Kickoff Notebook: Bielema Talks Hawks

Former Iowa LB Bret Bielema spent a lot of time at this week's Big Ten media gathering talking to Hawkeye reporters. The new Wisconsin head coach took it in stride and talked with HN Senior Writer Rob Howe about what it's like to recruit against his alma mater, his feelings for Hayden Fry and Kirk Ferentz and more. This premium notebook includes notes on Drew Tate's Hole-in-one and motorcycle.

CHICAGO _ One by one, the Iowa reporters sat down with Wisconsin Head Coach Bret Bielema. The Badger journalists must have felt squeezed.

Bielema was attending his first Big Ten Media Day as a head coach here at the Hyatt. Now a Badger, Bielema first made a name for himself as a standout linebacker for the University of Iowa.

"You cannot change who you are and where you came from," the former Hawkeye captain said. "It makes you who you are today. If you ever lose sight of that, you'll never be somewhere for a long period of time.

"I think about all the great experiences I've had and great people I've been able to be around. I have the utmost respect for (Iowa coach) Kirk (Ferentz), and first and foremost for (former Hawkeye coach) Hayden Fry. He gave me a scholarship and my first job."

Bielema has gained a lot of attention for the Tiger Hawk tattoo he wears on his leg. He has found a way to separate his past from his present.

"The people that cover us know I talk a lot about a 1-0 philosophy," Bielema said. "You take every day for what it is and move on to the next. We want to be 1-0 on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday and then hopefully 1-0 on Saturday. Then, it's behind you. It's part of the past. That's the same mentality I carry with me."

While that seems like a good strategy in principle, he often is reminded of yesterday.

"Obviously being a head coach at a university in the same conference, recruiting battles pop up all of the time," Bielema said. "Here I am sitting in a chair trying to get a kid to come to the University of Wisconsin and they know I went to Iowa. I'm sure that gets thrown out there quite a bit in the recruiting battles."

What does he say to a prospect or his family when they ask why he went to Iowa.

"That question will come up," Bielema said. "Parents will say, "Hey, we're choosing between Iowa and Wisconsin. You went to Iowa." That's an easy one. Wisconsin didn't offer me a scholarship. If they did, I would have came.

"The big thing that I always understand and appreciate is the common traits or things that you learned or experienced in the past to get you where you are. Wisconsin, all we have to do is get them on campus. We'll sell ourselves."

While Bielema succeeds a coaching legend in Barry Alvarez after serving as a Badger assistant for two years, he also applies coaching aspects he has learned from Fry and Ferentz into his teaching.

"Hayden was great at the mental psyche of the game," Bielema said. "He was a psychology major. He was really, really great at getting inside of the heads of his players and coaches. I didn't know that and understand that until I started coaching. As a player, you just know what you know. You don't know that there are different philosophies out there on how to motivate and prepare a team mentally. Now, I do."

Bielema worked for two seasons at Iowa under Ferentz before moving on to Kansas State in 2001.

"Kirk has an unbelievable ability to see things and direct people to do certain things without them knowing it," Bielema said. "He leads them on a path that they don't know until they are there. He had a plan and he knew everybody contributed to it to make it happen."

Iowa struggled to a combined 4-19 record while Bielema assisted Ferentz. Two years after he left, the Hawkeyes won the Big Ten with a perfect 8-0 mark.

They had created a "Break the Rock" philosophy in rebuilding the program. It said that one man could not break this huge boulder that sat in their weight room, but if they all worked together, they would break the rock. After that 2002 season, members of the team took sledgehammers to that rock. Ferentz sent Bielema a piece of it at Kansas State.

"I really respected that," Bielema said. "Kirk understands that it's not a one-man operation. A whole lot of people have to chip in for success."

Bielema returned to Iowa's Kinnick Stadium as a Wisconsin assistant in '04. He was scheduled to return to Iowa City this fall as the head man.

"I didn't understand some of those greetings I got from fans," Bielema said with a chuckle. "The language was a little different. I think it will be a great rivalry. We recruit against them. A lot of our kids know their kids. It's something I'm looking forward to."

