December 18, 2008

Briedis getting used to defensive tackle position

MADISON, Wis. - With both starting defensive tackles on this year's Wisconsin football team finishing their eligibility, spots will open up and give some younger Badger players an opportunity to work their way onto the field. One of those prospective defensive tackles is freshman Eriks Briedis.

Following a recent practice, caught up with the Florida native. The following is a question and answer with Briedis:

You are kind of coming to the end of your first season as a college football player. How did it go for you?

Briedis: It went great. It was a huge learning experience coming from the high school to the college level. Especially in high school since I played tight end and linebacker, I didn't really play that much defensive tackle. It was just huge learning the basics of the position, of the defensive line. Going against the great offensive linemen that we have. It was a huge learning experience, very tough at the beginning, but as I said you learn extremely quick. Right now I think I really know the basics and I've improved a lot since the first day I got here.

What would you say has been the most difficult part, is it adjusting to the speed and the strength of the game?

Briedis: Yeah, as I said, speed strength, the basics. It's not like in high school where you can just run around without technique and just tackle everyone. You really have to be great in your fundamentals and everything or you're going to have a tough time. With coach Charlie Partridge and all the defensive coaches, they've helped me out a great deal to improve that. I've gotten better since my first day.

What have you learned from the Mike Newkirk's and Jason Chapman's of the line?

Briedis: I mean, so much. Newkirk since the first day, run pause and everything. Every single time I'd go, he would tell me something I was doing wrong or something I was doing right. So just inspiration and seeing how hard they work and how passionate they are. The feeling I saw with a young guy like me, makes me want to work so much harder in the weight room, during practice and everything.

Was the decision to redshirt tough for you in the sense you were coming from playing all the time in high school to having to sit out an entire year in college?

Briedis: Yeah, I mean, obviously you want to be playing all the time. But coming to a great program like this, playing in a great Big Ten conference, you kind of expect that. It was hard at the beginning, but as I said, being a scout, going against our first string o-line all the time, it was really really a great learning experience that I think will definitely get me ready for the next years.

Have you bulked up at all since you've come to campus?

Briedis: Oh yeah, definitely. Since I played linebacker and tight end in high school, I was about 255-260 back then and right now I'm hitting 283 so I've really put on some weight. I've gotten used to it pretty easily just with the great strength and conditioning staff we have. They just really push you hard and get you used to everything just bigger, faster and stronger.

I know you weren't here in the spring, but the defensive line was pretty banged up and the young guys got plenty of reps. Do you or have you felt the depth of the d-line, especially among the younger guys is pretty strong?

Briedis: We got a great group of guys that are all great and are hard workers. As we've seen with defensive lines all over the place, they have great rotations and rotations work great. We have a great group of guys and we're best friends with each other and we like to compete with each other when we go in the weight room or the field and it really fuels each other.

How exciting is it knowing that you will be in Florida in a few days?

Briedis: That's huge, seriously. Orlando being two hours away from my house, that's really great being down there with the weather and everything just feeling back home. It's a pretty big deal especially since a lot of people are trying to come back up. I'm trying to get my high school coach to come up and watch the game and just people from my family.

Is it kind of cool, even though you won't be playing, to go against a team like Florida State?

Briedis: Oh yeah, Florida State. I wasn't really a fan of Florida State, I was more a fan of Miami so that's why I actually really don't like them. But yeah, I mean growing up watching UM and FSU play and all them and being recruited by them, it's a really good chance to go there and put a good show on.

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