Young starters have shown Badger coach Bret Bielema can recruit


Purdue Wisconsin Football

By Jake McCormick

There was a Family Guy episode where Peter, Quagmire, Joe, and Cleveland bring business into their favorite bar, the Drunken Clam, by belting out everyone’s favorite karaoke song, Don’t Stop Believing by Journey. I’ll admit that it would be tempting to leave a funeral procession to hear amateurs sing that song, but I’ll also admit that I love baseball cards. Sorry Adam West.

Anyways, after a reception only rivaled by the video crowds on Guitar Hero, the guys decide to start a band and get ready to play a gig at a prison. They have the costumes, instruments, attitudes, and a positive review carved into Tony’s ass, but just as they’re about to go on they realize they don’t know any songs. This scenario reminds me of Wisconsin Badger coach Bret Bielema.

Purdue Wisconsin FootballHe started out his career at Wisconsin with an 11-1 regular season record; a feat his predecessor, Barry Alvarez, never accomplished in his impressive tenure. Yet it is easy to see that Bielema’s initial success was amplified by the previous coach’s recruits. Then the next two years saw a dip to nine then seven wins, leaving many Badger fans to wonder if Bielema was all that and a bag of delicious Five Guys fries. The current season has been deemed by some to be his most important as the Badger head coach, and no doubt we are getting a clearer picture of whether Bielema can execute the song and dance of running a good college program.

At 6-2, Wisconsin is ranked at 21st in the nation, and is continuing to find their identity with a Bielema recruit-only roster. It typically takes the average head coach five years to fully implement his scheme, get his recruiting spider-web strung throughout the country, and integrate his desired type of players. The results from a recruiting angle have been nothing but positive this year, and Wisconsin looks to be in a position to remain highly competitive for many years if this consistency keeps up. The onus, if course, is on Bielema’s ability to coach in big games, but that’s a different story for a different day.

Wisconsin only starts six seniors, all of which have played a significant role in the Badgers’ success. Most notably, O’Brien Schofield is making a run for Big Ten defensive player of the year and Garrett Graham is undoubtedly going to follow in the footsteps of Owen Daniels as a solid all-around NFL tight end. In contrast, the Badgers boast eight starters and 17 backups that are sophomores or freshmen, and that doesn’t include the team’s leading tackler, Mike Taylor, who is done for the season.

Purdue Wisconsin FootballBielema’s recruiting has only gotten better with each passing year based off the fact that seniors are not the only playmakers on the field. Guys like JJ Watt, Chris Borland, Devin Smith, Nick Toon, and (obviously) John Clay have all become recognizable names to even the average Badger fan, and none are above a sophomore standing. Nearly half of the reserve underclassmen have seen significant playing time this year too, including OL Travis Frederick, WR Kraig Appleton, CB Antonio Fenelus, and DE David Gilbert, who eats blocked punts for breakfast.

With four games remaining, Wisconsin has a good chance of finishing the season 10-2 and returning to a New Year’s Day bowl game. The team looked nothing short of dominant against a supposedly hot Purdue team last week, and will face a streaky Indiana team Saturday. Whether the Badgers win out or not, it’s clear that Bielema has set a standard of expectations for a bright future. If they can sustain that, the Alvarez era of success may not be a distant memory after all.

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  1. paulmbanks says

    Nice Family Guy reference…loved that episode

  2. Chris Borland somehow always seems to find himself around the ball… kinda like Jim Leonhard used to… O’B is my favorite Badger to watch play

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