December 17, 2008

Watt aims to fill defensive tackle void in 2009

MADISON, Wis. - For UW sophomore defensive tackle J.J. Watt, the road to being named defensive scout performer of the year was not easy. After accepting a scholarship offer to Central Michigan out of high school, the Pewaukee, Wis. native decided the Chippewa's were not for him.

After a jumbled transfer process, Watt has wound up back where he always wanted to be and has flashed potential to fill in for the departing defensive tackles as next season approaches for Wisconsin.

Following a recent practice, caught up with Watt. The following is a question and answer with him:

In most recent news, you were named the defensive scout player of the year. With all that had to happen for you to get here, how exciting was that news for you?

Watt: It felt very good. Obviously I couldn't play this year so the scout award is a good award for me to win. It shows that the coaches took good notice that I was working hard. I really just tried to come in everyday and make an offense better everyday and fine-tune my technique. I suppose I did okay in that.

Was it kind of rewarding after all that you went through, transferring from a different school and all that?

Watt: It's nice to be able to come in here and see that they've recognized the hard work that I've put in. This year, it was obviously tough on me having to transfer and sit out and not be able to play in a game. So, the practices were my games and I really took that to heart and I worked real hard all year.

Does that kind of put pressure on you at all for next year?

Watt: I suppose it puts a little bit of pressure on me but the coaches here are real good and they work with me a lot so there's not too much pressure. I'm just going to come in and keep working hard like I do everyday and see where that ends up.

Have the coaches been talking to you and telling you what your role will be next year especially with both Mike Newkirk and Jason Chapman leaving after this year?

Watt: I've just been told to come in and compete every day. That's all I can do. I just work real hard in the weight room, work hard after practice, getting extra footwork and handwork in. Anything I can do to try to compete for the starting spot.

Where would you say you've improved the most this year?

Watt: This year I'm improved the most with my hands and my feet as well as my quickness. Actually, my quickness, getting off the ball quick. Now that I'm moving to defensive tackle, that's really important, that quickness.

How do you improve quickness, is that in the weight room or just through repetition?

Watt: It's through the weight room, it's through speed drills and it's just working real hard after practice with guys. It's just getting on the sled, doing a whole bunch of reps.

What have you learned from the guys like Newkirk or Chapman?

Watt: I've learned a lot, I watch a lot of film on Newk and Chap. I watch their film and Newk has great pass rush moves. I watch Newk's pass rush moves all the time because he gets by guys and Chap is the quickest guy off the ball I've ever seen. That's where I get a lot of my quickness. I get tips from him and what he watches. He watches the center's hand and the ball and stuff, so he's really helped me out with that aspect.

Do you kind of feel that you have an opportunity to kind of step in and fill their void?

Watt: I sure hope so. I sure hope I can do that. That's what I'm looking for. That's all I'm asking for is an opportunity and I'm going to come in and work hard everyday and compete for the spot.

I know you guys still have a bowl game to go, but since you won't be able to play, are you kind of looking forward to spring?

Watt: I can't wait till spring. These developmental practices for us have been great for me because I get to work with coach Charlie Partridge and he gets to coach me. We actually get to play again and not on scout. So it's real good to learn again and spring's going to be real fun. I can't wait to actually get the chance to compete.

Just talk a little more about those developmental practices. Do you guys look at those like a game within a practice?

Watt: Exactly. For me, practices have been games all year and developmental practices are really like games because we get to go in kind of a scrimmage format. We get to go all out and it's our chance to showcase to the coaches cause all year they've been watching the first teamers and now they're watching us. I got to show them what I've been working on all year.

Is it kind of nice to run some Wisconsin plays too, instead of running plays other teams do?

Watt: Yeah, exactly. We've been running Iowa and Minnesota plays and now we're finally running the W plays. It's real nice, I like it.

Do you like the depth that this defensive line, especially moving forward has?

Watt: A lot of people question the depth of the d line, but we have a lot of guys that come in and work hard every day. We're going to be a strong unit again next year and we're going to anchor the defense.

You mentioned coach Partridge, what kind of effect has he had on you?

Watt: Oh he's a fantastic coach. He's taught me everything I need to know about defense because obviously coming in as a tight end from Central Michigan, I didn't know anything about d line at the college level. He's really taken me under and he's taught me quite a bit. All the other defensive linemen, especially the older guys, have really taken me under their wing too and they're teaching me a lot of things. So, it's been great.

Has it been a tough transition for you, going from an offensive guy where you get the ball and score to a defensive guy where you're lucky if you even touch the ball?

Watt: It was a little bit tough, it was a little bit tough, but I bat a couple balls down now and then. Hopefully I'll catch one every now and then. But we'll see, it was a tough transition, but I really like it now. There's no greater feeling than tackling the ball carrier and that's amazing.

Moving forward towards the bowl game, how exciting is that?

Watt: I wish, but I can't even go down there (NCAA rules prohibit a transfer from traveling in his transfer year), so I'll be here watching that. But I'm real excited for the team because obviously Florida State is a great match-up and its going to be one heck of a game and it's going to be a heck of a lot of fun to watch.

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