Monday Press Conference: Alvarez Verbatim

Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez addressed the media at his weekly press conference.

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Barry, I know Kalvin Barrett has played in your goal-line package on Saturday, but this week he's listed on the depth chart as a backup tackle. Is he going to be in the base or are we going to see him in the mix?

Alvarez: "I would guess we're going to get some more work with him on defense. He's probably taken, maybe five or 10 minutes worth of work during our practice time with the defense, and I think (defensive line coach) John (Palermo) wants to get him over there and get him a little more time during practice, so if need be that we could move him. But he'll continue to play both sides of the ball, but we'll just get him a little more work."

You guys said before this season that there would be some games where one receiver would have 10 catches, the next week that guy might not have as many. Are you satisfied that Jim (Sorgi) is spreading the ball around enough or have you seen him lock onto Lee (Evans) a couple times where it has hurt him? I'm thinking of that interception down in the south end zone Saturday.

Alvarez: "Well, he had a lane to throw that ball and he didn't put it in the right… if he had put it on his outside, it's a completion. So I can't say that, I saw Lee running behind the defender and he threw the ball to 25 (Brandon Williams). So if we start looking and see who's open and who he's going to, I thought his attempts for Lee were there. I thought they were good reads and he is spreading the ball around. There are going to be games when Lee's numbers aren't going to be up and some else will. That's just the way it's going to be. I'll tell you the one thing that's maybe as impressive as Lee and Anthony's performance in that game was how well our receivers blocked. That goes back to being unselfish and not worrying about numbers of catches, but knowing how you can help the football team. I don't know of anybody that's receivers are latched onto the secondary guys like ours are and competing out there and blocking. A lot of guys don't like to do that. Yet everyone one of them that are playing, and I think that that's by example of number three (Evans) and how hard he works down field in trying to tie up defensive backs. I think that's an example of unselfishness of those guys and when they say they're worried about winning games and that's their number one concern, that's proof."

Was that holding call called on Jonathan Orr on that one play?

Alvarez: "It was called on (tight end Jason) Pociask and it wasn't there."

What is the most encouraging thing about your offense so far for you and with the start that you guys have gotten off to?

Alvarez: "The most encouraging thing is that no one notices the offensive line. They've been solid and they've seen a lot of blitzing. They've seen, particularly the first week, a lot of pressure put on them, a lot of movement up front, linebackers coming. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what we were going to get at receiver, at running back, at quarterback. Yet three new starters and I think that's overlooked. They've been in the program, but that's still three new starters in there. So to answer your question, that would be my most encouraging thing."

On the flip side of that, you say that every week you want to improve. Do you see improvement and what's your biggest concern still, two games into the season?

Alvarez:  "You know what, in football there's so many variables so that you're never satisfied. You strive for perfection, but you never get there. Offensively, I thought we did get better, but we still, we turned it over in the red zone once and we got a turnover deep in their territory and then came out with three instead of seven. We still fumbled it … we had a center-quarterback exchange and that just drives me crazy. I remember when I first took a college job and Hayden Fry saying, 'you spend all this money in the program and you do all this practice and all the time. Then you go out there and you can't get a center-quarterback exchange.' It kind of defeats the purpose of everything. So that's always stuck in my craw. Defensively, we didn't get better. I said that after the game. We just didn't. We abandoned some things. I thought we abandoned fundamentals the second half. The first half was acceptable. We knew we'd give up yardage, but we had one breakdown on their touchdown, but we abandoned some fundamentals in the second half … but those are things that can be corrected."

Barry, there was some concern with some NFL medical people that during the preseason there was some lower leg injuries to players who were exposed to new turf surfaces. Basically, they said that there's supposed to be an adjustment period for some players to figure out what shoes work and that type of thing that is best suited for that. Did your players come out of their first true game on that turf in good shape? Did you notice anything along those lines that would fall into this category?

Alvarez: "Well Andy, that's our second game on the turf. Not ours in particular, but West Virginia had a very similar turf. Our concern mainly was just the footing and the traction for the players. As you look out there, you see a number of different shoes that they're wearing and I think a lot of it is by position and how guys are cutting. The linemen probably could get by with like a wet rat, with just nubs on the bottom. I think some of them do just wear that, but I didn't sense any problems. I think there were some problems that the Bears found at Illinois, they thought that surface was too soft and I thought it was soft when we played there. I didn't hear anything else referring to what you're talking about."

Barry, getting back to the blocking by your receivers. I think Brian White talked about that last year that guys like Brandon (Williams), and guys like Jonathan (Orr), the young guys, weren't going to be as good at it as you guys would like. Are they already better at it now than they were last year?

Alvarez: "They are. One of the reasons is that they're stronger. Brandon came back on that play of Jonathan's, Brandon peeled back and you know a year ago at 155 pounds, you're not going to be that effective. You're not going to throw it in there as hard as you want and it may bounce off someone. But all of them are stronger with another year of lifting. And they're substantial when they cover you up and a lot of them have good size and they can tie you up. Absolutely, they are better and I think they probably understand what we want more. They see Lee doing it and working at it and how hard he works at it to be a complete receiver. So there's no question. They are much better."

A couple of web sites this morning have Anthony (Davis) as the front runner for the Heisman (Trophy) and then you have Lee wins player of the week in the conference. Should both of these guys be considered for that award? Should they be considered two of the four or five best in the country offensively?

