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Lucas at Large: Rivals buzz about Badgers at Media Days

110731_FB_Toon_Nick.jpgCHICAGO -- Sporting a Big Ten championship ring, Ohio State senior center Mike Brewster acknowledged the Buckeyes' growing rivalry with Wisconsin, a co-titlist with Michigan State.

(Despite the presence of the ring on Brewster's hand, OSU vacated its share of the title.)

"Coach (Bret) Bielema has done a really nice job and really brought that program along to where they're a national powerhouse,'' said Brewster, a three-year starter and All-American.

"They're always a challenge to play. Every year I've been here, they've played us tough. You know that you have to be ready when you play Wisconsin, especially at their place.

"Camp Randall is one of my favorite places to play. Wisconsin reminds me a lot of Ohio State with its great fan base; the people are crazy on game days.

"I'm really looking forward to them coming to our place for a night game this year.''

The Badgers, who beat No. 1 Ohio State in Madison last October, will play in Columbus on Oct. 29; the second of consecutive Saturday night road games. The other is at Michigan State on Oct 22.

Adding to the payback or rivalry aspect of the matchup is the knowledge that Wisconsin's Peter Konz and Brewster are considered to be among the top offensive centers in college football.

"They had a great O-line last year,'' Brewster said of the Badgers. "I definitely admired what they did. I felt like their O-line carried their team. That's what it appeared like when we played them.

"I'd like to do the same thing (with the OSU offensive line). I think we have the talent to do it; we have seven guys who can start which is kind of unique.''

With so much inexperience at the quarterback position, Brewster implied that the Buckeyes might be more inclined to take advantage of their depth up front and talent at running back.

"I know Wisconsin runs a lot out of a Power scheme,'' he said. "We haven't been as big on Power lately. We have in the past and we might be this year.''

When quizzed about the four candidates trying to replace Terrelle Pryor -- who's attempting to get into the NFL supplement draft -- Brewster said, "None of them are a problem in the locker room.''

You can read between the lines if you want on that comment.

What corrective steps have the Buckeyes taken in light of their compliance problems with players exchanging or selling their rings and other items for cash and tats?

"I think it's necessary that they still keep educating us; maybe a little more thoroughly as they have done this summer,'' Brewster said.

"Instead of just doing it at the beginning of training camp -- kind of throwing it all out there -- they've kind of been doing it step-by-step, hitting the most important points.

"I think that's good, especially for the young guys. I think everyone is going to be a lot more aware now and a lot more conscious of what they're doing.

"If it's something you're not sure about, you probably shouldn't do it.''

* * *

Michigan State tailback Edwin Baker was also wearing his Big Ten championship ring. The Spartans have been rallying around the acronym "P4RB'' -- Preparation for Rose Bowl.
 
"It's about keeping the focus on the process,'' MSU quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "You have to do the preparation before the Rose Bowl can happen.''

Baker said that he was proud of his championship ring but that he would be taking it off when he went back home because he wants to focus "on winning another one this year.''

Despite beating the Badgers in the 2010 Big Ten opener, the Spartans wound up playing in the Capital One Bowl because Wisconsin had a higher ranking in the BCS standings.

"There was a lot of controversy on who really won the Big Ten championship,'' Baker said. "Should there have been a three-way tie? Things like that.

"Just knowing that this upcoming season there's going to be no doubt about a Big Ten champion is good because it's all going to be based on best record and wins in the division.

"Personally, I was hurt last year because I felt we deserved to go to the Rose Bowl. A lot of people felt that way. A lot of people thought they (the Badgers) should be there.

"There are two sides to every story, but I was still hurt.''

Last season, Baker was the fourth-leading rusher (92.4) in the conference; just ahead of the UW's trio of John Clay (fifth, 92.0), James White (seventh, 87.7) and Montee Ball (eight, 83.0).

"We play a competitive sport so you're going to look at all the other running backs to see what they're doing every week,'' Baker said. "Personally, I try not to get caught up in the yards that I have.''

But he couldn't help but notice the productivity of Wisconsin's rushing attack.

"I'm not really good with names, but I like the way No. 20 runs for them,'' Baker said about White, who ran for 98 yards and two scores against MSU. "He runs very hard and he's kind of quick.''

What kind of reception will the Badgers get under the lights in East Lansing this year?

"The emotion and the energy will be unbelievable,'' Baker said. "Spartan Stadium at night is very special because it's just a crazy atmosphere. It just makes you want to play harder.''

* * *

While the UW's rivalries with Ohio State and Michigan State are just starting to heat up, the long-standing rivalry with Iowa will be put on hold for a couple of seasons until they play again in 2013.

"That was tough to swallow,'' said Hawkeyes defensive tackle Mike Daniels. "You look forward to every game, but to play a team like Wisconsin -- that's so similar to us -- is always fun.

"Coach (Barry) Alvarez was at Iowa; same with Coach Bielema. We do similar things, including a similar type of recruiting.

"Year-in and year-out, they have traditionally great offensive linemen. Not only are they great, but they are huge. And that's where the game is won -- up front.''

As far as divisional play, Daniels added, "There are people who are a lot smarter than me who must know what the league needs. That's why they made the changes.''

Daniels likes the concept of a league title game, though. "To have the opportunity to play another game of football is always exciting,'' he said.

The interaction of players from different teams was a highlight of the Big Ten Media Days.

"Man, it felt like we were talking to our own teammates,'' Daniels said of Aaron Henry, Patrick Butrym and Nick Toon, who represented the Badgers in Chicago.

"They're awesome guys and I'm glad that I got the chance to meet them. It's a shame that we have to be on opposite sides (teams). It was like we knew each other for awhile.

"Maybe it's because our programs are so similar but they were a very cool group of guys.''

Football roster updated

2011 Roster

With fall camp beginning next week, Wisconsin's roster has been updated for the 2011 football season. You can see it for yourself at the above link.

Six players have changed numbers since the end of spring football:

QB Joel Stave: 18 to 2
WR Kenzel Doe: 81 to 6
LB Kevin Claxton: 37 to 9
DL Konrad Zagzebski: 39 to 74
TE Brian Wozniak: 49 to 85
DL Jake Irwin: 65 to 90

Heights and weights have also been updated from last season. For those that want to compare to last season, here's the 2010 roster.

In addition, for those that want to compare the incoming freshmen from Signing Day to today, here's the link for Signing Day Central.

As you'll notice, the newcomers don't have headshots up right now. Expect to see those sometime in the next couple of weeks.
CHICAGO -- No one seemed to enjoy himself more here Thursday than UW senior Aaron Henry, who got a taste of some good questions, and some bad, during a TV interview session.

What was the best question that he got?

"A young lady asked me, 'Could you give me a sense of a night game at Camp Randall?'" Henry said. "I told her it was hard to explain but the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It's crazy.

"I told her that you just have to be there to understand the atmosphere. I tried my best to give her an idea. I don't think she understood. I was lost for words on that one.''

What was the worst question?

"The same young lady asked me, 'After you score a touchdown, what do you smell?''' said Henry, shrugging his shoulders. "I told her I smell victory. The defense won on that drive.

"I wasn't really feeling that question. It was kind of weird. But the first think that came into my mind was victory. We had won the drive and hopefully that would set us up for winning the game.''

Henry thought it went well overall.

Before Henry, Nick Toon and Patrick Butrym made the trip here, they were coached by Bret Bielema on how to handle the atmosphere.

"He just reminded us that we're representing the university and our family,'' Henry said. "When he says that, guys are going to take things a little more seriously as far as what to say or what not to say.

"All it takes is saying one thing wrong and the next thing you know it's on Twitter, it's on ESPN. You have to be careful and mindful of that.''

Wednesday night, Henry got to socialize with some Iowa players: Mike Daniels, Marvin McNutt and Tyler Nielson. The Badgers and Hawkeyes won't face each other the next two seasons unless they both wind up in the Big Ten championship game.

"It's a whole lot easier to talk to those people when you don't play them,'' Henry said. "But those guys are great guys. You find out that the struggle is the same as far as being college students and athletes going through the same things. That was cool hearing it from a different perspective.''

Henry is looking forward to mingle with some of the Nebraska players in attendance.

"It's funny, DeJon Gomes hit me up on Twitter,'' he said, "because a lot of people say we look exactly alike when we're playing on the field. He also happened to be No. 7.''

Gomes is now in training camp with the Washington Redskins.

"We look similar to each other in the way we run and tackle,'' Henry  added. "In fact, my girl was watching a highlight on TV last year and she thought it was me, but it was DeJon.''

Henry crossed paths with Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson here Wednesday, too.

"Really, really good guy,'' Henry said.

Did they chat on the field last year when the Badgers and Wolverines played in Ann Arbor?

"Not really, he was too fast,'' Henry quipped. "It was kind of hard to hold a conversation with him.''

Henry's only disappointment so far from the Big Ten Media Days?

"I was told Erin Andrews isn't going to be here,'' he said with a sigh.

First Women's Beantown Classic showcases elite players

The first ever Women's Beantown Summer Classic kicked off today and for a tournament in its infancy, it features some serious talent; including 12 current or former UW women's hockey players. In the mix of players include current U.S. and Canadian Olympians, former and current WCHA players, and other Division I women's hockey players.

The Beantown Classic is normally a series of tournaments designed to showcase the talents of future male hockey prospects. This year they added a women's component for the summer and fielded five divisions: a futures division (birthyears ranging from '91-'97), a 1998 Division ('98 birth years only), a 1996/1997 Division ('96 & '97 birth years only), a college division and a senior division.

The college division fielded 14 teams and, by far, showcases the greatest talent out of the five divisions. A vast majority of the players in the division come from a mix of from Division I Division III programs. Unsurprisingly most of the players come from East Coast universities, as the tournament is in Boston.

Of those 14 teams in the college division, two stand out as heavyweight contenders for winning the whole thing. Two guesses for what teams the 12 Badgers are playing on...

The roster for Cheli's Chili Chicks (not sure if they're sponsored by Chris Chelios' restaurant, considering the only two are both in Michigan) features seven Badgers: Hillary Knight, Madison Packer, Meghan Duggan, Brianna Decker, Geena Prough, Carla Pentimone and Erika Lawler. Also on the roster are Caitlyn Cahow and Kacey Bellamy, both Olympic medalists for Team USA.

Brittany Ammerman, Kelly Nash, Carolyne Prévost, Stefanie McKeough and Brittany Haverstock are the remaining five Badgers and play for Team Sexy Back (aptly named for Justin Timberlake's ever-so-amazing single "SexyBack"). Looking to ride the same success as the triple platinum song, the roster for Team Sexy Back features three-time Olympians Julie Chu (Team USA) and Caroline Ouellette (Team Canada).

All 14 teams will play four games today and tomorrow, leading up to the top six teams making a single-elimination playoff bracket on Sunday. However, Cheli's Chili Chicks and Team Sexy Back cannot both go undefeated as they have to play each other in the preliminary stage in what could be a warm-up for the championship game.

Here are the complete rosters for the two "power-house" teams:

Cheli's Chili Chicks
F - Hillary Knight - Returning for her senior season, 2010 Vancouver Olympics for Team USA
F - Madison Packer - Returning for her sophomore season
F - Meghan Duggan - Just concluded her UW career winning the 2011 Patty Kazmaier Award, 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics
F - Brianna Decker - Returning for her junior season
F - Geena Prough - Just concluded her UW career
F - Carla Pentimone - Just concluded her UW career
F - Erika Lawler - Concluded UW career in 2009, 2010 Vancouver Olympics for Team USA.
F - Ashley Cottrell - Plays for Providence College
D - Caitlyn Cahow - Two-time Olympian for Team USA
D - Kacey Bellamy - 2010 Vancouver Olympics for Team USA
D - Josephine Pucci - Plays for Harvard, 2011 World Championships for Team USA
G - Geneveive LaCasse - Plays for Providence and had the fifth-best save percentage in the nation in 2010-11, 2011 Team Canada U-22.

