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One step closer to 'American Football'

6110039.jpegPhoto Gallery: Practice No. 2

Coach Bielema likes to say that at Wisconsin, we play 'American football." What he means is a physical style with an emphasis on toughness. The first two days of spring practice, he concedes, can be a little frustrating for players and coaches alike because the NCAA mandates the practice sessions be conducted in helmets only, no pads.

The good news is that on Tuesday, the Badgers will don shoulder pads for the first time since the 2012 Rose Bowl. While the practice won't feature live tackling, the intensity will be ratcheted up, especially along the offensive and defensive lines.

That's not to say the first two practices are meaningless. Especially for a team that had to replace six assistant coaches. Also, with a number of returning starters on the shelf for parts or all of the spring combined with the natural turnover in college football, every rep is important in the development of the inexperienced players.

Along those lines, there were a couple players that caught my eye in today's practice, held in the morning and outside under cool and cloudy skies. With no pads and absolutely no hitting, the defense is at a definite disadvantage the first two days. Also, the offensive and defensive lines are tough to judge when they are really just engaging in hand-to-hand combat. So these initial observations are limited to skill players.

Tight end has been a position that has flourished in recent seasons at Wisconsin and even with a new offensive coordinator in Matt Canada, it doesn't look like that will change. Coach Bielema has said that Jacob Pedersen may see more time in an H-back role, leaving an open position for a tight end along the line. Brock DeCicco, a junior transfer from Pitt who spent last year sitting out and on the scout team, looked good today, catching a number of balls over the middle.

Another position of strenght for the Badgers is running back. Everyone knows about Heisman Trophy finalist Montee Ball and 2010 Big Ten Freshman of the Year James White. But a guy a lot of people were excited about during fall camp last year was Melvin Gordon. He saw some time early in his true freshman season but struggled with a groin injury the kept him out of the majority of the season. Today he looked fast and shifty in a some 11-on-11 periods, proving he is 100 percent healthy.

One position where there are some questions marks is at wide receiver. While Jared Abbrederis will be back after his tremendous sophomore season, he is sitting out while rehabbing a foot injury. Jeff Duckworth saw his role increase as last year wore on but behind him, there's not a whole lot of experience. Redshirt sophomore Chase Hammond has a great WR body (6-5, 212 pounds) but has been plagued by injury. During today's practice, he flashed some of his potential, using his long frame to go get a couple balls and showing some speed after the catch in 7-on-7.

***Buy tickets to the Badger Spring Game on April 28 (4 p.m.)***

Photo of the Day: Practice No. 1

A bird's eye view of one of the contenders in the QB competition, Joel Stave, taking part in a 7-on-7 drill during yesterday's practice. Stave, Joe Brennan and Curt Phillips all took reps at QB.

***Buy tickets to the Badger Spring Game on April 28 (4 p.m.)***

Rain causes spring practice to kick off inside

The Badgers held the first of their 15 spring practices on Thursday. Despite a run of record-breaking heat in Madison in recent weeks, rain forced practice No. 1 to be moved inside to the McClain Center. Coach Bielema met with the media following practice and discussed position battles, position changes, players who will be limited due to injuries, the addition of some new coaches and much more (yes, he even talked about the quarterbacks).

Photo Gallery: Practice No. 1

Around the web
* 'Varsity' magazine - Setting the stage: Spring ball kicks off for Badgers
* ESPN.com - UW redshirting creates unique roster
* FoxSportsWisconsin.com - Wisconsin's Bielema continues to aim high
* The Badger Herald - Opportunities abound in football's spring camp
* Wisconsin State Journal - Abbrederis, Pedersen sidelined by injuries as spring practices begin

***Buy tickets to the Badger Spring Game on April 28 (4 p.m.)***
Nortman_Brad_Iowa_10_NA (3).jpg***Vote for the All-Bielema Team on Facebook***

This is the weekend Badger fans across the country have looked forward to for weeks. Selection Sunday, the day when voting for the All-Bielema Team comes to a close (oh, you thought I was talking about a different sort of selection?).

