August 2012 Archives

Hall of Fame week: Jim Jordan, Matt Demaray & Donny Pritzlaff

| No TrackBacks
JordanEdit.jpg

It is Hall of Fame week at the University of Wisconsin. Join UWBadgers.com as we look back at all of the deserving wrestlers in the UW Athletics Hall of Fame.

Jim Jordan's accomplishments on the mat for the Badgers rank him among the wrestling program's all-time greats.  

Jordan, UW Hall of Fame Class of 2005, was a three-time All-American and two-time national champion as a Badger, taking home back-to-back titles at 134 lbs. in 1985 and 1986. Jordan took home Big Ten titles and was named the team's captain and most valuable wrestler in both of those years as well.

Jordan holds the Wisconsin wrestling season (49) and career (156) records for wins.

Jordan eventually embarked on a political career following his wrestling days, and currently serves in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Ohio's 4th Congressional District.

Jordan's UW wrestling career also helped plant the seeds for the program's biggest family tree. Jim's brother Jeff wrestled at Wisconsin from 1984-88 and was a two-time All-American, Jim's oldest son, Ben, wrestled from 2008-12 and collected All-America honors in 2012 and will serve as a volunteer assistant coach for the team in 2012-13, and his youngest son, Isaac, is an incoming freshman for the Badgers.



DemarayEdit.jpg

As both an accomplished international and collegiate wrestler, Matt Demaray, 2007 inductee of the UW Hall of Fame, ranks right near the top of the list of greatest Badger wrestlers of all-time.

Demaray wrestled at Wisconsin from 1989-1992 and racked up an impressive list of accomplishments during his time in Madison. He was a three-time All-American, two-time national champion, and two-time Big Ten champion at 150lbs. as a Badger, compiling a 150-24 career record along the way. Those 150 wins place him second all-time, and his .853 winning percentage sixth all-time, in the Wisconsin wrestling record books. Demaray is also tied for sixth all-time in single season wins with 42 in 1990-91.

He is one of only four Badgers to record an undefeated season, as he went a perfect 42-0 in the 1990-91 season.

Demaray was the 1991 Wisconsin Athlete of the Year, 1991 Big Ten Wrestler of the Year, 1991 and 1992 Wisconsin Outstanding Wrestler, and was Academic All-Big Ten, and first team academic All-American in 1992. He was also awarded the Big Ten Medal of Honor Award in 1992.

Demaray also found success wrestling at the international level. He was an alternate on the 1992 Olympic team, won the 1992 US Open Freestyle Championships, was a Senior US World team member in 1993 - the same year he competed in the world championships and world cup.




PritzEdit.jpg

Donny Pritzlaff, UW Hall of Fame Class of 2010, certainly holds a special place in Wisconsin wrestling lore as one of only three four-time All-Americans in program history.

Pritzlaff finished in sixth and fifth place in 1998 and 1999, respectively, before rattling off back-to-back national titles in 2000 and 2001 at 165 lbs. Pritzlaff was also a three-time Big Ten champion.

As a result of his dominating four-year career in Madison, the Badgers' wrestling record book is littered with Pritzlaff's name. He ranks fourth in both career (135) and single-season (43) victories, he's tied for ninth in career falls (27), his career 135-16 mark places him third all-time for career winning percentage (.894), and his 43-1 (.977) 2000-01 season, and 36-2 (.947) 1999-00 season put him fifth and tenth, respectively, on the single-season winning percentage list.

Following his Badger career, Pritzlaff went on to compete internationally, and placed third at the 2006 World Championships for Freestyle.

---
Ryan Evans
UW Athletic Communications

Hall of Fame week: Andy Rein & Russ Hellickson

| No TrackBacks
It is Hall of Fame week at the University of Wisconsin. Join UWBadgers.com as they look back at all of the deserving wrestlers in the UW Hall of Fame.

After his Badger wrestling career Russ Hellickson, Hall of Fame class of 1995, made his mark on the international level as well as behind the bench for Wisconsin wrestling as a coach for 16 years. 

Hellickson0001_Blog.jpg

Hellickson won 10 national freestyle wrestling titles after leaving Wisconsin as well as three Pan American Games gold medals (1971, 1975, 1979), silver (1979) and bronze (1971) medal finishes at the World Championships, and a gold medal at the prestigious Tbilisi Tournament in Russia in 1974.

He competed for Team USA at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, bringing home a silver medal at 220 lbs. He qualified, and was the U.S. Olympic freestyle team captain for the boycotted 1980 games in Moscow. 

Hellickson was a charter member of the Wisconsin Wrestling Hall of Fame, and is also enshrined in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and the Midlands Open Hall of Fame. 

While competing internationally, Hellickson also found time to serve as a coach for his alma mater, both as an assistant (1971-82) and as its head coach for four seasons from 1983-86. He led the Badgers to a 70-22-1 dual record in his time as head coach, including three 20-win seasons, as well as back-to-back Big Ten runner-up finishes in 1985 and 1986. 

Hellickson ranks third among UW wrestling coaches in career winning percentage with a .758 mark.


It's a good problem to have if you're Andy Rein, Hall of Fame Class of 2002, and you can't decide whether your accomplishments as a wrestler or as a coach for the Wisconsin Wrestling team are more impressive. Both sets can certainly stake a claim. 

As a player, Rein was a three-time All-American for the Badgers, taking second in 1978, sixth in 1979, and winning a national title in 1980. He was also a two-time Big Ten champion (1978, 1980), three-time Midlands Open champion (1978-80), and his career 119-13-1 record included an undefeated 40-0 season in 1980. 

rein_action_Blog.jpg
Following his Badger career, Rein went international and continued to find success on the mat. He won four United States national freestyle titles and was a two-time Olympian (1980 and 1984) in freestyle, taking home a silver medal at the 1984 games in Los Angeles at 149.5 lbs. 

Rein also won gold medals at the 1983 Tbilisi Tournament in the Soviet Union and the 1979 Pan American Games, as well as silver medals at the 1982 World Cup of Wrestling and the 1985 Super Champions Tournament. 

After being hired as the Badgers' head coach in 1987, Rein led Wisconsin to a 81-41-3 record in his seven seasons at the helm of the program, which included Big Ten runner-up finishes in 1987, when Rein was named NCAA Rookie Coach of the Year, and 1992, when he was named Big Ten Coach of the Year. 

Rein coached 14 student-athletes to All-America distinction and two - David Lee and Matt Demaray - to national championships. His .659 winning percentage as head coach.ranks sixth in program history

---

Ryan Evans
UW Athletic Communications

The Voice: Six set to join elite group in Hall of Fame

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgThis Friday evening, the University of Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame will add six new members -- Jim Haluska, Jim Haines, Lawrence Johnson, Karen Lunda, Cory Raymer and Dick Bennett.

In Varsity magazine a couple of weeks ago, Mike Lucas took us down memory lane with Raymer, the All-America center who helped the Badgers to their first-ever Rose Bowl victory, as well as with Coach Bennett, who no doubt is best known for leading the Badgers on the magical run to the 2000 Final Four.

In addition to being a great player, Raymer was a reporter's dream. Maybe the best way to describe Cory Raymer is by saying he was John Moffitt before we ever heard of John Moffitt. During a media day, some photographers were gathering players for various photos. Raymer emerged from the tunnel and heard his name. The center responded "I answer to anything with 'dumb' in front of it."  

Raymer was dumb like a fox.

The media loved Bennett, as well. He liked to tell fans that he could show Barry Alvarez's football team how to pass, while Coach Alvarez's boys could teach the basketball squad how to run.

But never confuse their sense of humor with their competitive nature. No doubt the desire to maximize his or her potential is what drove each member in the Class of 2012.

Wrestler Jim Haines overcame a knee injury and competed in the 1976 Olympic Summer Games. The following season at Wisconsin, Haines became an NCAA champion by beating Big Ten rival Mike McArthur of Minnesota.

Former coach Duane Kleven says Haines had a combination of toughness and smarts that made him extra special, referring to him as a "mental giant."  When his wrestling days were done, Haines became a coach -- of girls' softball at Pepin High School. He led his team to two state titles.

With this year marking the 40th anniversary of Title IX, one could make a strong argument that Karen Lunda is one of the more important athletes in UW history. Lunda lettered both in field hockey and soccer. While attending Madison West High School, she also played tennis, softball and competed in speed skating.

After starring in field hockey in her first three years at UW, the school dropped the program, so she turned her attention to the new varsity sport on campus, soccer.

In 1981, Lunda became the first Badger women's soccer All-American. More than three decades later, she remains the UW single-season leader in goals (22), assists (18) and total points (62). Her coach, Craig Webb, believes if Karen Lunda played soccer today, she would be an Olympic gold medalist.

Lawrence Johnson also was a two-sport athlete. A Big Ten champion in four events in track, Johnson was an All-America defensive back for the Badgers in 1978. His coaches said he played man coverage better than anyone on the team, and opposing coaches must have agreed. Johnson's interception total was modest, in large part because quarterbacks would tend not to test him.

Johnson also likes to tell the story of how, in his freshman year, there was a 100-yard dash after a practice. Before the race, his new football teammates must have had little if any knowledge of Johnson's speed. Halfway through the race, they found out. Simply put, Lawrence Johnson was more than a track star who could play football, or vice-versa. He simply was a star in both sports.

Today, Badger football fans are well aware of transfer quarterbacks, but the story might not be as new as you think.

In 1950, Jim Haluska enrolled at Michigan. In time, he decided that Ann Arbor was not for him, so the Racine native returned to his home state. In 1952, he went from being the fifth-string quarterback to the starter. A few months later, Haluska led the league in completion percentage, and the Badgers were Rose Bowl-bound for the first time in school history.

Each inductee should be very proud to be a UW Athletic Hall of Famer. That elite group grows to 190 members. What already is a good "team" is about to get even better.
FB_120828_Johnson_Shelton.jpeg

The dawning of that first "Game Week'' is not only a starting point, but a finish line; whereby college football players are exiting the grind of training camp and entering a new season with the anticipation of basking in the sunlight that washes over every 0-0 team before that first kickoff.

It is no different for Wisconsin's starting safeties, Shelton Johnson and Dez Southward, who have their own "likes'' and "dislikes'' from three weeks of practices -- some two-a-days, some under the lights at Camp Randall Stadium -- all geared to get them ready for potentially a 14-game season.

"I like being able to focus on just football,'' said Johnson, a fifth-year senior from Carrollton, Texas. "During training camp, it's football all day -- this is unlike any other time of the year when you have academics and outside responsibilities -- and you have a good opportunity to get better every day.''

Citing the team camaraderie that has been building since the first practice on Aug. 6, Southward said, "It's a ton of time to get to know the guys around you. You learn the most about these people in training camp because you really get to focus just on football; really that's all there is here.''

That bonding process can lead to a special experience, according to Southward, a junior from Sunrise, Fla. It's special, he said, because it's shared with the "people who are with you on game day'' and the "guys you're going to war with.'' That would be the UW coaches and his teammates.

So what's there not to like about training camp?

"I dislike how my body feels,'' Johnson said. "It's a grind out here.''

"We all love to play football,'' said Southward, "but there's a certain point where your body ...''

He groaned out loud. How would he translate the body language? 

"It's like I need a break,'' he said.

That aside, Southward and Johnson have each tried to meet certain objectives in August.

"I came into camp to gain more confidence,'' said Southward, who has only three career starts. "I know what I can do; everybody knows what I can do. But I have to do it more consistently. I feel like I've been able to do that. Man, I'm light years where I was, and I'm excited about where I can get to.''

Southward didn't play organized football until his senior year of high school.

So his growing pains have been more pronounced than others.

"I still have things that I definitely have to get better at,'' he said.

Since one of his starting opportunities came in the Rose Bowl -- Johnson made room for him by shifting to nickel back -- what was the biggest lesson that Southward learned from last season?

"I remember a lot of mental breakdowns -- a lot of what-ifs, a lot of could've, would've, should've (against Oregon),'' he conceded. "From my point of view, I learned to keep grinding. I know that I've said training camp can be tough because it's just such a grind. But that's different.

