There's little question the Badgers' secondary was the weakness of the defense last season and senior safety Jay Valai was not afraid to admit that Tuesday.
"You gotta have a chip on your shoulder when you are the crutch of the team," Valai said. "You look at the media, you watch the film, it all looks pretty bad. We're a lot of angrier now."
(Sidenote: I'm pretty sure he was using the term "crutch" incorrectly. Wouldn't you use that to say the rest of the team was leaning on you?)
Despite that reality, Valai was not afraid to make a bold guarantee for this season.
"I can promise you right now the DBs aren't going to be crutch of the defense. I can guarantee you that right now," he said.
Based on how the cornerbacks played in the spring, it's very possible the secondary will live up to that promise. In just a few months, the cornerbacks went from the most criticized unit to the most praised. Valai credits new defensive backs coach Chris Ash.
"The little crazy guy he is, he came and helped us out a lot," Valai said. "His mentality is amazing. Guys start believing more in themselves, playing a physical style of football. It's Ash's way or the highway. That's what we say. He's helped us out a lot."
Clay shoulders the blame
We knew John Clay felt responsible for the Northwestern loss after his late fumble sealed the deal in Evanston. But we didn't know that he blamed himself for a long time.
"I felt like it was on me that we lost the game," Clay said Tuesday. "I felt like I lost that for the team and I put that all on my shoulders. I was hurt after that. I kept having dreams about that play over and over again."
Still, Clay feels like that play will help him in the future.
"I have grown as a man and as a player just because I am accepting my faults on what I did wrong and being able to admit that I messed up and I blew the game for us," he said.
Clay is fully recovered from two offseason ankle surgeries that kept him out of spring practices. He said the rehab was hard, but he's ready to go.
"It was rough. Just the whole rehab process and then having to go back under the knife months later," Clay said. "It was rough but it was something that had to be done."
Clay gained 10 pounds while recovering and he hopes to lose that weight during camp. He is at 255 pounds right now but wants to be closer to 245.
Tolzien looks to be better
Clay wasn't the only one shouldering some blame for at least one of UW's three losses in 2009. Quarterback Scott Tolzien was excellent for 11 games last season, but he hasn't forgotten about his poor play in UW's back-to-back losses against Ohio State and Iowa.
From talking with him Tuesday, it's clear he wants to be better against those two team this season.
"Definitely, without question. In those two games I threw five interceptions, two of those for touchdowns and obviously we didn't win those games," he said. "I take a brunt of that on my shoulders."
Bielema addresses Westphal's transfer
Tyler Westphal, the jewel of the 2008 recruiting class, transferred to North Dakota State last month, Bielema confirmed.
"He was a guy who unfortunately was going through a lot of injuries and different setbacks and a couple shoulder issues. He just thought it was time to change gears and he did," Bielema said Tuesday.
After saying yesterday that Aaron Henry could be limited in practice, Bret Bielema clarified the remark Tuesday saying there isn't anything wrong with his free safety, he is just being careful with all of his players who have gone through major surgeries.
Valai was raving about Henry, saying he isn't worried about him succeeding at free safety.
Valai was also raving about true freshman Beau Allen who was rapped up in rumors of a heart ailment this summer but is apparently just fine.
"The kid's legs are about the size of this table. Each one," Valai said. "He was squatting like 600 pounds in the weight room as a freshman. That's pretty impressive."