Defensive Emphasis

As Bret Bielema formally announced the members of 2008 recruiting class Wednesday at the Kohl Center, one thing became clear – defense was his utmost concern.

MADISON - Head coach Bret Bielema stated several times that the defense, in particular the defensive line, was an immediate need that he looked to fix by adding mostly high school seniors and some junior college transfers. Most of all, he was looking for players with athletic ability who could fillin wherever they are needed because last year's defense was somewhat of a disappointment.

"We really felt defensive line needed to be a point of emphasis," said Bielema. "You just gotta be true to who you are and what you need."

What that means is, Bielema never recruited players who were ranked high, he only recruited players that he believes he needs to fill in positions. It just so happens that more than one-third of recruits came from one state.

"In the state of Wisconsin, which is our number one priority, we get every kid we offer," Bielema said. "When they come to Wisconsin they expect to get the same success from where they came from."

He envisions this class accomplishing big things. One of his biggest examples of recruitment success was Travis Beckum, a home-state player who switched positions and became a star. Bielema envisions someone from this class doing the same.

"I think with all the kids that are signing here today, I really think we are strong from top to bottom," said Bielema. "This is the most relaxed I've ever been on recruiting day."

Bielema also revealed he doesn't believe in recruit rankings and focuses more on whether they fit academically, socially and with the football team. He understands that the recruits will be a huge part of the future of the football team, maybe more in the near future than he'd like, but they are needed to achieve success.

The defensive concerns were partly solved by adding many players. Out of the 29 recruits, 19 were primarily going to be used for defensive positions during their first year as a Badger. The list includes huge defensive lineman, including four players over 6-foot-5. Yet, there were some highlights in particular that he got more than excited about.

The biggest defensive player Bielema recruited was Dan Moore, a 6- foot-2 280 pound defensive tackle from O'Fallon, TN. Moore played at Joliet Junior College before transferring to Wisconsin, but his size and skills shown were too impressive to pass up.

"He's a big kid and we really liked what we saw out of [Moore], but we had to research about him," said Bielema. "I came from Kansas State, which made a living off of junior college players."

The player who got Bielema the most excited was Mike Taylor, a 6- foot-2 205 pound linebacker from Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin. Bielema saw him during an all-star game could not believe what he saw in first person.

"Taylor's very athletic, willing to hit people, runs extremely well, has a high motor," Bielema said.

Speaking of athletic ability, the cornerback received a well-needed boost - because of All-Big Ten Jack Ikegwuonu's departure - in T.J. Williams. As a 6 foot 180 pound recruit from Kenosha, Wisconsin, Bielema envisions using this speed demon for wide receiver and returner for special teams.

"He's probably turned in the best camp time I've seen in as a coach," said Bielema. "He's got just flat-out speed."

Finally, the offensive side of the ball didn't get ignored. The most celebrated recruit was quarterback Curt Phillips, a 6-foot-3 215 pound recruit from Kingsport, Tennessee. He had Bielema excited because of his "athletic ability and strengths on the field."

Overall, Bielema is more than optimistic about the job the coaching staff has done this year. One of the things he was most proud was he recruited for Wisconsin in the right way. He didn't lie or negative recruit against other schools, he just simply stated the Badger's recent success and his expectations of them when they play for him.

"This recruiting class is the result of a lot of hard work," said Bielema. "We've done a lot of research and work on these kids to make sure they're going to fit."


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