This isn’t like boxing. The two contestants aren’t going to come to the podium in their underwear after weigh-in and throw punches.
If football is more civilized than one sport, it’s boxing.
So no, Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi didn’t come out and predict a second-quarter knockout of Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn. And Clayborn didn’t throw any “momma” jokes toward Carimi.
The two competitors go into their matchup Saturday with an air of respect for each other.
OK, it’s probably more a case of not wanting to give the other guy motivation. Plus, Carimi and Clayborn are fifth-year seniors. They know anything they say during the week means zilch compared to what their play says when the No. 13 Hawkeyes (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) play host to No. 10 Wisconsin (6-1, 2-1) on Saturday.
Play along. Let’s call it mutual respect.
“He is a physical rusher,” said Carimi, a 6-foot-7, 327-pounder from Cottage Grove, Wis. “I’m expecting him to try and bull me back. He is a strong pass-rusher.”
There’s no secret to what Wisconsin wants to do. The Badgers and coach Bret Bielema would love nothing more than to sit back and let running back John Clay, a 260-pounder, run straight ahead into lanes created by the Badgers’ O-line, which averages 6-5, 319. Averages.
The Badgers did just that against then-No. 1 Ohio State last weekend in Madison.
For Clayborn (6-3, 285), it’s another giant matchup. Literally.
“You shouldn’t approach it differently, but going against a guy like this, you have to step up every game and bring all you got or you’ll get thrown on your butt,” Clayborn said of facing Carimi. Clayborn was then asked if that happened last season, “”Not that I remember, but I bet if I go look at the film probably.”
This is a matchup that demands attention. It’ll be front and center for however many NFL scouts are in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday. It reverberates through both football complexes.
“Yeah, he’s a pretty good player,” UW offensive coordinator Paul Chryst said. “Clayborn is a hell of a player. Size, speed, quickness and a motor. So you get all that physical stuff and he plays the game.”
Ferentz, an NFL O-line coach with the Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens organization for six seasons, sees NFL in Carimi.
“He’s got great size,” Ferentz said. “He’s a veteran player and we’ve seen him a lot. He’s got size, athletic, and he plays and competes.”
Carimi was less than 100 percent when he played against the Hawkeyes last season in Madison, a 20-10 Iowa victory.
He suffered a shoulder injury the week before against Ohio State. With a weakened shoulder, he was easier to drive off the ball, Carimi said.
“The first play I was hesitant and I fell and reinjured it. I had to grind through the whole game,” Carimi said. “I didn’t practice that whole week. I put on pads but I didn’t hit anyone. That was the roughest game by far.
“You want to be tough and stay in there but you’re not sure if you should just let someone else come in. It’s like you’re letting the team down if you can’t play. . . . You can’t say no. You don’t want to say no. It’s a tough call.”
Clayborn has the burden of proof going into Saturday. He has been as disruptive this season as ever, especially seeing three blockers go his way at times (see Penn State). The disruption is there, but the numbers aren’t.
Clayborn was among Big Ten leaders in sacks and tackles for loss last season. This year, he’s third on the Hawkeyes with 5 tackles for loss and tied for third with 1.5 sacks.
It’s not something that gets to Clayborn. His pat answer is “ask the other team how I played.” It’s true, but it’s also natural to want to leave your mark on a game and have the numbers to prove it.
“Just going against a great player like that and a big guy like that, it makes you get excited during the week,” Clayborn said. “It’s going to be fun. . . . A good player like that, it’s going to be man-on-man most of the game. It’s going to be fun.”
This would be the rubber match for these two, but Clayborn missed the 2008 game in Iowa City with an ankle injury.
“I think our best guys are going to play their best games this week,” Iowa defensive end Broderick Binns said. “Adrian is definitely one of our best guys. Adrian might not show it, but I’m sure when gametime comes, he’s going to play his heart out. Adrian is going to have to raise his level of game. I’m sure the other guy [Carimi] is, too.”
Right now on Friday, it’s mutual respect.
Carimi faced down Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward last week. Next week, it’s Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan. This week, it’s Clayborn.
“Those are the three at the top, however you want to slice it and dice it,” Carimi said. “I’m not going to say who is the best.”
Just as in boxing, we’ll find out when the punches are thrown.
Regarding facing a powerful end who can bull-rush a tackle…
“I felt I was good at the beginning of last season and the I got the shoulder injury. That really just messed up everything. Because you can’t press someone up. They’ll just drive back on your shoulder that is weak.
“I’m feeling confident this year. Heyward never pushed me back…
Regarding Iowa’s front four…
“They’re the best defensive front all the way across…They expect to get a pass rush with four guys. They barely ever blitz. I said it already that they blitzed 30 times including last year and this year…
Before the season . . .
“Everyone knew I was hurt. But I’m not going to quit, you know? If you want me to play, I’ll play.
It doesn’t really matter what it is.
He aggravated the injury first offensive play vs. Iowa “The first play I was hesitant and I fell and reinjured it. I had to grind through the whole game.
“I didn’t practice that whole week. I put on pads but I didn’t hit anyone. That was the roughest game by far.
“You want to be tough and stay in there but you’re not sure if you should just let someone else come in. It’s like you’re letting the team down if you can’t play. He (line boach Bob Bostad) asked me if I was willing to go. I think it was the third series.
You can’t say no. You don’t want to say no. It’s a tough call.”
Here is offensive coordinator Paul Chryst talking of the front four and Clayborn.
” I think they are really good. I don’t know other fronts around the country but they’ve got to be in the conversation as one of the best.”
“Yea, he’s a pretty good player. Clayborn is a hell of a player.
