Calling all captains

The Badgers will be looking for players to fill leadership roles during fall camp

Typically, the University of Wisconsin football team under coach Barry Alvarez chooses its captains for the upcoming year toward the end of spring practices, prior to the annual spring game.

This year, however, Alvarez chose to wait until fall training camp to see which players emerged as leaders.

"I decided this year during spring practice that I was going to wait until — I felt we had a number of guys that could be leaders, captains," Alvarez said recently. "I wanted to wait until after the summer and then towards the end of two-a-days and then vote and see who our guys would vote for."

What brought about the change?

"It's just a number of factors," Alvarez explained. "I just decided that it's not etched in stone that we had to have somebody in the spring. There was some guys that I wanted to visit with about leadership and I wanted them to be more involved in leading the team and being a leader and I don't know whether they, you know, some guys it's natural to do that and other guys it takes a little prodding and a realization that that's expected of them."

Last season the Badgers were brimming with leadership. Many of the 14 starters that must be replaced this fall were institutions in cardinal and white, in addition to being really good football players. Captains Jim Leonhard, Dan Buenning, Anttaj Hawthorne and Anthony Davis seemed born for the role. And other departed seniors such as Scott Starks and Robert Brooks exuded an abundance of leadership.

The 2005 Badgers also have several potential leaders.

Who did Alvarez talk to about leadership following spring ball?

"A number of the seniors," he said. "I think (Matt) Bernstein and Jonathan Orr and Brandon Williams. I think (Brian) Calhoun can be a leader. I think certainly Donovan Raiola, Jason Palermo, Owen Daniels, (Jason) Pociask. I don't know if I mentioned Joe Thomas. All those guys. All those guys I expect leadership from.

"On defense, (Mark) Zalewski's played a lot of ball. Brett Bell. Johnny White's a guy that the kids really look up to. That's just a few of the guys that I visited with about the role I expected them to play."

An informal survey of players during spring practices yielded many of the names Alvarez said he talked to following the spring.

"(John Stocco)'s the leader," wide receiver Brandon Williams said then, referring to UW's starting quarterback. "We have other leaders in key roles as far as the receivers, Donovan (Raiola) on the line. It is not a lot of head guys trying to run the show. We just kind of trying to be laid back and let everything flow….

"I think Tez (Dontez Sanders) has established himself, Zalewski… Then you've got Joe Thomas. He does his talking with his play. He doesn't really say too much but he gets out there and gets it done….

"Me, Brandon White and Jonathan Orr, we've kind of solidified ourselves as some leaders on the team who you can come and talk to and try to push everything in the right direction.

"We have a few guys that have stepped up and kind of been staples in the program."

One sign of who could emerge as captains played out this week, when fullback Matt Bernstein, left tackle Joe Thomas and corner Brett Bell accompanied Alvarez to Chicago for the Big Ten media days.

Asked Tuesday who else could emerge, Thomas said, "Mark Zalewski's a good candidate for a captain. Donovan (Raiola) is a good candidate. John Stocco's a good candidate. Our receivers who are seniors are good candidates."

Fall camp begins Wednesday, and as two-a-days unfold this month the Badgers' roles on the field, and the leadership roles within the team, will develop.

"I just wanted them to have that opportunity and then see who really stepped out so that we could have legitimate captains," Alvarez said.

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