Defensive coordinator Dave Doeren opening statement:
"Just start off saying how excited we are to be here. Finally got a chance yesterday to get the guys up on the grass after all the rain and slide around a little bit. But I know they've been practicing here for seems like a month getting ready for this game and just really excited and pleased and proud of everything that these guys have done and look forward to playing on Saturday."
Dave, any Bowl question is how do you keep guys sharp after a month between games? What's your method?
Doeren: Well, they've got a pretty good process. Coach Alvarez kind of set the schedule, and his Bowl record speaks for itself. I don't know if Bret has kind of adhered to it. But we give the guys a little bit of a break after the last game, try to get everybody healthy and our strength staff gets them built back up body wise and get the younger guys a lot of time and let them kind of coach them up, kind of refreshes them mentally and physically. And then once we get back going, it's almost like two a days as far as the tempo. We have long practices and we tackle and make it as game like as possible. Now it's more just polishing things.
I know they're sick of hitting each other. It's a long prep, there's no doubt. But there's - the schedule that's been set has been very successful.
Dave, do you think you enjoyed this whole Bowl process any more this year because of your situation knowing that you're going to be leaving? You maybe will appreciate the players or anything else a little differently?
Doeren: I mean, it's definitely a closing moment as far as what I've done here, and it's been emotional. These two guys here sitting with me, I've been with them their whole careers. In coaching you don't always get to follow a guy from recruiting to graduation, and so that's a really special deal for me as a coach.
Obviously playing in the Rose Bowl, whether I was staying or going, would be special. There's not many guys that can say they coached a team in this football game. And to make it my last game, you know, at Wisconsin, it's been a very special week.
For the players, along those same lines, how big a deal is it for you to still have Coach Doeren here through the Bowl game?
Linebacker Blake Sorensen: Yeah, I think it's been great. Coach Doeren wouldn't have it any other way. He started the season with us and obviously he's going to finish it with us. So it means a lot. A lot of coaches you see around college football going and take other jobs and leave teams, so it means a lot for the players, and we want to finish this thing right.
Linebacker Culmer St Jean: Yeah, it's definitely a big deal. I'm happy that he's here. Coach Doeren is all I know, and he coached me up and he sculpted me into the player that I am today. I appreciate him for staying. We all know what to expect from him. He hasn't changed one bit even though he has an opportunity to be a head coach. We all know it's a special moment. We hope to send him out on the right note.
This is for Blake and Culmer. How do you feed off of J.J. Watt's energy? He shared with me a story after the Northwestern game about how Jay Valai came up to him and said block an extra point and he did it, and Jay was like shaking his head how this guy does all this stuff…
Sorenson: Yeah, he's great to play with. He's a high energy guy. He never stops playing, and really he makes everyone better. When you're out there and you see J.J. making a play, it makes you want to do the same thing. It's an honor to play with him, and he's carried us all year, and hopefully we can keep that going.
St. Jean: Yeah, J.J. is a phenomenal player. He's a tempo setter, allows us to play at a high level, and he makes plays when it's necessary, allows us to get off the field, and having somebody like that makes it a lot easier to be a linebacker.
Coach Doeren, along the same lines, what does J.J. bring to this defense and what dimensions that you can play with him with?
Doeren: Well, I mean, obviously he creates a situation for an offense where they've got to account for him all the time. I think that creates opportunity for other guys. When everything is centered around how to block a certain player, it opens up doors for other guys to produce.
To his credit, he hasn't allowed the double teams or the protections to affect his production. So it's been fun to be around him. Obviously for me it's great because I can move him around and do some things with him. The thing about J.J. that's special, there's a lot of good players in college football, but his ability to learn and do multiple things puts him in a position to be special for us because we can play him in a lot of different spots.
Dave, is Patrick Butrym one of those guys that just keep quietly rising up the charts and just does his job, or how do you view his role?
