formations, be a lot more flexible because you have that defensive back that can cover a better player verse a linebacker on that player. It gives you a different dynamic of a defense that helps keep offenses off balance.
How much do the responsibilities change from a defense's point of view. Do they change a little or do they change a lot?
Maragos: The defense is going to change a little bit. I think anytime we come in with this package for ourselves right now, I think you have a little bit more freedom to roam around. If I am playing the deep safety and I know instead of having a linebacker cover a tight end or a running back, I will be able to stay a little bit more true and play a little bit more of the formation verse having a linebacker in the game, knowing that I might have to lean to that side a little bit more and be more cautious. The only thing that is going to change is for the defensive back coming in for the linebacker, he's going to have to know that linebacker role and that technique.
The long touchdown was the result of the Badgers blitzing and not picking up the receiver in one-on-one coverage. Where was the breakdown in your eyes on the second long touchdown?
Maragos: Anytime you see a wheel route like that in the situation they were in – which was Cover 3 or Cover 4 – a lot of times the linebacker needs to run with the wheel route, especially if it's a Cover 3. When a receiver goes out and runs a post, the cornerback goes with him and clears out the flat for the wheel route. The linebacker is going to be the guy that has to carry that vertical.
What did you think of Wisconsin offensively in a game where the Badgers really had to grind out yardage?
Maragos: Danny O'Brien, I thought, looked really comfortable in his first game with the team and the system. I think that was really encouraging to see because he's going to be a big piece of the offense this year. Obviously teams are going to crowd the box and any team that is going to play the Badgers, especially at home, their number one priority throughout the game is to stop the run, making teams beat them through the air. That's what I would do against Wisconsin is try to take away its best asset and try to beat us in a different way. Wisconsin had a good game plan against a team that's very well coached. I think Wisconsin learned a lot from this game, and I really think you'll see them execute better a lot better as a team after they knocked some rust off.
You've said one of the most demoralizing things that can happen to a defense is to allow a big third-down completion. O'Brien went 19-for-23 with two drops. How demoralizing is it when you are playing a quarterback that doesn't appear to miss?
Maragos: I think the biggest thing being a defensive back is you're in the right spot and right coverage, but the quarterback puts the ball right where it needs to be. It gets frustrating for the defender if you are in the right spot all the time and have the right coverage, but the guy just keeps putting in there. The biggest thing as a defensive back is you don't want to get outside of yourself or your coverage to try and make a play or do something different. You have to stay true and wait for him to make a mistake.
How hard is it for a team, even an experienced team, to play perfect in an opener?
Maragos: It's tough. Even though you have been practicing for the past month, you have new starters playing their first game and you haven't played in that game atmosphere. In fall camp, the coaches do the best job they can to put the players in the best situations. The flow of the game is a lot different than practice and those little things that are correctable in practice get exposed on game day. Those things are like a busted coverage, a receiver not running the right route or the quarterback having to hold on to the ball. Those little are things they'll have to continue to correct throughout the year and improve. Wisconsin has a great coaching and smart players, so they'll continue to get better each game.
One of the interesting things about this week's game is the Badgers will have to head out to Pacific Northwest, which is a two-hour time zone change and a change in altitude. You made that jump to Seattle, so what's the big difference for a Midwest football player playing in the Pacific Northwest?
Maragos: Well, I'd say that you have to deal with the time change but out here, the weather is a lot milder. You don't have to deal with the heat, so I think that plays with a lot of guys for the need to keep warm and loose during the game. If you sit around you can get tight and not have the rhythm in your body that you would if it was hot. You have to stay warm, you have to stay locked in and, like anywhere, you have to be ready to play when you come in. You have to overcome adversity, and that's the best part of this last game.
For the younger guys, they're coming into a program that has won back-to-back Big Ten championship, gone to two Rose Bowls and has had a lot of success. It doesn't just happen, and I know most of them know that. You really have to have adversity to become great and you have to have good doses of that. Going on the road, these are all good things that are going to pay off for the Badgers along the year.
Who has the big advantage from last year's game – Wisconsin who won the game 35-0 or Oregon State who was embarrassed in the game?
Maragos: I would say it's pretty even. I think the Badgers have an advantage over what happened last weekend and they are going to be hungry. They are going to want to come out and execute. In terms of the overall matchup, I think Oregon State might have a little bit of an edge just because of the way they might play. It's going to be at their home stadium, and they are going to want to have something to prove after last year. Coach Bielema's teams always have that mentality that they have something to prove, especially with the game we had last weekend. It's going to be a fun game to watch.
What's the key to victory for Wisconsin and what's your prediction?
Maragos: The big key is execution and doing your job. That's the thing that's going to be important for Wisconsin, because they have the athletes and talents in all aspects. Just playing the way they know how to play and how the coaches know they can play. I think the Badgers will do that and come out with a win. I am going to say 34-10.
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