Team Sexy Back
F - Brittany Ammerman - Returning for her sophomore season
F - Kelly Nash - Just concluded her UW career
F - Carolyne Prévost - Returning for her senior season, 2011 Team Canada U-22
D - Stefanie McKeough - Returning for her junior season , 2011 Team Canada U-22
D - Brittany Haverstock - Returning for her senior season, 2011 Team Canada U-22
F - Jess Koizumi - Assistant coach at Yale, former Minnesota Duluth player
F - Julie Chu - Three-time Olympian for Team USA
F - Emmanuelle Blais - Former Minnesota Duluth player, led Bulldogs in scoring in 2009-10
F - Caroline Ouellette - Three-time Olympian for Team Canada
F - Jess Tyra - Former Bemidji State player, currently at UW-Superior
F - Kelley Steadman - plays for Mercyhurst, 2011 IIHF World Championships for Team USA
F - Abby Gauthier - Plays for Providence
D - Gabie Figuroa - Plays for Princeton
D - Jody Holland - Former North Dakota player, currently at UW-Superior
D - Liz Keady - Plays for Princeton
D - Erica Kromm - Plays for Brown
G - Laura Chamberlain - Plays for RIT

Links
Tournament homepage - Schedule and Results (.xls) - Rosters (.xls)

Lucas at Large: Themes aplenty at Big Ten Media Days

110728_FB_Bielema_Bret_2.jpgCHICAGO -- What was Illinois coach Ron Zook referencing when he was talking about "organized chaos'' during his introductory comments here Thursday at the Big Ten Media Days?

A)    Was he talking about the new divisional set-up and championship game?
    
B)    Was he talking about the NCAA rule book?   

C)    Was he talking about the coaching turnover in the Big Ten?

D)    Was he talking about Husker Nation?

E)    Was he talking about Ohio State escaping any further sanctions?   

F)    Or none of the above.
   
The answer: F

Zook was referencing the fact that both of his daughters got married over the summer. "And I learned the meaning of organized chaos,'' he said.

Nonetheless, he could have been talking about the college football landscape in general. So many questions, so few answers, especially, it would seem, when it comes to accountability.

Zook was the leadoff speaker during the morning session and the first question that he fielded was on that topic. To be precise, he was asked for his perspective on the Ohio State situation.

First of all, Zook volunteered that all of the league coaches had just had "a long talk'' with Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany. However, he didn't get into specifics on what was discussed.

But Zook noted the urgency to do things the right way because "everybody's looking'' and he emphasized the importance of "protecting'' and "respecting'' the game.

Interestingly, the second question that was directed at Zook had nothing to do with Illinois, either. Instead, he was asked about UW quarterback Russell Wilson and the impact that he might have.

Zook was gracious in his response even though he hinted at the awkwardness of talking about somebody else's quarterback, particularly one who has yet to take a snap in the conference.

But he did say that anytime there is a player of such a "high profile'' -- like Wilson, the North Carolina State transfer -- there's "greater excitement'' and "it raises the level of interest'' in the game.

UW coach Bret Bielema followed Zook to the podium and casually suggested that Wilson was the "potential starting quarterback'' for the Badgers.

That drew a bunch of blank looks from the assembled media corps and the inevitable follow-up question on whether Bielema was serious about thinking that Wilson wouldn't be the starter.

Bielema assured everyone that he was serious and Wilson would have to compete for the No. 1 job and "show us what he can do.'' But he conceded that he had an idea on what might happen.

Bielema was in mid-season form with some of his expressions.

"I always say in recruiting, you recruit your own problems.'' (That's what happens when programs take chances on character and don't recruit quality people, like Wilson, for example.)

"The one thing that never graduates is tradition.'' (That was a Barry Alvarez rule of thumb. If you have a strong brand, a strong program, you don't have to agonize over the graduation losses.)

"I always say we're not the first girl taken to the prom, but we're not the last.'' (The Badgers have a brand that personifies blue collar and hard work and there's no need to apologize.)

"If I had a dream world, I would say hammer the guys who don't do things right.'' (If people are willingly and knowingly violating rules, the NCAA needs to get rid of those people and hold those programs accountable.)

"It's fun to be a Badger." (That was his take on the success that the Badgers have enjoyed over the last six years and the promise that the future holds in an expanded Big Ten.)

The speaker who drew the most attention and scrutiny here Thursday was Ohio State coach Luke Fickell, who accented "trying to pound home the culture that we believe is important in moving our program forward.''

Fickell confessed that things happened so fast that he really didn't  have time to "feel sorry'' for himself or "sit and think about it'' the events leading up to the ouster of Jim Tressell.

(Later in the day, Michigan State's Mark Dantonio called Tressell a "tragic hero.'')

Fickell confessed the last few months have been a "whirlwind ... exciting, crazy, emotional but yet very productive as well.''

Near the end of his Q & A, he stressed, "Ohio State is bigger than anyone person, bigger than anyone team, bigger than anyone era.''

Fickell came across as sincere.

Michigan's Brady Hoke came across as arrogant, by his own admission, no less.

Asked about the success the Wolverines have had recruiting, he said, "This might sound arrogant, but it is what it is, we're Michigan.''

Earlier, he rejected any notion that the Wolverines might be rebuilding. "I don't think we're rebuilding, period,'' he said defiantly. "We're Michigan.''

That came across loud and clear for everyone except maybe Penn State's Joe Paterno, who opened up the floor to questions by saying "Speak up ... if you will guys.''

In addressing his age and fitness -- and he said "I feel great" -- JoePa quoted Marv Levy, who once said, "I'm old enough to know my limitations and young enough to know how to handle them.''

Bielema meets the press in Chicago

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Bielema Press Conference: Video  |  Transcript

UW head coach Bret Bielema opened his Thursday tour of the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in Chicago with a press conference for the more than 500 credentialed media members at the 2011 edition of Big Ten Football Media Days.

Here are some highlights of Bielema's remarks (get the full transcript here):

On Russell Wilson:
"No matter how good a football player Russell Wilson is, the first thing I wanted to find out is what kind of person he is. I always say that in recruiting, you recruit your own problems. I wanted to make sure that I wasn't recruiting somebody that was going to potentially be a problem at Wisconsin. He's a stand-up guy, great character. Just a really, really neat kid."

On Wilson's current status as Badgers' backup QB:
"I haven't seen Russell Wilson compete one snap competitively in practice. I think I might know what will happen, but until it happens, that's where we're at."

On replacing key players from 2010:
"As coaches we always concentrate on we're not trying to replace J.J. Watt, we're trying to replace his production. Who gives us an opportunity to do that. Practically we've look at our current players, have an opportunity to work with them and see where we can go."

On the status of the Badgers' brand:

"One of the first things I do every day, I'll come into my office and plug into a web page that's all about college football. I'll read the top 12 headlines. Most of the time, more than three-quarters of them are about negative things around college football. For us to stay in a positive light, means a lot for me, means a lot for us in recruiting. I think that's very evident in the kind of kids we're playing."

On the team maintaining its focus:

"We say at Wisconsin, if you don't like college football, don't come to Wisconsin. We have to get a framework in our mind to know that's what we're going to do. Don't let success go to your head, keep an even keel."

On recruiting quality players:
"One thing we try to emphasize at Wisconsin, I tell my coaches, they're all fathers, they all have children, If you are not willing to let a recruit come in and baby-sit your children when you're not in the house, don't recruit them."

Lucas at Large: Badger QBs no longer under the radar

110728_FB_Bollinger_Brooks.jpgCHICAGO --  When Scott Tolzien was named the 2010 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm winner, another former UW quarterback, Brooks Bollinger, was among the first to offer his congratulations.

Bollinger remembered the conversation that followed with the self-effacing Tolzien, who was quick to point out that he attempted just one pass in the second half of a couple games.

"I told him, 'Hey, I think it's just as hard to play, if not harder to play quarterback, in that sort of run-oriented system,'' recounted Bollinger, the starting QB on the Badgers' 2000 Rose Bowl team.

"Especially when your first five passes of the game might be on third down and six or more yards. It goes something like this, 'Run, Run, now make a play' if you're the quarterback.

"It's not like you're going out there knowing you're going to throw 50 times in a game and you can get into a throwing rhythm. So, you've got to hit that one play-action shot you get on third down.''

Bollinger later noted, "That's what we hang our hat on.''

He was speaking for all UW quarterbacks who have flown under the national radar. That may not be case with Russell Wilson, whose transfer from North Carolina State has been well-chronicled.

But there has always been a stereotype attached to quarterbacks who manage a game. Being known as a "game-manager'' never bothered Mike Samuel, the starter on the 1999 Rose Bowl team.

"Didn't bother me, not at all,'' Samuel said. "What concerned me the most was winning football games. And we did that more often than not during my career at Wisconsin.''

What about the perception?

"When Ron Dayne was there, we were a running team, no doubt about that,'' Samuel said. "But they've broken that mold since then and they have a much more balanced offense today.''

Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, the starter on the 1993 Rose Bowl team, has heard many of the same characterizations on the role that a quarterback plays with the Badgers.

"There's the stereotype out there,'' he said, "that we're not really the reason they're winning because we're such a running team. I don't believe that to be the case.

"I know that I threw more than most of them, especially Mike and Brooks. But no Wisconsin team won just because of the run. There were times when you had to convert on big third downs.''

"You'' being the quarterback.

Bevell, Samuel and Bollinger all talked about the value of balance. Bollinger further noted that quarterbacks like Jim Sorgi, John Stocco and Tyler Donovan have been slighted by the national media.

"That's a good debate to have,'' Bollinger said. "If you start going down the list of quarterbacks we've had -- from Bev to Scotty -- there have been some pretty good ones who deserve recognition.''

If they weren't talking about them in the past -- a UW quarterback -- they are now, thanks to Wilson, a big part of the Badger Buzz in Chicago, and he's now even here.

Mike Lucas caught up with each of the Badgers' three Rose Bowl winning quarterbacks for a piece in the latest issue of "Varsity," the Official Online Magazine of Wisconsin Athletics. Read the story here.

Backfield mates Ball, White are 'Players to Watch'

The inaugural edition of the Big Ten Conference's "Players to Watch" list includes a pair of Badgers picked to do big things in the first season of divisional play.

The running back tandem of junior Montee Ball and sophomore James White were named to the Players to Watch list for the Leaders Division on Thursday as part of the 2011 Big Ten Media Days.

The Leaders Division list totaled seven names due to a tie in the voting and includes five returning All-Big Ten selections from 2010. In addition to being the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, White was named second-team all-conference, while Ball was an All-Big Ten honorable mention.

Ball and White join Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase, Indiana WR Damarlo Belcher, Ohio State C Mike Brewster and DT John Simon and Penn State LB Michael Mauti as honorees in the Leaders Division.

Five players were picked in the Legends Division, including quarterbacks Denard Robinson (Michigan), Kirk Cousins (Michigan State) and Dan Persa (Northwestern). Nebraska DT Jared Crick and LB Lavonte David give the Huskers a pair of Players to Watch in their first Big Ten season.

The Players to Watch list, which replaces the league's preseason all-conference teams, is selected by a panel of media that cover the Big Ten.


BIG TEN PLAYERS TO WATCH - 2011

Legends Division
Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan
Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State
Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska
Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska
Dan Persa, QB, Northwestern

Leaders Division*
Nathan Scheelhaase, QB, Illinois
Damarlo Belcher, WR, Indiana
Mike Brewster, C, Ohio State
John Simon, DT, Ohio State
Michael Mauti, LB, Penn State
Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
James White, RB, Wisconsin

*Additional honorees due to tie

Lucas at Large: Bielema not caught up in early rankings

FB_110727_Bielema_Bret.jpgAfter cracking a joke about how the check is in the mail (i.e. buying votes), UW football coach Bret Bielema sounded flattered by the results of the election; not for himself but for his players and staff.

"It's neat to see the respect for the Wisconsin football program overall,'' he said.

Bielema was addressing this week's release of the Cleveland Plain Dealer's preseason newspaper poll, which surveyed two beat writers from each of the 12 teams in the Big Ten.

The Badgers were an overwhelming favorite to win the Leaders Division over Ohio State and Penn State -- collecting 22 of the 24 first place votes. Nebraska was tabbed in the Legends Division.

Bielema was the Big Ten's "best coach," edging out Iowa's Kirk Ferentz. Rounding out the top five were Nebraska's Bo Pelini, Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald and Michigan State's Mark Dantonio.

"There was a big push by the coaches the last couple of years to eliminate the preseason rankings,'' Bielema said of the annual poll announced at the Big Ten's kickoff meetings in Chicago.

They got their wish this year. Stepping into the void, though, was the Plain Dealer. "From that standpoint,'' Bielema said, "I knew someone was probably going to take the lead.''

How will the Badgers handle such expectations?

"We have a common theme,'' Bielema said. "Preseason rankings are great but they don't mean a thing. It's what you are ranked at the end of the year that truly matters.''

