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2011 NFL Draft notes

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With the 2011 NFL Draft in the books, let's take a look at some of the more impressive notes for the Badgers:

• With J.J. Watt going No. 11 to Houston and Gabe Carimi at No. 29 to Chicago, UW was one of just five schools in the country to have multiple first-round picks (Alabama, Auburn, Colorado, Missouri, Wisconsin).

• It was the fourth time in school history and first time since 2001 UW has had multiple first-round selections.

• Wisconsin and Alabama were the only two schools in the country with at least three players drafted among the top 50 (Watt, Carimi and Lance Kendricks).

• Wisconsin's four players taken in the top 75 tied Alabama and North Carolina for the most of any school in the country (Watt, Carimi, Kendricks and John Moffitt).

• The Badgers had four players taken among the top 75 picks for just the second time in school history, matching the 1985 draft.

• UW had four players taken in the first three rounds for the first time since 2001.
Wisconsin's five total draft picks were the most since 2006 (Watt, Carimi, Kendricks, Moffitt and Bill Nagy).

• Wisconsin and Florida were the only two schools in the country with multiple offensive linemen selected (both had three).

• It was just the fourth time in school history and the first time since 1988 UW has had at least three offensive linemen drafted in the same year.

• Wisconsin has had 10 first-round picks in the 2000s, tied for second-most in the Big Ten.

Badgering ... Manasseh Garner

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Garner_Manasseh_APSU_10.jpgSophomore Manasseh Garner was one of just four true freshmen to play last season, seeing time on offense (wide receiver), defense (defensive end) and special teams. As the Badgers kick off spring practice, Garner will be on the move once again, sliding over to a tight end/H-back role. We caught up with him after the Badgers' first practice to check on his progress.

Read "Badgering..." in the latest issue of 'Varsity'

What was it like coming in and playing right away as a true freshman?
"It was quite an experience because it's your dream to play college football and every freshman plans on coming in and playing. Some guys decided to redshirt but I just wanted that extra experience level and the coaches had faith in me that I was ready to contribute."

How will that experience help you moving forward?
"Just having a feel for the game. Getting a sense of the pressure you may feel from all the fans, just being out there with your teammates and being able to share in the victories on the field."

What's the transition like from wide receiver to tight end?
"There's more a physical and mental aspect to it. In my opinion it's like a second seat to the quarterback because you have to know the whole offense. You have to know the line, what they do, as well as what the receivers do. On the physical part, you have to go and hit somebody on every play. We have a tough line and have a reputation as being a tough team so you have to embrace it."

After playing both offense and defense, do you feel like you've finally found a home at tight end?
"Definitely. It was fun and a blessing to play defense. It's actually helped me out with my reads at tight end, watching the linebackers and how different defenses may work. I always wanted to play offense but defense was a blessing because it helped me become a better offensive player."

What are some things you hope to improve on during spring practice?
"Just to learn and to compete. Hopefully get a solid position contributing out on the field."

Jackson moves on to 49ers

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The Badgers have lost another assistant coach to the NFL as the San Francisco 49ers announced Thursday that they have hired Greg Jackson as their assistant secondary coach. Jackson spent last year as a defensive assistant at UW, coaching nickel backs and assisting with the linebackers.

Jacksoin_Greg_OSU_10.jpg"Though his stint in Madison was brief, Greg's contributions to the entire football program were great," head coach Bret Bielema said. "We wish him nothing but the best with the 49ers and want to thank him for his time with the team. He is a good coach with a bright future."

Last season was Jackson's only year at Wisconsin. He came to the Badgers after coaching the previous three seasons at Tulane. He was also an assistant at Louisiana-Monroe and Idaho.

Before entering the coaching ranks, Jackson played 12 seasons in the NFL with the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers. Jackson was a teammate of 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh during his final two years with the Chargers.

Jackson is the second UW assistant in less than two weeks to move on to the NFL. Former running backs coach John Settle accepted the same job with the Carolina Panthers on Feb. 4.

The 2010 season starts today!

