MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin football coach Paul Chryst met with the media following the Badgers’ first spring practice Tuesday.
Chryst addressed questions about his offensive line depth, the impact outside linebacker Zack Baun can have off of injury, whether the decisions of players to bypass the NFL draft surprised him, quarterback Alex Hornibrook’s progress and more.
Here is what Chryst had to say:
Chryst: It’s good to get out here and start spring ball. I appreciate what the group’s done in our winter phase. Just talking with some of the guys, it feels like we kind of just got done with the season and yet I think guys are ready to go and it’s certainly fun to start this.
Q: You have guys like Michael Deiter and Jon Dietzen who are going to miss reps, but they have playing experience. Do you like that it allows other guys to get more time?
Chryst: Yeah, I think that right now we’ve got enough depth in the O-line that there are players that will be missing. But we’re still two-deep there, which is good. You want everyone to make sure they take advantage of this time. For Jon and Michael, it’s getting healthy. Quintez [Cephus] would be the same. And then it opens up more reps for younger guys. I think that’s why we as coaches enjoy spring so much because you get a chance to get a lot of work done. Any time those young guys can learn and grow from those reps, it’s really good for your team.
Q: What type of impact have you seen Jon Budmayr have and when did you know he’d be a coach?
Chryst: He certainly has good knowledge. I think he’s got a good style of teaching to convey that knowledge. Been around all these quarterbacks, and they’ve gotten to know him, so I think it helps. And he works at it. I was excited when he first wanted to get into coaching and then fortunately was around him and was able to see his growth. He’s been around other good coaches. I think it’s kind of helped him. And he’ll continue to grow in the profession, but certainly excited to have him working with our quarterbacks in a little different capacity.
Q: What kind of impact can Zack Baun have?
Chryst: It’s been good to see him be able to do everything. I thought Zack was doing some really good things and then he gets the injuries are setbacks. And I’ve been proud of the way that he’s handled all that. So looking forward. Certainly you want to see him stay healthy, but it’s really good to have him out here.
Q: At the end of last year, one of the biggest problems was strength of schedule. Do you think the university did a good enough job in the offseason of planning difficult games?
Chryst: Schedules are set in advance. I think that we’ve tried to be as proactive as we can. My first game that I got to coach as a head coach was against Alabama. And then played LSU. We’ve got the series with Notre Dame coming up. And those guys are hard to get, and that’s why you’re appreciative when you get to play in them.
Q: With your early enrollees, what do you hope to see, and what did you see [Tuesday]?
Chryst: You hope that they get comfortable and certainly have enough knowledge that they can get something out of the practice. I think they’ve done a nice job of getting themselves in. Certainly today it’s early. It’s actually kind of good I think for the other players to see how new it is and there’s an excitement I’m sure for each one of them to go through it. It’s good for them to get any reps, and they’ll get a bunch. That’s what’s nice.
I’m not going to evaluate [this] practice off of them and say this is what fans need to see. It’s going to be big. But I’m glad they’re all here.
Q: You had several players that could have turned pro and decided to come back, like T.J. Edwards and some of the offensive linemen. Were you surprised by any of the decisions they made?
Chryst: I don’t know if you’re surprised or not. I think I liked and appreciated how they went through the process. And I think there’s something that you have to balance is that all of them have reached a point where it’s a real possibility. Every kid comes to college, and I think a lot of them, certainly their hope is to be able to play. I think they’ve all crossed a threshold where they can play. Now what you want to make sure and I give them credit for is that they are most ready for that opportunity.
They all I think would have had an opportunity, but I think what gets lost in it is making sure that you are most ready for when that opportunity comes. That’s why I think there’s a lot more layers to the decision than just they could’ve. It’s, were they ready? And is there more that they could work on so when they get that opportunity they can get the most of it?
Q: What did you like about outside linebackers coach Bobby April in the hiring process, and what do you think he can do for the group?
Chryst: I’m excited and you’re grateful that Bobby’s here. I think he can add a lot to our team. Not just the outside linebackers. Transitions for a coach or players, it’s been a good transition. Certainly impressed with his knowledge, but mostly impressed with who he was and felt like he’d be a great fit and make a positive impact, big impact on not just our players but on our staff. So I feel really fortunate that he’s here with us.
Q: What went into the decision to have a week of practice after the spring game?
Chryst: It’s really not centered around the spring game. It’s when are we going to start spring ball? And then space it out accordingly. [Sports information director] Brian [Lucas] came to me and said the 13th would be a good day for the spring game, and who am I to question that?
Q: There might be a new redshirt rule that allows players to play in four games and still redshirt. What is your opinion on that proposal?
Chryst: We’ll see if it happens. I think there’s a lot of merit to it.
Q: This will be quarterback Alex Hornibrook’s third year as a starter. Where do you want to see him take a step here in spring?
Chryst: I think Alex has done a lot of really good things for us. We can take every phase of every player’s game and you should. How can we get better? How can you get better? I think there’s every bit of it. What I really appreciate from Alex is he’s a guy that wants to be as good as he can be and wants to work at it. That’s what’s fun.
I think you try to build on things he’s done well, but you can take every phase. Something with footwork. He’s done some good stuff but can clean this up. Play-action. Situational football. It’s not just I want you to throw fewer interceptions. There’s a whole lot, and that’s what’s good about this time is you can work on some of those things.