"As far as grinding during a season, it's putting that last week behind you and putting everything into the week ahead. From that Tuesday when you get the game plan all the way through Friday, you have to learn as much as you can and truly go out and apply it on Saturdays.''

Johnson, the fourth-leading tackler and a tri-leader in interceptions with four last season, came into training camp with a different level of confidence than Southward. "But honestly I want to be more confident in my abilities,'' he said, "in what the coaches say is 'pulling the trigger' a bit more often.''

Pulling the trigger? "Taking a shot,'' Johnson explained. "I know last year when I did that -- when I pulled the trigger -- I was able to make some plays. What I learned was that the little things matter. The games at Michigan State and Ohio State really emphasized how it's a game of inches.''

Johnson and Southward's partnership at safety is just beginning to grow.

Their friendship as teammates as been maturing for years.

"Our relationship is good,'' Johnson said. "He was best friends with my roommate (former UW cornerback Antonio Fenelus). And since they were locked at the hip, he was always at the house.''

"From competing against him to now being across from him (in the deep secondary),'' Southward said, "it's been a blast and there's nobody in the country that I would rather go to war with.''

Regarding the graduation loss of Fenelus, a first-team All-Big Ten selection, Southward said, "We miss him already. He was in many ways the heart and soul of the DB group. He really brought us together. He made us laugh. He showed us how to work. He was a great example.''

Who fills that void? "We're filling that void right now collectively,'' Southward said. "When you see someone who's down, who's maybe not as excited as he was the day before, you try to pump him up a little bit. We've kind of done that as group -- me, Devin, Cro and Shelton.''

Devin is Devin Smith, who's returning from an injury redshirt.

Cro is Marcus Cromartie, who started 13 games at cornerback last season.

Along with Johnson, Smith and Cromartie are seniors.

"I guess I'm the young man,'' said Southward. Laughing, he added, "I still feel old.''

Johnson and Southward were on the same page when it came to describing the impact that first-year secondary coach Ben Strickland has had on their development during this training camp.

Strickland was one of the team captains of the 2007 UW team.

"Coach Strick gives us a different kind of perspective on the coaching side of things,'' Johnson said. "Typically during camp, you get the impression that the coaches really don't know what you're going through. But Coach Strick has been through all of this before as a player.''

Said Southward, "He's had a huge impact. He's one of the guys who has really helped me be more consistent. As soon as he got the job, he was straight-up with me. He told me, 'We believe in you, we understand you have a lot of talent, but we want to turn this talent into something special.'''

That's what Southward was yearning to hear. 

"He (has been there every step of the way with me,'' he said. "Anytime I struggle or I may get down on myself, he's right there to pick me up with a word of encouragement. It's great to have people like that in your corner.''

Johnson could say the same thing after being elected as one of six UW team captains.

"Having your teammates, the people that you're around every day, show their respect back to you is a real honor,'' Johnson said. "Especially coming from the position I was in my freshman year. I really didn't know if I was going to be here or not.''

Feeling like he had slipped through the cracks, Johnson considered leaving the program.

"It goes through everyone's mind as you start slipping down that depth chart,'' Johnson said. "Even my roommate (Fenelus) thought about leaving for a second. Everybody reaches that breaking point where either you can pack up and move on, or you can get it together.''

He chose the latter, and he's glad that he did.

Hall of Fame week: John Roberts & Ed Templin

| No TrackBacks
Roberts_Templin_blog.jpg

It is Hall of Fame week at the University of Wisconsin. Join UWBadgers.com as they look back at all of the deserving wrestlers in the UW Hall of Fame. 

John Roberts (left), a 1994 inductee to the UW Athletic Department Hall of Fame, was a stand out on two fields of play during his time at Wisconsin, excelling both on the mat, as well as the football field.

Roberts served as team captain for the wrestling team in both the 1941 and 1942 seasons, and led by example. He captured back-to-back Big Ten titles at 165 lbs. in those seasons, as well as a NCAA second place finish in 1941. Immediately following his career Roberts led Wisconsin wrestling as its head coach in 1943.

On the gridiron Roberts was a member of the No. 3-ranked 1942 Badgers' football team that finished 8-1-1 and second in the Big Ten. His football career continued as a coach for Stevens Point High School and UW-Stevens Point before Roberts served as the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) for 28 years from 1957 until 1985.




Ed Templin (right), a 1995 inductee of the UW Athletic Department Hall of Fame and captain of the Badgers' 1923 squad, was the first three- time Big Ten champion in Wisconsin Wrestling history, earning a three-peat at 145 lbs. from 1922 through 1924.

---

Ryan Evans
UW Athletic Communications

Lucas at Large: Drewiske's day with the Cup a revelation?

| No TrackBacks
Thumbnail image for DrewiskeCup.jpg
Former Wisconsin hockey defenseman Davis Drewiske resisted the temptation to read the handwriting on the wall Sunday; especially since it pertained to the "handwriting'' on the Cup, the Stanley Cup, which was scheduled for a public showing Monday in Drewiske's hometown of Hudson.

As a member of the National Hockey League champions, the Los Angeles Kings, the 27-year-old Drewiske was looking forward to having the Stanley Cup in his possession even though he was unsure if his name was going to be actually engraved on the Cup along with the names of his teammates.

That's because Drewiske appeared in only nine games for the Kings. By NHL rule, he needed to appear in either 41 regular season games or dress for at least one game in the finals against the New Jersey Devils to meet the qualifying standards for getting his name on the Cup, and he did neither.

But the league has been known to make some exceptions.

Drewiske will have to wait until Monday to find out officially.

The Cup won't be in his hands until then. (On Sunday, he said, it was somewhere in Ontario.)

All things considered, he was relatively confident that he could be a name-dropper, so to speak.

"I don't have confirmation on that yet, but I think I do (have his name on the Cup), I'm just not sure,'' Drewiske said. "I did have confirmation on the spelling of my name from someone within the team. But I don't want to get too excited until I know for sure.

"It's just an honor to have the Stanley Cup for a day and I want to share that with some people who have helped me along the way; family especially. I'm just excited for that. I would have liked to have played more and been a bigger part of everything. Sometimes things work out in funny ways.''

Drewiske was the seventh defenseman on a Kings team that regularly played six.

"I didn't play very much because we basically had no injuries the entire year which was the good news for our team and maybe not such a good thing for me personally,'' said Drewiske who was stacked behind Willie Mitchell, Rob Scuderi and Matt Greene in the blue line rotation.

"The guys (defensemen) played really well and stayed healthy. I played well when I got to play and it was my job to stay ready in case anyone got hurt, work hard and take warm-ups every night. It was not an easy thing to do, but I'll be better for it in the long running.

"I know I can play; I've played very well at times for the organization. I've tried to take it one day at a time. I'll be ready for the opportunity, whether that opportunity is going to come with Los Angeles or someone else. We'll see. I'm trying to stay confident in getting ready for next year.''

After the Kings, an improbable No. 8 seed, ended a 45-year drought by winning the franchise's first Stanley Cup, Drewiske, wearing his No. 44 jersey, celebrated on the ice following Game 6. Along with everyone else, he got a chance to hoist the Cup and take part in one of the great rituals in sports.

"I was really excited for my teammates,'' said Drewiske, who was signed by the Kings as an undrafted free agent after his senior year in 2008. "We have great guys in that locker room who have been really good to me. The best part for me was seeing the genuine excitement from everybody.''

Drewiske is no stranger to such on-ice celebrations. In 2006, he celebrated with his Wisconsin teammates after winning the NCCA championship. Three late-round draft picks from that team have since overcome the odds and made their mark as pros: Brian Elliott, Adam Burish and Joe Pavelski.

Asked when he first began having visions of playing someday in the NHL - maybe even winning the Cup - Drewiske said, "When I was in college, I was more worried about being able to play for the Badgers than thinking too far ahead. During my junior year, I thought I might have a chance.

"I had a lot of good coaching along the way. I just tried to work hard and take advantage of the opportunities that I got. My dad went to grad school at UW, and that's where I was born, so it was definitely a dream-come-true for me to play college hockey for the Badgers.''

His mom and dad, Karen and Dave Drewiske, will be in the Stanley Cup loop Monday. The plan was to pick up the Cup at the airport and make a few stops in Minneapolis - where Davis and his wife live - before making the trip to Hudson. It will be on display at the Civic Center that evening.

"There might be a few beverages in the Cup throughout the day,'' Davis Drewiske said.

There may even be a toast or two to the Hudson Hockey Association which is one of the more prominent youth organizations in the state.  "My parents were a big part of that when I was growing up,'' Drewiske said. "Hockey is a big part of the culture in Hudson. It's a special community.''

That's why he was anxious to see how the Stanley Cup would be received Monday.

"Obviously, the Cup, itself, is a cool thing; there's a lot of history there,'' Drewiske said. "I'm just as excited or more excited to see all those people in Hudson and be able to say thanks in a small way for everything they've done for me and my family.''

As of Sunday, though, there was still that uncertainty on whether his name will be engraved on the Stanley Cup. What will be the first thing that he does when the Cup arrives? "I don't know if it will be the first thing,'' he said, "but I'm sure I'll take a peek not too long after we get it.''

He's hoping for the best; a priceless moment.  "Your name is there forever on the Stanley Cup,'' he said. "It would be an honor to be on there with all the guys who have been honored before.''

Hall of Fame week: Lee Kemp

| No TrackBacks
Lee_Kemp_Blog.jpg

It is Hall of Fame week at the University of Wisconsin. Join UWBadgers.com as they look back at all of the deserving wrestlers in the UW Hall of Fame.  

If you were to come up with a list of the greatest UW wrestlers of all-time, Lee Kemp's name would almost certainly be near, if not at, the top of the list. 

Kemp, a member of the Hall of Fame's inaugural 1991 class, was a walking trophy case during his time at UW from 1975-78. Kemp was a three-time national champion at 158 lbs., winning the nation's top spot in 1976, 1977 and 1978, seasons in which Kemp went an astonishing 110-1-1. In those same years he was also a Big Ten champion and a Midlands Tournament champion. 

Kemp sits atop the Badger wrestling record book in three categories: single-season falls (18), career falls (47), and career winning percentage (.957). 

But Kemp's long list of accomplishments isn't limited to just his time on campus. No, the all-time US wrestling great moved on to leave his mark on the international stage as well. 

After graduating Kemp went on after to become a seven-time National Freestyle Wrestling champion -- a USWF champion from 1979-1983 and an AAU champion in 1979 and 1982. He also was a three-time World Freestyle Wrestling gold medalist and a one-time bronze medalist. Kemp, at the age of 21, was the youngest American to win world championships, the first American to win three world championships and the first American to win four World Cup titles. He also was a gold medalist at the Pan American Games in both 1979 and 1984 .

With all of his career accomplishments, it is no surprised that Kemp was inducted to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1989.

---

Ryan Evans
UW Athletic Communications


Lucas at Large: Confidence and consistency key for kickers

FB_120825_French_Kyle.jpegBy his own admission, Jack Russell sank to a new personal depth on the same day that Wisconsin's first fall depth chart was released and Russell was listed on the top line as the Badgers' No. 1 placekicker, ahead of Kyle French.  By contrast, French began the day on a "low'' and finished on a "high.''

None of it was a coincidence.

After Russell made only 2-of-4 field goal attempts at the end of last Monday's practice, he admitted, "I didn't necessarily feel pressure (to validate being No. 1 on the depth chart) but I felt that I needed to be more focused and that caused me to make a couple of mistakes.''

After French went a perfect 4-for-4 in the same drill, he said, "When I saw that I was listed as the No. 2 field goal kicker -- actually Coach (Charlie) Partridge told me that morning -- it kind of gave me a bump. But the other thing that it did was it kind of relaxed me.''

Wisconsin natives Russell, a freshman walk-on from Waunakee, and French, a redshirt sophomore from Menomonee Falls, have been volleying back and forth throughout camp in a spirited, but friendly, competition punctuated by good days and inconsistent ones -- to the learning benefit of each kicker.

"Jack and I love competing,'' French said.

