Phillips makes notable strides
Don’t tell that to University of Wisconsin redshirt sophomore quarterback Curt Phillips.
Wisconsin thought Phillips would be on the sideline for most of the 2010 season after wrecking his right knee during a spring scrimmage at the end of March, but coach Bret Bielema expects Phillips to take part in some drills when fall camp opens Aug. 9.
“Curt is just a hard-charger,” Bielema said, “and I know he’ll want to be back there sooner than later.”
Bielema expects Phillips’ modified drills to be dropping back, some footwork and throwing drills—all drills the coaching staff can control—and no drills involving live contact. Bielema is hopeful that Phillips could play sometime after the conference opener at Michigan State on Oct. 2.
“Curt’s just as tough as anyone on the team,” senior quarterback Scott Tolzien said. “The progress he’s made speaks for itself, and he’ll be a great asset to have back on the field.
Wisconsin opens the season Sept. 4 at Nevada-Las Vegas with redshirt freshman Jon Budmayr backing up Tolzien.
Clayborn one to watch
In a straw poll conducted among 17 players, they were asked if they could pick the best defensive player in the Big Ten not on their team, who would they choose?
While the media tabbed Michigan State senior All-America linebacker Greg Jones, the league’s 2009 Defensive Player of the Year as its preseason Player of the Year, 14 Big Ten players say Iowa senior tackle Adrian Clayborn is the one to watch.
“It’s Clayborn, hands down,” Michigan senior cornerback Troy Woolfolk said. “I saw him, and my mouth dropped. He just goes down and slaps people around. It’s rude.”
After combining for 69 tackles and four sacks his first two seasons, Clayborn anchored Iowa’s defensive line last year. He registered 63 tackles (29 solo) and 11 sacks, earning All-Big Ten first-team honors.
“Clayborn from Iowa is an impact player,” said Ohio State senior offensive lineman Bryant Browning, who saw first hand what Clayborn could do in a 12-tackle performance last season. “He is a player you need to plan for every game.”
Wisconsin travels to face Clayborn and the Hawkeyes on Oct. 23.
Stick with eight
There were number of expansion topics broached during Monday’s news conference with Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany that ranged from championship games to divisions.
While Bielema was in favor or indifferent on most topics, he wasn’t hesitant about voicing his opinion when it came to expanding the conference schedule from eight to nine games.
Citing the fans’ desire to see their schools play quality opponents each week, to compete at a higher level and to appeal to television partners, Delany sees the conference schedule expanding in the next two to four years.
While Delany says there is favorable consensus among the athletic directors, the same can’t be said about the coaches.
“I know one conference that did it is the Pac-10, and they’re trying to do everything they can to get out of it,’’ Bielema said. “Maybe we ought to look at history.”
The increased schedule to nine games would decrease scheduling headaches and problems of schools having to schedule I-AA teams (UW has done so in each of the last five seasons and has one scheduled in 2011). But the increase would create an imbalance of having half of the teams with five conference home games and half with four.
“In this conference, a home game is a tremendous advantage,” Bielema said. “Years you have five versus years you have four, I bet you would see a dramatic difference.”