A Long Way to Go

One would think with 10 starters returning, stability at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and offensive line and a proven tight end returning that Offensive Coordinator Paul Chryst would be a little more at ease during Spring Practices. Is he? Not a chance.

MADISON - His offense led the Big Ten in both scoring (31.8 ppg) and total offense (416.9) a year ago - both averages among the top five in school history.

Wisconsin's running game ranked 15th in the country, averaging 203.9 per game on the ground and were a perfect 10-0 when rushing for at least 150 yards.

As good as the running game was, Wisconsin had arguably its most balanced team in ages, throwing for 213.1 yards, making the Badgers one of six teams in the country to average over 200 yards in each category.

Offensive Coordinator Paul Chryst knows the numbers, and he wants more. Having 10 returning starters on offense, Chryst knows that the talent level and experience is in place for a great season, which is why he is so apt in making sure everyone on the offensive side of the ball gets better by the season opener September 4.

Badger Nation: One would assume that with 10 offensive starters returning that you don't have a lot to worry about this spring, but I would assume that's wrong (‘I would assume you are correct,' he said with a laugh). What have you liked from this group in two weeks and how do you like the improvement?

Paul Chryst: Well, I think guys are working for the most part and we've got a long ways to go. It's good having the guys that are back. They certainly realize that with any type of experience, they understand the importance of every practice, how valuable every snap is and certainly know the areas they need to improve in. For the young guys, they can't get enough reps. We have a long ways to go, but I think we are slowly making some progress.

Badger Nation: Somebody asked Scott Tolzien about how much he was looking forward to being the starter this season, but he responded that Coach Chryst wouldn't allow him to think like that. How important is it to keep him challenged and motivated?

Paul Chryst: I think it's a culmination of everything. Scotty is very self motivated and he realizes that bottom line, the reason he got the job was production and consistency. That's the way he approaches things. It's not like you have to motivate him, but I enjoy working with him. Jon Budmayr has done a good job to put himself in position to really maximize the reps. It's a shame with what happened to Curt Phillips, but I like the way guys are approaching it. We just have to get better.

Badger Nation: Even with the injuries to Budmayr (collarbone, throwing arm), are you surprised with where he is at and how well he seems to be throwing the football?

Paul Chryst: I think him stepping up in the pocket is who Jon is. I am not surprised by anything really. You are happy that he is being himself, but it's not really surprised.

Badger Nation: If you had to play a game tomorrow and Jon was your backup, would you feel pretty confident putting him in there if need be?

Paul Chryst: (smiling) That's a good reason why we don't have to play tomorrow (laughing). We don't have to worry about that to fall. He's got a long ways to go, but he's taking his strides and he's going in the right direction.

Badger Nation: Your wide receiver corps. The big goal for you in recruiting is to get bigger wide receivers in here. Have you like some of the guys you have here now and some of the guys you'll be getting in the fall?

Paul Chryst: I like the guys. I would also like for the guys to be playing better. They are doing some good things, but … I am not throwing out coach speak here, but this team – receivers have a big chunk of experience – need to get better. Right now, there's just one thing on the mind and that's it.

Badger Nation: Zach Brown is one of those guys that has experience and one you hope to get better, maybe getting back to the way he was freshman year of being the guy that can push for playing time.

Paul Chryst: Regardless of what Zach has got, he's got an opportunity to play a major role on this team. Yeah, he's got the experience we need and last year, there is no minimizing the number of snaps he got as a third-down back. You don't know how critical that is and his role on the team, he's there for a reason. He's got the ability to help us. He's got a great tape of himself where he can study himself and find things where he can get better. I like the group, but the intentions have to be pretty simple, and that's knowing who you are, knowing your weaknesses and getting better. If you have a strength, build on that strength.

Badger Nation: How much do you think those two ankle surgeries are going to help John Clay?

Paul Chryst: You certainly want a guy to be pain free. Everybody knew that John wasn't 100 percent last year and you appreciate him continuing to fight through that. You do hope that everything works out, surgery and rehab goes well and that he can be a better player than what he was last year.

Badger Nation: Are Jared Abbrederis and Kyle Zuleger your secret weapons this year?

Paul Chryst: (laughing) Time will tell.

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