How do you get up to speed? Talking to other coaches? Watching film?
"Since I've got here I've watched every film that we played a year ago. Went back and visited a week ago with all the defensive coaches, found out exactly what we were doing defensively and then went back over this past weekend and watched five of the games that we lost and figured out exactly where the fundamental breakdowns were, some things that we possibly could do better. And I've met with every defensive kid…from the left defensive tackle to the right corner and we met with everybody in between. And basically what I shared with them is the only thing I'm trying to figure out at this point is what we can do better. Anything that we change—(former Iowa head coach Hayden) Fry taught me a long time ago, he said, ‘if it ain't broke don't fix it.' And there's a lot of truth to that and that's just meaning that anything that we did well we are going to continue to do it, maybe with a little bit more faster tempo or a little bit more authority. But anything that we didn't do well—some big plays, some opportunities to take the ball away. I think that the biggest thing as a defensive coach you are always worried about preventing a score but I think something that I've learned in the last couple years especially is to be takeaway oriented and then to score or convert off of that. One of my most memorable moments, we (Kansas State) were playing USC two years ago and had really done a good job. I believe we were up 18 or 16-0 and there were three minutes left in the first half and our quarterback got stripped of the ball and the ball's on the ground and USC picks it up and scored. And our defensive guys were so angry with that situation we went out and blocked the PAT, scooped it, ran it the other way, changed it to two points, put that momentum right back on our side and gave them one of their few losses in the last two years. That taught me more than anything right there that if you take the approach that not only are we going to make a stand and make a stop but we can convert and score ourselves on defense that's when something special can happen."
Any early impressions of the talent level?
"Well I've watched a couple workouts. You can't work specific skills and drills worth them but I do know this after watching film: There are obviously some guys up front who can get at the ball with a little bit of authority. You got some guys returning in that regard. Got some guys on the back end who can cover up and erase some mistakes. We run (to) the ball well and cover some wideouts. And linebackers I really like the personality that they're showing and the character. I think everybody right wants one thing and that is to win as many possible. The thing that Ohio State proved to me two years ago—I watched them win close game after close game after close game and then eventually give them a Big Ten championship, which put them in the national championship game and they won a national championship with a great defense and good special teams. And across the board a lot of the special teams units are going to consist of defensive guys, so the one thing that I've observed over the last couple years especially within the Big Ten is you take a play-by-play approach a game-by-game approach and you take one step at a time, if you put yourself in a position at the end of the year to win a championship within the Big Ten Conference everything else takes care of itself."
For you, what is it that you hang your hat on or that you would like to think separates you from other coaches?
"That's a great question from this standpoint. I think at the University of Wisconsin on any given Saturday, we are going to line up on some Saturdays and have better personnel than they do. On some days we are not going to have as good of personnel from position to position across the board. So then what it comes into is attitude. I really believe the only thing you do every day when you get up is your attitude. That is something that's easy to say but I really believe it. Everybody is going to have a bad day but keep it to yourself. The more energy, the more excitement, the more enthusiasm, the more you can convince a kid that even though he may not physically be able to do something. If you tell him he can and he believes he can, he will. I think that's what we have to hold our pride on is kind of step up to the plate when others don't think we can."