Last time the media spoke to head football coach Paul Chryst there was a lot of excitement around the return of Big Ten football and what that meant for the Badgers returning to the field. Despite the excitement, the conversation was still COVID-19 focused.
Today however, that changed. The pads went on, and the boys we’re hitting. Due to that, it allowed coach Chryst to talk JUST FOOTBALL which was a really nice sound to my ears after months and months of COVID-19 talk. Here’s what coach Chryst had to say about what he’s seen from his team and players thus far.
To start, coach Chryst was asked about the running back position and what he expects from the likes of Garrett Groshek and others, and how they try to fill the giant shoes of Jonathan Taylor.
“Groshek has been tremendous in this off-season despite it being kind of a different off-season... obviously going to need continued leadership from him...that’s been the fun part about getting going with the young guys and with Groshek. Nakia Watson has played a lot of football for us and yet all of these guys their roles are still to be defined. I’ve been impressed with and appreciate Isaac Gurendo. I think he’s starting to feel comfortable at that position. Between those three you hope to be productive. Certainly you’ve got Jalen Berger who’s new to this and Julius Davis who’s new but I think those three (Groshek, Gurendo, Watson) are what the lean goes on right now to be productive. Certainly not trying to match what JT did, but we do have to get really good consistent production out of that group and I think all three can bring something to the table on that.”
Following the running back talk the conversation shifted to the inside linebacker position, one that seems to be a strength for the team coming in to the season with experience and youth littered throughout.
“Got three guys that have been around and played. Leo (Chenal) being the youngest but he’s played a lot of football. With Jack (Sanborn), Leo, and Mikey Maskalunas you’ve got three guys who’ve certainly got a good sense of how to play and how to play in our defense. Then I think you’ve got a really young group... as the season develops it’s how do those young guys develop. Coach Bostad does a great job of coaching them. That’s what you’re looking to see, how does Jordan (Turner) or Malik (Reed) kind of get this... you’ve got kinda two different groups you’ve got a group that has a good understanding and a group that we like their talent. I think there’s some question marks certainly after those top three.”
Following the switch to defense the talk moved back to offense and Jack Coan where the question focused on what Chryst has seen from him early on, and what he can build on as the season goes forward.
“I think he’s had great purpose in his approach to improving every part of it. Yet, I think he’s got a great understanding of kinda who he is right now in each different area. His growth, in some areas, is little things but you also think that those can be big. Anticipation or a way to throw a certain ball. There’s always gonna be that work that needs to be done with the other guys... I’ve loved the way he’s approached it. It’s very purposeful. He’s been very consistent about it and I think he has done some things to help himself improve.”
To wrap things up coach Chryst talked about the outside linebacker position and who has a chance to compete at that position which is currently one of the bigger question marks facing this team.
“Noah (Burks) was productive last year... when you go back and look at it Noah was consistently productive. The first thing is to kind of keep that and build off of that. Doesn’t need to be someone he’s not. Some of our big games he played really well. I like the way he tries to approach it, doesn’t try to do too much... then you’ve got Izayah (Green-May) he’s a legitimate guy. He played and played a lot last year in different areas. He’s gotta continue to grow. He’s no longer a young guy... C.J. Goetz has done a nice job, last year we kinda moved him but now I think he’s had enough time where he’s understanding what’s going on... Spencer Lytle is a guy were excited about, he’s kinda always been fighting an injury. Just being able to be on the field consistently he shows some natural instincts to the position. Then we’ve got some young guys in Nick Herbig and Aaron Witt, Kaden Johnson.”
Overall, like I said, it was nice to hear Chryst be able to talk about football because you know that’s what he wants to be discussing. He hit on the main question marks for this team in the outside linebacker position and how you try to replace the legendary performances of Jonathan Taylor. It’s still early with today being the first padded practice, but it appears they’ve already got some of the answers they need to find for this fall.