Notes: Needing the Game Changer

After missing last season's loss in Columbus, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema is hoping junior defensive end David Gilbert comes to play on Saturday against No.6 Ohio State. Also, Bielema updates the status of Chris Borland and of Class of 2013 early enrollees.

MADISON - Over a three week span, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema had a tradition he would use every time he saw junior defensive end David Gilbert. He would say the word ‘potential' and make a motion across his chest.

After missing last year's game because of an injury, Gilbert, along with senior cornerback Devin Smith, will be key factors when Wisconsin hosts No.6 Ohio State (10-0, 6-0 Big Ten) Saturday afternoon at Camp Randall.

Registering 31 tackles, seven tackles for loss and four sacks in 10 games this season, Bielema said he has seen the light bulb go on over Gilbert's head the last three games.

"David Gilbert can take over a game and change it if he's really confident in what he's doing," said Bielema.

The same could be said for Smith, who registered his third interception of the season last week in Wisconsin's 62-14 win over Indiana to clinch a spot in the Big Ten championship game. For the season, Smith has registered 48 tackles and 13 pass deflections.

"He's playing at a level as high as he's had since he's been here," said Bielema of Smith. "The part that our seniors realize that seniors that play well have a chance to go on to the next level, and I know that's the ultimate goal of Devin."

Borland Will Start, But …

Bielema prefaced his comment by saying he was ‘OK' and will go through pregame Saturday, but junior linebacker Chris Borland will be evaluated and watched closely after suffering a hamstring injury against Indiana.

"He's been out there," said Bielema. "Game speed is different than practice speed … Each day has gotten better. He's very adamant about every day feels better. A lot of times when you are dealing with an injury like that, you get concerned that he stars regressing. He hasn't regressed."

If Borland can't play, sophomore linebacker Marcus Trotter would likely start, but Bielema said it's possibly to move junior Ethan Armstrong (who played mike his first two years) inside and have junior linebacker Conor O'Neill replace him.

"Marcus has done some good things, he really has, going back to last spring and fall camp," said Bielema. "It will be exciting."

No Letters of Intent for early enrollees

Despite Minneapolis Tartan senior defensive back Keelon Brookins posting pictures on Facebook of his signing ceremony for the University of Wisconsin, Bielema said the recruits that are enrolling early aren't officially apart of the program until the first day of spring semester classes.

"Your signing day when you are a mid-year enrollee is when you begin classes," said Bielema. "Before that you don't sign anything. It's kind of a glitch that I have tried to address for the last three years." The reason Bielema has wanted to change the rule is because of the story with Gilbert. An early enrollee in the Class of 2009, Gilbert came on campus January 8 with his mother, who had never been north of the Florida state border. According Bielema, it was minus-48 wind chill.

"We didn't start classes for four more days and I was worried that this kid would literally pack up and leave," said Bielema. "The NCAA hasn't caught on to that yet that a kid that is about to enroll never signs a national letter of intent."


On managing ‘big games' against Ohio State

"I learned this from Coach Alvarez one of the first times we played Ohio State when I was his defensive coordinator. Everybody thinks you have to give this extra effort and things like that. You train 365 days a year to play in this game. We don't need to go beyond what's in front of us. I think when you have guys trying to put too much out there, that's when bad things happen."

Extra Points: Bielema said senior days are ‘tough days' for him, but, ‘people are crying for the right reasons.' Wisconsin is 6-0 on senior day under Bielema … In addition to the seniors, Bielema said UW will honor Josh Peprah and Joe McNamara. In theory, this would open up two more scholarships for the Class of 2013.

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