The Wisconsin Badgers' fall camp is officially underway. With two days of practice already completed, players and coaches took Sunday off to speak with the media.
Wilson at ease with Wisconsin
Sunday also marked the first day new Badger quarterback Russell Wilson was available to speak with reporters, so he was understandably swamped with questions. Wilson seemed at ease during his interviews- he was definitely more comfortable than when he spoke with ESPN shortly after making his decision. Wilson said adjusting to a new school, offense, and even a new part of the country has been "a whirlwind," but he's grateful his new teammates have been there to help him adjust.
"It's been a great experience and everyone has been truly welcoming," said Wilson.
Wilson believes he is picking up the new offense quickly, saying "it's not too much different from my NC State offense," and that he spends many hours outside of practice studying the Wisconsin playbook.
I came away impressed with Wilson. He's extremely well spoken, seems committed to helping his new team, and is grateful for a chance to continue playing football with other talented players.
Kicking job up for grabs?
The most surprising news of the day came during head coach Bret Bielema's press conference. Bielema said both field goal and kickoff duties are up for grabs between long time starter Phillip Welch, redshirt sophomore Alec Lerner, and redshirt freshman Kyle French.
"Phil is in a great competition. Phil's obviously done it, and he's been successful at it, but I think Kyle French and Alec Warner are hitting the ball extremely well," said Bielema. "You're not going to be given a position just because you've been there. It's a competition, not only for the field goal spot but for the kickoff spot."
Welch has handled kicking duties for the Badgers since 2008, so losing his spot to an underclassman would be surprising. Welch has only missed three extra points in his career at Wisconsin, to go along with a 77.1% field goal percentage.
Borland changing technique, not playing style
Reporters asked Bielema whether he felt a need to protect linebacker Chris Borland from himself, in order to prevent another serious injury to the 2009 Big Ten Freshman of the Year. However, Bielema doesn't think Borland needs to change his mentality.
"I think the part that Chris grew into understanding is just trying to play on his feet more," said Bielema. "He always leaves his feet and he's diving and doing stuff, which obviously you love as a coach, but physically certain bodies can't do that over a sustained period of time."
Borland told me he believes he can protect himself from injury without having to change his mentality.
"My technique was poor," said Borland. "I got over extended and dove at times on tackles and I just have to change that. I don't think it has anything to do with hustle. I think you actually prevent injuries [by] hustling. I'm going to continue to fly around, but be more cognizant about technique."
White comfortable with Coach Hammock
James White said he is comfortable with new running backs coach Thomas Hammock, who takes over for John Settle. Hammock is a former Wisconsin graduate assistant, who spent the last four years coaching at Minnesota.
"Coach Hammock is gonna get the best out of us," said White. "He's a former running back himself, so he knows what to expect. Sometimes he makes it rough, but you just have to push through and fight the battle."
Defensive tackle Jordan Kohout strained a hamstring during practice last week, but Bielema said he would be ready to rejoin practice today.
Right tackle Josh Oglesby has been cleared for all camp activity, meaning the battle for the last offensive line spot is on between the fifth year senior and redshirt freshman Rob Havenstein.
Defensive end David Gilbert's size impressed me during media day. He is now listed at 6 feet 4 inches and weighs in at 255 pounds, making him the same size as fellow defensive end Louis Nzegwu. Bielema mentioned the defensive ends as players who could jump off the page during camp, and looking at Gilbert it's not hard to see why.
During his press conference, Bielema was asked about what message he and his staff are taking with them on recruiting trips. Bielema said they try to look for a "Wisconsin kid," or someone who enjoys playing football, doesn't get caught up in the "sexiness" of a program, and is willing to work hard.
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