Media Day Notes: Expecting the Best

News and notes from Wisconsin's Media Day Sunday, which involve more talk on expectations, linebacker Mike Taylor and the prankster known as Curt Phillips.

MADISON - Even after opening the conference media gathering as the leading speaker, Head Coach Bret Bielema hasn't become comfortable talking about the extremely high expectations surrounding his football program.

That comes with the territory when the fifth-year head coach returns 18 starters, including 10 on the offensive side of the ball.

Bielema got his first taste of the higher expectations at Big Ten Media Days at the beginning of August, but the questions were muddled after he and his players were peppered with inquiries about conference expansion, title games and division alignment.

"I realize that we have a number of high expectations that are on our radar," Bielema said on Sunday. "Our kids have embraced that and really bought into the mentality that the only way we can guarantee any kind of success in our first game or last game of the year is to do our work today."

In two seasons under Bielema, the Badgers earned a preseason top 13 ranking in the Associated Press poll and finished no higher than 24th. In the two other seasons where Wisconsin started far under the radar, the Badgers finished no worse than 16th in the AP poll.

Bielema admitted to not addressing the underdog issue last year, choosing to focus their efforts on what they were doing and where they were going. The plan hasn't changed, even though the talk from their parents, friends and peers will only escalate once the student body gets back on campus.

"More so than any other time in my seven years here and five years as a head coach, they really do just concentrate at the task at hand," Bielema said. "They really don't skip a step … They learned that by experience, the only way to get to tomorrow is work today."

The coaches poll opened with Wisconsin at No. 12 in the nation. With their first six opponents unranked, the hype could only increase.

"I asked them to do two things well at the beginning of camp," Bielema said. "I asked them to communicate. Whether it be with their coaches, with their players. Whatever level, they need to be great communicators, and they need to embrace physical toughness.

"If they can do those two things, we'll have a chance."

Taylor receives a Setback

Much to his chagrin, there's something about fall camp and Mike Taylor that doesn't mesh.

Taylor, who suffered a torn ACL in his right knee in Week 7 last season and missed the final six games of the season, will undergo an operation on the same knee Tuesday, and go through a two-to-four week rehabilitation.

"He just kind of re-aggravated an area," Bielema said. "Anytime you go back into that knee for the second time, you have that freighting effect … We'll let him know that we won't put him on that field until he's 100 percent ready."

Taylor was Wisconsin's team leader in solo tackles (20) and total tackles (43) when the injury occurred. Bielema expects Taylor to miss the season opener at UNLV September 4, but hopes to have him back no later than the Big Ten opener at Michigan State October 2.

The setback will cause Taylor to miss his third straight fall camp. Taylor received a medical redshirted as a freshman in 2008 after undergoing neck surgery to repair a problem that developed from Taylor's days as a high school wrestler for Ashwaubenon. He missed most of camp last season because of recurring hamstring problems.

Bielema also commented that sophomore right guard Kevin Zeitler, who started all 13 games last season, suffered a sprained ankle Saturday and is expected to be out for up to a week.

The injury to Zeitler, who was wearing a walking boot Sunday, opens the door for senior Bill Nagy, who was sidelined for the most of last season after being injured in a moped accident last summer. Zeitler and Nagy opened preseason camp as co-starters on the depth chart.

"Anybody that knows Kevin, he doesn't want to miss one minute of practice, let alone be gone for a week or so," Bielema said.

Cromartie On the Radar

While much of the talk has been about which freshmen he expects to be able to step in and contribute, Bielema has seen plenty of returning players start to pop into the equation, including 6-foot-1, 183-pound sophomore Marcus Cromartie.

Cromartie, who has been on the outside looking in for much of his tenure, appears to be challenging for one of the backup cornerback spots.

"He's probably playing as good of football as he's played since he's been here," Bielema said. "Going into his third year, we kind of challenged him to step up to the plate and come forward. He's been interesting."

While James White has been all the rage of the freshman offensive players, former St. Thomas Aquinas teammate Dezmen Southward appeared to be finding his niche at safety.

"He's shown some flashes there," said Bielema of Southward, who has only been playing organized football for four years. "He's got as much ability as any safety in the program."

Tweet This!

Although J.J. Watt is the master tweeted on the University of Wisconsin, it appears Curt Phillips is the master prankster.

After Watt had been ribbing him throughout the day Friday, Phillips took advantage of an ill-timed shower by Watt, swiping his phone, logging into Watt's Twitter account and tweeting that Watt was officially a defensive tackle. While meant to be funny, the news resulted in over two dozen text messages and a Madison television station reporting the news.

The news got a good laugh from Bielema, especially when Watt approached Bielema to protest the fake tweet and plead his case.

"It was a very good way to point out how bad some things can be, even in the joking sense," Bielema said. "That information is public knowledge … and they have to be aware of it."

Watt sought revenge on Phillips by planning to place post-it notes all over Phillips' truck. When the redshirt sophomore got wind of the plan, Watt changed course and plastered notes all over senior safety Jay Valai's car.

Phillips also made sure to sport a Scott Tolzien football jersey during a team meeting Sunday, although the senior quarterback didn't recognize the shout out.

"Scotty said, ‘What are you doing with a Joe Montana jersey on,'" Bielema said cracking up. "He's got a little personality to him … (and the team) have a little something to them."

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