"Certainly very excited to be here and not only represent Wisconsin, but the Big Ten conference, and really proud of the players and what they've done this year, and for a lot of them it's a culmination of a lot of years and the guys that you'll be speaking with today, but more than anything, we talk about this is a player's game, and this is a great way for these players to finish up this season against a heck of an opponent in TCU."
Coach, a question for either one of the players. You've seen TCU on film a few times. Do they remind you of anybody that you've seen either from conference or nonconference from the season?
Tight end Lance Kendricks: I would say the closest they remind us to is Michigan because they run a similar defense, but I would say size wise, speed wise, it's a little different, something we've never seen before.
Lance, just a follow up, size wise because they're smaller or what is it?
Kendricks: Yeah. Just a little smaller, but obviously more athletic and just faster. But I think the scheme they run is just not anything we've seen before.
Paul, to kind of follow up on what Lance said about that scheme, what makes it different other than the fact that it's a 4, 2, 5?
Chryst: Yeah. I mean structurally it's a little bit different than what we've seen, but I think when you watch it, what makes it different or what makes it, you know, is how they play it. They play it really well.
I mean certainly it's not just this year. For a lot of years, you know, Coach Patterson and defensive staff and even the way they set up, I mean their players know that defense, and you know, I've been impressed with how they tackle, how they fit things.
You know, they're very sound, and I think one of the reasons why they're able to play as fast is I think they've got athletes that can move, but I think that they know what they're doing and where they're going. They don't play with hesitation, and therefore you've got good athletes, you know, with good speed, but they play fast because they know what they're doing, they trust what they're doing, and I think that's what makes them a good defense.
Coach, do you have any like new wrinkles you plan on installing for the game, the offensive game plan?
You know, I think that certainly with a bowl, you've got a lot of time. I think that can be one of the dangerous things, you know, and really, you know, once you get down to it, it's a game that no different than a lot of games. You better do, you know, the things that have gotten you to this point, and you need to do that well. And so we're not trying to reinvent the wheel, but yet, you know, you do have, you know, each week it's a different team. This is no different, you know. So there's things that we're hoping, you know, match up and fit better, but we're not going to do a lot of things different.
Paul, could you talk about the adjustments that you made in the running game because of injury and how other guys stepped forward, and what's that been like to accommodate everybody?
Chryst: You know, what's been rewarding and, you know, that you've taken pride in being a part of is that we have had a lot of different pieces, but the result has been pretty consistent, and you know, I think that, you know, up front we've had a lot of different combinations of guys playing and certainly at the running back, which gets a lot of the attention.
And I think it's a credit to the players, you know, that they've been able to step in and take pride in the fact that, you know, we're going to be as strong with if I'm a guy coming in, stepping in, we're going to keep this thing going and I'm not going to be the weak link. And so I think it's total credit to the players first, and then you know, I think the coaches that have prepped them.
But you know, the players get, deservedly so, or maybe not even enough, they get the credit for it. You know, and I think they've bought in and they've made it happen. And that's what's fun to see. You know, three different running backs, and they understand how they've worked, and like I said the old line and the tight end position, we've had different combinations, and guys have just kind of continued to make it work.
Lance, when you were at Milwaukee King, everybody talked about your raw ability as a receiver, and they'd tell you just go run around, go catch the ball. How did you develop into the tight end that you are today?
Kendricks: I think it definitely took time for me, just being able to learn how to block and just running good routes and being more technically sound. I think that all factored in, and it took a while. Definitely took a while.
But I don't know. I think just over time just, you know, being determined, watching guys before me, that all factored in.
For John and Lance, how motivated are you guys to be facing the top ranked defense?
Left guard John Moffitt: Obviously that's a challenge we're looking forward to. I think with our offense to be able to play them and then on top of that, getting the only opportunity to play an undefeated team outside of the BCS National Championship game is something we're really excited for.
Kendricks: I think like you said, it's just a challenge, and I mean what better challenge can you have than to face the No. 1 team defensively? So I mean for us we've taken on challenges all year, and we've been pretty successful at it. So I think this is just another challenge for us, and hopefully we can come out on top.
Lance, does it take any luster off the game that you're not facing a Pac 10 team or a team out of the BCS?
Kendricks: I don't think so. I think just facing any team is just, I mean rewarding, just being in a bowl is rewarding, obviously. And for us, we're just lucky enough to be able to face the best defense, and I think that's a great challenge, and I don't think you can have a better challenge than that.
Paul, can you talk about how you guys have recruited Texas and Florida and what the staff's philosophy has been about that?
Chryst: You know, we've always believed that, you know, the first recruiting point is Wisconsin, and we've been fortunate enough to have a lot of good players, you know, Lance obviously is one, and later on, you know, Gabe and John Clay will be in there. And then you want to supplement.
And really, Florida and Texas have been areas, but to my right here with Moff, I mean Moff's in a long line of guys we've had great players from the East Coast.
And you go back quite a ways, so I think any program, you know, state university is going to want to take care of their get the best players in the state and then you want to supplement, you know, outside in different areas that you can, and so we've been fortunate enough to do that, and guys have wanted to come to Wisconsin.
