March 28, 2010

Rudolph talks tight ends, recruiting coordinator role

MADISON - Joe Rudolph has had the distinct pleasure of coaching such players as Travis Beckum and Garrett Graham over the course of his time as a coach at Wisconsin. In addition to his stellar coaching resume, Rudolph has also solidified himself as one of the better recruiters on the staff.

As a result, UW head coach Bret Bielema promoted Rudolph to recruiting coordinator. At the conclusion of a recent practice, had a chance to catch up with the tight ends coach to discuss the promotion and the play of his unit so far in camp.

The following is a question and answer with Rudolph.

Can you believe spring camp is already half way over?

Rudolph: It goes by quick. So you've got to take advantage of each one.

Is it going pretty good so far?

Rudolph:Yeah, you know, it is. You see guys growing and getting better. That's what you want to see. You see some guys stepping up and I just challenged them today. We're kind of looking for those guys that say, 'Hey, that's me. I want to put it on my shoulders and run with it.' That's what we hope to kind of clean up a little bit through these last six practices.

Obviously Lance Kendricks is looking pretty good and that can come to be expected with a player that's been around for a while. How are some of the young guys, the Jacob Pedersen's, I know Brian Wozniak has been hurt…

Rudolph: Yeah, guys are coming along. Jake Byrne is doing a really good job. I'm excited about what he brings. He's physical, he's tough and he's got excellent hands. I'm excited about him and him getting better.

Jacob has been a pleasant surprise. Probably one of the big questions was backing up the H and who could that be. I'm hoping he continues. Him and Rob Korslin are battling there and both of those guys have showed some flashes. I hope these last six (practices) somebody emerges there.

Rob has been doing a lot of fullback. He's been backing up Bradie Ewing in that role and Brian was having a real good spring but twisted up his ankle. He should be back the week we come back. He's got a chance to jump back into the mix a little bit and get going.

It seems like Korslin, being a bigger guy, is he more fit for that fullback spot? Or is he pretty solid catching balls, too?

Rudolph: Oh yeah. What Rob will do is he will know all three positions which makes him invaluable. You run into trouble and you need someone to be able to fix some things. He's smart and he understands that. He will be invaluable at all three positions. I just saw him having the opportunity of him getting on the field the quickest there at fullback. The fact that he knows all three is pretty neat.

Jake Byrne, he's another guys who's been here. This is his third spring ball, right?

Rudolph: Yeah, he'll be going into his third year. But this is his third spring ball. He's a mid-year.

Is it starting to click for him?

Rudolph: Yeah, he's doing good. He did a lot of good things last year but he had some good people in front of him. But I see things really starting to come together with him. It's really a consistency standpoint. Can he be the best Jake Byrne each play? That's what's starting to emerge so I'm excited about that.

Is that about the time, midway through spring camp, that you start seeing guys taking steps towards noticeable improvement.

Rudolph: Yeah, well you see a guy come in right off the bat, guys that are physically ready trying to let you know. You're able to see some things right at the beginning. Then from a knowledge standpoint, being able to recognize changing defenses and things that happen at the snap. Is someone going to be mature enough to sort some things out and make good decisions on the field. Most definitely you see those things.

You lose Garrett Graham and Mickey Turner from last year. Those guys are obviously going to be tough to replace, but are you seeing them not missing a beat once fall camp rolls around?

Rudolph: I mean, the biggest thing is Garrett and Mickey will be sorely missed. Lance is different. Lance played 668 snaps, Garrett had almost 900 and Mickey had 400. Lance is coming back with a lot of experience, but besides that point, Garrett and Mickey will be sorely missed. They brought a lot. They brought a great consistency that you were just able to lean on and rely on.

That's this group's challenge. Can they get themselves to that point where they can be consistent play in and play out against any competition.

Does that start with Lance and work down to some of these younger guys?

Rudolph: Absolutely and Lance has done that. He comes out and he works every day. I love that about him. He works his tail off, but last year we played a lot with two and three tight end sets. We don't have to do that, but we're trying to get the best guys on the field. The guys that can help us win. So those guys realize that, too and understand that challenge. They're working to improve themselves.

I was talking to J.J. Watt last week and he said that Lance is one of the best blocking tight ends he's ever gone against. Do you see that too? Is that what he prides himself on?

Rudolph: Yeah, well Lance is really strong. He really works his tail off in the weight room. The thing I loved about Lance last year was that he didn't care about what role he had. He didn't care if he was pass protecting, going out on a route, lead blocking or cutting off the backside. It appeared to me that regardless of the assignment he was all go. I don't imagine that will ever change. He may have a few more opportunities, but I don't imagine the other would change.

Focusing on you, too. Coach Bielema said you got promoted to be the new recruiting coordinator. What does that entail?

Rudolph: Just a lot of extra work. Just trying from a standpoint of organizing things to help guys do their job as easy as they can. Just focusing in on some of the details there and trying to put some structure together.

Is it like organizing travel plans and who and when and where you're going to talk to some kids?

Rudolph: Yeah, those are some things and it's also from the standpoint of where you're going to utilize your resources and where you're going to put guys. Coach B is obviously huge in all those decision, but I'm just working with him to try to figure out what's best for us.

The following is the audio file from the Rudolph interview.
Rudolph, Spring camp 2010

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