Doeren: Yeah, Pat is definitely an accountable and dependable guy. Three of the words we talk about all the time on defense is smart, tough, dependable. If we're those three things then we've got a chance. Pat is one of those guys. He works, he's a technician. Very rarely is he out of position, and that's what makes him great, and he plays hard. He's not a flashy guy, he's not overly productive, but at the same time he's always in the right place, he's doing things the way he's coached to do and he does them consistently. As a coach you know where he's going to show up, and you know what his weaknesses are and you can try to help him.
If you could just talk about some of the challenges of going up against a veteran quarterback like Andy Dalton, one with BCS experience…
Doeren:I think Andy is a very good football player. Obviously when you start as many games as he has and won as many games, he's the manager of their team, he does a very good job of getting them in the right place, getting the ball to the right people. He's got a quick release. He doesn't take sacks. He's a good football player, and he's well coached. Their offense has a lot of different things that they do. Schematically he understands it, and he's a lot like Scott Tolzien. He's a little more athletic than Scott, but they're very similar in how they effect their offense.
How rare is for a guy like J.J. to go from MAC tight end to All-American defensive end in just a couple years?
Doeren: I've never heard of it before, so it's pretty rare. His journey is - it's unreal, to think that he was 6'4", 210 in high school and nobody recruited him, and now he's 6'6", 290, and everyone is telling him he should leave college early. What he's done is tremendous.
Do you remember him in high school, and did you guys look at him at all?
Doeren: We did. You know, obviously he was an offensive guy at the time. I know we talked a lot about him. For whatever reason obviously you'd like to take every guy you can in the state, and we didn't, and I don't remember the conversation specifically because he was an offensive player at the time. I know Coach Bielema puts a lot of time and effort into keeping those guys in the state.
Obviously we didn't look very good when he transferred back and became our best player, but it all worked out in the end, you know.
What kind of problems does Jeremy Kerley present to a defense?
Doeren:Obviously tackling a guy like him in the open field is the first problem. He's a tremendous athlete. He's a gifted runner. He breaks tackles and makes things happen after the catch. They move him around offensively, too, where you can't just pinpoint where he is all the time. But defensively we have to account for him all the time. The guys know what he's all about and what he presents, and we've got to do a great job of leveraging him and getting a lot of people to him.
In previous years when Wisconsin has come out here to the Rose Bowl there was always this question of whether they could handle the speed of the Pac 10 teams. It seems like it's almost the reverse in this situation, how people are looking at it, and I'm curious if you think TCU fits into the style of play that the Big Ten has. Do they remind you of a Big Ten team?
St. Jean:Well, watching film to see what TCU puts on film, they remind us of a lot of Big Ten teams. They have a dual offense. They run some similar to Michigan and Purdue and then also have a power type offense like Michigan State, and they also kind of look like Ohio State with the receivers and the type of quarterback they have. So they do - they're very similar to the teams that we played earlier this season, and it seems like it's a culmination of games that we played, and we're just putting it all together and playing the final game.
For Blake and Culmer, obviously you guys lost Chris early in the season. Just as a linebacking group, how did you guys address that and obviously keep it together to get to this point?
Sorenson:Yeah, Chris was an unbelievable player, but we've got a lot of talented guys in the linebacking group. I think Coach Doeren really stressed depth as a unit, and it really showed this year that we had a lot of guys play, Culmer and myself and Mike Taylor was in there, he's healthy and he's a great player, so the only thing - coaching was a lot of it. We prepared that when guys are down, the next guy stepped in, and I think it really helped out.
J.J., can you just take us back to the recruiting process for you, and you know, your year at Central Michigan and how you ended up here with the Badgers?
Watt:Yeah. Well, I committed to Central Michigan to Coach Brian Kelly, and he obviously left for Cincinnati and is now at Notre Dame.
So then I reopened my commitment, and I committed to the University of Minnesota to Coach Glen Mason, and then he was relieved of his duties after the Insight Bowl. So I reopened my commitment again. I visited four or five schools and ended up settling back on Central Michigan where I started at tight end my true freshman year, and I believe I caught only like eight passes, somewhere like 77 yards. So I realized if I wanted to accomplish my goal of some day playing in the NFL, I had to kind of make a change.
