CHICAGO -- Day one for the Wisconsin Badgers at Big Ten media days had a very, er, Paul Chryst-esque start to it: calm, cool and definitely not flashy. Then things heated up.
Joined by athletic director Barry Alvarez, quarterback Joel Stave, running back Corey Clement and safety Michael Caputo, Chryst and the Badgers contingent on hand Thursday in Chicago went through a day of interviews dominated by talk of the coaching change, the university’s academic standards for recruits, expectations for the upcoming season and, naturally, flip phones.
The Badgers come into the season as favorites to win the Big Ten West division following an 11-win 2014 campaign. Chryst acknowledged that his team’s preseason standing -- coupled with his past success as offensive coordinator --doesn’t amount to anything in the win column.
Big Ten Media Day
Big Ten Media Day
"None of that equals success in the future," Chryst said. "You've got to work at it. You've got to make sure players understand."
Chryst addressed the change at the helm in Madison, the third for the program in four years.
"I think the best way to help the players through any transition is to try to be as up front, let them know everything that you're doing and why you're doing it," Chryst said. "I think it's helped me in coming back here that our seniors, guys that have just graduated, they knew not only myself, but other members on the staff."
Being media day, the coach speak continued for the duration of the opening press conference. Everybody was excited and Ohio State winning the national championship was great for the Big Ten.
On a day when Ohio State suspended All-American defensive end Joey Bosa and three others, there were no such headline-grabbing storylines for the Badgers. That’s not to say, however, that all was quiet on the Wisconsin.
Former Badgers head coach Gary Andersen cited the strict admission standards at UW as a reason for leaving a 10-win team for Oregon State last December. Since then, those regulations have remained in the news surrounding the Badgers, whether legitimate or mere speculation.
Most recently, the hot-button issue surrounded four-star incoming running back Jordan Stevenson last week. Possibly the most talented member of the 2015 class, the university denied admission to Stevenson. On Thursday, he announced his commitment to Big Ten rival Nebraska via Twitter.
I'm officially a Nebraksa corn Husker Go #GBR ⚪️ I will touchdown tomorrow #HuskerNation stay tune lets ride BIG RED truly blessed ⚪️— Jordanstevenson (@Jordanstevie2) July 30, 2015
Chryst, who discussed the importance of Wisconsin’s academic standards as an advantage in recruiting, stood by his point while speaking around the time Stevenson announced his commitment.
"I love the program, I love the university," Chryst said. "I think the standards are a reason why we get some players, student-athletes to come."
According to Alvarez, the process for admitting recruits changed about five years ago. Alvarez is in favor of going back to the previous appeals system, one in which coaches had more say.
"[University admissions] look at scores, they look at numbers, they look at whatever they see and, at times, make decisions before there is a verbal appeal," Alvarez said.
Alvarez added that under the current regulations, admissions do not contact the coaches who he believes have a strong gauge on the profiles of the players they recruit.
"Coaches who know student athletes and recruited them had been through the screening process," Alvarez said. "They’ve done the screening. That’s what we try to emphasize."
"I think it’s only fair to our coaches and some student athletes that their stories should be heard. They should have the right to an appeal."
Alvarez said he hoped to have the appeal changes in place by 2016.
Corey Clement is not Melvin Gordon
Throughout media day, reporters showered the junior Clement with questions regarding former Badgers running back and Heisman Trophy runner-up Melvin Gordon. It was as inevitable as UW students showing up late to Camp Randall. Respectfully and cordially, he produced an answer to each one.
In his eyes was a question that was pleading to be asked. Honestly, what does it feel like being constantly compared to Melvin Gordon, he of 2,587 single-season rushing yards?
Clement was named to both the Doak Walker and Big Ten Players to Watch lists after rushing for nearly 1,000 yards last season in a backup role.
"I just find myself ready for the moment. I don’t see anything else really being a factor to me. I’m ready to get back to camp and start it all over again."
His goal this season is to rush for "at least" 2,000 yards.
As for his 2015 campaign, there appears to be one simple motto for Clement.
"I can only be Corey Clement."
Quote of the night
Early during his individual podium time, Clement mentioned that Wisconsin’s 70-31 drubbing of Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship Game was pivotal in his recruitment. Later, he was asked to expand. In doing so, he landed the quote of day for the Badgers.
"Alright, you got an iPhone. Then you got a flip phone. Then you see all these great features the iPhone can do, then you look at the flip phone. Which phone are you going to go with? I’m going with the iPhone. That’s what I compared Wisconsin to Nebraska. Nebraska is the flip phone and Wisconsin is the iPhone. I’m like, 'Mom, I want to go to the Apple Store. I don’t want to go to the Sprint store right now. Who wouldn’t want to go with what’s best at that moment?' I was like, 'This is a great opportunity for me to be an understudy for the next two years and practice what I need to do.' Because in high school, I thought I had everything under control as far as my stamina and work ethic, and then I got shown up."
Before this gets blown out of proportion, it’s important to acknowledge he was referring only to that championship game and not the two separate programs as a whole. In that game, the Badgers rushed for 539 yards (take that, Nate Silver!). For a running back on the edge about attending a school, that kind of performance on that kind of stage would make a lasting impact.
More coverage on Big Ten media days to come Friday morning.