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Since the Big Ten began playing football in 1896, only three schools – Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio State – have accomplished the feat, and Wisconsin will get its third opportunity in program history to add its name to that exclusive list this season.
"I think it's a sign of respect," Bielema said during the team's annual media day Sunday. "We're the only team in the league that can say it, so that's a great thing. So I mean it all sounds great. I really hadn't thought about it."
After winning back-to-back Big Ten titles and Rose Bowls in 1998-99, the 2000 team lost its first three conference games and stumbled to an 8-4 finish.
The only other time the Badgers had an opportunity to win three straight titles was in 1888. After winning the title in 1886-87 with one loss, the Badgers' 9-1 record was bested by a 10-0 Michigan team.
Many have already pegged Wisconsin to waltz to the Leaders Division title with Ohio State and Penn State being ineligible this year for postseason play, but nobody will hear any UW player or coach take anything for granted.
"The thing that I said immediately after that is if anybody wants to jump to that date, you're more than welcome to think about it but we'll never get there," said Bielema. "It's taking it one day at a time. It's taking a practice that we have tomorrow in the morning and another one in the evening and figuring out where you're at the end of the day to get to where we want to be. So it's great. It's fun to get at. It's great rhetoric for people to write about and great thing for fans to think about.
"But this group is probably going to be focused on winning and tomorrow's practice."
After hinting around the issue over the past week, Bielema said talks with Joe Brennan and Brennan's football coach have led to the sophomore quarterback exploring possible transfer options.
"I am trying to facilitate that the best I can for Joey," said Bielema. "I am not for sure (a transfer) is going to happen. I've allowed him to take some time away from the program, explore his options and get a feel for where he's at. I would welcome him back if that's the direction he's going to go. It's just something we're working through on a daily basis."
A two-sport athlete in high school and a cornerback on the cusp of playing last year, redshirt freshman Darius Hillary will spend next week's fall camp working at the safety position based on needed depth at the position.
"The reason we moved him is to help us on defense now," said Bielema. "Darius has been very impressive. We traveled him to every game last year. He was with us at every stadium. We felt we wanted to do that because he was right on the verge of playing. Darius Hillary is going to be a very, very good football player here and we're just trying to find him a home."
"We just felt Derek could give us something there that we don't have right now," said Bielema. "I think Derek, just from watching him and seeing him, I think he really might be a better offensive player. Offense, when you break the huddle you know the play, you know who you're blocking, you know where you're going. On defense you don't know anything until you line up."
Redshirts paying off
When asked which redshirt freshmen had made a big jump on the field during the first week of fall camp, Bielema mentioned Jordan Fredrick and A.J. Jordan as players that could help bolster the Badgers' depleted receiving corps.
"I think they've both made a big impact not only on me but our coaches and our players about their ability to maybe step forward and take a role a little but sooner rather than later," said Bielema.
He also mentioned that Austin Traylor could make an impact as the team's fifth tight end and that defensive ends James Adeyanju and Jesse Hayes are ‘coming along' and be the team's fifth and sixth defensive ends, respectively.
How has Manasseh Garner been progressing for you and where do you see him fitting in this year if he stays healthy?
"Manasseh has been a nice little surprise. Manasseh has never redshirted. He's kind of been one of those guys, played him on defense his first year and played him at wide receiver last year and with the coaching transition, he didn't really get a chance to participate in the spring. Manasseh as we know looks like a Greek god. Got all the bumps in the right places, very gifted genetically and is a great kid to visit with, talk with.
"And so it's kind of been fun for our coaches to see him come to camp this fall, performing at a very high level. I'd say right now he's battling out for that receiver position opposite Abby. Him and Jordan Fredrick, probably the two leading guys, and a little bit of Kenzel Doe there as well as Duckworth. Nice little competition going on there."
Extra Points: Bielema wants to name a starting quarterback at least 10 days before the season opener, which would be around August 23 … Bielema said he has not been involved in the police investigation involving the campus attack of Montee Ball … Bielema said kicker Kyle French has been very good in all the field goal drills up to this point and that true freshman Jack Russell has been pushing for the kickoff job.