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As morning rains gave way to afternoon sun, Fall Camp 2010 officially kicked off Sunday at 3 p.m. when the Badgers gathered in the McClain Center for a meeting with the UW Compliance Office. That was followed by a team meeting to go over the plans and expectations for fall practice. Team dinner was at 5:30 p.m. with another team meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. to do over offensive and defensive goals.

The last word from Big Ten Media Days

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Courtesy of who else but Jay Valai. Valai was moonlighting for the Big Ten Network, carrying around a flipcam and interviewing other attendees. The finished product is now up on BigTenNetwork.com.

Badger Days - Kohler

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IMG_8428.JPGThough there was a threat of bad weather the entire day, Badger Days Kohler was a hit from the early morning to the late evening. Here are some observations from 24 hours in Kohler.

Photo Gallery / Badgers Days - Kohler video

•    Tuesday night, following the Green Bay Badger Days, the bus took us to Whistling Straights for a private reception in their Championship Locker Room. Upon entrance, everyone filed into the locker rooms to check out the names. Of course, Tiger Woods was the big one but folks also looked for local guys Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly as well as favorites Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Ernie Els.

•    There were hors d'oevres and drinks in the sitting area of the locker room where the coaches and staff mingled for a couple hours. Coach Alvarez labeled it a "staff retreat" and it was another great chance for the coaches to talk on a myriad of subjects.

•    Wednesday started with a round of golf for most of the coaches and staff at Blackwolf Run. Coach Alvarez's wife, Cindy, was actually the talk of the day as her lessons from the day before obviously paid off. Women's basketball coach Lisa Stone, who played with Cindy, raved about her improvement, saying she had at least four pars and one birdie. Everyone talked about what a terrific course it was and what a good time everyone had. I don't know how it is at other athletic departments but all of our coaches talk about how close our coaches are and how well they all get along. This two-day stretch was another example.

•    The actual Badger Days event was held at the Shops at Woodlake. They had a huge tent set up for us in the parking lot with use of an atrium area overlooking the lake where Coach Alvarez, Coach Ryan and Coach Bielema were set up at their autograph tables.

Badger Days takes over Lambeau

IMG_8270.JPGThis is probably my fifth or sixth Badger Days trip and I still can't get over how cool it is. This year there are a couple new wrinkles. Student-athletes are making a couple of trips and Blake Geoffrion (with his Hobey Baker Trophy) and J.J. Watt were on the bus with us Tuesday.

Photo Gallery / Badgers Days - Green Bay video

The cheerleaders and Bucky have been mainstays at Badger Days but this year the UW Band will also be in attendance, playing all the fans' favorites. And, for the second straight year, 1999 Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne will join the festivities.

Tuesday's journey took us to Green Bay and Lambeau Field. I was going to do a running diary-style blog but I got an hour in and it was already a couple pages long and I'm sure no one wants to read that much detail. So I'll just hit on some highlights:

Badgers in the NFL roundup

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Thumbnail image for Graham_Garrett_Miami_09_4.jpgWith the 2010 NFL Draft in the books, this is a good time to take a glance around the league and see what is up with some former Badgers.

Obviously it was a big weekend for Garrett Graham, who was drafted in the fourth round by the Houston Texans. He will be joining former Badger Owen Daniels and it looks like he will get plenty of opportunities to make a name for himself during the offseason. BTW, it sounds like Daniels is ahead of schedule in his rehab.

Houston Chronicle - Extra TEs anything but a luxury (April 24)
Asbury Park Press - Brick Memorial's Graham selected by Texans (April 24)
HoustonTexans.com - Garrett Graham quotes (April 24)

O'Brien Schofield joined Graham in the fourth round, going to the Arizona Cardinals. It sounds as though Schofield expects to compete for playing time despite suffering a knee injury in January.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - Wisconsin's O'Brien Schofield gets his chance with Arizona (April 24)
ProFootballTalk.com - Cardinals get value with O'Brien Schofield (April 24)
Arizona Republic - A gamble on a knee (April 24)
AzCardinals.com - Schofield Injury Doesn't Scare Cards (April 24)

Maragos_Chris_OSU_09_3.jpgWhile he went undrafted, Chris Maragos signed a free agent deal with the San Francisco 49ers quickly after the draft ended on Saturday. All he is looking for is a chance.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - Off to the streets of San Francisco (April 26)
49ers.com - 49ers Announce Undrafted Free Agents (April 26)
Racine Journal Times - Maragos goes undrafted, but quickly signs with San Francisco (April 24)

Another undrafted Badger with a free agent contract is defensive lineman Jeff Stehle. He signed with the Denver Broncos over an offer from the Minnesota Vikings.