So I went out on a limb. My parents supported me the whole time and they offered to pay the $20,000 that I needed to walk on at Wisconsin. I walked on at Wisconsin. Coach Bielema gave me an opportunity, and I was scout team for a year, or Scout Team Player of the Year and earned a full scholarship and started my redshirt sophomore year, and here I am playing in the Rose Bowl. And it's been just an unbelievable experience, and I really never could have managed that it would go this way. So extremely grateful for everybody who helped me throughout the process, and can't thank everybody enough.
This is for Jay and Aaron. It seems like it's been forever and a day since you guys played against northwestern. How have you guys been able to stay focused and keep that momentum going, because you guys were playing so well at the end of the season…
Valai:I think it's pretty easy to focus when we're playing in one of the biggest games ever, especially in my career, and pretty much for Hank, too, but playing against a great team like TCU, you better focus, or else you're going to go out there and get embarrassed on national TV, which is a no-no, and I think that's first and foremost. Hank?
Henry:Yeah, we have been off for a while, but we've been practicing like we haven't been off. So yes, we haven't played in a game, but these practices are very, very intense. You know what I'm saying?
So was there a little bit of rust early on, yes, ma'am, there was, but for the most part, man, I think our coaches have done a great job in preparing us for this game.
J.J., Jay obviously had that hilarious story in the Northwestern game about telling you to go out and do stuff, and then you actually did it. I don't know if he's clairvoyant or what, but do you feel guys feeding off your energy and what you bring to the table? Do they ever tell you to tone it down? What is that all about?
Watt:I sure hope they do. I mean we were just talking yesterday when they showed some of our highlights at Lawry's that I kind of turn into a different player when I step on to the game field.
I don't know what it is. I get this energy flowing through me, and I'm having a blast out there. And I really just let the adrenaline take over on game day. So I really hope it energizes the guys. My intent is definitely not to take away from the team aspect at any point. But I just really enjoy playing the game of football, and I really enjoy playing with these guys, so I let that energy flow free on game day, and can't wait to do it in the Rose Bowl.
For any of you guys, what does it mean to you guys to have Coach Doeren here for this week, that he stayed with you guys through the Rose Bowl?
Valai:It means everything coming to an end. Coach Doeren stayed with us. Obviously he was our defensive coordinator the last five years here, and it means a lot for him to stay with us. I know he has another heavy-paying job lined up right now, but for him to stay with us, it means a lot. And we know one thing about Wisconsin, we gotta finish, and he's proving the point by staying with us and staying focused with us. Coach Doeren put still being the coordinator at Wisconsin ahead of being head coach of Northern Illinois which you gotta respect a lot right now.
Henry:I'll probably say for me, man, it's probably a little more personal just for the simple fact that Coach Doeren was the guy who walked into my home and recruited me and offered me a scholarship. We actually had a chance when he recruited me to play one on one and he was the guy who kind of -- you know what I'm saying, he was kind of like a father figure. So when he told me that he was leaving, I actually found out from him. He called me before all the stuff broke out on ESPN or whatnot and he told me that he loved me, he cared about me, and that I was old enough now. It was kind of like your father, like sending you off, like I'm old enough, son, you're going to be a senior next year. You can take care of this team and take care of your responsibilities here at the university. So you don't need me around any more.
So man, it's just a great experience thus far for him and his family for him to go out there and to get a job at NIU, and it's unbelievable. And we at Wisconsin wish him all the best, but it's just tremendous for him to even offer to finish out the season because he has a ton of stuff he has to do when this game is over in preparing his NIU team. So like Jay was saying, we finish at Wisconsin, and he's just a product of us finishing.
Watt:I think it's also kind of a testament to our team, and it kind of shows you what our team is about. I mean we've worked so hard to get here, and Coach Doeren has been such a big part of it that he doesn't want to leave before the end product is completed.
