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August 9, 2011MADISON - Though he rushed for nearly 800 yards during the final five games of the season a year ago, one where he tallied just 219 rushing yards throughout the first eight games of the season, Montee Ball just didn't feel right.
And though he rushed for a game-high 132 yards, scored a touchdown and seemingly had his Wisconsin football team in position to force overtime at last years Rose Bowl against TCU, the junior felt like there was so much more to be had.
So he took it upon himself to make some changes.
"I didn't feel right at all," Ball said. "During the Rose Bowl I had a bunch of shoestring tackles. I feel like if I was lighter I'd be able to pick my head up and I would have been able to keep running from there. That's going to happen this year."
Ball, who is presumably the No. 1 starter on the UW depth chart at running back, even though James White will also get plenty of carries, lives more than two miles away from Camp Randall Stadium in an apartment complex on the east side of campus.
When most of his teammates, who live both near and far from the stadium, rolled over to Camp Randall for summer workouts on their mopeds, Ball saw an opportunity he didn't want to miss.
And it resulted in him dropping more than 20 pounds from his 230-pound Rose Bowl weight.
"After we would work out and condition here I would jog back to my apartment complex," Ball said. "I jogged straight from here to there and did a couple of ab workouts and that stuff. I kept eating right, too."
Bret Bielema has mentioned that he has some concern in regards to Montee Ball's new body and frame that might have him worried when the season opens Sept. 1. Most notably, Bielema wondered whether Ball would lose any power that had served him so well in the past.
So naturally, if there is that much consternation surrounding a 20-pound weight loss coming from the head coach, it's clear to realize that Ball wanted this new and improved body for himself and for the style of play he envisions.
"It was more of a personal thing," Ball said of his weight loss. "I'm sure they liked my weight because of all my power and all this or that. But what coach Thomas Hammock stressed to me is that weight doesn't actually bring more power. He said he sure as heck doesn't have more power now than he had (as a player).
"It was more a personal goal and I'm glad I met that because it's only going to make me better."
Monday's practice was the first where members of the media were allowed to sit through its entirety. By its conclusion it had become evident that Ball's new size wasn't going to be as much of a deterrent in regards to his running style as it will be a strength.
He's quicker to reach the hole and in his lateral movements, his acceleration seemed to have progressed and he still packed the same punch anybody that has been able to watch him play over the past number of years has come to enjoy.
Plus, knowing the fact that Ball has great hands and that the coaching staff has said they would like to get the running backs more involved in the passing game, his newfound speed and agility will be utilized even further.
"Coach Hammock told me that you've got to have confidence," Ball said. "Without confidence you will not succeed. That's what I have and that's what all of us running backs have and all of our players as well."