December 18, 2009

Briedis working for starting spot entering spring

MADISON - With Jeff Stehle, Daniel Moore and Dan Cascone exhausting their eligibility, the Wisconsin defensive tackle rotation seems to be wide-open as next year approaches. Could Eriks Briedis be one to jump into the fray?

At the conclusion of a recent practice, caught up with the redshirt freshman. The following is a question and answer with Briedis.

I just wanted to catch up and see how your season has been going? How have you developed so far?

Briedis: Great, it's great. I've definitely improved. I've been working on my fundamentals. From all the scout work going against the first string offensive line, I know we try to help them out, but at the same time I'm getting better as a player just working on my footwork and striking and everything. The season has been great. Now is a really important time in bowl prep because they're giving a lot of reps to our developmental guys. The coaches have seen who can contribute next year.

Is it kind of fun, getting off scout team and doing Wisconsin vs. Wisconsin?

Briedis: Yeah, definitely very fun. You just go out there and go against a live scrimmage or game situation and just competing with the other guys for that spot next year. You know you could get playing time next year.

The scout team is kind of unheralded. You guys try to prepare the team each week, but you don't get much talk. Is it fun playing scout team or does it get redundant?

Briedis: It's fun. You have to look at the positives which is you getting better every snap because we're going against one of the best offensive lines in the country and one of the biggest ones. Getting reps against those is improving every single snap.

Do you see yourself getting better, and where?

Briedis: I definitely do. I definitely see myself getting better. I've been working a lot on my footwork. That was my main focus when I first got here because it was a little behind. I've improved that and now coach Charlie Partridge is emphasizing my striking. Every single snap, I'm just trying to improve.

Do you feel like you've gotten quicker off the ball?

Briedis: I have definitely gotten quicker off the ball. The strength and conditioning coaches down in the weight room have put a great emphasis on my legs. I've gained a lot of leg strength during the season and developmental lifts. I really feel real well.

Have you added weight during the season?

Briedis: I've actually lost a little weight. I came into the season 293 or 294. I actually had a neck injury, which prevented me from lifting for three weeks.

Like a stinger?

Briedis: It was kind of a stinger with some nerve damage. I lost about 10 pounds, but I used that as a positive. I've just gone out and gotten quicker. Since my upper body was a little injured, my lower body has come a long way.

So where are you at right now weight wise?

Briedis: Right now, I'd say I'm at 275 or 278. I like that weight as I am right now because I feel definitely quicker. Once the winter conditioning comes back on I'm going to try to save that quickness and put on weight.

What do you look to add on?

Briedis: The same weight I came into the season. I felt real good coming in at 293 or 295. You know, just with that same explosiveness and speed I'll be fine.

I know you guys still have another game and you're focused on that too, but looking forward to next year and moving into spring ball you guys are going to lose some defensive tackles. Do you feel like you can step in?

Briedis: Oh yeah definitely. Bowl prep right now is a crucial time for that. Coach Partridge has been mixing in myself, Jordan Kohout and Ethan Hemer at defensive tackle. We've all been getting a lot of reps and we're all looking to improve and we're all looking to contribute next year.

Is this the start? Would you say that?

Briedis: I think this is the start, yeah, definitely. You've got to look at it that way. That's the time right now, you can't be waiting for a time the next day or next week. You've got to be getting better every day.

You're heading back to Florida here, that's got to be exciting?

Briedis: It's definitely exciting. I'm definitely excited. I haven't been to Florida for six months, since before two-a-days, so it's going to be a real exciting time to get back to that hot weather and everything where I grew up.

Were you a Hurricanes fan?

Briedis: Actually I was a Canes fan. I didn't really like FSU or UF so I really liked the Canes. I grew up watching them. It was a great experience. I've got a lot of buddies from back in high school that go to the University of Miami so we've just been like trash talking. I really can't wait to go out there and competing down there.

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