December 21, 2010

Irwin sees leaders among underclassmen

MADISON - Defensive end Jake Irwin is pretty used to winning. As a prepster, Irwin finished his career as Division Two state champions at Waunakee (WI) high school. Then, as a freshman at Wisconsin, Irwin was part of a Big Ten championship team.

As the old axiom goes, winning never gets old.

In our continuing bowl prep series, BadgerBlitz.com caught up with Irwin to discuss his first season on campus. The following is a question and answer with the defensive end.

Well, one year on campus in the books, was it everything you thought it would be?

Irwin: Yeah, it's been great. The competition is a lot better. You're going against bigger and better guys. It's been a lot of fun just trying to adapt to this new game of football, kind of.

They still have you at defensive end?

Irwin: Yeah, I'm still playing defensive end.

What do you learn from a guy like J.J. Watt who is just tearing up everybody?

Irwin: Having J.J. around is just awesome. Just watching his film and just watching him during practice I try to pick up on the little things he does and just try to get better day by day. I just try to improve and improve my game overall.

Do you remember your first day in fall camp? What was that like?

Irwin: Fall camp, it's long. I honestly can't remember the first day because all the days blurred together. I got through it. It was fun. I developed a lot as a player. I was really raw coming in here and my footwork was awful. Over camp I just improved a lot, especially all the small things.

Is that a testament to coach Charlie Partridge and the way he really gets you guys working on the defensive line?

Irwin: He really focuses on the small things. That's really the main point he tries to talk to us about.

Is your footwork improving?

Irwin: My footwork is getting better every day. It's still not very good, but I see myself improving every day, which is what matters most.

Is it a total transformation from that first day to where you are today?

Irwin: Oh yeah, for sure. Things are only going to keep getting better.

Talk a little bit about the senior leadership on this team. We've talked about J.J. a little bit, but talk a little about these other guys that you're getting a chance to learn behind. Are they taking you under their wing?

Irwin: Yeah, they really are. The seniors on this team are really great. They don't just tell us what to do, but they really show us what to do. On the football field, you see guys like Scott Tolzien and Gabe Carimi and the way they play and their work ethic is just amazing. It really shows a lot to the younger guys and what they have to do.

Taking a redshirt has probably got you into the weight room quite a bit. What's your weight up to right now and are you trying to add more?

Irwin: I'm at 255 right now. Hopefully I can put on 10-15 pounds this winter coming into the spring. That would be ideal.

Is that where coach wants you at or is that where you want to be at?

Irwin: I talked to the strength coach a little bit and he said 10-15 more pounds would be great by spring.

Is that plausible?

Irwin: Yeah, I've put on a couple of pounds this week. I've been eating everything I see and I've been lifting as hard as I can.

Just talk about this experience and the ebbs and flow of the season. You obviously had the setback against Michigan State, but you guys haven't lost since and you're in the Rose Bowl. As a freshman I know you weren't on the field, but it's something you can build off of as you move along with your career.

Irwin: Yeah, it's great. I mean, coming in and seeing how the team got to where they are right now shows the example of how we need to do it during the years when we start playing. It set a great example.

Do you see that? When you look at your class and maybe the class above you, do you see guys that you could see in a couple of years being leaders like there are now?

Irwin: Yeah. There are plenty of guys. You never know how guys are going to develop, but there are guys you can see are going to be able to lead this team in the future.

Was it pretty evident when you came onto campus that team chemistry was pretty high and that there were obvious leaders?

Irwin: Yeah, team chemistry was really good the whole season. I think that's what I like most about this team. Everybody seems to gel really nicely together.

Talk about what you expect going out the to Rose Bowl. Other than getting out of this weather, it's going to be quite the experience.

Irwin: Honestly, I don't even know what it's going to be like. This is my first time going to California or a bowl game, so I'm not really sure what to expect. I'm really excited though.

I'm sure you got into that gift suite, what did you come out of there with?

Irwin: I came out of there with a nice leather recliner for next year.

Give me a description of this thing. I keep hearing about it.

Irwin: It's great. I sat down in it and it just swallows you up. That's where I'll spend the rest of my day.

Right now you're obviously doing some developmental stuff, but looking forward to spring camp, is this kind of just a gateway to spring camp for a young player.

Irwin: Oh for sure. I'm trying to just get comfortable. I've been playing scout team all year and reading on cards what to do. Now I'm actually playing our defense. This is a nice base for the spring when I actually start playing our defense full time.

Is it tough to do that each week, to learn a new offense and try to emulate that on a high level?

Irwin: We come in and we watch film and try to simulate the other side of the ball as best we can so our offense can get the best look. Sometimes it's tough. There are great defensive lines all around this conference, so just to simulate those guys…

Who was your favorite? Did you get to do Cameron Heyward or Adrian Clayborn or anything?

Irwin: Yeah, I got to do Ryan Kerrigan. That was fun. That was a great week. He's a great player and trying to copy his game was fun.

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