Size, speed, quickness and a motor. So you get all that physical stuff and he plays the game.”
QB scott tolzien on clayborn
“He does everything. Physically he is a specimen and he is a worker. He doesn’t take plays off. He is a special talent and a heck of a player.”
And last, here is Bielema from the Monday presser on Clayborn:
“Big, strong, opportunistic. You take a look at Iowa last year and that Penn State battle, they’re in it going back and forth. He comes up with a punt save, a block of a punt, scooping and scoring, and changing the game. [I’ve] had an opportunity to be around him a couple times too. You could just tell he’s a very serious kid, somebody that really enjoys. And obviously, for him to come back this year, I think he would have been a first-rounder, but he really buys into what they’re selling there. He wanted to come back and make it a special run.”
You can’t get any bigger. Fortunately our guys on defense aren’t really small. You just have to be really good with your technique and you can’t hang around. You better get off blocks and get moving. If you hang around too long, you are going to get gobbled up. You better separate, use your feet, and play to your strength’s.
It means if you give up your leverage, you are going to get jacked out of there pretty significantly. You have to fight like crazy for leverage and you really have to compete hard, otherwise you are going to get moved out of there. Then you have a back as big as most of our lineman coming at you. It makes it tough.
They have competed against each other before. It is like two good teams going against each other. It will be interesting. He is going to win some. Adrian is going to win some. You want to win more than your share. That is the fun part of it.
He’s got great size. He is a veteran player and we have seen him a lot. He’s got size, athletic, and he plays and competes.
They could all be bigger, but it might not look good. (laugh) I don’t know how much bigger Adam Gettis could get. Maybe five or ten pounds. There is a rate that guys grow at and if you push it beyond that, it is not good.
Well, our guys have to be pretty mobile. We are all for it. Gallery got up to 315 pounds when he was out of here, but he was playing in the 285 range too. It was where he was in his progression. We are not against that. If a guy is a good player and he weighs 320 then I am all for that. They have a couple of those guys. We had a couple of those guys last year, Calloway, Bulaga, and Dace were all 315 plus guys. We have had them, but you don’t always have them.
DE Broderick Binns
On UW OL – They’re big. I believe they average the most weight per guy in the Big Ten and maybe in the country. Their experience works for them. It’s just going to be a dogfight.
How do you combat that size – Basically, just try to use our speed, try to get our hands inside and throw off and try to make the tackle. – Hand fighting – It is over [if a big guy gets on you]. My sophomore year going against Wisconsin, I was put on my back a couple times here and there. Basically, you have to learn to get to the chest and try to separate, try to throw off. They’re big guys and it’s tough.
On Clayborn-Carimi – I think Adrian will, of course he will. I think our best guys are going to play their best games this week. Adrian is definitely one of our best guys. Adrian might not show it, but I’m sure when gametime comes, he’s going to play his heart out. Adrian is going to have to raise his level of game. I’m sure the other guy is, too. It’s going to be a good matchup.
Conscious of his matchup – Honestly, I think to him that it really doesn’t matter. He’s 100 percent from beginning to end. To him, I don’t think matters who’s across from him. He’s going to give the same effort as if it were a guy who weighs 150 pounds. He’s just going to go hard, no matter who it is.
No. 1 O-line in the country – I think it’s the same for all of us. No matter how heavy they are or who they are or what their name is, we’re just going to come out hard and our best and most veteran players have to play their best.
The names across from you – Honestly, we mention them during our scout meetings on Fridays, but other than that, that’s pretty much it. Just numbers. – Name game? – We try not to. We go out and prepare the same and we do the same thing no matter who’s lined up against. Not saying they’re nobodies or anything like that. That’s just our approach. We treat everybody and everything the same. We come out and practice the same. We just line up and play.
Any other team pancake block you like you mentioned they did? – My sophomore year I was a work in progress, you know. A couple teams did that. It was definitely a learning experience for me. I get my hands inside now and throw off.
On going against Carimi – It’s going to be tough. He’s a lot better than he was last year. I think I’m a little bit better. It’s going to be a good battle. I’m going to have to bring it every play.
Remember anything from last year – There wasn’t too much trash talking. It was pretty much man-on-man. Two players going up against each other. No need to talk, just do it between the whistle.
Do these matchups change the way you think during the week – You shouldn’t approach it differently, but going against a guy like this, you have to step up every game and bring all you got or you’ll get thrown on your butt. – Did that happen last year? – Not that I remember, but I bet if I go look at the film probably.
Get you excited? Scouts all that – Not necessarily that part [the NFL scouts], but just going against a great player like that and a big guy like that, it makes you get excited during the week. It’s going to be fun. – A good player like that, it’s going to be man-on-man most of the game. It’s going to be fun.
Right attitude, coming off Heyward – There’s not much need to talk when you go against a guy like that. It’s going to be fun.
What do you do when you give up 20, 30 pounds on a guy – Maybe if I was 220, it’d mean something. But I’m 280, 285, there’s not too much of a difference. – What makes the difference in a matchup like this? – Who wants to kick each other’s butt the most. It’s about that simple. A defense like ours and an offense like theirs, you’re going head-to-head every play. That’s pretty much what it’s all about.
Technique – You definitely have to have good technique down. If you don’t, he can definitely just drive you away from the ball. You have to punch and lockout and kind of control him a little bit. – Hands on first – That’s the thing every week. If we would’ve done that better against Michigan, we might not have given up that many yards. You have to get your hands in and separate. That’s what it’s all about.
Spread vs. pro style – I think it’s a relief. You don’t have to run around as much. They have a great offense and great offensive line. It’s going to be a great challenge.