CHICAGO - I had the chance to catch up with Bret Bielema Tuesday at Big Ten Media Days. Here is our conversation:
B5Q: In regards to the "hidden talents" you mentioned Monday, what about Blake Sorensen puts him in that category?
Bielema: Well first off I think Blake has been very patient. He's been playing for two years behind [Jonathan Casillas] so he's been able to watch a good player play in front of him. But on the flip side of it, when he first came onto the scene I know he made a huge impression in our weight room with our current players just on his athleticism and with what he brought to the table. I think he has been waiting. I know he's anxious and I don't know if anyone has logged more film than him since the end of last season a year ago, so I'm excited to see him get out there.
B5Q: With the recent success of tight ends at Wisconsin, do you think some sort of brotherhood has developed at that position?
Bielema: First off, we recruit to it. You know one of the things we are able to do is, if a kid is a good tight end usually we get on him anywhere in the country, just because of what we do. Travis [Beckum] led the nation in receptions (among tight ends) two years in a row. I mean, that's a big statement. When you compare us to other schools and the way we spread the ball around between the wide receivers and tight ends, tight ends that really want to become receivers have the opportunity to come here and do that.
B5Q: You have a guy like RB Zach Brown who proved as a true freshman that he could start at the Big Ten level. How do you deal with a running back corp. that has two or even three guys that could start at this level?
Bielema: I've kind of recruited the running back position very similar to the quarterback position. We recruit one every year and hopefully get a great one. As soon as you start signing two running backs, you know, one is going to be affected by the other one and it doesn't take them too long to figure it out. So what we've tried to do is stay consistant with signing one a year and with that, we've been able to sign good guys. Zach Brown was our first one. He's a guy that we batted out some good competition for. He's a good student and a great fit for what we do. Erik Smith was a highly recruited kid that we feel is going to come in and give us a great change. The thing I like, probably our top three running backs -- John Clay, Zach Brown and Erik Smith -- are all three totally different backs. And what that's going to be able to allow us to do is package certain things and also give us a nice changeup. All the sudden you're back there -- you're a linebacker -- and you've been scraping and tackling John Clay all day and all the sudden Erik Smith is by you before [you realize it] because the play is that much faster. I'm excited because for instance last year, it was P.J. [Hill], John Clay and Zach Brown, three similar guys. Now it's going to be a little bit of a changeup.
B5Q: Is there a little bit of a difference this year as opposed to previous few years with the quarterback group? Maybe a little bit more excitement about the talent you have been able to bring in?
Bielema: Well, the first year, with John Stocco, he was a no-brainer. He was coming in here and we knew he was the guy. The next year [Tyler Donovan] had kind of taken the charge through all of camp and I think everybody knew he was going to be the guy. Last year was a true open competition, you know? But no one did anything during fall camp and I think Dustin [Sherer] would be the first to say he didn't do anything really to take the job. This year, I think that is the exact opposite. I think going back to last spring, there were four quarterbacks out there and everybody was getting equal reps and equal opportunities. The good thing for us is that Dustin is probably playing as good as he's ever played and Curt made huge gains for us because a year ago during spring ball he was just kind of a guy out there learning the words. Now he knows what the words mean and he's able to do things better. I do think there's a little more sense of urgency, not only amongst the quarterbacks, but among the players around them.