It’s here. Wisconsin Badgers football game week! We’ve had the longest, most uncertain, offseason in college football history but all of that ends on Friday evening when Wisconsin kicks off against the Illinois Fighting Illini at an empty Camp Randall Stadium.
Early Sunday morning, head coach Paul Chryst, RB Garrett Groshek and S Eric Burrell met with the local media to kickoff the first game week of the season. Chryst opened the press conference with a brief statement that mostly revolved around how thankful/excited he was to be preparing for a real, live game this weekend.
"Thankful to be here for game week. All in all I'm proud of the way the players and staff" have handled everything, coach Chryst says.— BOOky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) October 18, 2020
In an interesting moment of candor after being asked about how the team’s preparation was going, Chryst sounded like an anxious student walking into a test who isn’t sure if they studied enough the night before. Chryst came off as a meticulous game planner that wants to account for every possible situation on the field, which is obviously impossible. It was a fun little glimpse into the psyche of Coach Dad.
"I don't know if I've ever felt like we are ready to go," Chryst talking about being ready for Week 1 and how he sometimes worries before every game.— BOOky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) October 18, 2020
A couple of quick hitters from Chryst’s availability:
- “I like the pieces but we have to put it all together,” Chryst on the running game now that Jonathan Taylor is in the NFL.
- “It means everything to us,” Chryst says about having injured QB Jack Coan on the sideline during practice every day. “He’s a significant, big part of this team.”
- Freshman OLB Nick Herbig has been a topic conversation in basically every one of these Zoom press conferences and Sunday’s was no different.
"Nick's got a great uh...he's talented."— BOOky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) October 18, 2020
"He wants to be coached and wants to become the best he can be."
"He loves competing, he loves playing."
More praise for freshman OLB Nick Herbig from the coaching staff.
- “This group, the 2020 Badger defense, gets to form their own identity,” Chryst when asked about how the defense looks having lost major production from last year.
After Chryst was done speaking, a pair of senior leaders, Groshek and Burrell, each had a turn at the mic. Groshek went first and mentioned that Taylor, who he called the greatest RB in college football history, used to say “the standard is the standard” and that is how the RB room is thinking headed into the season even though Taylor is gone.
As we wait for the first depth chart to come out, I think it is important to remember that even though Taylor is in the NFL the current Wisconsin running backs are still planning on having a good season. Nakia Watson, Isaac Guerendo, Jalen Berger, Julius Davis and Groshek all bring valuable skills to the table and are hoping to continue the high level of play that Taylor had. Burrell noted during his turn that nobody knew who Taylor was before he burst onto the scene his freshman year, implying that while some of the young guys are relative unknowns, there may be a star or two in the making.
Some other notes from Groshek and Burrell:
- Groshek mentions that FB Mason Stokke has taken a few reps at RB just in case there is a situation where they are shorthanded there.
- “That man is crazy, haha! He’s one of the strongest guys on the team and gives 100% on every play,” Eric Burrell on ILB Leo Chenal. He went on to say he has done “a hell of a job” filling in for Chris Orr.
- Much like Herbig, nary one of these Zoom pressers has gone by without someone bringing up freshman WR Chimere Dike.
Eric Burrell mentions true freshman Chimere Dike as a player who gave the defense problems in practice.— BOOky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) October 18, 2020
Notes that Dike came to him after practice and asked what he can do better. Said that was the first freshman to ever do that.
And here, because you’ve been good, is some hot Graham Mertz action to get your engine revved up on a Sunday.
how it ended @GrahamMertz5 ➡️ @_KPryor3 pic.twitter.com/fcYEFSFyCF— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) October 18, 2020