And we've been working since the end of the Miami game to get to where we are today, and he's been a monster part of that process, so for him to be able to come back and finish, I think is a big deal to him, and it's obviously an extremely big deal to us to have him on our sidelines. So we can't wait to play this last game with him, and we wish him all the best at NIU, that's for sure.
Guys, a couple years ago, Bret caught a lot of heat because of the special teams play of this team. This year I don't know how many games special teams turned things around, whether it was blocked kicks or the faked punt. Can you talk about the improved special teams, and having so many key starters on the special teams, and being involved in it?
Valai:I think turning a weakness to a strength was a major thing we did this year. You know, we had a couple hot games there for a second, Arizona State and Michigan State. We really woke up from those games and knew we had to really emphasize special teams, as we said at the beginning of the year.
Getting slapped in the face like that, you know, that Michigan State one could have basically kind of cost us the game, and then Arizona State barely made a couple stops here and there. I think we really focused in on it. Coach B's really preached on it, Coach Partridge, Coach Rudolph and Coach Ash have done a great job of coaching special teams, and guys have locked in. Even Hank doing returns or J.J. blocking a couple of kicks or me going under somebody's legs and blocking a kick, you know, it was all good.
Henry:In large part I think the most important thing that Coach B tried to preach, man, was if you're going to be a starter on this team and consider yourself to be a player on this team, man, you're going to have to be on special teams, and that's why it's called special teams because when you're in a real, real close ball game and it's a good football team, special teams can often times be the difference maker. So with a lot of our key players that are on special teams, like a lot of teams we feel like we do have the advantage because a lot of teams put their okay guys on special teams. Maybe at returner they have a prime-time guy, but for us man here at this program we try to thrive off special teams, and that's how a lot of guys get their name out there as well.
J.J. what's the "Dream Big, Work Hard" thing? Is that just a thing you've always had?
Watt:For high school year book they asked for a senior quote, and I looked through a lot of the typical quotes, a lot of the Lombardi quotes, stuff like that. But I really wanted to come up and that meant something to me, that I could leave. And I worked hard at it, and I came up with "Dream Big, Work Hard." It really exemplifies what I am as a person and what I want to be represented as. I want to kind of get the message out that if you dream big, you can do anything you want in the world, but that's only half of it. If you're not willing to work hard and put in the time and the effort that it takes, you're just going to be dreaming. That's exactly what you'll be doing.
So "Dream Big, Work Hard" is just something that means a lot to me and I really want to help spread the message about, that kids everywhere can do whatever they want in the world if they're willing to put in the time and effort to work at it.
Aaron, I heard you talk about rubbing elbows with a few celebrities. Who have you guys run into this week?
HenryWell, I'm not going to say the most important celebrity, but the main one, probably should say the only one I've ran into was Meagan Good. You guys probably don't know her, but in the African-American community she's very, very popular. And this young lady is, she is as good as advertised. So it was definitely an honor to meet her. She actually gave me a hug as well. So that was pretty nice.
For the three of you, if you could, give me one thing about this TCU offense that concerns you going into it? Is there anything that concerns you, anything that stands out from them? Start with you…
Henry:I think for the most part, man, the only thing that probably concerns me is them coming up in a formation that we haven't practiced all week. You know what I'm saying, like TCU they give us a ton of stuff, and only thing that probably really concerns me is if they pop up in this weird formation or they give us something the whole first half that we haven't really been working on. So that's probably really my only concern. Other than that, it's just going to boil down to tackling in the open field.
Valai:I think No. 1 thing you gotta do is you gotta read your keys. With an effective team like TCU, with the running game they have and with Dalton back there, too, you don't read your keys it's going up and right over your head to Kerley or any of the other receivers you got; and if you're not reading your keys quick enough, they're going to run that ball right down your throat, because what guys don't realize is that obviously they rushed as many yards per game as we did this year. They're an effective rushing team and effective passing team, and Andy Dalton is equal to Scott Tolzien, so we gotta go out there and execute and do what we gotta do.
