Monday Press Conference: Barry Alvarez

Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez addressed the media Monday

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Barry, to your knowledge, does the Big Ten have jurisdiction to tell a school to punish a player and if so, do you recall the last time that happened?

 "You know I believe two springs ago we had a discussion as coaches with directors and the commissioner in the room regarding if there were incidents and the official didn't see them and a school could submit them to the league office and the commissioner had jurisdiction to suspend or punish a particular player. (reporter is inaudible) Yeah, I do. (reporter is inaudible) It's not my decision and I don't really care to even discuss that. I do know this and I want to say this publicly. There's no doubt in my mind that (Ohio State head coach) Jim Tressel and his staff do not coach that type of football and do not coach that. They're a class operation. They have integrity. They won a championship last year by doing things the right way and I … there's no doubt in mind. They do not coach that."

Can you give us an update on where Jim (Sorgi) is, how his voice is and whether you expect him to be able to go this week?

"Jim will be in here to talk to you and I ask that you not ask many questions. He will … Jim will be fine. He was taken to the hospital, vocal cords were okay, he's just talking a little softer right now. We may have someone call out calls during practice, but I don't expect him to miss any practice."

I don't know if you think there are … are there situations where legal action should be taken with an injury that happens on the field where the law should get involved?

"Who makes that decision? The person who has the action dealt against him? I don't know. Guys I really … we have a big game this week and we had a big game last week. You guys can speculate on this all you want, I really don't want to talk about that, whether there should be charges filed or anything like that. You saw it on TV. You can come to any conclusions that you like. Jim Sorgi is going to play. We won the football game. The young man (Robert Reynolds) apologized. Jim Tressel apologized. The Big Ten office and I'm sure Jim Tressel will take some kind of action. We're out of the picture. I'm in the business of preparing for Purdue right now. That's my mindset and I don't want to be short with you. I hope I answered your questions. But I really want to get my mind and my football team's mind on preparing for a very, very good football team this week."

There was another instance Saturday where your defense was put on the field with its back close to the goal line but only gave up a field goal and that has happened a lot since the Las Vegas (UNLV) game. Can you pinpoint the reason for that improvement and are you surprised considering some of the personnel absences that you have had on defense?

 "You know the guys stepped up and we played a very good game. We've been playing pretty good defense. Our front in particular is playing well. They are a physical defense, the guys responded. They are taking coaching and as a coach, you want your guys to get better. That's what I talk about in here and talk about to them every week is improvement and I like to think we are improving and when you answer it and your tough, that's one of the things we talk about being … winning in the red zone, winning in the goal-line situations on both sides of the ball. If you can make them kick field goals on defense then obviously it helps your football team, but that's executing. In this case we play … I mean we really played a very good defensive game."

Barry it gets talked about all the time … trapped games or game that you might have let down in. Obviously, Purdue is one of those teams that is a great team so far and has been all season, but you still had a tremendously emotional big game a week ago. How do you as a staff have to deal with to make sure that there is none of that?

"Well I think you have to be very careful when you expend as much emotion and get involved in a game emotionally as our whole team did. Not a handful of guys, I am talking about a team and staff, we put a lot into that game. I think you're better off when you win a game like that rather than losing a heartbreaker … I think can really gut you. But win or lose, the bottom line is you have to move on. As coaches we have to be smart about when we … we have to start preparing, we have to start teaching. The worst thing we can do is go out there and expect some type of a rah rah practice and that type of thing. We've got to teach. We've got to get our game plan in. We've got to get all that done and let our guys just absorb all that. We also have you get across to them, one of the old sayings is things are never as good as they seem or as bad as they seem, reality lies somewhere in between and people are telling you what a great game and you feel pretty good about yourself all you have to do is think a few weeks back and see what the same people were saying. Just realize that the thing that is important right now. What's important now? Preparing yourself for the Purdue game. As soon as they watch film and they'll see how good of a football team Purdue is. I'm looking at the … we haven't played them for three years and defensively they are the same guys that played against us and started in the Rose Bowl year. Offensively, they've always created problems. We've got our hands full. This is a very, very good football team."

For the coaches, for the players, and especially for the coaches, which is the tougher challenge getting ready and keeping focused for a game like Ohio State, not getting too hyped like you talked about last week, or making sure they're focused on Purdue and putting last week behind them?