Bielema will be joined in Chicago by defensive tackle Patrick Butrym, safety Aaron Henry and wideout Nick Toon. Each school will be represented by three players. How did Bielema select this trio?

"Basically we've taken seniors the last couple of years,'' he said, adding these three "can speak the way you want this program to be heard at the meetings about the way we work and do things.

"I know a lot of people probably thought I was going to bring other people (like maybe transfer Russell Wilson) but these players represent what we are the best.''

This was not a knock on Wilson, who has impressed everyone with his work ethic and poise. But Bielema wanted to make sure that he rewarded players who had invested five years in the program.

At previous Big Ten media days, Bielema had been talked into taking some players who may have been garnering the most preseason hype from the various football publications.

"Sometimes that involved underclassmen and it just didn't come across the way I wanted it to,'' said Bielema, who has already gone over the ground rules with Butrym, Henry and Toon.

"I met with those guys for 45 minutes just to tell them what to expect in Chicago. They're going to walk into that lobby and there's going to be all kinds of media people ... they have to be guarded.''

Again, don't get him wrong. Bielema wants his players to enjoy the experience -- just like he once did as a former Iowa nose tackle, and a former Badger coach-in-waiting (to Barry Alvarez).

"It's just fun; a great time to be part of our conference,'' said Bielema, noting that with so much negativity in college football lately, the Badgers, in particular, have generated positive attention.

"Hopefully we can ride that wave as long as we can,'' he added.

Bielema is looking forward to his own interaction in Chicago with his fraternity brothers, including first-year Big Ten coaches Brady Hoke, Kevin Wilson, Jerry Kill, Luke Fickell and Bo Pelini.

"What's unique to this conference,'' Bielema said, "is that we have a group of coaches who get along pretty well off the field. It was probably the warmest meetings I'd ever been around last spring.''

One of the questions that Bielema is bound to field on Thursday is about leadership, especially the senior leadership, given the significant graduation losses from last year's Rose Bowl team.

"Each year is a little bit different,'' he said. "I don't know how many John Moffitts are going to come walking into the media room. You guys got spoiled, although Pete Konz is not far behind; he'll just be a little bit less dramatic (than Moffitt).

"I do think we have an interesting mix. I brought the seniors in the other day and had a short meeting. Just looking around the room, there are so many guys with interesting stories. I think they'll give us great leadership on the field.''

Lucas at Large: Burcin opens notebook to build UW program

MGLF_110726_Burcin_Michael.jpgDuring his formative years as a South Carolina assistant golf coach Michael Burcin got in the habit of documenting his "brainstorming'' on a laptop. Whenever he got an idea, he filed it away.

Burcin preserved nearly everything; notes, quotes, maybe even some anecdotes.

"Riding in the car, you might have something that pops into your head,'' Burcin said, "and I thought I needed to keep track of this stuff. It really piqued my interest, so I started doing it.''

Mostly, he related everything back to becoming a better and more understanding coach through his evaluation of every situation that might come up during recruiting or the course of a season.

"Everything from how to handle qualifying to how to handle personal issues.'' he said. "After every season, I made notes on the makeup of the team and what I thought we could have done better.''

All of this came instinctively to Burcin, a coach's kid. His dad and granddad were coaches.

One of the things that Burcin chronicled on his computer was a stage in South Carolina's development under coach Bill McDonald; a growth spurt when the Gamecocks become more proactive.

"We had to do a lot of reaching out in the community and to the club pros and instructors,'' Burcin remembered. "For whatever reason, it hadn't been done in the past there.''

Burcin finds himself in a similar position today as the new men's golf coach at UW. Since his hiring in early June, he has already reached out to alums and club pros throughout the state of Wisconsin.

"If you can have a solid relationship with club pros, whether they went to school at Wisconsin or not, they can be a huge ally,'' said Burcin, 35, a former club pro himself in Lancaster, Pa.

"It's important to have those guys on your side. More importantly, they have to trust me and what I'm doing and know that I have the best interests of the kids and the program in mind.''

To the point, he added, where "they're going to call me if they have a kid. We're probably not going to have a roster of 10 Wisconsin kids. But I need to get the best player in the state every year.''

Burcin has been genuinely encouraged by his reception so far. "I've gotten unbelievable feedback,'' he said. "It blew my mind how positive people have been.''

Nationally recognized for his recruiting -- he was singled out as the nation's top assistant in 2010 -- Burcin has always put an emphasis on building relationships as a recruiter and a coach.

"I love recruiting,'' he said. "To do it well, I think you have to like it. I know a lot of guys who hate it. Would I rather be at home with my 5-month old (Josie) and my wife (Michelle)? Sure.

"But it's all about recruiting and relationships. Those are the most important thing we're going to do here -- and they're reversible and intertwined -- relationships and recruiting.

"What's exciting is that we're trying to do some things that haven't been done here in awhile, and we're trying to get players to come here that maybe would have considered this place in the past.''

What does he see as some of the keys to executing his plan for the Badgers? "Changing the mindset of the program; changing the expectations to what we can do here,'' he said.

He knows how challenging it might be, too. "Recruiting is going to be a lot of work,'' he said, "because we're going to do a different type of recruiting than what was done here in the past.''

Different how? "We're going to be more active,'' he said, noting that his assistant, Bryant Odom, didn't attend a recent youth camp at University Ridge because he was on the road recruiting.

Burcin has a vision for the program. But he must convince his golfers on its viability.

"I think that's the biggest challenge,'' he said. "We've got to get these kids seeing themselves competing at a high level in the conference, in the regionals and in the NCAAs.

"When kids come here, they've got to understand that we're trying to do some seriously big things here. I don't know it all; nor does my assistant.

"But we're both coming from programs where expectations were very high (Odom is a former Georgia All-American and grad assistant) and the kids knew, 'This is what we do here.'''

Overall, Burcin has been pleased by the "willingness'' of the UW golfers that he has inherited.

"I've been blown away by how great the kids are here,'' he said.  "I just told them, 'Alright guys, this is what we have to think about doing now.'

"And I don't think it's because they don't want to (compete at the highest levels). I just don't think it has been part of how things have been done.''

The Badgers already have some resources in place, starting with University Ridge. "This golf course,'' Burcin said, "is better than anything we had access to in Columbia (South Carolina).''

Now add a new indoor facility. "That practice facility,'' he said, "will be as good, if not better than, anything I've seen in the country. When we have that building, it's really going to make things exciting.''

Lucas at Large: Catching up with John Moffitt

Moffitt_John_ASU_10 (2)_WEB.jpgJohn Moffitt's patience is wearing thin. Not that the word "thin" should ever be mentioned in the same breath with a 300-pound plus offensive lineman, Moffitt might quickly add.

"I want to play football," pleaded the UW's All-American left guard. "It's been a really different year based on no spring football and the fact I've been training since the Rose Bowl ended."

Moffitt, a third-round pick of the Seahawks, has spent the last six weeks on the East Coast (Guilford, Conn.) working with a trainer and waiting for the word to move to the West Coast (Seattle).

Word is, the lockout is ending. NFL training camps are expected to open Wednesday.

"I'm ready to get into pads and play real football," Moffitt said. "The only thing that gets you into football shape is playing football. I feel really good but I want to get football-ready."

Yes, he has football on the brain.

That's exactly the type of player that the Seahawks felt like they were drafting. Seattle general manager John Schneider said the club targeted Moffitt because "the guy's just a (bleep)-kicker."

On the heels of the late April draft, Seattle offensive line coach Tom Cable projected that Moffitt would be the starting right guard and first-rounder James Carpenter the starting right tackle.

Moffitt has not played right guard since 2006; his redshirt freshman season at Wisconsin.

"I don't think it's a huge switch," he said. "I've been doing stuff out of a right-handed stance since I found out (about the position change). I am right-handed, and it doesn't feel bad either."

Moffitt noted that he's had little or no communication with Seattle since the draft.

"But I'm really excited to play football for the Seahawks," he said. "I think I'm really going to like Seattle. Everyone says, 'Oh, it's so far away from where you live.' It's just a plane ride."

The Badgers will have two leadership voids to fill on the left side of their offensive line with the graduation losses of Moffitt and tackle Gabe Carimi; a first-round selection of the Chicago Bears.

"I know me, Gabe and Bill (Nagy, a seventh-round pick of the Cowboys) always got together and just talked about things," Moffitt said. "As a senior class, we'd talk about how we wanted things done.

"We were pretty clear on how we were going to go about it - how we were going to set the attitude and that's really important because the young guys really don't know.

"They look to the older guys to set the pace because they don't know how they're supposed to prepare or how they're supposed to act or how they're supposed to behave.

"When there's a lot of hype around a team like there is with this year's (Wisconsin) team, you can get distracted and think you're better than you are and that's always dangerous.

"With senior leadership, you can calm all that down and focus."

Moffitt pointed out that quarterback Scott Tolzien was one of the strongest team leaders.

"I know we always respected Scott a lot because he was a hard worker and did what he was supposed to do," Moffitt said. "He worked harder and prepared harder than anyone.

"That kind of thing earns people's respect. From what I hear that's exactly how Russell Wilson is. If he goes about it like that, he'll have the respect of the huddle."

When contacted last week, Moffitt said that he had his bags packed and he was ready to open a new chapter in his life. But will he be able to sing the school fight song, a rookie tradition in NFL camps?
    
"I've got to look up the words," he said.

Moffitt, of course, always has a Plan B.

"I'm a world class dancer," he deadpanned. "I'll just go with that."

Duje Dukan Travel Blog - No. 3

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UW sophomore Duje Dukan is overseas playing with the Croatian National Team in the U-20 European Championships in Bilbao, Spain. He is checking in periodically with UWBadgers.com with stories from the road.

To read Dukan's earlier entries click her: No. 1 | No. 2

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Hey Badger Fans,

Checking in with you on Day 7 of the European Championships in Bilbao, Spain. The team has gone 2-4 since we have been here, with wins over Latvia and Lithuania and losses to Sweden, France, Austria and Serbia. The loss to Serbia was today's thriller... a one-point (80-79) heartbreaker.

I got hurt during one of our friendly games with the French, straining a muscle near my hip, so every movement of my hips like running or shooting would ignite the strain. As time went on it got better and thanks to our team trainer helping me out and cutting down the swelling, I was able to miss minimal time and keep playing in the games.

{D8425956-F409-4D2F-9218-8E9148AA703B}flexible.jpgThis is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I feel like I need to take advantage of it and not let anything ruin it or prevent me from playing and experiencing the European championships.

Our team was placed in a tough position at the start of the tournament when our main point guard left the team. That's a big loss considering he was on the All-Tournament team for the World Championships two years ago in New Zealand with the likes of Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack.

His leaving put us at a great disadvantage because we didn't really have a floor leader or anyone to organize the team. So with the extra roster spot we called a point guard who participated in the U19 World Championships this year but with our bad luck, he was injured in one of the last games in the tourney the same way I was and he opted out of joining the team.

So, essentially we were left without a true point guard that we were used to and comfortable with. This has brought some distress and questions to the team. In my opinion, this is one of the main reasons attributed to our poor performance the first couple games and why we haven't done as well this year. But we have adjusted as time has gone by and played better.

As far as me personally, I've been playing more and more getting back from the injury and getting back into the flow of things now. In the last game I played about 25 minutes and most of my time that I play is spent on the wing or at the 2. I have also played a little at the 4 spot also.

[Editor's note: Dukan had 6 points and 3 rebounds in a win over Lithuania and finished with 8 points (2-for-5 from 3-point range) and 3 rebounds in the loss to Serbia. Dukan's game-by-game stats]

There haven't really been many stories except that I've really come to see here what a bond basketball can create. I've met kids from France, Sweden, Montenegro and many other places that are in the United States playing basketball and we have shared our experiences and talked about the differences between Euro and U.S. ball. Everyone has agreed that it has taken them longer than expected to get adjusted and acclimated.

I guess one funny story is that I've been sort of a translator for the guys here because I studied Spanish for six years. So whenever they have questions they go get me and I have to ask and deliberate. It's really testing my Spanish ability.

On the one day we had off between games, the team went to the Bay of Biscay, which is where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Spanish coastline. From there, it is open water so it's very windy as it is basically open ocean. It was truly a magnificent sight because the waves and water was so wild but it was right on the coast. For the 30 minutes that we were there walking around, it rained twice and the wind never stopped.