Voting that began with the QB position (Russell Wilson is leading the way) on Feb. 20, will wrap up on Sunday with fans choosing a punt returner. Today the specialists get their day in the sun. During Bielema's head coaching career he has had just two full-time punters and two kickers (though Philip Welch's injury early in 2011 allowed for some cameo appearances by Alec Lerner and Kyle French) so there is not much to choose from. But what we make lack in quantity is definitely made up for in quality.

Punter Candidates:

Ken DeBauche (2006-07)

Four-year starter whose 42.4-yard average is second-best in school history ... honorable mention All-Big Ten in 2006, second-team in 2007 ... team captain as a senior ... ranked second in Big Ten in punting during conference season as a senior ... ranked fourth in the Big Ten in punting as a junior ... completed a memorable pass to long snapper Paul Standring vs. No. 1 Ohio State in 2007 (below)

Watch Ken DeBauche pass in Sports | View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

Brad Nortman (2008-11)
Two-time honorable mention All-Big Ten selection ... three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree ... ranks third in school history with career punting average of 42.1 yards per punt ... averaged 41.8 yards per punt in 2008 to rank fifth among freshmen in the nation ... ran two fake punts for first downs in 2010, including picking up a key first down during the game-winning drive at Iowa (below)

Kicker Candidates:

Mehlhaff_Taylor_OSU_07.jpgTaylor Mehlhaff (2006-07)
Fourth on school's career scoring list with 295 points ... tied for third on UW's career field goals list with 50 and fourth on career field goal attempts list with 65 ... third on school's career list for field goal percentage (.769) ... second in school history in career extra points (145), extra point attempts (148) and extra-point percentage (.979) ... first-team All-American, Lou Groza Award semifinalist and first-team All-Big Ten as a senior ... Lou Groza Award semifinalist and second-team All-Big Ten as a junior

Welch_Philip_Oregon_2011.jpgPhilip Welch (2008-11)
Ranks second in school history in career field goals made (59), career points (384 - most by a kicker) and field goal percentage at (.776) ... third at UW with 76 career field goals attempted ... Big Ten leader in career extra points made with 207 ... holds school record with 211 extra points attempted and .981 extra point percentage ... three-time honorable mention All-Big Ten ... Lou Groza Award semifinalist and freshman All-American in 2008

Remember to vote early and often for the All-Bielema team either on Facebook or Twitter using #AllBielemaTeam (follow @BadgerFootball).

Last week to vote for All-Bielema Team

Thumbnail image for Valai_Jay_Mich_09_2.jpgAs the start of spring practice approaches, the reveal of the All-Bielema Team draws closer. Voting ends, appropriately enough, on Selection Sunday.

Fans can go to the Wisconsin Football Facebook page to log their votes. Polling began on Feb. 20 with quarterbacks and continues today with strong safety. There is one more defensive position to vote on tomorrow (free safety), before special teams takes over the weekend.

Nearly 6,000 votes have been logged so far on Facebook with hundreds of others on Twitter using #AllBielemaTeam. Among the closer position battles are:

Thumbnail image for Levy_DeAndre_IND_07.jpgOutside Linebacker
You need two OLBs and while Mike Taylor looks to be a lock on one side, former teammates DeAndre Levy and Jonathan Casillas are battling it out to see who gets the other spot.

Defensive tackle
Like OLB, we need two DTs. Nick Hayden seems to be on solid footing but Patrick Butrym and Mike Newkirk are potential started next to him. They would form a solid three-man rotation.

Shaughnessy_Matt_Iowa_06.jpgDefensive end
There's no doubt who the top vote-getter at this position would be but J.J. Watt needs a partner on the other side to avoid the double teams. O'Brien Schofield had a terrific senior season while Matt Shaughnessy was a four-year starter.

Right tackle
Right now, two linemates are battling for the final spot on the offensive line, Ricky Wagner and Josh Oglesby. Oglesby started 25 games at RT over three seasons and was a first-team All-Big Ten choice as a senior while Wagner started 10 games in 2010 when Oglesby was hurt and earned honorable mention all-league honors.