"I've tried to learn something out of every drill,'' Russell added.

The Badgers are looking to replace Philip Welch, who finished with the second-highest career field goal percentage (.776) in school history behind Matt Davenport (.868); the second-most field goals made (59) behind Todd Gregoire (65); and the second-most career points (384) behind Ron Dayne (426).

While Welch was sidelined with an injury at the start of the 2011 season,  French got some valuable game experience and converted on 3-of-5 field goals and 26-of-27 extra points. (Welch returned for Big Ten play and made 5-of-6 overall, including a season-long 52-yarder against Purdue.)

It was generally assumed that French would replace Welch and handle all the placements this season while Russell would be the kickoff specialist; an assignment that was split between Welch and Alec Lerner last year. At least that was the assumption going into the training camp.

When the depth chart came out, the roles were reversed.

"The first week I felt very confident and I was kicking well,'' French said. "But once I ended up having a 2-for-4 day, I just got kind of overwhelmed. Once you brought the adrenaline-type of situations into it, I kind of -- not really freaked out -- but my body started doing things that it didn't normally do.''

French noted that he got positive reinforcement from UW assistant coach Charlie Partridge, who's in charge of the field goal operation. "Working with Coach Partridge,'' he said, "we worked on 'calming yourself down and keeping your composure' before each kick and that's helped a lot.''

Although he was disappointed last Monday to be listed No. 2 on the depth chart, French hinted that it served as the equivalent of a wake-up call. "It was a big motivating day for me,'' he said, stressing, "This is your time to prove to them (the coaches) and yourself that you belong in the No. 1 spot.''

French had nothing but praise for Russell's competitiveness."Throughout the summer, I definitely thought he was much better at kickoffs than field goals,'' French said. "Field-goal wise, he surprised me a lot. When he came out here (to training camp), he just had that confidence.''

Russell was definitely riding a wave of momentum. In mid-July, he kicked a 49-yard field goal in the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association All-Star Game for divisions 1-3 in Oshkosh. In his final prep game, he kicked a 48-yarder as Waunakee won its third straight WIAA Division 2 state championship.

"My expectation was to just compete,'' said Russell, a preferred walk-on. "I didn't come in necessarily with any expectations that I was going to start (off as the No. 1 placekicker). I knew that I had to come out and compete and give it my best and go from there.

"I try not to put pressure on myself. But I know my family and friends -- Waunakee is close (to Madison) -- are really keeping tab on the Badgers. And after the depth chart came out, I got a lot of texts, calls and comments on Facebook that made me feel really good.''

One of those calls was from former UW placekicker Taylor Mehlhaff, who has been serving as a mentor to Russell. Only Gregoire and Welch kicked more career field goals than Mehlhaff (50), a two-time first-team All-Big Ten pick and a sixth-round draft choice of the New Orleans Saints in 2008.

Mehlhaff, who has been conducting camps and tutoring kickers around the country, recently joined the University of Tennessee coaching staff as an administrative intern for special teams.

"I actually consider him family with as much as he's taught me,'' Russell said of Mehlhaff. "I talked to him for about a half-hour Monday. He congratulated me and told me, 'Just because that's what it is (No. 1) on the depth chart right now, it doesn't mean that I can take any breaks.'''

Shortly after Russell made the conversion from soccer to football -- a transition that has only been three years in the making -- he was introduced to Mehlhaff at a kicking camp on the UW campus. "He asked if he could work with me privately,'' Russell said, "and it has taken off from there.''

There's one piece of advice that has stuck with him, too. "Keep your eyes back, not necessarily your head, when kicking,'' he said. "You want to try and watch your foot and make contact with the ball. Even if you have a bad swing, if you're good with your eyes, you'll make most of your kicks.''

French also has a mentor in Jamie Kohl, a former Iowa State kicker who's the director of the Kohl kicking, punting and snapping camps, one of which is based out of Waukesha. "I worked a lot with him,'' French said, "and any time I have questions, he's very good about responding back.''

Russell and French subscribe to the same motivational author, Tim Gallwey, who has written a series of books that focus on mind-over- matter training methods related to "The Inner Game.''

French has read "The Inner Game of Golf.''

"I believe golf and kicking are very similar; no matter where you are, it's always the same stroke, obviously except when you're chipping,'' French said. "The book has allowed me to kind of clear the mechanism in pressure situations. I've applied a lot that I've learned from the book to my kicking game.''

Russell is currently reading "The Inner Game of Tennis.''

"Taylor (Mehlhaff) was the first one to introduce me to the book,'' he said. "He has been a big proponent of the mental side of the game and I finally got around to reading the book this summer. Last Monday, I just picked up where I last left off, and where I picked up was exactly what I needed (to read).''

This was after missing a couple of field goals at the end of Monday's practice.

"I needed to relax my mind,'' Russell said, "and not be too focused on kicking.''

Between now and the Sept. 1 opener, Russell and French will each be working on writing the next chapter to their competition, which could very well continue throughout the 2012 season, barring any more unexpected plot twists.

Lucas at Large: For captains, election is a high honor

FB_120823_Borland_Chris.jpeg

At about the same time Tuesday that Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland was sitting in a team meeting and learning that he had been named one of six captains for the 2012 season, ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit was announcing the winners of his 12th-annual "Herbie Awards."

Borland won in the category for "Best Instincts'' beating out Kansas State's Arthur Brown, USC's Dion Bailey, Notre Dame's Manti Te'o, and Mississippi State's Cameron Lawrence.

After Wednesday's practice, Borland was quick to point out that the captaincy outweighed just about everything else, including the "Herbie.''

"Not even close,'' Borland said. "No disrespect to Kirk Herbstreit, but it's not even close. He was just looking out for a fellow Daytonian. He's from the next town over.''

Herbstreit is from Centerville, Ohio, while Borland is from Kettering.

Both are Dayton suburbs, and they're about two miles apart.

Another UW player, wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, was also nominated for a "Herbie'' in the category of "Best Backyard Player.'' The award went to Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller.

Herbstreit, who turned 53 last Sunday, selected UW tailback Montee Ball as his Player of the Year in the Big Ten. That, too, was trumped by a far greater honor: Ball was elected a Badger captain.

"That's very important, very important,'' Ball said. "It shows how much respect the team has for you, and it's an honor and a blessing that they nominated me. I'm not going to let them down.''

While deliberating over whether he should enter the NFL draft or return for his senior year, Ball reminded himself that "it was always a dream of mine to be a captain of a Division I program.''

But did he wonder how his off-the-field incidents might now factor into the voting for captain?

"It was in the back of my mind,'' he said. "But I shouldn't have thought that way because of the team we have. They're a bunch of great guys and they've been behind me 100 percent the whole time.''

Borland confirmed as much. "I thought Montee would be a captain,'' he said. "And he deserves it by the way he has worked and the way he conducts himself. He's one of our leaders.''

Joining Ball and Borland as captains are offensive tackle Rick Wagner, center Travis Frederick, linebacker Mike Taylor and safety Shelton Johnson. Borland and Frederick are juniors.

"I voted for Travis and myself during the team vote,'' Borland said. "I felt we were two good guys for the job regardless of our age.

"It's an honor (to be named captain). It's not something that we take lightly here and I certainly don't, either. So it means a lot to me.''

Borland was a captain of his Archbishop Alter High School team as a senior.

"The situation is pretty similar,'' he said. "We've got a lot of guys this year who aren't captains but who are good leaders. It was the same way in high school.

"There are differences (in all six captains). But we all work hard and we treat each other with respect --  from Montee Ball, a Heisman candidate, to the last guy on the roster.''

Borland agreed that Taylor and Wagner are more reticent than the others.

"They're both smart with their words,'' he said. "They're not chatterboxes. When they speak up, it's because something is really important and they say it with conviction. The guys believe in them.

"We all lead by example. There's not a very vocal guy in the group. Montee's probably the most outspoken. Everybody has just worked hard their whole careers; we try to do all the right things.''

Ball was raised in Wentzville, Mo., and was a three-year captain at Timberland High School.

"As a captain, everyone is looking to you when adversity strikes on the field,'' Ball said. "And, of course, adversity is going to strike this season just like it did last season and the season before.

"When it does, I'm going to make sure I show up and be a playmaker.''

Noting the diversity in personalities of the Badgers' captains, Ball said, "We all bring something different to the table. What we have in common is that we show up every day and you know what to expect from us.''

Nobody is shy about expressing their opinion, either.

During Wednesday's practice, for instance, the Badgers were sporting the all-red helmets that they will be wearing for the Big Ten opener at Nebraska. Ball liked them, Borland didn't.

"I actually do like them; they fit comfortably,'' Ball said. "It changes it up a little bit.''

When Borland was asked about the helmets, he smiled and said, "Off the record?''

Shrugging his shoulders, he stressed, "I really don't care. I'd play in a purple helmet.''

Later, he explained, "I'm kind of a traditionalist. I like our jerseys and our helmets the way they are. But it's all good. It's a nice changeup and I think the fans will like them.''

Catching up with Boo Gillette

| No TrackBacks
Gillette_BLOG.jpg

Join head coach Yvette Healy and Badger players Michelle Mueller and Cassandra Darrah as they write about former UW catcher Boo Gillette in this week's Badger Blog. 

Gillette was a member of the UW softball team from 2002-2005. A three-time All-Big Ten performer, Gillette was a member of the 2002 and 2005 squads that qualified for the NCAA tournament. Gillette played in 210 games for the Badgers, second-most all-time at UW, ranks second on the UW career record list with 299 at bats and is tied for third with 20 career home runs.  

This week for the blog, Michelle Mueller and Cassandra Darrah - both current UW softball players - had the opportunity to speak with former Badger Boo Gillette, who grew up at the ballpark and learned her shapes and numbers from scouting. As a three-time All-Big Ten softball player, Boo played an important role on the best team in school history with key wins over Arizona, UCLA, Oklahoma and other top ranked teams. 

Boo was known for having an enthusiastic spirit and more Badger pride than Bucky himself. We would find it interesting to see a competition between Bucky and Boo to find out who had the most spirit and pride. You would think Boo was a Wisconsin native with all of her Badger pride, but she hailed from Florida. So it was only fitting that we spoke to her now with school and softball rolling around the corner. - Coach Healy



Catching up with Boo Gillette
By Cassandra Darrah & Michelle Mueller
Boo obtained so much Badger pride by being an all or nothing type of person. Her goal while being a Badger player was to have the best four years of her life and to accomplish as much as she could with her team. For those of you that haven't been to Goodman Diamond, there is a small field beyond left field that was used for UW baseball. Being a catcher, Boo had a perfect view from home plate of the field and it helped her to realize that she was given the opportunity to play on an established field that players from the past never got the chance to experience. That contributed to her pride for UW because of the greater opportunity she was given with the newer facilities and how they were treated as student-athletes. The University of Wisconsin is one of the top college sports towns in the nation and Boo believed it was almost impossible to not have an overwhelming amount of pride for the school.
Along with Boo's feelings about Badger pride, she had great advice on how to be mentally tough. Her best advice was to be confident, not be afraid to fail, put yourself in pressure situations as much as possible, and be confident in yourself to be able to execute. She also believes that in order to be mentally tough you have to see yourself as the best and understand that with all the hard work you put in, you will be successful. She trusted in playing with confidence that the talent would follow through. Always being put in pressure situations in practice helped her develop more mental toughness. The softball atmosphere that Boo had while she was here was all about competition with each other and there were new challenges every day. Visualization was a key component to developing a tough mental attitude because she saw herself as the best hitter in pressure situations.
When speaking to Boo, it was clear she had always had a winning attitude and had the mentality that they would win. Growing up with four siblings, she was raised in a competitive atmosphere. Boo's biggest advice was to remember to have fun even if you are struggling and you need to go back to why you started playing in the first place. 

Obtaining a winning attitude during her softball career was not hard because 9/11 happened her freshman year and that brought everything into perspective and brought the team closer together. All of a sudden your batting average didn't have much meaning and helped them remember to cherish the time they have.

