MADISON - The past three weeks have been frustrating for Nick Toon. After excelling towards the end of fall camp, it seemed the junior wide receiver was set to carry that momentum into regular season play.
However, a turf toe injury suffered at UNLV early on in week one has sidelined the athletic receiver for the past three weeks. Now, with the Big Ten opener just around the corner, Toon has been cleared to play.
At the conclusion of Tuesday's practice, Toon discussed the injury with reporters. The following is a transcript of that conversation.
How is it?
Toon: It feels good. Obviously I did a little bit in practice last week and I did the pre-game this week before the game. I practiced the whole practice today and had no limitations. I felt good.
Could you put into words how frustrating these past three weeks have been, for a lot of reasons?
Toon: It's always frustrating when you can't play. Obviously we work all year for 12, hopefully 13, opportunities to play. When you're not able to take advantage of one of those opportunities it kind of sucks. But, you know, that's part of the game. You've just got to deal with it and do what you need to do to get back onto the field and move on. I did that and now I'm back. It feels good to be back.
Conditioning you feel pretty much up to where you want?
Toon: Yeah, I did a lot of conditioning last week just to kind of get back into shape and I actually felt better today than I felt before I got hurt.
Scott Tolzien was saying you and David Gilreath looked pretty sharp today. Do you feel it will be hard to work the rust off?
Toon: No, we play together all year last year and went through camp. I played the first week and David played the first couple of weeks. We know each other and I don't think it will be hard to knock the rust off. Most of the rust that we had got knocked off today, so we'll continue to clean it up the rest of the week and be ready to go come Saturday.
Is this something where you're going to be playing with some pain?
Toon: That's kind of one of the things that we wanted to kind of address and take care of. It's detrimental to go out on the field and play with an injury that you have to think about while you're playing because obviously that takes away from what you're doing. I still feel it a little bit, but it's not something that intolerable or something I'm thinking about when I'm playing. It's pretty close to being healed and I don't anticipate it being a problem at all.
Your head coach said they were working something with your shoe?
Toon: Yeah, sometimes with turf toe injuries people put a steel plate or carbon fiber plate in their shoe. We're still working on what the right thing (is) obviously because everyone is different. I felt good in practice today so I think we almost have it healed.
What have you seen out of Lance Kendricks through these past two games?
Toon: Obviously Lance has played great the past couple of weeks. Hopefully that continues throughout the rest of the season. Obviously it adds another element to the passing game and hopefully takes some pressure off the other playmakers on the field. He's been playing great. There is no other way to put it.
Do you think the defensive attention starts with him now?
Toon: Yeah, it probably starts with the run because we're traditionally a running team. Obviously he's a threat and I'm a threat even though I haven't played. I hope people still respect me. We have a lot of weapons on offense and I think we're going to have good success.
Do you and Lance complement each other that way? Is it hard to take both of you away?
Toon: Oh yeah. I think when you have a tight end that compliments the passing game obviously it takes pressure off the receivers. It kind of just spreads it out and makes it hard for defenses to cheat and key different players. It's great to have multiple threats on offense.
What do you remember most about that last trip to Michigan State?
Toon: Obviously the loss. It was a game that we should have won and penalties took away from us getting that done. Obviously we're playing a lot cleaner this year. If I remember correctly we're second in the country for fewest penalties. Obviously that's a lot better than we were a few years ago. Hopefully we can continue that the rest of this season. A lot of times when teams have a lot of penalties, even last night (Monday night), penalties can take away from the game. I don't think that's something that people don't know. So hopefully we can stay clean and come back with the W.
Was that a low point for the program?
Toon: I would say it's the lowest point since I've been here. I wouldn't necessarily say it's the lowest point the program has ever been in. We still went to a bowl game and had some success. We won more games than we lost. So that was good. Obviously that's not where we wanted to be and we took a step forward last year and hopefully we'll continue to keep moving forward this year as well.
What do you think has changed with this whole group since then?
Toon: I think the biggest difference with this group that we have now as opposed to the group that we had when I came in is just overall team chemistry. We always had a lot of talent in my opinion since I've been here. A lot of people that have played on championship teams, from what I've heard since I've never been on one myself, those teams in most cases have great team chemistry and work well together. When that happens they are able to win a lot of games.
You mentioned championship teams and obviously there's a long way to go and you've got to take it one game at a time, but do you think this team has what it takes to contend in the Big Ten?
Toon: Oh yeah, I definitely think we have what it takes. But like you said it's a long way away and we have to have a lot of work ahead of us in order to succeed in doing that. We definitely have the capability to get it done.
When you miss three games like you have is there any concern of pressing? Maybe trying to do too much?
Toon: No. Obviously I want to make up for the time that I've lost but you've just got to go out there and do what you do. That's all it is and you can't try to do more than you're capable of doing. Obviously you don't want to under perform. I'm just going to go out there and do what I do.
Scott is completing 76 percent of his passes, when he's in a streak like this how tight of a window can he fit it in there?
Toon: Scott is a very accurate passer. That's one of his upsides. He doesn't have a cannon for an arm but he's a very smart player. He throws the ball very well and he's very accurate. I'll take an accurate quarterback that can put it where it needs to be over a guy that has a cannon any day. Obviously if you have both that's the best of both worlds, but Scott is a great player and I anticipate that he'll continue to play great the rest of the season.