Monday press conference: Barry Alvarez

UW football coach discussed Northwestern, depth at fullback, special teams play and more

Audio file 1 (5:00) -

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Barry, is there any update on the injuries of (Matt) Bernstein, (Owen) Daniels and (Chris) Pressley?

"Nothing's changed with Bernstein. It'll be a little while with Bernie… (I) haven't seen or heard an update on Owen. Pressley's (injury) wasn't as bad as it was believed to be. I think he should be okay."

How did you think Pressley looked and how has he been growing in that role at fullback?

"I thought he had some very good blocks. There were some things that he didn't see clearly, that he missed, that's a matter of repetitions and just being able to decipher things. You know, if it's clear-cut, he will go in there and blow you up. If it gets dirty, if things change, it takes a while for people to be able to decipher it all and locate the person they're supposed to block.

"So that's just a matter of us getting him as many reps as possible so that he can read and then have a comfort level of who to go block and how to just weed everything out. But I thought he did some very good things. He did miss some blocks where it wasn't exactly the way it was drawn up."

Is Rentmeester like that as well in a way and do you anticipate maybe having to use both those guys this weekend?

"Well, they're both the same, because in any of those positions you have, you can't tell them exactly where the person they're going to block is going to be, so it's just a matter of repetitions and seeing, and Billy is another guy that's a fullback, that'll go in there and really hit you. And he did in the game when he had the opportunity. So, again, I feel as though we have a luxury that we have two guys that we can go to that are physical players and can hold up blocking linebackers and defensive ends. But now we have to give them a crash course on all the different looks that they're going to get."

Barry, how much does that win at North Carolina help in regards to the road stretch that you have coming up here down the end of the year?

"Well, I think for the young guys, it's an experience that they can draw from. From the old guys it's just another away game. But the first time you do something, there's more potential for distractions and that type thing.

"And that was a difficult road trip against a very good team. You know… when it's a night game, we went a little earlier than normal, kill as much time as we had to kill, well, there's a lot of potential for distractions. I thought we really handled it well. So I think it certainly will help the young guys."

Barry, Bret Bielema after the game said that there's going to be some similarities in prep this week between Indiana and Northwestern, the similar schemes, but he also said that Northwestern has a better running game and he talked about that freshman tailback. What, the running game that they use out of that scheme, what are some of the difficulties in stopping them?

"Difficulties are, you know, with four guys wide, you've got to move people out of the box. The most you can have close to the box is six. They take wide splits. And basically you have two running backs. You have the quarterback and one other running back. So they can scheme you. They have a pretty good idea of where you're going to line up. There are only so many places you can line up when you have six guys, and a lot of people play with five in the box. And so there's some natural seams that are created. And when you have a quarterback that's as mobile as (Brett) Basanez, it just adds that more to the equation. That makes the running game that much more difficult to stop."

Audio file 2 (4:06) –

Even with his statistics, which are pretty impressive, do you sense that Brian Calhoun might be getting a little frustrated that he hasn't come out of the back end on one yet? He was close Saturday. Do you see any of that, or is he just always positive?

"I haven't seen any frustration. I really haven't. I pulled him over towards, just late in the game and just told him just keep going because I (think) it's just a matter of time. There were a couple of them, we probably had three this year where he sees nothing but goal line in front of him and a lot of yardage, a big hit, and somebody dives and just nips his toe. But he'll get some of those before the year is over. But I don't see any frustration in that."

You mentioned not being able to put a lot of guys in the box against Northwestern schemes. The linebackers you have now, in particular (Mark) Zalewski and Dontez (Sanders), are those the ideal kind of linebackers to defend that, whether it's run or pass?

"Yeah, because they can be physical and they can run. Those two guys can play in space and that's the reason, if you have linebackers that are big plugger-type guys, they have a hard time being on the field against Northwestern because there's really not a place for them, because they're going to try to get you in space and make you make plays, one-on-one plays in the open field. And so those two guys I think fit defending that offense as well as you can get."

Barry, after the game on Saturday, Zach Hampton mentioned what it meant to him to be a captain and to go out there. Why do you feel he was deserving of that honor and what have you seen of him that's impressed you over the years?

