Bielema Talks Day One

After his team went through the first fall practice of the 2011 season, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema addressed the media, talking about the coaches' early expectations, the return of Chris Borland and early impressions of Russell Wilson.

MADISON – Over the last few months, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema feels he's gotten a good grasp on what Russell Wilson is all about. Getting plenty of time during the recruiting process to get to know the transfer quarterback from N.C. State, his fiancé and his family.

After the team went through meetings on Thursday per NCAA rules, Friday was the first day Bielema and his coaching staff could get hands on with his players, primary the quarterback he and his staff spent so much time wooing.

It was worth the wait.

"It was kind of what I thought I'd see," said Bielema of Wilson. "He's got great composure, takes to learning very, very easy and get along well with the guys. Obviously, a very accurate player. I thought he showed some really nice things."

Wilson's resume is full of potential for No.10 Wisconsin's offense, which entered the summer appearing to only need an established quarterback to compete for a conference championship. In three seasons in Raleigh, Wilson, the runner up for ACC Player of the Year last year, has completed 57.8 percent of his passes for 8,545 yards. No quarterback in the ACC has thrown more touchdown passes than Wilson, as his 76 touchdown passes is 26 more than Miami quarterback Jacory Harris.

Bielema hopes to start seeing some of those skills when the Badgers got in half pads on Monday. Until then, the big thing Bielema said he and his staff were stressing to all the players the first two days was communication from the huddle through the play.

"When you start like this, you want to see the huddle start," Bielema said. "When you get sloppy in the huddle, you don't have a chance on the field. It starts in the huddle, it starts with communication and we talked about accepting coaching. A lot of times young men who were very successful coming in or guys in the program don't like to be told what they are doing wrong. They want to hear all the good things. We want our kids to have open ears, open eyes (and) open minds."

Big Gains

Getting the first opportunity to work with players since the spring, it was easy for Bielema to see that some of his players have made drastic changes to their bodies in preparation for the upcoming season. Bielema first mentioned sophomore linebacker Chris Borland, who is coming back from double shoulder surgery, as a player who stood, but also mentioned senior wide receiver Nick Toon, senior defensive end Louis Nzegwu and junior defensive end David Gilbert as players who have gained significant weight and muscle and sophomore defensive tackle Beau Allen as someone who has slimmed down his frame.

"Coach Herb does this thing where he takes before and after (pictures), and some of the guys are amazing the way they have moved forward and developed," Bielema said.

Like Wilson, Bielema is going to have to wait and see what Borland can do in pads. Borland was a physical threat his freshman year, recording 54 tackles, five sacks, 10.5 TFLs, five forced fumbles, recovering three fumbles and intercepting a pass in 13 games that year, but has been limited ever since with shoulder problems.

Borland worked with the number one defense today and according to Bielema, handled everything very well.

"He made a diving (play), landed right on his shoulder and popped up, so at least that right shoulder is OK," Bielema said. "You just naturally have those concerns. Some of the things he does recklessly with his body, we've had conversations to try and get him to understand at this level, the size he is, you have to play with your feet under you a lot more. I think it'll sink in."

Plenty of Battles

At Big Ten media days last week, Bielema said the team had seven positions that would be up for grabs heading towards the season opener against UNLV Sept. 1- namely the quarterback, tight end, right tackle, defensive end, defensive tackle, strongside linebacker and strong safety position. Bielema said offensive coordinator Paul Chryst was going to talk about at the team meeting that the offense is missing eight players from last year's team, all of whom are in the NFL.

It's a sign of depth, at some positions, like at the defensive line, where the Badgers have an overwhelming amount of depth, but the coaches are looking for people to fill out the two deep at tight end, cornerback and linebacker to name a few.

Shoring up Special Teams

With a combination of Brad Nortman's strong leg and Wisconsin's dynamic offense, Bielema said the Badgers allowed only eight punts to be returned throughout the 2010 season. Of course, one of those punts that went into the arms of Michigan State's Keshawn Martin was returned 74 yards for a touchdown, a defining moment in the Badgers only regular season lost last season.

It's a reason co-defensive coordinator Charlie Partridge have put an early emphasis on punt coverage, having worked on it the first two days of camp.

In terms of replacing David Gilreath, Bielema said the Badgers are looking at freshman Kenzel Doe, senior Aaron Henry and sophomore James White for now. Bielema said they have a host of guys they could use for kickoff return, including the mentioned players and maybe sophomore Manasseh Garner.

Extra Points: The only new injury Bielema reported was Jordon Kohout (mild hamstring strain) and should be able to practice no later than Monday … If freshman Melvin Gordon shows he's ready, Bielema won't hesitate to play him, no matter what happens in front of him … Bielema said the performance this season of senior tight end Jake Byrne might make the difference between Wisconsin being a good team and a great team … Redshirt freshman defensive end Jake Irwin wasn't listed on the team's updated 105-man roster, but Bielema said it wasn't injury related and he'll return at the conclusion of fall camp … Bielema said he wasn't surprised by the 9-game conference schedule the league will start in 2017, admitting that it will be good for the fans, but it will be harder for the Big Ten to get above the SEC now because that league sticks with an 8-game schedule.

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