"If you have the courage to dream something you'll have the courage to go after it. It's not just a Wisconsin jersey; you're playing for everyone before you and after you. It is so much more than the team it's about the program as a whole. Whatever you do now is a stepping stone for the future. Make an identity for your team so you can look back and say we did this." -Boo Gillette

Lucas at Large: 'Interview' wins starting job for O'Brien

FB_120821_OBrien_Danny.jpeg

Danny O'Brien didn't bring a written resume to his job interview, a 16-practice Q&A on the X's and O's. But his play on the field, even his presence in the huddle, spoke to his 17 starts at Maryland. That game experience shaped him and helped him earn the job, the quarterback job at Wisconsin.

There were other factors, too, not the least of which were O'Brien's "field awareness'' and ''ball security'' the last two weeks. That was the evaluation of tailback Montee Ball, who guesstimated that O'Brien "threw about 350 passes with just two interceptions in all those practices, and that's amazing.''

Once it became official that O'Brien had beaten out Curt Phillips and Joel Stave for the starting assignment in the UW's season opener, Ball said, "I've seen a side in him today (Monday) that I hadn't seen before. His confidence level has shot up and he's taking more of a leadership role.''

Left guard Ryan Groy saw some of those things in O'Brien's make-up  from the very beginning, which extended all the way back to O'Brien's recruiting trip to Madison in late March. "He knew what he was talking about when we talked football,'' recalled Groy, one of his campus hosts.

On the field, Groy said that O'Brien let his actions do the talking and they also spoke loudly to those 17 starts. "I saw a player who had experience,'' Groy observed. "I could tell he wasn't worried in the pocket, he wasn't skittish. He knew his looks and where he was going to go (with the ball).''

Groy added that the competition with Phillips and Stave may have brought out the best in O'Brien. "Competition helps the whole team regardless of what position it is,'' he suggested. "A couple of other places told Danny that he'd come in and start right away.

"Here, they told him, 'You're going to have to fight for the spot.' He knew that coming in. He even asked me what I thought about the other quarterbacks.  I told him the same thing, 'It's going to be a fight.' Now that he's got the spot, I think he's going to bring a little more leadership to the position.''

There are obvious benefits to naming a starter. Besides the receivers who can develop their timing, Groy said, "We can all start jelling together and start getting use to each other. It's different having different quarterbacks in the huddle all the time; different cadences, different ways they say it.''

O'Brien, who has two years of eligibility, was saying the same thing after Monday's practice.

"It's nice, honestly, getting all the No. 1 reps,'' he admitted. " You can get more and more comfortable, not only with the game plan, but with the guys. Every day the chemistry is going to get better and better. It's something I'm used to -- preparing as a starter -- you can't get too good at that.''

Don't expect him to change anything about the way he conducts his business.

"You have to be the same guy every day if you're a quarterback,'' said O'Brien, a Minneapolis native. "You don't want to win the job and, then, all of a sudden, be a different guy in the huddle. I'm the same guy from Day One until now in terms of how I lead, and everything like that.''

Acknowledging that Phillips and Stave pushed him daily in practice, O'Brien said, "I don't think you can take that for granted. You're heading down the wrong road, if you think, 'I'm going to be given the spot.' It's something that me and Coach B (Bret Bielema) talked about before I committed here.

"He told me, 'You're going to have to work for it' and I came in with that mentality, and I'm going to continue with that same mentality. You never want to take things for granted in football.''

Asked how Phillips and Stave have handled the situation since he was appointed the starter, O'Brien said, "Anyone who didn't win (the competition) would be disappointed. But they're great guys and they congratulated me and I said, 'Let's keep working' because you still want to push each other.''

At Maryland, he was named the starting quarterback the fourth game of his redshirt freshman season and he went on to be honored as the 2010 ACC Rookie of the Year. O'Brien went into 2011 as the Terps' starter, lost his job, regained his job, and then broke his arm, ending his season in mid-November.

"I've been in quarterback competitions since my true freshman year, whether it was for the third string spot, the back-up spot, or the starting spot,'' he said. "In terms of pressure, I might not have felt it as much (here) because this is something I'm very used to.

"The great thing about being here now is that it's clean slate. I've been through a lot -- really high and really low at Maryland -- so being here with a new set of guys is really special. That's the way it feels but we have to go out and keep earning it now.''

In the end, how much weight did O'Brien's previous experience in a BCS program carry in the competition with Phillips and Stave? "I think with 17 starts, you kind of get a vibe for how real game situations go and all that kind of thing,'' O'Brien said. "It's something you can't get too good at again.''

Before tweeting his choice, Bielema called O'Brien into his office Sunday and broke the news. "I thanked him for the opportunity,'' O'Brien said, "and I told him that I wasn't going to let him down.''

Bielema releases initial depth chart

FB_120820_Gilbert_David.jpeg

- Preseason Depth Chart (PDF)

After spending two weeks and 16 practices with his team, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema has decided who will line up for the Badgers in their Sept. 1 season-opener against Northern Iowa.

Bielema released his preseason depth chart Monday, naming 52 players to his initial two-deep.

Despite some of the suspense being removed Sunday when Bielema took to Twitter to announce that junior Danny O'Brien would be the Badgers' starting quarterback, there were some mysteries solved with the release of the depth chart.

Redshirt freshman Jordan Fredrick and sophomore Kenzel Doe join the veteran of the group, junior Jared Abbrederis, as starters at wide receiver.

Junior Brian Wozniak gets the nod as a No. 1 tight end alongside junior and returning starter Jacob Pedersen.

While LT Rick Wagner, LG Ryan Groy, C Travis Frederick and RT Rob Havenstein were all but set as starters on the offensive line, sophomore Kyle Costigan won the No. 1 job at right guard.

Sophomore Sherard Cadogan and redshirt freshman Derek Watt, a recently-converted linebacker, share the No. 1 line at fullback.

The choices at tailback should come as no surprise, with senior Montee Ball the Badgers' starter and junior James White the backup.

On defense, the Badgers will line up with junior David Gilbert and senior Brendan Kelly at defense end, with both sharing the No. 1 lines with junior Pat Muldoon. In between, juniors Beau Allen and Ethan Hemer occupy the No. 1 spots at defensive tackle.

The Big Ten's top tacklers from last year return, with junior Chris Borland the starter at middle linebacker and senior Mike Taylor on the top line at the will linebacker spot. Junior Ethan Armstrong fills out the group as the No. 1 sam linebacker.

The secondary is an experienced one, with seniors Marcus Cromartie and Devin Smith holding down the No. 1 spots at cornerback and senior Shelton Johnson and junior Dez Southward back as the No. 1 safeties.

On special teams, Bielema will tab sophomore Drew Meyer to handle punts, with freshman Jack Russell the No. 1 kicker on field goals and sophomore Kyle French handling kickoffs.

Sophomore James McGuire will snap with freshman Stephen Salata as the holder.

Abbrederis, a preseason All-America returner on many media lists after an impressive season running back kicks last year, is UW's No. 1 returner for both punts and kickoffs.

Lucas at Large: Fredrick catches on at wide receiver

FB_120820_Fredrick_Jordan.jpegOne moment, Wisconsin wide receiver Jordan Fredrick was sprinting down field in a "combative'' -- a special teams drill pitting a kickoff cover man versus a retreating blocker.

 The next moment, Fredrick's heart was racing.

"I was thinking the worst -- a broken leg,'' he said.

You can understand his angst during last Wednesday night's practice at Camp Randall Stadium; especially since Fredrick spent last fall and spring rehabbing after shoulder surgery. Now, he was contemplating another worst case scenario following his collision with fellow wideout Chase Hammond.

"It was a scare,'' said Fredrick, a redshirt freshman from Madison Memorial High School. "I had a guy in high school who had the same thing happen to him in the same area (calf) -- it happened in a summer practice and it was pretty bad -- and it went through my mind.''

Fredrick was helped to the training room. "It was pretty painful,'' he said. "They wanted to give me X-rays because they weren't sure if it was broken or not. I was nervous. With the surgery last year you don't want to miss another year and you're always nervous about having that happen again.''

The X-rays were negative, and Fredrick didn't waste any time getting back on the practice field the very next day; bruised calf and all. There was an urgency to do so; and not only because he didn't want to lose any precious ground in his quest to secure a spot in the rotation at wide receiver.

"I didn't want to be that injury-prone guy that's sitting out practices and missing games throughout my career,'' Fredrick explained. "I was done with that during my redshirt year. So I wanted to come back right away. It (his left calf) was a little tender, but nothing to slow me down.''

The 2011 season had to seem like it was in slow motion to Fredrick, particularly after he got off to such a fast start during the first week of training camp. UW coach Bret Bielema was so encouraged by his early showing that he singled out Fredrick as a potential contributor as a true freshman.

"I didn't even know playing was an option that first year,'' admitted Fredrick, an all-state receiver and all-city linebacker as a senior at Memorial.  "I just came in trying to play my game and hopefully it would go well for me. And it ended up going pretty well in the beginning.''

Not unexpectedly, he wound up hitting a wall, like most freshmen. "That last week of camp was pretty rough on me -- just mentally,'' said Fredrick, who also missed some practice time because of a sinus infection. "I wasn't mature enough to handle it all.''

The Badgers decided to redshirt Fredrick, and he went to work on the scout team simulating opposing receivers for the No. 1 defense. But his effectiveness was limited because of shoulder pain. In mid-October, he had surgery to repair two tears in his labrum, one of which may have existed for years.

Looking back on his freshman season, Fredrick said, "It was a perfect experience for me; almost getting a shot to play and it not working out in the end; the decision to redshirt; the time I got on the scout team; and then that surgery. I got pretty much every perspective there is.''

In meetings, Fredrick became a good listener, and observer. "I was watching a lot of film, and doing a lot of cut-ups with the receivers who were playing that week,'' he said.

But there was also a negative to his inactivity which carried through spring practice. "You don't ever want to be sidelined ever again after that,'' he said. "So there's a lot more drive since then.''

Since he had never been injured to this extent, Fredrick relied on UW trainer Mike Moll and others to guide him through the more challenging stages of rehab. The support group included his girlfriend and his mom and dad, Andree and Craig, a former UW tight end in the early '80s.

"I got back faster,'' Jordan Fredrick said, "and almost stronger than ever.''

At Memorial, he possessed multiple strengths as a receiver, linebacker and defensive back. During his prep career, he had 113 catches for 1,216 yards and 15 TDs plus 163 tackles and 14 interceptions.

"My real passion was DB,'' said Fredrick, the Big 8 Conference Defensive Back of the Year as a junior. "Obviously, though, I'm not a college-level DB with quickness and all that stuff. But in high school I loved sitting back there and going up for balls and competing with wideouts.''

In making the jump to the collegiate level, Fredrick was given the option of playing on offense or defense. His response was swift and from the heart. "I always loved wideout,'' he said.

But there has been an adjustment period; which is still ongoing for UW's young receivers.

"It takes a lot more effort here (Wisconsin),'' he said. "You have to run all the time. In high school, to be honest, maybe if it was a run play, you'd take some off -- because a lot of high school players go both ways (offense and defense).

"At wideout here, you can't slow down at all. The game is obviously a lot faster and the DBs are a lot quicker, so you have to go 100 percent every play, all the time. If you give that effort, you will keep getting better every day, and you will get better in every aspect.''

When his players are on the field, first-year UW receivers coach Zach Azzanni is constantly reminding them to be violent. "That's always being sudden, always being violent with your hands and body movement,'' Fredrick said. "Everything you do in this game has to be violent, sudden.''

CTT is something else that has become ingrained: Catch, Tuck, Turn.

"A lot of guys want to catch, turn and tuck,'' Fredrick said. "When we watch on film, that's where we get a lot of our drops, myself included. Before you get to the tuck, you want to turn up field. It happens all the time.''

Azzanni's teaching points and high energy drills have clearly won over Fredrick. "I love it for sure,'' he said. "He doesn't let you slow down, which is great. His expectations are high.''

So are Fredrick's -- especially since that starting job opposite Jared Abbrederis is still open.

"I'm just trying to take advantage of that opportunity right now,'' he said.