And so I think, you know, it's a mix, but you know, Florida, we've got a lot more right now. Texas, not as much, you know, just numbers wise. And then like I said, the East Coast. You know, John's a great testament to it, and Lance was talking about another tight end that we had last year who he learned from, Garrett Graham. So we've had kind of a mix of different areas. So you just try to get whoever you can to be a part of this thing.
Back to TCU being the No. 1 ranked defense, do you equate that is it the same as Alabama having the No. 1 defense with TCU being a non AQ from the Mountain West, do you think they're just as good as any other school in the nation if they were ranked up there?
Kendricks: I definitely think so. Speed wise, they're definitely athletic, just like any SEC team you'll find. Like Coach Chryst said, they run their scheme very well and to a T. So I think you definitely have to accommodate for that. And I mean, yeah, honestly, I think they're just as good as any other team.
Moffitt: What he said, I agree.
What was the reaction when you guys learned that you were going to be playing TCU? Did anybody have to ask where is that or who are they?
Moffitt No. No. I mean I think we all know who TCU is, and we're excited. This is the only game, like I said before, that we're playing an undefeated team, and to me that's a great opportunity. And defensively they're a very good defense. So it's a challenge we're all looking forward to.
Paul, in your run blocking and running game, is there anybody that you look at and borrow from or say, yeah, that's the way we want it done here?
Chryst: Certainly I think all coaches take note of different things happening, and yet I think that you try to then take, you know, bits and pieces. And you know, we've got a staff that's been around and been a part of different types of offenses, and then you try to fit it in to what your players can do.
And the thing that I've appreciated about this group of players is that you can kind of keep pushing the envelope with them and ask them to do some things that maybe other people wouldn't ask them to do, and then over time, you know, like anything, if you believe in it and you can teach it, players certainly can do it and execute it.
So I think you're always aware and trying to find ways to coach better and yet I think it just kind of evolves. I think every offense, and this one particularly is the players define what the offense is, you know, and we've had successes because we have good players making it happen. And you know, the coaching is just to kind of help guide them, but they're the ones that do it and deserve the credit accordingly.
Question for John. Whenever I hear about Wisconsin's offensive line, I hear you're big, and you're big and you're big. Do you ever take that as a slight that you guys are just big and there's a perception that you can't do anything else other than just be big?
Moffitt: No. (Laughs). That might be true. (Laughs). No. I mean obviously that's what people are going to see. That's our average height and weight, which I love hearing the weight part over and over, but you know, we do there are some guys that are athletic.
Not myself, but Carimi is an athletic guy. And the things we run, we fit well with what we do. And you know, as far as like, you know, a big O line versus an athletic D line, which they are, they're an athletic D line. And we don't look into their size either because I don't think that's what it's about.
So we are big. I think we move well. I think we do other things well. But I mean that's what you're going to see at face value.
Paul, what do you think of their defensive coordinator, and do you enjoy the chess match that goes on between coordinators?
Chryst: You certainly I don't view it as much as a chess match between coordinators. And yet I understand, and you know, our jobs respectively are to give our players the best chance.
You know, and not minimizing what the coaches do, I think in the end, it still is what happens between the lines, and you know, our job is to give our players the best chance to succeed, and you know, likewise, you know, what are we doing and how they defend that.
And so there's always a chess match and tremendous amount of respect for what they do defensively, and you know, you want to be on. And this is our chosen profession, and you want to be the best you can at it, but the reason you want to do that is you want to give your players a chance to go play the game and to have success.
Coach Chryst, how much have you been impressed with Montee Ball and the way he got bumped down to the bottom of the depth chart earlier in the season and persevered through that and now kind of carrying the load at the top?
Chryst: Very impressed, you know, and I think it's certainly it's a credit to Montee and how he stayed the course. And also I think it's a credit to, you know, Coach Settle and also as much so, and these guys may know more, but you know, I think the way that the running backs, you know, John and James held, and our players, you know. I think when Montee came in and had his opportunities, there wasn't a guy in the huddle that looked at Montee, other than, all right, we got Montee in here.
Montee's done some things before and because of circumstances maybe didn't get as many opportunities early, but has done a lot of good things for us. So I think it's a great example of what we are right now, and that's a bunch of guys, you know, and kind of working for one goal. And it's been pretty neat to see what Montee's done, great example of it.
John, could you sort of evaluate the top three running backs from your perspective and how they might differ stylistically?
Moffitt: Yeah. If you start out with Clay, I think obviously he's got the size. He's a big guy. He's, you know, more of a north south runner. And you know, we all know he's John Clay and his ability.
James White, I think is a speed guy, obviously. And he's really worked well with our perimeter runs, the things we're running around the end. He's made some amazing cuts, from what I hear.
And then I think Montee is kind of like a nice combination between both of them. He's got a good amount of size, and he can put his shoulder down, but he also, he's good on his feet and moves well, too. And I think he's a guy whom I to say next to the offensive coordinator, I think he's a guy you can kind of put in for either, kind of a run outside or if we're running a power inside. So is that right?
Chryst: Got ya. (Laughs).
