August 28, 2009

Freshmen impact and the lighter side of camp

MADISON, Wis. - With only six senior starters listed on the current depth chart, there is no question Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema will give plenty of younger players a chance to contribute in 2009.

Bielema undoubtedly knows that with youth comes inexperience, but in order for players to gain that experience playing time somewhere is needed. So knowing that, Bielema listed a handful of true freshmen that will get onto the field in their first season in the Badger program.

"Dezmen Southward on defense," Bielema said. "Chris Borland and Josh Peprah, all those three guys can play. There's a chance of Pat Muldoon defensive line wise (too). On the offensive side, Kraig Appleton, Montee Ball, Travis Frederick and Ryan Groy, those four guys in particular.

"There's an outside chance that maybe a tight end will get in there."

Up front, John Moffitt, Gabe Carimi and Bill Nagy continue to recover from their respective injuries. While all Moffitt and Carimi are expected back for the opener, the same is not necessarily true for Nagy as his recover is taking a bit longer.

So, it is a very real possibility that Frederick and Groy quality playing time, at least early in the season.

"Depending on what happens with the three offensive linemen coming back, Travis Frederick for sure," Bielema said. "There's probably a little bit of a question with Ryan Groy, but he's been repping with the two's all camp and I really feel pretty comfortable where he's coming along."

The underrated Mickey Turner:

As a featured blocking tight end, senior and recently named captain Mickey Turner does not get much publicity. He simply lines up every play and gets in the defenders way as best he can.

But, when not blocking, Turner has an ability to catch the ball and make plays happen to move the chains. And it's that notion that has him relatively underrated by the average fan.

"Absolutely," Bielema said when asked if he felt Turner was underrated. "What's been intriguing to me are the NFL guys. When they come through they ask me about 36. They usually just kind of go through, but they come out right at you.

"I think it's because now they see him as a tight end. But now, as much as we're using him, he's our best fullback in the program. Then also on special teams he shows up."

When the team voted for captains earlier in the week, Turner may have been a surprise pick. But, that nod went to him simply because he makes an impression on his teammates through his work ethic and the way he presents himself.

"What I know Mickey as is a guy that's been in our program for four years," Bielema said. "He did an internship this summer and the raving reviews from when he came back from that which obviously has nothing to do with blocking or catching or doing any football. It's just about how he presents himself.

"So Mickey is one of those guys that's a true representative for what we have."

Go-To wide receiver:

With Nick Toon emerging throughout spring and fall camp, many would argue he is the go-to type of receiver the Badgers have not had for some time. It can be debated that the last receiver in the program with that moniker was Brandon Williams or Lee Evans.

Now, though, with a stable of junior receivers in Isaac Anderson, David Gilreath, Kyle Jefferson and Maurice Moore in addition to newcomerKraig Appleton, Toon may not have to be the go-to guy.

Maybe the Badgers won't even need a go-to type with that deep of a talent pool.

"I think at certain situations there's definitely guys," Bielema said. "David's good at certain things. Isaac is good and comparable to David at certain aspects and then Nick is totally different about catching in traffic.

"Nick is probably a potential big play guy down the field."

The lighter side of camp:

With camp slowly coming to a close, the players have got to be feeling a certain strain both mentally and physically. After three weeks of work in rain, heat and coolness, sometimes twice a day, that can only be expected.

Knowing that, Bielema has tried to lighten things up over the past couple of days, starting with a Barrack Obama impersonator following a recent practice.

"I think they bit for about five seconds," Bielema said. "Anytime you have a couple of black Escalades come pulling up on the field with sirens and a couple of guys dressed in black suits, they bought it for about 30 seconds.

"The whole thing lasted about a minute and a half. I'm just trying to give it a little break in camp."

In addition to that attempted stunt, Bielema has had regular guest come in through the majority of camp to speak to the players. And he even surprised his players with a trip to the movie theater recently.

"Last night we actually came into a meeting," Bielema said. "I had a meeting at 8 o'clock for a half hour. After that, they thought they were going into an hour and a half position meeting. I told them that we were going to a movie. I told them that they had free refills on soda and popcorn.

"To see 18,19 and 20 year old kids screaming and hollering and high fiving each other over popcorn showed me they are anxious and eager to get on with things."

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