Lucas at Large: Burge, Costigan battle it out at right guard

In January, Kyle Costigan and Robert Burge each found themselves in Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema's office at different times for different reasons.

Costigan was summoned there to talk about moving from defensive tackle to offensive guard.

Burge went there to quit the team. He had grown tired of playing football.

"I really didn't want to do it anymore,'' said Burge, a fifth-year senior from Holmen, Wis.

Bielema's response?

"He told me to give it a couple of days,'' he said.

How difficult was it for him to even broach the topic of quitting with Bielema?

"It was on some levels,'' he said. "On some levels, it wasn't. I had already made up my mind.''

Less than 48 hours later, Burge had a change of heart.

"Something just clicked,'' he said. "I wanted to do it again within that couple of days grace period that he gave me. It just clicked back on for me, so I decided to come back.''

FB_120818_Burge_Robert.jpegBurge is most grateful today that didn't leave the team seven months ago. Costigan is grateful, too, for the opportunity to compete for a starting assignment at right guard ... with Burge, no less.

"In January, when Coach B called me up to his office,'' Costigan remembered, "it was not like he forced me (to make the switch) or anything. He asked if it would be something that would interest me.''

Why not? Costigan had been recruited out of Muskego High School to play on the offensive line.

That's where his UW career started as a freshman redshirt during the 2010 season. In early September, he was even named the offensive scout team player of the week for the UNLV game.

But the Badgers were thin at defensive tackle, so Costigan moved to that side of the ball. In late November, he was honored as the defensive scout team player of the week for the Michigan game.

A year ago, Costigan was in the defensive tackle rotation and appeared in three games -- he had two tackles against Northern Illinois -- before suffering a foot injury that ended his season in September.

So what sold him on making the switch back to offense last January?

"Coach said it would help the team,'' he recalled. "Obviously, I said, 'Yes' to helping the team.''

Costigan and Burge have been engaged in one of the more competitive position battles in training camp. There has been an ebb and flow on who takes the most reps with the No. 1 offense.

On most days, it has been Burge. On Friday, it was Costigan.

Factoring into the guard competition has been Burge's versatility to play tackle. Thus, he offers depth chart value and insurance as a backup to starting right tackle Rob Havenstein.

"No matter what happens, we're making each other better,'' Costigan said. "Even though we're competing, he's still really friendly and helpful when I mess up with the mental aspect of the game.

"He has a positive attitude about everything.''

After Tuesday's practice, Burge was asked about his walk-on status.

"It's been pretty tough on my family taking out loans and I know I have a bunch of (student) loans,'' he said. "It would be nice to get a scholarship, but whatever comes is whatever comes.

"I have to live with it. I'm not expecting anything.''

That same night, Bielema announced to the team that Burge was going on scholarship.

"I didn't believe it at first, 'Did he just call my name?''' Burge recounted. "I started smiling and I almost teared up, almost, I came that close. It was awesome. I really didn't expect it.''

Since the start of camp, Burge expected to get pushed by Costigan. "Kyle is very gifted physically,'' he said, "and that's pushed me to work harder and change my style of play.''

Change how? "Be a bit more mean, I guess,'' he said.

Does that mean be more aggressive? "More aggressive, yes,'' he answered.

Has he been too laid-back at times? "I would say that,'' Burge admitted.

That may have been a byproduct of being a career backup, he conceded.

"I've always had guys like Kevin (Zeitler) or Ricky (Wagner) in front of me,'' he noted.

FB_120818_Burge_Robert_2.jpegThat all changed in the spring. "I knew I had a shot after Kevin was gone,'' Burge said of Zeitler, a first-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals. "I knew that I would have that opportunity (to play).''

That entailed a mental adjustment. "I've definitely been more aggressive,'' he said.

As such, the 6-foot-7, 320-pound Burge has tried to "play stronger and with a lower pad level.''

That can be problematic for someone his height, especially at guard. But he has an understanding of leverage thanks to the eight years that he spent training in Tae Kwon Do.

When he was 16, he gave it up to concentrate on playing high school sports.

"I was a red belt, one belt away from a black belt,'' he said. "I just couldn't push it to get the black belt. But the karate has helped me a lot with my coordination and striking ability.''

That discipline may have also helped Burge deal with some adversity last season. As one of the blockers in the protective shield in front of punter Brad Nortman, he had a couple of costly breakdowns.

"I just kind of put it behind me,'' Burge said of the memory of blocked punts in losses at Michigan State and Ohio State. "It's something that happened and something I learned from.''

Knowing now that he could have an impact as a potential starter on the offensive line, Burge has tried to learn as much as possible from his more experienced teammates like center Travis Frederick.

"I know Travis has always given me tips that have helped me out a lot,'' he said.

But, then, so has Wagner whenever he has lined up at tackle.

What about the difference in playing guard or tackle?

"You've got to be more physical on the inside because there are a lot bigger and stronger guys,'' Burge said. "On the outside, you've got to use more finesse and move your feet a little better.''

During the offseason, once he re-committed to playing football, Burge reshaped his body.

"I started to eat better, not as many pizzas and sodas; I ate a lot more fruit and vegetables,'' he said. "I know Coach B has said that I looked like I had slimmed down, but I kept the same weight on.''

There's no question that Burge has waited a long time for this opportunity to be a contributor.

"I just have to keep playing like I've been playing,'' he said. "I've had one or two middle-of-the road days. Most of the rest of the day, I've been pretty on. So has Kyle. We've been competing well.''

How has Frederick tried to facilitate an easier transition for Burge and/or Costigan?

"When I give my adjustment calls, I make sure they know where they're going,'' Frederick said. "Just because they're switching in and out (at right guard), you're not getting as much time together; you're not getting as used to each other.

"I try to give them as much as I can as far as the (pre-snap) adjustments instead of assuming they know  -- a lot of times they will -- but just because of the continuity issues I want to give them the best opportunity that they can have.''

Frederick has not appreciably changed his game to accommodate one over the other, either.

"It's very similar between the two of them,'' he said of Costigan and Burge. "We've switched around so much that you get used to playing with everybody. It gets to the point sometimes when you don't know who's playing next to you, if you don't get a peek at him.''

Frederick, though, has not forgotten Costigan from his days as a defensive tackle.

"That's something I don't miss,'' Frederick said. "He's probably one of the strongest, if not the strongest, player on the team. I'm glad to have him on our side of the ball instead of banging heads with him all the time.''

Costigan's experience as a defensive lineman has already been put to good use.

"What I personally hated going against, I can use as an advantage now,'' he said. "I can see the changes in their stance by how much weight they're putting on their hand. I know all the nuances of defensive line play and I have an easier time seeing that stuff.''

Does he play on offense with the aggressive mentality of a player on defense?

"I'd definitely say that I have that tenacity,'' Costigan said. "But it gets me into some rough places sometimes. I'll be pass-protecting and I'll want to lunge at that guy but I have to be patient. I have the mindset that I want to attack. But if you lunge, that's a defensive lineman's dream.''

Costigan is candid about his strengths and weaknesses. "I feel like I'm a good run blocker,'' he said, "and I'm having the most trouble in pass protection. It's something I've never done before. I've never backed up from a person. That's taking some getting used to, but that's improved a lot.''

To hone his rough edges, Costigan has watched a lot of film on Zeitler. "I want to mimic what he does,'' he said.  "I want to play like he plays. But he's such an animal. It's hard to mimic a first round draft pick. He played the position for four years here. I can't copy everything right off the bat.''

In addition to the advice that he has received from Zeitler, Costigan has gotten some pointers from former UW center Peter Konz, who was very good at pulling and leading interference on sweeps.

That's part of his new job description. Although he wrestled just one year in high school, Costigan has also been able to incorporate some of those lessons into the type of player he is today.

"Wrestling is still probably one of the hardest things I've ever done, and it has helped so much with my leverage and body position, '' he said, adding that the goal on the mat translates nicely to his goal on every snap. "Get inside (your opponent) and make somebody weak even if they may be strong.''

Until further notice, the Badgers are counting on strength in numbers at right guard.

That would be No. 54, Costigan; and No. 64, Burge.

Lucas at Large: With help, Knox finds his way to Madison

FB_120817_Knox_Chase.jpg

- Related: Varsity Magazine - The QB Question

A funny thing happened to Chase Knox on his way to New York City, Columbia University and the Ivy League -- fate and a couple of former NFL quarterbacks intervened on his behalf.

As a result, Knox -- the "other'' California quarterback; the one not named Bart Houston, whose arrival has been delayed due to injury -- ended up in Madison and on the UW roster for training camp.

"Everything just fell into place,'' said Knox, a freshman from San Diego.

Little did he know that when he got to camp that sophomore quarterback Joe Brennan, the backup to Russell Wilson last season, would be seeking to transfer to another school.

That has elevated Knox to No. 4 on the depth chart behind Danny O'Brien, Curt Phillips and Joel Stave -- in no particular order since the rotation has yet to be determined among the top three.

In the meantime, Knox has summarily assumed the role of scout team quarterback.

"He's a great fit, a great kid, and he has done a great job,'' gushed Wisconsin offensive coordinator Matt Canada. "He's an unbelievably intelligent football player.

"Everything that has been installed, he knows front to back. He can get on the board and teach it to you right now. He knows the system, he knows the signals, he knows everything. He's a special kid.''

Knox also knows what the Badgers want out of him, for now.

"I want to play some day,'' he said. "But I want to come in and work as hard as I can every day and continue to learn from all of these guys, master the offense and do whatever I have to do.''

So how did he wind up at Wisconsin?

Some Pac-12 schools -- Oregon State, UCLA and Arizona State -- had expressed mild interest during the recruiting process. But nobody was willing to make a strong commitment.

Knox settled on Columbia, an FCS program, because "I just wanted a strong Ivy League school.''

That was before he crossed paths with Canada and UW linebackers coach Andy Buh.

"Coach Buh initiated it all,'' Knox said.

Buh, a California native (Escondido), still has many contacts in the state from his previous coaching stops at San Diego State, Fresno State and Stanford.

"So we were doing some recruiting, we were out there looking,'' Canada said of their recruiting foray into Southern California, "and we talked to a couple of people about our situation.''

The word got out to people like San Diego-based quarterback guru George Whitfield. In turn, Buh and Canada heard nothing but good things about Knox from a variety of sources.

"We then had a couple of guys call on his behalf,'' Canada said. "And that carries a lot of weight when a guy in the Hall of Fame calls you. Steve Young and Jeff Garcia were the two calls.''

Young, a member of the college football and pro football halls of fame, was the MVP of the NFL in 1992 and 1994 and the MVP of Super Bowl XXIX. Garcia was a four-time Pro Bowler.

Both felt Knox should not be overlooked because he might be undersized. He's listed at 6-1.

Beyond that, Canada said, "Their point was, 'Here's a great person and intelligent football player and we think he deserves a shot.''' Buh, Canada and UW coach Bret Bielema agreed.

"He has come in here,'' Canada said, "and he has not disappointed.''

As fate would have it, Knox is now playing in Madison after playing for Madison.

Knox played two years at Madison High School in San Diego.

His transfer from Brophy Prep in Phoenix, Ariz., to Madison High became quite a controversy.

The California Interscholastic Federation, at one point, ruled that Knox had made an "invalid chance of residency'' and forced Madison High to forfeit all 11 victories in which Knox had played.

That included the 2010 Division IV San Diego section championship game at Qualcomm Stadium.

Knox completed 20-of-32 passes for a career-high 385 yards and three touchdowns in leading Madison to a 40-14 win over Valley Center in that title game.

After Knox was declared retroactively ineligible, the Knox family fought back by suing the CIF and winning the case, which restored Knox's eligibility and all the victories to Madison High.

"I wanted the wins for the team,'' Knox said. "For me personally I just wanted to play my senior year, which wasn't going to happen if that (the lawsuit) didn't go through, so obviously that was huge.

"It just taught me to put things that are unimportant behind you and it taught me focus. That whole season I had to focus on things that I could control and not the things that I couldn't.''

