Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Quick Hits

By Nicole
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It's been a personally hectic week while being completely slow sports-wise, so there isn't much to post. Here's some quick links:

Matt LaPorta to head Olympic baseball team

Favre is scheduled to present Frank Winters at this weekend's Packer Hall of Fame introduction. Frankly, I think he's better off staying home, since he'll just become the main event and take all the attention from the men who are there to be honored. Though being an attention whore does seem to be high on Brett's list of things to do this week... And he has no definite plans to apply for reinstatement

The Miller Park infield got a new kind of grass this week

Some Badger football game times have been set - of course the 1st two games are on Big Ten Network...

Not sure why this W. Va. paper is writing an article entitled "Badgers among college football elite" but I like it.

A look at the NL Central in the second half

_____

Also, ESPN's Blue Ribbon Insider Previews are up for the new football season. Here's Wisconsin's:

Team preview: Wisconsin
Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook

Editor's Note: ESPN Insider has teamed with Blue Ribbon College
Football Yearbook to provide a comprehensive look at all Division I-A
teams. To order the complete 2008 edition of Blue Ribbon College
Football Yearbook, visit <www.blueribbonyearbook.com or call
1-866-805-BALL (2255).
(All information as of June 20, 2008)
COACH AND PROGRAM

There's only one Big Ten school that has played in a bowl game on New
Year's Day or later four seasons running. That's a good thing. A mark
of consistency. A coach can stamp that statement on every page of a
recruiting guide and sell the heck out of it.
But for Wisconsin, earning nine regular-season wins and ringing in
2008 at the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., just didn't cut it.
Not after ringing in 2007... and 2006 ... and 2005 ... in Florida at
either the Capital One or Outback Bowl.
Not after starting the 2007 season as the nation's No. 7 team in the
Associated Press poll and moving up to No. 5 with a 5-0 start -- only
to fall so hard and so fast that Wisconsin wasn't included in the
original Bowl Championship Series Top 25 two weeks later.
Not even after factoring in a legitimate alibi: Starter after starter
went down with injuries -- many of them of the season-ending variety.
So while many programs would have been content to be playing in
Florida on New Year's Day against Tennessee, the Badgers' 21-17 loss
seemed to encapsulate their autumn of discontent.
With Wisconsin on the march for the winning score, senior quarterback
Tyler Donovan's jump-ball pass to senior Paul Hubbard was intercepted
at the goal line with 28 seconds to go.
"It was a frustrating year," said coach Bret Bielema, who embarks upon
his third year. "But we had interviews with all of our players in
January and February and got it out of our system. We're eager to get
back on track."
Here's where the irony comes in: Getting back on track might require
the Badgers to ring in another New Year in Florida. With the 2009 BCS
title game being played on Jan. 8 at Dolphin Stadium, there's a
legitimate chance the nation's No. 1 and No. 2 teams will get to Miami
by New Year's Eve.
And, yes, there's a legitimate chance Wisconsin could turn out to be
one of those two teams.
The Badgers retain 17 starters from their 9-4 team, including all of
the pieces necessary to boast a merciless rushing attack. In addition
to welcoming back four offensive linemen -- including one four-year
starter and two three-year starters -- the Badgers feature a
bottomless well of running backs.
Prized redshirt freshman John Clay has the size, speed and resume to
challenge for a starting job at many schools, but he starts the fall
in Madison as the fourth-stringer. That's how it goes when junior P.J.
Hill (1,212 yards, 14 touchdowns), sophomore Zach Brown (568 yards,
five touchdowns) and junior Lance Smith-Williams (429 yards, three
touchdowns) are also on your side.
As for the other side of the ball at Wisconsin, six members of the
front seven are back. So is safety Shane Carter, whose seven
interceptions led the Big Ten last fall. But Bielema showed shortly
after the Outback Bowl that he wouldn't be content with his eight
returning defensive starters making the normal amount of offseason
improvement. He fired co-defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz, who had
been in charge of play calling, other game day responsibilities and
addressing the defense during the week, and gave co-coordinator Dave
Doeren the whole job.
"Dave had been in more of a secondary role," Bielema said. "I just
really felt Dave was in a position to take us another step forward."
Bielema and Doeren also shuffled the coaching responsibilities on
defense, which ultimately concluded with former Pittsburgh assistant
Charles Partridge taking Hankwitz' spot on staff and taking on the
defensive linemen. The newly re-jiggered defensive staff then spent a
good part of the offseason scattered across the country learning some
new tricks.
"We felt we really needed to get better against the spread," Bielema
said. "College coaches are a lot more willing to share with each other
[than pro coaches]. Our defensive staff probably visited with about 12
defensive staffs. "You can't solve everything because everybody's
spread is different. Purdue doesn't run the same kind of spread as
Indiana, which doesn't run the same kind as Northwestern, which is
different than Illinois. But there are things you can do from game to
game no matter who you're playing."
QUARTERBACKS

