MADISON - Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema was quick to reminisce about his time watching now freshman right tackle Rob Havenstein play basketball during the recruiting phase.
"I was amazed at how well he moved," Bielema said. "He wasn't even the center. His brother was the center. Just to watch him move on the basketball court it was obvious he has some athleticism."
The same talent that eventually wound up in Madison will be put on the biggest of stages Saturday afternoon. The 6-foot-8, 350-pound Havenstein is set to make his first start at right tackle. He'll fill in for the injured Josh Oglesby.
"I think he can handle the speed of the game and obviously all the things you go through during your first start," Bielema said. "Every indication that he's shown me is that he's a pretty serious kid so I just want to see him perform."
Oglesby, who has undergone six major knee surgeries throughout his football career, suffered a minor knee injury last Saturday against Northern Illinois. He did practice for the first time Thursday afternoon, but it doesn't seem like he'll be ready to play Saturday afternoon against South Dakota.
"I think Josh is afraid," Bielema said. "I think he's afraid that if he's not in there he won't get back."
Remarkably enough, it seems as though freshman Devin Gaulden will be the first true freshman cornerback to see playing time at the position this season even though he has only been in practice for just over a week.
"He would be the first guy we put in," Bielema said in reference to a somewhat thin cornerback position. "It would be between him and Darius Hillary. Peniel Jean is still probably our third corner, but I think the idea is to get his feet wet this weekend.
"He's only been practicing for five days, but he's extremely talented and one of the more pure cover guys I've ever really seen at that age."
Gaulden, from University School in South Florida, suffered a stress fracture during the summer and was unable to participate in fall camp. According to Bielema it seems as though a return date of Oct. 1st was in the plans from the get go.
"When the thing came up with the stress fracture they said he could be back by the third week," Bielema said. "He said absolutely coach, I came here to play. I think his approach has always been to play.
"Maybe that guided us to get him to play."
Freshmen kick returners:
Bielema has continually mentioned how Fred Willis and Melvin Gordon could potentially return kicks. But because the defense has been playing pretty well, particularly during each of its past two games, they never really got that chance.
"I wouldn't start the game with one of those two," Bielema said. "I just talked to Thomas Hammock today and he said, 'Coach, we've had three opportunities the past two games.' Two of those were to start a half and you're not going to do it then.
"Fred and Melvin especially have looked really good this last week."
Clarifying the penalties:
During each of the first three games there has been at least one penalty that Bielema wanted to get further clarification in regards to the officials reasoning. The season opener featured a pass interference call that didn't seem to be right.
Week two against Oregon State witnessed Conor O'Neill get nailed for a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty that was questionable at best. And then last week, Ricky Wagner was hit with a chop block penalty that cost the Badgers 15 yards.
Bielema, specifically with the first two penalties, has been clarified. Kind of.
"Neither one of those were Big Ten crews," Bielema said. "I was just trying to get educated. There was some variation with what was being said. The official told me Conor's wasn't a natural tackling act. We teach our guys to hit below the shoulder with their shoulder. Don't lead with the head. The official, again it was a Pac 12 official, said it was a non-natural tackling act.
"I had never heard that before."
Bielema on the need to force turnovers:
"I've coached defensive football this whole time. I think it was either last year or the year before that was kind of the same deal. All of a sudden there was a game that we had five or six. We have all the same turnover circuits and all the same drills we've had in the past. To give somebody else credit, an offense hasn't given any to us either."