Big Ten teleconference: Barry Alvarez

Wisconsin coach discussed the development of his defense and the Badgers' game at Purdue

Opening statement

"We are certainly pleased with a hard-fought win at Ohio State last week. I felt our football team improved. Our defense continued to play well and I really thought in particular our quarterback John Stocco did some good things and showed a good deal of improvement. Obviously this week we go to Purdue and certainly have our hands full with an outstanding football team."

You guys have obviously had as much success getting to the passer as about anybody in the country this year. Do you think it is harder to find and develop pass rushers now?

"Defensive linemen seem to be hard to find. In may cases, I think, you have to project a high school player. Project his growth and then develop him. That's where we are with our defensive ends. Erasmus James and Jon Welsh, our two defensive ends, both played one year of high school football. Jon was a cross country guy. When we recruited him I don't know if he weighed 200 pounds. We liked his speed. We thought he could grow into a good pass rusher and an edge defender. Ras was the same thing. He was a probably 210 or 215-pounder when we recruited him. But just felt with his frame that he could fill out and hopefully if he got stronger that he'd give you what you're looking for. Because you just don't go to high schools and find guys like that. I think you have to develop them and the hardest thing is projecting."

Are offenses as much as anything making it harder now. When you have spread offense, teas using the short passing game as almost a substitute run game. Does that make it harder to get a pass rush?

"I think everybody's going to protect their quarterback… The good passing teams you can get somebody clean to the quarterback and the ball is released before you get there. Or they can maximum protect and limit the number of people going out on routes, number of receivers out, and protect the quarterback and get the ball out. That quarterback's so valuable people are going to make sure they protect him."

Could you talk about the development you have seen in Kyle Orton the last couple of years. What makes him such a special quarterback?

"He started out with a gift of a strong arm. The thing you see is he is very intelligent. He understands the game and their offense very well. He knows where to go with the football. You can just see his wheels turning, you see about every gadget defense. You see people trying everything, yet he is able to recognize and knows what he's looking for. Knows where to go with the ball prior to the snap. I think he also has excellent speed and escapability. That's the thing that, the last year when we played him, he flushed and moved the chains a couple times with his speed. We had some guys in position but just couldn't run him down. As far as his progress, I just think you see him progressing and understanding their system. His accuracy allows him to get the ball where it needs to be."

On Purdue's 6-foot-9 receiver, Kyle Ingraham:

"He presents a problem because most of your defense backs are smaller guys. It's a mismatch physically. He's a big, physical guy coming off the line of scrimmage. If a defensive back does a nice job of covering him, he still has that height and the reach advantage where he can still get the ball and make something happen."

Have you ever seen a wide receiver in college that is quite that big

"We've got one 6-7. I think the more you look around you see receivers that are bigger. You see a lot of 6-3, 6-4, 6-5 and 6-6 guys. You are starting to see more and more big receivers but he almost looks like a tight end lined up out there when you watch film."

Your game against Purdue, at least on the surface, looks like a clash between the old Big Ten way of doing things and the new Big Ten with you hitting them in the mouth and Joe Tiller's offense trying to dink you to death. Is that too simplistic a view or is it valid and why?

"I think it's simplistic. I think you are just talking about offenses and your perception of offenses. I think if you take a look at the numbers at Purdue, they can beat you throwing the ball. They throw it very well. They'll spread you out and they certainly are capable like they were against us a year ago, of coming out, lining up in a spread offense and staying in it all game and beating you. Yet, they are certainly capable of running the ball. I think the one thing that people overlook when they talk about Purdue is how well their defense has played, not just this year but over the years. I think hey led the league in total defense last year. This year they are one of the top teams again. Defensively, they are a physical team, a very physical team. I think that's one of the things they do better than anyone else. I've always had the perception that a team that throws so much really has a hard time keeping that toughness on the defensive side of the ball because they don't practice against it in the spring and during two-a-days and every day at work. So they don't see what they are going to see on Saturdays. Yet Purdue has found that formula to be able to do it. They play defense like you would imagine any good Big Ten team would have at any time."

In your opinion in Joe's seven years in the league has he influenced a change in thinking about how to play offense in this league?

"I came into this league in '79 with Hayden Fry and we threw the ball around. Mike White came in in '80 and he was spreading it out and throwing it. In '79 up at Minnesota, Joe Salem was a one back spread ‘em, 4-wide offense. You can go to Wacker at Minnesota. There have been a lot of teams that have been one back and no backs and have thrown the ball in this league. I don't know if anyone has done it as well as Purdue. I think that's the bottom line is how you execute your offense and how you adjust your offense. Obviously Joe probably has done it better with that style of offense than anyone else."

Keeping in mind the old saying that defenses win Big Ten championships, does Purdue meet that test this year?

"Well, they have an excellent defense. I think that's the one thing that probably surprises a lot of people, particularly with the number of departing players. They had a great defense last year… They had nine guys that went to the NFL off of that team…Yet they come back with a young group and are very effective."

You've had a lot of success in Columbus over the years but it seems like we are seeing more teams going on the road and coming away with wins versus ranked teams. Any thoughts on why it seems like that's happened over the last 3-5 years?

"Boy, I really don't have an answer for you. We were fortunate this past weekend. We went up and played a good football game. Our guys made plays when they had to. I don't know about other teams and whether that is something that is going on around the country. I guess I haven't paid that much attention. I'm kind of watching one team."

Your strengths this year—strong running game, great special teams, outstanding defense—are kind of the trademarks you've had from your past Rose Bowl teams. Was it important for you to kind of return to your identity?

"Well, we try to do that every year. Some years we do it better than others. Defensively, the last few years we've been inconsistent. This year we've got a veteran group back. We have a veteran defensive line. I think that's the strength of our football team. We've got a little depth with veterans in the secondary, which has helped. We try to accomplish this every year and some years your players are a little further along and you're able to do it a little easier."

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