For the second year in a row, Bielema and offensive coordinator Paul
Chryst have elected not to anoint their starting quarterback until the
Badgers wade hip-deep into fall practice. Fifth-year senior Allan
Evridge (6-2, 212) and redshirt junior Dustin Sherer (6-4, 213) are
the finalists in the competition to replace the graduated Tyler
Donovan.
"The big thing for me is, when you've got a guy who's going to be
starting for the first time ever, it's good to have competition as
long as possible," said Bielema, who would like to choose the starter
two weeks before the Aug. 30 opener against Akron.
Technically, one of the finalists wouldn't be starting for the first
time. Evridge, shortly before transferring to Wisconsin, started six
games for Kansas State in 2005. The left-hander completed 102-of-213
passes for 1,365 yards, six touchdowns and seven interceptions. He
also rushed for 203 yards and four scores. After serving his redshirt
year in 2006, Evridge finished runner-up to Donovan in last year's
derby. He got to throw just 12 passes last fall, completing five for
66 yards.
If someone has an edge going into fall ball, it's Evridge.
"Evridge has shown at times to be the No. 1 guy," Bielema said. "But
at times, he regresses."
"Allan has moments where he's good," Chryst said. "He has a good level
of football awareness. He's played in games. That counts for
something. He has plenty of arm strength, and he's athletic enough to
do some of the same things we did with Tyler. His biggest thing is
consistency."
That last statement is important because here's Chryst's overall take
on the competition: "The biggest thing that will decide it is
consistent play."
Sherer hasn't had a chance to prove his consistency in games. He took
one snap last fall and went 0-for-3 with an interception in 2006.
"[Evridge and Sherer] are different guys, but what you'd do with them
is very similar," Chryst said. "Both got a ton of work with the first
group in the spring, so though Dustin is limited in game experience,
he's been involved with the offense and taken a lot of reps."
There are three other scholarship quarterbacks in the program trying
to move up the charts and get in the picture with the top two.
Redshirt sophomore Scott Tolzien (6-3, 200) is closest to getting into
the mix.
"He's a little less mobile than Allan and Dustin," Chryst said. "He's
more along the lines of John Stocco. The thing I like about him, in
some ways he's the most consistent. This spring was when he truly got
some work. We saw some progress."
Redshirt freshman James Stallons (6-5, 172) has his selling points as well.
"He's kind of like a Jim Sorgi. Taller, lankier, a pro-style
quarterback. In many ways, he's our purest thrower. I'm excited to see
him develop."
Then there's freshman Curt Phillips (6-3, 215), a Kingsport, Tenn.,
native who caused a stir by finishing high school early and enrolling
at Wisconsin in January. That enabled him to take part in spring ball.
Phillips piled up 2,263 passing yards, 1,885 rushing yards and 57
touchdowns in his senior year.
"He'll be the first to admit he has a long way to go," Chryst said.
"He realizes what a guy has to do. I thought he did a really good job
of adjusting."
"It was really good for him to get in here," Bielema said. "The first
two weeks, it was just an overload of football. The last two weeks, he
really settled in."
RUNNING BACKS

