Potentially Explosive

In performing admirably during his first camp with no limitations or restrictions, redshirt freshman Konrad Zazgbeski has put himself into the mix in Wisconsin's 2011 defensive line rotation.

MADISON - There was nothing more that Konrad Zagzebski wanted than to play football for the University of Wisconsin last season. One of the top high school prospects in the state in 2009, Zagzebski was anxious to fit in with what he recognized as a deep, experienced group that could lead the Badgers to high levels.

But with every pop of his left shoulder, Zagzebski recognized those aspirations needed to wait.

"It was popping out on me a lot and me being young and hopefully having a long career, I needed to have it fixed," Zagzebski said.

With the ball-and-socket joint continuously popping out during physical workouts, Zagzebski had surgery last season to tighten the capsule to prevent the bones from disconnecting, a pretty painless procedure but one that induced a lot of pain by having to watch his teammates from the sidelines.

"It really motivated me to go out there do whatever I could to help the team," Zagzebski said.

Feeling the shoulder return to full strength over the summer during the Badgers' conditioning program, Zagzebski has taken advantage of his first healthy camp at Wisconsin. Being slotted as a defensive end after putting on 25 pounds after his senior year at D.C. Everest, Zagzebski has shown a comfort level for his new position that has co-defensive coordinator and d-line coach Charlie Partridge comfortable with putting the redshirt freshman into his deep rotation.

"He's shown that he has a potentially explosive player," Partridge said. "He really didn't do much in spring other than individual drills, so this has been the first substantial amount of time I've had to coach him. I am really happy with his progress. He's doing some things that I quite honestly would expect."

Zagzebski was a standout middle linebacker in high school, being named the conference's defensive player of the year his senior season after recording 102 tackles and forcing four fumbles, and has been able to keep the same speed and strength despite the big transition.

"When you are at linebacker, you don't have a guy on you for a half a second whereas on the defensive line, you take one bad step right away and that guy is up in your chest," said Zagzebski, who attributes his early success to a lot of muscle memory and summer repetitions. "It's a lot of attention to detail and Coach Partridge does a great job of teaching us the technique right from the start."

The persons of knowledge Zagzebski has hunted out since the beginning of spring is a long, talented list. In addition to the guidance given to him by Partridge, Zagzebski admitted to spending a lot of hours with the defensive line, seniors Patrick Butrym and Louis Nzegwu especially, over the summer when the coaching staff wasn't permitted to have contact with their players.

It also helped Zagzebski to be studying at the same position where J.J. Watt made such a living last season.

"The one thing J.J. did more than anybody was put in a lot of overtime," Zagzebski said. "He was always in the film room studying. He had a great football I.Q. and knew when to take the appropriate risks and when to maintain his gap and make a play. I've always liked to study football but when you come to the next level, it's a whole different league. It was a great experience."

Its experiences like that which makes Zagzebski happily where he ultimately ended up. When Minnesota offered Zagzebski his first scholarship, he committed in January '09 without much of a second thought.

It was at that point that the Badgers and recruiting coach Bob Bostad entered the derby, offering Zagzebski after the school's junior day and didn't relent, despite the fact he missed his junior year with a left ACL injury.

"I just didn't know what was going to come my way to be honest," Zagzebski said. "I am so happy that they came and started recruiting me after I committed (to Minnesota). Wisconsin was where I wanted to be. I didn't want to play at Minnesota. I had some bad advice along the way, and I am glad it all worked out."

The decision to play at Wisconsin meant so much to him that he was one of the real ambassadors in the 2010 recruiting class, talking to uncommitted prospects about why he committed and what makes the Wisconsin program so special to him. That love has grown exponentially since Zagzebski finally was able to put on the Wisconsin jersey. Imagine where it will go when he finally gets to make a play on the field with a healthy shoulder.

"I've grown up in Wisconsin and once I signed with them, it was a great day," Zagzebski said. "I've always bled red and I always will. Being out here running around is like a childhood memory because I have always grown up watching them. To be out here and trying to work hard, it really makes me excited for the future."

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