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Badger Bits: Forget All-Big Ten, Badgers look to produce more All-Americans

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Offensive tackle Ricky Wagner could be the next Wisconsin offensive lineman in line to be an All-American and make a splash in the NFL Draft.
Offensive tackle Ricky Wagner could be the next Wisconsin offensive lineman in line to be an All-American and make a splash in the NFL Draft.

Over the last several years, the Wisconsin football program has clearly shown it can take two and three-star recruits and develop them into solid starters in the Big Ten. Not only that, but Wisconsin's strong recruiting and development is becoming more apparent on the national scene as well.

In Phil Steele's college football blog, he picked a pair of Badgers for his preseason first team of All-Americans. UW running back Montee Ball and offensive tackle Ricky Wagner both made the cut, the only Big Ten players to do so. It comes as no surprise seeing Ball on the list, a Heisman finalist who led the nation with 39 overall touchdowns at the running back position. Wagner, who started the majority of the past two seasons at tackle for UW, looks to be one of the top picks in next year's NFL Draft. The crazy part is in both 2010 and 2011 Wagner received consensus honorable mentions for the All-Big Ten team, so as a player who has not yet made his all-conference team, he enters this season with a legitimate chance of becoming an All-American.

Even a player like former Badger offensive tackle, Joe Thomas (2006 All-American), entered Wisconsin as a highly touted four-star recruit. Thomas still ranked just 18th nationally at his position, but after four seasons at Wisconsin he went third overall in the 2007 NFL Draft to the Cleveland Browns.

Like Thomas, both Ball and Wagner came to Wisconsin with high expectations surrounding them, but few would have predicted this type of success for them. Credit must be given to coaches Barry Alvarez and Bret Bielema, as well as their coaching staffs, for the work they have done developing their athletes. The program's recent on-field success has helped land more three and four-star recruits, but UW continues to develop its athletes into not only All-Big ten worthy candidates, but All-Americans as well.

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Offensive lineman Travis Frederick and linebacker Chris Borland also made Steele's list, both listed on his third team of preseason All-Americans.

Badgers' assistant coach, Charlie Partridge, could be the next UW coach to receive a promotion, according to Tom Dienhart.

Dienhart also previews the best of week 8 in the Big Ten for this upcoming season.

The Badgers return an experienced secondary group this season, but no Wisconsin players made Dienhart's top Big Ten defensive backs.