Marquis Mason: I never really worry about it too much. One thing I really like is (Coach Chris Beatty) doesn't really know a lot about me previously to when he came in. Really it's about my mentality coming into this year. I had to change a lot of stuff, so that was a big thing for me.
What did you all have to change?
Mason: Last year, the reason I didn't play was there was too many times where I didn't know plays. My effort wasn't always there. I would run hard one play and jog it the next. That's something I had to change immediately.
Bret Bielema was really hard on you, even going so far to say at one point that you were ‘nowhere near ready to contribute.' How was it dealing with a guy who recruited you and was so hard on you because he knew how talented you were?
Mason: It opened my eyes a lot actually. When you hear something like that and you kind of look up to this guy as someone you got you here, that really bothered me. Going through the season and realizing I couldn't contribute in some kind of way, helping Jared Abbrederis out, helping Chase Hammond out, helping Jordan Fredrick out, was devastating.
It's one thing needing help to get the light bulb turned on, but it's one to be beaten down all the time. That's not healthy for you either, right?
Mason: They were hard on me, but they knew what kind of potential I had. Last year I was looking forward to way too many things. I use to daydream about playing in the spring game. After the spring game I was looking forward to fall camp. While in fall camp I was looking forward to the games. I didn't take everything day by day. The reason they were so hard on me was my practice habits were terrible. I have never been much of a practice player, so practice was bad for me and that's why I couldn't contribute.
When do you think the light bulb went on for you?
Mason: It went on when I was considering transferring because I didn't know what else to do without playing this year. I didn't want to play on scout team. Coach B called me in his office a week before the first game and told me, ‘I want you here. I want you to play, but you can't practice the way you practice. I can't put you on the field because of the way you practice.' That was a big light bulb for me. I took not being able to play at a division 1 level and transferred that straight over to the scout team. I funneled all my energy and frustrations out on to the scout team. I played well, but people don't see that or hear about that. Having a coach say ‘great job' at the end of the day was my acknowledgement.
Did you get good feedback on the scout team and could you tell that you were developing better habits as the year went on?
Mason: Coach Strickland kept telling me to ‘keep doing what you're doing. We need those looks.' Half the time they came back and said some of the looks (I gave) where better than the looks they got in the game. Numerous defensive coaches keep telling me to keep doing what I was doing and they liked it. Even Coach B told me that I was doing really well and to keep me forward.
Was it hard when Bret, a guy who recruited who and a guy whose challenge you responded to, leaves and it's like starting over again with a new coaching staff? Was it a good thing to have a new guy come in and you have the right mindset?
Mason: The great thing about having a whole new coaching staff is nobody has preconceived notions. I don't want anyone to know the old Marquis, because the old Marquis is never getting anywhere. I have developed a work ethic. I learned how to practice hard, and do extra stuff to make sure I have the plays down. That's the stuff I want them to see. I don't want them to see the old me because the old me won't get anywhere.
What's the feedback been like from Chris Betty and Gary Andersen? Has it been mostly positive?
Mason: Yeah. You always get those little negative things, but those negative things are little things. Like not running to your proper depth, something you can change on the next play. It's not like I have to get out because I don't know the next play. I am getting great feedback not only from the coaches and defensive coaches, but also from the players. Abbrederis doesn't say a lot, but he said I've probably had the best practices since I've been there. That's very encouraging.
You mention you daydreamed about what was coming up next and that set you back. When you watched the team, particularly the wide receivers last year, struggle the way they did, did that eat you up inside, knowing you could be out there helping if you had a better mindset?
Mason: It ate me the entire year, especially stuff that I know I could have done or helped in a certain way. I know I could have done something, and it's very frustrating that I was sitting on the sideline because of my work ethic, something that could easily be changed in a practice in an hour. Mentally I wasn't there, and that was very frustrating.
What was your first meeting like with Gary Andersen?
Mason: He just asked why I didn't play last year and I told him I didn't have the mentally or the work ethic. He said I have two years left (and) get yourself together. He said I was big and I look like I could do something. I don't want to let him down.
How have you pushed yourself through six practices to impress this new coaching staff?
Mason: When you know the plays left to right, you are able to relax. You are tense at the line. You are calm and you do what you know you can do. I haven't felt this comfortable at a practice since high school. When I am comfortable, I can do stuff I know I can do.
How have you changed physically and how has that helped you become a better practice player?
Mason: I have slimmed down a little bit more. I lost only two or three pounds, but I've pushed myself in the weight room even though I know it's hard. That translates over to the field, and that's one thing I didn't do last year. I didn't translate my work ethic in the weight room to the field.
You have nine practices before the spring game, but how are you embracing each practice to prepare yourself and get better as a player?
Mason: It's going to be very big, and one thing I am doing this year that I have never done is taking it day by day. I'm working hard on getting ready for the next practice, and that's huge for me. I need to do what I have to do to make sure I stay at a high level and progressing to make sure I keep moving forward.