Be sure to check out the Wisconsin Football Facebook page to register your votes on these races or any of the others. And check out 'Varsity' next week to view the team in its entirety.

It starts up front

Schofield_O'Brien_NIU_09_2.jpg***Vote for the All-Bielema Team on Facebook***

While offensive players may get most of the glory, everyone knows "defense wins championships." And a good defense is only as good as its play in the trenches.

With that as background, voting for the All-Bielema Team d-line kicked off on Thursday with the glamour position of the group, defensive end. The choices consisted of a national award winner (J.J. Watt), two first-team All-Big Ten selections (Watt and O'Brien Schofield) and three NFL players (Watt, Schofield and Matt Shaughnessy). Included in there is a two-year starter who scored a critical touchdown in in the 2012 Rose Bowl (Louis Nzegwu).

Friday we move onto defensive tackle. It may be less glamorous than d-end but strength up the middle is the hallmark of any good defense. And dependability is a common trait among our four candidates.

The Defensive Tackle Candidates:

Butrym_Patrick_IND_2011.jpgPatrick Butrym (2008-11)
Honorable mention All-Big Ten in 2011 ... won UW's Tom Wiesner Award as a senior, given to a Wisconsin-born player for his contributions ... started all 27 games at defensive tackle as a junior and senior ... played in every one of the Badgers' 53 games in his four-year career ... finished with 79 tackles, 10.5 TFLs, four QB sacks, a forced fumble and an interception

Chapman_Jason_IND_07.jpgJason Chapman (2006-08)
Two-time honorable mention All-Big Ten ... winner of UW's Jay Seiler Coaches Appreciation Award as a senior ... started 36 games over his final three seasons ... finished his career with 117 tackles, 15.0 TFLs, and 9.5 QB sacks

Hayden_Nick_MSU_07.jpgNick Hayden (2006-07)
Two-time honorable mention All-Big Ten ... winner of UW's Jay Seiler Coaches Appreciation Award as a senior ... started 39 consecutive games at d-tackle, including 26 as a junior and senior ... career totals if 132 tackles, 21.5 TFLs, 10 QB sacks and six fumble recoveries ... drafted in the sixth round of the NFL draft by the Carolina Panthers ... has played in 53 career NFL games with 28 starts

Newkirk_Mike_OSU_08.jpgMike Newkirk (2006-08)
Second-team All-Big Ten as a senior ... played in all 52 of the Badgers' games in his four-year career ... started his final 26 games, 10 at defensive end and 16 at defensive tackle ... appeared in all 13 games as a sophomore as a backup DT ... career totals of 152 tackles, 29.0 TFLs, 10 QB sacks, two forced fumles and two fumble recoveries

Remember to vote early and often for the All-Bielema team either on Facebook or Twitter using #AllBielemaTeam (follow @BadgerFootball).

Last day for the offense

110924FB-5336-01.jpg***Vote for the All-Bielema Team on Facebook***

After nearly 4,000 votes on Facebook, the offensive side of the ball is taking shape for the All-Bielema Team. The voting for the final position for the offense, right tackle, opens today on the Football Facebook Page.

However, just because we're highlighting the right tackle today doesn't mean you can't go in and vote for all the other positions if you have not done so already. Think John Stocco is getting overlooked in the QB battle? Want to have a say in the close race at tight end between Travis Beckum and Lance Kendricks? Who should be the second WR to line up with Nick Toon? Have your say on Facebook or Twitter (#AllBielemaTeam).

