Badger football notes: bye week to-do list

Wisconsin hopes lighter itinerary recuperates team

The Wisconsin football team's "1-0" mantra has become so prevalent that students and professors even joke about it, Wisconsin quarterback John Stocco acknowledged Monday.

"They actually do sometimes, which is kind of weird," he said. "But that's something that we talk about all the time. It's worked out for us."

With a bye week on hand there will be two weeks of students, teachers, fans and media considering the 8-0 Badgers' season thus far and looking forward to what lies ahead. Wisconsin, though, is remaining focused on day-to-day tasks, with an eye on its Nov. 6 matchup with Minnesota.

"A lot of times people will say, ‘8-0, good job,'" Stocco said. "And I'll just say, ‘1-0.'"

That said, the Badgers' upcoming week will be different in significant ways.

Nursing back to health

The clearest benefit of an off week relatively late in the season is that it gives Wisconsin an opportunity to potentially get some injured players back in time for Minnesota. The Badgers are hopeful that tailback Anthony Davis (thigh) will be back to 100 percent and that defensive ends Erasmus James (ankle) and Jonathan Welsh (ankle) and linebacker Reggie Cribbs will be ready to return from injury.

"We feel like Anthony should get close to 100 percent," Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez said Monday. "I thought Reggie Cribbs was pretty close to getting there. Jonathan Welsh was pretty close. I was glad we got by without having to play him [against Northwestern]. This week should get him where he needs to be the following week."

James said Monday he expects to practice next week after sitting out with a high ankle sprain since the third quarter of the Purdue game two weeks ago.

Even for players who are not injured, however, a reduced schedule this week will allow time for recuperation.

"There were some guys that you could see in their faces after that game, they were drained," Alvarez said. "We need this week. We really need this week to get healthy."

"I think a lot of guys are looking forward to [getting some rest]," Stocco said."

The Badger signal caller, however, did not believe his team was riding on fumes.

"We worked real hard, we have great conditioning. I think the guys are still real hungry. Everybody wants to win," Stocco said. "I didn't get the sense that we were exhausted."

Hello again

In a rare in-season move, Wisconsin opened practice to the media Monday. The Badgers' regulars took part in conditioning and a stretching routine, then took a seat on the bench or stood on the sideline and watched their mostly younger counterparts. Players who do not normally receive regular playing time worked on position-centric fundamentals and then scrimmaged.

Wisconsin's remaining practices this week (closed to the media) will be similarly structured, though the players at the top of the depth chart will don pads and take part in a more complete, if abbreviated, workout.

"Older guys will come back tomorrow [Tuesday]," Alvarez said. "We are preparing a tentative game plan for Minnesota. We'll start incorporating that but will spend some time on the fundamentals.

"Practices will be about an hour and a half. We won't be out there a long time but we'll be able to stay sharp. We'll let our guys get rested."

The Badgers want to focus on cleaning up fundamentals this week and work out any kinks in their armor.

The week, however, also gives coaches an opportunity to see scout team players running Wisconsin's sets in scrimmage situations for the first time since fall training camp. Monday, the Badgers' reserves, particularly on defense, were very aggressive on the field, much like their first-team counterparts.

"I was excited. There was some popping going on," defensive coordinator Bret Bielema said. "It was their first chance to show those older guys, hey, I can do what you can do. I can jump in and be a part of this tradition and be a part of this success."

While the first-teamers will receive their reps as the week progresses, the reserves will remain a focal point.

"When we are in a regular game week ones always go first [in drills and scrimmage sessions]," Bielema said. "Well, during the off week we'll have the twos go first, put an emphasis on them, make them understand and start to feel that they're a one."

Wisconsin's starters played the role of cheerleader well Monday, constantly urging on their less experienced teammates.

"I think that those guys take a lot of pride and a lot of pleasure in coaching those younger guys up," Bielema said.

Keep your nose clean

The Badgers have a workout scheduled for Thursday morning, then have off until Monday, giving the players a three-and-a-half-day weekend to rest, recuperate and return home if they so desire. It was an idea Alvarez incorporated after speaking recently with Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.

"This is really a little different than what we've done in the past.," Alvarez said.

Alvarez acknowledged Monday that Madison's rambunctious Halloween weekend festivities, which will likely begin Friday evening and continue through Sunday, played a role in the decision to extend the players' weekend and hopefully provide incentive for a trip out of town.

"That's [a reason] why we give them three days and encourage them to go home," Alvarez said. "That's one thing."

The Halloween weekend strayed from revelry to late-night rioting in 2002 and 2003.

"We definitely have to address it as coaches," Alvarez said. "We'd be foolish if we didn't talk to them about discouraging them from being there and if they are there what to anticipate. A freshman kid who just came to school here doesn't know anything about what's going to happen. Just try to educate them and maybe give them a little historical view of what has gone on in the past and what to stay away from. We have to be proactive in that. Our guys have been good, knock on wood. They listen pretty well and hopefully we get through this."

"That's something that I don't even want a part of," Stocco said. "That's something that's just crazy and something that nobody needs to be involved with."

Hitting the trails

Wisconsin's coaches will begin hitting the road on recruiting trips following practice Wednesday and will continue recruiting through Friday night.

"Some will leave Wednesday after practice and go to their specific recruiting areas," Alvarez said. "We will recruit through Friday. Guys will be able to get in their high schools during the day, pick up film, visit with the coaches, get transcripts, watch games."

The Badgers' 8-0 record, No. 7 BCS ranking and the national prestige that has followed can only help bolster Wisconsin's stature in the eyes of recruits.

"It is fun for me and it's really good for our program," Alvarez said of the national radio spots he has been asked to take part in recently. "It's free publicity. My coaches are calling recruits all over the country, visiting with them and they've worked them hard and all of a sudden they know something about us and now they hear us on a national show. That gives us more credibility. Same thing with parents and obviously I think our fans enjoy that and we have fans all over the country. It's a thrill for them. It's fun to be in the mix."

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