"Well all of it. What's more important is the most recent game. You know that's part of our job as coaches is to get those points across to your kids and that's the job that we have to do is keeping that fine line, and trying to do whatever we have and push the right buttons to have your players ready. So, this week the most important one is to get them focused on Purdue as they should be."

Barry, this isn't the Purdue of Drew Brees and when Joe Tiller first got there. Can you just talk about how their whole offense has evolved and actually how their whole game plan has evolved?

"Well I think that the one thing you'll see game to game they change. I've said this all along. I really believe that Joe wants to run the ball. If he can run the ball, they're going to run the ball and they've done that in games. If he can line up with two tight ends and run the zone play at you, he'll feature that. I believe they ran over 50 times against Illinois. And you watch them against Notre Dame and they look like a Purdue team that had Drew Brees. Four wides, five wides, empty backfield, throwing the ball all over the lot. Not much two tight ends … I can't remember two tight ends running the football. So they have expanded their offense; they can be a physical team and run it, or they can spread you out and throw it. Depending on what they think is the best match up."

Barry, a few of your players after the game Saturday night mentioned how close of a knit this team was and how they have each others backs. Is that one thing you've noticed with this team, that maybe this is … they're closer than other teams?

"I think that this team likes each other. I think that they get along very well. I don't think that there is a lot of division between the classes. I think they've supported one another. It all starts with your older guys, if your older guys accept the young guys, and coaches really encourage it and guys buy into what your selling. I see that, I've said that all along that I think this is a close knit group and I think they enjoy one another."

Barry it must have been really taxing going up against that Ohio State defense for your team. Can you tell us how you're letting your players get fully recuperated from that and being fully prepared for this big contest coming up Saturday?

"Well, it was a physical game. Both sides on the ball it was very physical. The thing I find a physical game is you come out with less injuries normally. I think we came out in pretty good shape. The thing you have to watch at this time of year, and actually last week we did this, because we have played in some physical games. Your guys get tired. You get worn down. We're past the midway point now. Last week we cut back on practice. We kept our practices as physical as we normally have. We go against each other on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but what we did was limit the plays, cut the plays back a little bit. I think we cut out 15 minutes in each practice which is huge for those players. We thought about taking pads off one day, but the coaches just felt comfortable with the rhythm that we had and we didn't want to lose that, so we compromised by cutting back time because we felt that we had to counteract Ohio State's week off. We knew they'd be fresh and we tried to match that somehow, so that's what we did. We will discuss tomorrow … I've already told the guys to think about it, what we will do this week? How we will adjust? That's the one thing we always try to do is adjust our practices accordingly, so that's … and we'll decide that tomorrow, but it might be cutting back, it might be taking pads off at some portion of practice."

Purdue's been good defensively for a couple of years so it's no surprise. Could you break down them defensively, personnel and scheme wise, what makes them good?

"Well it's a sound scheme. The scheme itself doesn't make any difference, its executing the scheme. I think Brock Spack has done an excellent job, he … I tried to recruit Brock (Spack) many years ago, was a good linebacker and played at Purdue. They're coached very well, they have good players. Extremely fast, I think their front seven is very comparable speed wise to Ohio State's. (Stuart) Schweigert's a kid that we tried to recruit four years ago, he has started for Purdue since his true freshman year. He's an all-American candidate and deservingly so. Their secondary, their safeties are the best pair of safeties in the league. They are very active. They do a lot of different things. They'll blitz you, they'll maximum blitz you or they have a number of different combinations in the back end. They are very well schooled and very athletic, they can get pressure on you with only four guys coming."

Barry you mentioned keeping guys fresh and you appear to be back at full strength in the defensive line, at least as full as you'll be this year. Can you just address the impact that moving (Kalvin) Barrett, giving him more snaps there, and the return of (Nick) Cochart have helped with (Jason) Jefferson and (Anttaj) Hawthorne, who obviously played well, and talk about that unit overall?

"Well we thought … I was quoted saying earlier in the year that I thought that was out deepest position, thank goodness it was, and it thinned out in a hurry. But just being able to have someone come in and take some quality snaps and not hurt you … Kalvin has been really a pleasant surprise. He goes in and makes plays. He plays ten plays. He's involved in a couple. Two games in a row he's taken the guard right through the quarterback and forced a bad throw. He's made plays on the boundary, and he's really physical in there and he can hold up and he's a load. So that allows us to keep … you're not missing anything and keeping guys fresh. Nick (Cochart) is a guy that always is in the right position, he doesn't have the greatest ability, doesn't have tremendous athleticism, yet he's always in a position where he's supposed to be. He's always got his gap taken care of. Again, those other four are talented, good pass rushers. They create a lot of problems. I thought Anttaj (Hawthorne) dominated the middle of that game, they couldn't block him. Not only … you see his numbers as far as what he accomplished but also drew a couple holes. So you keep those guys fresh, they're all the more effective. Jonathan Welsh really gives you a lot of pressure off the edge. He is a good football player, never gets knocked off his feet, always going against much bigger people. He gives you a push in the pass rush. He can chase you down. He is really playing well."