In his first two seasons at Wisconsin, junior tailback P.J. Hill
(5-11, 236) piled up 2,805 yards and 29 touchdowns on the ground. In
his spare time, he caught 32 passes for 286 yards and two more scores.
He's on pace to become the second-leading rusher in UW history, which
isn't too shabby considering he has to share the same record book as
NCAA career leader Ron Dayne.
But Wisconsin has so many thoroughbreds in its stable, there's no
guarantee Hill will be the starter when the Badgers line up against
Akron on Aug. 30.
"We have four very, very capable running backs," Bielema said.
"Everyone knows P.J.'s name, but a guy I've been impressed with is
Zach Brown."
In fact, Brown and Hill finished spring ball as co-starters on
Bielema's depth chart. Brown (5-11, 207), a sophomore, started the
final four games after Hill injured his leg against Ohio State. He
rushed for 450 yards and four scores in those games and finished with
568 yards and five touchdowns overall.
"I'm extremely impressed with him," Chryst said. "He's serious about
it. He's a heck of a complete back, and he's just finishing his first
lap. If he can make a good jump, just like any first-year guy to his
second year. ..."
Then it might be harder for junior Lance Smith-Williams (5-10, 208)
and redshirt freshman John Clay (6-2, 237) to get as many touches as
they deserve. The speedy Smith-Williams rushed for 429 yards and three
touchdowns last fall despite being limited to home games because of a
court order that's no longer in effect. Perhaps because of the
on-again, off-again nature of his season, Smith-Williams has yet to
show his coaches the consistency they'd prefer.
"He's an incredibly talented back," Chryst said. "He provides a real
good changeup. Athletically, you want him on the field against the
best teams."
Clay, one of the finer schoolboy runners the state of Wisconsin has
turned out, received lots of reps in the spring.
"He's a heck of a big-guy changeup," Chryst said.
With Brown, Smith-Williams and Clay chasing his tail, Hill kicked it
up a notch during the spring. Apparently he's not ready to give up the
No. 1 spot.
"P.J.'s our most complete back," Bielema said. "He had his best spring."
"You've gotta start with P.J.," Chryst said. "But I think there's
enough football there for everyone."
Or at least for three guys. Because Brown and Smith-Williams still
have their redshirt years, Bielema hinted one could sit out this
season to save them for a bigger role down the road.
"If it comes to that," Chryst said, "we're lucky to have that problem."
The Badgers, who employ a fullback more often than most teams these
days, boast a pair of fifth-year seniors at the position in returning
starter Chris Pressley (6-1, 259) and Bill Rentmeester (6-1, 248).
"For us to have a good season, we need them to play their best,"
Chryst said. "They're similar guys -- big thumpers. We ask them to be
physical, but we want to broaden their job description a little bit.
We did some stuff in the spring; we wanted to look at them in the
throwing game.''
WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS

The Badgers don't have any seniors to lead their wide receiving corps.
Their 12 returning receivers (counting redshirt freshmen) caught a
grand total of 30 passes for 461 yards and a touchown last year. In
short, Wisconsin has several big questions at wideout. But they'll be
easier to answer them with help from the exclamation points that are
the Badgers' tight ends.
"I like to think there's flexibility within the offensive system,"
Chryst said. "We're not reinventing the wheel. But obviously, a lot of
what we do revolves around the tight ends."
In senior Travis Beckum (6-4, 231) and junior Garrett Graham (6-4,
237), Wisconsin boasts the best set of tight ends in the country.
Beckum, who briefly contemplated turning pro a year early, was a
finalist for the John Mackey Award that goes to the nation's best
tight end after catching 75 passes for 982 yards and six scores.
If Beckum snags 67 passes this fall -- one less than his average over
the last two seasons -- then he'll become the most-prolific pass
catcher in Wisconsin history. Graham, meanwhile, served as Wisconsin's
No. 2 receiver last year with 30 catches for 328 yards and four
scores.
"At first glance, Garrett plays more on the line and Travis is more of
a guy who moves around," Chryst said. "But Travis lines up at tight
end about two-thirds of the time while Garrett has lined up everywhere
except quarterback and O-line. Everyone here knows Garrett's worth.
He's a really good football player."
Junior Mickey Turner (6-4, 240) is a versatile tight end who earned
crucial reps during the spring while Beckum and Graham sat out with
injuries that won't affect them in the fall. Sophomore Lance Kendricks
(6-4, 227) switched from receiver to tight end last fall, which
suggests he could be the next Badger on the Beckum track. Redshirt
freshman Rob Korslin (6-5, 247) is more of a traditional tight end
while freshman Jake Byrne (6-5, 254) came to school a semester early
to get a jump on fulfilling his potential.
"He's got a chance to be a good player,' Chryst said.
Meanwhile, though the Badgers don't have much experience at receiver,
two guys jumped to the forefront during spring ball. Sophomore Kyle
Jefferson (6-5, 175), who became a starter at midseason after senior
Luke Swan suffered a career-ending hamstring injury, finished with 26
catches for 412 yards and two touchdowns. He'll probably be joined in
the starting lineup by sophomore David Gilreath (5-11, 158), who
caught just one pass last fall but made a name for himself as the
Badgers' punt and kick returner.
"If we're going to be good, we need them to be good," Chryst said.
"Gilreath is probably our fastest receiver. He has good ball skills.
Jefferson just kept coming on last fall."
Sophomore Isaac Anderson (5-11, 176) redshirted last year due to
hamstring problems, but he caught five passes as a freshman. If
bloodlines count for anything, his father, Melvin, caught passes worth
1,265 yards at Minnesota and his mother, Lisa, ran track for the
Gophers.
Speaking of bloodlines, redshirt freshman Nick Toon (6-3, 214) should
be someone to watch this fall. His father, Al, caught 19 touchdown
passes during his years at Wisconsin before becoming a first-round
pick in the 1985 NFL draft. Nick Toon spent his redshirt year adding
20 pounds of muscle.
After catching six passes as a freshman and showing promise, junior
Xavier Harris (5-11, 182) caught two passes for 30 yards last year,
though he was hampered by lingering injuries.
Sophomore Daven Jones (6-1, 200), who caught one pass last year,
showed progress during the spring. Junior Elijah "T.J." Theus (6-2,
184) and sophomore Maurice Moore (5-11, 167) are the only other
scholarship recruits among the returning receivers.
OFFENSIVE LINE

Here's an indication of how experienced and how strong Wisconsin's
line expects to be this fall. The Badgers boast the nation's No. 1
line recruit from 2007 in redshirt freshman Josh Oglesby (6-7, 328)
and a 2005 USA Today All-American in junior Jake Bscherer (6-7, 294)
-- and they have to wait their turn to get on the field.
"I think the beauty of this group is their strength in numbers,"
offensive coordinator Paul Chryst said. "The fun thing about this
group? They know who they are and know what they're doing."
Fifth-year senior Kraig Urbik (6-6, 332) is receiving the most
preseason acclaim. Urbik, who has started 39 straight games, returns
to right guard after finishing last season at right tackle for injured
Eric Vanden Heuvel (6-7, 324). Vanden Heuvel, who had made 23 straight
starts at right tackle before hurting his foot, has healed and is
ready to roll.
So is senior left guard Andy Kemp (6-6, 315), who owned a streak of 20
straight starts before breaking his hand and missing three games.
Bielema believes Urbik, Vanden Heuvel and Kemp are too equally skilled
to proclaim one better than another, a good sign when you consider
since Urbik has reaped consistent preseason All-Big Ten recognition.
Chryst acknowledges Urbik as the line's leader in one breath, but uses
the next one to suggest his younger starters are the superior
athletes. Sophomore left tackle Gabe Carimi (6-8, 301) started all 13
games last year and made big strides throughout.
"He may be our best prospect down the road," Chryst said. "He's
extremely athletic. I love the way he goes about his business."
Sophomore John Moffitt (6-4, 323) will be the only new starter of this
crew, but Marcus Coleman's successor at center gained valuable
experience during the latter half of 2007. Moffitt started the final
six games, albeit at left guard, to fill the gaps created when Kemp
and Vanden Heuvel suffered their injuries.
"He's got a lot of ability," Chryst said.
If there's any downside to Wisconsin's line, it's the lack of depth.
The Badgers finished spring ball with just nine O-linemen, two of
which have never played a collegiate snap. Oglesby, pegged as the
nation's top lineman coming out of Milwaukee, and Bscherer are
regarded as up-and-coming tackles.
"They're getting better. There's so much to the position," Chryst
said. "Josh has a ton of ability. For us, he's doing well. He's right
where you'd want him to be."
Redshirt sophomore Bill Nagy (6-4, 300) is the top sub inside. He
appeared in five games last fall and Chryst says he wouldn't hesitate
to play him. Jake Current (6-4, 278) skipped his final high school
semester in order to get a start on practice. He's also viewed as a
future center or guard.
KICKERS