We walked around the city of Bilbao as well to get a feel for what Spain is like. Seeing the other teams walking around the city reminds me of Indianapolis during the Big Ten Tournament and how the tournament takes over the whole city.

We have three more games left against Serbia, Lithuania and Austria. Serbia and Lithuania both faced similar problems to us where they were expected to do well in the championships but the team didn't collaborate at the start of the tournament. We are now focused on what we have in front of us these next three games.

I'll write back soon to keep you updated. Hope everyone is handling the 100+ degree weather in Madison.

Duje

Lucas at Large: Kamoku at home in Madison

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Kamoku_James_TENN_07.jpgJames Kamoku would love to have more people show up for Madison Mustangs home games, if for no other reason to recognize that the players are driven by their love of the game, not $$$$$.

"I can go out there and play football and be a 9-year-old again," Kamoku said. "I can go out there and play football for the game that it is - without the money aspect.

"I would love fans to come out, not to just see me, but to see this team - to see why we play and how we play. I'm around a bunch of guys who are like a second family to me."

Kamoku is still part of the UW family, too.

"Once a Badger, always a Badger," he stressed.

You may remember that Kamoku left his family in Hawaii - Kailua-Kona on the Big Island - to sign a tender to play football for the Badgers as a member of the 2003 recruiting class.

Kamoku, who played at Kealakehe High School, was part of the Hawaiian Invasion. Two years earlier that included Donovan Raiola, Lyle Maiava and R.J. Morse. All were from the island of Oahu.

Former UW assistant Jeff Horton was Barry Alvarez' recruiter in Hawaii. When Horton was the head coach at UNLV, one of his assistants was Sam Papalii, who was Kamoku's prep coach.
    
Kamoku was raised in the shadow of active volcanoes Mauna Loa and Kilauea. While in high school, he can recall evacuation drills as part of the preparedness training for a tsunami or earthquake.
   
You can imagine the culture shock when he got to Madison. On his mid-winter recruiting trip, he got off the plane wearing a tank top and surf shorts. He learned quickly.

During his UW playing career, Kamoku contributed mainly on special teams. A hybrid safety-linebacker, he took great pride in his role - doing whatever he was asked to do to help the Badgers.

Kamoku, a history major, also took pride in his ability to play chess. Only one teammate, he claimed, ever beat him. That was Matt Gajda, a backup lineman, who became an aerospace engineer.

There's another footnote to his career: Kamoku was on the kickoff cover unit that Bret Bielema instructed to purposely go offsides before the ball was kicked in a 2006 game against Penn State.

Bielema, at the time, was exposing a flaw in a short-lived NCAA rule that started the clock on the kick, instead of when the ball was touched by the return team.
   
Before sending his kick cover players on the field, Bielema told them, "I don't care how offsides you are, I don't care if you're on the goal line when they catch the ball ... "

How did Kamoku respond? Like you would expect a consummate team player to respond.

"I was like, 'Yes, sir. If that's what you want, that's what I'm going to do,'" he related.

During the 2007 training camp, Kamoku had to deal with some personal adversity after suffering a torn Achilles' tendon that would all but wipe out his senior year. He returned for bowl practices.
   
"It definitely tested me," he said of the injury. "My wife will tell you that it was one of the hardest things that we both have gone through"

But he made the best out of the situation. "I had a Plan B," he said after gaining a better understanding of "why academics are stressed" and "why we are known as student-athletes."

Kamoku is now an eighth grade special education teacher at O'Keeffe Middle School. "I love it," he said. "It's something that I've always wanted to do and that's give back to kids in any way I could."

For the last two years, he has helped coach football, track and field and wrestling at Madison East High School. Kamoku will be coaching this school year in Sun Prairie.

His philosophy can be summarized thusly, "Be patient. Soak up the coaching. Ask questions if you don't understand. Play the game, have fun, don't get caught up in the structure of winning."

Since he's receiving no financial compensation from the Mustangs, and since he's 26 and there's always the health risk in a contact sport, why is James Kamoku still playing football?

"For anyone who has played the sport," he said, "or anyone who has played any other sport, and has had a passion for their sport, they know it's very hard to give up that sport.

"You fall in love with the game, so you will do anything that you can to still be a part of the game - whether as a player or a coach. Winning is always fun, too."

The Madison Mustangs have won 42 straight games.

"We take the same approach as the Badgers and coach Bielema," he said. "We're 1-0 and every week we have one opponent and that's the only thing that we focus on."
Considering the physical nature of Big Ten basketball - the hand-to-hand "combat" and the "warfare" in the paint - Zach Bohannon may be ahead of the curve in his transition to the conference.

Bohannon Drive - BYU.jpgBefore transferring to Wisconsin, Bohannon took part in combat survival training at the Air Force Academy. What better way to get ready for road games at Michigan State and Purdue?

"Probably one of the toughest things I've done in my life so far," he said.

First things first; Bohannon must redshirt the 2011-12 season due to NCAA transfer rules. That will give him time to adjust to his new surroundings in preparation for his final two years of eligibility.

In turn, Bohannon, 21, will try to take advantage of the wait by stabilizing his weight; something that he wasn't able to do during his two years at the Academy because of the rigid training demands.

That included six weeks of basic cadet training during Bohannon's first summer in Colorado Springs; and three weeks of combat survival training during his second summer.

"They take a group of about 10 guys and put you in the woods for about 9 days," Bohannon said. "They gave us three rabbits and two chickens. We had to kill them for our food.

"They taught you how to survive on your own - evading the different forces that might be out there - laying low for hours without getting caught.

"There were different tactics and scenarios. If you were a downed pilot, you had to carry around 70 pounds of weight on your back - without a doubt, it was tough; toughest thing I've done.

"You were just so excited to get back to your dorm and the cafeteria food that you hated."

He lost 15 pounds the first summer and 20 the second as his weight dipped below 180. He got back up to 200 for his sophomore year. Currently, he's carrying 215 pounds on his 6-foot-8 frame.
    
"I've been able to hold on to this weight consistently over the last five or six weeks," Bohannon said. "And it feels really good being able to work out at a high level, too."

More often than not, a transfer is apt to be viewed as a "work in progress" - even if that transfer's last name still resonates with Badger fans because of the connection with his older brother.

Jason Bohannon played in the second most games (135) and made the fourth-most 3-pointers (212) in school history, while scoring 1,170 career points to rank No. 22 on the all-time UW list.
   
"J-Bo" naturally cast a shadow over "Z-Bo"; never more so than after Jason Bohannon was named Mr. Basketball in the state of Iowa culminating his high school playing days at Linn-Mar in Marion, Ia.
   
"One of the things that I worried about even in high school was, 'Wow, Jason had a heckuva career, I don't know how I'm going to be able to follow that,'" Zach Bohannon admitted.

Enter their dad, Gordie Bohannon, a former Iowa quarterback who instructed Zach, "Don't worry about trying to be the next Jason Bohannon, just worry about being Zach Bohannon."

He took those words to heart.

"I kind of took that mindset in high school and had a pretty good career; nothing close to what Jason did and some the records that he broke," Zach Bohannon said.

"Still, it was kind of important to make an identity for myself; I really wanted to get away. That's why I wanted to go to the Air Force Academy in the first place - to not be in that shadow anymore.

"But the one thing I learned was that Jason made me who I am today - and I didn't know why I was trying to run away from that."

Looking back, he felt like it was "kind of an immature decision" to use the pressure inherent to following in the footsteps of his brother as "one of the underlying reasons" to not go somewhere.

Not that Zach Bohannon has any regrets about his two years at the Academy. On the contrary, he believes that he's a "better person" for having gone through what he did as an Air Force cadet.
   
But adding to the urgency and complexities of his decision was the fact that he would have gone on the clock as a junior and been obligated to a military commitment following graduation.
   
That was simply not something that he was interested in doing.

"Besides the discipline, which is a given at a service academy," Bohannon said, "the one thing I probably learned the best was summed up in this quote, 'Tough times don't last but tough people do.'

"They give you a ton of quotes and that was the biggest message overall; the one that I carried out during the time I was there - as tough as times gets, it will never end up being that bad."

Injuries prevented Bohannon from reaching his expectations last season. He missed the first 10 games after undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus in his knee and a torn ligament in his thumb.
   
Averaging 13 minutes in 22 games, including one start, Bohannon shot 49 percent from the field and averaged 4.3 points. Against Utah, he had 12 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

There will be few, if any comparisons between J-Bo and Z-Bo and their shooting mechanics.
   
"I really can't describe it, but all of my teammates at Air Force gave me the nickname, 'Paul Pierce,'" said Zach Bohannon in reference to the unconventional form of the Boston Celtics guard.

 "They tell me I have an ugly game. But the results speak for themselves.

"Jason had a textbook jumper growing up and it just continued during his college career. I was always a post (player) and never really had the ball skills because I was taller for my group."

UW senior guard Jordan Taylor offered this early scouting report on Zach Bohannon.
"He's just like J-Bo in his mannerisms, but he's a little different player," Taylor said. "He's bigger so he can use his size; he's a good defender. His stroke isn't as pure as J-Bo's but he still makes shots."

Zach Bohannon had options once he left the Academy. Some programs met his needs more than others.

Over the last four years, Zach Bohannon has attended a handful of games each season at the Kohl Center. After talking with UW head coach Bo Ryan this spring, he was sold on the Badgers.

"The first time I talked to coach Ryan I was almost ready to commit on the spot to the walk-on position he offered," he said. "He wasn't like any past coaches who promised me anything.

"He said, 'I'm going to promise you an opportunity - that's the only thing I can promise you.'"

That's all he wanted to hear. As a result, Zach Bohannon is now looking forward to developing his game and individual skills during his redshirt season.

"I feel like the swing offense is perfect for me," he said, "just because of the versatility that it gives to each player within the system. We ran it in high school my sophomore and junior years."

Already, though, he's had his eyes open to the challenge that awaits him.

"I kind of had an understanding of the final product here when they pulled back the curtain," he said. "But I never really knew what was behind that curtain and all the hard work that they put in until I finally saw it this summer.

"Without a doubt, I think the two years at Air Force is going to help me with my transition (to Wisconsin). But I know I have a long ways to go here. The Mountain West was a heckuva conference the last few years; fourth in the RPI.

"But it's still nowhere close to the day-in and day-out grind of the Big Ten. When you get a feel for the work ethic necessary during the offseason, you can only imagine how hard it is going to be once you get into the season."

Jason Bohannon, who played last season in Germany, shared a little bit of his wisdom.

"Do everything the way you're told to do it," J-Bo told Z-Bo.

Jason Bohannon also said, "You have the solid foundation already from the Air Force Academy, so it's just a matter of time before you get set into the Wisconsin 'ways' and how we do everything."

Consider them survival tips.

Lucas at Large: Catching up with J.J. Watt

Watt_JJ_TCU_2010 (6)_WEB.jpgAt last glance, Justin James Watt had nearly 5,000 tweets ranging from "Let the doubters doubt, while the workers just keep working" to "Success is not owned, it's rented and rent is due today."

At last count, Watt had well over 23,000 followers - and counting.

Watt recently acknowledged that there's no escaping his celebrity, either.

"I'm driving down the highway," he said, "and in the car next to me, there's a guy in the passenger seat who looks over and gives me the 'Roll down your window' signal.'

"He rolls down his window and I'm looking at this guy thinking 'What?'

"So I roll down my window and the guys goes, 'What's going on?'"

Watt politely informed him that he was behind the wheel of his car, and driving.

"He goes, 'How about them Badgers?'" Watt related. "My goodness, I'm driving 45 miles per hour and he's trying to hold a regular conversation. I had to slow down a little bit and let him pass."

Just another memorable day in the Life of J.J. Watt.

Another such day took place just before the All-Star break at Miller Park where Watt was the guest of the Milwaukee Brewers during batting practice. He wound up hitting seven homers.

Sizing up the brawny Watt in a baseball uniform, Brewers pitcher Shaun Marcum suggested that he was the right-handed hitting equivalent of Minnesota Twins slugger Jim Thome.

"It was an unbelievable experience," said Watt, the Pewaukee native. "When I was a kid, I was the one sitting out in left field just hoping to catch some of those home runs during batting practice."

Watt played baseball through his sophomore year of high school. "I only had one home run (that season)," he remembered. "I was more of a pitcher. I played catcher, and a little bit of shortstop."

He won't need his glove in Houston.

