- The defense is confident, with good reason, it turns out
- Alex Hornibrook and Jonathan Taylor
- Ambry Thomas' development
- Ronnie Bell stepping up fast
[After THE JUMP: Stuff and things]
(Alex) Hornibrook, what kind of threat is he?
“He’s a winner. He’s a competitor. Like playing against a guy like that. He’s gonna come out and do what he’s done the last two years. What brought him to battle every game.”
He’s very efficient on the road, too. I mean, his stats are pretty impressive
“Yeah, well he is. He takes — most of the time, he’s in control of the ball, which he’s gotta do. They got a great running game that helps him and complements his passing game. So they’ve got quite a package.”
Not everybody’s getting in the red zone against you guys, but he’s also been pretty good in the red zone this year
“Yeah, they are. They’re very tough in the red zone. That’s something we pride ourselves on, so we need to keep playing where we are as far as keeping them out of the end zone. … I know the last couple weeks, we had some late scores on the ground, but we’ve gotta continue to do a good job of keeping them out of the end zone.”
With defensive backs, does it make a difference when you face a right-handed quarterback or a left-handed quarterback?
“No. I never thought of it.”
Maybe ball, angle and stuff like that?
“I never, never came up in my time. Or even the guys this week never asked about it. We heard about it in previous games, with Hornibrook, so I don’t think that’s a big do.”
Have you seen Lavert (Hill) take the next step that you expected him to this year?
“I wanna say that I think I’ve seen all three of those guys take the next step, and understand their job and their responsibility to this team. And obviously for themselves, but I think Brandon Watson, David Long and Lavert have all just, kinda, each week, taken little steps to getting better.”
Seems like we’ve been seeing Ambry (Thomas) a little bit more in some key situations as well, late in the game, saw, you got David Long come off and Ambry come on. What’s given him that opportunity?
“Well Ambry, since we’ve been talking about — Ambry since spring has done nothing but gotten better. Had a great fall, and he’s continuing to improve as we go during the season. So he’s the next man up. He’s — it’s fun watching him on gameday, cause he’s always right there, ready to go. So he’s definitely earned that spot.”
I don’t know if you saw David Long’s tweet about responding to some of the criticism — he talked about how tough it is to play in man coverage. How hard is it to play in this defense?
“Well, I give credit to our guys back there, because if we don’t play man, we don’t play this defense. So, they understand that. They understand their role. They’re conditioned to play press-man every single play of the game — they have to. It is hard. It is hard, and that’s why I hope they embrace it, and I think they do. And continue to try to work to get better every day.”
You mentioned Brandon a little bit — seems like he’s quietly, I mean not so much, he had the pick-six, but he’s having a pretty solid year
“He’s having a very solid year. That was a beautiful play he made last Saturday for the (pick-six).”
How valuable is it, being a fifth-year guy, he’s got some experience, how valuable is he?
“Experience, leadership values. Lead by example. Definitely that kinda guy. He’s not a vocal guy, but he, in practice, he works his rear end off every day. Coach (Don) Brown — it’s funny, we’ll watch film together in the mornings, from the night before. There’s B-Wat, causing some kinda problem, somewhere, some way along the line in practice. And it gets noticed. So he’s working hard in practice, which is a hell of a thing.”
That must be fun, you and Don watching film together
“Yes, it is. Actually, it’s the whole staff watching film. Yeah, so it is fun.”
How spirited does that get?
“It gets very spirited. We’re like choir boys in there. Very quiet.”
When did you know Ronnie Bell was gonna have a chance to be as good as he’s been?
“Yeah, well all those young guys, you can see the flash. There’s a lot of guys … Ronnie, you saw the flash, he took the next step as a young guy. And really exciting to watch. Great kid. Great kid to talk to — he’s a fun kid. He’s got some ability for sure.”
What have you seen specifically from your freshmen corners?
“Well, they need to grow up and get used to being in college and understand that it’s a little different from being a four or five-star guy. You’re now a zero-star guy and you gotta start from the beginning, compete every day and get better every day.”
Are they getting there?
“They’ve got a looong way to go, brother. But as long as they understand that, and they come here to work every day, they’ll be fine. Cause they’ve got talent. They’ve got talent. That’s why they’re here.”
How much does Wisconsin’s run game open up their pass game?
