December 19, 2006

Defending the future

MADISON, Wis. - When you rank No. 3 in the nation in total defense at 243.5 yards per game and No 2. nationally in pass defense at 138.5 ypg., it's common for senior leadership and superior athletes to dominate the defensive backfield.

This was the situation for the 2006 University of Wisconsin football team, which continues its final practices before taking on Arkansas in the Captial One Bowl Jan. 1 in Orlando, Fla. Seniors Roderick Rogers and Joe Stellmacher control the safety positions and sophomores Jack Ikegwuonu and Allen Langford patrol the corner spots, leaving little room for underclassmen to see action.

But rather than watch quiety from the sidelines, freshmen Jay Valai and Kim Royston have soaked up the knowledge from the Badger leaders as they await their oppurtunity to see the field.

"Stell and Strick, Rod and Jack always help you out," Valai said. "(Mark) Zalweski helps me out, even though he beats me in video games every now and then. This is a real good group of guys. You think there are going to be a lot of guys in college with big heads, but its not like that at this program."

Valai's road to the UW program started all the way back in Euless, Tex., where he originally committed to the University of Iowa. But after talking with defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks, he decided to weigh his options a second time, and after an official visit, chose to become a Badger.

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