December 19, 2010

Armstrong embraces opportunity

MADISON - Ethan Armstrong looks at the roster and the few parts coming back at linebacker next season and sees an opportunity. With Culmer St. Jean and Blake Sorensen set to graduate following the Rose Bowl, Armstrong is one of a handful of young linebacker itching to break into the rotation.

At the conclusion of a recent practice, caught up with the middle linebacker. The following is a question and answer with Armstrong as part of our continuing bowl preparation series.

I know you haven't broken into the rotation that much this season, but talk about what the year has been like for you and what you've been learning.

Armstrong: It's definitely been a learning experience. I've been able to take a lot from those older guys in Blake, Culmer and Mike Taylor. Coach Dave Doeren is a great coach and that's why he got the opportunity that he did, but really just getting my first playing experience this year I've been able to grow a lot as a player.

Just talk about what it's been like getting on the field. That's something you can't necessarily simulate in practice.

Armstrong: You can't simulate it at all. It's definitely something that you just have to kind of let grow on you. The more experience you get, the easier and easier it is every time you step out on the field.

What's your current weight at and how is that stuff coming along?

Armstrong: I weighed in at 238, so that's pretty solid. I kind of like where I'm at right there and I feel pretty good right now. It's all coming very well.

And they have you playing at Mike? Is that your most comfortable?

Armstrong: Yup.

They don't have you moving at all?

Armstrong: Not this year. But who knows. I'm willing to do whatever.

You look at next year's roster, and with losing Culmer in the middle, do you feel like there is an opportunity? Especially with the way you've been seeing some action this year?

Armstrong: There definitely is an opportunity. Being second string this year behind Culmer, and with him leaving, definitely leaves me with a great opportunity that I have to take advantage of.

You mentioned it a little bit ago, but with coach Doeren taking the job at Northern Illinois, what was that reception like when he told you guys?

Armstrong: I was really excited for him. I was kind of sad to see him go because he was such a great coach and we developed a really great relationship since I've been here, but I was really excited for him to get that opportunity and for him and his family to go take that next step.

What did he say to you guys when he made it known to you guys?

Armstrong: When he made it known to me, he was (saying) 'I hate to leave you guys. We have this great relationship and the hard thing is to leave guys I care about.' But it wasn't really that difficult to talk about. I had accepted it and I'm happy for him.

You guys had a little bit to do with that, too. If you guys don't play as well as you have this year maybe he doesn't get this opportunity.

Armstrong: That's true. He also did say that. He said his success is what we've been able to do for them. He was very congratulatory towards us.

With the Rose Bowl coming up it's an exciting time for the program and I'm sure it is for the players as well.

Armstrong: Yeah, I've never experienced it before so I'm not really sure what to expect. It's a tremendous opportunity for us and it's going to be a big stage. It's time for us to go out there and show everybody what we've got.

TCU is pretty talented offensively, aren't they?

Armstrong: They're a very talented team. Obviously they're undefeated and they're a heck of a team. It's going to be a great test. I think we're all really looking forward to that.

How would you describe yourself as a player? Are you a physical guy?

Armstrong: I'd say I pride myself on being physical and being tough and just playing smart football. That's kind of how I strut my stuff.

That's a pretty good recipe for having success as a middle linebacker. You're basically the quarterback of the defense.

Armstrong: That's the plan.

How is your lateral movement from side to side? Are you pretty happy with that?

Armstrong: Yeah, I've made a lot of improvements since I've gotten here. Throughout recruiting, coming in as a walk on, my speed was always a knock against me. But I was able to come here and they really developed some explosive movements and helped me out with that. I think I've made a lot of gains in that regard. That really helped me out.

You got to go into that gift suite, what did you come out of there with?

Armstrong: I got a new XBOX. Oh yeah, it was sweet.

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