Lucas at Large: Bielema pleased with progress of special teams

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UW coach Bret Bielema sounded like he enjoyed reviewing the Northern Illinois win.

"The film was great,'' he said Monday during his weekly news conference.

Not that there weren't things in all three phases that the Badgers must still work on.

"Things that we need to clean up to play better against better competition,'' he added.

But a few things stood out from Saturday; snap shots, if you will.

"Tyler Dippel has been a pure beast,'' Bielema said.

Dippel, a 260-pound defensive end, is the leading tackler on special teams.

On Monday, Bielema was raving about his hustle on the kickoff cover unit.

"If you really want to have some fun,'' Bielema said, "throw on the first four or five kicks from Saturday and Tyler Dippel's just a man-child ... ''

Bielema would like to see more consistency out of Alec Lerner's kickoffs; the last of which sailed out of bounds because of a lapse in concentration and focus, he said.

"But he's really been efficient about putting that ball deep in the right corner. Was it two weeks ago when the guy (Oregon State's Keynan Parker) ran out of bounds at the 2-yard-line?

"It's a very difficult kick to catch and bring it back to the middle -- or bring it up the sideline with some of the hang time. Even if he's hitting line drives, we're getting down there in coverage.''

Bielema's other memorable snap shot from Saturday was Chris Borland on a pass rush.

"There's a play where he took No. 68 (Keith Otis), who's 320 or whatever,'' Bielema said, "and he (Borland) just got a two-hand push right underneath his chest plate and threw the guy up in the air.''

For the first time this season, the Badgers had Borland rushing off the edge on passing downs. "Chris, as we well know, has got a little bit of a knack to be a pass rusher,'' Bielema said.

Borland often frustrated offensive tackles when utilized in that role as a freshman.

"He's just got so much power,'' Bielema said. "It's uncanny what he can do with his abilities.''

Dippel, meanwhile, wasn't the only special teams contributor that got Bielema's attention.

Starting fullback Bradie Ewing was also singled out.

"The NFL (scouts) really like what he does on all four phases of the kicking game,'' Bielema said. "I can't say enough great things about what he's doing from a leadership standpoint.''
Ewing is drawing favorable reviews in other areas, too.

"What we ask him to do as a blocking fullback is good,'' Bielema said. "But what he's been able to do with the passing game is very, very enticing to NFL people.''

Asked about Saturday's opponent -- South Dakota -- Bielema noted that the Coyotes have already upset No. 1 ranked Eastern Washington, the defending FCS national champion.

A year ago, South Dakota stunned Minnesota, 41-38. Quarterback Dante Warren accounted for five touchdowns (three passing) and over 400 yards of total offense against the Gophers.

South Dakota is a member of the Great West Conference; so is Cal Poly, which pushed Wisconsin to the limit in 2008 before losing in overtime, 36-35, by virtue of three missed extra points.

The South Dakota coaching staff has a working knowledge of what awaits them in Madison.

Coyotes head coach Ed Meierkort coached 11 seasons at UW-Stout before taking over the program in Vermillion in 2004, while one of his assistants, Jake Sprague, is a former UW defensive end.

It sounds like their players are ready for all-comers, too, including the Badgers.

South Dakota sophomore defensive end Tyler Starr, an Iowa native, said of the matchup, "We'll hit them in the mouth and see what happens. It's just football. Anything can happen.''

Someone brought that up to Bielema.

"That shows me that he (Starr) thinks he's going to be able to do that,''he said. "So there's definitely things that show you they're a team that lacks no confidence.''