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ESPN Wisconsin blogs - Tom Lea

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Mackey Award Watch List

Jul 09, 2013 -- 11:41am


MADISON – Another national award watch list was released and another Wisconsin Badger made the cut. Jacob Pedersen has been named to the 2013 John Mackey Award watch list – an award presented to college football’s most outstanding tight end.

Last season Pedersen collected All-Big Ten honors and won the Kwalick-Clark Big Ten Tight End of the year award.

In three seasons at UW Pedersen has hauled in 65 passes totaling 843 yards and 14 touchdowns.

There are 37 tight ends on the 2013 Mackey Award watch list, and seven – including Pedersen – from the Big Ten conference. The other Big Ten nominees are: 

Ted Bosler (Indiana)
Kyle Carter (Penn State)
C.J Fiedorowicz (Iowa)
Devin Funchness (Michigan)
Jeff Heuerman (Ohio State)
Gabe Holmes (Purdue)

Semifinalists for the award will be released on November 18th and the recipient will be announced during the College Football Award Show on December 12th.

Tyler Eifert (Notre Dame) received the award in 2012.

Bednarik Award Watch List

Jul 08, 2013 -- 8:01pm


MADISON – Chris Borland has running voluntary practices for the Badgers this offseason. Even though he won’t be in the running for any coach of the year awards he has been named a preseason candidate for the Bednarik Award – an award handed out to the nations top defensive player.

A two-time first team All-Big Ten linebacker Borland is one forced fumble away from matching the all-time FBS record of 14 in a career.

Borland ranks 19th all-time in Wisconsin history with 308 tackles, including 13 sacks and 41.5 tackles for loss.

Nine other players from the Big Ten made the candidate list:

Deion Barnes: Defensive End (Penn State)
C.J Barnett: Defensive Tackle (Ohio State)
Jonathan Brown: Linebacker (Illinois)
Max Bullough: Linebacker (Michigan State)
Darqueze Dennard: Cornerback (Michigan State)
Ra’Shede Hageman: Defensive Tackle (Minnesota)
James Morris: Linebacker (Iowa)
Bradley Roby: Cornerback (Ohio State)
Ryan Shazier: Linebacker (Ohio State)

Semifinalist for the award will be announced October 29th, followed by the finalist on November 25th. The winner will be announced during the college football awards show on December 12th.

Manti Te’o was the recipient of last year’s award.

Maxwell Award Watch List

Jul 08, 2013 -- 7:57pm


MADISON – The Maxwell Trophy is awarded annually to the best college football player in the nation and Wisconsin running back James White has been named to the 2013 Watch list for the prestigious award.

Entering his senior season White has already rushed for 2,571 yards and scored 32 touchdowns.

Although he is only credited with two career starts, White played in all 14 games last season and appears to be the front-runner for a starting position this upcoming year.

The only other Wisconsin Badger to bring home this award was Ron Dayne in 1999.

White is one of many running backs to be named on the 2013 watch list, here are the others: 

Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska)
Antonio Andrews (Western Kentucky)
Beau Blankenship (Ohio)
Ka’Deem Carey (Arizona)
Kasey Carrier (New Mexico)
Kenneth Dixon (Louisiana Tech)
David Fluellen (Toledo)
Marion Grice (Arizona State)
Todd Gurley (Georgia)
John Hubert (Kansas State)
Carlos Hyde (Ohio State)
Duke Johnson (Miami)
Venric Mark (Northwestern)
Adam Muema (San Diego State)
Branden Oliver (Buffalo)
LaDarius Perkins (Mississippi State)
Silas Redd (USC)
Bishop Sankey (Washington)
Lance Seastrunk (Baylor)
Charles Sims (West Virginia)
Jerome Smith (Syracuse)
De’Anthony Thomas (Oregon)
Zurlon Tipton (Central Michigan)
Trey Watts (Tulsa)
T.J Yeldon (Alabama)
Zach Zwinak (Penn State)

Current head coaches, members of the media and the members of the Maxwell Football Club are responsible for voting on the award’s winner. 

Rampant recruiting

Jun 25, 2013 -- 9:38am


MADISON – Whatever coach Gary Andersen and his staff are doing to lure in recruits – it is working, and working well!

In the past week, reigning Mr. Football for the state of Utah Austin Kafentzis gave a verbal commitment to play for Wisconsin as the first member of the 2015 recruiting class.

The Badgers also landed commitments from Dominic Cizauskas – a 6-foot-2, 250-pound linebacker from Mukwonago, and Michael Deiter – a 6-foot-5, 295-pound offensive lineman from Ohio.

Both Cizauskas and Deiter will join the team in 2014.

This morning running backs coach Thomas Hammock excitedly tweeted “BINGO!!! #Badgers” when word aired that Taiwan Deal, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound running back from Maryland committed to Wisconsin as well.

Deal confirmed the reports via his Twitter account:

“Today, I am officially COMITTED to the University of Wisconsin #BadgersNation BABY!! Truly Blessed.”

Another member of the 2014 class, Deal is listed as a three-star recruit and has a 77 overall rating according to ESPN’s recruiting website. He had scholarship offers from numerous division-one schools including Michigan State, Maryland, Iowa, Virginia Tech and Cincinnati.

