Big Ten Media Days started their second day off in Chicago, with the Wisconsin Badgers taking part in the festivities on Tuesday.
On Tuesday morning, head coach Paul Chryst spoke with reporters at the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile. Here are just a few highlights from his nearly 14-minute press conference:
On Alex Hornibrook’s improvement over the years and the qualities he admires the most about his quarterback:
“Well, there’s a lot of things that I admire about Alex. One of those is his desire to be the best that he can be, and he truly is that. He’s a great worker, he’s a really good teammate. Our players like him, he likes our team, his teammates. You appreciate the way Alex works and certainly now he’s had a number of experiences and done a lot of good things in those, and certainly there’s areas in every part of his game, just like any other player, that he can get better at, but he works at it. He’s fun to be around with, and I’m fortunate for the time that we've had, and I look forward to this year in being around him and hopefully helping him continue to grow. I think he’s a heck of a quarterback now and yet I still think he can get better, and that’s fun to be around.”
How to continue to be “the hunted”:
“Well, I think we know how competitive the Big Ten is, and really every week, it’s a great challenge, and so our players know that. You know, there’s great players in this league. I’ve always thought that and I know there’s great coaches in this league, so you know people are going to get better. Each week, it’s going to be a great competition. You just want your players to be as prepared for that as they can be, and then go out and play. All we talk about is going out there to give yourself a chance to have a chance. You know there’s great, like I said, players and teams across the field from ya, and whether you’re hunted, you’re hunting, we’re all trying to do the same thing, and I think the biggest thing you can do is try to focus on the areas that you can impact the most, and that’s yourself. So you just want your players in a good spot and focused and appreciate the opportunity of great competition.”
National championship talk and if it’s been discussed and if the team is ready to be in the playoff:
“Nothing that happens outside really impacts inside the room, and our expectations and our goals inside the room have always been really high, and once you set those, then I think you got to go back and the only way to reach, obtain those goals is to take advantage of each day and focus on that. You earn the right to be—we’re talking about earning more opportunities, earning games. Whether that’s trying to win the Big Ten West so that you can earn the right to play in the Big Ten Championship Game, earn the right to play in a bowl game, all those things are earned, and the only way to get there is by making the most of each day and each opportunity, but there’s nothing that’s said outside that is going to impact more what’s happening on the inside. Our team, we have high expectations, and that bar has been set because of those that have come before, and some are on our team now, with what they’ve done, and yet, each year it’s a new opportunity. And that’s what’s fun about it.”
In depth at RB/WR: Glad who is on the roster. Starting to get some depth at WR position, love the fact Jonathan Taylor is the RB. Knows that group cares about the team.— Bucky's 5th Quarter (@B5Q) July 24, 2018
Importance of having offensive linemen established:
“Well, I think it’s really important, and we feel really fortunate for all the work that guys put into it. We’ve got offensive linemen, we’ve got a lot of guys that have played really good football. Defense line, we got Olive [Sagapolu] that’s played a lot of football, and then we got a younger group. It doesn’t just happen, and there’s a long line of really good linemen but they have to work and put themselves in position. Coach Rudolph, our offensive line coach, and Inoke Breckterfield, our D-line coach, they spend a lot of time with them, and yet, love the fact that we’ve got guys that have experience. I think if you’re going to be a good team, you’ve got to be good in your offensive and defensive lines. It’s a good starting point, and we’ve just got to continue to work to get better.”
Notion of the Big Ten East being better than the Big Ten West:
“My view is that I think there’s really good teams in the Big Ten. They’re in the East [Division] or in the West [Division], so don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out narratives. I know who we play this year, and you respect every opponent and you know that you’ve got to play well to give yourself a chance. So that’s what I feel. Ever since I’ve been part of the Big Ten, that you know each week is going to be a heck of a competition and a heck of a battle, and that’s the fun part about playing in the Big Ten and coaching in the Big Ten because your players know that, too. I’ve had great games with teams from the East, great games with teams from the West, so to me, that’s the beauty of playing in the Big Ten—you’ve got to be ready every week.”