Just in case anyone wasn't clear on Taylor Mehlhaff's skill as a
kicker, the New Orleans Saints clarified matters by making Mehlhaff
the first kicker picked in the 2008 NFL draft.
Mehlhaff, a three-year starter who went in the sixth round to the
Saints, finished his career as Wisconsin's No. 2 all-time scorer with
295 points.
Anticipating Mehlhaff's graduation, Bielema brought in three-star
kicker Philip Welch (6-3, 190) last year. Welch redshirted in the
fall, then began his competition against junior walk on Matt Fischer
(5-11, 179). Their competition resumes in the fall with Welch owning
the edge.
Welch was a second-team USA Today All-American after his senior season
at Fort Collins (Colo.) High School in 2006. He set a state record
with 19 field goals, connecting on 17-of-20 inside 50 yards and two
others from 56 and 51. Eighty-five percent of his kickoffs resulted in
touchbacks.
DEFENSIVE LINE

Wisconsin's training room was filled to bursting during the first six
months of 2008 -- and that would have been the case if only defensive
linemen were allowed in for treatment.
To put another way, it'd be far easier to list the defensive linemen
who managed to stay healthy throughout the spring.
Senior defensive end Matt Shaughnessy (6-6, 253), a second-team
All-Big Ten pick and Wisconsin's defensive MVP last year, thought he
would be among the few and the proud. But in the waning moments of
Wisconsin's final practice before its spring game, as if to prove no
defensive linemen was immune from the injury bug, Shaughnessy broke
his leg.
The good news? The young man who piled up 18 tackles for loss and five
sacks in 2007 should be cleared to play in time for fall camp. Barring
any summertime calamities, Shaughnessy should be the last lineman to
round back into shape. Fifth-year defensive tackle Jason Chapman (6-4,
285), who missed the final three games last year after tearing up his
knee, was on a rehabilitation pace that would allow him to take part
in summer workouts. The same for fifth-year senior Mike Newkirk (6-3,
264), who started all 13 games last year but went out early in spring
ball with a shoulder injury. The fourth projected starter, junior
defensive end O'Brien Schofield (6-3, 232), broke his hand but taped
it up so he could keep practicing. If all four of these show up on
Aug. 30 in good health and ill temper, the Badgers should have one of
the Big Ten's best lines. Chapman, who has 31 career starts and 7.5
sacks on his resume, and Newkirk, who owns six career sacks, make
Wisconsin strong up the middle.
"Jason has one of the quickest first steps I've ever seen," Bielema
said. "He's hungry, very serious. And Mike, we did a disservice to him
last year starting him at defensive end. They're both going to have
great years."
Because of injury and other issues, Newkirk started the first 10 games
at defensive end last fall before moving inside when Chapman injured
his knee. When Newkirk moved inside, that gave precocious pass-rusher
Kirk DeCremer (6-5, 230) a chance to play more. The redshirt
sophomore, who started the Badgers' final two games, wound up with a
team-high 5.5 sacks. Of course, in keeping with the line's theme,
DeCremer missed spring ball after undergoing back surgery.
DeCremer was listed behind Shaughnessy on Wisconsin's post-spring
depth chart, while junior-college transfer Dan Moore (6-2, 270) owned
the spot behind Schofield at the other end. Moore injured his knee
midway through spring ball, but he should be ready for the fall.
Junior Jeff Stehle (6-6, 290) and red-hirt freshman Patrick Butrym
(6-4, 264) head into fall practices as the top backups at tackle.
Junior Dan Cascone (6-3, 288) missed spring ball with a bad shoulder,
while sophomore tackle Brandon Hoey (6-5, 278) sat with a back injury
and sophomore Ricky Garner (6-5, 232) also spent some time on the
sidelines. These woes forced Wisconsin to turn sophomore offensive
lineman Kenny Jones (6-2, 265) into a defensive tackle. Redshirt
freshmen Jasper Grimes (6-2, 285) and Louis Nzegwu (6-3, 228) also
earned extra reps because of all the injuries.
LINEBACKERS

