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 week, 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 how Wisconsin has improved from week one to week of conference play, how turnovers have improved Wisconsin's offense, the challenges of prevent defense and spread offenses and where he sees this team going into Purdue.
Badger Nation: We saw in the fourth quarter Saturday the team we expected Wisconsin to be and saw the defense finally create some turnovers in the past two weeks. How important was it for the defense to get those first couple turnovers and watch the offense turn them into points?
Maragos: No question. You always hear that turnovers come in bunches. Anytime you are in the plus ratio of the plus/minus turnover ratio, I think your chance of winning go up 78 percent. It's important to have those extra drives and usually when you get a turnover it's in good field position. It's really important to have that for the success of the team.
BN: You experienced this in Carolina yesterday and were able to overcome in while Wisconsin experienced this in Lincoln and couldn't overcome it. When you are on the road and the momentum is against you, what's the key to stopping the building momentum from the other team and put it back on your sideline?
Maragos: I always say that when things aren't happening, I walk around the sidelines and telling all the guys that we need to be twice as good, twice as detailed and twice as focused to get things back under control. It's difficult because the other team is feeding off that energy and it's tough. You have to go against the grain and really fight against it.
Maragos: When Martinez did best for his team was use his feet to scramble and extend plays. I think those really are the back breakers. That's the ‘X' variable that is tough to defend against guys like him. He did a great job, obviously, and he's a real confident player. Against Illinois, Wisconsin was able to get more pressure consistently throughout the game and do a better job of tackling and containment, so you can tell they put an emphasis on that throughout the week.
Anytime you are continuing to prep for the similar offenses and get live game reps against it, the better you are going to get. I think that's what we saw carry over to the second game to the next games against quarterbacks who spread it over. There's a lot of carry over to the game plan on what you are going to defend and what you are going to attack. I think you get better and get more comfortable playing that kind of football.
BN: Did you hear David Gilbert's comments leading up to the Nebraska game and if so, how would you react to that if you were a captain on this year's team?
Maragos: Yeah, that's usually not normal with guys in our locker room. We never had an instance like that (my senior year). I think I would I have approached the guy and said, ‘Listen, man, it's going to be hard enough to go to Nebraska and play a game against a team like that and beat them. We don't need anything else to light the fire they already are going to have.' The biggest thing is to stay humble, stay contrite and stay confident in what you are going to do by letting your play express that. The statement was said, so you have to try to go out there and back up your words. You have to be ready to go play.
BN: When you have an offense that is struggling and can't stay on the football field, how much of an impact does that have on a defense?
Maragos: What I would say to that is as a defense, you have to go out there and perform no matter what the circumstances are. In terms of the extended amount of plays in a drive or the length of time you are out there, it obviously wears on you. The biggest thing is that all those guys are conditioned really well. The thing is when you get physically tired, things start to lapse mentally. That's the biggest thing, I feel, from playing football is the thing you have to be caution of. The mental aspect is the harder aspect than sucking it up physically.
BN: Are you fan of prevent defense? Why or why not?
Maragos: That's one of those tricky ones. You don't want to give up anything deep, especially if you are putting guys in single deep or man coverage. You don't want guys to beat you deep or give up a cheap penalty. You look at it from that aspect and you look at it from the aspect of putting two high safeties and maybe let the opponent get some underneath routes for 10 yards here or 10 yards there. There are a lot of different ways to look at it. The important thing is that you have to look at your personnel and go with what their strengths are. If I have good corners and linebackers that can cover, I like to play a little man and a little zone to keep the offense off balance with blitzes and sagging off. That way, offenses can pick you a part.
BN: In your eyes, who is the best team in the Big Ten right now?
Maragos: I think Ohio State and Michigan State are two teams that stick out. Wisconsin has done some things, but what those two teams have been able to do makes them really intriguing with the players they have and way they've done things. Wisconsin is right there. They're working with a new quarterback and different areas, but they are close to hitting on all cylinders.
BN: You said previously that you feel Wisconsin's offense is playing really well, so where have you seen this defense and what players make huge strides in the past few weeks?
Maragos: I think they are forcing turnovers, ball hawking and making plays. The more you can get the ball back, especially for the offense, I think that's really big for a team. That's where they can take it to the next level. As you move along, I think they really focus on those areas and make that happen. Devin Smith is a guy that is very savvy and has a lot of experience, which helps a ton at the cornerback position. It's the most physically demanding on the field in terms of the athleticism and what you have to do on every given play. He's really progressed as the year has gone along and he's really taken ownership of the backfield.
BN: What about Saturday's game intrigues you? This is a big game in terms of the make-up of the Leaders Division, especially with Ohio State and Penn State. What mindset does Wisconsin need to take into this week?
Maragos: You obviously have to take care of business. Purdue is a different atmosphere and you have to go in really focused, especially playing on the road. On the road, you have to bring your defense and your special teams. I think that's going to be really important and Wisconsin is really going to have to execute. You saw them have a lot of life in the fourth quarter. Guys were making plays and really doing some things that got the ball rolling. You can see the excitement level rise, and they need to carry that over to the game Saturday to keep taking those next steps.
BN: Going against another spread offense and playing a team that was embarrassed at home last week, what's the key for Wisconsin to win this game and what's your prediction?
Maragos: It's one of those things that you have to do every week but against these spread offenses, you really have to eliminate the explosive plays an offense can do. That's going to be very vital and crucial. Offensively, I think Jared Abbrederis is the key to stretching the field and getting defenses off balance with the passing game. That opens things up for the running game and makes things that much easier.
I would have to say Wisconsin - from the success they've been having, seeing their confidence rise and what its offense was able to do – is going to win 28-17.
BN: Finally, in your opinion, what defines a simultaneous catch?
Maragos: (laughing) That's what the people want to know? For me, personally, it's when both players have their hands on the ball or contact or possession or the ball. That's what it is and that's all I am going to say.