While Knox has been toiling as a scout team quarterback against UW's No. 1 defense in training camp, Canada has been in the process of evaluating O'Brien, Phillips and Stave for the No. 1 job.

"Camp is camp, they're up and down,'' Canada said. "Obviously, it's getting closer and closer to that game (the Sept. 1 opener against Northern Iowa) every second that ticks.

"We will continue to evaluate. Each of them has tremendous strengths. Joel Stave is a big-armed guy; Joel is a big-time football player, no question. But he's a freshman who has never played.

"Curt Phillips has played in some games here and he has been around for a long time. He's battling back (from three ACL surgeries) and knocking the rust off.

"Danny O'Brien is new to our program, but he has game experience (17 starts at Maryland). You can see that when he's out there playing.

"As you sit here and watch,'' Canada said, "it's not like you can look out there and say, 'These two guys are good and when that other guy is in there, you can tell (the difference).'

"We've got three guys who are playing pretty well.

"It's not a problem, it's a tremendous opportunity.''

To find one who will start the opener.

Position Preview: Goalkeepers

| No TrackBacks


Position Preview: Defenders | Midfielders | Forwards

The Wisconsin women's soccer team enters its 2012 campaign cautiously optimistic, as head coach Paula Wilkins and the Badgers feature a balance of battle-tested veterans and ambitious newcomers.

The Badgers return 15 letter winners from a team that went 10-7-3 last season and finished fourth in the final Big Ten standings. Among the returners is senior defender Lindsey Johnson and sophomore forward Cara Walls. Johnson returns after earning All-Big Ten second-team honors, as well as All-Great Lakes second-team accolades in 2011. Walls started 17 games as a freshman and led the Badgers in points (19) and goals (9) en route to earning a spot on the Big Ten All-Freshman team last season.

Wisconsin also returns senior midfielders Joana Bielefeld and Monica Lam-Feist in 2012. Bielefeld started every game last season and is poised for a successful 2012 campaign after tallying four points on two assists and a goal last season, while Lam-Feist has missed only one start over the last three years.

For the Wisconsin women's soccer team, the 2012 season will be somewhat of a rebuilding process, as the Badgers lost Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year Michele Dalton to graduation and return only five starters from 2011.

After Wilkins gave eventual conference champ Penn State its one and only loss of the Big Ten slate last season, Wisconsin looked like the team to beat en route to the conference crown. This season the Badgers are poised to regain their stature as one of the most dominant teams in the Big Ten and will look to make a run toward a conference championship and its third appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the last four years.

Goalkeepers
Goalie is the most promising position for the Badgers, but is also the area that raises the most questions. Wilkins has two upperclassmen vying for the open spot in net, with junior Genevieve Richard also in the running once she returns from her trip to Japan with the Canadian National Team.

Seniors Olivia Hoff and Lauren Gunderson returned to preseason camp poised to replace Dalton in goal and have already pushed each other throughout the first few weeks of practice heading into the regular-season home opener. Gunderson and Hoff have impressed coaches in different ways so far, and Wilkins believes the competition will only make each of them even more solid as camp progresses.

It is hard to say whether either of the three has the ability to be as dominant as Dalton, who exited the UW as one of the most accomplished goalies in school history, but the fact that Wilkins has a choice between a pair of seniors and a junior, who will be returning from international play, bodes well for the Badgers heading into 2012.

Lucas at Large: Watt embracing move to fullback

FB_120816_Watt_Derek.jpg

Derek Watt couldn't wait to break the news to his older brother last Sunday. But there was one hang-up. He couldn't get a hold of J.J. Watt. "He's probably busy rehabbing his elbow,'' Derek said.

Probably, since J.J. has been sidelined with a dislocated elbow since early August. The former Wisconsin defensive end is expected to miss the entire preseason with the Houston Texans.

"We'll get in touch,'' Derek promised.

At the time, he was also planning on reaching out to Bradie Ewing, the former UW fullback who blew out his knee in a preseason game with the Atlanta Falcons last week. Ewing has been lost for the year.

"Bradie was one amazing fullback and one amazing person,'' Watt said, "and he changed the outlook for a lot of guys on this team. He was a huge leader and we were pretty good friends.''

Ewing has become an even bigger resource for Watt since last Sunday. That's when Watt agreed to make the move from linebacker to fullback on the suggestion of Badgers head coach Bret Bielema.

"He (Bielema) told me that he thought it would be best for the team and in my best interests,'' said Watt, a redshirt freshman from Pewaukee. "He said that I could take my time to think about it.

"But I didn't want to wait too long. We're already pretty far into camp right now, so I'm already a little behind. They're working on getting me a playbook so I can be ready for practice.''

In high school, Watt was a running back in a Wing-T offense.

"I was a wingback, but I also played some tailback, which is kind of a fullback in the Wing-T,'' he said. "I got a little taste of blocking once in awhile. It's going to be a little different here.''

Before he could answer whether he has missed running the ball, he was advised that he wouldn't be getting the rock here anyway, never mind. "I was just going to say that,'' Watt chuckled.

But, if everything falls into place, he wouldn't rule out contributing in other facets of the position. "Hopefully I'll be able to get out on some routes and catch some passes in the flat,'' he said.

That was the case last season for Ewing, who finished the year without a single carry but had 20 catches for an average of 12.3 yards per grab.

Last fall, Watt and Jake Keefer, another redshirt freshman, were taking most of the reps at linebacker on the scout team. Keefer is now wearing No. 93 and practicing with the defensive line.

"They're trying to experiment with guys in new places, especially during camp,'' Watt said. "I'm just one of those guys. Coach B has said that he's going to put guys in position to get on the field.

"I feel like if I do things the right way I can make it happen.''

At linebacker, Watt and Marcus Trotter were competing for time behind Chris Borland.

"I was splitting reps with Marcus and I wasn't getting as many reps as some of the other guys,'' Watt said. "I was watching a lot of film and taking mental reps when Chris and Marcus were in there.

"It was just the way the chips fell. I'm going to try and embrace playing fullback.''

Bielema is optimistic about Watt making a successful transition to offense, which would be a nice twist to the storyline since J.J. Watt came to Wisconsin as a tight end before moving to D-end.

"I used to hear all the time when I was a young coach,'' Bielema said, "that every fullback should play linebacker and every linebacker should play fullback.

"That's just an old-school way of thinking and it's not necessarily true. But just from watching him, Derek might be a better offensive player ... I just think he's wired in that way.''

Bielema cited the example of former Iowa linebacker-slash-tight end Dallas Clark.

"I'm not drawing any comparisons,'' cautioned Bielema, qualifying his remarks. "But when I was a linebacker coach, Dallas was a linebacker for me for two years and I couldn't get him on the field.

"He moves to tight end and becomes the highest paid tight end in the NFL (with the Indianapolis Colts) because he just fit better offensively. Hopefully that same thing holds true for Derek.''

The 224-pound Watt isn't sure whether he will be asked to add weight, or take it off. A teammate kidded that he was in good shape for the move since he has a fullback number, No. 34.

"Right now with the switch,'' Watt said, "I'm trying to learn everything I can at fullback and I'm also trying to get on the field with special teams to make an immediate impact. That's my main goal.''

Position Preview: Forwards

| No TrackBacks


Position Previews: Midfielders | Defenders | Goalkeepers

The Wisconsin women's soccer team enters its 2012 campaign cautiously optimistic, as head coach Paula Wilkins and the Badgers feature a balance of battle-tested veterans and ambitious newcomers.

The Badgers return 15 letter winners from a team that went 10-7-3 last season and finished fourth in the final Big Ten standings. Among the returners is senior defender Lindsey Johnson and sophomore forward Cara Walls. Johnson returns after earning All-Big Ten second-team honors, as well as All-Great Lakes second-team accolades in 2011. Walls started 17 games as a freshman and led the Badgers in points (19) and goals (9) en route to earning a spot on the Big Ten All-Freshman team last season.

Wisconsin also returns senior midfielders Joana Bielefeld and Monica Lam-Feist in 2012. Bielefeld started every game last season and is poised for a successful 2012 campaign after tallying four points on two assists and a goal last season, while Lam-Feist has missed only one start over the last three years.

For the Wisconsin women's soccer team, the 2012 season will be somewhat of a rebuilding process, as the Badgers lost Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year Michele Dalton to graduation and return only five starters from 2011. 

After Wilkins gave eventual conference champ Penn State its one and only loss of the Big Ten slate last season, Wisconsin looked like the team to beat en route to the conference crown. This season the Badgers are poised to regain their stature as one of the most dominant teams in the Big Ten and will look to make a run toward a conference championship and its third appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the last four years.

Forwards
This year's group of forwards represents Wilkins most experienced bunch, as 2011 All-Big 
Adams_Paige_Purdue_2011_sm.jpg
Ten Freshman team honoree, Cara Walls, returns for her sophomore campaign and will more than likely be the focus for the Badgers' offensive attack. 

Redshirt-junior Paige Adams (picture) has shown tremendous promise at the forward position after appearing in 14 games in 2011, and will be asked to take on more of a leadership role this season. Wilkins believes much of Walls' success this season will stem from the strong play of Adams, who will be asked to take on more of a leadership role in 2012. 

Position Preview: Defenders

| No TrackBacks

Position Preview: Midfielders | Forwards | Goalkeepers

The Wisconsin women's soccer team enters its 2012 campaign cautiously optimistic, as head coach Paula Wilkins and the Badgers feature a balance of battle-tested veterans and ambitious newcomers.

The Badgers return 15 letter winners from a team that went 10-7-3 last season and finished fourth in the final Big Ten standings. Among the returners is senior defender Lindsey Johnson and sophomore forward Cara Walls. Johnson returns after earning All-Big Ten second-team honors, as well as All-Great Lakes second-team accolades in 2011. Walls started 17 games as a freshman and led the Badgers in points (19) and goals (9) en route to earning a spot on the Big Ten All-Freshman team last season.

Wisconsin also returns senior midfielders Joana Bielefeld and Monica Lam-Feist in 2012. Bielefeld started every game last season and is poised for a successful 2012 campaign after tallying four points on two assists and a goal last season, while Lam-Feist has missed only one start over the last three years.

For the Wisconsin women's soccer team, the 2012 season will be somewhat of a rebuilding process, as the Badgers lost Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year Michele Dalton to graduation and return only five starters from 2011.

After Wilkins gave eventual conference champ Penn State its one and only loss of the Big Ten slate last season, Wisconsin looked like the team to beat en route to the conference crown. This season the Badgers are poised to regain their stature as one of the most dominant teams in the Big Ten and will look to make a run toward a conference championship and its third appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the last four years.

Defenders
Johnson (pictured) headlines the center backs, as the All-Big Ten performer will make the move to the middle to complement redshirt-sophomore Alexandra Heller. Johnson and Heller's leadership will be fundamental to the success of the Badger's defenders this season, as a wealth of freshman will compete for playing time at the outside backs position. 

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Johnson_Lindsey_CMU_2011_sm.jpg

Wilkins has been intrigued by the energy of the freshman at this stage in camp and looks forward to the progress the newcomers will make throughout the year. The outside back position is a vital part of Wilkins' attacking mentality, so expect the most technical and high-energy newcomer to lead the charge from the outside defender position.

Storify: BTN pays visit to Camp Randall

BTN's Big Ten Football Preview Tour rolled into Madison on Monday, with the on-air crew of Dave Revsine, Howard Griffith and Gerry DiNardo joined by BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart.

The crew took in UW's practice session and then conducted interviews for their special on the Badgers, which will air at 9 p.m. (CT) on Tuesday.

Here's a look at the tour stop via Storify, collecting the tweets, photos and videos of the BTN staff and UWBadgers.com.

Lucas at Large: Armstrong returns looking to make a leap

FB_120813_Armstrong_Ethan.jpgMedia days can be monotonous for players because of the repetitive nature of the questioning.

Mostly it's a harmless fluff-and- flash (bulb) exercise; one lost hour out of the day -- unless you're Wisconsin linebacker Ethan Armstrong, who was actually looking forward to Sunday's media day at Camp Randall Stadium from the perspective of "I was sure hoping I would see'' another one.