The Texans will be paying him to hit.

"I can't wait to start my (NFL) career," said Watt. "I live to play football. That's what I'm here to do and as soon as they let us do it again I can't wait to put a helmet on and start hitting people."
    
Several weeks ago, Watt relocated to Houston. Two former UW players, Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham - both of whom are members of the Texans - have helped Watt with the transition.

"I talked to them about places to live, how to avoid the traffic and places to eat," said Watt who also took part in some informal workouts with his new defensive teammates at Rice University.

"It's just nice to be around the guys and feel like you're part of a team again," added Watt, a first-round draft pick of the Texans, "even though we're still locked out."

On the surface, at least, it would appear that the NFL will go back to work soon. "If I had a dime for every time I was asked about the lockout," Watt sighed, "I don't think I'd have to play pro football."

He was jesting, of course, though if anyone would play the game for free it would be Watt whose passion for football has been well-documented. Heck, he still hasn't gotten over the TCU loss.
   
"To this day, none of us has forgotten about the Rose Bowl loss," he said. "I don't think any of us will ever forget about it. Just talking to the guys (returning UW players) I know they're hungry."

He also knows that transfer Russell Wilson is a positive addition to the Badgers. Watt, unlike Wilson, was completely under the radar when he transferred to Wisconsin from Central Michigan.

"People want to embrace him, people want him to be successful," Watt said of Wilson, the former NC State quarterback. "No one is thinking, 'Hey, I hope this kid fails.'

"Everyone on the Badgers, and in the state of Wisconsin, wants him to succeed and that's going to work in his favor as long as he comes in and he works his tail off, which I've heard he does.
   
"I've heard he's a great worker and a great teammate. He's going to be accepted by the guys, he's going to be embraced and given every opportunity to succeed (at Wisconsin)."

Watt's younger brother, Derek, will be a tendered UW freshman this season. Any advice?

"It's a tough position for me to be in," J.J. Watt said, "because I want to tell him everything and I also want to tell him nothing. College is one of those places where you have to learn on your own.
   
"That's part of the growing up experience.

"But the biggest piece of advice I've always given him is, 'Keep your mouth shut and work hard.'

"For anyone coming in as a freshman to a college program if you follow that simple rule, you're going to earn the respect of your teammates.

"Nobody likes a cocky freshman; nobody likes somebody who's going to come in thinking that they are the best. Stay humble, stay quiet and work your tail off. Earn the respect of the older guys."

One last thought from J.J. Watt which could very easily be a tweet. "Badgers always treat their own very well," he said of the reception he gets from alums. "I'm very happy to be a Badger for life."

Watch Alvarez's enshrinement live online

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Wisconsin Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez is being enshrined into the College Football Hall of Fame this Saturday in South Bend, Ind., and fans can watch the show live online. The event takes place from 6:30-9 p.m. (CT) and fans can tune in on www.footballfoundation.org.

Alvarez was inducted along with the rest of the College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2010 at the NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 7, 2010 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.

Related Content:

A call to the hall

The Alvarez Era

Badgers' backfield garners spots on watch lists

Three members of the Wisconsin backfield were added to a pair of national watch lists on Friday.

Montee Ball and James White were two of 51 players named to the watch list for the Doak Walker Award, which is given to the nation's top running back. Wisconsin was also one of three teams to have multiple players on the list.

Ron Dayne is the only Badger to win the award, doing so in 1999. Last season, John Clay was a finalist.

Badger quarterback Russell Wilson was one of 38 players named to the Davey O'Brien Award Watch List. The award goes to the nation's top quarterback. No Badger has won the award, but John Stocco was a semi-finalist in 2006.
inboatcoachaction.jpgDespite her success as a rower and women's crew coach, Sue Ela wasn't sure how to react to the news that she was one of seven new inductees to the UW Athletic Hall of Fame.

"I'm deeply honored," Ela said, "but that was a real shocker; it took me by surprise."

She didn't have to guess on how her former rowers might react to her induction because many of them were in Madison recently for the 25th anniversary of the 1986 national championship season.

"People don't change much in 25 years," Ela said. "They looked the same, they acted the same, and they sounded the same. But the stories definitely got better.

"That's one of the reasons why I encourage reunions because as you get farther and farther out, the stories get more elaborate and spirited, and there's more contention about what really happened."

Ela shared many of her memories from that winning boat with Jane Ludwig, who shared the coaching responsibilities - out of necessity. Ela, who is married to the first UW women's rowing coach, Jay Mimier, was pregnant at the time.

"I remember meeting with Jane, our freshman coach, at the Union Terrace," Ela recalled. "That's where I spilled the beans and let her know that I was pregnant.

"She was excited for me and then she said, 'What are you going to do, Sue?'

"This was new territory. No one had been in this position before; no one had been in my shoes before - a pregnant woman in the athletic department. There was no such thing as maternity leave.

"So I recruited Jane to coach the team at the point when I couldn't anymore. The doctor said I couldn't travel in the spring. I was due April 17, and my daughter, Julia, didn't come until May 1.

"While I pushed papers and did stuff at home, Jane took the team on the road and coached them and did a fabulous job. She was a great coach in her own right.

"She had been one of my freshmen - one of my first rowers - and she had the spirit that we think of when we think of the Badger rowing program.

"Looking back on that season, we had the best of both worlds. If there hadn't been someone like Jane to step in and do the job, it would have been real sad for me because it was a culminating year.
    
"We had six seniors in our boat, four in the junior varsity boat. A lot of them went on and rowed internationally. It was just a great bunch of kids.

"Jane and I both laughed at the memories. When you look back on those years, you realize that sometimes the early years are the best years because everyone is learning from everyone else."

Ela said that Jane Ludwig is now a social worker at the Veterans Hospital in Madison. Her daughter is going to be rowing at the University of Minnesota as an invited walk-on.

Ela's daughter, Julia, rowed for one year at Iowa before transferring to UW. She didn't row for the Badgers but she got her degree here and is going back to school in the fall to become a teacher.

Ela's son, Mike, will be a freshman at the UW. Since leaving coaching, Ela has been heavily involved in fundraising as the Booster Club president at Madison La Follette High School.

Many of Ela's former rowers have children in the sport.

Moreover, one of her former coxswains, Yasmin Farooq, has enjoyed great success as the head coach of Stanford's women's rowing program. She's won her own national title with the Cardinal.

Another former UW coxswain, Kim Santiago, has been involved with the UW Alumni Association and had a hand in bringing the Thai Pavilion to Olbrich Gardens.

"Modern technology - Facebook and emails - has helped keep people connected a little better than in the past," Ela said. "We're hoping the '86 reunion will be a springboard ..."

Or a launching point to generate momentum for the 2012 reunion which will celebrate the 40th anniversary of women's rowing at Wisconsin. Ela's goal is to "unify the program" to a higher degree.

And she will get the chance to do so as a UW Hall of Famer.

Taylor, Borland make Butkus Watch List

Mike Taylor and Chris Borland were two of 51 players named to the preseason watch list for the Butkus Award, given annually to the nation's top linebacker.

Wisconsin is one of only 10 schools to have multiple players on the list. No Badger has ever won the award.
_MG_1118.JPGWhen UW athletic director Barry Alvarez returns to South Bend, Ind., this weekend for the College Football Hall of Fame enshrinement festival, he will reopen a chapter in his career and life.

That would be Chapter Five in his autobiography "Don't Flinch'' - "We're No. 1 and Irish Eyes Are Smilin'" - which covered his three seasons as a Notre Dame assistant and defensive coordinator.

"I will have a lot of flashbacks," Alvarez conceded.

None more vivid, perhaps, than how he described a Game Day in his book.

"Walking as a team to the stadium on Saturdays you could feel the electricity in the air," he wrote. "It gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.

"That's why Notre Dame is a totally different animal than any other place. And, boy, you learn that in a hurry."

During his tenure, Alvarez experienced the ultimate thrill as the Irish won the 1988 national championship by capping an unbeaten season with a win over West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl.
    
Many of those players will be in South Bend to celebrate his Hall of Fame enshrinement.

"Todd Lyght called and said that he would be there," Alvarez noted, "and he was going to try and round up the entire starting secondary. Chris Zorich lives in town. So does Tony Rice."

Lyght was a two-time All-American and a No. 1 pick of the Los Angeles Rams in the 1991 draft. He was also someone that Alvarez used as a measuring stick for others.

Shortly after Alvarez took over a floundering UW football program, he had a one-on-one meeting with one of the better players that he was inheriting: cornerback Troy Vincent.

"Troy, I just finished coaching a kid by the name of Todd Lyght," Alvarez said. "Many regard him to be one of the top defensive backs in the last decade or so and you're better than Todd Lyght."

"Yeah, right," Vincent replied.

"Let me tell you something young man," Alvarez went on. "If you just stick to the plan that I have for you, I guarantee that you will be playing on Sundays."

Vincent wound up being taken in the first round of the 1992 draft and went on to play 16 seasons in the National Football League with the Dolphins, Eagles, Bills and Redskins.

"Playing in the NFL never crossed my mind until Coach Alvarez arrived (at Wisconsin)," Vincent said. "Until then, I didn't know how to believe in myself."

Alvarez had that type of impact on many - one of the reasons why he's going into the Hall of Fame. The enshrinement dinner will be held Saturday night at the Century Center Convention Center.

Earlier in the day, there will be a parade followed by a pep rally during which the Hall of Famers will be formally introduced and presented with their official blazers at the HOF Gridiron Plaza.

Fox Sports color analyst Charles Davis and Jon Gruden will emcee the dinner that night.

Last weekend, Alvarez and Gruden were roommates. In fact, they shared a three-bedroom condo with Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville at the Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux, La.

Alvarez was there with his grandson, while Gruden and Tuberville had their own kids in the four-day offensive skills camp hosted by Peyton, Eli and Cooper Manning on the Nicholls State campus.

Some of the nation's top college football quarterbacks were present, including Stanford's Andrew Luck and Michigan State's Kirk Cousins. They were joined by 1,000 high school prospects.

Alvarez had a blast. "I've known Archie Manning for a while," he said. "Everybody in that family is so grounded, they're really nice people. And they run a very organized camp."

What was it like rooming with Gruden and Tuberville?

"Terrific," Alvarez said. "After dinner one night, we just sat in the condo and shot the breeze for a couple of hours. And we had some time the following afternoon and we did the same thing again.

"Jon Gruden is very inquisitive. He's also animated, very animated. But he's a football guy. He really works at it. The first day he was on the field running a drill 15 minutes after we got there."

Alvarez' final victory came over Tuberville, who was then the Auburn coach. And he couldn't help but share a story with him leading up to their matchup in the 2006 Capital One Bowl.

"Cindy and I went to Orlando to hype the bowl at a press conference with the local media and afterward she said, 'You were a big hit with the media in Florida. They really like you. You may get your (bleep) beat, but they really like you.' She wasn't the only person who felt that way."
   
That being said, Alvarez inspired the Badgers to a 24-10 win over heavily-favored Auburn. It was one of his many triumphs in bowl games and one more reason why he's in South Bend this weekend.

Offensive linemen recognized on latest watch lists

Two more award watch lists have come out in the last 24 hours, and two members of the Badgers offensive line have been recognized.

Peter Konz and Kevin Zeitler were placed on the Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List yesterday, while Konz was named to the Rimington Trophy Watch List earlier Wednesday.

The Rotary Lombardi Award is given to the nation's outstanding college lineman, while the Rimington is awarded to the top center in college football.

Lucas at Large: Change in college hockey nothing to fear

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College hockey's charm has always been its curse; provincialism, which has forever encumbered the decision-making process between the WCHA and CCHA and ECAC and Hockey East.

College hockey's enigma has always been its membership. For every Michigan Tech, there has been a Michigan and Michigan State; for every Minnesota, there has been a Minnesota State.

College hockey will survive itself; but only through aggressive thinking and bold realignment. Anything less would have further empowered those who are still anchored to a distant past.

There will be a press conference Wednesday in Colorado Springs to formally announce the formation of a new hockey conference, a "Super League'' if you are to believe the advance notices.

Colorado College, North Dakota, Denver, Miami (Ohio), Minnesota-Duluth and Nebraska-Omaha will form the alliance. Notre Dame and Western Michigan could be in the on-deck circle.

These schools have bonded together in response to the advent of Big Ten Conference hockey in 2013 -- featuring Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and the start-up program at Penn State.

