Monday, August 28, 2006

Sifting through transcripts

As gameday approaches, we've been inundated with information. Today, Coach Bielema held a press conference and benevolent Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel sportswriter Jeff Potrykus hosted a chat. The Badger Tracker has helpfully distilled the grain that is these long documents into a delicious, whiskey-like post, aged in oaken barrels for your maximum intoxication. Here's what you needs to know:

  • Pabulum in questions 1 through 4: Stocco will start if healthy; the defense is better than it was last year; Pressley and Randle El will redshirt if that's what it comes down to; the coaching staff will perform well together on gameday. Did you expect different answers? This isn't John L. Smith.
  • Zach Hampton is a sooper athlete and can be plugged into any situation. (The depth chart currently shows Hampton splitting kickoff return duty with Jarvis Minton and handling punt returns. He'll be fun to watch.)
  • Bielema plans to be as hands-off as humanly possible when it comes to calling offensive and defensive plays. It'll be interesting to see how much of the play-by-play stuff he gets involved with as the season progresses, especially on the defensive side of things.
  • Coach feels pressure to perform, and tries to keep the burden on himself instead of on the players. Good.
  • The door is open for Jamathan Lyle to return to the program, should he decide to come back. CB Lyle went home to Boulder, CO last week for reasons that remain unknown. Best Internets guess is homesickness, but nobody knows for certain. The recruitnik-fearing portion of my soul figures it's best not to bother the poor kid and just accept him when and if he arrives back in Madison.
  • Bielema blames himself for the poor defensive showing during the Bowling Green game last year, saying he prepared the team too much for BGSU in particular. "With an opening game, you can concentrate too much on an opponent instead of getting your own team right," says he. That sort of thing seems to have occurred this year, too, but to a lesser extent.
  • Mid-major power Marshall came into Kansas State when Bielema was on the staff there and knocked the preseason top-five team off their pedestal, so Bielema knows the importance of not looking past one of these MAC squads. However, he dodged the question "Would you ever play a MAC school in their stadium?" citing the complex nature of scheduling. All in all, an interesting exchange to end the press conference.
Moving on to Potrykus's chat, we learn the following. My commentary in parentheses:
  • With no standout WR on the team, the expectation is that the ball will be spread around, especially to the TEs and RBs. (Fortunately, Stocco is experienced and wise enough to be able to do this. His eyes and brain will be the most important body parts on the field when the Badgers have the ball.)
  • WRs Harris and Anderson should not be expected to perform like Penn State's freshmen did last year. (I'm not willing to exclude that possibility, though. OSU, Penn State, and Michigan have all plugged in exceptional talent at numerous positions with true freshmen. Who's to say one of our guys isn't the 2006 Mario Manningham or Derrick Williams?)
  • The D-line should be good but it's too early to peg them as OMG!!!BESTEVAR!!! The O-line will probably stumble at times during the first three games but should come together nicely for the Big Ten season.
  • It will be an absolute shock if Stocco doesn't play this Saturday. (My thoughts exactly.)
  • Lance Kendricks being injured doesn't help the WR position much. He's expected to remain outside the top 5 on the depth chart and might just redshirt. (I figured he'd be an immediate-impact type of guy, but then again, I know almost nothing.)
  • Auburn shouldn't probably be ranked in the top ten. (Well, there goes my credibility.)
  • Badgers should finish 5-3 in the Big Ten. Anything worse than 4-4 would be a huge disappointment. Purdue and Penn State are the swing games.
  • The 2006 Badgers could be the 2004 Badgers with a better offense, from the standpoint that the defense will carry the team. (I disagree here. If the defense this year is even vaguely reminiscent of the 2004 defense before the East Lansing meltdown I will wet myself due alternately to joy and surprise. This team will be offense-first, and that might not be a good thing till halfway through the season.)
  • Of the recent Badger quarterbacks, Stocco appears to be #2, behind Bollinger, neck-and-neck with Bevell, and ahead of Sorgi and Samuel. Evridge could be what this team needs to challenge for a title in 2007 if everyone stays healthy. Potrykus, almost definitely tongue-in-cheek, opines that the Badgers will play for the national title against USC in January of 2008. (My preliminary opinion is that if we're really this talented, the 2007 Big Ten title comes down to the Badgers versus Michigan's Henne-Hart combo, with Penn State possibly figuring in the mix as a darkhorse. This is, of course, insanely, irresponsibly premature ... but I also feel that with Evridge at the helm, it would be foolish to overlook the Badgers as a national title contender.)
  • P.J. Hill is the clear number one running back. In case you didn't know.
  • BGSU should be a pushover with 20 true and redshirt freshmen in their two-deep. A loss to the Falcons will mean a long, long season for Badger fans.