Spring Q&A: Jesse Hayes

There's a lot of young players vying for playing time on the Wisconsin defense, but head coach Gary Andersen called Jesse Hayes the big key to the Badgers' defense. BadgerNation spoke with Hayes about his development and goals for the upcoming months.

Gary Andersen said during spring practice that you were one of the keys to the defense; that figuring out what role you were going to play was going to help slot other guys. Do you feel like this spring was your best opportunity since you been here to make an impact on the field?

Jesse Hayes: My previous years I haven't had the same opportunity that I have right now. It's been a true blessing to get this opportunity, to get this opportunity to compete for a starting job.

When Coach Aranda told the group that he was shifting players around to get more speed on the field, what was your reaction to that change?

Hayes: I think it's a good thing. It's out skill set. It's what we're working with this year. We're not big, but I think we're faster and something that is going to play as an advantage to us as we develop our skill set.

Was it noticeable last year that the amount of tackles for loss and sack numbers were down from the previous year, and how do you rectify that?

Hayes: I think it's getting the right people in the right positions on the field. Last year was a different year because we had different personnel on the field for a different defense. This year I think we have a better feel for it and that's going to be a big thing in applying pressure and getting to the quarterback.

How is your role define this year?

Hayes: It's still officially at the B-backer, which is the pass rusher, playing the run, dropping back from time to time and more playing inside the trenches and getting after the quarterback. It really has changed much.

You've always had those pass-rushing skills having grown up around the game thanks to your dad (former UW assistant and current Cincinnati Bengals defensive line coach Jay Hayes). Have you felt the stuff that you learned growing up has been able to translate well to things you are doing now on the field?

Hayes: I do. Growing up I got to see a lot more football than any other people. Blessing or curse, it's been cool to just come out here and sometimes I don't even think about it. It just happens, and I really didn't even know I was good with hands or stuff like that until people told me. I just think it's been awesome to have someone like my dad, who knows all those techniques, to be able to look at him and see what he does.

Is your position one of the more competitive positions on the defense because you have a number of really young talented guys who are playing for spots?

Hayes: I would say in general the whole defense is competitive this year. I think there will be a lot of battles going into summer. Not just the B-linebacker spot, but all over from the inside to the F-side linebacker spot. I'll be competing with Vince Biegel and Sherard Cadogan for those spots.

For a guy who got a chance to watch a lot of Biegel last year, what does he bring to the table that will help this team, and how has he helped you?

Hayes: Vince is a great leader and he brings it every day. That's his thing. He brings it. He gives 100 percent tenacious effort all day and every day. He does that really well and it rubs off on us.

What's something you learned from scout team work last year that has helped prepare you for this season?

Hayes: One thing that I definitely learned from being on scout team last year was maturity. I learned a lot. I grew up a lot. A number thing, too, is that I can compete with any of these guys. Whether it be first team or second team, I know I can do it.

How have you changed your body in the past four or five months? Hayes: Coming here, I knew that was something that I needed to work on. I had to improve my stamina on my field. That was a big thing for me because I felt out of shape a little bit. This offseason I really want to focus on getting leaner, being able to come out and run without being tired. I don't want it to be an issue for me.

Through spring practices, do you feel that your conditioning level has helped you do things at a more sustained higher level than you were in fall camp?

Hayes: Definitely. If I could compare this spring to last spring, I would say that I struggled a lot physically. Not it's just mental. I need to work on cutting down my mental mistakes and have my mental assignments, knowing what I am supposed to do and when I am supposed to do it. Physically I feel great and that I can compete with anybody but it makes it harder when you don't know the plays. I think if I can get that down, I'll be ready to compete.

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