That raises the possibility of a competitive series between the Big Ten and the Super League, not unlike the current Big Ten/ACC Challenge in basketball. That would preserve some rivalries.

Nobody knows the battle ground -- or on-going issues that have polarized regions and programs -- better than Denver coach George Gwozdecky, who played at Wisconsin and previously coached at Michigan State.

Speaking to the Denver Post on realignment, Gwozdecky said, "We want to be aligned and want to be continued to be aligned with schools of like-minded thinking (that) operate as we do.''

The Grand Forks Herald expanded on that theme by connecting the dots between the buzz phrase "like-minded schools'' and the division of power and principle within the WCHA.

The newspaper suggested that the separation often resulted in "two blocks of voting.''

Wrote Brad Elliott Schlossman, "The schools with larger budgets typically wanted to spend money, invest and try new things. Schools with smaller budgets often resisted.''

Those smaller WCHA programs -- Alaska-Anchorage, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State and St. Cloud State -- will have the option of regrouping with "like-minded schools.''

That category will likely include CCHA programs like Alaska-Fairbanks, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan. Match-making does have its benefits.

In the end, the WCHA will have to reinvent itself.

The Colorado Springs Gazette cited a "dissatisfaction with WCHA leaders' efforts to get a league-wide TV deal'' which, in part, has created this end run or breakaway or whatever you want to call it.

In sum, reports of college hockey's death have been greatly exaggerated and embellished by those who are uncomfortable with change and oblivious to a 21st century reality.

If it's true that water seeks its own level why shouldn't that also apply to ice hockey and its diverse membership? Call me provincial, but it sounds like a plan that can work, and will work.

Women's rowing holds reunion

Photo Gallery

Forty three former Badger rowers spent part of their Fourth of July weekend in Madison reminiscing with old friends. What began as a celebration of the 1975 and 1986 national championship teams turned into a reunion for everyone who was on a women's rowing team in the 1970s and 80s.

Friday night everyone met on the Memorial Union terrace for an evening of socializing and rekindling friendships. Saturday morning the group went to the Porter Boathouse. Built in 2005, many of them had not seen the new building. They had a chance to try out the new rowing tanks, relive some bad memories on the ergometer and check out the impressive lineup of boats in the boat bay.

Saturday night everyone went to another new building on campus, the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery. Six Olympians were in attendance, and Kris Thorsness, Carie Graves, Carol Feeney and Cindy Eckert Rusher showed off their Olympic medals. Photos, videos and memories were shared by everyone.

Duje Dukan Travel Blog - No. 2

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UW sophomore Duje Dukan is overseas preparing with the Croatian National Team for the U-20 European Championships in Bilbao, Spain, later this summer. He'll be checking in periodically with UWBadgers.com with stories from the road.

To read Dukan's first entry, click here

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Entry #2
July 9, 2011

Hey Badger fans, hope you're all enjoying your summer. Things are flying by overseas.

Just got to France today before our game with the French.

In the meantime we were in Italy for a tournament with Serbia, Finland and Italy which was a good tournament for us to get in game reps. It also gave us a chance to get used to playing with each other before the European championships so we can really hit our peak then.

Our first game was against Finland, who definitely surprised us as they shot the ball really well, which allowed them to beat us. It was a tough game but a good first game because it was a wake-up call, as our next opponent was our huge rival, Serbia. It's always a game of pride when you play them.

From the get-go we were really active and jumped on them early and they never recovered. Beating Serbia was very big because they are a very good team who many people believe will get a medal in Spain in the European Championships.

Our final game was versus Italy and it was interesting to see how hometown refs really value/side with the hometown team. But despite that, we were still in the game even though our coach got tossed and everything. In the end, we lost by 6 and overall the tournament went well because we were able to get acclimated to each other and beat a very good team.

I learned a lot in those 3 exhibition games about European basketball. One of the things was that languages come in very handy because your opponent has no idea what you're saying so you can call out plays and tell everyone exactly what to do and they won't know a thing. The border with referees is also a big one because they are generally from all over Europe and not all of them speak English well enough so it's hard to communicate with them.

The most common excuse or saying I've heard from them is, "I'm sorry I don't speak English." Another thing was how much skill is valued over strength because there are many kids who are weak here, but they are effective because they are smart and have good skills.

So, now we're in France for two "friendly" matches with the French prior to heading to Bilbao, Spain, for the European Championships. These two games against the French will be weird because they are also one of our opponents in group play of the Championships. So both teams will be hiding some of their sets, as well as giving everyone fair minutes so we don't get too familiar with each other.

Hope everything is well back home and everyone is doing great. Sorry for the long delay between journal entries, but internet access has been rare.

Until next time,

Duje
WSCR_110711_Wilkins_Paula.jpgWatching Ali Krieger line up the penalty kick that could seal Team USA's improbable win over Brazil on Sunday, UW women's soccer coach Paula Wilkins was convinced that Krieger was ready for the moment.

Wilkins, after all, had coached Krieger at Penn State.

"I was confident,'' Wilkins said, "because I know Ali is always confident.''

When Krieger's kick landed in the netting, it capped one of the most dramatic comebacks in U.S. soccer history as the Americans overcame controversy and adversity to advance in the World Cup.

"It showed their resiliency,'' Wilkins said.

Despite playing shorthanded after losing Rachel Buehler to a red card, Team USA persevered and tied the match on Abby Wambach's header in the 122nd minute of the marathon quarterfinal.

"When the ball was hit, I thought it was a little desperate with what they were trying to do,'' Wilkins said of Megan Rapinoe's crossing pass from the left wing that Wambach converted in the box.

"But it was spot-on with what they needed.''

Wilkins watched the final minutes and penalty kicks Sunday with a bunch of young players, ages 12-17, who were attending the Girls Soccer Academy on the UW campus.

"You should have heard the roar,'' Wilkins said of their spontaneous reaction to the spellbinding finish. "The way it happened might create more excitement for women's soccer.''

Team USA will advance to the semifinals to play France.

"The challenging part right now -- with how it ended and the emotion running so high -- is getting grounded again,'' she said. "It was fantastic but they need to get their legs back under them.''

Wilkins has all the confidence in the world that Team USA coach Pia Sundhage will have her players focused for their next challenge. "Pia will prepare them to do that,'' she said.

Preparation is at the core of Krieger's game, too, Wilkins acknowledged.

"She was one of the mainstays of our Penn State program,'' she said of Krieger, a two-time All-American with the Nittany Lions. "When you put in all that work you know it's going to pay off.''

Krieger's resiliency mirrors that of her teammates; even more so, in fact.

"She has an amazing story,'' Wilkins allowed.

Krieger's junior season at Penn State ended short of the NCAA tournament when she broke her leg during practice. A metal plate was inserted to stabilize the injury.

A few months later, she was battling for her life; the result of blood clots that had developed in her lungs and caused a pulmonary embolism. Immediate recognition and treatment saved her.

Although the recovery process sidelined her for six months, Krieger returned to play her senior year for Wilkins. The Nittany Lions won four straight Big Ten championships during Krieger's career.

Wilkins admitted to experiencing some tenseness while Krieger was getting ready for that PK against Brazil. "It's like any mother would feel -- you're a little anxious for them,'' she said.

But that anxiety soon morphed into exhilaration. "As a team,'' Wilkins said, "they showed their emotional courage to get through it and that has to build their confidence.''

Lucas at Large: Ranking Badgers' best tight ends no easy task

FB_110708_Beckum_Travis.jpgAmong the John Mackey Award winners have been Purdue's Tim Stratton (the first recipient in 2000); Iowa's Dallas Clark (2002) and Minnesota's Matt Spaeth (2006).

The 11 winners have represented 11 different college football programs. Despite its run of success at tight end, Wisconsin has yet to show up on that list.

That came to mind Thursday when the legendary Mackey passed away. He was 69.

The first NFL game I ever attended was at Chicago's Wrigley Field, pitting the Baltimore Colts vs. the Bears. There were many Hall of Famers on the field that day, including Mike Ditka and Mackey.

Ditka was the first tight end inducted at Canton. Mackey was the second. Blessed with size and speed, Mackey helped redefine the position group. Besides blocking, he could also run and catch.

The Mackey Award is annually given to the college tight end who best personifies Mackey's qualities both on and off the field (Mackey was a former head of the NFL Players Association).

Travis Beckum was a Mackey semifinalist in 2006 (Spaeth won) and a finalist in 2007 (USC's Fred Davis won). Lance Kendricks was a finalist last year (Arkansas' D.J. Williams won).

How would Beckum and Kendricks rank among the greatest tight ends in UW history? Both were first-team All-Americans; a status that separates them from their peers with the Badgers.

Beckum has the third-most catches (159) and receiving yards (2,149) at Wisconsin. Only Lee Evans (175; 3,468) and Brandon Williams (202; 2,924) rate above him. And both were wide receivers.

But here's the rub: How do you compare someone like Stu Voigt -- a wingback/tight end from the late '60s -- with someone like Beckum, a tight end/H-Back from the 21st century?

How do you measure what the Badgers did offensively with the position in vastly different eras? Most recently, the line of succession has been Beckum, Garrett Graham and Kendricks.

Graham finished his career with 121 receptions; the same number as Pat Richter, a UW icon. So where does Graham rank among Badger tight ends? Do you put him above or below Larry Mialik?

Once again, we're comparing athletes from different generations. Although Mialik played in the early '70s, he would have to be in the discussion, along with Voigt, Beckum, Kendricks and Graham.

Also in that discussion would be Mike Roan, the tight end on the All-Alvarez team. Roan was a bigger part of the running game than the passing game but he could stretch a defense in the seams.

"I'm basically a part of the offensive line,'' Roan once said of his job description, "except on third down when I get to go out for a pass once in awhile.''

Roan was largely overshadowed on the UW offense by the tailbacks (Brent Moss and Terrell Fletcher) and the wide outs (Lee DeRamus and J.C. Dawkins). But he played a key role for the Badgers.

"He's a guy you can count on to make a third down catch to keep a drive alive,'' former UW assistant Bill Callahan said of Roan, "or he's going to make a key down block or reach block.

"People always talk about the inside guys, but if you don't get the edge blocked - get it hooked and reached - you don't have an outside play.''

That's one element in the rushing attack that hasn't changed over the years. Roan's tag team partner was Matt Nyquist, an H-Back, who still holds the school record for most catches in a game.

In 1995, Nyquist caught 13 passes from quarterback Darrell Bevell, who completed 35-of-51 for 352 yards in a 33-20 loss to Iowa. Nyquist caught 12 passes in 12 games during the 1994 season.

Identifying the biggest tight end at Wisconsin is a lot easier than naming the best tight end. Aaron Gibson, all 378 pounds of him, reshaped the position during the 1996 season.

Gibson had a 47-inch waist, 33-inch thighs and a 20-inch neck. He also had a No. 81 on his back. A Purdue player quizzed an official on whether there was a weight limit for players in the 80 numbers.

Alvarez liked them big. "I loved watching that big Daguesaurus run,'' he said of former UW tight end Dague Retzlaff, who stood 6-foot-8 and lumbered more than he ran.

Of all the UW tight ends, Voigt was the best athlete; lettering in football, track and baseball. He went on to a solid NFL career with the Minnesota Vikings and appeared in three Super Bowls.

Mialik, a converted tight end, was among the most productive. In the 1970 upset of Penn State at Camp Randall Stadium, he caught touchdown passes of 68 and 52 yards from Neil Graff.

Some of the more workmanlike tight ends were Jack Novak, Ron Egloff, Eric Grams, and Mark Anelli. Each had their own strengths. Novak and Anelli were first-team All-Big Ten.

While Owen Daniels has developed into one of the better tight ends in the NFL, he was still learning the nuances of the position as a converted quarterback when he played for the Badgers.

Among the more unsung UW tight ends was Dave Kocourek, who went on to play in the Canadian Football League and seven American Football League championship games, a record.

Another unsung player, a two-way player, no less, was Ron Leafblad, a starter on the 1962 Big Ten championship team that played USC in the Rose Bowl. He was also a team captain.

No discussion of tight ends would be complete without mentioning Jeff Nault, who caught the touchdown pass from Al Toon on the fabled "Bounce Pass'' play. Randy Wright was the quarterback.

If I've missed someone here, let me know. Otherwise let the debate begin anew.
Competing in the company of NBA all-stars Chris Paul and Deron Williams has its benefits to Jordan Taylor; not unlike Jon Leuer's experience in the LeBron James elite camp the summer of 2010.

