Dave Aranda: Any time there is structure to what you are doing and there's expectations, with positive and negatives coming from meeting and not meeting those expectations, you'll get results. That's always been Coach Andersen's philosophy. He gets guys to buy in and understand that and relish the competition part. We're getting that right now. Each practice that goes by the more livelier it gets.
There are a lot of returning players on the defensive side of the ball. Can you tell that you are working with an experienced group?
Aranda: Yes and no. There are a lot of guys that are out. There is a sure footing among the younger guys of a confidence growing. I think that will continue to grow the longer we are out here. It sure will be nice when we get the veterans back.
For a group that has played a lot of 4-3 defense, how do you like the way they have adapted to the 3-4 defense?
Aranda: The 3-4 gives you flexibility and a mixture of different looks. You can play an under front, an over front and we'll do all of those. They've been really welcomed to it and I think they like blitzing, stunting and doing different things. We need to feature the guys we need to feature to create mischief and make some plays.
Talk about the progression Jesse Hayes has made during the spring? He's been pretty active and for a coaching staff wanting playmakers, he's really flashed.
Aranda: He has. We were at the Rose Bowl practices. Coach Alvarez was forward thinking enough to get us over there and check everything out. He was a guy that caught our attention right away. When you are a new to a thin, unless you were with him in something like that, it's hard to figure out where he's going to fit. We originally had him at outside linebacker in winter conditioning, we moved him to defensive line for two weeks and then we moved him back. That stuff happens when you are new to a thing.
I feel we have him in the right spot and he's flourishing. He's only going to get better. He's a dynamic guy.
How important was it for the majority of the staff to spend time in California watching your future players work during the Rose Bowl?
Aranda: It was big. It was real big. That's where we made the move with Reggie Mitchell (from cornerback to safety) after seeing him out there. We thought Brendan Kelly could be an outside linebacker. We were able to get a really good read off our guys. One of them was Jesse. It was a positive experience as far as that's concern.
Where do you think you need to improve before the spring game?
Aranda: The biggest area of improvement needs to be our defense, and that's 11 guys on the run and 11 guys on the pass and everybody understanding their role within the defense. Communication has a lot to do with that and the reps have a lot to do with that. The only way you are going to get better is with reps, and all those things combined improve a team defense's structure. Knowing you are going to make your play helps me make my play. That's something that has to get built and that's day by day, piece by piece. That's the biggest area of improvement we can make.
You are working with a young secondary, but they have been playing pretty well throughout spring. What do you like about their upside?
Aranda: They are getting better. I think their confidence level is going up, and I think a lot of that comes from knowing where your help is, kind of like what we were talking about. I don't have to make every play. I have to make the plays on these cuts, my partner will make the play on these cuts and I have the linebacker underneath to help jump this route. Those are the kinds of things that if you attack everyday you'll get better at.
The numbers for tackles for loss and sacks were not eye popping the last two years. Is this a group that can provide a lot of that this year or is it too early to tell?
Aranda: I think so. I think that pressure and takeaways have always been the goals and we're going to continue to preach that stuff. It's important, and I think the kids feel that it is. We'll get there.
You've talked about how much you have enjoyed this experience here so far. What has it been like for you when you go on the road recruiting representing Wisconsin?
Aranda: It's been positive. With the Rose Bowls and Big Ten championships, we are identifiable and very well respected. I think anytime you bring up the institution, the education you get here is world renowned and it's a mighty sword to swing. I am excited to get out there for spring recruiting. The interest in us is high with some top quality guys. It's going to be fun to experience it.
What areas will you be recruiting?
Aranda: I'll be recruiting Florida and I've got a piece of Wisconsin, recruiting up in Green Bay. It'll be new for me, but recruiting is recruiting. It's about getting to know the kids, getting to know the coaches and doing things the right way. I've got some guys helping me know what's what, so I'll be able to work those angles in spring.