Alvarez: "Did you ask that question about the Heisman last week? Who was it that asked that question last week? It was timely. You were here Joe. I thought you may have been on top of it (laughing). Those guys had the credentials coming into this season. Both of them had the numbers and that's what it's all about. I think they are in the upper echelon of their position in the country. I do. I thought they had been. You know Anthony's rushed for more yards than anyone else in the country for the last two years and Lee's numbers speak for themselves. Yet to win that award or to be considered for that award, your team has to play well and you have to win a lot of games. I hope they are considered. I hope they're both at the end of the year."

Coach, you're talking about the quarterback-center exchange. Besides that, how do you think (Donovan) Raiola has done for you? Secondly, how do you think your Hawaiian players have adjusted to Madison-Midwestern life?

Alvarez: "Raiola has played very well. I really like what he brings to the field. He has got an intensity about him and personality on the field. He does a lot of talking, but I just think he brings some confidence and some toughness to the offensive line. And sometimes offensive linemen, they are stuck down there grunting and straining, and he brings a personality there. I really think he's played well and I like what he brings to the table. Just talking to the players, not, the ones that have been here, I think have made a very good adjustment. In Donovan's case with a brother and (Olin) Kruetz down in Chicago, and his father comes over here,  his father and mother will probably be here for three, four or five games during the year. And he has places where he can go and see family and friends, so I think it's probably a pretty easy adjustment. I think R.J. (Morse) has really made a nice adjustment this year after being here for a few years and Lyle (Maiava) is the same way."

Given the limited practice work that Alex Lewis gets as a rusher, how has he been as that nickel rusher? And has that been vital to get you through this period of the slight numbers in the snaps he's given you?

Alvarez: "Well, it's helped because of the injury situation there and we went from me standing here saying how good I felt about the defensive line because of the depth becoming such a thin line in a hurry. So that has helped us. You know, I think sometimes we give Alex too many things to do and he's a guy that needs repetitions and needs to feel comfortable with them. We just need to get him back to square one and play linebacker and concentrate on that and I'd like to be able to get back to that. But he gives you speed off the corner. He made, well it was a blitz, it really wasn't with his hand down when he got the sack at West Virginia. It's a luxury to have him be able to have him do that."

You guys get to see UNLV again, how do they compare to the team you guys played out in Vegas last year?

Alvarez: "I think they're better offensively because the quarterback is more consistent. He's a much better thrower than what we saw a year ago and I think all of you that saw that team a year ago could see the potential and quickness of the running backs. They had skilled players at wide receiver. Their offensive line was young then, but they're a mature offensive line right now. Defensively, they're linebackers are very athletic. It's basically the guys up front and that strong safety is as good as we'll see. So I think it's a better football team than what we've played a year ago. It's more mature and probably understands John (Robinson's) system a little better."

Akron pulled it to 31-34 at the beginning of the fourth quarter. A lot of the student section sat down and stopped cheering at that time. It's been said that a lot of this has been due to the fact that "Jump Around" wasn't played. Did you feel a loss of the twelfth man, did you feel that momentum swing on the field?

Alvarez: "We really appreciate our crowd. And nobody appreciates it more than me and the louder the better. I wear headsets and my headsets really cut out a lot of that so a lot of things that go on in the stands I'm really not aware of. I'm kind of distracted from that but I have heard rumblings of what you are talking about and we want our fans, and in particular our students, into the game. I will tell you that, because we appreciate them."

Barry, back to UNLV a little bit. One guy who wasn't there last year, I think it was that big kid, what have you seen on film and what kind of match-up problems is he going to present?

Alvarez: "Well, he wins the Toledo game for them because I believe he's 6-7 or 6-8. He has good speed and he's fast enough to get down the field and split a zone. With his size and bulk, he just out-mans and he can get leverage on defensive backs. In both of those cases, like in one case he just outran the safety, got behind him to get the go-ahead touchdown and then the very next play, they got a turnover and he ran a corner route and beat their corner and went up and out-fought him for the ball. So you throw someone like that into the mix and he's a threat, someone that you have to obviously know where he is and account for him."

After Akron passed for a lot of yards some people might say ‘well, here we go again' kind of with the secondary. Do you have a level of concern with the secondary or do you see some things there that are encouraging despite the number of yards?

Alvarez: "Yeah, you know yards, there are some other things that concern me more than yards. I thought Levonne Rowan played particularly well. He got out-leveraged, he was in man-coverage and took outside leverage on a slant route. That may have been the only pass completed on him. I really thought he competed well for the long ball and had good leverage and positioning on his guy, and that is a guy playing with a club on his hand – I think that is off this week. So, I was very encouraged with him. Jimmy (Leonhard) plays well. I just, there are some other things, and I mentioned this earlier, I just thought a couple of our guys and it wasn't just the secondary - your linebackers - when the ball is thrown in the middle of the field fifteen yards or so, it should go over somebody's hands. And that is underneath coverage. I didn't see a lot of that. That's linebackers in coverage. It is not just the secondary; It's not just putting the onus on them. Obviously I think we can get a lot better and I think we can improve on them and basically use this film to teach and teach that when you abandon technique then everything goes up for grabs. We've got a ways to go. I have to give them (Akron) credit. That kid (Akron quarterback Charlie Frye) is a very accurate thrower – there are a lot of people in those zones and he's putting the ball right where it needed to be. There were very few ricochets, very few overthrows, very few drops, and so somewhere along the line, they have to get credit too."

Has Darius (Jones) handled his whole situation the way you hoped he might? Do you have any sense of where he is coming back right now, mentally or…?

Alvarez: "It is hard to know where people are mentally. He practiced all week, so I would anticipate he should be chomping at the bit to practice today and get back in the mix and play, so I wouldn't expect him to miss a beat."

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