Can you talk about the strides you have seen from Bandon Williams from last year to this year and just any differences and then talk about him as a compliment to Lee (Evans)?

 "Brandon a year ago was a play maker. He's a guy that came in and was never in awe of anyone. He's a fierce competitor. He's got a personality and an attitude about him when he's on the field. He loves to play. The biggest difference is just the natural fact that he's matured. He's probably 20 pounds heavier, so he's got a little more substance and just the repetitions and understanding the game, but he still has the same fire and competitiveness and spirit that he had a year ago. He's a playmaker. He makes things happen and he wants the football. It's hard, we see people … if you watch the game last week you had someone rolled up on Lee (Evans) a lot of the time and a safety sitting back there at half the field. If it's a pass, they're both looking him up. One of them is hanging on him, the other one is looking at him from the inside out, so that gives Brandon a few more opportunities."

Coach just wondering about the play status this weekend of Anthony Davis?

"You know I thought Anthony (Davis) was going to play Saturday. We made the decision Saturday afternoon that he still wasn't a hundred percent. If he cut in one direction he didn't feel comfortable. So hopefully we have improvement … he practiced all last week, so I would expect him to practice, go through our …we install game plan today and go through practice tomorrow and hopefully he'll be a hundred percent. Those other backs have done an excellent job but you're talking about an elite player in Anthony (Davis) and a guy that can hit a homerun for you."

You said at the start of the year that Jim Leonhard might not have the stats that he had last year, but here he is with four interceptions leading the Big Ten again and a punt return for a touchdown. Two questions, do you think there is any doubt he's overall a better player even than last year, and when you look at his four interceptions is there any thread, are they coming the same way they were coming last year, is there any way to break them down?

"No those are all different. I can't see any consistency. You never know how you're going to get an interception, whether it's a pick or a ball just thrown into coverage or whatever, so there's no consistency there. I think one difference between this year and last year is he's not beat up as much this year. You remember last year he was up on the line of scrimmage taking on a lot of blocks at times. Plus the wear and tare on that turf. The other day I asked him how he felt and he said, ‘I feel like the sixth game on the season. My legs are a little tired.' So we tried to use Saturday, being off our feet Saturday as an additional day to recover. But he's not as banged up as he was a year ago. I think in the long run, that should pay huge dividends for him."

Barry are you satisfied with the improvement you've seen from … on your kickoff coverage right now, and also what's going to be the key against Purdue's punt returner, who had a big game last week?

"Well I thought our kickoff coverage … I thought our whole kicking game was much improved and very consistent the other day. I thought our tempo was tremendous. I thought our kids really worked hard. Ohio State is … they have threats. They can beat you in the kicking game, have beaten people in the kicking game. But we changed up how we kick the ball. I think we kept them off balance. We made a few changes in there. I saw Zach Hampton went down on his first kick off ever. We had some live work with guys we try to give a chance to and he moved up, moved up to the starting unit, made the first hit. I mean he was screaming down the field and you like to see that. That's what we were looking for. So I thought we made improvement there. As far as answering Purdue, you got to punt to them, so our sprinters will have to do a good job and we'll have to do a good job, first of all protecting and do the same things as last week. You hit landmarks and your sound in coverage and make sure that when you have the opportunity you have to tackle. But you have to kick it to them."

In your opinion is the Big Ten the best conference in the country right now with seven teams in the top-25?

"I don't know. I think we're a strong conference. I think there are still a lot of teams that have a chance to win this league and I'll be honest with you Joe. I don't know what the other teams … how many they have with the South East Conference or the Big 12. I'm not sure how many they have as far as top to bottom in the top-25. I just know this I think our league in stronger this year than it was a year ago and we seemed to fair pretty well when we matched up against the other leagues in the bowl games. So whether we're the best or not, there's still a lot of football to be played, we're just at the halfway mark right now. That'll be answered come bowl time when we get to match up with the different leagues. I really think our league is good."
 


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