"When Bernie was injured and wasn't going to dress, I just thought to myself our special teams have been playing very well and they've given us tremendous effort. I wanted to reward someone, acknowledge someone who exemplified the effort that we look for in the special teams. And that's what Zach has done. He isn't the most gifted athlete that we have, yet he just takes so much pride in how he plays, he's on every special team, and I just thought it would send a strong message to our special team guys that we appreciate them and that's the type of effort and that's the type of play that we're looking for."

You mentioned obviously the special teams play, again, after the game Saturday. And in addition to Hampton, who are some of the guys who haven't got a lot of notoriety, but when you guys look at the film, you see them either straining to make a block or I think there was a play on that punt return where (James) Kamoku didn't hit a guy in the back, which would have brought that back.

"Well, James is one of the guys that I would have mentioned, James Kamoku. (Jonathan) Casillas is working his way into all those special teams. Josh (Neal) on the kickoffs. Our kickers have been phenomenal. The kickers have been lights out. Kenny's (DeBauche) been exceptional. I'm just trying to think. I think DeAndre Levy… is in the mix. Those guys give us some speed and athleticism in covering. (Joe) Stellmacher when he's healthy is in the mix."

Coach, you mentioned after the Michigan game, the players brought up Indiana right away to turn the focus on them. Did you see a similar situation after the game on Saturday to Northwestern?

"I brought Northwestern up and talked about them. I try to do that after every game just to get them thinking about their next opponent. There wasn't any particular player. I think the week before (Jason) Pociask said something, because he was sensitive to Indiana because he's from there."

Audio file 3 (3:48) -

How is Basanez playing in that offense, Barry? And with four years, is he running it as effectively as any of the guys you've faced in the past?

"Yeah, probably better than anyone we've faced. He really has a knowledge of it, strong arm, gets it out there, manages it all. The thing that I've seen in watching him the last, yesterday and today, is they just keep adding to the package. They have more and more and more things that you have to defend. They really create a lot of problems. That's why, they'll move the ball on everyone. They will move the football."

You mentioned Stellmacher. Are you hopeful that you would get him this weekend? Real quick about your kicker and punter, are, as a duo, are they as good as you had when (Kevin) Stemke was here along with (Matt Davenport)?

"There's a chance for Stellmacher this week. He has been showing steady improvement. I'll wait until the end of the season and give you an evaluation or comparison between our two this year and, those two. Those two were, I think one of them won, Stemke wins the (Ray) Guy award and Davenport's the runner up of the (Lou) Groza (award), I think, or one of the top three, or one of the ones invited there. They were consistent all through the years. So, you know, at the end of five games, these two are kicking and playing just as well as those guys did. So hopefully if they can stay consistent throughout the year, they'll be right there with them."

Obviously you don't have any control over the schedule and the bye week, but is there, at what point is there concern with wearing down and do you change how you go about preparation?

"That's a good question. I'm concerned that we're playing two weeks in a row, at this time of the year, that our opponent has a bye (the previous week) for the second week in a row. I'm not crazy about that. I am very sensitive to us wearing down and the number of injuries that we have, particularly the key people. So we are going to change our practice format. We're going to change some of the things we do in lifting. But I'll change the practice format drastically this week."

I know you always put an emphasis on forcing turnovers and I think you've got six the last two weeks. Anything special you've seen that's got that rolling the last two weeks?

"No. We really haven't changed much in practice. I think the guys, some of the young guys are feeling a little more confident, maybe going for the ball and feeling — because of confidence — they attack the ball a little more."

Tyrell Sutton, what type of back is he?

"Well, he reminds me of an Anthony (Davis)-type back, very quick. He's a short guy, short and stocky, very quick (and) gets north and south."

Barry, you mentioned changing the practice format. Is there a fine line between being cautious so when you've got guys banged up and having them prepared physically, you know, for the game on Saturday, not taking it too easy on them during the week?

"It depends on what type of team you have. If you have a veteran team that's a physical team, you can back off of them sooner. If you have a young team, I think they have to continue to hit. I know one thing: If they're injured and they don't practice during the week, I've found that they don't play well on Saturday."

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