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Better Know a Badger: Sam Arneson

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The tight end tradition at Wisconsin is well-documented as the Badgers have sent numerous players at that position to the NFL. UW again boasts a promising crop of tight ends this season, including junior Sam Arneson, who hopes to put his name among Wisconsin's historic list of standouts at his position. Arneson, a Merrill, Wis., native, has two catches for 17 yards this season.

Your dad, Dave Arneson, played football at Wisconsin in the 1980s. What does it mean to you to be able to follow in his footsteps and wear the Cardinal and White?
"It means a lot. Like every other kid in Wisconsin I grew up as a huge Badgers fan. With my dad being a former player and my mom having gone to school here, I grew up coming to Madison all the time. I have been going to games since I was 4 years old. I've always had the dream of being a Badger and I worked hard and was fortunate and lucky and be able to come here and follow in my father's footsteps."

What has been the highlight of your Badgers career so far?

"There have been so many cool moments that I've been fortunate to have. I've been able to be a part of two straight Big Ten championship teams. Obviously scoring a touchdown in last year's Big Ten championship game was pretty darn cool. The Rose Bowl is always a special event. Not many guys get a chance to play in a game like that, so going out there twice was very special."

Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig has said he feels like his has four tight ends that he is confident in. How does that level of depth at your position help the offense?
"You've seen us use three tight ends on the field at a time this season, which has been awesome. You've seen us be able to rotate guys in and out if someone is tired or nicked up or something. We have so much depth at tight end that we're all ready to step up and not miss a beat. That is great to have. We also have so much experience at the position with three fifth-year seniors and myself, a junior. Tight ends have really been a strength for our offense so far and we're going to continue to try and get better and keep building that."

Wisconsin has produced a number of NFL tight ends in recent years. It's had both blocking-type players, like Jake Byrne, and noted pass-catchers, like Owen Daniels and Lance Kendricks, latch on with NFL teams. What type of tight end do you see yourself as?
"I see myself as a mix. I wouldn't say one or the other. Somebody who was here recently and did both, like me, is Garrett Graham. That's somewhat the style that I play. They'll line me up as the Y, but they can also split me out wide. That's the key, to be versatile, that way they can use me at any time. One of my first coaches always said, 'don't limit yourself, be able to do both.' So I've really worked on being able to both block and catch passes and I think that has helped me see the field as much as I could."

What has the new coaching staff brought to the offense this season?
"The offense hasn't changed too much. We're back to, even more, stressing the details again. There is more of an emphasis on all the little things, all the time. That's what's going to make us a good team. When you're tired, focusing on the little things and making them happen is what will make us a successful team."

The defense has gotten off to a strong start this season. What challenges to they pose to the offense in practice?
"You can't get much stronger than back-to-back shutouts. We went against them all spring all fall and that defense is a son of a gun to go against. That 3-4 (formation) presents some things that you don't see that often. Most of the Big Ten teams are 4-3 teams, so you're not used to seeing it and also, we have some good players on our defense. They play hard and are well-coached, so I can see why they've been successful so far and I expect them to keep it up."

- Ryan Evans

Infographic: Badgers blast Tennessee Tech

A graphical look at the Badgers' 48-0 win over Tennessee Tech to improve to 2-0 on the season and become the first Big Ten team to record consecutive shutouts to open a season since 1963.

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Which teams are Badgers' NFL favorites?

Varsity_130905_Cover_Image.jpgWith the NFL season kicking off Thursday, this week's edition of Varsity magazine posed the question to a number of UW student-athletes: Which NFL team is your favorite?

You can read the responses in Varsity, but here are a couple from members of the UW football team that didn't make the magazine. Also be sure to check out our Badgers in the NFL page for updates on all 30 former UW players that made NFL rosters.

Bart Houston - Redshirt Freshman QB (Dublin, Calif.)
"Even though I'm from California, I'm a Green Bay Packers fan. My dad is a lifelong Packers fan and actually named me after Bryan Bartlett 'Bart' Starr. My full name is Bartlett, but I've always chosen to go by Bart."

Rob Havenstein - Junior RT (Mount Airy, Md.)
"The NFL was never really my thing. My brother really liked the Baltimore Ravens, so I cheered for anyone who was playing the Ravens. Then I came to UW and didn't have anyone to root for, so I started cheering for the Ravens again because they were winning. But don't tell anyone that. I've been telling everyone I'm a lifelong, diehard Ravens fan."