Two Badgers, linebacker Jaevery McFadden and tight end Mickey Turner, will participate in tryouts to try and extend their football careers. McFadden will visit the Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings while Turner works out this weekend with the Miami Dolphins.

In other NFL news, Cleveland Brown Joe Thomas has some advice for newly-drafted players.

Evans_Lee_1.jpgThe Buffalo Bills look back on the drafting of Lee Evans.

Mark Tauscher was in Milwaukee on Tuesday to take a little batting practice before the Brewers' game.

It looks like DeAndre Levy will stay at middle linebacker for the Detroit Lions. His development played a role in the Lions' trade of linebacker Ernie Sims.

Unsigned linebacker Nick Greisen, who spent 2009 on injured reserve, recently worked out with the Broncos.

NY Jet Jim Leonhard will be the keynote speaker at the 5th annual Leadership Luncheon Fundraiser for the Boy Scouts of America on Thursday, May 6, in Rice Lake, Wis.

In addition to a new team, New York Giants' backup quarterback Jim Sorgi may have a new job. In addition, the NFL thought Sorgi's return to Indianapolis was such a big deal they scheduled it for prime time in weak two. 

And the winner is ...

Buckingham-4537.jpgI had heard the buzz for almost a year.

"Did you go to the Buckinghams?"

Last year, the UW athletic department, led by the Office of Academic Services, hosted the first Buckinghams, officially the Student-Athlete Annual Showcase of Excellence. Modeled after the many awards shows out there (Academy Awards, ESPYs, etc.), it was a formal event complete with a red carpet, performances by student-athletes and awards based on off-the-field achievements.

Complete video from the 2010 Buckinghams Awards

The second installment was held last Monday at the Overture Center on State Street. I had to go to see for myself what all the talk was about. The doors opened at 7 p.m. and the foyer of the Overture Center was like a who's who of Badger athletics. There's Barry Alvarez. Bo Ryan and Lisa Stone are over there. Mike Eaves and Mark Johnson are talking in that corner. Bret Bielema is surrounded by Chris Maragos, Nick Toon and John Clay. Obviously, a number of student-athletes were on hand as well, along with some parents.

2010 Buckinghams Photo Gallery

Everyone made their way up the red carpet and the program started at 7:30 p.m. Women's hockey player Alannah McCready opened the show with a stirring rendition of "American Honey" by Lady Antebellum. If you don't have time to watch the entire Buckinghams video, definitely check out the first four minutes for McCready's performance.

The emcee for the event, "The Voice of the Badgers" Matt Lepay, then recognized the 3.5 awards, all the student-athletes who achieved a 3.5 term or cume GPA for Fall 2009 or Spring 2009. The list included 216 names. Again, for emphasis, 216 names.

All the other awards were presented by student-athletes, MTV Video Awards-style. The first pair of presenters were Ryan Gaspar and Jack Bolas of the men's cross country team. Each pair did a little skit, Bolas' involving having run to the awards show as part of training, before presenting their awards. The first award on the docket was the Performance Awards, given to student-athletes nominated by their advisors for their academic work and constant improvement. In the interest of space, the complete list of winners, as well as the complete list of all awards is at the end of this blog.

One of the big hits of the show was the best of the "Ask the Badgers" series. If you've been to the Kohl Center or Camp Randall for a game, you are familiar with these videos. The first showing included John Moffitt's famous "I don't trust children" response to "Do you have any superstitions?"