June, July and August turned out to be a springboard for a productive senior year for Leuer, a first-team All-Big Ten selection, a third-team All-American and a second-round draft pick of the Bucks.

_PAB7558.jpgLeuer, in particular, benefited from his participation with the USA Select team which exposed him to multiple NBA stars (Kevin Durant, et al) during its training camps in Las Vegas and New York City.

Taylor also has been going to summer "school."

Along with actually taking classes on campus - "To accelerate my graduation program," said Taylor who's scheduled to graduate next spring - he has been "camping out" with the best.

It started with Chris Paul's CP3 Elite Guard camp.

"Chris is really hands-on," Taylor said. "He watched every workout and stepped in and gave pointers. He competed with us, too, and he didn't take it lightly on us. Real nice guy. Very helpful.

"One thing that stands out to me about his game is his change of direction - his change of speeds - and his ability to handle the ball. He's always thinking on the court.

"He's more cerebral than people would give him credit for. He's always thinking the game and pointing out a lot of things you don't think about.

"I wouldn't say he's one of the better athletes in the NBA; obviously he's quick. But he's not going to dunk on anybody, at least not anymore. But he's very skilled, and fun to learn from.

"What I liked most about Chris Paul is seeing someone at that level who's trying to give back."

While Taylor was at the Paul camp, he got to hang out with a couple of North Carolina players: Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall. The Badgers will play the Tar Heels in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

"I played on the same AAU team with him (Barnes) and we talked about that," Taylor said. "We also talked about their atmosphere (in Chapel Hill) and how fun it's going to be to play there."

As a junior, Taylor held his own with all-comers. Besides earning first-team All-Big Ten honors, he was one of five finalists for the Cousy Award and recognized on a number of All-American teams.

His outgoing personality is perfectly suited for the summer camp environment because it has given him a chance to expand his circle of friends to include people like Xavier's Tu Holloway.

"We talked about how we have had similar career paths," Taylor said.

Taylor and Holloway first crossed paths in a second-round game of the 2009 NCAA tournament in Boise, Idaho. Xavier, the No. 4 seed, eliminated the Badgers, the No. 12 seed, 60-49.

Taylor came off the bench and played 17 minutes.

Holloway came off the bench and played 18 minutes.

"We've gone from guys who didn't play a ton (as freshmen)," Taylor said of Holloway, who hails from Hempstead, N.Y., "to guys who got to play a lot on good tournament teams."

Taylor and Holloway are among the top returning point guards in college basketball. Both are going into their senior years. Both took part in Deron Williams' Nike Skills Academy in Chicago.

That was Taylor's second stop on the summer circuit.

"That camp was a little different than Chris Paul's in that there was more playing involved and Deron Williams wasn't as hands-on," Taylor said of the New Jersey Nets' superstar guard.

"He was there, he was around. Mostly, he was giving me grief for being a Wisconsin guard."

Williams played at the University of Illinois.

"I didn't play as well as the Deron Williams Camp," Taylor conceded. "But it was still good to get that experience and to see the type of guys that you're going to be playing against all year long.

"Anytime you get a chance to play against guys at that level (elite college and high school), I think you're going to get better, even if you didn't play that well.

"It's always an opportunity to learn and improve and see what you need to work on. It's a win-win situation at summer camps like these because you can learn your weaknesses and your strengths."

In Madison, he has been scrimmaging two and three times a week with his Badger teammates. "The freshmen have all been playing well," he said, "and everybody seems to have gotten better."

What are Taylor's priorities in advance of the World University Games training camp in late July? "Trying to stay healthy, trying to get better, trying to get quicker," he said.

From this perspective, he plans on "getting in the gym" as much as possible because "I want to keep improving on my shot." He added, "I'm trying to think the game more; trying to watch more film."

One last thing he's trying to do.

"I'm trying to work on my golf game," he said with a chuckle.

Three from Badgers' backfield land on Maxwell watch list

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The season is still nearly two months away, but three members of the Wisconsin football team are already in the running for national player of the year honors.

The backfield trio of junior running back Montee Ball, sophomore running back James White and senior quarterback Russell Wilson each were named to the preseason watch list for the 2011 Maxwell Award this week.

The award, which is presented annually to the top player in college football, released an initial list of 66 players. With its trio, UW ties for the most representatives of any program in the nation, joining Arkansas, South Carolina and Texas A&M.

In all, 10 players from the Big Ten made the initial cut, with Michigan State (QB Kirk Cousins and RB Edwin Baker) the only other league team to have multiple representatives on the list.

The Maxwell Award went to Auburn quarterback Cam Newton in 2010.

Former Badger Ron Dayne is the only UW player to claim the honor, which he did as a senior in 1999 as part of an awards season that also saw him win the Heisman Trophy, Walter Camp Player of the Year Award and Doak Walker Award.

Ball is coming off a breakout season in 2010 that saw him rush for 996 yards -- at an average of 6.1 per carry -- and 18 touchdowns. As a freshman, White was the Badgers' leading rusher and finished the season with 1,052 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Wilson, a transfer from North Carolina State, threw for 3,563 yards and 28 touchdowns last season in leading the Wolfpack to a 9-4 record and win over West Virginia in the Champs Sports Bowl.


MBB_110706_Bennett_Dick.jpgWould it be surprising to learn that Dick Bennett, the former UW basketball coach, would favor paying athletes a stipend to take care of incidentals or expenses not covered by a scholarship?

Would it be surprising to learn that Bennett watched the NBA playoffs and was "tickled'' by the level of defensive play by both finalists, the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat?

Would it be surprising to learn that Bennett, who has two head coaches in the family -- Tony at Virginia and Kathi at Northern Illinois -- still can't bear to watch Tony's games in person?

Would it be surprising to learn that Bennett, five years removed from his 39th and final season on the sidelines -- 2005-2006 at Washington State -- missed the daily teaching part of the profession?

Not surprising at all.

Even in retirement, he's still a teacher.

"I have missed that more than anything,'' Bennett said. "I haven't missed the anxiety connected with games; or the disappointment when you lose or look bad. That part I haven't missed.''

But he found that he missed the "classroom'' -- the basketball court -- to such a degree that he has decided to share some of his experience and knowledge with middle school and high school players.

"Mostly,'' he said, "I want them to hear someone say, 'Basketball is the greatest team sport ever and you can have a role if you will adopt the right attitude and try to make your teammates better.'''

Bennett explained that type of mindset can entail "setting a screen or helping on defense or throwing a pass where they can handle it or patting someone on the back.''

To carry out his thoughts, and implement his plan, he needed to be creative with his very own Field of Dreams. Make that a Parking Lot of Dreams.

Bennett purchased a couple of portable hoops and got the lines painted for a basketball court (70 feet by 50) in the parking lot of the Lake Arrowhead Country Club in central Wisconsin.

It took him less than a day -- or thereabouts -- even though the club is in the town of Rome.

Dick and his wife, Ann, live on Lake Petenwell, a man-made lake in Adams and Juneau Counties some 30 miles north of the Wisconsin Dells.

"Ann and I have contributed (financially) so that the Lake Arrowhead Association would not have to put any money into this,'' he said. "We've paid for it so the kids won't have to pay anything.''

That's the bottom line -- the kids -- from 9 to 12 kids for each two-hour session on Saturdays.


"I'm bringing in area high schools; ninth grade and up,'' Bennett said. "I'm trying to foster an attitude of being a good teammate.

"I'm not trying to teach them all of the dribble moves. I'm not even going to work on their shooting or individual fundamentals.

"Everything I do is going to be with an emphasis on making your teammates better.''

Some ninth graders from Wisconsin Rapids will make up his first group Saturday. The following week he will have high school kids from Nekoosa. In case of a rain, he has booked a gym.

If the idea catches on, he'd like to expand his operation next summer. First things first.

"This little contribution is about all I can do,'' he said, "and fuss with my own children.''

Tony Bennett is getting ready for his third season at Virginia. A year ago, he took his team to Minneapolis for a matchup against the Gophers in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

"I hid in the hotel room the whole time; I can't watch Tony's game, I struggle with that,'' Dick admitted. "At the last minute, I gave my ticket to the brother of a guy who once played for me.

"For some reason, I get real anxious.''

Kathi Bennett, meanwhile, will be entering her second season at Northern Illinois.

"Kathi's games I can watch,'' Dick Bennett said.

Taking it a step further, he had no trouble watching the NBA playoffs, either.

"It became the year of the point guard in many instances,'' he observed. "Defense -- intelligent, intense defense -- has paved the way for the best teams and that tickled me.

"But it's still a star's game, which bothered me to the point where I was really happy for Dallas. I was pulling really hard for Chicago, too. I liked a lot of what went on.

"I liked the defensive intensity Miami showed. In my opinion, there's more coaching today and there's more of an attempt to do things properly now than ever before (in the NBA).''

Over the years, Bennett has turned down offers to be an NBA assistant or advisor. He did write a letter recently to Milwaukee's Scott Skiles telling him how much he liked what he was trying to do.

"He invited me to come down (to watch a practice), and I'd like to do that,'' Bennett said before the lockout went into effect. "But there's only so much you can do. My time came and went.''

Bennett did say that it was about time the NCAA looked into paying its athletes.

"I was in favor of that if Pell Grants were not available,'' he said. "I'd like to see the guys have some cash where they could go out on a date or order a pizza on their own.
"I've always been in favor of that as long as it's controlled and clearly legislated or run properly. I know a lot of guys who literally don't have much. You see it more in basketball than any other sport.

"I would be in favor of them getting something."

Doesn't that run counter to his old-school image?

"I'm old school in the way that I teach the game,'' he said. "But there's no question in my mind that the kids -- the players, the people -- come first. That will never change.''

That attitude has fueled his Parking Lot of Dreams.
110628_FB_Wilson.jpgNearly two weeks before the Russell-mania outbreak in the state of Wisconsin, one national pundit had the Badgers winning the Big Ten's Leaders Division "no matter who the quarterback is.''

That was The Sporting News' Matt Hayes, who liked Wisconsin more than he liked Ohio State or Penn State. Why the Badgers? "Least amount of questions, least of amount of turmoil,'' Hayes said.

Last summer, Hayes wrote a profile on North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson. "And he made it very clear to me that he was playing football all four years,'' Hayes said.

But where? In mid-June, Wilson was still pondering his options -- Wisconsin or Auburn -- when Hayes said, "Russell Wilson is an elite quarterback. I don't think people realize how good this kid is.''

Hayes then made the argument for Wilson choosing the UW.

"If you're Russell Wilson and you have one more year of football to play,'' he said, " and you haven't won a championship and haven't been to a big bowl, you look at the two rosters and ...

"Wisconsin is more set up to win a championship and go to a BCS bowl than Auburn.''

Hayes has the utmost respect for NC State coach Tom O'Brien, who's entering his sixth season with a 25-25 record and junior Mike Glennon as his replacement for Wilson.

"He's big on chemistry,'' Hayes said of O'Brien, who was unhappy with Wilson's decision to play baseball in the spring and summer because he felt that it took away from his football commitment.

O'Brien thus shut the door on Wilson and opened it for Glennon to be his starter.

"He's very talented, but he's certainly not Russell Wilson,'' Hayes said.

How unique is Wilson? At the end of the 2010 season, Wilson was one of just three active quarterbacks with at least 1,000 yards rushing and 8,000 yards passing.

TCU's Andy Dalton and Nevada's Colin Kaepernick were the others. Both have graduated. That leaves Wilson, who has thrown for 8,545 yards and 76 touchdowns and rushed for 1,083 and 17 scores.

Last season, Wilson was responsible for 37 touchdowns, trying Philip Rivers' school record. "He's a dual-threat quarterback; a dynamic player with a strong arm,'' Hayes said.

Why hasn't he received more national notoriety?

"Playing at NC State, you're not going to be seen that much,'' Hayes added.

In The Sporting News' College Football preseason rankings, the Badgers were listed No. 25.

"If Russell Wilson goes there,'' Hayes said on June 14, "I think they're a legitimate Top 10.''

In the July 4 edition of The Sporting News Magazine, Hayes had his byline on the story announcing the publication's preseason ranking of all 120 FBS teams in college football.

Wisconsin was No. 10.

"Excited to be in the Top 10,'' said UW coach Bret Bielema. "It's a great recognition of what we've accomplished in the past and what our team expects and is working to achieve in the future.''

