Simple Goal

After sitting out last season and itching for his chance to compete, sophomore defensive lineman J.J. Watt came into spring camp with a simple goal: to walk off the field after the spring game as a starter on Wisconsin's front line.

Badger Nation: All of your coaches were very angry at you because you had to sit out a season and they wanted to put you in the game. How does it feel now knowing that is no longer the case?

J.J. Watt: It's a great experience. I am definitely glad that year is up. It was fun, but now my time is here where I can compete to earn a spot and get to work for real. I have been waiting for a long time.

Badger Nation: How hard was the year waiting? A lot of people take a redshirt year or a transfer year differently. How did you take it?

Watt: I felt it was really good for me, especially coming from offense and moving to defense. It gave me a year to get acclimated to playing defense and it gave me a year to learn a lot, especially from my offensive line and playing the scout team. I obviously wish I had been playing, but I think it was great because now I have three years left. I have a lot of time to do some work here.

Badger Nation: People will say that it shouldn't be that hard moving from offense to defense. Where are some of the things that make the change hard?

Watt: There are a lot of technique issues. In college, your footwork is so important. In high school, you are the big guy, so you can bully people around. In college, none of that matters because everyone is so good. It's just a different mentality on defense. The mentality is that guys are a little bit crazier on defense, so I had to get that in me and I think I got it. It's going to be a lot of fun.

Badger Nation: How did you get crazier?

Watt: Just going against our offensive line. Every day I come in with the attitude that I am not going to lose to the guy who is across from me. We had guys like Urbik and Kemp, guys that are going to be NFL players, and I am not going to lose to one of those guys. It really got me prepared for what I am going to see in the next couple of years.

Badger Nation: Did you see your winning percentage start to hike up as the year went on against those guys? Maybe you weren't beating them at the beginning of the year but as the year went along, you found yourself getting the upper hand at times?

Watt: Definitely. As the year went on, I started to learn things, little tendencies and stuff like that, and I started to figure out how to play defense a little better. I definitely started to get better and my percentages went up a little bit. Now I am going to use it this year and beyond to see what I can do with it.

Badger Nation: What does that do for your confidence, knowing that as you learn more, you can get the better of these guys?

Watt: It gives me a lot of confidence. Those guys really helped me a lot, giving me little tips and stuff, too. Knowing that I can beat those guys every now and then, it really gives me a lot of confidence going into the Big Ten season. Knowing those things is going to help me a lot the next three years.

Badger Nation: You have to impersonate a lot of different people on scout team. Now you just have to impersonate your own defense. What's the hardest part of that transition and learning your own system?

Watt: I would say the coaches are on you a little more. On scout team, the coaches are looking at the offense and not as much at you. Now the coaches are critiquing every play, which I love. Coach Partridge gets to teach me on every single play and I get to learn what is wrong with my technique and wrong with my footwork. I get to improve every single day and I will improve every single day from here on out.

Badger Nation: Coach Partridge has been preaching for a good year now that his dream is having a seven-man, eight-man rotation to throw fresh bodies at the offense on every down. Does this group have the capabilities to be that deep of a defensive line and be productive?

Watt: Oh definitely. We have a bunch of guys that will be able to contribute, a bunch of guys that are working real hard the last year, year and a half in the weight room and the offseason. We're going to come out real strong as a defensive line and we have plenty of guys that will be able to contribute. It's going to be a lot of fun.

Badger Nation: You've had a good chance to learn under guys like Mike Newkirk and Matt Shaughnessy in terms of leadership and technique. What are some things that you really grasp from them?

Watt: That's a good group of guys that had been playing together for a long time and they had been starting for awhile. They're a real close net group so we learned some chemistry from them and we learned some technique on the field from them. Shaughnessy was good at pass rushing and Newkirk was good at getting off the ball. Leadership stuff, they were real strong leaders.

Badger Nation: What's the biggest goal you have during spring football?

Watt: I want the starting stop. That's what I want. The coaches said that it is an open competition. Every guy has a shot at it and I want it. I am going to come in and work hard every single day and I want to be the starter come the spring game.

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