Spring practice report No. 13

Thursday afternoon marked the final full practice session before Saturday's spring game. There is still one more practice tomorrow, scheduled to go 18 periods in helmets only. The Badgers spent 24 periods in full pads outside in Camp Randall Stadium amidst blustery conditions.

Practice No. 13 Photo Gallery

"It was a good day today," head coach Bret Bielema said. "Tomorrow we'll back off actually and go helmets only."

Watch highlights and Coach Bielema's post-practice interview

Getting defensive
After spending the first several periods working at their respective positions, the Badgers broke into a 1st and 10 drill. A few standout defensive plays highlighted the drill.

FS Aaron Henry got it started as he came all the way to the opposite side of the field to snuff out an end-around to WR David Gilreath, while DL Ethan Hemer broke through on a pitch right to disrupt the backfield.

Later in practice, the No. 1 defense went up against the No. 2 offense. On a fake handoff, end-around, DE Louis Nzegwu was able to get deep penetration and bring down Gilreath for a big loss.

In a situational drill, a sideline pass featured a showdown between TE Lance Kendricks and CB Niles Brinkley. As Kendricks went up to haul in the pass, Brinkley was able to punch it out, much to the delight of his teammates and coaches.

SS Jay Valai had the big hit of the day as he walloped RB Montee Ball as Ball tried to run off the left tackle. Since it was practice, it wasn't a full-on hit from Valai, but it did create a loud pop and knocked Ball off balance.

Practice13_12.jpgOffensive showcase
The defense had some nice plays on Thursday, but the offense certainly had its share as well.

In the red zone skeleton drill, the first play featured QB Scott Tolzien using play action to find an open WR Kyle Jefferson in the corner of the end zone for a score.

Later, as the No. 1 offense faced off against the No. 1 defense, another play action resulted in another score. This time, Tolzien used the deception to fit a deep pass into WR Isaac Anderson who snuck past the secondary.

In the same sequence that saw the aforementioned play by Nzegwu, redshirt freshman QB Jon Budmayr put some nice touch on a deep pass to TE Zach Davison.

Red Zone
The Badgers spent a little time towards the end of practice on Red Zone. SS Jay Valai started the drill with a big pop on RB Montee Ball. The No. 1 offense did find the end zone once, on about a 15-yard crossing route from QB Scott Tolzien to WR David Gilreath after a nice play fake by Tolzien. The defense held its own for the rest of the drill, including three plays inside the 10-yard line.

The No. 2 offense also managed one score with QB Jon Budmayr finding WR Kyle Jefferson for a bout a 10-yard scoring strike. LB A.J. Fenton started the drill with a nice hit on RB Kyle Zuleger but then Zuleger came through on a big third down run.

2-minute drill
The No. 1 offense started on their own 30-yard line and drove to the defense's 41. Facing a 4th-and-2, Tolzien scrambled for about 10-yards and got out of bounds. A 20-yard pass to TE Lance Kendricks got the offense inside the 15-yard line. With four seconds left, the offense had the ball on the 10-yard line for one last shot. Tolzien lofted a pass for Jefferson in the corner of the end zone but CB Devin Smith was able to jump with Jefferson and break it up.

When the No. 2 offense and defense squared off, Budmayr quickly led the offense to the 38-yard line with a pair of completions to Duckworth and WR Jared Abbrederis. Facing a 4th-and-10, head coach Bret Bielema awarded the offense a first down at about the 25-yard line. DE David Gilbert ended the day with an interception on the next play, however.

Injury updates
Senior OL John Moffitt was back at practice and participating in drills on Thursday after recovering from hernia surgery. Bielema expects Moffitt to be in the lineup Saturday.

The same cannot be said for WR Nick Toon. He likely will not play after being banged up in last Saturday's practice.

Junior RB John Clay was seen off his crutches for the first time on Thursday since undergoing surgery on his right ankle.

This and that
Former UW defensive back Jack Ikegwuonu was in attendance at practice on Thursday, he spent time talking with Toon, Bielema and his fellow defensive backs, amongst others.

He may be sitting out this spring, but linebacker Chris Borland still showed his athleticism. As the team was taking a water break, Borland was seen catching one-handed passes of the jugs machine.