November 3, 2010

Settle appreciates approach

MADISON - Thoguh he entered fall camp as the No. 2 running back behind John Clay, things didn't necessarily go according to plan for sophomore Montee Ball.

Though James White eventually passed Ball on the depth chart, Ball never once wavered in his commitment to his team. And that's something his running back's coach John Settle appreciates.

Following a recent practice, caught up with the man in charge of the running back position. During that conversation, Settle discussed Ball's attitude, the way he kept working and how the rest of the guys are looking forward to the remainder of the season.

You've had about a week and a half to settle down and take in what your guys accomplished against Ohio State and Iowa. But when you look back at that Iowa game in particular, what stood out most about the way Montee Ball came in there and did what he did?

Settle: I think pretty much the way he played. He was thrown into action in a very crucial time of the ball game. He was involved in a fourth down situation and never flinched. He went in, ran a route, Scott Tolzien put the ball where he needed to put it and he made a heck of a catch.

It seemed like from there a flame was lit. He just caught fire and he started to play like I knew he could play. He played well as a freshman. I didn't like some of the things he was doing in camp. I thought he should have progressed a little more than he had in camp, but he has continued to work week in and week out. Some of that stuff showed up.

What were some of those things you were looking for in camp?

Settle: Just the little details. All the people with the naked eye probably wouldn't recognize it, but things as far as alignments on certain plays, where he fits on certain plays, understanding what his run read is - we call it a dot and understanding where the dot is - reacting to that and eye discipline. Those things really contribute to the success of a player or not.

What he ever discouraged?

Ball: There was some discouragement. The interesting thing was that we had talked that week about making sure he continued to prepare. That he was taking care of things academically and things weren't slipping. He assured me in the meeting that we had that he was making sure everything was taken care of because he understood where he was and why he was there.

Sure enough, everyday at practice when he got his 12 or 13 reps or however many he got, he was prepared and he would run them like they were his last one. I liked his focus and I liked the way he competed. That's really the reason he's had the success that he's had. He is a true competitor and he wants to play.

He's dedicated to the program?

Ball: Without a doubt. I think the way he had handled his time going into the Iowa game proves it. He didn't talk about anybody's back, he didn't question the coaches, he didn't question why James or John were the ones playing. None of that stuff ever came up. He just continued to show up everyday and go to work.

That seems to be the mantra of the whole running back position. Is that fair to say?

Settle: Without a doubt and I think that's part of it. You make sure you recruit the right guys and that's one thing I think we've done a good job of. We go out, evaluate guys, bring the guys here and put them around our players, recruiting good kids and then really letting the players speak to each and every recruit because those are the guys they're going to spend a lot of time with.

Since I've been here - for five years - we've done a good job of bringing in guys that are not only talented but good people. They have good character and one thing you have to have is that all of them are hard workers.

I've seen practice before in fall camp or what not, but what's it like when you're coaching these guys? It seems obvious to say, but I would imagine they're pretty competitive with each other.

Settle: They're competitive. As a coach you love it. You love the competition amongst each and every guy and the way they approach practice, not individual times. The guys try to out do and one up the first guy. If a guy happens to get his foot caught in the ropes when we're going through the ropes then everybody bags on him. But nothing slips through the cracks. Every player is partaking every other guy. So that means they're into it throughout the whole practice.

The thing that I like is that the guys cannot repeat the same mistakes. If we run a play and a guy happens to make a mistake he goes in and we repeat it. When we repeat it you're not going to see the same thing. That lets you know that the guys are into it and the amount of focus that it takes over the course of a two-hour practice. It speaks volumes to the guys in regards to everything and the way they work.

When you look at the team in general, and I understand you're not overlooking everybody, but do you get the sense that guys are focused?

Settle: Oh without a doubt. All along, even before the season started, we thought this was a mature group probably because of our freshmen group. Guys came in and they pushed the older guys. We thought if things went the way we had hoped that we would have a chance to be in the thick of things. I think guys really believe that. They're focused on the task at hand and it's a little easier to get them going when they know what's at stake each and every week.

I think at the beginning of the season a lot of people talked about other people in the conference being the hunted. I think now guys understand that's us. We can't afford to slip. We have a chance to do some things that a lot of guys set as goals before the season started and it all starts with the next step, which is Purdue.

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