BadgerNation: With Melvin Gordon gone, there’s a big opportunity for you to get a lot of carries. What has your mindset been coming into spring football?
Taiwan Deal: Coming into this year off of injury, my main focus is to keep my confidence up. I’m going to work hard every day. That’s all I can do.
BN: You experienced a wave of emotions last fall, having started off real well, hit a dry spell and then suffer an injury. What’s the biggest thing you learned about college football from going through that fall camp experience?
TD: Coming in as a freshman, the biggest thing you learn is confidence. You come in with confidence and confidence can easily be taken, just like the injury. The advice I would say is keep your confidence, be calm, cool and collected.
BN: What’s the biggest thing you learned from watching Gordon and Corey Clement just go through practice last year, as those two almost seemed to attack practice harder than they attacked actually games?
TD: Right. What I learned from them is how to work hard. Coming from the summer to fall camp and then the fall football to winter conditioning, you just watch and work with these guys and you see how hard they’ve been working. You develop that same mindset. As a running back, you need to be in great condition. They teach you how to condition your body.
BN: You’ve dealt with a lot of different running back coaches. Thomas Hammock recruited you, Thomas Brown coached you last year and John Settle is coaching you now. What’s that been like and how has Settle been to work with?
TD: It’s a lot of personalities that I have interacted with, but John Settle is a great guy. He came in and wants to teach us. That’s the thing I love about him. He’s a teacher but he focuses on perfection. He wants to teach us and have us be perfect at the same time. As a young guy I feel like I need to be taught a lot and molded, and I feel like he’s the right coach for that.
BN: You broke a bone in your right hand at the end of fall camp. When were you finally healthy again?
TD: I was finally healthy after the Maryland game in late October. That’s when I started to get healthier. But at that point, I still had times where my scar tissue wasn’t healed all the way. When I would block somebody I could feel some pain, but I could say around that time I started to feel great. I came in and finished the year strong. I felt 100 percent in practice in (November).
BN: How much more prepared do you feel now compared to six months ago?
TD: I feel a lot more prepared, a lot more confident and a lot more mentally strong. There are a lot of things that came up to where I feel I’ve grown a lot more as a player.
BN: How have you and Caleb Kinlaw pushed each other, especially since you are both redshirt freshmen coming off your redshirt year and injuries?
TD: Caleb is my roommate, so you compete on a lot of different levels. He’s a good guy to be around. Competitive is just breed in between us. We compete in video games, compete in classes, compete for grades, all sorts of things. I get along with everybody, so having lived with him from the summer to now, you build a bond with your roommate.
BN: What’s the biggest stride you want make from now until the end of spring? Where do you want to be at physically and mentally heading into the summer to put yourself into a position to compete for playing time in the fall?
TD: I just want to be in great shape, and I want to be mentally tough and confident. I want to have a lot of confidence going into fall camp. Confidence to help me run plays at 100 percent and know what you’re doing. You play football and it’s fun. If you don’t, it’s going to be a struggle. My confidence level is getting high. It’s getting there. It’s all about taking more mental reps, getting in the playbook, getting coached up by Coach Settle, being around my guys, my group of running backs and things like that.