On potential “change in identity” of Big Ten hires of Jeff Brohm/Scott Frost: obviously good football coaches. Played against Purdue last year, appreciates what Frost did last year at UCF. Really good coaches in this league, bring a lot to the table.— Bucky's 5th Quarter (@B5Q) July 24, 2018
Updates on the defensive line
Right after Chryst’s press conference in the morning, the media spent time with the Wisconsin head coach.
The big news on Sunday was the revelation that redshirt freshman Kayden Lyles would switch sides of the line of scrimmage to play nose tackle. Chryst commented on the change for the former four-star prep lineman.
Chryst said Lyles came to Wisconsin to be an OL, but wanted to get on the field. Said the talk with him didn't last long when they suggested the move to NG. https://t.co/MmafEel1qa— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) July 24, 2018
Chryst said Kayden Lyles is all-in on defense after switching from OL to NT. Not necessarily a permanent switch, but this is a way for Lyles to help the team and get on the field. #Badgers— John Veldhuis (@JohnVeldhuis) July 24, 2018
With Garrett Rand out for the season, all eyes focused in on when defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk could return. Those on the Badgers beat asked Chryst about when the redshirt sophomore, now an even more important piece of the defensive line, could return.
Chryst says Loudermilk’s recovery is going well. Wouldn’t say if he’ll be back by Week 1, but is encouraged by his progress.— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) July 24, 2018
Chryst said after his opening press conference that DE Isaiahh Loudermilk's recovery is going well, but couldn't say if he would be ready for week one. #Badgers— John Veldhuis (@JohnVeldhuis) July 24, 2018
Chryst said Loudermilk’s recovery is going well. Doesn’t know if there’s a chance he’ll be ready by Week 1.— Jason Galloway (@Jason_Galloway) July 24, 2018
The new redshirt rule highlighted some of the conversations Chryst had with the media present in Chicago.
#Badgers Paul Chryst likes new rule that allows frosh to play up to 4 games and retain redshirt year. Staff has talked about the rule. Plan is to be flexible. No. 1 priority remains: You can't play a kid before he is ready....— Jeff Potrykus (@jaypo1961) July 24, 2018
#Badgers Paul Chryst continued on new "redshirt" rule: Staff no longer has to make decisions early and the option of playing in a few games late in the season should keep freshmen motivated to keep working/improving.— Jeff Potrykus (@jaypo1961) July 24, 2018
No surprise that the #Badgers love the change to the redshirt rule. They have come close to getting burned by the old one - remember when they almost had to play Deiter in the 2014 Big Ten title game? Escaped without having to burn his RS that year.— John Veldhuis (@JohnVeldhuis) July 24, 2018
They have also had players grow during the season who could have helped by the end of the year - Chryst mentioned Scott Nelson from last year, but DCW could have helped at the end of 2016. Might have come in handy against PSU. #Badgers— John Veldhuis (@JohnVeldhuis) July 24, 2018
The players’ discussion
During the afternoon session, redshirt seniors T.J. Edwards, Michael Deiter and D’Cota Dixon spoke with reporters.
According to Dixon via Saturday Down South’s Connor O’Gara, uh, Chryst has some explaining to do.
D’Cota Dixon said that Paul Chryst forgot to check in with his wife and he was trying to smooth things over during the B1G Luncheon.— Connor O'Gara (@cjogara) July 24, 2018
Chryst told Dixon: “I might be riding home with you guys.”
Apparently Dixon had jokes for both the head coach and his defensive coordinator, Jim Leonhard.
#Badgers safety D’Cota Dixon trades playful jabs with Jim Leonhard. Calls him burnt wood. Meaning: He is done. His playing days are over.— Jeff Potrykus (@jaypo1961) July 24, 2018
Leonhard responded in pretty hilarious fashion.
Here are some more tidbits from Michael Deiter from those in attendance:
Michael Deiter asked whether they can be the top OL in college:— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) July 24, 2018
"I definitely think we have the guys to do it. It’s not something we think about. All we can think about is being the best we can. I think if we can do that, there shouldn’t be any doubt that we’re the best."
Michael Deiter when told some think they can't match up w/top teams:— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) July 24, 2018
"Every year there’s going to be someone that says stuff like that because it’s easy. It’s easy to say 4- or 5-star recruits are going to win. OK, congrats, you’re doing a really good job analyzing sports."