The Right Tackle Candidates:

Oglesby_Josh_UNLV_2011.jpgJosh Oglesby (2009-11)
First-team All-Big Ten selection in 2011 ... started 28 games in his career, including 10 as a sophomore and 13 as a senior ... started three games at LT as a freshman ... winner of team's Wayne Souza Coaches Appreciation Award as a senior ... invited to 2012 NFL Scouting Combine

Vanden Heuvel_Eric_ILL_08.jpgEric Vanden Heuvel (2006-08)
Started 35 career games at right tackle ... winner of UW's Wayne Souza Coaches Appreciation Award as a senior ... honorable mention All-Big Ten selection in 2006 ... also named Academic All-Big Ten in 2006 ... three-time UW offensive player of the week in 2008

Wagner_Ricky_IND_2011.jpgRicky Wagner (2010-11)
Honorable mention All-Big Ten in 2010 and 2011 ... started 10 games at right tackle in 2010 ... started all 14 games of 2011 at left tackle ... former walk-on tight end who earned a scholarship

Remember to vote early and often for the All-Bielema team either on Facebook or Twitter using #AllBielemaTeam (follow @BadgerFootball).

Who will join Thomas, Moffitt and Konz?

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Thumbnail image for Zeitler_Kevin_USD_2011.jpg***Vote for the All-Bielema Team on Facebook***

You'd think being a first-team All-American would guarantee you a spot on the All-Bielema Team. Guess again. Gabe Carimi won the Outland Trophy and was a consensus first-team All-American in 2010 but it looks like he will be backing up Joe Thomas at left tackle.

Today's vote is at right guard, where All-Americans Kraig Urbik and Kevin Zeitler will battle it out. Between the two of them, they have started all but six games at right guard for the Badgers over the last six seasons. Urbik started 13 games for the Buffalo Bills last season and Zeitler is expected to be a high-round pick in this April's NFL draft. Should be a close vote.  

The Right Guard Candidates:

Kraig Urbik (2006-08)
Started 37 of 39 games at right guard over his last three seasons ... 2008 first-team All-American by ESPN.com ... started the first 45 games of his career (13 at right tackle, 32 at right guard) ... two-time second-team All-Big Ten selection ... three-time UW offensive player of the week ... drafted in the third round by the Pittsburgh Steelers ... has played in 23 games with 15 starts in two seasons with the Buffalo Bills

Zeitler_Kevin_UNLV_2011 (3).jpgKevin Zeitler (2009-11)
Started 36 of 40 games at right guard over his last three seasons ... 2011 first-team AFCA  All-American ... 2011 first-team All-Big Ten ... honorable mention All-Big Ten in 2010 ... two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection ... invited to 2012 Senior Bowl and 2012 NFL Scouting Combine

Remember to vote early and often for the All-Bielema team either on Facebook or Twitter using #AllBielemaTeam (follow @BadgerFootball).

All-Bielema Team o-line taking shape

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***Vote for the All-Bielema Team on Facebook***

Over the weekend, voting started for the offensive line positions on the All-Bielema Team. As any Badger fan knows, UW's o-line has become known consistently as one of the top units in the country. So it stands to reason that there are a number of good candidates at each position along the line.

Left tackle has become the glamour position along the offensive line and UW has had a pretty good crop during the Bielema era. It started with Joe Thomas in 2006. He won the Outland Trophy and has gone on to become a five-time Pro Bowler in the NFL. Gabe Carimi followed him, started for four years, and he too won the Outland Trophy and was a first-round pick. Last year, in his first season on the left side, Ricky Wagner earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors.

There hasn't been much turnover at left guard either. Andy Kemp, a second-team All-Big Ten choice, started from 2006-08. He was succeeded by All-American John Moffitt in 2009 and 2010. And last year, Travis Frederick earned second-team all-conference honors at the position.

Which brings us to Monday's vote, centers. Because Moffitt looks to be running away with the vote at left guard, there are only two center candidates to choose from.

The Center Candidates:

Marcus Coleman (2006-07)
Started all 26 games at center in 2006-07 ... earned All-Big Ten honors both seasons, including first-team as a senior ... lone senior on 2007 o-line

Konz_Peter_Oregon_2011 (4).jpgPeter Konz (2009-11)
Started 32 games at center over three seasons ... 2011 first-team All-American ... 2011 Rimington Trophy finalist ... first-team All-Big Ten as a junior ... three-time Academic All-Big Ten ... 2010 ESPN Academic All-District ... Sporting News freshman All-American in 2009

Remember to vote early and often for the All-Bielema team either on Facebook or Twitter using #AllBielemaTeam (follow @BadgerFootball).

