Notes: Off the Field Competition

While Saturday will mark only the second time in the past 37 years Wisconsin and Nebraska have faced each other on the football field, Badgers coach Bret Bielema and Cornhuskers coach Bo Pelini are becoming quite familiar with one another on the national recruiting trails.

MADISON - When Nebraska officially accepted an invitation to join the Big Ten in June 2010, it was viewed as the dawning of a new era of college football competition in the conference. Separating into two division with six teams with the winners playing each other for the right to go to a BCS game, it was a move that promise to change the landscape of the Big Ten.

In the eyes of Wisconsin and head coach Bret Bielema, the move also changed the landscape of recruiting in the Midwest; long considered the program's foundation.

"In the last year, there's been a definite change," Bielema said during his Monday press conference. "It became a little more apparent they were putting more of an emphasis on the Midwest, even here in the state of Wisconsin. Last year, the last two signing classes, we battled them out a little bit on certain guys, but this year definitely seeing an increase in that."

Wisconsin had gotten the upper hand against Nebraska in recruiting a couple Midwest defensive ends in the 2011 recruiting class, as Chicago's James Adeyanju and Ohio's Jesse Hayes both had the Cornhuskers in their top five before deciding on Wisconsin. The two committed within five days of each other.

"An area we both traditionally recruited is Ohio and (Nebraska coach Bo Pelini is) from Youngstown. A lot of connections there and from the state of Ohio, he knows how good that is. We obviously do, as well."

The 2013 recruiting cycle is different, as Nebraska took advantage of Wisconsin losing offensive line coach and in-state recruiter Bob Bostad to land Milton defensive end A.J. Natter, a four-star recruit who is the highest ranked recruit in the state. Wisconsin did, however, out recruit the Cornhuskers for Sun Prairie junior defensive tackle Craig Evans, who made his verbal pledge to Bielema last week.

The Badgers also have gone head-to-head with Nebraska on the West Coast and lost for 2013, unsuccessfully jumping in late on four-star California quarterback Johnny Stanton. Stanton committed to Nebraska following an unofficial visit to Madison in July.

"A new area for us is just West," Bielema said. "I would say that the kids that we've recruited for our offense, we are finding that we're battling Nebraska quite often on some of those same type of kids."

In the class of 2013, the Badgers and Cornhuskers are both recruiting uncommitted tailbacks Corey Clement and David Williams, defensive backs Jalen Banks and Sojourn Shelton, offensive lineman David Knevel and defensive tackle Monty Nelson.

Changes on the Depth Chart

After his performance Saturday in Wisconsin's 37-26 victory over UTEP, redshirt freshman Joel Stave is listed as the No.1 quarterback on Wisconsin's two-deep depth chart prior to its conference opener against Nebraska.

"He's very engaged to the game," said Bielema. "The thing I love about him was his responses on Saturday when he didn't have a good play. He was very, very determined to find the answers … I think Joel will take a big step this week during practice. Hopefully, good things will continue to follow."

Also listed as a starter is senior tailback Montee Ball, who was knocked out early in the second quarter Saturday with what was classified as a head injury. Ball was hit hard as he ran in from one-yard out – his 64th career rushing touchdown – and watched from the sidelines as junior James White (65 rushing yards, two scores) and freshman Melvin Gordon (112, 1) carried the load.

Ball will undergo a concussion test on Tuesday (his second in two months) and will practice Tuesday if cleared.

"I go back to just seeing some of the things that Montee has gone through in the past," Bielema said. "He came back from the one before the season ever started obviously with the incident fairly quick. Again, my hands are off on that situation. I know the things (the medical staff) said to me that he took on Sunday were very, very low, no overly concerned to keep him out for this week."

The depth chart also lists true freshman Jack Russell as the starter on both kickoffs and field goals and sophomore Kyle Costigan as the starting right guard.

"I thought he was engaged," Bielema said of Costigan. "He was very excited to get the start. Early on, you'll see there's some plays where he gets on the right guy, covers him up, stays on him, gives our guys a chance to have success. There was a number of plays early on in the first quarter that were really just a read away or a guy away from holding on to a block.

"Just moving at the line of scrimmage, too. There were several times on Sunday where I'd watch the first angle is from the side where I'd see the movement off the line of scrimmage like we've been trying to talk about trying to get done, and it was definitely very apparent, for him especially."

Borland Honored Again

Ranging all over the field in Saturday's 37-26 win over UTEP to close the nonconference season, junior linebacker Chris Borland was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week Monday. The honor was Borland's fourth of his career, tied for second-most in conference history.

Borland recorded a team-high 12 tackles, tying a career-best with 3.5 TFLs for 20 yards and recording a career-high two sacks in the Badgers' 37-26 win over UTEP. For good measure he also tied a career-best mark with two pass breakups.

Borland was a keystone in a Badger defense that held UTEP to 108 yards of offense in the first half, just 77 total rushing yards on 33 attempts and only 5-for-18 on third-downs. Borland is tied for sixth in the Big Ten with 34 tackles, including 4.5 TFL, and tied for fourth with 3.0 sacks.

Wisconsin honored Jared Abbrederis as the offensive MVP, Borland and Ethan Hemer as co-defensive MVPs and Konrad Zagzebski and Devin Smith as co-special team MVPs.

From the Infirmary

Usually going through a practice on Sunday and having an off day Monday, Bielema felt it more prudent to give his team a 48-hour window to get healthy in preparation for Saturday. As a result, Wisconsin's three injuries on defensive line – senior Brendan Kelly and juniors Tyler Dippel and David Gilbert – should return no later than Wednesday.

That bodes well for Wisconsin, as outside containment will be critical this weekend against junior quarterback Taylor Martinez. Through four games, Martinez is averaging 219.5 yards passing and 47.8 yards rushing.

"He brings a unique challenge in the fact of what he's able to do both with his feet and with his arm," said Bielema. "That's the part if you're truly going to grade how Martinez is different, he's done a nice job done the field vertically in conjunction with all the things in years past or the last two years on film.

"The option game is a threat just because they bring a variety of different looks and different motions. And if he's getting an open hole, he can outrun any DB we got and any linebacker. That's a tremendous challenge for us, and I think that's just doubled or amplified because of what he's been able to do in the play action passes off of it."

Extra Points: Bielema said he plans to get Gordon and White into the game plan regardless of the health of Ball … Redshirt freshman receiver Lance Baertz (a high school quarterback) is simulating Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez for the second straight season … Saturday's game will be televised nationally by ABC at 7 p.m.

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