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February 1, 2012

Lerner leaves UW, Dehn could return

MADISON -- Along with his 2012 recruiting class, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema shared some additional news Wednesday, including the departure of a number of players and the possible return of another to the program.

Gone from the Badgers are linebacker Cameron Ontko, defensive lineman Jake Irwin and kicker Alec Lerner. While he did not give any details on the departures of Ontko and Irwin, Bielema said Lerner's decision was one based on academics.

"Alec just kind of got to a point where academics and athletics, he had to balance it out and he needed to go to academics," Bielema said.

Wisconsin lost offensive tackle Casey Dehn midway through his sophomore season, as Dehn quit the program. Dehn has joined the team for winter conditioning, and may be back for spring football as well if he makes a good impression on his teammates and coaches.

Dehn's departure, which at the time was said to be his decision to focus more on track and field, stemmed from his relationship with departed offensive line coach Bob Bostad.

"[Dehn] and his position coach at the time had quite a few disagreements on how to do things," Bielema said. "I didn't guarantee him a spot back on the roster. What I guaranteed him is a spot to come into winter conditioning.

"It was just a rough time in Casey's life. I reached out to several of the O-linemen, especially the senior O-linemen and returning starters, and they were very interested in having Casey with us."

Additional Notes

- Each of Wisconsin's 12 signees received guaranteed four-year scholarships this year, as opposed to more traditional one-year renewable scholarships. The four-year scholarships were given out this year by seven Big Ten schools, which offer greater security to players.

Bielema said the four-year scholarships did not come up in the recruiting process until Florida "made a big deal" out of giving Jake Meador a four-year offer. UW Athletic Director Barry Alvarez noted that offering four-year deals was something left up to the schools by the Big Ten.

"It was totally dependent upon the school," Bielema said. It's kind of coming on to the scene here as of late, and they totally allowed it to be dependent on the schools. One of the things I do, I always try to be ahead of the way things are going."

"After talking with Coach Alvarez and our legal and everything else, we decided to go the four-year route and feel that that's right for the kid. Personally, I liked the old system. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. … I thought we had a good way of doing things, but it's a new age, a new way of doing things."


- Bielema has not yet determined the recruiting territories of his assistant coaches, but plans to do so after he has hired a new tight ends coach. He expect to fill the position within the next week.


- For the second straight year, Wisconsin's annual spring game will cost $5 for admission, with proceeds benefiting academics at the University of Wisconsin. Alvarez and Bielema received a requests from a number of different programs, but ultimately settled on the School of Human Ecology and the University of Wisconsin Center for Nonprofits.

The money raised will go toward establishing funds for UW student internships at nonprofit organizations. Tickets for the spring game, scheduled for April 28 at 4 p.m., are on sale now.

Culver's also will sponsor the game, looking to bring a "family friendly atmosphere" to the event. Beginning in March, kids can sign up at Culver's restaurants for opportunities to be a junior broadcaster or captain, among other things, at the spring game.


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