The Wisconsin football Badgers opened up the 2010 season with practice on Monday.
In a season filled with hype and expectations, the Badgers look to stay grounded, and keep their eyes on the goal-a trip to Pasadena for all the roses.
The Badgers will need to stay focused to succeed this season, and nobody is making it easy.
The Badgers are one of only three teams (Alabama, Oklahoma) to have multiple players on both the Bednarik (Chris Borland, J.J. Watt) and Maxwell (John Clay Scott Tolzien) awards watch lists. The Badgers are also ranked No. 12 in the first coaches poll of the season.
The Badgers who were present for the recent meltdown during the 2008 season attribute the loss in part to lack of leadership.
There is no lack of leadership this time around.
Coach Brett Bielema on Watt after practice on Monday: "J.J. Watt got up in front of the team last night and talked about different aspects of the team and one of the things he emphasized was how impressed he was with the freshmen group and the way they came in and worked and hit the ground running."
On Tuesday, after the defensive line was forced to stop practice after a less than satisfactory effort and assistant coach Charlie Partridge had them doing up-downs; Watt again asserted his place as the leader of the defense, exhorting his teammates to give their all, even with only eight periods left in practice.
The Badgers return ten starters on offense and tight end Lance Kendricks is more than capable of filling NFL departed Garrett Graham's shoes. The offense is led by quarterback Scott Tolzien, running back John Clay, and wide receiver Nick Toon.
The backfield is protected by one of the best offensive lines in the country, one ESPN's Adam Rittenberg suggests should be named "The Thick Red Line".
So the focus will be on the defense.
The Badgers have plenty of talent on the defensive side of the ball, with wunderkind Chris Borland, Watt and decal removing Jay Valai.
But the questions abound. The defensive line's only returning one starter, and the secondary was porous, at best last season.
The difference between the Capital One Bowl and Pasadena or Phoenix will be the ability of defensive coordinator Dave Doeren to fill the holes left by graduation and new secondary coach Ash to to tighten up his secondary.
Clay slighted - Returning Big Ten offensive player of the year John Clay was passed over by the coaches for this year's pick, the honor instead went to Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
Gilreath's Emergence - On the First play from scrimmage in practice, Tolzien dropped back to pass and lofted a perfectly thrown ball down the sidelines to a streaking David Gilreath for a long completion. The catch was just one of several nice receptions made by Gilreath. The senior wide receiver also made a tough grab falling forward while a defensive back pressured him from behind. Later in the skelly drill, facing at least double coverage, the Minneapolis, Minn., native leaped high into the air to haul in another long completion, this time from red-shirt freshman Jon Budmayr.
Keep it here at B/R for Badger news and notes from practice...
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!