Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst spoke to reporters on the Big Ten spring teleconference Wednesday. Chryst addressed the growth of running back Jonathan Taylor, what goals he has tried to accomplish this spring and his thoughts on the Badgers’ talented offensive line.
Here is everything Chryst had to say:
Chryst: Spring’s been fun. Appreciate and value this time of the year and the opportunity to be able to work with all your players, and yet you’re not necessarily getting ready for an opponent. So the focus can truly be on developing and coaching them up. It’s a fun time of the year. I’ve appreciated the way the group’s approached it. I think we’ve got five more practice opportunities, so we’re looking forward to finishing it out the best we can.
Q: Coming off Jonathan Taylor’s freshman season, how do you manage expectations with him?
Chryst: He’s a blast to coach. It’s not difficult at all. I think what you focus on is how you can help him to get better. There’s not one guy in this program, I’m sure you could say at any program, that can’t get better. So it’s the opportunity to work with him and it’s his first spring and first year of really doing football year-round.
Who he is as a person, he wants to be the best he can be and wants to be coached. John Settle does a great job with him, our running backs coach. He’s really fun to be around, and you appreciate being able to coach him. He’s got a great approach to it. How that translates into yards and number of carries, all that, you don’t know. But there’s a lot of things that he did well, and you want to build on that. And there’s areas that he can improve, and he’s the first to want to improve those.
Q: What area is Taylor most eager to improve?
Chryst: What I think is pretty interesting about Jonathan is there’s not one, whether it’s the footwork on the run game, he wants to be right on it. You’re always growing and developing in pass protection and then with different runs, seeing it versus different fronts and different pressures.
I think there’s the first with all kids, it’s the first thing you want to do is know what to do and then it’s how to do it. And then there’s a why component and how it fits in, you’re studying defense more. Initially you’re just studying your own stuff. You want to run it the way it is in the book. And then you’re studying how does it fit against different defenses. There’s always a ton of learning to be had, and he does a great job of just always coming in with an approach to how to learn and how to get better.
Q: Did you have a specific goal to accomplish in spring?
Chryst: The goal is really how can you help each kid get better? I don’t know if there’s an end. There’s never an end game to that. I think there’s been progress being made, and I think the kids are doing a good job of helping themselves. The coaches are doing it. It’s been a good spring. I’ve never gone into a spring, if we can get to this. Each year, we talk to the players about this, for everyone there’s something you can pick on and get better at.
I don’t care if you’re T.J. Edwards who’s started three years already or if you’re a guy that is just trying to earn his first chance at action. There’s a competitive part as you build the team: Can you find a role on this team? And then how can you expand that role? So I think that the evaluation part is who’s earned the rights for those sports in fall camp?
Everyone can get better. That’s the goal of spring ball. Yet there’s not an, ‘OK, we’ve reached this level of development.’ I do think that there’s a part of you as a coach that who is the pool that’s going to get a ton of reps for an unknown right now or on paper? Who are the cornerbacks going to be?
We lost two senior starters, or a senior and a junior. So I think we’ve gotten that where we’ve got a pool. Who is the starter? Don’t need to know in spring. But you’ve got to know who the pool is. We’re getting those answers in the spring. A long way to say the goal is clear. How do we get better? But I don’t think you’re ever, all right we’ve achieved it.
Q: What is the hardest position to develop in spring?
Chryst: I hesitate only because there’s that individual component that everyone comes in different. But I think offensive line, there’s a lot of little things that are huge in that. I think in the lines in general. The closer you are to the ball. And certainly quarterback takes time. But I think it’s all relative to the individual and what their background is and kind of their knowledge and personality. If I had to answer one, I’d say offensive line.
Q: Are you going to have the best offensive line in the country?
Chryst: We’ve got to go and do it. I like the group we have. But every one of those guys, and a lot of them have played and done good things, but we have not arrived.
Q: From the experience you have and cross-training guys at different positions, is this the best offensive line you’ve been associated with?
Chryst: They’ve got to earn that one. We’ve had some pretty good lines. But I like this group a lot. We’ve had some really good ones. And they’re capable. We’ll see.