Watt:For me, Andy Dalton gets the ball out very quickly. He doesn't sit back in the pocket very long. So I just need to work on getting my hands up, getting in the passing lanes. There might not be as many sacks this game, but I'm going to do everything I can and the defensive line is going to do everything they can to take the pressure off the defensive backs in the passing situations.
Henry:We would appreciate that. (Laughs).
Let's face facts. All three of you guys like to talk. When things get heated in a defensive meeting room, is there enough oxygen in the room, and who takes over?
Henry:I would probably have to say Jay Valai, for the most part. I know in our defensive team meeting rooms, Jay Valai is the guy when things get heated. I mean he is a senior. He is the guy that's going to step up and speak on behalf of all of us. I don't know how it is in the D line room, but for the DBs, Jay is the guy who's going to speak on behalf of all the defensive backs.
Valai:I think all three of us, Andy and Culmer as well, we all speak up at different times. That's what I think makes our defense special. You know, I remember I think it was Minnesota game when we were up by a lot, you know, I think they scored like a late touchdown, Aaron brought us all together.
J.J., you know, when momentum is swinging, I think versus Northwestern, y'all were saying the whole J.J. blocked a field goal, J.J. do this. J.J. brings the team together. I remember two exact drives, J.J. will get a fumble. Hey, everybody bring it up, bring it up, bring it up, and then he just gets a fumble and throws that "W" up, which makes me sick. J.J. makes a play.
You know, one thing, like I said, Culmer does it as well, and I do it too. That's what makes our defense really special. We have more than one leader, and we can really count on each other.
Watt:Jay Valai is hands down the loudest. (Laughs).
Jay, how has Coach Chris Ash helped you this year, not only as a player, but just mentally and emotionally?
Valai: He made me feel taller, first of all. But coach ash has been a great coach. As a technician, he's over the top, but he's over the top to get you better, and there's a reason for it. It's kind of like when your parents spank you when you're little, there's a reason they spank you. They don't spank you just to do it.
But Coach Ash has been a great coach. He's a technician, like I said. He's a smart dude. He's funny, but once again, one thing he really brought was a sense of urgency to the defensive backs room and we realize this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He loves Eminem obviously. He always quotes that every day for some reason. I think he's trying to mix the cultures up together, but Coach Ash has been a great coach, and he's going to go on and do great things in the future.
Aaron, I just googled Meagan Good, so I can understand your excitement…
There's the ceremony of this week, Disneyland, Lawry's, things like that, and then there's the Xs and Os. And today you're going to be doing some charity work, which I think is important to all you guys. Can you talk about that as a chance to represent the university and the state, and you know, what the coach is expecting from you guys off the field?
Henry: Well, I just think that's just a major part of our program, and I mean we are known as top-notch Division I football players, but as J.J. was saying, that dream big, work hard thing goes a long way, especially when you can walk into a hospital room and just kids who are going through things that we can only imagine, you know what I'm saying, whether it's them fighting cancer or kids being homeless. That's only half of what we can do. You know what I'm saying, like just showing up.
So I just think that's just a testament to our program, and that's our way that we give back. The NCAA doesn't allow us to give them money or any other things, but that's our way of showing them love, showing that we care about them, showing that we just don't play the game because we love it, but we play the game in order to inspire people who are going through situations like yours.
Watt:I think it says something about our team that even before we knew of any of the community service opportunities out here, that guys were asking if there were opportunities. That's just the type of team that we are.
Back in Madison everybody tries to help out as much as possible in the community, and when we got down here, guys were wondering when was the soonest we could get involved in the community here. Our team just likes to give back because we understand how much the communities around us give to us.
For all the guys, Coach Doeren compared Scott Tolzien to Andy Dalton, but said Scott's a little less athletic. First of all, how do they compare, and is Scott really that unathletic?
