MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst spoke to reporters following the Badgers’ final practice of the spring Friday night.
Chryst addressed the play of freshman receiver Aron Cruickshank, how his team has handled high expectations, safety D’Cota Dixon’s leadership and more.
Here is what Chryst had to say:
Chryst: It was a good finish I thought. I’m sad that it’s over. But I thought we got a lot done this spring and need to carry it forward into the summer. It’s a good little transition time for the guys now. They’ve got finals, a chance to go home and then come back and ramp up for summer. A lot of guys got good work this spring. Overall, it was good.
Q: You have experienced specialists. Do you expect that to be a good complement to what your team does offensively and defensively?
Chryst: It should be. We’ve got guys that have done it. We’ve got to find some returners. I think our return game can get better and needs to get better. But as far as our specialists, I like the group that we have.
Q: Is Aron Cruickshank someone you’ll consider in the return game?
Chryst: He’d be one in the mix. It’s tough this spring honestly with being indoors. It’ll be good this summer. They can do stuff without us and then obviously fall camp to get it all together.
Q: Do you expect any of the guys that were injured to be missing from fall camp?
Q: What did you think of how Cruickshank did Friday when he was out on the field?
Chryst: Aron was good. He made some plays. He’s had a good spring. I think he’s starting to feel more comfortable with what we’re doing and what he’s doing. But Captain Obvious could’ve made that call.
Q: When you see guys like Hunter Johnson and some of the younger guys stepping up, how impressed are you with how much they’ve improved?
Chryst: Hunter’s been good. And Mark Saari, they got a lot of reps with the backs down and holding some of them out. They’ve been good. Mark takes advantage of opportunities, and I think Hunter’s worked a lot. When situations come up, they get a chance to play. I think that’s always good. That’s how you get better and grow.
Q: This team has dealt with high expectations about what it could accomplish. Do you know whether you have a mature enough team to handle that or will you find out as you get closer to the season?
Chryst: I think certainly this group’s earned the right to have high expectations. That’s the beauty of the journey that is the season. I think that it’s, “How does this group handle adversity?” It’s going to come. I think you’ve got to go through, it’s each step along the way. It’s summer. It’s fall camp.
Once you get into the season, it’s not even week to week. It’s day-to-day. I think there’s been narratives to every season and none of it matters. It’s what do they do with the days and the opportunities that we have? I like this group. We’ve still got a long ways to go for us to be as good as we can be, but I like them.
Q: Since you’ve been here, do you think the group has handled whatever the narrative has been and whatever adversity has come?
Chryst: I do. I think they’ve done well. Now this group has to do it. That’s where leadership comes in. I think guys having gone through different narratives helps. There’s experience to it. But each one’s different. We’ve got to be able to handle that. I think that’s part of a season.
Q: How much is your secondary going to rely on D’Cota Dixon’s leadership with as many young guys as there are?
Chryst: I think no question we’re going to rely on D’Cota and yet that’s just one piece. A lot of young guys there. They’ve got to step up and grow up. And they’re working at it, and I like the way they’ve been approaching it. D’Cota, that’s one of his strengths. He is a heck of a leader, and our team’s going to rely on him, not just the secondary.
Q: A week from now, you’re going to have guys hearing their name called in the NFL draft. What does that mean to your program?
Chryst: First and foremost, you’re happy for those guys to get the opportunity. I think we’ve got a good group and I think a lot of them are ready for the next football chapter in their life. I think it’s always good for the program, but it’s about them and that’s what I’m looking forward to. I’m excited to see where they go.