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 watched Wisconsin in person for the first time at Camp Randall since leaving the program and shared his thoughts on the game addresses what a blowout can do for a team's morale, the role of a strongside linebacker in UW's defense and his memories from Minnesota week.
Badger Nation: First off, welcome back to Camp Randall. As you sat back and watch them play in person, what things stuck out to you about how the secondary played and how they adjusted?
Maragos: You see them playing with a confidence right now, which I think is the biggest thing. You see as the game goes on that they get more confidence. Once they settle in and see what the other team is doing and how they attack, they are veteran guys who have played a lot of football and they know what's coming. It's a lot of fun and it's rewarding to watch.
Badger Nation: What were some of the adjusts you saw the defense make as the game progressed?
Maragos: I saw a lot of guys really read their keys and make sure they were on their assignments. Especially when you play a team that uses a lot of misdirection-type things, if one guy is off the play before, the next time they come out in that situation, the guy playing behind him might be trying to do a little more. If he does that, then he is off and that screws up the play with a snowball effect. With guys doing what they are supposed to be doing, I think they made some good adjustments stopping some seam routes and really took over what they were doing.
Badger Nation: You obviously got to see the wildcat formation debuted. What goes into making that formation work and did you ever think you'd see your Badgers running that on offense?
Maragos: It's really unique what they do and adds a different wrinkle. Defenses are going to have to take more time and game plan on that, and that's going to take more attention off the things Wisconsin really does well. It's a win-win. They are running the ball great now with three really good tailbacks. It was excited to see them hit their stride.
Badger Nation: How important is it for a team to add wrinkles as the season goes along to not just put more things on film, but to keep players excited and engaged?
Maragos: No question. The biggest thing is not for your own team, but other teams have to prepare for something completely new that turned out to work successful. Wisconsin can run a couple looks off that play, and opponents will have to prepare for that instead of preparing for UW's power running game. Running that play really stretches opponents and create gaps and seams that will open up the playbook for them.
Badger Nation: You do you give the Chris Maragos game most valuable player award to?
Maragos: Ethan Armstrong played pretty good and I liked to see that. To see James White really have those explosive plans and understand what he's able to do on the field is great, because he has that extra dimension to give Montee Ball a rest. Those are the two guys that really stood out to me.
Badger Nation: Is it exciting for you knowing that when you watch this team, they haven't completely hit their stride yet? This team is a little reminiscent to the team you had in 2009 that was really good, had a couple of bumps in the road but kept progressing and got better each week.
Maragos: I agree with that. The best thing about this team is the early adversity is paying off right now because those guys understand that they don't' want to go back to where they are. They understand how good they are. Now that they are feeling how good they are, that confidence keeps snowballing. You saw how they are putting up points the way they are, the way the defense is playing and the way special teams is covering kicks. You want to hit your stride at the end of the year, and to see them get going in Big Ten play is really satisfying.
Badger Nation: How much can a win in a rivalry game when a trophy is at stake carry over
Maragos: It's big. If you lose a game like that, it takes the wind out of your sails. For them to be able to win, it adds that much more to be able to build off. We opened up conference play at TCF Bank in 2009 and you go in, play a team like that and put a whooping on them, it's tremendous for the things you are trying to accomplish. It's especially important for the young guys that have been plugged into certain roles. That gives them the confidence to get up to speed with the rest of the guys.
Badger Nation: This team has gone through a month of camp and this Saturday will have played nine straight weeks. What's the thing you have to guard against by playing so long without having a week off?
Maragos: I think the biggest thing is when you get in certain routines and you don't take care of certain details because it's the same thing over and over again, your leadership is important to make sure guys are locked in and taking care of the details. Once you get teams that are evenly matched with you, the littlest things are the most important things in the game that make the difference between the win and loss column. As you go through each week, you have to take care of your preparation.
Badger Nation: Michigan State hasn't been here since 2009. What have you seen over that time frame that has taken the rivalry between the two schools to a new level?
Maragos: It's definitely been turned up, probably since they have become more of a competitor against us. The year I graduated was the year it really started to take off. Michigan State is a solid team and it's going to be a tough game. I am excited about it. They've got some defensive backs that can play and their defensive line has William Gholston, who is a real difference maker with what he can do. It's going to pose some problems. You have to make sure you shut a guy like him down and make sure he's not a factor in everything you are doing. That's going to be some important. They play really hard and have guys at every level that can play.
Badger Nation: Would you put this Wisconsin team up against anybody in the country right now?
Maragos: I would say that the way they are playing, the confidence and the way they are hitting their strides, I would say that they are one of the better teams in the Big Ten, if not the country. Just the way they are clicking, I think they are really making positive strides. All that matter is where they are at the end of the year. It's exciting to watch.
Badger Nation: You mentioned shutting down Michigan State's playmakers, but what do you think is going to be the key overall for Wisconsin to win that game?
Maragos: It's the turnover battle. I think when you have a guy like Gholston coming off the edge, you can't allow him to sack the quarterback and cause fumbles. Those types of plays that a special player could bring can change that game that quick. You have to make sure you are not giving a team like that extra possessions. It's going to be extremely important and like every week, Wisconsin has got to be able to run the ball and set up the play action.
Badger Nation: What's your score prediction for the game? Are you going to pick a shootout or a low-scoring affair?
Maragos: I think it's going to be a really close, hard-fought game. I really like the way Wisconsin is playing right now and I like that they are playing at Camp Randall. I am going to go with the Badgers winning 24-21.
Badger Nation: What did you say when you addressed the team Friday night, as it's evident you're your speech inspired this victory?
Maragos: Yeah, I know. I am surprised they didn't let me run around with the axe out here (laughing). I really just told them that it comes down to every man having something in them that fuels them. Whatever it is that fuels you and gets you going to play through injuries, to be part of a team like this and put so much effort into it. I told them to just tap into it. Some guys are motivated to want to be the best. Some guys are motivated because it's God's gift to them. Some guys are motivated because someone told them they couldn't play. Whatever it is that motivates you, find out what that is and use that.
Badger Nation: What do you think fueled them>
Maragos: I think just the passion to win this game because of the axe. Anytime you are playing in front of a home crowd like this, with a fan base that is so good to you, you never want to let them down. Those guys have a lot of pride in playing for each other, and I think you saw that come out.