Q: How do you feel about your two junior college transfers, and what are some of the obstacles involved in bringing in JUCO players to this program?
Alvarez: We really haven't brought many junior college guys in. We did early on, and we wouldn't have gone to our first Rose Bowl without Kenny Gales and Donny Brady. We had a young man, Coleman Johnson, who would have started at center had he not blown out his knee. You just don't know. Bill Snyder one year at Kansas State, one year he had a large senior class. I think he signed somewhere around 14 and hit on 13 of them which was unbelievable, and allowed him to either win or compete in the Big 12 championship game. Dan McCarney has been able to revive his program…we will never be able to rely on junior college players. I feel fortunate that we've been able to get two admitted to schools and two guys that qualify. It's hard for us to find junior college guys that can get admitted here. I think these are two special guys, and quite frankly, watching them work for four practices, I'd be very disappointed if they aren't immediate contributors.
Q: Is B.J. Tucker definitely going to start at corner this year, or do you have a Plan B there?
Alvarez: You always have to have a Plan B in this business. B.J. was our most consistent secondary player in the spring. I'd like to think that will carry over. We all know his ability. He's one of the faster guys in the Big Ten, if not the country. He played with confidence last spring. I anticipate that he will carry that confidence over. I think you will see a tremendous improvement in Scott Starks, just the knowledge of the game, added strength, added speed. But I anticipate B.J. to have an excellent year.
Q: What are the factors that made a difference in B.J. last spring?
Alvarez: Well he had some success in spring. I think (it was) the way he was coached. I think Ron Cooper gave him more weapons, so he's not always worried about playing somebody deep. We gave him some weapons. He can roll up and bang on the receiver and play him tough. Maybe play man-to-man coverage with help in the back. So I think he gave us more ways to protect him, which allows him to turn it loose a little bit more.
Q: It's been a long time since this program failed to make a bowl game. Did you notice a change in the way guys went about their business this offseason?
Alvarez: I sensed that we worked out with a purpose. We started soon after that last game. I sensed that all of them went about their business more focused and with the cause to rectify what happened last year.
Q: How much of a positive is having Lee Evans around to practice for this team's morale?
Alvarez: Just having Lee Evans around, he's a special person. Everyone that's had any contact with him can't do anything but respect him and he's been an inspiration to all of us. His attitude, and how he's gone about things. He defies human nature. When things go bad, and you have something like that happen to him, in a crisis most people want to go into a panic and feel sorry for themselves. Yet he's attacked it, he's stayed positive and he's approached it the way we try to teach our team to approach any type of adversity when it happens. It's easy to say it, but he's lived it, and I think he's been a good lesson for all of us. But having him out there is good for all of us. He'll be a teacher for those young receivers. I know when I see him, he brightens my day.
Q: Can you talk about Brooks Bollinger's experience at the Elite QB camp this summer, and how much he got out of that experience?
Alvarez: I tell you, they probably got more out of Brooks than he got out of them, and that's from their coach. I talked to those guys after the camp, and they told me he was the most outstanding counselor there, which doesn't surprise me. I think anytime a player has an opportunity to coach, it makes you a better player. It makes you see things maybe a little differently. I know it was a tremendous experience for him. I'm not trying to downplay that. I'm sure he got a lot out of it, being around those guys, being able to share some things. Yet they got an awful lot out of Brooks being there too.
Q: What do you think about a Wisconsin quarterback being selected to coach at that camp?
Alvarez: I would guess that he won't be the last. I think Brooks surprised a lot of different people. I think he probably put us on the map with some of the highly recruited high school players that were at the camp. And I know the impression that he left there, those people will come back and look at some of our other guys. I'm sure Jim (Sorgi) will be one of the guys that's considered a year from now.
Q: How have your three new coaches done so far?
Alvarez: Each one brings something a little different. (Brian Murphy) worked his way through the ranks. He started as a graduate assistant back in '93 for us. He knows what our program is all about. He's gone out and made his own spurs, he's worked at three different schools. He's worked as a defensive coordinator, he's got a good knowledge. He came back because he wanted to be here, working and helping in recruiting, and he prepared himself very well for the position that he took. I just felt knowing the program meant an awful lot. The other two, (Ron Cooper) brings a vast knowledge as a head coach, as an assistant coach at high-level programs. He's been successful every place he's been. He's a very confident coach, and someone I think can make a difference in our defense and our secondary. Paul (Chryst) is a guy that, it was really fun for me to bring a former Wisconsin player back. He really wanted to be here. Paul is young, but he's been a lot of different places. He has a tremendous background. He was a coordinator in the Pac Ten and was a quarterback and tight ends coach in the NFL. He brings some new ideas to our offense, things that we can tweak. Things that we can add to our offense that I think will be very productive for us. So each brings something a little bit different, yet I think all three of them help strengthen our staff.