It only seems like Wisconsin's linebackers have been around since the
turn of the century. Senior weak-side linebacker Jonathan Casillas
(6-2, 226) has started the last 26 games and piled up some solid
numbers. After leading the Badgers in tackles for loss as a sophomore
(12.5), he paced them in total tackles with 96 last fall.
Senior strong-side linebacker DeAndre Levy (6-3, 228), perhaps best
known for crashing into Penn State legend Joe Paterno on the sideline
in 2006, also owns 26 consecutive starts. Levy posted perhaps the
team's most versatile stat line last fall -- 70 tackles, 10 tackles
for loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and
two passes de-fended. Casillas and Levy are both All-Big Ten
candidates, though Bielema was especially impressed by Levy's spring
performance.
"He played his best ball," Bielema said. "He has seen the light going
into his senior year."
Junior Elijah Hodge (6-1, 227) is the incumbent at middle linebacker
after making 11 starts and posting 67 tackles, but he won't have an
easy time keeping his job. When Hodge missed some spring ball with
knee trouble, redshirt sophomore Culmer St. Jean (6-1, 228) performed
well enough to make it an even competition going into the fall. St.
Jean started twice last fall (Illinois and Minnesota) and posted 11 of
his 17 tackles in those games.
Even redshirt junior Jaevery McFadden (6-3, 220), ostensibly listed as
Casillas' backup, is making a job at becoming the Mike linebacker. He
has caused two fumbles in limited playing time.
"We'll play the best three guys," Bielema said.
Sophomore Blake Sorensen (6-1, 217) begins fall ball as Levy's top
backup. He posted 14 tackles last season, nearly all of them on
special teams. Redshirt freshman Kevin Rouse (6-0, 227) is yet another
blossoming prospect who could turn up in the middle.
The rest of the linebacking corps focuses on special teams: Fifth-year
seniors Joshua Neal (5-10, 245) and Ryan Flasch (6-1, 220), junior
Erik Prather (6-3, 212) and redshirt freshman Tony Megna (6-0, 199).
DEFENSIVE BACKS

