Wisconsin Badgers head coach Paul Chryst and senior safety Michael Caputo spoke with the media Wednesday morning during the Big Ten Conference spring football teleconference. Here are the highlights from the 15 minute-plus chat:
On defensive coordinator Dave Aranda sticking around:
Chryst feels real fortunate that it worked out for Dave and for Wisconsin to have him back. Said players have tons of respect for him, and he's been great to work with.
If he noticed Wisconsin's defense from afar last year:
Said he was busy so couldn't see defense in depth last season, but from those he talked to, he knew what was going on. When talking with players, he said it was a "no-brainer" to have him back and fortunate when Aranda said this was a good fit.
On the difference in approach when taking over program that who won Big Ten West division rather than rebuilding:
Said regardless of situation that there's some components of change regardless of record/situation last year. Believes change can be unsettling or energizing for others. Doesn't matter what happened year before -- have to establish relationships, inputting of new schemes or going about things.
Can it be tough when new coach trying to keep success level high:
Chryst noted each year is different for each team. New coaches is trying to help its team to be the best it can be. "If we can be the best we can be this year, that's good."
More Aranda questions -- what tangible impact is seen by just having Aranda still around:
Said Aranda's a really good football coach. Some of our best football players are on defense -- learning curve -- all have some. Players on defense may have less change but still change for everyone here.
Aranda's ability to adapt style to existing personnel:
Again noted Aranda's like any good football coach. There's a foundation of schemes but Aranda adjusts to players. Not the first year of going from 4-3 to 3-4 but there's been a lot of different players since transition to play to their strengths. Said he feels good with what they're doing and you hope kids can continue to improve each year, and coaches have to adapt to it.
Collective mood of players compared to when hired to now:
Said they've all transitioned as best they could. Mentioned it may be best to talk with players about it. Knew some of these players, but they're a lot different from being freshman to now being juniors or seniors. Said some of the older players could help younger players who never experienced Chryst's style. Appreciated players going about their business. Says biggest mistake is coming in and assuming everything's good. Biggest thing in coaching is your players. Chryst knows the names and faces, but really wants/needs to get to know them.
How familiarity with Wisconsin has helped him transition:
Chryst noted he knows the school -- mentions recruiting briefly. "Not trying to learn the school." Biggest job of a coach is with the players and there's a lot of players he didn't know. Has to build relationships and that's the fun part of coaching, but it takes time.
Opening remarks: Said spring is going really well and everyone getting up to that "tough, D1, Wisconsin level." He wants team to take advantage of last couple of practices to move into camp.
His thoughts on Sojourn Shelton's spring and being a "breakout" player per Aranda's comments from a week ago:
Notes all players have needed to work on things. Sojourn's brought new energy to defense and secondary to make a play -- get a tackle, get an interception.
Transition or business as usual with defense:
Caputo noted it was business as usual, "status-quo" and another day on the job with the older players bringing up the players to the "D1 level"
On excitement with Aranda coming back:
Said he was pretty excited. Likes Aranda. Loves everything about the defense. Mentioned it's great to have a coach that you like and makes you confident in doing what you already know how to do.
Takeaways from bowl win vs Auburn:
Caputo said they took away that they can compete with the best and team can overcome adversity. Moving forward with a lot of guys returning that contributed to win. Noted they have the right type of talent to compete with the best.
On senior Tanner McEvoy's transition to mostly a defensive role in the spring:
Caputo said McEvoy's one of the most "football-savvy" guys he knows. Type of guy that you can put anywhere on the field and he'll approach the task and do what's best for the team. Said you can put him at any position and he'll do well at it. Believes coaches will put him in best spot to do what's best for the team.
What he sees when McEvoy catches ball:
"I see a big 6'6 white guy catching the ball, running around and can compete with the best of them," Caputo said.
"He can definitely play receiver, quarterback, safety, corner, wherever you want to put him. He's a football player."