"I don't want to take anything for granted,'' he said.

That's because the last time the Badgers played a home game -- Nov. 26, 2011 against Penn State -- Armstrong was taken off the field in an ambulance after being injured while covering a second-quarter kickoff. The worst-case scenario was that he had dislocated both hips, so there was added precaution. But it wasn't as bad as it initially looked, he said; only a partial dislocation of his right hip.

Only?

"It was probably scarier for my parents than it was for me,'' Armstrong said. "They weren't at the game, so they had to watch it on TV. I'm sure it was a frightening experience. I don't really remember all that I was thinking (during the ambulance ride to the hospital). I was just really disappointed and hoping my teammates would continue to play well and get that victory.''

That was the good news: the Badgers closed out the regular season by crushing Penn State, 45-7, and advancing to the inaugural Big Ten championship game. The bad news was that Armstrong's season was over. Some might have viewed his college football career in the same light. Addressing the number of people who likely counted him out, he said, "There was probably more than I want to know.''

That's why his presence at Sunday's media day was so meaningful. "I love the game, I love this place, I love playing here -- I couldn't ever see myself doing anything else,'' said Armstrong, a redshirt junior from Ottawa, Ill., who's battling to be the No. 3 linebacker on defense alongside Mike Taylor and Chris Borland. In this sense, Armstrong said that he has to prove to himself that "I can do it, that I can come back and be the same player and play at the same level that I was before the injury.''

Armstrong had surgery on one hip in December, and the other hip in January.

"Physically, I'm as healthy as I'm going to get,'' he said.

Before he could continue, he was interrupted and asked, "What does that mean?''

You're as healthy as you're going to get?

"It means I'm feeling good,'' said Armstrong, who missed spring practice while he was recovering from surgery. "I'm full-go, I'm 100 percent. Obviously, there's going to be a little soreness, a little bit of tightness from day to day. But it's about maintaining and staying as healthy as I can.''

Armstrong is 21. Does he ever feel like he's 61 when he gets up in the morning?

"As long as I wake up with the right mindset I'm good to go,'' he said, smiling.

That's a pretty refreshing attitude which he also applies to his walk-on status.

"That's probably been harder on my folks than me,'' he said. "They've given me a great opportunity -- the chance to come here and play -- and they've been amazing to me. They've done nothing but support me since Day One, so it's been harder on them to pay tuition, especially out of state tuition.

"But they haven't said anything about it. They want me to do what I want to do.''

Having endured so many setbacks -- including shoulder and finger surgery -- Armstrong just wants to prove that he can be a steady contributor. "I've tried to stay as positive as I could, but it has been tough, any injury is,'' he said, adding that at least he knows what to expect from rehab; a kind of "been there, done that'' mentality.

"You know the kind of hurdles you're going to have to jump and the trials that you're going to face coming back from it,'' he said.

When he has played, he has been productive.

"But I have a lot to prove; I have to prove that I can be that guy, that starter,'' said Armstrong, noting that he has to prove his worthiness to his coaches and teammates. "Frankly, I have to prove to the whole Wisconsin nation that I'm good enough to play with those guys, good enough to be a scholarship athlete and good enough to earn my way on this team.''

Armstrong is so gung-ho about getting back to work that he's excited by the prospect of two-a-days practice, normally the bane of every player. "That's just because I want to be here so bad,'' Armstrong said. "It's not as much of a grind as everyone says ... (for me) it's definitely making sure that my body can keep up with what my mind and my heart wants it to do.''

Position Preview: Midfielders

| No TrackBacks

Position Preview: Defenders | Forwards | Goalkeepers

The Wisconsin women's soccer team enters its 2012 campaign cautiously optimistic, as head coach Paula Wilkins and the Badgers feature a balance of battle-tested veterans and ambitious newcomers.

The Badgers return 15 letter winners from a team that went 10-7-3 last season and finished fourth in the final Big Ten standings. Among the returners is senior defender Lindsey Johnson and sophomore forward Cara Walls. Johnson returns after earning All-Big Ten second-team honors, as well as All-Great Lakes second-team accolades in 2011. Walls started 17 games as a freshman and led the Badgers in points (19) and goals (9) en route to earning a spot on the Big Ten All-Freshman team last season.

Wisconsin also returns senior midfielders Joana Bielefeld and Monica Lam-Feist in 2012. Bielefeld started every game last season and is poised for a successful 2012 campaign after tallying four points on two assists and a goal last season, while Lam-Feist has missed only one start over the last three years.

For the Wisconsin women's soccer team, the 2012 season will be somewhat of a rebuilding process, as the Badgers lost Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year Michele Dalton to graduation and return only five starters from 2011.

After Wilkins gave eventual conference champ Penn State its one and only loss of the Big Ten slate last season, Wisconsin looked like the team to beat en route to the conference crown. This season the Badgers are poised to regain their stature as one of the most dominant teams in the Big Ten and will look to make a run toward a conference championship and its third appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the last four years.

Midfielders
A mixture of experience and depth highlight the Badger's midfielders, where Lam-Feist, along with junior Nicole La Petina, redshirt senior Erin Jacobsen and fellow seniors Lindsey Hamann and Joana Bielefeld will all look to lead a talented group of freshman into the 2012 season.

Lam-Feist_Monica_RW_Scrimmage_11_sm.jpg

Lam-Feist (picture) will be asked to complement Walls and Adams, as the senior distributes the ball well in the open-field and has the athleticism that is necessary for the Badgers to attack and get good looks at the goal. Bielefeld will return for her final season in cardinal and white, after earning UW's most improved player award in 2011. The Brookfield native has drawn praises from Wilkins for her solid play in the air and also for her work ethic and attention to detail.

Jacobsen and redshirt sophomore Kodee Williams are two key players who are returning to the Badgers in 2012 after missing last season due to injury. Jacobsen, who Wilkins cited as being the most important player for the Badgers two years ago, will be relied upon to do most of the heavy lifting from the midfield position, as well as chart the development of the incoming freshman who will hopefully be called on to assist in the efforts from that position. Madison native McKenna Meuer has garnered praise from coaches for her work ethic and will likely be called on to make an early impact from the midfield.

Badgers travel to space and back (on the radio)

FB_120810_Frederick_Travis_2.jpg

The crew from SiriuxXM College Sports Nation (that's Ch. 91 for those with subscriptions) made a stop in Madison Friday as part of their College Football Camp Tour.

Host Mark Packer and his crew conducted their three-hour live show from Camp Randall Stadium, interviewing director of athletics Barry Alvarez, head coach Bret Bielema and offensive coordinator Matt Canada and defensive coordinator Chris Ash.

Six Badgers also spoke with Packer about their thoughts on the upcoming season, what it's like to play in front of a 80,000-plus at Camp Randall and, most notably, how to properly consume a Scrambler from Mickey's Dairy Bar.

Have a listen to some of what the Badgers had to say:

Bo Ryan era 'Dream Team'

| No TrackBacks
Thumbnail image for BoRyan_USA.jpgThe U.S. men's basketball team is well on its way to gold in the 2012 Summer Olympics and has sparked debate about how it would stack up with the 'Dream Team' from the 1992 games.

UWBadgers.com writer Mike Lucas took a whack at putting together what a Badgers 'Dream Team' would look like from the Bo Ryan era (2001-2012, current players excluded). His task was to come up with a 12-man "team," not necessarily the best 12 players from the last decade.

Here is what he came up with. Who would you pick?

Taylor signs with Italian League team

| No TrackBacks
Taylor_Jordan_Indiana_BTT_2011-12 (8).jpgAfter spending last month with the Atlanta Hawks Summer League team, Jordan Taylor will officially begin his professional career overseas after signing a contract with Virtus Roma of the Italian League.

Taylor, who earned his degree from UW in May, told the Wisconsin State Journal that he sees this move to Italy as a stepping stone to his ultimate goal of reaching the NBA.

"I'm looking forward to it," Taylor said. "It's a new experience. All I can do is keep working and keep trying to reach my goals and make some money in the meantime. I'm definitely not giving up on trying to get to the NBA."

Taylor hopes to join a long list of Virtus Roma alumni that have seen NBA duty, including George Gervin, Michael Cooper, Anthony Parker, Dino Radja, Brian Shaw, Rick Mahorn and Danny Ferry among others.  Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings spent the 2008-09 season playing for Virtus Roma prior to being drafted by the Bucks.

Greatest Games Bracket: No. 1 vs No. 4 (Final)

The storied history of Wisconsin women's hockey is filled with memorable games, but which one is the best of all time? This summer, we're going to determine the greatest Wisconsin women's hockey game and we're putting it to a vote. A total of 16 games will be paired off bracket-style and a new matchup will appear every-other day for fan voting on the UW Women's Hockey Facebook page.

WHKYGreatestGameBracket15.jpg

The final game of the greatest game bracket is here. You have voted and the two games that have battled their way to the final are the No. 1 seeded 2006 NCAA title game and the No. 4 seeded 2011 NCAA title game. One game represents the program's first national championship, while the other is the most recent. In 2006 the Badgers dethroned the defending champs and arch-rival Minnesota to be the first team outside the state of Minnesota to win a national title. In 2011 the Badgers defeated Boston University, winning four national titles in just a span of six years. Which game deserves to be crowned the greatest game in women's hockey history at Wisconsin?

Below are the recaps and box scores from the two games. To cast your vote, head over to the women's hockey Facebook page and select your choice in the corresponding fan poll. The votes will be tallied and a winner declared on Monday, Aug. 13.

WHKYGreatestGames1.jpg

No. 1 - 2006 National Championship (March 26, 2006)

National Champions!


Box Score

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Wisconsin women's hockey program won its first NCAA championship with a 3-0 victory over two-time defending champion Minnesota in the title game at Mariucci Arena.

When time had run out, the Badgers poured onto the ice and celebrated together with the championship trophy. There were hugs and "high-fives" all around at the bench area and on the ice as the UW Band played away and a strong contingent of Badger fans voiced their approval.

The Badgers got a pair of goals from sophomore Jinelle Zaugg, another from senior Grace Hutchins and a stellar performance from 2006 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player and freshman netminder Jessie Vetter to knock off the rival-Golden Gophers for a fifth time this season. Each team fired 10 shots on goal in the first period before the Golden Gophers outshot the Badgers 21-9 the rest of the way, including a 14-4 edge in the third period. Vetter, however, was equal to the task.


WHKYGreatestGames4.jpg

No. 4 - 2011 NCAA Championship (March 20, 2011)

National champion Badgers bring home fourth crown!


Box Score

ERIE, Pa. -- The No. 1 Wisconsin women's hockey team won its fourth national championship in six years on Sunday as the Badgers defeated Boston University, 4-1, at Tullio Arena in front of 3,956 fans.

Despite UW outshooting BU 10-4 in the first period, the teams remained locked in a scoreless tie after the opening 20 minutes. The Badgers finally put one past BU goaltender Kerrin Sperry at the 2:25 mark of the second period when Carolyne Prévost redirected a shot from the point to give Wisconsin a 1-0 lead.

Wisconsin then took a 2-0 lead with 4:26 remaining in the middle frame when junior Brooke Ammerman converted the eventual game-winner on the power play. With just 3:23 remaining, the Badgers extended their lead back to two. Junior Hilary Knight gained control of the puck and took it into the zone, firing a shot at Sperry. The rebound popped loose, and a streaking Mallory Deluce buried it.

The Terriers pulled Sperry immediately following Deluce's goal and again with 2:33 to go. BU fired five shots, including two stopped by Alex Rigsby, before Prévost secured the victory and national championship with an empty-net goal at 19:42.

Greatest Games Bracket: No. 1 vs No. 6 (Semifinals)

The storied history of Wisconsin women's hockey is filled with memorable games, but which one is the best of all time? This summer, we're going to determine the greatest Wisconsin women's hockey game and we're putting it to a vote. A total of 16 games will be paired off bracket-style and a new matchup will appear every-other day for fan voting on the UW Women's Hockey Facebook page.

