Following a redshirt freshman season where he played in 12 games and started one, Dehn played in five of the first six games in 2011 before quitting the team, unhappy with how he was progressing. Even though he was away from the team, he was still a part of it, as his roommate last season was starting right tackle Josh Oglesby.
After Dehn started having second thoughts following the Rose Bowl, former teammates let the UW staff know that the Minnesota native wanted to return. With UW coach Bret Bielema giving him an opportunity, Dehn, a state shot put and discus champion, quit the track team and put all his focus into football. The results have shown, as Dehn is one of the players in the mix for a starting spot in the fall.
Talking with Badger Nation, Dehn talked about the road back on to the field, how he's improved his game and how he's utilizing his second chance to play.
What's it like to be back out here competing and getting some opportunities to show your abilities with the first team offense?
Dehn: It's a lot of fun to be honest. I mean I am trying to get better every day and hanging out with them all the time. We have film, practice, lifting every day, so it's been a lot of fun.
Was it a hard decision for you first off to leave the team? What for you wasn't working?
Dehn: It was me personally. I thought I wasn't playing well and I didn't deserve to be here. I had been on the track team for the two years previous to this and I was going to continue to that. It got to the point where I didn't want to do that anymore because I missed football. I wanted to come back.
Was it easy for you sitting and watching the football team have success? Did that light your fire to reach out after the season?
Dehn: Definitely, especially since Oglesby was my roommate. This last season, the guys would always be around me and I'd hear stories about all this fun stuff that they did. It was missing the little things.
Did you and (former offensive line coach Bob) Bostad get along fine?
Dehn: For the most part. You are going to have little issues with everybody.
Bret Bielema said that you and him didn't get a long and said that was one of the reasons you left, but that's not entirely true?
Dehn: It wasn't the main reason. It was a small part.
How did you go through the process of reaching back out and getting a second chance? Bret said he reached out to Ryan Groy and Travis Frederick and they both approved of the idea, but who did you have to talk to first?
Dehn: I was around the stadium a lot still and saw the guys a bunch. I ended up coming up to talk to Mark Taurisani, who is the director of football operations, and we just started to talk. He asked if I had given any thought to coming back and I mentioned that I told it to Ryan and Travis that I was thinking about because the numbers were down and I still had that desire. I approached him and that got me a meeting with coach Bielema. From there I met coach Mike Markuson.
What parameters did they lay out for you in order for you to get back on the field and how have you approached those steps to get back?
Dehn: Basically I just had to earn their respect and earn their trust. I can't miss any classes, meetings or anything. It was a clean slate, but a day-by-day process. There are no guarantees. I am not guaranteed to have a spot on the team next year but if there aren't any issues, I am fine.
What was it like going through winter conditioning? How have you changed your body and got to the point where you are comfortable as a player?
Dehn: In winter conditioning I dropped a lot of weight. I got down to 310 at one point and that was to play guard. Now I am back at tackle and am getting a little bigger. It fluctuates – I am around 330 - but my strength has gotten considerably larger. I wasn't in football shape, but I had been working before and doing as much as I could with the facilities that were available. I didn't get a lot of the power lifts in. The biggest thing was running shape, which I wasn't in and had to get back into.
What's it like working with coach Markuson and the knowledge he brings from so many years in the SEC? His style is obviously a lot different than Bostad's style, so tell me how that relationship has gone between you two?
Dehn: It's nice. You can tell he picked up this from someone or this from someone. All these different styles are put into one and he makes it his own. He takes a very energetic, hands-on approach. He is right in the huddle sometimes telling us to watch this or this. He's definitely there to coach you up on every play.
What was the big chance for you going back to tackle in Markuson's offense? Is there a big difference from the way Bostad taught tackle?
Dehn: Not really. There are small coaching points. You may say one word for something and a different coach might call it something else. It's learning vocabulary and a little bit different fundamentals. If it's a two inch step to the left verses a two inches left and one inch forward. It's just small little things.
Working primarily at right tackle, how do you view the position battle because your number one competitor in Rob Haventstein is not practicing this spring? Is this a real good opportunity for you to get back in football shape?
Dehn: For me, it's like I am playing catch up because I missed the end of fall last year. Every day I have to prove that I'm getting better. When Havenstein comes back that, I need to make sure I am at the right level.
Do you feel comfortable with where you are at?
Dehn: Definitely. Just being a right-side guy even though I can play left tackle or left guard, I will have playing time opportunities. My strength levels have increased, so the confidence I have now compared to last year is the main difference.