Mondays with Maragos

Chris Maragos (Fleming/12)

After two standout seasons in the Wisconsin secondary, Chris Maragos is finding his niche in the NFL. He rejoins Badger Nation for a weekly insider look at Wisconsin football, addresses what wrong against Michigan State, how to take advantage of the bye week and the mindset of a player in different situations.

MADISON - The football journey of Chris Maragos is something that most every Wisconsin natives dream about growing up.

A high school player in the state, Maragos got a chance to walk-on to the Badgers' football program in 2007 after two uneventful seasons at Western Michigan. From there he changed positions, started two seasons at safety and became a team captain on a 10-win team in 2009.

Now as he prepares for his third year in the National Football League, he kicks off his third year with Badgernation.com to break down the Badgers.

Every week, Maragos will breakdown the previous week's game and answering subscriber questions posted on the insider board. Using his knowledge of Wisconsin's defense and its personnel, Maragos' contributions give added insight to Wisconsin football.

This week, Maragos addresses what wrong against Michigan State, how to take advantage of the bye week and the mindset of a player in different situations.

Badger Nation: As a defensive guy when you play a great defensive game, how hard is it keep your head held up knowing that you played good on virtually every series, but the one series you let your guard down it cost the team the game?

Maragos: It's definitely frustrating. Anytime you play a good team like that you want to finish well, and when you are not able to it really frustrates you. The biggest thing those guys are going to have to do is progress and continue to play until the clock hits zero, especially with the littlest things that can change the course of a game.

Badger Nation: Shelton Johnson said after the game that the Spartans took advantage of Wisconsin running a version of Cover 4. In your eyes, what were the gaps in UW's defense on that series?

Maragos: They hit a couple pop passes down the middle and it looked like Michigan State was occupying the safety, leaving the middle of the field open and creating some gap issues with the tight end. That's what it looked like on those explosive plays.

Badger Nation: As someone who thrived in an overtime game as a senior, how much of the extra period is mental and how much of it is physical?

Maragos: I think, is anything, it's more mental. You are going to be tired, but a lot of the routes you are going to be covering aren't deep routes because they are on a short field. You really have to understand the aspect of what the opponent's top plays are, who they have been trying to attack and everything really goes back to your film study. You have to bow up and find a way to make it happen.

Badger Nation: In your opinion, was Darius Hillary's coverage on Bennie Fowler on the game-winning touchdown good coverage or could he have done something different?

Maragos: It looked like he had a really good coverage on it, and it was one of those back-shoulder throws that are hard to defend when they are thrown really well, especially when you get closer to the end zone. The closer you are to the end zone, the closer you need to be to the receiver, almost going body to body with him instead of running with him for that reason. The closer you are to the receiver, the better you can play those back-shoulder throws. As a defensive back playing those throws, that is the hardest throw to stop.

Badger Nation: Wisconsin's defense had been so good this season stopping opponents on third down entering the game, but again Michigan State converted right around 50 percent on ‘money' down. What is it about Michigan State's offense that Wisconsin has trouble stopping consistently?

Maragos: I think the biggest thing is as you are game planning and preparing, as you get to know teams and play them multiple times, you get a good sense of how they play and how you want to attack opponents. It's evident that Michigan State has developed a game plan that they feel very comfortable with and can attack the Badgers with. It's all about going back to the drawing board and shoring up your weaknesses. In the end, it shouldn't matter what coverage you are playing because you should be able to stop anyone if you are playing well. You should be able to have a good fighting chance against anybody. When you play really good teams, you have to be playing on all cylinders and be very in tune with every little detail within the defense.

Badger Nation: Wisconsin doesn't lose much at home (only four losses under Bielema) and you've unfortunately been on the field for three of those. What's the feeling like in the home locker room when you feel you've had a game won on your home field and watched it slip away? How much does that motivate you?

Maragos: The feeling is horrible. Anytime you are playing at Camp Randall as a Wisconsin player, who feel that's an advantage. When you are losing games at home, you feel like those are the ones you really count on winning to get you to a championship and a good postseason game. You can't stress enough being on those little details against good teams, because it's those precision things that equal the end result. When you aren't careful of them, it can really change the mood in the locker room.

