April 11, 2010

Rouse making gains playing with ones

MADISON - To this point in his young career, Kevin Rouse has been on a bumpy ride. With injuries constantly plaguing the linebacker it has been difficult for Rouse to fully excel on the field. Now, 11 practices through spring camp, it seems that Rouse is finally completely healthy and performing at a high level.

At the conclusion of a recent practice, BadgerBlitz.com caught up with the young linebacker. The following is a question and answer with Rouse.

Obviously 10 practices in (at the time of the interview), how are things going for you?

Rouse: It's going well. I fee like it's actually the first time that I know what I'm doing and I feel like I'm improving everyday. It's been good. It's been fun to get out there and play.

Has it been kind of a long time coming?

Rouse: You can say that and you can't because now is the first time I really know the defense and it's the first time I'm really 100 percent healthy. Yeah, you can say it's a long time coming but I feel like this is the first year that I belong on the field at least.

How frustrating is that when you spend so much of your early career nicked up or banged up? It's got to be relieving to be healthy for a change.

Rouse: Yeah, it is. It's nice to have my body back to 100 percent and be able to mentally have everything down for the most part and just be 100 percent mentally and physically.

Do you feel like you're opening some eyes and maybe getting the coaches attention a little bit?

Rouse: I'd like to think so. I'd like to think I'm out there making some plays and just really fitting in with the ones as much as I can. I want for them to have the ability to trust me and be able to put me on the field come fall. That's what I'm working for right now.

Obviously you never want to see guys get hurt but you have Chris Borland and Mike Taylor out right now. This is a pretty good opportunity for you guys to build depth as you were saying.

Rouse: Right, definitely. I feel like now is an opportunity and I need to take advantage of it. Any other guy would, too. I love Chris and I love Mike, they're great football players, but this is my time to jump in and I'm going to improve the depth and improve the team in case something does happen. I'm going to just keep getting better with what I'm able to do on the field.

That has to be the mindset you have to take isn't it? When an opportunity strikes you have to…

Rouse: Right, well my mindset right now is I'm the one. I'm not really thinking about fall. I'm just focusing on improving myself and getting able to be on the field come fall.

When fall comes obviously those guys would be back. You're still going to give them a good battle, that's the way you're approaching it, isn't it.?

Rouse: Right, that's the way I'm approaching it. When they come back is when they come back and we'll go from there. Right now, I'm going to take advantage of my opportunity with the ones and have the ability to push them in the fall.

I'm sure you set some goals early in spring camp. Are you starting to reach some of those goals? Are you getting close to getting there?

Rouse: Definitely, I really wanted to use my hands better. I feel like I'm getting there. It's not perfect yet, but I feel like I'm making improvements everyday and I'm working on it after practice. Mentally, I want to really improve that. I really feel like I've taken a whole new step there. I'm able to play both outside positions. That's a big step for me. I feel like I've met a couple of my goals, but there is definitely a couple of things I have to work on.

How do you get better at making your hands better? Is it just through reps or watching film?

Rouse: Well, it's not so much the film aspect. Yeah, knowing where to be and where to place your hands is great. I feel like I've worked on it over spring. Strength was a huge part and I didn't have the strength to use any over the past two years. Now I feel like I've got strength and now it's just placement and getting off blocks and being able to extend at the right time and have a good base.

Did you add weight during winter conditioning at all?

Rouse: Actually, I lost 10 pounds. Hopefully I lost about five percent body fat, too. I was about 235 and now I'm playing about 225 and I feel pretty quick and solid.

Are you pretty set at that weight?

Rouse: I feel like it's a good weight. If I gain five more pounds of muscle this summer it wouldn't hurt. As long as its just muscle and good weight. So I'll focus on what I eat and how I train.

Is that just what you want to do personally or are the coaches saying they want you to put some back on?

Rouse: No, they haven't said anything about my weight. There was one day I dropped to about 220 and they said, 'Hey, you're a little light.' But I think 225 or 230 range is where I'm at as long as I'm moving well.

That's where you really need to be at to get through a Big Ten schedule.

Rouse: I feel like that, too. You look at guys like Mike and Chris and Mike was only about 215 last year and he was running well. As long as you're strong and you play with a good base, a little extra weight doesn't hurt. At the same time, being 215 or 220 you can still play.

Obviously you're running with the ones right now, but are the coaches saying that if you keep doing what you're doing they'll get you on the field?

Rouse: No, playing time is not really an issue right now. We're not talking about fall now, we're just getting better every day. Right now is the spring and right now we're focusing on UNLV. That's what we're getting ready for playing against ourselves. Playing time will come up when the time comes. Right now I'm just out here trying to perform and trying to contribute.

Talking to Blake Sorensen a little bit, too. Are any of the other guys like yourself stood out to you? Have they been impressive. He was saying Kevin Claxton and you were standing out quite a bit.

Rouse: There's nowhere to go but up for me. I didn't feel like I had done very well. Last spring I didn't feel like I had done very well. I feel like, yeah I've made some strides. I feel like Clax has caught on fast. That's another guy, that's a lot of depth there with guys like me, Claxton and Blake, even A.J. Fenton. Everybody is improving everyday. That's going to be huge depth come fall. Clax has made tremendous stride and he's a good athlete and picked up everything real fast. So it's impressive.

Have you ever made a position change during your football career?

Rouse: Let's think, no. I've gone from inside, outside, inside, outside, so no. I've only really played linebacker in college and high school.

Yeah, but even if you move inside and outside I'm sure there are different schemes you have to learn. What does that say about Claxton when he comes in from safety to linebacker and still picks it up pretty well.

Rouse: It's impressive. At the same time, not to take anything away from him, the safeties have to know where the linebackers are and we've got to know where the safeties are going to be for our run fits and everything. He's kind of had a little background with that. But it shows that he's got a good football IQ and shows that he knows what he's doing. Me and him are going to push the other guys. He's pushing me right now and I'm pushing him back. It's a good battle and it's fun.

Has anybody on the offensive side stood out to you? Maybe some of these young guys, these tight ends?

Rouse: Let me think about it. I'm always so focused on what we're doing. It's cool to see Kyle Zuleger in there. I think we just threw him back as a running back and he's pretty good. That just says a lot about your offensive line, too. It's impressive when you've got walk-ons like him and Jared Abbrederis being able to come in and jump in and do what they're doing without getting psyched out by being there.

Obviously the last couple of days have been closed to the media, but Is Abbrederis still burning the defense?

Rouse: I think we're catching on. He's definitely fast. He's good. I don't think he's just been getting lucky. I think we've just shut it down a little bit as a whole so we're trying to get our deep game straight.

I was talking to Blake and you guys had a different coach at linebacker last year and now you have coach Greg Jackson. What's his coaching style and are you starting to adjust to him?

Rouse: I like coach Jackson a lot. It's different, but him and coach Dave Doeren are a good contrast. It's kind of like him and coach Randall McCray were and him and coach Kane were last year. It's a good contrast. At the same time they don't contradict each other. If coach Doeren yells at you, coach Jackson will tell you why he's yelling at you and vise versa. It's really good. He's really caught on fast, too. You can tell he knows the ins and the outs really well. He can focus on one position while coach Doeren is focused on the entire defense.

Most of the coaches on staff have had playing experience themselves, but does that help when you have a guy like him that was so successful in the NFL?

Rouse: Not to take anything away from the other coaches, but to me, immediately he's got credibility. He knows what he's talking about and he knows what he's doing. He's been farther along than any of us. I can't imagine playing 12 years in the NFL, so you know he knows it and talking lends him that credibility.

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