Alvarez Verbatim: Monday Press Conference

Coach Barry Alvarez comments on Jim Leonhard's All-American status, the impact of the Alamo Bowl on recruiting and his current team, the matchup against Colorado and much more.

Have you ever heard of a walk-on being named to any All-American team?

Alvarez: I've never heard of any walk-on breaking school records, being named first-team All-Big Ten, and certainly not making first-team All-American. That may be unprecedented. It may have happened before but I certainly haven't heard of it.

Have you talked to Jim about it yet?

Alvarez: You know what, I just found out about this coming over here right now. Jim will workout sometime today so I will try to find him and congratulate him. I haven't had a chance to see him.

Is there anybody more deserving than Jim of this recognition?

Alvarez: I don't know how you could have played any better than he did, or make more of an impact on a team in as many ways as he did. He just had a phenomenal year. You go back to the first game, the first pass thrown he intercepts. The last pass that they attempt, he breaks up which wins the game, starting with that game all the way through. Scoring a touchdown in the Michigan game to swaying the momentum to us, giving us a chance. Making the interception in the Minnesota game to ice the game. It just goes on and on. It's just unbelievable, what he's done. And you know what? I think he's just scratching the surface. I think he'll get much stronger. He's very intelligent. He'll understand the game more. I think he'll start playing formations and tendencies and that (stuff) better as he goes along.

When you recruited him, how close did you come to giving him a scholarship? Or was he a walk-on that you really wanted?

Alvarez: We really didn't know much about Jim until we had him in our summer football camp. And you understand, the guys show up early afternoon, they go through registration, it's a long, drawn-out day. It's normally very hot, kids are nervous, you truck them over, you have a bunch of meetings. Then they have dinner, and an hour and a half later we test them. It's really unfair to them that we're testing them. We get vertical jump, 40-yard dash, so on and so forth. And normally you'll get a guy, if he runs a 4.6, he'll run a 4.8 that day. Jimmy Leonhard ran a 4.4. Now that got our attention. You watched him in camp, he was a wishbone quarterback, but you saw the skills he had when he was working with the defense. It really jumped out at you. We kept him on our list as somebody that you want to recruit. Unfortunately with numbers as they are, we didn't. We always made it known to him that we wanted him. We wanted him in the program and we felt that he could be successful. So we stayed on top of him. I don't know how close we came to scholarshiping him. I don't think anyone else…I think he had an option to go someplace on a partial to play baseball and football someplace, and that was it.

Do you like the matchup with Colorado?

Alvarez: Well I know they are a very good football team. They are a veteran team. They are a team that has played in elite games. Most of those guys, I think four of their five linemen are seniors. Those same guys arguably could have been in that national championship game a year ago, played in a BCS game, played in their conference championship. So I know we've got our hands full and I know we'll be heavy underdogs. Yet I know the brand of football they play. I'm very familiar with what Gary (Barnett) wants to do, and that's very similar to the things we do. So we'll be familiar. I don't know how we matchup or anything else. I'm just excited about being in the game. I was just looking, putting some things together…I mentioned this to you guys earlier, how important the game was for our program, just to practice. I think we have 11 seniors, 11 four-year lettermen, 11 seniors, and seven of them are starters. We have four three-year lettermen and I believe 48 first and second-year lettermen, so you can see where the majority of our football team is made up of very young players. So this past week (and) this week we'll get another spring practice in and get a chance to move some guys around, experiment, work on fundamentals. That is really important. As far as the game, I think the game, the experience of that game is very beneficial for the future of the program. And I think it's beneficial to play a quality opponent like Colorado. It pays dividends. To say, do I think we matchup well? I don't know how we matchup. I know well have to play very well to be able to compete with them.

What about your team makes you want to play a quality opponent like Colorado? Has there been an evolution of your team?

Alvarez: We've played a number of quality opponents. We've played (No.) 2, and 3, and 10 and 11 or 12, so we've played a number of quality opponents already and beaten a couple of bowl-bound teams. But that's what you want to do when you go play a bowl game. The year we went and played Georgia, it wasn't a pretty game, yet I think we gained an awful lot out of that game. I think the same thing will happen here. I don't know about the outcome, but it's just playing another quality team. Different preparation, different league, our guys have seen them play on TV and know a little bit about them. I just think it's healthy for young guys to get exposed to that.

Do you view this game as kind of a second-chance for this team?

Alvarez: I don't look at it in those terms. I just look at it…we earned the right to go to a bowl game, and a good bowl game. I'm really excited about the experience that all of us will have in San Antonio. I've heard great things about the community. And I've been there, but that bowl week will be a tremendous experience. That's always fun, and we'll just take this game as it comes. I'm just not going to put it in those perspectives. I know we finished the season…the one thing that was overlooked, we talked so much early on about 13 games, and how we adjusted our schedule, were we worried, and I was very concerned about whether we would wear out, particularly with a young team. We played maybe our best football down the stretch, the last two games. We played a good football game against Michigan, had a chance to beat them on the road, and did a lot of good things, particularly on offense, against Minnesota. Our guys were fresh and they won it in the fourth quarter. So I was pleased that that happened. Hopefully we can grow a little bit. We have a month to prepare, get a little better, clean up some things. I'm just anxious to coach this football team again.

How about the exposure this game will bring you in Texas and nationally?

Alvarez: It's huge. A number of the kids that we're recruiting in Texas are all going to come watch practice or come to the game. There's a high school All-American game, I think those players get there the night of our game, guys from all over the country. And we've had plenty of exposure. Our TV exposure this year has been unbelievable, but again, that's the only bowl game being played that night, I think we'll get very good exposure. All that is very good for recruiting and very good for your program.

Are you concerned about perhaps losing an assistant or two in the near future?

Alvarez: I will. I am concerned and I will. I'll probably have an announcement Wednesday on a coaching change. When you have good assistants, people are always looking and when you hire guys, you always know if they're quality guys and they want to be head coaches, that there are promotions and professional steps that are going to be available to them. You don't like to see it happen, but it's going to happen.

Badger Nation Top Stories