Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema will be a part of NFL Network’s extensive coverage of the 2011 NFL Draft from Radio City Music Hall. We recently caught up with him to discuss draft prospects J.J. Watt, Gabe Carimi and life in Wisconsin after the Packers’ Super Bowl win:
If NFL teams come asking, what would you tell them about Watt?
BB: The main thing about Watt that stands out to me is that he’s only played defensive line for three years, he’s leaving a year early, and played tight end his first season at Central Michigan. He’s a guy (who has) his development in front of him. He’s a pretty good player already, but his upside is unbelievable.
Do you see him playing multiple positions?
BB: Absolutely. He even played offense for us, too. He’s a very, very smart kid, very contentious. Once you tell him one thing, you better tell him what you want, because you’re going to get it every time. He’s extremely gifted mentally and athletically. I think he can play multiple positions on the next level. He could be a very good tight end if anyone wants to dabble down that road. He’s got the ability and the way his mind is wired and the way he approaches things, he’ll have great success.
Gabe Carimi said at the scouting combine he’s the best offensive tackle in the draft. Do you agree?
BB: You know, Gabe is pretty good. He doesn’t lack any confidence. He’s played here for four years, and everything I’ve seen and witnessed him do — from practice to games to what we do out of season and the way he works — I have a hard time believing there’s a better (tackle) out there in this draft.
Are there any questions left about what type of player he is?
BB: I think much the same as Watt, his best football is ahead of him. He’s a kid who has developed nicely in our program, but will continue to get better just because of the way he approaches things. He’s a perfectionist and wants to set the standard. He came back for his senior season for a variety of reasons, but one was to win the Outland Trophy. And that’s exactly what happened.
You faced Andy Dalton in the Rose Bowl. What do you think about him as a quarterback on the next level?
BB: Off the charts. He’s a really impressive kid once you meet him. He’s big, tall, athletic. You see a certain amount of him on film, but to see him play that day in the Rose Bowl on the biggest stage he had been on, he excelled in every way possible. He managed the game, made every throw, made critical decisions. He’s a very good competitor. I’m sure he’ll have a very good NFL career.
You don’t seem to have any doubts he’ll be a good NFL quarterback …
BB: No, I’ve been through this and watched kids compete. Just the way, too, that I know that coach Patterson talks so highly of him. He’s been a tremendous kid in their program. When you talk to him one-on-one, you can see he has great personal skills. I’d be pretty shocked if he isn’t one that has a lot of success.
My editors have forced me (sort of) to mention the Packers’ Super Bowl win. I’m sure you were pretty happy about that?
BB: It made life in Wisconsin pretty good this year for people. I’ve gone to the last couple of Super Bowls, but this year I knew because of the Packers being there, it would be kind of crazy down there in Dallas. So I took it in at home and relaxed and was truly happy for so many people who are part of a great organization.
Do you own a cheesehead?
BB: I don’t own a cheesehead (laughing). I’ve had a couple given to me, but I don’t even know if they’re in my house anymore.
Here’s hoping the backlash in Wisconsin isn’t too bad for Bielema.