Wisconsin now has nine total commits for the class of 2014:

Jaden Gault: 6-foot-6, 280-pound offensive tackle from Monona Grove, WI. Gault is rated 129th on the ESPN top 150 list.

Craig Evans: 6-foot-3, 305-pound defensive tackle from Sun Prairie, WI.

Billy Hirschfeld: 6-foot-6, 267-pound defensive tackle from Hartland, WI.

Conor Sheehy: 6-foot-4, 255-pound defensive tackle from Milwaukee, WI.

George Panos: 6-foot-5, 312-pound offensive guard from Hartland, WI.

Ula Tolutau: 6-foot-1, 225-pound athlete from Salt Lake City, UT.

JJ Watt gives back

Jun 19, 2013 -- 8:12pm


MADISON – By his own account JJ Watt recognizes that one day – years from now – he will no longer be relevant. This foresight is a driving force behind his willingness and desire to give back to the community. Wednesday, on behalf of the Justin J. Watt foundation, Pepsi-Cola of Madison and Walmart, Watt presented a joint donation check of $10,000 to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dane County.

“It would have been the coolest thing in the world if Reggie White would have walked into my classroom one day,” Watt told reporters after the check presentation ceremony. “So I’m trying to give that opportunity to as many people as I can because some day they won’t want to see me anymore.

“While I am relevant I am trying to impact as many lives as possible.”

Thus far Watt has made the most of his celebrity, impacting children throughout Wisconsin and the Houston area.

“We funded the Milwaukee Public Schools system flag football program,” he said. “I believe it was 36 teams and we gave them the flags, the footballs and uniforms. In Racine we did five indoor and five outdoor soccer programs, so we started that up and gave them all the equipment. Down in Texas we donated over $60,000 to schools.

“We are trying to make an impact. We are trying to give back and give these kids an opportunity to have success.”

Watt, who considers himself a “big kid at heart,” spoke to youth members of the Boys and Girls Clubs and preached his ‘Dream Big, Work Hard’ motto.

“These kids are the future,” he added. “For them it is all about what the future holds and that they all have an opportunity for success. My message, anytime I get a chance to sit down with kids, is to go for your dream. There are so many people along the way that told me why I couldn’t have success and why I couldn’t make it to the NFL.

“I believe in myself and that’s the biggest thing I am trying to tell these kids is to believe in yourself.”

Watt spent his afternoon signing autographs, inspiring children and playing rounds of mini golf with Madison’s youth.

“I still love the mini golf, I still love doing all that stuff. Hanging out with the kids is perfect because I can relate to them.”

Accepting the donation was Boys and Girls Club CEO Michael Johnson, who was more than thrilled with Watt’s message and generosity.

“It’s amazing what one common interest – empowering children and supporting their future – can do for an entire community,” he said.

Although the children were today’s focus, it’s hard not to talk football with the reigning NFL defensive player of the year. After falling short of the Super Bowl and sack record last season, Watt is staying mum about his aspirations for this upcoming year.

“I have a lot of personal goals,” he said. “They all stay tucked away in my office desk drawer. I believe much more in the ‘do it don’t say it’ philosophy so I am going to go out there play hard, put in work and let my play speak for itself.”

As for the Badgers, Watt is anxious to see the Gary Andersen era commence.

“We all want a Rose Bowl Victory,” exclaimed Watt. “We are in the Big Ten and we are excited to make it but everybody is looking for the Rose Bowl victory.

“I am excited for coach Andersen and hopefully he can do it.”  

Season ticket sweepstakes

Jun 17, 2013 -- 7:04pm


MADISON – On football Saturday the Wisconsin student section is notorious for reaching capacity around halftime. But that doesn’t stop their loyal undergraduate fan base from waking up – one summer day before 7:30am -- attempting to stake their claim at season tickets.

For the 20th consecutive season undergraduate season tickets sold out -- this year less than two hours after they went on sale.

“You have to wake up early for Football tickets,” UW undergraduate student Megan Zanillo told “It is part of being of being a Badger. It is like some sort of stressful pre-adrenaline rush for the adrenaline rush of the games.”

Students log in to their UW accounts and wait an agonizing amount of time for the order to be processed while the “site is experiencing heavy loads.” Eventually, lucky students are pushed through to a checkout screen that congratulates them on their purchase.

“It’s like getting the golden ticket,” Zanillo added. “It’s the golden ticket to our cheers, the wave, ringing our keys, Jump Around and it’s the only way to see Joel Stave.

“Missing out on football tickets means missing out on part of what it means to be a Badger.”

Season tickets consist of one student section voucher for all seven home games the Badgers play this season. These games are slated against UMass, Tennessee Tech, Purdue, Northwestern, BYU, Indiana and Penn State. Purchasers also receive a student section T-shirt – all for $168.

In case you were one of the unlucky students who tried, but failed, to purchase tickets, some Badger “entrepreneurs” are offering their tickets on Craigslist and Facebook marketplace – for a slight mark-up of course.

Complete ticket packages are listed on these sites for as little as $399 and as much as $600 per set.

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