WHKYGreatestGamesBracket14.jpg

The 2011 NCAA title game secured its spot in the finals with an easy victory over the 2011 Fill The Bowl game in the first matchup of the semifinals. Now the 2006 NCAA title game and the 2011 WCHA Championship game go head-to-head for the remaining spot in Wednesday's final. Today's matchup features a common opponent, but both games are quite different. As the program's first national championship. the No. 1 seed might be one of the most historic games for UW women's hockey. While not as historic, the No. 6 seed was certainly a very entertaining game as the Badgers battled back from two deficits to claim an OT victory.

Below are the recaps and box scores from the two games. To cast your vote, head over to the women's hockey Facebook page and select your choice in the corresponding fan poll. The votes will be tallied and a winner declared on Wednesday, Aug. 6, before voting for the final matchup goes live.

WHKYGreatestGames1.jpg

No. 1 - 2006 National Championship (March 26, 2006)

National Champions!


Box Score

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Wisconsin women's hockey program won its first NCAA championship with a 3-0 victory over two-time defending champion Minnesota in the title game at Mariucci Arena.

When time had run out, the Badgers poured onto the ice and celebrated together with the championship trophy. There were hugs and "high-fives" all around at the bench area and on the ice as the UW Band played away and a strong contingent of Badger fans voiced their approval.

The Badgers got a pair of goals from sophomore Jinelle Zaugg, another from senior Grace Hutchins and a stellar performance from 2006 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player and freshman netminder Jessie Vetter to knock off the rival-Golden Gophers for a fifth time this season. Each team fired 10 shots on goal in the first period before the Golden Gophers outshot the Badgers 21-9 the rest of the way, including a 14-4 edge in the third period. Vetter, however, was equal to the task.


WHKYGreatestGames6.jpg

No. 6 - 2011 WCHA Championship game OT win vs Minnesota (March 5, 2011)

Nash's OT tally gives Badgers WCHA Final Face-off crown


Box Score

MINNEAPOLIS - Senior Kelly Nash scored the game-winning goal in overtime after the top-ranked Badgers overcame 3-0 and 4-2 deficits to defeat No. 3 Minnesota, 5-4, and earn their fourth Western Collegiate Hockey Association tournament title.

Wisconsin trailed 4-2 heading into the third period and used goals by freshman Madison Packer and senior Meghan Duggan to tie it at 4-4 with 3:15 to play.

It took 14:11 of overtime action before the Badgers sealed the 2011 WCHA Final Face-off crown, but Nash solved Minnesota goaltender Noora Raty off a feed from senior Geena Prough to give UW its only lead of the game.

Greatest Games Bracket: No. 4 vs No. 15 (Semifinals)

The storied history of Wisconsin women's hockey is filled with memorable games, but which one is the best of all time? This summer, we're going to determine the greatest Wisconsin women's hockey game and we're putting it to a vote. A total of 16 games will be paired off bracket-style and a new matchup will appear every-other day for fan voting on the UW Women's Hockey Facebook page.

WHKYGreatestGamesBracket13.jpg

Three games from the same season have advanced into the semifinals of the Greatest Games Bracket. This first matchup of the semifinals pits the 2011 NCAA Championship game against the 2011 Fill The Bowl game. In the quarterfinals, the 2011 Fill The Bowl game upset the four-overtime win against Harvard, while the 2011 NCAA title game easily moved passed the program's first NCAA tournament win. Both of these games feature big moments in Badger women's hockey history; one set the attendance record at the time against arch-rival Minnesota, and the other gave the Badgers their fourth national crown.

Below are the recaps and box scores from the two games. To cast your vote, head over to the women's hockey Facebook page and select your choice in the corresponding fan poll. The votes will be tallied and a winner declared on Monday, Aug. 6, before the other semifinal matchup is made live.

WHKYGreatestGames4.jpg

No. 4 - 2011 NCAA Championship (March 20, 2011)

National champion Badgers bring home fourth crown!


Box Score

ERIE, Pa. -- The No. 1 Wisconsin women's hockey team won its fourth national championship in six years on Sunday as the Badgers defeated Boston University, 4-1, at Tullio Arena in front of 3,956 fans.

Despite UW outshooting BU 10-4 in the first period, the teams remained locked in a scoreless tie after the opening 20 minutes. The Badgers finally put one past BU goaltender Kerrin Sperry at the 2:25 mark of the second period when Carolyne Prévost redirected a shot from the point to give Wisconsin a 1-0 lead.

Wisconsin then took a 2-0 lead with 4:26 remaining in the middle frame when junior Brooke Ammerman converted the eventual game-winner on the power play. With just 3:23 remaining, the Badgers extended their lead back to two. Junior Hilary Knight gained control of the puck and took it into the zone, firing a shot at Sperry. The rebound popped loose, and a streaking Mallory Deluce buried it.

The Terriers pulled Sperry immediately following Deluce's goal and again with 2:33 to go. BU fired five shots, including two stopped by Alex Rigsby, before Prévost secured the victory and national championship with an empty-net goal at 19:42.


WHKYGreatestGames15`2.jpg

No. 15 - 2011 Fill The Bowl vs Minnesota (Jan. 29, 2011)

Badgers drop Gophers, 3-1, before 10,668 fans


Box Score

MADISON, Wis. -- No. 1 Wisconsin set a new NCAA women's hockey attendance record when 10,668 fans watched the Badgers earn a 3-1 win over No. 4 Minnesota in the Fill the Bowl game Saturday night at the Kohl Center.

Saturday night's game saw sophomore Brianna Decker score her ninth game-winning goal of the season to lead Wisconsin past the Gophers and extend UW's unbeaten streak to 14 games. Decker's tally also broke the UW program record for most game-winning goals in a single season.

The Badgers used the momentum they gained from the record-breaking crowd to jump out to an early lead against Minnesota. Junior Hilary Knight put Wisconsin on the board just 47seconds into the game, beating Minnesota goaltender Noora Raty stick-side for the goal. Wisconsin took a 2-0 lead later in the period on Decker's eventual game-winner, her second short-handed goal of the year.

Minnesota scored its lone goal of the night at the 4:42 mark of the second period, also on the penalty kill. UW would regained the two-goal lead with 8:07 left to play in the second frame as junior Carolyne Prevost scored on Wisconsin's fourth power-play opportunity of the game.

Greatest Games Bracket: No. 1 vs No. 8 (Quarterfinals)

The storied history of Wisconsin women's hockey is filled with memorable games, but which one is the best of all time? This summer, we're going to determine the greatest Wisconsin women's hockey game and we're putting it to a vote. A total of 16 games will be paired off bracket-style and a new matchup will appear every-other day for fan voting on the UW Women's Hockey Facebook page.

WHKYGreatestGamesBracket12.jpg

The final spot in the semifinals is up for grabs between the No. 1 seeded 2006 National Championship and the program's first NCAA tournament win, which holds the eighth seed. In the first round the 2006 NCAA title game defeated the 2012 Fill The Bowl game vs. Bemidji State, while the first NCAA tournament win against Mercyhurst moved past the program's first win against Minnesota. The winner of this matchup will go on to face the No. 4 seed in the semifinals.

Below are the recaps and box scores from the two games. To cast your vote, head over to the women's hockey Facebook page and select your choice in the corresponding fan poll. The votes will be tallied and a winner declared on Saturday, Aug. 4, before the semifinals begin.

WHKYGreatestGames1.jpg

No. 1 - 2006 National Championship (March 26, 2006)

National Champions!


Box Score

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Wisconsin women's hockey program won its first NCAA championship with a 3-0 victory over two-time defending champion Minnesota in the title game at Mariucci Arena.

When time had run out, the Badgers poured onto the ice and celebrated together with the championship trophy. There were hugs and "high-fives" all around at the bench area and on the ice as the UW Band played away and a strong contingent of Badger fans voiced their approval.

The Badgers got a pair of goals from sophomore Jinelle Zaugg, another from senior Grace Hutchins and a stellar performance from 2006 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player and freshman netminder Jessie Vetter to knock off the rival-Golden Gophers for a fifth time this season. Each team fired 10 shots on goal in the first period before the Golden Gophers outshot the Badgers 21-9 the rest of the way, including a 14-4 edge in the third period. Vetter, however, was equal to the task.


WHKYGreatestGames8.jpg

No. 8 - First NCAA tournament win (March 18, 2006)

Wisconsin Advances to Frozen Four After Double-OT Thriller


Box Score

MADISON, Wis. -- Tia Hanson tipped in the winning goal in double overtime to give the No. 2 Badgers a 2-1 advantage over No. 7 Mercyhurst in the women's ice hockey NCAA regional game. Playing 90:10 it was the longest game on record for UW. The Badgers advanced to the Frozen Four to face St. Lawrence in its first trip to the finals.

The Lakers jumped to a 1-0 lead 9:06 into the game, but Wisconsin responded with a goal less than five minutes later when junior Bobbi-Jo Slusar scored on a power-play slap shot from the blue line.

Wisconsin goalie Jessie Vetter and Mercyhurst goalie Laura Hosier were unfazed entering the second overtime period, both stopping every puck thrown at them. Halfway through the second overtime, Wisconsin finally broke the puck through Mercyhurst's defense. From above the right circle, Badger junior Kristin Witting sliced the puck in the direction of the net. A tip by Hanson snuck the puck around Hosier's right skate to end the night's hockey action.

Notes worth noting on the Badgers

FB_120801_Camp_Randall_Stadium.jpeg

Last week's trip to Chicago for the annual Big Ten Football Media Days meant supplying the media members in attendance with plenty of info on what the Badgers will bring to the table in 2012.

You can peruse the entire notes package, but here are some of the most interesting nuggets on UW heading into the season...

The Basics
- The Badgers return just 11 of 22 starters (five on offense, six on defense). However, UW has 19 players on the roster that have started at least one game in their career.

- Wisconsin's 115-player roster breaks down like this: 49 freshmen, 30 sophomores, 27 juniors, 9 seniors. UW's eight scholarship seniors are tied for second-fewest among FBS teams.

- Eight returning Badgers have earned all-conference honors at some point during their careers (six offensive players and two defensive players).

This Fall Belongs to Ball

- After tying Barry Sanders' FBS record with 39 touchdowns last season, senior RB Montee Ball has 61 for his career and needs 18 TDs to break the NCAA career record for total TDs.

- Ball led the nation with 1,923 rushing yards and 2,229 yards from scrimmage last year, while his 39 touchdowns were more than 42 FBS teams scored in all of 2011. His 33 rushing touchdowns were more than 104 FBS teams tallied last season.

- Ball has started just 18 games in his career but is averaging 142.9 rushing yards and has scored 51 touchdowns in those games.

- Ball has not lost a fumble in his career, spanning 617 touches (568 carries, 49 receptions).

Bowling with the Badgers
- The Badgers have made four appearances in the Rose Bowl during the BCS era (since 1998). That is the second-most in the country during that span, trailing only USC's five appearances.

- UW has appeared in a bowl game in 10 straight seasons, tied for the ninth-longest active streak in the country. It is second only to Ohio State's streak of 12-straight bowl games among Big Ten teams.

At the Top
- Wisconsin is one of just six teams in the country to win at least 10 games in each of the last three seasons. The others are Alabama, Boise State, Oregon, Virginia Tech and TCU.

- The Badgers own a 32-8 record over the past three seasons, and only five teams boast more wins than UW since the start of the 2009 season: Boise State (38), TCU (36), Alabama (36), Oregon (34) and LSU (33).

-Wisconsin went undefeated at home for the second-straight season and has won 16 consecutive home games, the second-longest active streak in the country. UW's 50-4 record at Camp Randall Stadium since 2004 is third-best in the country and the Badgers' 50 home wins in that span is tied with LSU for most in the nation.

- Wisconsin was the only team in the country to finish among the top 15 in the final NCAA stats in both total offense and total defense in 2011.

- Since the 2002-03 school year, the Badgers have played in a bowl game every year while also qualifying for the NCAA men's basketball tournament. That streak of 10 straight years with both is by far the longest in the country. BYU and Michigan State are tied for second on that list at five consecutive years.

ON WISCONSIN