Spring Q&A: Derek Watt

a year after being thrust into the fullback role, sophomore Derek watt embraced the position despite being raw and undersized. Now after a year of experience and building his body, Watt is looking to inject some power into the backfield.

Tell me about learning the fullback position last year and going through the season as the starter. As you reflect on the season, what was it like for you?

Derek Watt: I got switched midway through camp so it was a little tough at first but now looking back, after taking so many reps throughout a season in game situations, it definitely helps now coming back to practice in the spring. Granted we have a new system and stuff like that, but it's all relative to the same (offense). I've been expanding my role, trying to run with it and things are coming more naturally now than in the past. After getting in all these situation, I can make better adjustments than before I had all these reps.

What was your big growth moment last year? Whether it was a game, practice or something else, when did things start to click for you?

Watt: I just felt I took incremental steps throughout the season and I slowly got better at certain things. There was always something I needed to work on and get better at, but after the first few games when I actually had some game reps in the Big Ten I felt I started to get my feet going, make some real progress and get better and better. Watching the film from last year now, there's tons I can get better at. I am already working on it and already improving on it in spring.

Did your linebacker background have any impact on how you picked up the fullback role, because one of your jobs is to know where certain linebackers are?

Watt: You could say a little bit. With a linebacker mentality, I am doing the same thing (as a linebacker) but on the opposite side of the ball. They are trying to hit me and avoid me (while) I am trying to stick on them as long as I can. It's one of those things that as the play is going, and it's happening pretty quick, if I can read the d-linemen on my way through and see where the linebacker is suppose to fit in the gap. I can get a gauge on what he's doing and what he's thinking. I only get a split second, but I can get a little scheme of reading the defense when I come out of my stance. All those little things here and there might be able to tip me off.

Did you have a fullback's body last year or were you not at the right way, in theory, for the position?

Watt: In the Big Ten, a fullback at my size was not ideal last year. That's why I am trying to put on weight right now to get up to 235, 240 pounds by next season. Right now I am hovering around 230 pounds. I am trying to put on five pounds by summer and put on better weight and keep getting bigger. In the Big Ten, you've got to be a big guy and be able to stick your nose in there and go up against the big linebackers. It's all about putting on the weight and keeping my speed, as well. I can't gain weight and lose the speed or I can't be used as much in the running or passing game.

What do you like about the new strength staff? How have they approached building good weight and team chemistry, which is one of the main things that happens in winter and summer conditioning?

Watt: It's a lot different from when Herb was here. Coach Simon is really big into efficiency, as well all the other parts of the program right now. He wants to get in and out, do it right the first time and be efficient. That's what we've been doing down there. We've been building trust in him and he's been building trust in us. He knows what he's talking about. We've been doing a lot of "pre-hab." He doesn't want us to wait to get hurt to do rehab. He's big into that as well, so we're getting some "pre-hab" as well as strength training, and we do it all in a quick period of time.

How has the fullback role changed in Gary Andersen's and Andy Ludwig's offense? Is it still going to be as prominent as it was last year?

Watt: It's all relatively similar and I feel it will be about the same, if not more incorporated with the pass game. It's going to be the same type of offense with just little tweaks here and there. I am also getting some reps at tailbacks, so who knows with third downs and short-yardage-type plays.

How do you like Coach Ludwig's offense so far? What's the identity of it?

Watt: Going through spring, we're starting to get the system down and mesh pretty well. I think we have the right personnel to get down what he's trying to do. Coach Ludwig is a great coach and he knows exactly what he's doing. He's been able to throw all sorts of stuff at us and we've been able to pick it up and run with it.

Thomas Hammock gets a lot of credit to what he does with the running backs, but how much has he impacted you as a fullback?

Watt: He's impacted me tremendously. He's more of a running back guy, but the fullback plays a big role in the running back's success a lot of times. A lot of times the running back is following me through the hole and my block makes a difference to what the read is or how success what the run is. Coach Hammock is big on making sure you r head is in the right place, getting the block, getting the leverage, driving your feet and getting movement to make special things happen. He gets on you pretty good, but he knows what he's doing.

How good of a blocker do you think you were last year when you watched the film?

Watt: About average. Going back and looking at the film now, I was pretty small and didn't always do things the right way, but I got the job done well enough to get by. There are a lot of things I can do better this year, and I am already working on improving them. I've already gotten a lot better in a lot of phases. I've just got to keep grinding and get better on the things I am not working on.

What phases in your game do you think you have gotten better at through seven spring practices?

Watt: I am closing the gap between me and the defender a lot better, just getting up to him right away and getting more movement. That was the big thing. Getting on your guy, doing what you need to do and getting movement. Being a little lighter and just being thrown in there, getting movement was big and I got better at that throughout the year, but it's still not quite good enough. I am trying to get on the weight, working my feet and driving, my technique and get the movement the coaches are looking for.

What do you think is the big area of growth between now and the spring game that you need to do as an offense to get ready to move to the next step (summer conditioning)?

Watt: Just keep meshing. We're going to be putting a lot more (into the offense) before the spring game as far as I know. We have a lot of stuff in, but the concepts need us to keep grinding, watching the film and being productive during practice. We don't want to waste any reps. We want to take advantage of everything. Coaches preach efficiency and getting in and out (of practice), so we can't take plays off and waste our time.

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