Pressley's recipe: Big hits

Sophomore fullback looking forward to butting heads with Penn State's highly touted linebackers

Growing up in Woodbury, N.J., University of Wisconsin sophomore fullback Chris Pressley bled Penn State blue.

"I was a big fan of Penn State," Pressley said. "I started off wanting to go to Penn State. But then when I was getting recruited I came out here, I liked this program a lot. And Penn State they had another fullback that they wanted to offer… They were recruiting me for linebacker, not fullback. I just really wanted to play running back."

Saturday, No. 14 Wisconsin (8-1 overall, 5-1 Big Ten) meets up with host No. 10 Penn State (8-1, 5-1) at 2:36 p.m. Central with a Big Ten Championship potentially hanging in the balance. Pressley will play a key role in the outcome from his fullback position, as he seeks out the corps of linebackers that the Nittany Lions wanted him to join.

Pressley will have 25-30 family and friends in the Beaver Stadium crowd.

"Everyone in my area is a big Penn State fan," he said. "My family now is Wisconsin, but they were Penn State."

Technically, Pressley is still looking for his first collegiate start. But ever since senior Matt Bernstein left the Big Ten season opener versus Michigan game with the effects of a sports hernia, Pressley and redshirt freshman Bill Rentmeester have commanded the fullback position.

Pressley, a 6-foot, 256-pound converted tailback, will face his greatest challenge this season against Penn State's formidable defense. If Brian Calhoun and the Wisconsin running game are going to have success, Pressley will have to win his share of the collisions he encounters with Nittany Lion linebackers Paul Posluszny, Dan Connor and Tim Shaw.

He is eager for the assignment.

"What they do is once they get hit a few times they are going to come down and chop you," Pressley said. "They are going to go after your knees. Basically I have to get to the hole before they do so I don't clog the hole up. So it's basically going to be about speed, getting to that point of attack before they get there so I can open that hole up."

Pressley feels he can use his size to his advantage. Posluszny and Shaw are listed at 234 pounds; Connor at 200.

"For the most part I'm going to go in expecting them to stay head up and try to knock them around," Pressley said. "Their heaviest guy is about 228 and when I see numbers like that it just mentally plays a part. They're like safeties to me. That's how I look at them.

"But they are pretty aggressive… The key thing is they're fast. But I think being physical with them, making them real timid in situations will make them back off a little bit, open the holes wide up…

"Watching film a lot of teams didn't go right at them like we're going to do. That's our plan. We're going to try to basically go right at them."

Pressley may have a point. Much has been said about the amazing job Penn State's defense did bottling up Minnesota's running game earlier this season. But the Gophers' scheme depends on the quickness of its linemen and their ability to cut block defenders. Penn State's speed on defense made that very difficult. The Badgers will likely try to set a physical tone Saturday, but it is one that Penn State will reciprocate.

For his part, Pressley feels that he has learned through the course of this season how to harness his physicality.

"I'm getting a little better visually and just my confidence is going up because I know what I'm doing more," Pressley said. "I can attack things with aggression instead of being hesitant because I know what I'm doing."

Running backs coach Brian White, Pressley said, always tells him to "make sure you are out of control at the point of contact… Don't just start going down full speed. At the point of contact that's where you let loose."

Pressley was named UW's co-offensive player of the week for his performance in the Badgers' 41-24 win at Illinois. But ever since Bernstein went down with his injury, White has insisted that Pressley and Rentmeester have played at a high level. The Illinois game, White said, was the rule, not the exception for Pressley.

"Chris Pressley played (last) Saturday as he's played for the past four weeks," White said. "For whatever reason, wherever it got started about Chris and Billy, they've been playing well. Their performance has been good. And it was good against Illinois and it will continue to be good. They are good football players. People want to create stories that don't exist, that aren't true. And my job is to make sure people know what the truth is. I've been very pleased and proud of the way they've played and expect them to play a critical role in this game against Penn State."

Pressley has made several crushing blocks this season. The one that stands out, though, occurred late last week, when he slid off an initial block, sprinted downfield and decleated Illini safety Kevin Mitchell, allowing Calhoun to burst down the sideline for a 46-yard touchdown.

"I was caught up on the outside," Pressley said. "When you are running, you play to the whistle because if I stop there on that chip I wouldn't have been able to get down field.

"But as you always keep going you see guys. The play's always moving. So when you are out there on a play, don't stop. Just keep moving your feet, go find a block. Find somebody to hit. That's what I'm going to try to do on every play: Find somebody to hit. Because I used to go through if my man wasn't there, now I'd be like, ‘Oh, what am I looking at now?' Now, I know if my man's not there, someone else picked him up, I'm going to go pick up his guy."

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