Big Ten teleconference: Barry Alvarez

Wisconsin football coach discussed defensive linemen, the BCS and former assistant Dan McCarney

Opening statement:

"We were certainly pleased with the win this past Saturday. It was good to get the Axe back. I thought our offense played very well and in particular John Stocco had his best ballgame of the year by far. This week we have a very tough assignment going up to Michigan State to play a very physical and very athletic team."

Barry, you've said that Erasmus James is the best defensive player you've ever coached. Can you explain why you feel that way?

"Because of his productivity. He has all the physical tools: size, tremendous speed and athleticism. He can bend, he's flexible. Tremendously gifted but he carries all that onto the field. I've had other players that were gifted that weren't near as productive as him. But he's very productive when he's out there. Last week he played five plays and was a factor in the game."

He's a guy that only played a year of high school football. What was it that you saw in him?

"He was a project. He was someone that we projected would be a player. We saw him at an All-Star practice. He probably weighed 210, 215 pounds but we felt he had a big frame, a frame that potentially could grow and we saw how he could move and how athletic he was."

Could you discuss the BCS situation where we could conceivably have undefeated teams in the Big Ten and the SEC not be in the title game?

"You only have spots for two people in the title game. If you have more people that are undefeated or, whoever is ranked the highest in the BCS is going in. That's the way it is. The thing is the rules were set before the season started and everybody knew the rules and the guidelines and that just may be the way it works out."

Are you an advocate of their being that extra BCS game, after the normal bowls?

"I always thought that would give credence to a true national champion, where having four teams that were rated or, as we are right now, and then have an additional game. I think you could get closer to a true national champion that way."

Erasmus James gets a lot of publicity, and deservedly so, but as far as your defensive line, how does Jason Jefferson fit in and what unique talents does he bring to the line?

"Jason draws attention from the people that play us that really study the film. He's a three-year starter. He's as dependable a player as we have. You always know what you are going to get from Jason. He's very disciplined. He always gives you a push in the middle and he's always in the proper gap. He runs very well for a 310-pounder and is very active for us."

What about personally, how has he been from a coach-player relationship?

"Jason's really a mild-mannered guy. He's one of these guys that you never have to worry about on or off the field. He's going to do what he's supposed to do. He's a gentleman. Always pleasant, always has a smile on his face. Just a pleasure to coach."

Dan McCarney just became the career victory leader at Iowa State. He's at his tenth year at a school where coaches don't usually last that long. When he left your staff what did you think he was getting into there?

"I was familiar with Iowa State having coached in the state of Iowa as a high school coach and also at the University of Iowa. I was very familiar with that program. And I played at Nebraska so I played against Iowa State. I didn't think there was anyone that they could hire that could do a better job than Dan or was more familiar with the Iowa State situation than Dan. Knew the state. He has tremendous energy and besides being a good football coach I knew that he would do a great job of selling the university and working very, very hard in recruiting. Keeping his share of the quality players in Iowa at home. I just thought he was the perfect fit when he took that job."

Are you surprised at all that he's stayed put for 10 years and that maybe he didn't take another opportunity somewhere else?

"I know there have been people that have talked to him. He's been a hot commodity. I think a lot of people are very surprised that he hasn't moved on. But I think Dan has found a home at Iowa State but I think they've been good to him. He's also a very loyal person."

He has had some down years; he had a down year last year. What's the importance of having an administration stand behind a coach?

"They've had a lot of down years at Iowa State, that's why coaches haven't stayed there very long. I think you have to be patient. I think you have to realize and take a look at your competition and what that school has to offer, what success in history has been and what Dan' potential is and what he has accomplished there. Obviously he has accomplished more than anyone else has. Sometimes as an administrator you have to be realistic when you take a look at those jobs. I'm glad that they stuck with him and certainly it's paid off for them."

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