Q: Would you like to see some other backs help shoulder the load for Anthony Davis this year?
Alvarez: Well Anthony will get his share of carries. But I think there is a place for Jerone Pettus. Jerone has excellent hands, he can make you miss. I think (Matt) Bernstein is a guy that needs to have his hands on the ball. He has a chance to be the most physical fullback we've ever had, yet he's an excellent ball carrier and good receiver. I'd like to have at least one of these freshmen and maybe both of them contribute a little bit. With a 13-game season, one of my mandates is to play a lot of people, give our guys rest. I don't want Anthony to be in the 30's or upper 20's in every ballgame. I would like to see one of these freshmen, whether it's Booker (Stanley) or Dwayne Smith to come in and give us some depth. I've been impressed with those guys. I know we haven't hit, we haven't done anything with the varsity other than a walk-through this morning, but they've been very impressive. We like them. We've had them in camp. We know those kids. And I think they're both mature enough physically. You look at them, and they don't look like freshmen. I'm hoping we can get some miles out of those guys.
Q: What have you done to correct the poor defense from last year?
Alvarez: Well, if you study our defense last year, we broke down against one-back teams. When we played two-back teams, we played as good as we can play, as we've ever played against Penn State, for three quarters against Ohio State, and played super defense against Michigan. Yet when people spread us out, we had some problems. That's something we had to take a look at and had to study. Schematically we had to change some things. I think we'll have to get some better play out of the secondary, maybe some better play out of the linebackers. That will be the area we have to improve. That's where we gave up most of our big plays. It wasn't against two-back teams. We've put an emphasis on that, and I anticipate that we'll (improve). You better be able to play one-back teams because you're going to see an awful lot of it. Even against us, if you played us, if you had trouble defending against one-back teams, you're going to see it all day.
Q: With such a strength in your offensive line and running backs, will we see an emphasis on the running game this year?
Alvarez: No, our offense will be balanced. I tried to tell you last year we were going to include the spread in our offense, which we did, and it was productive. And we will use the same thing this year. I think it really added a lot to our offense. You can throw out of it, but you also have a very good running attack out of it. We got a lot of big plays out of it in the running game. So we're not going to go back to the days of throwing 10-12 times a game and just hammering it in there. We can still run it with one back. I like our quarterbacks, I like our receivers, I think we'll be able to throw the ball around. We'll be similar, ratio-wise, run/pass as we were a year ago.
Q: How confident are you that 5-7 was an aberration?
Alvarez: I mentioned this earlier. The record sometimes is misleading. Take a look at your schedule. Take a look at the teams we played in the non-conference. We played some good football. I'd like to think we're going to be a good football team. I don't know what our record is going to be. I'd like to think it's going to be better, but I don't know. But I believe we're going to be a better football team.
Q: What separated Stanley and Smith from the other freshmen tailbacks?
Alvarez: Well, for one thing, both are more physical, and can take the pounding at this level. All four of them could have played. We'd have no problems keeping all those guys, yet we needed some help in the secondary. I know it was a hard decision to make for our coaches and these players, yet Tony Moss will be in the two-deep in the secondary. We think Lamarr Watkins could be in the two-deep. Both of them will help in special teams. We didn't want to burn a year of eligibility just on special teams, and I think they are both quality enough players that they will be on the field. So I think we can get four guys on the field rather than maybe one running back, and three of them watching. I think it had as much to do with how versatile the other guys were to be able to play another position, as these two are ready to play at tailback.
Q: Do you have a plan on how much time Jim Sorgi will see this year?
Alvarez: We haven't really put a lot of time in that. We have a lot of confidence in Jim, but we haven't spent a lot of time…we know that Jim is going to play. We're just not going to say, `this series, he's going to go in and play.' We'll worry about that when the time comes, but he'll play for us.
Alvarez Verbatim - Part 2
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