Corey Clement - Freshman RB (Glassboro, N.J.)
"It was the Philadelphia Eagles, but once my man Terrell Owens left I went with the Dallas Cowboys. But then they fell off and T.O. left, and after that my NFL fandom fell off. So, I really don't have a favorite NFL team right now."

Better Know a Badger: Tyler Marz

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Sophomore OL Tyler Marz (61) found a home at left tackle in the Badgers' season-opening 45-0 win over UMass last Saturday. The 6-foot-5, 321-pound Marz got his first career start when he lined up at left tackle against the Minutemen after bouncing around a number of positions during fall camp.
 
Your last name is pronounced (MARE-its) nothing like its spelled. Does anyone ever get it right on the first try?
"I don't think so. No one did through high school and no one has during college. It's become a first day of school tradition of sorts. It's a 100 percent German name, or at least that's what my parents told me."
 
You've had the opportunity to sit behind some NFL-caliber offensive linemen in your career at Wisconsin. What have you been able to learn from them?
"A lot of technique stuff like hand and foot placement, as well as learning to dive into the playbook. They always gave me pointer here and there, such as what defenses are going to do against you -- they were all very smart that way. It has been a positive to have those guys in front of me and leading me on."
 
What is it like to block for the high-caliber running backs at Wisconsin?
"Having those three guys (James White, Melvin Gordon, Corey Clement) back there, and knowing that they are hard runners, is awesome and it's great to block for them. It is our job to do that, so we come in here every day, work hard and do that. Hopefully the outcome is that they all do get 100 yards every time out. That's our duty and that's the goal we have for them every day."
 
What has it been like to work with new offensive line coach T.J. Woods?
"He's been great. He's really good at teaching the defensive looks, a lot like what the upper classmen linemen will do. He's really good at teaching technique, even if it's the slightest thing like working your feet, or balance. Overall he's just a great coach."
 
You had a rapid ascent up the depth chart during fall camp. What's it like now to have the opportunity to be a starter?
"It's a great feeling. All of my hard work up until now is paying off. Now I have to keep adding on to that and keep building. I got my first start out of the way on Saturday and got some of the nerves out. Now I can keep building on that because there is a lot that I need to keep working on. I'd like to improve my technique, speed, physicality and dive into the playbook even more and overall become a better player."
 
You were a three-sport star in high school (baseball, basketball, football). What was your favorite sport?
"I did a lot of basketball growing up, I was in AAU stuff and I played spring and summer baseball. Football was actually the sport I took up last, but I started to focus on it more as I started getting some looks from colleges."

- Ryan Evans

Archived Gameday Blog: Football vs. UMass

The UWBadgers.com Gameday Blog had all the coverage of Wisconsin's 45-0 season-opening win over UMass on Saturday, Aug. 31.

Recap the action as it happened here: Gameday Blog: Wisconsin Football vs. UMass

Gary Andersen's day in Bristol for #ESPNB1G

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Wisconsin football head coach Gary Andersen spent Wednesday in Bristol, Conn., spreading the word about the Badgers across a number of ESPN platforms. Re-live the sights and sounds of Andersen's day at the Worldwide Leader in Sports:



- Transcript: Andersen Press Conference  |  Photo Gallery

CHICAGO -- When the ACC's coordinator of officials, Doug Rhoads, suggested that South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney's resounding hit on Michigan tailback Vincent Smith might have led to Clowney being ejected from the game under the new "targeting'' rules, it sent shockwaves through college football.

Some washed ashore here Wednesday at the Big Ten Media Days.

"I was shocked by that (Rhoads' interpretation),'' said Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland. "If that warrants an ejection maybe they should put flags in the running back's belt and we'll pull them out instead of playing tackle football. That was a perfect tackle.''

Others felt the same way, including Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner, who handed the ball to Smith on the play in question. "It was a good football play,'' he said of Clowney's memorable tackle in the Outback Bowl. "I don't think he could have been ejected at all.

"They're trying to make football kind of a soft game if that's the case.''

Offering the running back's perspective, UW senior James White joined the chorus. "I thought it was a clean hit,'' he said. "It looked like a pretty good form tackle to me. But they're trying to look out for player safety. You just hope they're consistent with it.''

That was also Gardner's take on how games might be officiated. "I was watching a roundtable with (South Carolina's) Steve Spurrier,'' he noted.  "He was saying it would be hard to implement it if not everyone was calling it the same way. I just hope it's fair.''

The objective is to penalize those players who launch (or leave their feet) to deliver a hit above the shoulders, especially when they use the crown of their helmet to strike an opponent. Purdue defensive tackle Bruce Gaston didn't see Clowney's hit in that light.

"From a defensive point of view, it was a good hit,'' Gaston said. "It was a hard hit, it was a hit that every D-lineman, I can safely say, would love to get. As far as the rules, I can't comment because at the end of the day I don't have anything to do with them.

"I always think there's the need for greater safety. But the sport we play is football. It's a very physical sport and everyone knows that once they put the pads on in the Big Ten.''

Obviously, the intent is to protect defenseless players. Such as Smith? "He's getting the ball so he may be defenseless,'' Gardner said. "But the goal for the defense is to get the ball (Smith fumbled on the play). He (Clowney) did what he had to do to get the football.''

Although ejections would be reviewable by the replay official in the press box, the new guidelines on targeting -- or high hits -- has stirred much discussion and debate, particularly because it's so subjective in nature, maybe too much so.

"It puts a huge amount of pressure on the officials and there's such a very fine line to be drawn,'' said Wisconsin Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez. "I understand the intent of the rule. But, boy, you can't take the aggressiveness out of the game.

"You're trying to eliminate someone going for the head, the kill shots. But an ejection for just a clean hit, a hard hit, I would really question that. You have to send a message some way. I just don't know if this is the right way. But it's sure going to send a strong message.''

Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini, a defensive architect, voiced his concerns Wednesday.  "The scary thing for me is the application part of it,'' he said. "I don't think it's an easy thing to call. In my opinion, it's going a little bit overboard right now.

"I understand where it's coming from,'' he continued. "It's about the safety of the players and we're all for that. We just have to make sure that we're not messing with the integrity of the game or the sport and how it's supposed to be played.''

Borland echoed that sentiment. "You can't change the game too much,'' he said. Yet, he recognized the need for change given the severity of the penalty. "Ejection is a strong word. You can't afford that, especially if you're a starter and key player.''

Does a defensive player have to condition himself to tackle differently? "I don't think you can afford to do that,'' Borland said. "A fundamentally sound tackle isn't going to warrant an ejection, so you have to focus on being fundamentally sound.''

Borland is well aware of the increased sensitivity to head injuries, concussions.

"Our athletic training staff does a great job with it,'' he said. "We appreciate them taking care of the players and caring about safety. Obviously it's an issue (nationally) with some of the things that have been going on with former NFL players (i.e. lawsuits).

"That said, it's a risk that you take on when you play football. It's up to you to be responsible if you sustain a concussion to take yourself out of the game or let someone know. The issues arise when guys try to tough it out.

"You can't play around with your brain.''

You can't play tentative or hold back on defense, either. "You've heard all of your life as an athlete, if you're trying not to get hurt, you're likely to get hurt,'' Borland said. "You have to play hard. And if you play sound, you should avoid most injuries.''

Sporting a shiner, the result of a broken nose that he sustained during a 7-0n-7 passing drill Monday night on campus, UW wide receiver Jared Abbrederis pointed out, "You want to make sure you keep the players safe. But it is football and we signed up.''

Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen doesn't want to get anyone hurt nor does he want to "take a game away from a kid if we don't have to.'' He cited the need to educate players on big hit opportunities and called the targeting rules a work in progress.

"It absolutely puts more emphasis on judgment by officials,'' he said. "That's the hard part for me as a coach. Those decisions are going to be made in a bang-bang emotional time. And you just have to hope that they are made right.''

Ball's big day named 'Most Dominating Performance' in Big Ten

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- Video: Ball earns 'Most Dominating Performance' award

Montee Ball dominated plenty of defenses in his three seasons as a running back for the Wisconsin football team, but his effort in the Badgers' win at Purdue last season has earned special attention.

The career-high 247 yards and three touchdowns Ball racked up against the Boilermakers earned him the "Most Dominating Performance" award as part of the sixth-annual BTN Awards Show on Wednesday.

Ball's 247 yards were a career high on the ground, and his third touchdown of the day marked the 72nd of his career. That made him the Big Ten's all-time leader in TDs, surpassing Badgers great Ron Dayne's career total of 71 scores. According to NCAA statistics (which did not include bowl games until 2002), Ball became just the third player in FBS history to score 70 or more touchdowns in a career.

The individual effort was part of an overall domination by the Badgers' offense, which gained 645 total yards, the second-highest tally in school history.

Ball finished his Badgers career as the NCAA's all-time leader in touchdowns, with 83, and career record-holder for rushing touchdowns, with 77.
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Jeff Lewis will be asked to make the transition from the offensive backfield to the defensive backfield when the Badgers convene for fall camp in August.

Gary Andersen played a hunch during his first year as Utah State's head coach, and it paid dividends for the Aggies and Curtis Marsh, a running back that Andersen converted into a cornerback.

Prior to Andersen's arrival, Marsh started three games in each of his first two seasons at Utah State and finished as the team's third leading rusher in 2007 and 2008.

Overall, Marsh had 124 carries for 487 yards. He also had 28 catches. Upon taking over the program, Andersen was looking to plug some holes and shifted Marsh to the secondary in 2009.

"It was maybe my idea,'' Andersen said, "but it was his athleticism and his God-given ability and his want-to that made him able to turn himself into a very good corner in two short years.''

Marsh was a quick study. As a senior, he was Utah State's sixth-leading tackler and earned second-team All-WAC recognition. In the 2011 draft, he was taken in the third round by Philadelphia.

During his first two seasons in the National Football League, the 6-foot-1, 197-pound Marsh has appeared in 22 games, mostly on special teams for the Eagles. He owes it all to a position change.

During a Wednesday radio interview, Andersen said, "It has worked for me in the past -- very well sometimes and sometimes it doesn't work so well moving a running back over there (defense).''

In 2007, Andersen was the defensive coordinator at Utah and got considerable mileage out of cornerback Sean Smith, a converted wide receiver. He was Miami's second-round pick in the 2009 draft.

Citing such personnel moves in general, Andersen said, "You have to be creative sometimes. Every team in the country has holes, they have issues, they have scenarios they go through.''

The Badgers, for example, are seeking to replace three starting defensive backs: Marcus Cromartie, Devin Smith and Shelton Johnson. Safety Dez Southward is the lone returning starter.

During spring practice, Reggie Mitchell, a converted cornerback, got most of the reps opposite Southward. But Mitchell, a redshirt freshman from Pittsburgh, Pa., has since opted to transfer.

Additionally, a potential safety candidate, junior college transfer Donnell Vercher (Fresno City College), will not be attending Wisconsin, prompting Andresen to get "creative'' with his depth chart.

"I have great respect for Reggie and I have great respect for Donnell,'' Andersen said. "We'll move on, we'll still turn on the lights and we'll still jump out there the first day of fall camp. There are a couple of pieces to the puzzle. Dez is the foundation of that safety group and he will continue to be and we will continue to build some young men there (around Southward).''

The first order of business was moving tailback Jeff Lewis to safety. Lewis is a 6-2, 212-pound redshirt junior from Brookfield Central. Last season, he had four rushes for 13 yards while serving as an understudy to Montee Ball and James White. In 2011, he had 33 carries for 187 yards and one score.

"We're going to experiment with that (move) and see how that goes through the summer for him (Lewis) as he prepares himself to play some safety,'' said Andersen, who obviously won't be able to fully evaluate the switch until fall camp. "He's excited and we'll just see how it goes.

"It doesn't always work,'' he reiterated, "but Jeff was unbelievably receptive. He's a tough young man. I don't know how many times he got tackled in the spring. But it was a lot. He played the last practice with a broken thumb and he just kept on banging because he knew the team needed him.''

Andersen also feels comfortable with some of his other options.

"We'll be OK, we'll be just fine at that spot,'' he said. "We didn't really have a starter at the safety position (opposite Southward). As we went through (spring), Reggie did some good things; some other kids did some good things. Trotter and the gang will handle it well and we'll play well back there.''

Michael Trotter, a redshirt junior from Racine, Wis., started three games at safety last season after Shelton Johnson was injured at Oregon State. Michael Caputo, a redshirt sophomore from Imperial, Pa., also received some playing time. Andersen expects other candidates to emerge at safety and corner.

One could be freshman Keelon Brookins, a mid-term high school graduate. Brookins didn't get on the field during the spring because he was rehabbing from a knee injury. The 5-11, 201-pound Brookins, who's from St. Paul, Minn., blew out his ACL during his senior year at Tartan High School.

Cornerback Sojourn Shelton, who's from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and came early in with Brookins, had a solid spring game. "I expect Sojourn to compete and be on the field in the fall in some areas,'' Andersen said. "As far as how much he's involved in special teams and the defense, time will tell.''

Andersen stressed that Shelton needs "to take a step forward in the summer'' phase of training or what Andersen likes to refer as the Third Quarter. On his calendar, the First Quarter is winter conditioning, the Second Quarter is spring ball and the Fourth Quarter is the season.

"I really believe that you win games in the third quarter -- it's the time that team comes together,'' said Andersen, noting the importance of developing leaders from "being together in those situations when the coaches aren't around and they have to coach each other for running practices.''

The Badgers are in the midst of their summer camp season. On Saturday, they will play host to their youth camp-- kindergarten through eighth grade -- at Camp Randall Stadium. The one-day only session will run from 10:30 a.m. through 4 p.m. Parents are welcome to attend.

Registration must be completed online at UWCamps.com.

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If you're asking if Vince Lombardi could still be successful in today's NFL, Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez is answering, "Absolutely, no question. Good coaches are flexible. They adjust.''

Vincent Thomas Lombardi was born on June 11, 1913 in Brooklyn, N.Y.

In honor of what would have been Lombardi's 100th birthday on Tuesday -- he passed away in 1970 -- many have reflected on his Hall of Fame coaching career with the Green Bay Packers.

Celebrating his legacy, ESPN named Lombardi as the Greatest Coach in NFL History as part of its series on the top 20 coaches of all-time. TV analysts and sportswriters made up the selection panel.

"When I think of Lombardi, I think of discipline,'' said Alvarez, 66, the former UW head coach, who's a member of multiple halls of fame, including the Rose Bowl and College Football. "I also think of someone who had a great understanding of the game.

"Lombardi was meticulous like Woody Hayes (the former Ohio State coach). The way Lombardi coached football was not real fancy, but it was done right. It was about fundamentals -- that was driven into you -- and you were going to do the same things over and over until you perfected them.

"When I was in high school and college (in the '60s), Green Bay had made the turn and had become the best team in football. Everybody thought of Lombardi the same way; the same way you think of him today. Greatest of all-time? You can't argue against Lombardi.''

But could he survive in today's game?

"I think so because he would have had control of the franchise,'' Alvarez said. "He would have run the team and he would have been as strong as any player on that team. It would be unlike a lot of pro teams where a coach comes in and it's a temporary stop.

"If you don't get along with the $20 million-dollar-a season guy, it's short-lived. If you don't get along with the owner, it's short-lived. That would not have happened to Lombardi. The way Green Bay was structured, and considering how powerful he was, it reminds me of Bill Belichick in New England.''

As far as Lombardi dealing with today's easily-distracted athletes, Alvarez said, "All we ever hear about is how tough he was, but let's not forget about some of the players that he had -- like Paul Hornung and Max McGee. Those guys raised as much hell as anybody.''

One of the time-honored stories in the NFL was McGee breaking curfew and partying into the early morning hours before the first Super Bowl thinking that he wouldn't have to play against the Kansas City Chiefs. But after Boyd Dowler was injured, a hung-over McGee was forced into action.

McGee caught the first touchdown pass and finished with seven catches for 138 yards.

"All of the players respected Lombardi, but they still got away with a little bit, too,'' said Alvarez, chuckling. "Can you imagine today with all the social media coverage if someone went out until the wee hours of the morning before a Super Bowl?  But Lombardi could adapt to that stuff.''

Rounding out the top five behind Lombardi on ESPN's list of greatest NFL coaches was Bill Walsh, Don Shula, George Halas and Chuck Noll. Growing up in Burgettstown, Pa., some 25 miles outside of Pittsburgh, Alvarez was well aware of Noll's success in resurrecting the Steelers.

"I looked up to and respected a lot of NFL coaches, but I really liked Noll because that was a bad outfit that he turned into a great outfit,'' Alvarez said. "I liked coaches who did it the right way with fundamentals, toughness, good defense and hard-nosed football. I loved guys who coached that way.''

Nobody should be surprised, since it was also the Alvarez way of coaching.
ON WISCONSIN