Catching on

***Vote for the All-Bielema Team on Facebook***

While Travis Beckum and Lance Kendricks continue to battle it out for the tight end spot on the All-Bielema Team, we turn our attention to the wide receiver position.

For our purposes, the starting offense will be made up of a running back, fullback, tight end and two wide receivers. With two open spots, we have included five wide receivers in the discussion. It looks like these receivers will have the benefit of Russell Wilson at QB, Montee Ball at RB and either Beckum or Kendricks at TE. That means a lot of 1-on-1 coverage on the outside. Who is best equipped to take advantage of that?

For two of the WR candidates, special teams play was (and is) a big part of their contributions, Try to separate that, however, as there will be voting for punt returner and kickoff returner in the coming weeks.

The Wide Receiver Candidates:

Thumbnail image for Abbrederis_Jared_IND_2011 (2).jpgJared Abbrederis (2010-present)
Former scout team QB who exploded on the scene as a redshirt sophomore ... 933 receiving yards last season were fifth-best in school history and fifth in the Big Ten ... also had eight TD grabs, which is tied for fifth-best in UW history ... honorable-mention All-Big Ten choice ... in just two seasons, already ranks 18th in school history with 1,222 career receiving yards ... his 16.3 yards per catch in his career is 10th-best in school history ... two career 100-yard receiving games

Thumbnail image for Anderson_Isaac_Mich_09_3.jpgIsaac Anderson (2006-10)
23rd all-time in school history with 1,048 career receiving yards ... played in 46 career games, starting 26 of them ... 80 career catches ... caught 80-yard TD pass on first play of the 2009 season, tied for the fifth-longest pass play in Badgers' history ... also scored his only career rushing TD in that game ... two career 100-yard receiving games

Gilreath_Daivd_IND_08.jpgDavid Gilreath (2007-10)
2008 second-team All-Big Ten ... 2007 first-team freshman All-American ... ranks third in school history in all-purpose yards ... played in 50 career games, starting 18 at wide receiver ... 22nd in school history with 1,077 career receiving yards ... also rushed for 442 yards in career ... best season was as a sophomore, catching 31 passes for 520 yards and three TDs and rushing for 285 yards and two scores ... had a 90-yard TD run at Indiana in 2008, the second-longest run in school history ... ran for 168 yards and two TDs vs. Hoosiers ... also had a 100-yard receiving game vs. Cal Poly ... after bouncing around NFL last year, signed free-agent contract with Pittsburgh Steelers in January

Swan_Luke_WSU_Celebration.jpgLuke Swan (2004-07)
Former walk-on turned team captain ... played in only eight games with no catches his first two seasons then caught 60 passes for 1,046 yards and seven TDs in 2006-07 ... three-time Academic All-Big Ten and two-time ESPN the Magazine Academic All-District ... senior season cut short midway through due to hamstring injury ... only 100-yard game of career came in key 2006 win at Iowa with backup QB Tyler Donovan at the helm ... 17.4 yards per catch for his career is tied for fifth-best in school history

Toon_Nick_Oregon_2011.jpgNick Toon (2008-11)
Third in school history with 2,447 career receiving yards and 171 career receptions ... fifth at UW with 18 career receiving touchdowns ... second-team All-Big Ten as a senior ... 64 catches in 2011 are tied for third-most in school history ... 10 TD catches in 2011 are second-best in UW history ... 926 receiving yards in 2011 are sixth-best in school history ... career-high nine receptions for 104 yards vs. Oregon in 2012 Rose Bowl ... honorable mention All-Big Ten in 2009 with 54 catches for 805 yards and four TDs ... played in 47 career games with 31 starts ... three career 100-yard receiving games

Remember to vote early and often for the All-Bielema team either on Facebook or Twitter using #AllBielemaTeam (follow @BadgerFootball).