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The Voice: New-look Badgers already taking shape

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If there is one bit of wisdom I have been able to gather through the years, it is that there really is no such thing as an offseason for coaches.

It is an interesting dynamic. There is extreme focus on the present. There is trying to find a way to win the next game. How to get a certain player to make the next step in his development. And of course, there is always an eye to the future, as recruiting season seemingly never ends.

Such is the case for Badgers head man Gary Andersen, as he and his staff conclude their first season together in Madison.

On the field, this was a good team. Yes, there were missed opportunities. In each of the four losses, players, coaches and fans can go crazy playing the game of "coulda, shoulda."  Clearly, that was the case in this week's Capital One Bowl setback to South Carolina. A key penalty. A missed fourth and short. Not getting a stop when momentum was on your side. The kind of mistakes that will haunt you against a top-flight opponent.

The result hurts, but the time to move on comes quickly. 

"It's going to be good to take a big, deep breath and get back and get started again," Andersen said. 

That is not to say the senior class -- or this team general -- will be forgotten anytime soon.

On his radio show two days before the bowl game, I asked the UW coach whether the job has been everything he had imagined. His answer is what any Badgers fan would hope to hear.

"These kids on this team have made me a better person," he said. "I feel like I am a better coach because I was able to be around them.

"It is a tremendous community. Hopefully we will be able to keep this coaching staff together and recruit like crazy because we have a good foundation built. We are blessed and lucky to be here every day, and we are excited about the future."

In about one month, the Badgers will introduce another recruiting class. With such a big senior class moving on, there will be some interesting position battles, and perhaps some of the newbies will be in the mix. 

It will be fun to track the progress of young returning players such as Corey Clement, Sojourn Shelton and Leon Jacobs, as well as redshirts Alec James and Chikwe Obasih, just to name a few.

Next season starts quickly, as in nearly right away. Soon enough, the team will begin its winter conditioning. Who will make up the next group of leaders? When asked that question on Monday, Chris Borland suggested defensive lineman Warren Herring and linebacker Derek Landisch could be a couple of strong candidates.

Andersen talked about how those players who used to sit in the third and fourth rows at team meetings would now move to the front of the room. It is their time, be they seniors or other veteran players, to make the 2014 Badgers their team.

On a personal note, and I believe I speak for many, I want to thank the seniors for giving fans many terrific memories, both on the field and in the community. This is a group that defines what is good about college athletics. Maybe I have said much the same about previous groups. If so, I take great pleasure in being redundant.

Perhaps part of what has Andersen excited about the future is that the program seems to be loaded with young men who understand the Wisconsin formula -- being the right athletic, academic and social fit.

My guess is the returning Badgers have learned a lot from the Class of 2013. The time to put those lessons to use has arrived.

The first quarter of the 2014 season is about to begin. 

Badgers fans fire up at pep rally

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Badgers fans turned out in force Tuesday to fire up for the Capital One Bowl at the team's official pep rally at Pointe Orlando. They were treated to comments from seniors Jared Abbrederis, Chris Borland and James White, along with head coach Gary Andersen, director of athletics Barry Alvarez, Badgers legend Ron Dayne and UW-Madison chancellor Rebecca Blank. The UW Marching Band wrapped things up with a 30-minute performance that included all the usual fan favorites, from the Bud Song to Varsity.

- Photos: Capital One Bowl Pep Rally

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Comedy, drama abound at kickoff luncheon

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Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen put his comedic chops on display -- with some jokes at the expense of South Carolina and Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier -- and seniors Chris Borland, Ryan Groy and James White provided some drama in winning the "Capital One Minute Challenge" over their counterparts from South Carolina at the Capital One Bowl Kickoff Luncheon on Tuesday.

Andersen's one-liners were a hit with emcee Dave Pasch of ESPN and at least half the room -- the side wearing red -- while Borland, Groy and White combined to win two of the three games styled after the game show "Minute to Win It." That included Groy snapping 42 rolls of toilet paper into a basket that Borland held 20 feet away (South Carolina managed 27 rolls in the same 60-second window) and White successfully unrolling a pair of streamers before his Gamecock opponent.

