Summer Conditioned

You would not have seen sophomore wide receiver Nick Toon lounging around the pool with an umbrella drink in his hands this summer. While others relaxed, Toon was gathering his fellow wide receivers for some summer conditioning; conditioning that has helped Toon improve dramatically entering this season

MADISON - It's been stated by head coaches that what players do in the summer unsupervised is just as important as what a college staff will teach in the spring or what plays they will install in the fall.

Sophomore Nick Toon takes that comment to heart, a big reason why the wide receiver was one of the main ring leaders in leading off-season workouts with his fellow wideouts. Whether is was running routes and working on plays or a simple game of catch, Toon was not shy about getting on the cell phone to further build some strong chemistry.

"It would be nice to have lounged around, but you don't get any better sitting around," Toon said. "Summer conditioning is hard work. Me and Isaac Anderson were the guys that tried to get everyone out to play catch. You can't force anyone to come out, but anyone that was willing to work and get better we encouraged."

While some guys go home, go on vacation or work full-time jobs, Toon made conditioning his main focus, wanting to get better and, forgive the pun, get more in tune with the offense and his body. While he admits to not seeing a big fluctuation in his weight, Toon feels like a more mature player, having more control over his body and still having room to grow and improve.

"Everyone's goal for the summer is to get better, which is a vague goal, but I wanted to get stronger, more toned and get in sync with the quarterbacks," Toon said. "I wanted to be in the best shape when camp started and I feel like I accomplished all those goals."

While his numbers are deceiving (17 catches, 257 yards, one score) in only eight games, Toon was on fire his last five contests, grabbing 14 passes for 196 and his first career touchdown against Cal Poly. In the spring, Toon continued his momentum, showing the coaching staff that he can utilize his athleticism to beat corners and that his superb hand-eye coordination gives him the ability to adjust to the ball.

Combine all those things, many prognosticators have penciled in Toon for a breakout season. From Toon's standpoint, his goal is simpler than 1,000 yards and 20 touchdowns.

"The first step in accomplishing my goals is establishing a starting role," Toon said blatantly. "Going from there, I need to go out there and use my talents to make all the plays I can. I had a good spring. I showed the coaches of what I am capable of and obviously, that's going to draw attention and raise some eyebrows. I could have had a better spring, but I put myself in the right position coming into this camp."

In addition to his personal workouts, Toon, like many of his teammates, has been the beneficiaries of the ‘mind and strength stimulation' of new strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert. From flipping tractor tires to tug or war, Herbert's new spin on summer conditioning has re-energized the players after a frustrating 2008.

"He made sure we were ready for camp and heading into the season," Toon said. "He changed things up, put a new twist on it and guys responded to it. He made sure we were doing instructional things that would carry over to the field."

In 2008, there were five receivers in NCAA FBS football with more receiving yards than the entire Badger wide-out position combined. With Wisconsin returning every starter and every key contributor from a season ago, the Badgers are still young, but have the experience to make an impact, a group that starts with the play of Toon.

"You can consider us a veteran group now," Toon said. "We're not young anymore, we know the plays, we know where to align and we can't have trouble with that to be successful. It's nice to get everyone back, have that experience and knowledge on the field and, hopefully, we can capitalize on our intelligence."


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