Rose Bowl Day 2: Media Day brings us some answers for Wisconsin and TCU

LOS ANGELES - Yesterday I threw out a lot of questions that I was hoping to get answered before Wisconsin and TCU kickoff in the 97th Rose Bowl Game Saturday and Thursday morning's media day allowed me to get some answers:

Wisconsin's defense is healthy

Jay Valai, J.J. Watt, Blake Sorensen and Mike Taylor all said this is the healthiest UW's defense has been all season.

Valai said the tear in his calf is still bothersome, but it is nowhere near as bad as it was in the final four games of the regular season, which he labored through successfully. He said he also suffered a high ankle sprain against Northwestern, but it is no longer a problem.

"Our defense is getting really healthy right now and it's all coming together at the right time," Valai said.

And if you are looking for a player who might have a huge game after kind of laying in the weeds during the regular season, it might be linebacker Mike Taylor. Taylor, who tore his ACL in 2009, was never 100 percent during the regular season, but got stronger as the year went on. With the month off, he's the healthiest he has been in over a year.

"Definitely, I haven't felt better this whole year," Taylor said.

Coordinator Carousel

With defensive coordinator Dave Doeren accepting the Northern Illinois head coaching job earlier this month and offensive coordinator Paul Chryst fielding offers from schools like Texas, distractions have been aplenty since UW played its last game in November.

But according to the players, those issues have not affected the team at all.

"He's done a tremendous job (since accepting the NIU job)," Taylor said about Doeren. "Right now his focus is 100 percent on us. He's still our coach. He wants to win just as bad as we do. This is the Rose Bowl and it doesn't come every year."

Realistically, though, Doeren has been doing two jobs at the same time for the last three weeks.

"He's on his phone a lot, dealing with his stuff, but I've been really impressed with it," Sorensen said.

And with this being Doeren's last game with Wisconsin, is there any extra motivation for sending him out with a win?

"Guys want to win for a lot of reasons, but he's been a huge part of our success for the past five years and we want to send him out on the right note," Sorensen said.

TCU's Non-AQ motivation

TCU quarterback Andy Dalton said Thursday what everyone else is thinking: "We're not just representing ourselves, we're representing all the non-AQ schools. So we're going out to prove a point."

Dalton admitted there is a difference in this year's preparation considering they are facing Wisconsin and not Boise State as they did in last year's Fiest Bowl.

"We've been a lot more focused this year," he said.

As for how Wisconsin is going to combat TCU's "David vs. Goliath" mentality,  Sorensen feels like the Badgers have a lot to prove as well.

"I'm sure they are going to be ready, but at the same time, we're representing the Big Ten," he said. "We feel like we have a lot to represent as well."

Carimi sometimes in the dark as to who is running behind him

As expected, no updates on UW's running back rotation, but Gabe Carimi did have some interesting comments about blocking for John Clay, James White and Montee Ball.

"People ask me, 'Does it matter (who is in at running back)?' No it does not matter because I don't even know half the time who is in there. Honestly, I just get my call and form block the same way," Carimi said.

Facing TCU's 4-2-5 defense

Gary Patterson's 4-2-5 defense is unique to TCU because he invented it. It has a number of interesting wrinkles including the fact the secondary gets two different calls on every play. One half of the back-seven plays one call and the other half plays a different call.

Another wrinkle is that the Frogs don't blitz a whole lot. Similar to the popular Tampa-2, the defense relies on the front-four getting to the quarterback on their own. You would think that would be good news for Wisconsin's talented offensive line, but at least one lineman expects to see more blitzing than normal from TCU.

"I think they will probably blitz a lot more on us," Carimi said. "They've been up 21-0 in the first quarter sometimes so they don't have to blitz. I think they will blitz more on us."

Watt not worried about TCU's mammoth tackle

Wisconsin's offensive line might be getting all the attention, but TCU left tackle Marcus Cannon is 6-6, 350 pounds.

That's a big body for J.J. Watt to get around.

"I see the best offense line in the country everyday in practice so there's not really anything teams can throw at me in a game that I won't be prepared for," Watt said.

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