Zac Matthias: It's a great opportunity. Anytime I can work with the ones with that group of guys, it gives you more experience to possibly get that starting spot. If something happens in the future and I don't get the starting spot, I'll have worked enough where I can step in and fill that spot if something happens.
Talk about last fall camp when you were in the mix for the starting right guard spot. How disappointed were you when you didn't get the opportunity?
Matthias: It was kind of disappointing. Basically what happened is I just got outworked. That happens and that's all on me. Costigan is a great player and it was me who lost that spot. That was definitely disappointing. I've been trying to work my hardest so that doesn't happen again.
In what areas do you think you were outworked and how did that motivate you?
Matthias: Definitely practice settings. Sometimes I just didn't come to practice with the best mental attitude. I was slumping around sometimes. That's definitely what the coaches' saw and why they took me out of that spot. That lit a fire under me. I come to practice and I try to be mentally there as best I can.
Did the issues with Mike Markuson take some fire out of you because I know a lot of you guys were not happy with how things were going last spring camp and fall camp?
Matthias: I think it was just the fact that I wasn't a good practice player at that point. It was something I had to work on personally myself.
When did you turn into a better practice player?
Matthias: Definitely when I lost my spot and it was a letdown. I had to take inventory of myself so I started coming to practice motivated every day. When Costigan got injured, I was allowed to play in the Illinois game, which was nice of the coaches to make me the starter. It was nice to be able to get in there and show them that I can do this still. I feel like definitely this year is a new year and a new staff that has given me a blank slate. I am really trying to show them I can play.
What was that first meeting with T.J. Woods like?
Matthias: It was good. He just told that he thinks I have a lot of potential. I have been here five years now and it's about working hard and being locked in.
How have you grown from practice one, especially since you guys are short on numbers and you are getting a lot of repetitions?
Matthias: I've really learned a lot. Going against this defense, there is so much movement and do so many different things that we don't see all in the time in the Big Ten. It definitely has increased my football intelligence going against all these movements and working in the film room with coach.
It also looks like you are in better shape. What did you do this offseason to prepare your body for spring?
Matthias: The new coaching staff has weights that you have to make every week. It's plus or minus so many pounds for each position group and the offensive line has a plus or minus of four pounds. Coach Woods leaned on my goal weight, and it was definitely something I wanted to do. When I weigh around 330 pounds, I definitely feel sluggish. Around 315-320 is my optimal weight, and I am around 320 right now.
What's the mood like with the offensive linemen this spring compared to last spring?
Matthias: We're definitely in a transition period. Ryan Groy has done a great job of being a verbal, vocal leader and I am trying to come out as a guy that leads by example. I am trying to come out every day and be a guy who practices my hardest. We're still meshing as a group, but we're coming along.
Everyone loves Coach Woods. He has the same principles as Coach Bostad and most of us worked for Coach Bostad for a long time. It's the same things he instilled in us, so it's working really well.
Talk about the Illinois game when you got the opportunity to play. What do you learn from getting game repetitions that you can't get anywhere else?
Matthias: The biggest thing you learn in the game is the speed because practices are never as fast as the games. Once you are out there and you see that, you get more acclimated to how games are and the looks of the defense. It really was a great experience.
What positives have you done up to this point through spring practices and what things are you still trying to work on as you approach the spring game next Saturday?
Matthias: I would say one of the positives of what I've done is I am pretty good with my hands inside. The coaches have commented on that with pass protection. One of the things I need to work on is getting off the ball. I've been trying to work on that my hardest. I would get down on the line and I'll see looks and I'll freeze a little bit. I've definitely been getting better at that.
What has it been like being the only player from Lower Michigan playing for Wisconsin the last five years?
Matthias: When I first came here, there were some friends back home who were Michigan or Michigan State fans who were trying to talk crap to me. It's something that I really haven't bought into. I am a Wisconsin guy. It's been nice being from Michigan and seeing us have so much success.
What are some of the goals you have to make this your best year yet?
Matthias: Right now my goals this year are just to start at this point. I don't want to look too far ahead, so right now my goals are to work hard every day in practice, show the coaches that I am a capable starter at right guard and go into fall camp being that guy.