Valai: Yes. (Laughs). Next question. No. Scott had a little -- I think he doubled his career yards in rushing the other day in practice. He had a little 15-yard scamper. He would have slid, too, but I think he wanted to dive for it again. But Scott's a great quarterback. Andy is a great quarterback.
I think Coach Doeren wasn't lying when he said Andy Dalton is a little better athlete. Dalton can run the ball very effectively and you go to sleep on that, he'll take it 15 yards on you and 20 yards on you here and there.
But we respect Andy Dalton a lot, but I think I wouldn't go with any other quarterback in this country but Scott Tolzien, the Unitas Award winner, and he's just a great quarterback in general; leader.
If you want to say any of the captains are No. 1, head captain on this team, I think it would be Scott Tolzien first and foremost because he really represents Wisconsin well at everything he does in his life.
This is a question for whoever wants to take it. Scott said yesterday all this time to prepare he's having a lot of fun with it because TCU is a foreign team that he hasn't seen much of. Is any of that the same defensive side liking at their offense?
Henry:I mean I think for the most part it's been a pretty exciting run for all of us. I mean TCU is I want to say offensively similar to maybe a couple of teams that we faced this year just for the simple fact that they do spread it out a little bit, they can jam it in a little bit.
But it's pretty exciting for all of us. I think it's more so exciting for all of us because it's the Rose Bowl. If we were playing Boise State or anybody else, we would be just as excited. Not just because it's TCU. Yes, it's going to be a great opportunity, because the last time we played them it was a tie ball game, if I'm not mistaken, but it's just exciting overall.
Thanks for all the great material, first of all. Do you guys have to keep other guys loose so they don't think, oh, my gosh, it's the Rose Bowl?
Valai:I think it's both. They gotta keep them a little loose, but some guys have been a little too loose here and there, everybody's having fun, but I think everybody's starting to get locked in on what we have to do, you know, why we're here.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, which J.J. preaches on a lot, and Aaron does, too, and we don't get another shot at this. So it's cool to have fun in LA, but it's not going to be cool to get killed by 40 points and embarrass me in front of my family at home or the fans here to support us. So we know what we're here for first and foremost.
Watt:They took us to Disneyland and we got to Lawry's last night. So there's plenty of time for us to be loose, but at the end of the day we didn't come here to ride teacups and eat prime rib. We came here to win a football game. So that's what we're looking forward to doing on Saturday and that's why we're working hard all week.
Valai: Good line. (Laughs). That's smooth. That's very smooth. The mayor of Madison.
Henry:Make sure you quote J.J. on that.
Valai:You better Twitter that now, brother.
Culmer at Disneyland said that he almost felt like it was defense versus defense. Maybe that's just his opinion, but is there a feeling among the defense that because they're ranked No. 1 that you guys obviously gotta do what you gotta do?
Valai: American football is defense versus offense, so I don't know what Culmer is talking about.
Watt:Culmer is watching the wrong defense.
Valai:Yeah. I guess.
Watt:No. Obviously they have the No. 1 defense in the country and as a defensive player you want to go out there and show that you're the best defense every single time you take the field.
Our offense is a great offense and I'm looking forward to watching that matchup. It's going to be great. But at the same time we need to hold our own on the defense and we need to create some take-aways so we can give our offense the ball as many times as possible.
Valai:I think for me, man, I don't know if we look at it as really a challenge against the other defense. Like J.J. was saying, it's just going to boil down to us doing what we gotta do.
Hopefully we can take care of our business and our offense can do the same and we can come out victorious at the end of the day.
J.J., any chance this is your last game at Wisconsin?
Watt:There it is.
Watt: I really just kind of put all that thought process behind me, and I'm really here focusing 110 percent on the Rose Bowl simply because it wouldn't be fair to myself, it wouldn't be fair to my teammates, my coaches, the entire state if I was thinking about other things during this week. So I'm 110 percent locked into the Rose Bowl. I'm 110 percent committed to the Wisconsin football team, and we can discuss all those things after the game.
Henry:Dream big, work hard. Good answer, J.J.
Below are audio files from today's press conference: