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Bielema: Expectations won't change Badgers' focus

<b>Head coach Bret Bielema met with reporters during a press conference Sunday as part of Wisconsin Football Media Day</b>

Head coach Bret Bielema met with reporters during a press conference Sunday as part of Wisconsin Football Media Day

Aug. 15, 2010

Bielema Press Conference Small Video Graphic  |  Transcript Get    Acrobat  Reader  |  Media Day Highlights Small Video Graphic  |  Photos

MADISON, Wis. -- The word “expectations” is one the Wisconsin football team has become increasingly familiar with as the annual wave of college football predictions and prognostications continues to pick up steam in anticipation of kickoff on Sept. 4.

Expectations were also a major theme of Sunday’s football media day at Camp Randall Stadium. Specifically, the high ones surrounding the Badgers heading into the 2010 campaign.

“I realize this year we have a number of high expectations that are on our radar,” head coach Bret Bielema told those gathered at his press conference. “And our kids have embraced that and really bought into the mentality of the only way we can even guarantee any success in our first game or the last game of the year, whenever it may be, is just do our work today.”

Bielema emphasized that, while the Badgers are embracing those expectations, the players also realize that outsiders’ opinions mean little between the lines on Saturday.

“I think a couple of years ago we had low expectations and  I really didn't address them at the time,” he said. “I just made our guys concentrate on what we're doing and where we're going.

“And we're not going to change that plan really at all.”

The reason many hold the Badgers in high esteem heading into the season is easy to see. UW returns 10 starters from an offense that led the Big Ten in scoring and total offense in 2009 and carries the momentum of a victory over 14th-ranked Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl that capped a 10-win season.

Beyond simply having the components needed to be successful, however, Bielema is encouraged by the way the Badgers’ pieces – both new and returning – fit together. That, he says, gives this team a real opportunity to achieve something that no UW squad has since Bielema took over the program five years ago: win a Big Ten championship.

“I can honestly tell our guys, from the makeup of our room, not only from a talent level, but also from a history level and a perspective of how they handle their business, they have just as good a chance as anybody,” he said.

Of course, there are 10 other teams who start the season with the same chance. Taking on the schedule one week at a time – and embracing Bielema’s “1-0” mantra – is how the Badgers plan to keep themselves in the hunt through the grind of October and November.

“If I can say this now more so than any other time during my seven years here, and five years of going into it as a head coach, they really do just concentrate on the task at hand,” he said. “They don't really try to skip a step.”

However, keeping focused on the task at hand can get complicated when you’re surrounded by talk of conference titles and BCS bowl aspirations. With that in mind, Bielema boiled down his expectations for the Badgers into a pair of simple requests.

“I asked them to do two things well at the beginning of camp,” he said. “I asked them to communicate.  Whether it be with their coaches, with their players. Whatever level, they need to be great communicators, and they need to embrace physical toughness.  

“If they can do those two things, we'll have a chance.”

Taylor likely out for opener
Bielema said Sunday that he expects sophomore linebacker Mike Taylor to miss the Badgers’ season-opener at UNLV on Sept. 4 because of a recurring knee injury. Taylor sat out a couple of practices last week and will have surgery Tuesday to address the problem in the same knee that caused him to miss the final six games of the 2009 season.

“Mike's going to have a procedure done on Tuesday that looks like it could be anywhere from a two- to four-week rehab,” Bielema said. “ It's very common amongst the knee injury that he had and just kind of reaggravated an area and hopefully that's going to be through.”

Defensive backs stand out
When asked to pinpoint returning players who have stood out through the first week of fall camp, Bielema threw out several names but immediately focused on the improvement of the secondary.

“Marcus (Cromartie) is probably playing as good of football as he's played since he's been here,” Bielema said. “Dez Southward is another guy that on the back end that we've actually moved into the safety spot and shown some flashes there.  He's got as much ability as any safety we have in the program.”

Working on answers to defensive tackle question
Bielema agreed with the sentiment that defensive tackle is likely the Badgers’ biggest question mark heading into the season, but said he has been encouraged with some emerging players at that spot.

“Ethan Hemer, one of the ones that took over Jordan Kohout's spot, and Eriks Briedis, changed the way he looks from where he came in to where he is now,” he said. “And a freshman by the name of Beau Allen that's been very impressive through fall camp … he's doing a good job trying to buy in how we do what we do at D tackle, and hopefully he'll be able to help us contribute a pretty significant amount.”

Brian Mason
UW Athletic Communications

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