MADISON, Wis. - As the newly promoted defensive coordinator a year ago, Dave Doeren had the unenviable task of going through spring practice without the services of many players who were sidelined by injury. Fast forward a year, and Doeren has nearly a full defensive allotment of players as the injury bug has stayed mostly away this spring.
Well, you guys just finished up practice No. 8 of 15, how's it been going to this point?
Doeren: It's been good. Guys have been working hard. We've got an eager group. They really want to please (and) they take coaching. We're young in a lot of spots so we've had our bumps in the road and injured a lot at linebacker, which has been tough, but it's been a good spring so far.
Does that come to be expected, the bumps in the road, with the young guys, especially in the spring.
Doeren: Yeah, I mean it's going to happen particularly when you return a lot on offense. Our offense has fewer growing pains to go through than we do right now. So, we kind of expected it but at the same time, we wanted to get rid of some of that stuff now.
I head coach Bret Bielema talking about listening, is that attention to detail maybe greater?
Doeren: Yeah, that's the whole focus right now. We want to be a four-quarter, fight you team, make you beat yourself and never give something up mentally. If we do something it's physically, not mentally. Make the other team beat themselves and that's detail and focus and listening.
It seemed like that was kind of a lingering problem throughout last year, too. It seemed like there was always that one time where the mental error would come
Doeren: Yeah, I would agree with that. Just mental lapses, not focused when you need to be all the time. Like I said, you can't beat yourself. It's hard enough to win when you're playing perfect.
At a certain point, does it become psychological with the guys, especially in the red zone?
Doeren: I don't think so. If there was one guy I would say yeah, but that's not the thing. It's just a mentality that we've got to create and do a better job with.
In a general sense, has anyone stood out in particular on the defense?
Doeren: Culmer St.Jean has had a pretty solid spring so far. Aaron Henry has had a solid spring. Those two guys have been very consistent for us. You know, D-line wise J.J. Watt and O'Brien Schofield have kind of stood out.
Do you kind of see Culmer taking on a leadership role of the entire defense?
Doeren: Yeah, he's not a cheerleader type leader, but he's definitely a guy that knows he's in the middle of things. He's not afraid to step up and say things when he needs to.
Do you feel like the defense is maybe a little more physical this year than in years past?
Doeren: I think we're going to be a very blue-collar workman group. Not real flashy, but I think the goal is to have a bunch of guys that work hard that we can rotate and have some depth which hurt us last year. Be in the right place, when those guys present a play when we can get something, take advantage of those kind of plays.
Knocking on wood here, but you guys have been relatively injury free so far this spring as compared to last spring at this time. How much does that help when you work with the starting guys that will be playing in the fall at this point in the spring?
Doeren: For me last year it was really difficult because obviously I was thrown into a new role. And you're trying to maybe change some things and you can't change them when the guys aren't out there. So I almost didn't even get a spring with our defense. So it's huge. It's really big now that we're putting all these new starters in for them to build that chemistry that you want.
Jaevery McFadden was obviously a starter last year, but he's at a new position this year, is he more comfortable there and is that more of his natural?
Doeren: Yeah, that's what he played as a sophomore. Last year was his first year of mike so he's a lot more comfortable there.
Do you notice him playing with more confidence?
Doeren: He is. Obviously there is more urgency there too because he's a senior.
You mentioned a little bit, but with the attention to detail, is there more focus on team, too?
Doeren: Yeah, that's something that we feel like it's we before me. It's all about the W on our helmet and not the name on our back. Nobody on this team is more important than the university and this team. That's the motto that we're trying to live by right now.
With the safeties you took off the strong and free label and its more like right and left
Doeren: You know, we did it for the spring across the board on defense. I just wanted both sides of the guys to know each other's positions better. It caused a little bit of problem because now free is having to learn twice as much. But in the long run, we thought it would help us especially when guys get hurt.
Do you see it helping?
Doeren: I do, because now guys can talk to each other and they know what each other is doing. It's been a good move, I liked it.
The big question coming into camp was the defensive line, the depth. You lost a lot of guys up there last year, how are they doing so far?
Doeren: Well we lost some great players up front. Like I said, it's not a flashy d-line, but there is more depth than there was a year ago. That's what we're hoping. We don't have the three senior guys, but we've got maybe six guys that can rotate and hopefully make the plays that those guys did by being fresh.
Did fatigue ever become a factor last year?
Doeren: Obviously, yes. I mean, when you lose three games in the fourth quarter, you've got to say it does.
Do you anticipate that to be better?
Doeren: I hope so, I hope so.
No drop off at all?
Doeren: I can't answer that right now. We haven't played enough to know that, but I mean, I hope not. You hope that you're competing at a great level.
The following is the audio file from the interview:
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