MADISON, Wis. ― Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst spoke to reporters following practice Thursday and addressed several topics a little more than two weeks before the team’s Orange Bowl matchup against Miami.
Chryst discussed the play of freshman quarterback Jack Coan, Wisconsin graduate assistant Al Johnson’s promotion to coach at Division II East Central University in Oklahoma, linebacker Jack Cichy’s decision to enter the 2018 NFL Draft and more.
Here is everything Chryst had to say:
Chryst: These are good practices. They’re fun to be around. Good to be off the road recruiting. That was fun getting out recruiting, but it’s good to be back with the team.
We haven’t seen QB Jack Coan much other than a handful of games. What have you seen from him since he first got on campus?
Chryst: Jack’s really just coming up finishing that first full year. I think he’s done a lot of things. Jack really, he’s purposeful when he comes to meetings. He truly works and wants to get better. In practice he does. Even like today, these are good for him, just continuing to feel more comfortable with the offense. Getting through progressions. You see him continue to grow, and I think it’s because he’s put the time in. I’ve liked it.
He’s had more practice reps than game reps. Where has he benefited the most?
Chryst: I think there’s always that if you can get through those firsts. That first snap, first throw. So I think that those have been beneficial and yet clearly the bulk of his work has been in practice.
You had three offensive linemen earn All-America honors. How impressed have you been with what Michael Deiter, David Edwards and Beau Benzschawel have provided?
Chryst: I think they’ve been obviously really important to this team. And certainly to the offense. They put the work in. I think that this year clearly there’s a lot of guys getting awards and in my opinion deservedly so. I think they come because of the success the team has, too. So I think those guys fit right into that.
On their own, they’ve done a ton to work and improve and be the best player they can be. And that’s helped our team, and I think the team has helped them get those as well. They’ve been good and I think they all can still get better, which is fun.
Do you get a kick out of David Edwards’ path? High school QB to tight end to tackle.
Chryst: Every guy, you’re appreciative of what they do to get there. Certainly David’s been a little bit different. Paul Gruber was like that. Tight end. Didn’t think he was going to be a quarterback here.
Chryst: None of these guys, they’re all much better. But he worked at it. And that’s the fun part. He spent a ton of time, and there’s so much technique and skill involved with the O-line. Any guy that does that here, you’re appreciative. I think certainly [Joe Rudolph] has done a heck of a job. I think it helps when they go up against every day, it’s a good D-line that we have. They really can grow. I think the opportunity to go against [Garret Dooley] and Leon [Jacobs] and [Andrew] Van Ginkel, it makes for good development.
How proud are you of Al Johnson, and why do you think he’ll succeed in his next step?
Chryst: I’ve always felt really fortunate to be around Al. when I came back my first time I was coaching here, Al was a senior. Just to see how he approached the game, how he was with teammates, big fan of his. And then I was excited. When we were out in Pittsburgh, he came out a couple times. Knowing that he was wanting to get into coaching.
You can’t have enough good guys and good coaches in this profession. The opportunity to be able to spend with him and his family the last couple years, he’s big-time. So for him to get that opportunity, and he’s excited about it, I had an opportunity to speak to some of the people down there. And you can say you feel great about this guy is he will make your place better. Certainly what he brings, but who he is. Pumped for him. I’m really excited for him.
Jack Cichy announced this week he would go to the NFL. Did you have talks with him throughout the season, and what are your thoughts on him leaving?
Chryst: The time that I was able to spend with Cich, you’re grateful for. He’s ready for that next chapter in his life. I think he’s prepared. It has been hard. Selfishly, it’s been hard watching him have to go through what he did at the end. But I also told him the one thing when he was playing, he never got cheated. He was and has been always all in. He’ll be successful.
Miami has done a nice job of turning teams over. What have you seen from them?
Chryst: I think a lot of their takeaways are kind of team defense takeaways that a lot of the picks, obviously whoever is getting it is finishing that. But there’s pressure on the quarterback. They’re playing fast and running to the ball. It’s a good defense.
Is there anything you’ve told the seniors about taking in their final game?
Chryst: Not yet. I’m saving that. They know. They’ve been around it. I think that’s one of the things that this group has done a really good job of. Certainly we as coaches probably overkill everything. But we’ll remind them. And you want them to do just what you said, enjoy it, appreciate it. They’ve earned the right to be a part of this bowl and play against a really good team in Miami.
Certainly we want to be ready to play our best football. But I think this group’s capable of doing that and enjoying the experience. Certainly for seniors, it’s their last time together. After that bowl, a lot of them are graduating. They’ll go through graduation next Sunday and they’ll go in different directions. But they’re smart. They don’t need me to tell them that. But we’ll triple remind them.
Young guys get a lot of bowl prep reps. How valuable is that in your experience, and what have your plans been in that area this time?
Chryst: I think certainly we believe they’re really important. You take a look at when can you do it? We’ll try to fit as many in as we can. That’s where last weekend was really good for them. This weekend will be good. And at some point we’ll start transitioning to where we’re truly focusing in on Miami prep. But we’ve still got a few more shots at it, and we’ll make sure they’re long.
Is Kickoff return an area you’re still searching for, whether it’s returning or blocking?
Chryst: It’s all those. I think we’ve done a lot of good things in special teams that’s contributed to the success we’ve had. But absolutely. You can take every phase, but certainly that’s one you feel like, that’s what’s cool about this game. It’s 11 guys.
It’s a long play. It’s a ton of field. We’re not the only ones. But you say boy, one guy. You’ve just got to be able to put it together for one more opportunity as far as game-wise to try to finish that thing the right way. We’ve had a couple spark plays, but not a ton.
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