ALMOST A HAWK: Purdue receiver Dorien Bryant, a Biletnikoff Award Candidate after leading the Big Ten in catches a year ago, almost became a Hawkeye.

Darrell Wilson recruits New Jersey for Iowa and worked on Bryant. Wilson's nephew and Bryant are close friends.

"When he was recruiting me, I was all about (Iowa) for a while," Bryant said. "I don't know. Everything just turned around. I feel like I made a good decision, but I really like Iowa. I hate playing there. But the whole feel there…man, the fans, it's just classic college football. It's what college football should be. The stadium is legendary."

Bryant met up with Wilson before the Iowa-Purdue game in 2004 at Kinnick Stadium. Bryant said he thought about what it would have been like to he a Hawkeye.

"We both looked around and said, "What if?"" Bryant said with a laugh.

Bryant is looking forward to coming back to Iowa City this fall after a miserable experience in Kinnick two years ago.

"One of the reasons I'm looking forward so much to going back there this year is that I probably had my worst college game ever at Iowa," he said. "It was awful. The first thing I do it drop a punt, lose it. Every time after that I go back for a punt, the whole stadium was like, "Dorien, Dorien, Dorien." They were screwing with my head. I called my mom after the game and told her they were picking on me all game."

FLATTERING IMMATATION: Indiana offensive lineman Justin Frye said that the Hoosiers mimic certain aspects of the Hawkeyes' blocking schemes.

"The zone schemes are real similar," Frye said. "And the build of their linemen is what (Indiana Head Coach Terry Hoeppner) eventually wanting to build up to. I know they bring a lot of guys in as big tight ends and convert them to offensive linemen. Gallery and those guys, just tall, athletic guys, we just soaked up a lot of film.

"That's what Hoepp wants to bring in and that's good. We're starting to get to that point. It's not like we're saying, let's be like Iowa, but we can take from that. Coach Ferentz has been successful with that. He's done a great job there."

Frye said the Iowa approach differs from some traditional offensive line ideas.

"You try to get, like this guy for that guy. This guy is solo," Frye said. "We look at footwork. The thing I see on film that I try to take in my game is the fast feet. They're always moving, always going. That's what you have to have. You don't always have to have a pancake block. You just get in front at 6-7 and the linebacker isn't going to find the running back."

BACK ON TRACK: Marcus Paschal feels as though he's returned to 100 percent health after tearing his ACL at the Cap One Bowl following the '04 season. The Florida native said that he played at about 80 percent at the start of last season and was at about 90 by season's end.

"I wasn't limited in doing anything," Paschal said. "It was more mental. Coming off an injury like that, even if physically you can do it, you have to know that it's not going to break down on you again. The first part of the season, that's how I was.

"Coach (Phil) Parker would ask me if I was OK. I felt OK. But I would get out there and not want to be hit because I'm not confident that it will hold up. As the year went on, I started getting better. I saw in the spring that I was totally back. The spring is when I felt like I had my burst and reactions and everything like that."

Paschal will be heavily relied upon this season with two new faces (Adam Shada and Charles Godfrey) manning the starting quarterback positions this fall.

TATE TIDBITS: Iowa Quarterback Drew Tate scored the shot of his life on the Finkbine Golf Course this offseason. He connected for a hole-in-one that had a new automobile attached to it. Unfortunately, the NCAA threatened his eligibility if he took the prize. He was very disappointed by the decision.

"Yeah, that's a once in a lifetime opportunity," he said. "A hole-in-one is tough enough. If you win a drawing for a car, that's a once in a lifetime opportunity. If it would have happened, it would have been great. I would have traded it in for a nicer truck. I'm not an SUV guy."

Tate could have won a small SUV or gotten $25,000 towards another vehicle had the NCAA cleared it.

Attention also followed Tate this summer when his motorcycle was listed for sale on EBay. The auction was removed.

"My dad wanted me to get rid of it," Tate said. "He was trying to sell it back home. He was going to put it up on EBay. I just told him to relax. We'll sell it later."


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