We took Sunday off and obviously finished two-a-days last Friday and so we're starting school today. We have a lot of guys running around carrying books. I don't know if they're ever going to open them or not, but we're in that this week. Injury-wise, we're okay. We've lost two would-be starters on defense, (Trevan) Sorenson and (Ryan) Claridge are both hurt and out. That's probably the only real negative thing. I think practice has gone good. I think we have some strengths and weaknesses. Like everybody else we're looking forward to the game. I, of course, have great respect for Wisconsin football. It's a big deal here in Las Vegas. The place is sold out. There are probably 1,000 tickets left, and the good thing is that everybody that wears red we're assuming is a Las Vegas fan, so we're pretty excited about that. There are probably 15-20,000 Wisconsin people, so it's going to be probably half and half. But the idea of selling out our stadium…it hasn't happened. This will probably be the biggest crowd in the history of the state. So it's a big deal around here. We're trying to build a program, and we're trying to get a team or a university that hasn't identified with football very much to begin to think in those ways.
What's the difference between a healthy Jason Thomas, which we've seen in the preseason, versus what he had to struggle last year in terms of injury?
Robinson: Well it was a combination of things. He had a surgery in June last year and it wasn't so much that he was hurt coming out of the surgery. It's just that he didn't get the throwing time that he needed in the summer. It's like a golfer that, all of a sudden his swing goes south on him. He was throwing the ball…I don't think he was in pain but it was kind of a subconscious protection and he just never got in a rhythm. The year before we had better receivers so that kind of contributed to it, and last year we lost to Arkansas early in a game we should have won. We lost to Northwestern in a close game when Northwestern was still picked high in the Big Ten. So we just got off to a rough start. I think he worked his way back as the season ended but he's much better now. He's much more efficient and obviously eager to get out and play.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of your club this year?
Robinson: Well, I'm not sure. I think we have a good offensive backfield. We have three or four backs I think are good. We haven't been the running team Wisconsin has been, but we've been a good running team through the last couple of years. Jason Thomas is an exciting player at quarterback. Defensively I thought we were going to be pretty good. I'm a little worried now because of injury but I think we have enough of a mixture of rookies and veterans to, as the season goes on, get into a good rhythm of things. You know, the game Wisconsin-Fresno State, two clubs looked like they were playing the first game of the year. You know, you improve dramatically from the first game to the second game. I think every coach expects that. We're concerned about us playing like a first game out. We have to play like we're in midseason form to have a chance I think.
Can you talk about your tailback rotation and how you will try to get touches for everybody? Specifically Dominique Dorsey. How many different ways will you try to utilize him?
Robinson: Well Dominique had some health problems and had to drop out of school, and come back. He's come back. He missed spring practice. He's going to be in a rotation with two other guys, Joe Haro, Larry Croom and even (Deon) Burnett will have some playing time there. We may play two tailbacks in the backfield, although I don't know how big a deal that will be, but that might be something as the season goes on. But when you get ready for the first game, you really have to make some choices. I think we'll be pretty conventional early. But all three…Croom has done a really good job and he will have an impact as the goes on also.
How would you describe Haro, the type of running back he has been?
Robinson: You know, kind of a blue-collar…he's from New Jersey and he loves Bruce Springsteen. So I said, `That's who you are, you're Bruce Springsteen.' He's kind of a short squatty guy, runs hard, doesn't make you miss. He has good speed but he's a collision runner more than an escapist runner. He's the kind of guy that if you're a fan of him or a fan of our team, you really grow to love him because he's one of those heart guys.
You alluded earlier to trying to build a program there. Where are you in your mind, in your timeline of building that program up to where you want to see it?
Robinson: You know, I want to see it in the top 30 or so in the nation. Obviously we're not there, although we flirted with it preseason last year and at the end of the year before. I think we're in a place where, we're on national TV against you, we're in national TV against Oregon State, we will be on national TV again this year. I think we're on just about every week in some sort of a regional concept, so the program has come quite a ways in just the acceptability of it. We're not a walk-over type team anymore. The funding here is…you guys would laugh if we compared the budgets. And I got a break when I came. Jeff Horton really was in trouble in terms of the amount of help that he was given. But we're making progress I think. I think we're a respected program. There isn't anybody that plays us that doesn't say, `Hey, these guys have a chance to beat us.'
Conversation with John Robinson: Part 1
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