Monday Press Conference: Barry Alvarez

Wisconsin's football coach spoke with media Monday afternoon

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On the pre-season predictions of how team might finish in the conference:

"Well I don't think this far along in the season you worry about preseason predictions. I don't think anybody's sitting back saying, ‘We were ranked 12th at one time. We were here, we were there. This is where we were predicted', that doesn't make any difference. What you try to do as a coach and as a player, as an athlete, you better worry about the next game and that's all. You don't worry about where you've been and where you're going other than the game you have that week. That's all you can do. So I don't think anybody's losing a whole lot of sleep over that. They're mainly concentrating on trying to play well this week."

Kind of along with that, do you have a gauge on where your team's confidence is at, their collective psyche?

"You know what, every time we lose a game I get the same question. Every time we win a big game I get the same question. No one knows. You like to think that your guys are competitors, and they want to come out and play because it's another Big Ten conference (game) and you want to compete and you want to play well. But I think if every week you're worried about where you are mentally and how much confidence do you have and all that, it's athletics. That's part of athletics, the ups and the downs, and you have to learn to deal with it. That's part of maturing as a team. I haven't met with the team yet. They had yesterday off. So today we'll meet, we'll put that game to rest quickly, and we'll get started on Michigan State right away."

Barry, last week you made an early decision on Anthony Davis' playing status. Do you think you're going to go late in the week on that, do you have an idea as to what his situation is? And also Jonathon Welsh?

"Well, we'll just see where they are. When I sat in here Monday I didn't know, but after I saw him running Monday … I think we have a better grasp on what Anthony (Davis) has. We had a MRI Friday so we know what he has and it's going to be Anthony's decision. Jonathan (Welsh) I would think with just a few more days rest should be okay, but we'll see where he is."

(Michigan State running back) Tyrell Dortch will make his return on Saturday. Can you revisit what you and the program did for him when he hurt his leg and why did you do that?

"Well number one, I would like to think that our league does things the right way and really cares about the athletes in the league. You compete hard against one another, yet when one has fallen, particularly in your hometown and he's going to be here for a long period of time, the least you can do is show respect for that university and for that young man and his family, and try to support him. So myself and staff and a number of our players went over to see him because he was going through … he had some complications with that surgery, he was going to be here for a couple weeks. So we just tried to support him as best we could while he was here. I know he and his family and Michigan State's staff, they were all very appreciative of it. What you find out is he's really a quality young man and he was fun to be around and I think we have a special bond because of that."

Coach, is there anything you guys can do to … the offense plays well one week, the defense doesn't. The defense plays well one week, the offense doesn't. Is there anything you can do as a coach to the players to try and match those up on the same week?

"Well, we're sure trying to Jeremy. That's a thing that's frustrating at times. You have injuries mix into that. We've been an inconsistent team for the most part throughout the year. What causes that I can't put my finger on it. I don't think anyone can. A lot of the times your opponent has a lot to do with it. It's been concerning."

Barry, both Darrin Charles and Jonathan Orr have had to accept different roles this year. Have you been pleased with they way they've accepted it?

"We haven't had any problems, are you talking about as far as less activity? We try to make a big … we directed a talk to all of our guys about all the playmakers and you add someone like Lee (Evans) back into the mix and the fact that we only have one ball and we're just going to try and win games. We're not going to feature anyone. We're just going to try to build our game plan and see where it goes. Everyone maybe won't get the same amount of touches they did a year ago or two years ago. That'll all have to be played out. I think the guys all accepted that. I don't see anyone complain, I don't see anybody with their lip out, pouting. They've all been good team players."

Barry, in general over the years whenever you guys win the toss you tend to defer, although I can remember a couple of times in my head where you've in your post-game remarks where you've taken and said boy we wanted to come out and make a statement. What's your general philosophy on that?

"General philosophy is get a feel of the game, see what's going on and take the ball in the second half. There are times when we've wanted the ball and some coaches just depending on your offense and that type of thing. I think people might make a bigger deal out of that than what it is. I always just talk to the coaches on Saturday morning and see if anyone has any strong feelings one way or another. I think most coaches, if they had their druthers, would rather kick off and take the ball in the beginning of the second half."

Coach, you've got Jeff Smoker coming in here this weekend. How impressive, considering he's one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten right now, is this considering the year that he's had and how he's come back?

"Well it is impressive. If you remember a year ago, going into last year he was on the Heisman (Trophy) watch (list). I thought he was … he's been a tremendous quarterback in this league since he's been in the league. He played as a true freshman and was very productive. I think this system that Coach Smith has fits him to the ‘T'. You see that he understands it more and more each week. He executes it well and you know Michigan State as long as I've been in the league has never been in a lack of talent. They have good players around him. But it's nice to see someone overcome some off the field issues and deal with them and be upfront with it and then have the success that he's having. I'm really happy for him."

Barry, was your choice to throw it as much as you did more a product of what Minnesota was giving you or something that you think might be a game plan that'll be effective that you might carry through your last two games?

"Well, we went in with the idea that we would mix it up. I thought we were more productive throwing the ball than running the ball, consequently we did it more. I think that week to week, depending on match-ups etcetera, you have to be flexible enough to be able to do that and that's depending on how the games going."