When the 2007 season came to a close, Wisconsin had a chance to retain
all of its starters in the secondary. Then All-Big Ten cornerback Jack
Ikegwuonu decided to leave for the NFL a year early, which wound up
backfiring when he wrecked his knee shortly after the deadline to
return to school.
By injuring his knee, though, Ikegwuonu merely maintained solidarity
with several of his ex-teammates. Fellow cornerback Allen Langford
(5-11, 189), who enters this season with 31 career starts, had his
season cut three games short because of a torn ACL. Then Langford's
replacement, sophomore Aaron Henry (6-0, 190), started the final two
regular-season games only to tear his ACL during practice leading up
to the Outback Bowl.
Langford and Henry should be ready to go this fall, but there's no
guarantee they'll be the starters. Because both missed spring ball,
redshirt freshman Mario Goins (6-1, 186) took advantage of the extra
reps to claim the right corner job ahead of Langford going into fall
practices. Meanwhile, there also appears to be an unanticipated
shakeup at the safeties.
While ball-hawking junior Shane Carter (6-2, 202) has switched from
free safety to strong, even though he led the Big Ten with seven
interceptions last year, redshirt sophomore Jay Valai (5-9, 197) took
over the top spot at free safety despite seeing brief action in just
three games last fall. Valai's ascension puts junior Aubrey Pleasant
(6-1, 198), who started all 13 games at strong safety last year but
struggled with his tackling, with the second string going into the
fall.
"I think [Jay] and Aubrey both, they've improved quite a bit," Bielema
told the Badger Herald. "I think Aubrey from a year ago to where he is
right now and Jay with the momentum of the way he played in the bowl
game, it's a classic case [of good competition]."
Redshirt sophomore Niles Brinkley (5-10, 177), who played so little
last fall he posted no tackles, heads into the fall as Henry's top
backup, while redshirt junior Chris Maragos (6-0, 189) backs up Carter
at strong safety. Maragos sat out last year after transferring from
Western Michigan, where he started his career as a walk on wideout.
Junior Josh Nettles (5-10, 175) posted an interception last year
against Indiana. Redshirt junior Prince Moody (5-11, 190) has yet to
make a collegiate tackle, while classmate Wil-liam Hartmann (5-11,
197) owns one career stop. Redshirt freshman Otis Merrill (5-11, 175)
had the prep resume to play immediately, but he redshirted because of
a shoulder injury. Freshman Adam Hampton (5-11, 184) also redshirted.
PUNTERS

Just as the Badgers lost a long-time valued starter at kicker, they
must replace four-year veteran Ken DeBauche at punter. While DeBauche
had to move along (he signed a free-agent contract with Green Bay),
his name might live on.
Redshirt freshman Brad DeBauche (6-2, 218), a walk on and Ken's
brother, was the team's unopposed punter during spring drills.
However, that won't remain the case this fall.
Incoming freshman Bradley Nortman (6-3, 210), who committed initially
to Minnesota, will compete immediately for the job. As a senior, he
punted 24 times for a 39-yard average, including 13 inside the 20.
SPECIAL TEAMS

In sophomore David Gilreath, the Badgers boast a game-breaker who will
return kicks and punts again this year. Gilreath earned preseason
acclaim after finishing 14th in the country last fall with a 14.0
average on punt returns. Gilreath also averaged 23.0 yards per kick
return.
"He's pretty special," Bielema said.
Fifth-year senior Dave Peck (6-5, 249), who served as the Badgers'
short snapper the last two years, will add long-snapping duties this
year as he replaces three-year vet Steve Johnson.
BLUE RIBBON ANALYSIS

Grading the Wisconsin Badgers
Unit
Grade
Offense
B+
Special teams
B
Defense
B+
Intangibles
A-

Wisconsin enters Bret Bielema's third season riding a 14-game winning
streak at Camp Randall Stadium. Only Oklahoma boasts a longer active
streak.
Why does that matter? Because each of the three teams that figure to
be Wisconsin's top challengers for the Big Ten title -- Ohio State,
Penn State and Illinois -- must play on the Badgers' home field in
October.
But first, Wisconsin must hurdle a tricky nonconference road trip to
Fresno State. The Bulldogs went 9-4 last year and could well be a
preseason Top 25 squad.
If Wisconsin negotiates that trap successfully, it has a bye week
before launching into the Big Ten schedule with a trip to Michigan.
That's an opportune time for a bye.
For the most comprehensive previews available on all Division I-A
teams, order the "Bible" of college football, the 2008 Blue Ribbon
College Football Yearbook, at www.blueribbonyearbook.com or call
1-866-805-BALL (2255).



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