Badgers head coach Paul Chryst met with the media Monday afternoon and participated in the Big Ten conference call on Tuesday morning to discuss the upcoming LSU game and the 2016 season. Here are some quick hits from the two press conferences.
On playing at Lambeau Field
The season opener against LSU marks the third consecutive time the Badgers will open their season at a neutral site location and the seventh time since 2011 that the Badgers will play at an NFL stadium. Chryst stressed how fortunate the Badgers were to have the opportunity to play at Lambeau at his Monday press conference. Back in spring, the Badgers also had the opportunity to practice at the Don Hutson Center and tour Lambeau Field.
“We wanted to bring the team up in the spring for a couple of reasons,” Chryst said. “One was to get together and a chance for this team to continue to grow and get to know each other.”
Chryst also said that going to Lambeau in spring allowed players to see parts of the stadium that they would not be able to on Saturday such as the Packers Hall of Fame.
A big question from media Monday and Tuesday was if fans would see Badger players making the iconic Lambeau Leap following on touchdown on Saturday.
At Monday’s press conference Chryst joked, “I would love to see a touchdown. I believe it a penalty.”
Chryst emphasized that he did not spend time checking in on if the touchdown celebration was acceptable and instead focusing on putting his team in a place to make the touchdowns.
In Tuesday’s weekly Big Ten teleconference Chryst said in regards to if players would still be celebrating with a leap into the end zone, “The one thing I’ve always enjoyed about coaching the kids here is they get it. They understand.”
“We get to play in an NFL stadium,” Chryst continued. “And that will be special for all of them.”
On difficult season openers
The past few years the Badgers have opened to several top-ranked SEC opponents. Despite the difficulties presented when playing a successful football program and the difficulties of the Badgers schedule this year, Chryst remains confident in his team and says that his players are more motivated by the tough schedule
“I think for your players they are great opportunities, playing against really good football teams,” Chryst said on Monday. “When you open up against a really good team, your older players look forward to that competition. Your younger players have an opportunity to grow up quickly.”
“It’s a heck of a schedule,” he reiterated at Tuesday’s teleconference. “We’ve been talking that is why this group of players chose Wisconsin—to play in big games.”
On Dave Aranda
Badger fans will be seeing a familiar face on the Tigers sidelines on Saturday though they may not be too happy with the sight. Dave Aranda will coach his first game with the Tigers as the defensive coordinator, a position he previously held the last three seasons at UW.
“The last game we played, Dave was with us, and the first game we play, now he’ll be on the other sideline,” Chryst said on Tuesday.
While Chryst called the upcoming reunion of the two coaches definitely unique, he said for the most part his strategy has not changed.
“Every time you go into a game, you have a plan and you base it on the knowledge you have,” Chryst said Monday.
On Tuesday, Chryst said that while Aranda may have some knowledge of UW’s personnel or base schemes and similarly UW has some knowledge of Aranda’s, the two teams have different players, different teams, which will greatly affect how the defenses run.
On LSU and Leonard Fournette
Though the Badgers may be known as an underdog going into Saturday’s game, Chryst does not like to hold such titles over his head going into the season opener.
“I know who we are as a team,” he said Monday. “I don’t really get caught up in underdog, favorite. The opportunity we have is to play our best game and that’s what you work for and that’s what you get to go out and do each and every Saturday.”
One player the Badgers will have to watch for Saturday is one that has been gaining a lot of media attention, junior tailback Leonard Fournette.
“He is a really talented football player,” Chryst said. “I think for good reason. He is talked about being one of the best in the country.”
As one media outlet noted Tuesday during the teleconference, Chryst had 6 months to prepare for LSU, he stated that he has taken spring ball, summer training and fall camp to prepare for the whole season and not just this one game.
“You preparing for the season knowing that you’re going to open up in LSU and obviously a great football player [Fournette] and team that’s justifiably ranked in the top 5 in the country,” Chryst said. “You don’t spend all your time getting ready for LSU.”
On the Wisconsin defense
With the loss of Aranda to LSU, Chryst said the transition to Justin Wilcox as defensive coordinator has been as seamless as possible
“One of the things that I’ve really liked and appreciated from Justin is this isn’t about him,” Chryst said said Monday. “I think it’ll [the defense] take on the identity of the players.”
Chryst said the identity of the Wisconsin defense will be through the personality of key playmakers—those on the defensive line and linebackers such as Biegel, Watt and Cichy.
Wilcox, Chryst noted, had to deal with the loss of key playmakers on the defense in Michael Caputo, Joe Schobert, Tanner McEvoy and Darius Hillary. The transition from the player departures and coaching changes, however, was successful thanks to the work of Wilcox.
“One of the things that was most important to Justin was finding out what each and every one of those kids could do and how do you play to their strengths,” Chryst said.
Chryst also confirmed that inside linebacker T.J. Edwards will not play against LSU due to a foot injury.
On the Wisconsin offense
In Monday’s press conference, Chryst addressed Houston’s previously experience taking over for an injured Stave last October as well as his preparation for his first start as Badgers quarterback.
“He did a lot of good stuff in that game,” Chryst said of Houston’s previous performance. “I thought he played good and competed.”
On Houston’s first start against LSU, Chryst is confident that the senior quarterback is prepared to play and play successfully on Saturday.
Chryst’s only advice for Houston was “you have to trust who you are and trust the preparation and work that you’ve put in.”
Chryst also praised tight end Troy Fumagalli’s work last season and his preparation for this season.
“I hope that Troy’s a big part of what we’re doing offensively,” Chryst said Monday. “I like what Fum did last year and how he has evolved.”
Chryst hopes for Fumagalli to have not only a big role in the passing element of the offensive but also in the run game.