- Photos: 2014 Capital One Bowl Kickoff Luncheon


Badgers meet the media



Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, senior WR Jared Abbrederis and senior LB Chris Borland represented the Badgers at a Monday press conference in Orlando to preview the Capital One Bowl.

Among the highlights:

- Ludwig on the Badgers' offensive game plan for South Carolina: "We're going to play to our strength. We're a run/play-action team. That's the way we're built. So we're going to go into the game with that mindset. I don't think there's any surprise there."

- Aranda on defending South Carolina: "I see great athletes. I see an offense that can go from a power run game to a spread attack. I see an offense that can change plays based upon the defensive structure."

- Abbrederis on head coach Gary Andersen: "I think he just brought back the fun in football."

- Borland on the Badgers being favored in the game: "I was a little surprised. We're confident that we're going to win. It's just this huge SEC, you know, bias out there that they're a great conference -- which they are. But, yeah, I was surprised but still confident -- and we expect to win."

Here's the complete transcript of the Badgers' remarks

Badgers look to score more than points

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The scoreboard will be the focus of the Wisconsin football team during the Capital One Bowl on Wednesday. After the game, however, the Badgers' focus will be on a different tally.

Members of the team will be checking to see how their efforts to get in the end zone on game day helped raise funds for a rare disease through UW's chapter of Uplifting Athletes.

Fans can pledge a specific amount to donate for each touchdown the Badgers score in the Capital One Bowl, with each score multiplying the amount the UW chapter raises to battle the disease Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis X.

Thoese interested can pledge a contribution using PledgePlatform.

"Fans can start by being familiar with the fight against rare diseases and donating. Anything will help," said UW running back and Uplifting Athletes chapter president Jeff Lewis. "Pledges made by our fans and supporters will be compared to South Carolina at the end of the game. 

"Our goal is to have more money raised than they do."

UW's Uplifting Athletes chapter supports fundraising efforts to battle the rare disease Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis X because of the team's friendship with Madison teen Darien Moran, who grew close to the Badgers while receiving treatment for the disease.

Those efforts led to the Badgers to undertake the touchdown pledge drive that will pit UW against South Carolina off the field, as well. The Gamecocks' chapter of Uplifting Athletes raises funds and awareness for Pelizaeus-Merzbacher, an inherited rare disease that affects the central nervous system.

"We started a Chapter at Wisconsin to be part of the good Uplifting Athletes was doing," UW linebacker Chris Borland said. "The desire was strengthened when we met Darien."

Badgers react to Packers' winning TD


The Badgers had a busy day Sunday that began with the Day for Kids at DisneyQuest. Some players stayed at Walt Disney World to enjoy the Happiest Place on Earth, but many were sure to pull up a seat at the team hotel to watch the Green Bay Packers' regular-season finale against Chicago. 

The reaction when Packers QB Aaron Rodgers hit Randall Cobb for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown? Priceless.

Most in the room were thrilled with the Packers' push into the playoffs by securing the NFC North Division title. Except for Bears fan Vonte Jackson, that is. The running back -- decked out in his Matt Forte jersey -- wasn't as pleased with the result.

The Camp: Orlando - Episode 2


The latest installment of "The Camp: Orlando" goes behind the scenes of the Badgers' preparations for the Capital One Bowl, from the team's chartered flight on a 747 to practice in Orlando to a Best Buy shopping spree and more.

Badgers Give Back: DisneyQuest

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Some fun for a good cause

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With a day off from practice, the Badgers traveled to Walt Disney World on Sunday. The first stop was DisneyQuest, where the Badgers and South Carolina teamed up to have some fun with Orlando area children in need. The players and the children they were paired with spent nearly two hours enjoying three stories worth of games and activities at the giant interactive arcade.

The impact was easy to see, with smiles on the faces of both the kids and the players.

- Photos: Kids Day at Disney


Under the Sea

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