Badger Nation: If you are a current player on Wisconsin's team, does this bye week come at a good time (having playing nine straight games not including fall camp) or a bad time (wanting to play again to erase the bad loss)?

Maragos: I think the bye week comes at a good time. You have to process what's been happening with the ups and downs of the season. You'll be able to get guys healthy and go back to basics coming off this loss. I think the loss will stew with them a little bit and really focus them as they get ready to play the rest of the season.

Badger Nation: Bret Bielema said this past week was going to good for developmental practices, which is an important facet that often gets overlooked. Can you recall some of those practice you went through during the season and how that gave you a firmer grasp on what you needed to do when you got your opportunity on the field?

Maragos: No question. I'll start with the older guys who have been there and played. It really goes back to your base package and you go over some of the smaller details that I really think helps you down the road. You are able to really focus on the details of those base coverages. For the younger guys, those guys are going to get valuable reps. If you have any type of injury or you need a younger guy to step up later in the season, they are going to be well prepared and ready to go in the certain situations they are going to be put in. It's important for the older guys and younger guys to be ready for anything.

Badger Nation: Following your 20-10 home loss to Iowa, your team had a bye week and came out two weeks later to shutout Purdue, 37-0. Can you remember what your mindset was like coming off back-to-back losses and the season was at a bit of a crossroads?

Maragos: You are frustrated and bitter, but it really made me step back and regroup, refocus and look at everything that is going on. It allows you to readjust to how you are leading the team and where you are trying to take this team. This last little stretch is going to be really important for these guys to get their focus right and know which way they are trying to go. I think it's going to be really good for them. I know how hard those guys work because I've been in the program, so a little time off will be able to refresh them.

Badger Nation: Bielema said after the postgame press conference that it was going to be important not to lose any players mentally with the adversity the team has faced. Can you remember your final two seasons when UW went through some adversity, and do you remember guys checking out? If so, how did it affect the dynamic around you?

Maragos: I don't recall anybody really checking out in large part because the coaches do a good job in recruiting guys with character. That's just the way guys are developed into the program. There might have been a couple, but those guys are brought back in by the majority of the team. I don't think that's going to be an issue because they have really high character guys that are captains this year.

Badger Nation: How do you think Wisconsin would fair in a Big Ten championship game or a Rose Bowl? Do you think this team could do better despite having a worse record?

Maragos: I definitely think they can do it, and this year has been different because they have a lot of younger guys filling roles. When you are in that position, it's tough to say. This last stretch is going to be really important to see how those guys really fair. Anytime you have guys playing in key positions and they aren't used to the grind, it might become a little bit difficult. It'll be interesting to see how those guys pan out and continue to progress.

Badger Nation: When you look at this weekend's game, do you have to have the mindset of this is a big game or do you have to try to guard against that and just go about your business?

Maragos: As a player, you can't help but understand the magnitude of things. The biggest thing is that you have to just take the game as it comes. If you start putting too much pressure on trying to make things happen, you get out of whack and start doing things you normally wouldn't do. Defensive backs start jumping routes it normally wouldn't and linebackers are hitting gaps they aren't supposed to. You really have to stick to your rules, play discipline football and do what you are trained to do.

Badger Nation: How much has Indiana changed since the last time you played them in 2009?

Maragos: The coaching staff has done a good job making the players buy into them being winners. They are putting a really competitive group together. Anytime you are playing a Division 1 team or a Big Ten team, there is no easy game. Wisconsin will have to come ready to play. That's just the way it is because there is talent everywhere.

Badger Nation: How much can last year's Oregon preparation help Wisconsin this weekend against the up-tempo play of Indiana and what's your prediction?

Maragos: The philosophy of the NFL is really to slam the playbook during OTAs. They try to give it to you all there, so it's not all brand-new content during training camp. You aren't starting from scratch, so you can get a real good tempo in training camp. The same thing goes for preparation if you have had real good prep in the past. It's not like the first time they have ever seen that up-tempo style, so they will be a lot further ahead having gone through that.

Wisconsin has to get the quarterback involved early and the running game is going to be important early to help the quarterback. The defense is going to have to play all four quarters. It's going to be a dogfight because of the implications. I am going to pick the Badgers, 28-21.

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