Thursday, December 27, 2007

Better get back on the field, P.J.

There's been a lot written lately about the Badgers' running back situation: Lance Smith will play in the Outback Bowl, P.J. Hill is still hurt/now he's feeling better, Zach Brown was impressive late in the season, John Clay has looked good in bowl practices, Quincy Landingham is transferring.

The Journal Sentinel published a story that is as pointed as any thus far, particularly the headline: "Hill Losing Ground - Backups Show Promise." In it, running backs coach John Settle says, "I try to be sensitive to the fact he did have a serious injury," running backs coach John Settle said. "But once you go through all the tests and it's negative ... you've got to go."

Wow, challenge issued. My initial reaction to reading this quote is that P.J. Hill is not a wuss - you don't reach the level of football he has reached, playing a physically demanding position, without a high degree of toughness. This seems like one of those scenarios you see in a football movie: the guy is hurt and the coach tells the trainer to stick him with a huge needle so he can play even though it's going to be to his long-term detriment. You hope your favorite program doesn't do that.

Then again, put yourself in John Settle's shoes. The tests show P.J. isn't hurt any more, at least not to the extent he was, and since he's still the most proven entity in your backfield, you'd like to nudge him back on the field and play through it.

It reminds me of a time in seventh grade when I missed two games in the St. John's basketball tournament with a bad ear infection. (I was our second-leading scorer, and in one of the games I missed our top scorer, David Holton, scored all 37 of our team's points.) My coaches later said they would never have missed a game for that reason. But if I had played, my health was so bad I would have been mostly useless. P.J. probably feels the same way, only unlike me, he looks out at the field and sees capable replacements.

This is at least the second time the coaching staff has publicly called P.J. out like this (we all remember the "get tough pills" comments from BB last season), and I hope it was the desired effect - helping him get back on the field quicker, not straining his relationship with his coaches. Because P.J. Hill at 90% is still better than 90% of the backs in the country at 100%.

-Caught Bielema's TV show Wednesday afternoon on the Big Ten Network. At the end he fielded a question about which young players had impressed him during bowl practices. Good question, but the answer was too wide-ranging: Clay, OL Josh Oglesby, WR Nick Toon (right), DE Patrick Butrym, DE Louis Nzegwu, LB Kevin Rouse, LB Blake Sorensen, DB Mario Goins, and DB Otis Merrill.

Yeah, that narrows it down to just about every scholarship true freshman who didn't see action this season (except Sorensen, who had a very nice year). Still, even though Bielema's answer wasn't terribly enlightening, it got me excited for next year and the stars and contributors of tomorrow - one of the best things about college sports. Last week ajs mentioned the spring game, and I think I'm going to try to make it down this year - if only they still had it the same weekend as Crazylegs.


Will said...

Based on these comments, it would seem like PJ is the most likely candidate to transfer to a I-AA school at some point.

There just seems to be too many better, younger choices out there who also don't seem to get hurt as much.

And to be honest, I wouldn't be upset if he did (and obviously this purely shameful speculation). I think he's a good player, but I don't he makes the Badgers any better than the other guys (assuming that Brown improves and Clay is as good as advertised). Sort of reminds me the discussion Ralph Kiner had with Branch Rickey about a pay raise. Rickey said something to the affect, "We were last with you ... and we can finish last without you."

Craig Pintens said...

You missed two games in the St. John's tournament for an ear infection? Weak sauce...

Who is David Holton?

You are lucky they didn't let the powerhouse that was Silverbrook White in the tournament.

ajs said...

This makes what Dayne did in a Badger uniform even more impressive if you ask me. It's always been thought that big bruising backs have problems staying on the field. I can remember #33 with a lingering high ankle sprain and a stinger ??? He played through most of it- I type as I watch the replay of the 1999 Rose Bowl on the BTN- God bless the BTN!!

millie said...

The whole situation kind of reminds me of early 1998. There was one night where I was being implored to go out with some friends, but I was still really hung over from the night before (lesson learned is Wild Turkey + copious amounts of weed are the devil). I thought about staying in, but found the extra will to go out anyway. I think that I truly earned the respect of my comrades that night. It made me into the man I am today...fat and lazy.

Scott Tappa said...

I really don't see PJ going to Western Illinois. Even though the Aaron Steckers and Ed Hartwells have made good decisions and parlayed their I-AA success into nice NFL careers, there's a big difference between their situations and PJ's: PJ has been a starter since his freshman year, rushed for 1,000 in back to back seasons, and really only missed a couple games so far. Dayne missed games too.

I really hope he doesn't transfer. We were way too close to Bill Rentmeester lining up at tailback this year to casually wave goodbye to 1,000-yard backs.

Scott Tappa said...

Those St. John's games I missed were in seventh grade, when Scott Schepp and I were playing on Cabrini's eighth grade team because that class had like eight boys.

David Holton was our best player, and went on to Marquette High, although I don't believe he ever played much, if at all, for their basketball team. He was a helluva basketball player. After that season, his dad organized an AAU team that I rode the bench for. We had Guse, Baker, Geldnich, Hall, Holton, Dave Westphal from Hartford. We went 1-2.

Will said...

Hope he doesn't transfer either, but I just have a feeling someone is gone by spring ball or fall camp (if everyone is healthy and/or not suspended). Based on the Hartwell/Stecker comparison, it very well could be Smith or Brown.

millie said...

I can't see PJ going the 1AA route. He's had too much success already. That said, I could see him going the Carl McCullough route if someone younger just flat-out beats him out on the practice field.

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