Paul, obviously Dave already got a head coaching job. Do you think Bret is a little bit nervous about losing his other coordinator after the season you've had?
Chryst: No. I mean I think it's great for Dave, and I think that's something that Dave has aspired to do, and it's a great opportunity and a great choice, you know, so it's a good combination, but you know, on the other hand, I don't think so.
John, everyone keeps raving about how good you look in practice. How good do you feel, how good do you look?
Clay: I feel real good. I'm back to 100 percent. I'm out of the brace. You know, I'm just feeling good out there and just ready to be back out there with the guys on the field.
Are you back to 100 percent? Are you comfortable if you go into that game at 100 percent still kind of at No. 3 going into the game?
Clay: Yeah. I feel great. Everything happens for a reason. All I can do is put it in God's hands. When I get out there, I just gotta be able to show and put on a show.
Gabe, could you talk a little bit about the running game and why it was so successful despite the fact that you've kind of had some injuries and people came in and the running back, there was three different guys. Why, no matter who's playing on the line or in the back field, it seems like the running game has really gone
Left tackle Gabe Carimi: Yeah. First of all, we have a great set of coaches, you know, to have a game plan for us, no matter who's in there.
Secondly, we have an unbelievable running back core through and through, and we have a deep, you know, depth of line men that can really go in there, I mean to speak volumes that we had six Big Ten honorees and we had five spots.
Really a question for all of you, and Scott, we'll start with you. TCU's defense, are they compared to anybody you've seen this year, anything about them that you recognize from other groups?
Quarterback Scott Tolzien: No. I said this earlier in the room over there, and you know, it's not the politically correct answer, but I really do see it as a separate deal, and I really have trouble comparing it to any defense we've seen in the Big Ten.
And you know, that's what's made it awesome the last three weeks is it's not a one week preparation where your head's spinning trying to figure out a new defense. We've had time to try to figure it out, and it's been fun that way, and that's what makes it special.
You don't want to go into every game week seeing the same looks, and we'd be sitting here right now just bored and ready to play the game, but right now there's still things we're figuring out, and it's made it fun in that regard just to continue on with your preparation and try to master what they're doing.
Clay: We talked about it in the running back room. It kind of reminded us a little bit of Michigan just because of the big backers they have, the front forward, and then they also have that safety slash will backer that loads up the box, so you know, Michigan kind of runs a little same thing like that, and it reminded us of that.
Carimi: Yeah. It's not fair to compare them to any one, but there's several different places you could take them from the Big Ten. I mean personally I think their linebackers are a lot like Northwestern's, which have a great core of linebackers, but overall their talent is really high, so it's kind of hard to place them in one category, especially since they run a different defense than anyone else does in the Big Ten.
John, to kind of go back to you, is there any part of you that hopes that TCU just watched the last couple of games, forgot about you, you're laying in the weeds and you're a big X factor on Saturday?
Clay: Yeah. I hope so. The guys behind me did a great job when I was out. You know, being able to sit back and watch that, I kind of got lost in the dirt, but you know, I'm kind of glad. And everything's on those guys to bring out their A game and I can just come in there and do what I do best.
Scott, I was talking to Coach Chryst about Montee Ball coming from, got bumped down to the bottom of the depth chart and got back up to the top. You didn't bumped down, but you were at the bottom a couple of years ago. How does it feel for your journey to culminate with a trip to the Rose Bowl?
Tolzien: It's special. This is I think every college football player's dream is to play in the Rose Bowl, and I think the most rewarding part about it is to be able to do it with these guys.
We finished out last season, and those seniors laid a foundation for us to follow. And on paper we had a lot of talent coming back, but saying that and that's just one thing, and I think we truly embraced the work and the preparation. And in life that's what makes something special is when you work so hard for something with a group of guys and you're able to reach that pinnacle.
Gabe, please don't laugh at me, but when we were talking to J.J., he said they've installed a two plate rule at the Beef Bowl now as opposed to years passed. Are certain guys disappointed that you can only get two plates tonight at the Beef Bowl?
Carimi: Yeah. I guess so. We're going to go in there and try to win the competition because I guess there's a pretty good statistic if you win that, you win the Rose Bowl, so might as well try to start improving our chances as soon as possible.
Gabe, Moffitt was asked about the line's athleticism and the line being sometimes thought of as just big, and he said, well, in his case that's probably true, but if you could rate sort of the quickness and athleticism of the rest of the guys.
Carimi: Excluding Moff, we have a pretty athletic line. (Laughs). No, he's very athletic, too. It's not all about size for us. We do have some size. Obviously our average is huge.
But you know, I'd say we're a very athletic core of linebackers. I wouldn't say any of our guys are unathletic at all. Years previous you could pick maybe one guy out, but it seems like we have a pretty through and through core, and not only that, but our back up in Bill Nagy and a lot of guys that are behind us are very athletic that they can come in there.
What about your quarterback's athleticism?
Carimi: Our quarterback's athleticism? You mean the Scott who runs and won't slide and hurts his shoulder? Yeah. That one? Me and Moff yell at you every time you don't slide, don't we? In game. Slide, Scott!
Below are audio files from the offensive press conference: