April 15, 2009

Graham improving fundamentals

MADISON, Wis. - Garrett Graham could have entered the NFL draft after leading Wisconsin in receiving yards a season ago. Instead, he decided to return for his senior season where he will anchor a multi-talented tight end position poised to lead the team's offensive fronts.

At the conclusion of Tuesday's practice, BadgerBlitz.com caught up with the face of the position. The following is a question and answer with the senior tight end:

Spring ball is kind of winding down. How has it been going for you so far?

Graham: Pretty good. I've really focused on blocking better, my footwork and getting off the ball at the snap and just trying to become an overall better player with basic fundamentals.

Was that really the focus for you coming into spring, becoming a better blocker?

Graham: Yeah, definitely. And also running better routes and recognizing coverage's. That really helps you out in the passing game.

With Travis Beckum gone now, do you feel like you've kind of become the face of the offense?

Graham: Yeah, a little bit. Travis was certainly a guy that could do a lot of things and make plays. But, I mean, we got a lot of people that can make plays. John Clay is doing a great job. We got three tight ends in there sometimes and wide receivers are definitely coming along. We're doing some good things.

You never want to see a guy get hurt like Travis did last year when he went down in the middle of the season especially with how talented he is. But is that kind of a blessing in disguise now. You got to work with the guys that are going to be out here this year, last year in some game experience?

Graham: Yeah, I was out too. It was definitely good for them to get some experience. You know, they played their tails off when they did and it's definitely rolling over to this year and helping them a lot more.

Last year, when did you suffer your injury? Was it early on last fall, the Fresno State game?

Graham: Yeah, it was in the Fresno game. I think I was back for Penn State.

Did that kind of linger all season?

Graham: It lingered until probably the seventh or eighth game.

How frustrating was that during that time, especially when it happened early on?

Graham: Yeah, I mean, it was. Especially with Travis, he was out the first couple of games. Obviously he got hurt, but it was frustrating because you want to be out there to help your team and make plays, you know, all that you can do to help the team. Then again, the other tight ends came along and played fairly well.

So far this spring, have any of the other tight ends, Lance Kendricks, Jake Bryne or Rob Korslin or any of those guys stood out to you in particular?

Graham: Well, I mean, Mickey Turner, he's always been solid and reliable guy. He's been playing a little fullback and doing his thing. I think Lance has really come a long way. He's been doing a great job. He's strong, fast and catch stretch the field and makes good catches. So I think we'll be seeing a lot of him.

Dustin Sherer got in there the second half of the year last year. Do you think you guys developed a bit of chemistry during that time?

Graham: Yeah, definitely. Me and Dustin have obviously been good friends for a while. He did some good things at the end of the year, won us some ball games. Experience is great for a quarterback especially. He's definitely been doing a lot of good things in spring ball.

How about the other quarterbacks coming into spring ball? Have you been impressed by any of the younger guys too?

Graham: Yeah I have. Scott Tolzien, Curt Phillips and Jon Budmayr, they've all been doing a great job. I've been impressed with Budmayr. He's been picking up the offense pretty well and Scott and Curt have also been doing a great job.

They're all a little bit different styles aren't they?

Graham: Yeah, I mean Scotty is more of a pocket passer (with) a really strong arm. Curt can beat you with his feet a little. Dustin's pretty much in between. He's got that experience. Yeah, they both have their own little taste.

Entering your senior year you decided to come back instead of going to the next level, what are you hoping to accomplish?

Graham: Win a lot of ball games. I mean, make a lot of plays, contribute as much as I can, help this offense get into the end zone and have a great season.

When you first came onto campus however many years ago, did you know that the tight end position was going to be as effective as it has been over your career?

Graham: I didn't. Owen (Daniels) was here when I came. I knew him and (Jason) Pociask were both good tight ends and they used him a lot. But I didn't know that. Then Paul Chryst came and that obviously helped it out even more so it just kind of worked out.

Is it kind of unique how the tight end position works at this school? I don't feel like a lot of teams have the tight end productivity that this team does.

Graham: Yeah, it's different. It's definitely different, but I can't complain.

When you're blocking out there, who's the toughest out there to contain?

Graham: It's kind of both of our starting defensive ends because J.J. Watt is really strong and then O'Brien Schofield is really fast and quick. So, they're both good and they're both tough to block. They're good players.

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