July 27, 2009

Strong groups on both sides of ball

CHICAGO - Though many followers of Wisconsin football are relatively concerned with the quarterback situation leading into fall camp, the topic was not brought up during head coach Bret Bielema's portion of Monday's Big Ten Media Days.

Instead, Bielema, dressed in a black suit and red tie, discussed the potential of the tight ends, the depth of the defensive line and a beginning to a new season after an ugly and bitter loss to Florida State to end the last one.

"A year ago at this time we were projected to do some special things," Bielema said. "The ball didn't go the right way all the way and I think our guys have really taken the year to recover from that and have a hunger in them that's burning pretty intense and excited about the opportunity in front of us."

With only 11 returning starters, including six on the offensive side of the ball, the Badgers are projected to finish in the middle-to-lower tier of the conference. Still, Bielema likes the make-up of his team just two weeks from the start of fall camp, particularly at tight end.

"I really believe as a group, our tight ends are going to be a very very unique package," Bielema said. "In addition to Garrett Graham, we have a young man by the name of Mickey Turner who's in his fourth year of playing who plays not only on the line of scrimmage, but we'll move him around and use him at the fullback position."

A season ago, the position was supposed to be one of the premier units in the conference with both Graham and Travis Beckum anchoring the unit. Instead, both players suffered injuries that lingered throughout the season. That, in turn, allowed younger players such as Lance Kendricks to gain experience and key action that will translate into this season.

"He (Kendricks) probably runs just as well as Travis," Bielema said. "He catches the ball very well and he's a very intense young man. He broke his leg on the fourth play of the Michigan State game so he really hasn't exposed himself the way that we are looking to do this year."

In addition to discussing the tight ends, Bielema also addressed the defensive line, a position that lost three starters from a season ago. With only O'Brien Schofield coming back as a returning starter, the position is young, but talented.

"The thing that I saw during spring ball was a group of guys that were very determined to prove their worth," Bielema said. "O'Brien Schofield, who will join us here today, also Jeff Stehle, who comes from Connecticut and has really developed and turned himself into a nice player.

"We also have a young man by the name of Daniel Moore who is from a junior college here in Chicago that I think is going to put himself in a position to play good for us inside and Patrick Butrym….he is going to give us some added depth there."

At the other end position, it seems as though J.J. Watt and Brendan Kelly will vie for a spot to join Schofield on the outside.

"At the defensive end, we can kind of go by committee," Bielema said. "We have guys like Louis Nzegwu. We got a guy by the name of J.J. Watt who has shown his worth. So it's going to be an interesting fall camp to see exactly who pans out at that position."

Stay tuned for more coverage from the Hyatt Regency in downtown Chicago as media day continues.

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