Barry, do you think John L. Smith has brought a different attitude to that Michigan State program?

"I think John L. … he's been an excellent coach and he's been successful wherever he's been and he's got a plan. I think the players have bought into his plan and starting with the quarter back he's got the best players that fit what he wants to do. I think he's brought his program and the hardest thing when you bring your program is to have a group of guys buy into it and sometimes that's difficult. It's obvious that he's done a very good job. He and his staff have done a very good job of implementing what they want because the guys really took to it right away."

Barry, back to Brandon Williams for a second. Would you have even thought about giving him playing time at defense had you been fully healthy in the secondary and also is this just a ‘lets get through this season' or is this his future from now on?

"I'd like to let him concentrate on offense, had we not had injuries, we wouldn't be looking in that direction. But because of the situation, you have to be open-minded and take a look and try to find answers. You always try to find answers. If you have a problem you try to find an answer. That's what we try to do with Brandon. Hopefully we'll get some of our injured guys back and some of our young guys take a step forward and we won't have to do that with him."

Has (John) Stocco moved ahead of (Matt) Schabert as the back-up quarterback?

"Is that they way it is on the depth chart? I don't look at the depth chart. Schabes (Schabert) was injured and missed two weeks of practice and John (Stocco) got a lot of reps, so I don't know why that question is but …"

He looked like he was getting a lot of time in warm-ups prior to the game.

"I didn't notice it. I would guess if something were to happen to Jim (Sorgi) that Schabes would be the next guy, but John's had the most reps. He was the only one taking reps for two weeks."

Barry, there does appear to be some fans that are growing a little frustrated and impatient and there's this perception that there's a three-year decline going onin the program. Could you address that? Do you think it's accurate? How do you view that?

"I have to evaluate our program. Everybody wants to win. Everybody wants to win right now. This will be our ninth bowl in 11 years. You don't like to finish … everybody likes to stay where we were in ‘98 and '99. That's very difficult to do. I think if you take a look at any league or anyone in our league, as difficult as our league is, and how many teams are ranked or have been ranked throughout the year, you're going to have some ups and downs and you're going to have some injuries. I've never tried to keep it a secret; we made some mistakes in recruiting in ‘98 and ‘99, the two Rose Bowl years. We went after the top kids in the country. We came in second and third, consequently we lost a group of kids that we would normally recruit, and that hurt us in recruiting because we made a lot of mistakes over those years. You can go and make all the excuses in the world, but we've been very competitive. The record isn't exactly what we've wanted, yet we're good enough to go to bowl games and I think all you have to do is take a look around the country. It's cyclical how programs go. Look at Penn State. There is no better, no more fertile recruiting ground than Penn State and no one has done more for football than Joe Paterno and they're going to have their third losing season in four years. Okalahoma, as good as they are right now, went through a ten-year drought. It goes on and on. Teams that have been in the top-25 forever have droughts. I think the fact that this is a program that didn't have much tradition until we got here. We had a lot of success and won three Rose Bowl games, yet we're competitive every week and we're in bowl games. In the two years in the last eleven that we weren't there, we were right there. Get upset by a very good Michigan team, the other year that we didn't go I think we had two ties. So I think we're very competitive. We'd like to be better. We'd like our record to be better. People want to stay there, that's very hard to do."

You've obviously been high on the young talent in this program. Do you still feel good about the talent in the program?

"Yes, I think we have good young players. We don't lose many seniors this year. You would always like to be a little better in some areas, but I think we have a bright future and we'll continue to be competitive. I can't tell you what our record is going to be, but I think we'll be competitive week to week against top-10, top-five, top-20 teams because that's who we're going to play in our league."

Barry could you explain a little bit more about the recruiting problems?

"No disrespect, but I don't need to get into any further than that. I just said what they were. (Media clarification of question) 1998 and 1999, I think it's been documented, we didn't have many … normally our rate, if you study our 14 years here, we've hit on about 50 percent of our signees. Those two years, it was way below that. We didn't get many players out of those classes that were productive. We went back and studied it and those were years that we brought in … we changed our recruiting philosophy in some cases and it didn't pan out."

Barry, when you hear fans are disgruntled, how do you take that? Does it aggravate you, if people are passionate?

"Well let me tell you this, in 1998 and 1999 they were disgruntled because we couldn't throw the ball. Fans are always disgruntled. We can't match expectations of our fans and I've learned that over the years. I can't worry about that. All I can do is concentrate on what we're doing. You know what, I guess I've been around long enough and if you start worrying about pleasing everyone, you just can't. I know what the problems are and I try to solve them. Our staff works very hard and we try to do, with what we have, the best we can. That's sports right now. That's our society today. Football is a prime example. Everyone wants instant gratification. They want to go sit at a game, be very comfortable, want every play to work for their team and then leave, but football isn't like that. The other guys are on scholarship too, and they're good coaches too and good players. So a football game is a rollercoaster ride. It's a chess match. It's not like playing video games, there's a human element also. So I happen to understand … I go to football games and I see somebody, and if a play doesn't work, I've been in the stands and I've been in the box watching a Packer game and guys are complaining every time a play doesn't work. Well, they all don't work. So I don't pay much attention to it because I have to worry about the things that really do matter and that's being realistic and trying to get our team to play the best."

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