How did Matt Hayes sum up Russell Wilson?

"He's a great kid who loves to play sports,'' he said.
MHKY_110704_Turris_Kyle.jpg

Kyle Turris, above, is one of 11 players that have left early for the NHL draft during Mike Eaves' coaching tenure at UW.



Based on how the current system has been working from a positive and negative standpoint, how would a college hockey coach get his "arms around'' the NHL draft?

Cautiously? Or not at all?

If you've had multiple players with college eligibility remaining sign pro contracts, it's not likely you would embrace the results. That applies to many coaches, including the UW's Mike Eaves.

On Eaves' watch (since 2002), the Badgers have had 11 players leave school early to turn pro. For the sake of fair debate and balance, though, he was requested to list all the positives of the draft.

"The draft is an interesting beast from the fact you're dealing with 18-year-olds,'' Eaves began.

"We, as part of a college institution, part of our issue has been if you get kids who have been drafted really high, they're going to leave early.

"Later drafts tend to stay around. Your mid-drafts depend on how they develop. From a positive standpoint ... that's what you want in this question ... I was buying time by giving you that answer.''

He chuckled. OK, let's start over again. Is there anything positive about the present NHL draft?

"They take the top kids to the combine,'' Eaves said, "and they do a great job, a classy job of educating the kids - of finding out what they're like in terms of their personalities.

"They do extensive psychological testing to find out what kind of person they are. Much like us, in college, you want good people and good players. They do a good job of filtering through the masses.''

The evaluation process drew Eaves' praise. That's about it.

"It's a little bit of a roll of the dice with 18-year-olds,'' he said. "When it used to be a 20-year-old draft, you'd have a couple of more years to see how the kids grow and mature, much like us (colleges).

"Now, we're looking at 15-year-olds, what the heck? Like I said earlier, it's really a roll of the dice. You can see a young man who has good size and ability, but you'd better find more.''

Eaves grinned and confided, "It's much easier to talk about the negatives of the draft.''

Such as?

"I don't like the fact there are only seven rounds now,'' he said. "By going from 10 rounds to seven, they've increased the pressure on your free agents; kids who don't get drafted and go to college.

"So we lose kids too early if they're talented and now we're losing kids too early because they're free agents and they (NHL teams) are pulling them out of college before someone else gets them.''

Eaves has been among a handful of college head coaches who have been granted audiences in front of NHL general managers. It has happened in each of the past two years.

Most recently it took place on June 6 in Boston, the site of game 4 between the Bruins and Canucks. The catalyst for these meetings has been Paul Kelly, the head of College Hockey, Inc.

Kelly is a former executive director of the NHL Players Association. "He's done a tremendous job of representing us with all facets of hockey especially with the pro GMs,'' Eaves said.

Why should the college coaches have a voice? Eaves noted that one-third of the players in the NHL are from colleges, one-third from major junior leagues and one-third from Europe.

"We went to them (the GMs) with some things we thought would help,'' Eaves said. "One of them was adding a couple of rounds to draft to see if we can cut back on the frenzy over free agents.''

Another topic has revolved around changing the draft age from 18 to 19.

"Those things have to be negotiated with the Players Association,'' Eaves said. "And their No. 1 concern is keeping jobs for players, not losing jobs. That's going to be a tough sell.''

The present collective bargaining agreement will expire on Sept. 15, 2012.

In the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Badgers had four players taken, including two in the fourth round: Joseph LaBate (Vancouver) and sophomore Michael Mersch (Los Angeles).

Patrick Daly (New Jersey) and Brad Navin (Buffalo) each went in the seventh round.

"There's a pretty good chance these young men are going to be here three or four years,'' Eaves said of the group as a whole. "For us, that's a positive.''

What about the elite players who stick around for only one season? What happens when you lose a Kyle Turris after his freshman year?

"That's a huge hole in your program,'' Eaves said.

But there's no question that Eaves will continue to recruit special players like Turris.

"If it's the right young man out there who's talented and the right kid, you need that talent if you're going to win,'' he said. "You just can't have a basketful of them.''

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Now that Nebraska has officially become a member of the Big Ten, the Big Red vs. Big Red rivalry can be renewed and revisited. So can the debate on who's really the Big Red.

We won't have to wait long to find out.

The Cornhuskers and the Badgers will open the 2011 conference season on Oct. 1 at Camp Randall Stadium; their first meeting anywhere since 1974. That game, too, was in Madison.

Fact is, there hasn't been much history between these programs. They first played at the turn of the century -- the 20th century -- some two months after the assassination of President William McKinley.

On Nov. 2, 1901, the Badgers beat the Huskers, 18-0, in a game that was staged in Milwaukee. Wisconsin finished the season unbeaten, while Nebraska had to wait 64 years to get even.

In 1965, the Huskers overwhelmed Wisconsin, 37-0, in Lincoln. One hack (i.e. sportswriter) tagged Nebraska as the "Colossus of the Corn Belt.'' They were the No. 2 ranked team in the country.

In 1966, it was another mismatch, this time in Madison as Nebraska rolled, 31-3. Defensively, the Badgers had trouble bringing down the one-two punch of Harry Wilson and Ben Gregory.

Barry Alvarez was a little bit easier to tackle.

Alvarez, the current UW athletic director, was then a linebacker for Huskers coach Bob Devaney. After intercepting a pass, Alvarez lumbered 25 yards before being caught from behind by a lineman.

"I wasn't tackled -- rigor mortis set in,'' Alvarez has forever contended.

In the mid-'70s, Nebraska and Wisconsin played a home-and-home series.

In 1973, coming off back-to-back national titles, the Cornhuskers were a 21-point favorite over the Badgers even though the Huskers had a void without Johnny Rodgers, the '72 Heisman winner.

With five minutes left in the fourth quarter, Wisconsin's Selvie Washington silenced the crowd in Lincoln with a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that helped lift the Badgers into a 16-14 lead.

But it didn't take long for Nebraska and quarterback David Humm to answer. Humm drove the offense 83 yards in seven plays for the winning score and the Huskers escaped with a 20-16 victory.

The 1974 rematch between Nebraska and Wisconsin was in Madison and, to this day, still ranks as one of the Top 10 Greatest Moments in Camp Randall Stadium history.

A little over 73,000 saw it; far more will remember it.  Mostly they will remember quarterback Gregg Bohlig connecting with flanker Jeff Mack on a 77-yard touchdown play that sparked the upset.

Wisconsin 21, Nebraska 20

Years later, Bohlig said, "It's still pretty vivid. Once in a while, I'll pull out the TV tape of the game. I've never tried to break down what happened. I've just savored the excitement of it all.''

A 37-year wait should only add to the excitement when the Big Red and the Big Red meet again.

Incoming freshmen at the top of their game

This past week has featured a number of incoming Badgers reaching the biggest stage in US youth soccer. Current Badger defender Catie Sessions along with incoming freshmen Cara Walls, Olivia Tehan and Carly Vogel have seen their respective teams advance to the US Youth National Championship Series.

After defeating Elm Grove Premier 6-0 in the Wisconsin State Cup Championship game, the FC Milwaukee U-18 Blue, featuring Walls, Tehan and Vogel, found themselves en route to the Midwest Region II Tournament held at the US Youth Sports Complex in Appleton, Wis.

Only 926 out of the over 10,000 youth teams across the nation advance to this level by winning their respective age group in a state cup championship. The regional championships consist of four pool groups divided within a given age. Each pool features four teams.

After three days of play, the U-18 Blue found themselves atop Pool B with six points and a 2-1-0 record. Defeating the KCFC Intensity, 2-1, in the semifinals put them one step closer to a Region II Championship title. In the championship game FC Milwaukee emerged with a 3-1 victory and a regional championship. This honor will take them west to the National Championship Series held in Phoenix, Ariz., July 27-31. The U-18 Blue will be one of only 60 teams to reach this competitive level of play.

Also attending the National Championship Series is current Badger defender Catie Sessions. Competing at the U-19 age level, Session's Minnesota Inferno advanced through pool play with an undefeated record and a perfect nine points. By defeating Toro Elite in the semifinals, 1-0, the Inferno secured their spot in the Region II Championship match. A 2-0 win over Mallorca ensured their trip to the national championships where only 12 teams will be crowned a victor.

Fellow incoming freshman Nikki Greenhalgh has also been busy helping her high school, Novi, win its second straight Michigan High School Athletic Association State Championship. After defeating Grosse Pointe South 2-1 in the semifinal match by contributing both a goal and an assist, Greenhalgh scored the lone goal in the state championship game. Her tally in the 18th minute was all Novi needed to defeat Troy and give her school its fifth championship in the last seven years. Greenhalgh, a team captain, was named to the all-state Dream Team for her contributions this season.

The US Youth Soccer National Championship Series provides more than 10,000 teams from US Youth Soccer's 55 State Associations the opportunity to showcase their abilities against the best in the nation while emphasizing teamwork, discipline and fair play. The yearlong competition begins with over 185,000 players in the US Youth Soccer State Championships. These champions and selected wildcard teams, through US Youth Soccer Regional Leagues, advance to compete in one of four the US Youth Soccer Regional Championships. Champions (U-14 through U-19) from each regional event advance to the National Championships.

FB_110701_Rabach_Casey_NFL.jpgCasey Rabach and Bill Ferrario were playfully jousting  -- "teeing each other up'' -- before participating in the recent Legends of Wisconsin Classic golf outing at University Ridge.

It was like the Sand Trap Time Machine had transported them back to the late '90s when they were key components -- Rabach at center, Ferrario at left guard -- on the Badgers' offensive line.

"Maybe I should ask the questions,'' Ferrario chided Rabach, who was preparing to do an interview. "I want to keep track of how many big words he uses.''

There is one word that Rabach would like to expunge from his vocabulary: lockout.

"I know we have the right people representing both sides in this disagreement,'' Rabach said of the on-going labor dispute between team owners and the NFL Players Association.

"I'm positively optimistic this is going to get done before training camp is suppose to start ... but I've always been an optimist; it's kind of the way I live my life.''

When all of the issues are finally resolved and everybody goes back to work, Rabach, 33, will be entering his 11th pro season, seventh with the Washington Redskins.

Since being selected in the third round of the 2001 draft by the Baltimore Ravens -- the Redskins signed him as a free agent in 2005 -- he has been a model of consistency and durability.

Rabach, an offensive captain in Washington, has started 111 out of a possible 112 regular season games; a streak that dates back to 2004 and his final year in Baltimore.

Jeff Backus, Alan Faneca, Olin Kreutz, Todd McClure and Casey Wiegmann are the only offensive linemen in the NFL to have started every game during that same time span.

Rabach has been one of the few constants with the Redskins, whose general lack of continuity on the roster and sidelines has resulted in four straight last-place finishes within their division, the NFC East.

Despite that history, Rabach is still optimistic, what else?

When asked about John Beck, who looms as the starting quarterback, Rabach said, "He's a guy who's hungry and football smart. He just needs a chance to show what he's capable of doing.''

The same could be said of the NFL's rookie class.

Those players are waiting for their chance to show what they can do, once the lockout is over.

In this context, what would Rabach tell the UW trio of Gabe Carimi, John Moffitt and Bill Nagy?

"Just be patient and ready because this thing is going to get worked out,'' Rabach said.

What will be their biggest adjustment to playing the offensive line in the NFL?
"It's just a totally new atmosphere,'' said Rabach, a Sturgeon Bay native. "I know it was a big change for me after playing with the same guys (Ferrario and Dave Costa) for four years at Wisconsin.

"That was comforting.  The fact is when you make that jump and transition; it's all different and difficult at first. But it works itself out. I know those guys love football and it will work for them.''

What has been the most disruptive element of the lockout to Rabach' off-season preparation?

"The main thing is that you're not around your teammates,'' he said. "And you're not getting the work that you're used to getting over the year. That's the biggest impact: the lack of continuity.

"It's the day-in and day-out grind (of OTAs and training camp) that builds relationships and that kind of sets you up for the season. Other than that, it's business as usual.''

As one of the 'Skins captains, Rabach has helped organize three workouts on a high school field.

"I'm hoping it pays off dividends in the end,'' he said. "We just didn't want to show up in late July or in August, whenever it is, and that would be the first day we've been together.''

Standing a few feet away, Ferrario said, "Get this feud over; quit screwing us retired players.''

Both laughed. That was par for the course between these two old friends and UW teammates.
ON WISCONSIN