“Big time. They’ll get in these sets, it’s like rugby. These formations, everybody’s in there real tight, they’ll run the ball, run the ball, run the ball, run the ball. And then all of the sudden, boom, play action and they’re throwing. Guys are coming out of nowhere. So, the running game really sets up their passing game, big-time. It’s gonna be a challenge for us and we gotta get them in third downs where they’re a little more predictable in what they’re gonna do.”
Is that a bigger challenge for your guys in run support, too?
“Yeah. Absolutely is. Very similar to last week, except last week, they were trying to get the perimeter. These guys, they’re gonna hit and go north and south. And it’s gonna be, for our corners, and the safeties on the edges, it’s definitely gonna be, they gotta fill the lanes. So it’s gonna be more of a challenge, big-time.”
Does that play into your strengths a little bit though? Having them go more —
“North and south? Well, we like to think so, but I’m sure Wisconsin, and their tradition of running the football, they’re thinking the same thing, that’s what we like to do. So, that’s why this game is gonna be a fun game to be a part of, cause it’s two teams — one defense likes to pound the offense. It’s a great matchup. It’s gonna be a fun night.”
Do you like night games?
Sitting around all day
“A noon game is a beautiful thing. It really is. Players are up and ready to roll. It’s fun. But, hey, primetime, you gotta love that, right? Gotta love it.”
What do you do all day?
“Just do — just keep busy as far as watching film — you find more things to do. Or, shouldn’t find more things, to think about the game. We’ve got — we keep busy. We have meetings and stuff. Try to keep it as normal as possible.”
When you guys are watching film on Hornibrook, do you concentrate more on what he’s doing recently, like this year, or do you guys revert back to last year’s game to watch that?
“Well, their offensive coordinator, Joe Rudolph, he’s been there a while. Good guy. I know him many years back. So, that’s pretty consistent, what they’ve been doing from year to year. So you look at it, this year, last year, there’s a lot of the same runs, lot of the same passes. So, things are very similar from year to year.”
Based on what you’ve seen, is there anything you can see that Hornibrook’s doing better this year than he was doing last year?
“Again, I’ve always liked him. I think he’s a competitor, he’s very consistent in how he plays. He’s putting his heart on the table, and I really respect him. I don’t see anything different from year to year. I’m sure, in his mind, he feels a little more experienced and better that way, but I just see the same competitive guy we did last year, and ‘16.”
Going back to the young guys, you said there are no stars. Do you tell them, ‘You’re stripped of your stars,’ or (something)?
“Yes, they’re aware. They need to earn their stripes. … Yes, no doubt.”
You tell them that?
“Yeah. Yes. And some of them need to know that. This is a — first of all, it’s a hell of a school to go to. That opportunity in itself, just to get this education it one thing. Then you have an opportunity to be a part of a hell of a football tradition, and actually contribute and play. And that’s why they’re here, I was gonna say, they’re really good players. They just have to learn to adjust, that’s all. They’re very talented young guys.”
When you say that some of them need to be, you gotta let them know you’re stripping the stars, I imagine the process is probably different from guy to guy. Some guys probably take better to it than others?
“I don’t know, this crew, they’re all the same. So it’s kinda fun. They’re all the same, you just sit them all down, say the same thing. Hopefully, they all get it. Very similar. They’re all very similar.”
How much zone have you guys sprinkled in this year?
“Very little. Even our zones can turn into man pretty quick. So, very little.”
Devin (Bush) said after the game that the defense — I don’t think he was just talking linebackers, I think he said defense overall — taking this, ‘You’ve gotta come in and beat us,’ approach. Beat Michigan, he said that’s different. Have you talked about that? Have you seen —
“Well, I just think in their actions, the way they have practiced, coaches don’t need to talk about it. You can feel the team coming together. I think Devin’s leadership has helped. You can see it, you can start to feel it. Hopefully, it’s contagious. Coming together and keep getting better week after week.”
What are you feeling, exactly?
“Well, you — the togetherness of the team. They’re becoming a football team. It’s not just offense, defense, special teams. There’s three groups that are coming together to form one team. I think that’s important.”
Is that different than what you’ve seen the past few years?
“I think it is. And I think the difference being is, especially last year, we were just so young and I think a little fragmented. They weren’t feeling quite together, togetherness. Maybe it was the inexperience, that’s what my personal opinion is. But now, just seeing the way these guys are getting older, they’re starting to feel comfortable with each other, with the system and playing together. That’s the way I feel.”
Are you talking just defense?
“No, I can see offensively, too. I think Shea (Patterson) has done a hell of a job of bringing everybody together on that side of the ball.”