MADISON - With the first day of fall practice concluded, Wisconsin football head coach Bret Bielema sounded like all 119 other head coaches around the country: extremely optimistic.
Every player reported in shape. All position groups are looking at a good battle. The freshmen are filling in nicely. According to Bielema anyways.
In between the excitement of football making its return to campus, however, Bielema did dispense a few solid nuggets of information during his 11-minute conversation with the media
Offensive line returning starters and then some
While fans (and opposing teams) always expect a strong group up front for the offense, the Badgers O-Line has the potential to be the best in the Big Ten, if not the country this season. UW returns all starters from last season, and will back the front five up with several other Big Ten quality offensive linemen.
According to Bielema, the two-deep chart saw LT Gabe Carimi, LG John Moffitt, C Peter Konz, RG Kevin Zeitler and RT Josh Oglesby as starters, with LT Ricky Wagner, LG Travis Frederick, C Bill Nagy, RG Ryan Groy and RT Zac Matthias backing them up.
"I made jokes on the circuit this summer, to have seven offensive starters at a position you start five is an unreal thing to be able to witness," Bielema said.
"When an offensive lineman comes here they want to be here because of the tradition we have established. Something we are really beginning to reap the rewards because of the depth at that position."
So far, all signs point to full recoveries. Both players participated in practice Monday, and Bielema said the rehabs were going as well, if not better, then expected.
Taylor was leading the squad in tackles last season before going down with the knee injury in the seventh week.
"Mike Taylor looked like Mike Taylor, there wasn't any signs that he was in a slowed down state or anything like that," Bielema said.
While many did not expect Phillips to be ready to play with fall camp opening, Bielema said his recovery is going faster then the average ACL tear.
"Curt Phillips continues to be a head of the curve and really feels good," Bielema said. "I spent the last ten minutes with just freshman working, and I was standing right next to Curt and he was excited about how well he felt and how well he was moving around."
Not just for fashion
Recovering from his ACL injury, Phillips is wearing the normal knee brace that comes along with such rehab.
And so are the rest of the quarterbacks.
According to Bielema, the signal callers noticed that all of the Oregon State QBs wear a knee brace on their planting leg, and the UW group decided to mimic them. Bielema said it is just a precaution, trying to give the leg a little extra protection from pass rushers.
"They are all wearing braces on their plant leg. The leg is vulnerable in a situation where someone could fall into that," Bielema said.
Extra Points: According to Bielema, Anthony Mains is not on the 105-man roster, though he will return with the team eventually. Bielema declined to provide more information on the subject when prodded. ... Freshman safety Michael Trotter was expected to compete for one of the backup safety spots, but was setback during the summer with an extended bout of mono. Bielema said Trotter is behind conditioning wise, but looked good otherwise. ... And finally, a platitude a la Bielema: "Everybody feels good day one, day two and day three, but if we take care of business today, it makes day 30 that much better."
Junior running back John Clay was named one of "30 players to watch" for the 2010 Walter Camp Award, given annually to the nation's top player. Later in the day, he was named to the Maxwell Award's 60-player watch list.
Senior quarterback Scott Tolzien joined Clay on the Maxwell Award Watch List, making Wisconsin one of 12 schools in the country to have multiple players on the Maxwell Watch List. The Maxwell Award has been presented to the outstanding collegiate football player in America since 1937.
UW joined an even more select group with a pair of players, sophomore linebacker Chris Borland and junior defensive end J.J. Watt, on the 60-player Chuck Bednarik Award Watch List. The Chuck Bednarik Award has been presented to the nation's top defensive player since 1995.
Thus far, eight different Badger players have been named to watch lists for major national awards, including Gabe Carimi (Rotary Lombardi Award, Outland Award), Lance Kendricks and John Moffitt (Rotary Lombardi) and Josh Oglesby (Outland).