Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Badger Football Rabble: August 14

With Wisconsin's football team in its second week of practice, much is going on in Madison. What won't be going on there is a significant on-field challenge, at least not until October.

(No, Nebraska fans, that's not a shot at your overrated team. The Badgers and Cornhuskers play in Lincoln. Wisconsin's home games before an Oct. 27 date with Michigan State are as follows: Northern Iowa, Utah State, UTEP, Illinois, Minnesota. Yawn.)

While all the talk over the first week of fall camp seems to have been centered on running back Montee "Heisman" Ball, who was assaulted on campus Aug. 1, and had been silent until Media Day on Sunday.

Ball, who sustained a concussion when he was assaulted, didn't dodge any questions, including those concerning his Heisman Trophy candidacy and his physical condition heading into the season.

The 21-year-old Ball said he made a last-minute decision to go out with some friends before the start of training camp.

"We weren't getting rowdy or anything. I was just heading right back to my place a block away and I was attacked. That's all I remember," Ball said. "I'm very blessed because it obviously could have been a lot worse."

The injury kept Ball out for the first week of practice, but it sounds like he'll be weened back into the swing of things, and the hope still is that he'll be available for the UNI game.

While the running back job is Ball's as long as he's healthy, the quarterback position is once again unsettled. One year after the Badgers "rented" Russell Wilson and rode his right arm and mobility to a Big Ten title, Wisconsin has rolled the dice on another transfer. Former Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien doesn't have Wilson's track record of success, so it remains to be seen if he can make anything close to Wilson's impact. But while no one has handed O'Brien a thing so far at fall camp, he does expect to win the job.

(I know: What did you expect him to say? But at least he's not hiding from his expectations of himself.)

As far as the competition goes, well, yeah. Fifth-year senior Curt Phillips is coming off three knee surgeries, and it doesn't appear to be going well for him in camp.

On Monday, when media were allowed to watch practice for the first time, it looked like the biggest obstacle to Phillips winning the starting job might be his problem getting much zip on his passes.

Phillips was moving around fine, but still was having problem driving off his back leg when he threw.

Also on the depth chart is redshirt freshman Joel Stave. Hopes are high, but he's not there yet.

Stave did some good things and had one of the best throws of the practice, a completion of more than 20 yards to tight end Sam Arneson against double coverage. But Stave is still developing and needs to improve in several areas, including getting a quicker release.

No way Stave's a factor, but he's ahead of Joe Brennan -- last year's backup to Wilson -- on the depth chart. That apparently has Brennan a little cheesed.

Sophomore Joe Brennan was not at the team’s media day Sunday as he has been granted a “sabbatical” by Bret Bielema as “[h]e’s looking into some options outside of the University of Wisconsin to possibly transfer to.”

... Bielema, though, hasn’t completely closed the door on a return.

“I’m not for sure that’s going to happen. I’ve allowed him to take some time away from the program here, explore his options and get a feel for where he’s at and would welcome him back if that’s kind of the direction he wants to go.”

No grudge here. If Brennan is behind three guys who weren't a factor last year, he may feel he has the right to be perturbed. No reason why he shouldn't be allowed to look at his options, and no reason for Wisconsin to just cut ties because he wants to look at those options.

Expectations are high, and Bielema doesn't need to have unhappy guys, even if they're way down the depth chart.

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