I hate arguing about recruiting. It’s virtually meaningless because in the end, I know as much about recruiting as I do about the short-term future of banks’ toxic assets or Bill Belichick’s draft day strategies. And despite what you may think, unless you’re inside a team’s Robert De Niro-esque circle of trust, you don’t either.Still, couch coordinators throughout Badger Nation love to sit back, Miller Lite in hand, and say, “Bret Bielema is the worst recruiter I’ve ever seen.” Because of my admitted near-ignorance of the subject — despite being The Badger Herald’s football team beat writer for a year — I refuse to agree or disagree with that statement. First, it’s unquestionably easier said than done, especially from the tundra also known as Madison, and second, that’s why you coordinate the couch and not the UW offense.So instead of unconstructively criticizing, I came up with an idea of my own. I’ll let you decide just how feasible it may be.Last July, at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago, Bielema told a group of reporters — me included — that just having a fullback on their roster would give the Badgers an advantage, since nine of 11 Big Ten teams at that time were going to run some form of the so-called spread offense, many of whom lacked a true fullback on their entire squad.Of course, that didn’t prove to be true in 2008, after Wisconsin’s less than inspiring 7-6 campaign. But Bielema could be on to something. Let me explain.Last spring, after graduating from his high school in Tennessee a semester early, quarterback Curt Phillips — a nationally highly-touted, dual-threat, signal-calling recruit — told me part of his decision to come to Madison was because of the Badgers’ pro-style offense. Essentially, he didn’t want to be a spread offense quarterback because it wouldn’t prepare him well enough for the NFL. Similar things were said when the Badgers landed standout wide receiver Kraig Appleton from Illinois, virtually stealing them from the Illini and Ron Zook, who’s seen by many as the football version of John Calipari. Appleton knows Wisconsin’s pro-style rushing attack will create plenty of one-on-one opportunities during his cardinal-and-white career.Interesting, considering Bielema’s background comes from the other side of the ball, the side that just graduated five of its front seven and has more question marks for 2009 than a President Obama press conference. Perhaps Bielema’s background is getting in the way of some defensive (keeping with the Obama theme) change? Again, allow me to explain.Every good businessperson knows one must innovate in order to succeed — keep up with the Joneses, if you will. The Napster file-sharing era could have decimated the music industry. Instead, look what Steve Jobs did at Apple. Do you use iTunes to load your iPod? Newspapers are frantically hiring techies to run their Web sites for fear that print media may not exist in 2015. They’re smart.And the newest trendy look in the NFL these days, you ask? The 3-4 defense, of course.According to several national columnists, about 13-14 NFL teams’ base defenses will be structured out of the 3-4 in 2009, including those guys in green and gold up the street. The same columnists are calling last weekend’s festivities “The 3-4 Draft,” saying many of the top former college defensive ends will be transitioning to play the 3-4 outside linebacker position next year. Former Nittany Lion Aaron Maybin (Buffalo Bills, Round 1) and former Florida State Seminole Everette Brown (Carolina Panthers, Round 2, although they don’t run the 3-4 yet) — two 2008 Badger opponents — come to mind. Panthers All-Pro defensive end Julius Peppers recently said he’d like to make that same DE-to-OLB switch, which immediately spurred trade talks of him to New England following the Matt Cassel-to-the-Chiefs deal. Catch my drift?Now, this transformation presents some obvious problems for UW, the first being that Bielema and defensive coordinator Dave Doeren come from the 4-3 family. As far as I know, they may know more about North Korean foreign policy than they do about running the 3-4. But imagine…Bielema brings in a 3-4 wizard to run his defensive show. Now the Badgers have a pro-style offense and an ahead-of-the-curve, pro-style defense. Name me a school that can currently say that.Maybe I’m dreaming, but if done correctly, Wisconsin could become an NFL factory. It would attract wannabe pro nose tackles, linebackers and quarterbacks from Manhattan, to Manhattan Beach. No D-end-to-linebacker conversion needed; they would already have experience in an NFL-emulated system. It would be a tough transition, but a presumably beneficial, perhaps program-changing one. Right?Back on Earth, the likelihood of this happening is probably less than Sarah Palin beating Obama in 2012; there’s a reason so few college teams run the 3-4. But also face this: Wisconsin simply isn’t going to out-recruit Michigan or Ohio State anytime soon. Probably not Illinois or Penn State, either. The tradition isn’t there and the wacky Wisconsin weather doesn’t make things any easier. Bielema’s seat is still at equator-like temperatures. Maybe this could help turn things around.Derek is a junior majoring in economics and former Badger Herald sports content editor. Is he crazy or cutting-edge? He’s currently studying in Prague, Czech Republic, but believe it or not, they do have Internet there, so let him know at email@example.com (they deleted his Herald e-mail).
Three straight birdies on the back nine at tame Pebble Beach, and a simple up-and-down for birdie on the par-5 18th enabled him to catch Furyk and reach 12-under 132. Furyk also was pleased to see the flags drooping instead of flapping when he arrived at Poppy Hills, especially after seeing a forecast of 15-mph wind and heavy rain. The rain was brief and light, and he birdied all but one of the par5s on his way to a 65. “I think we got out of it pretty good today,” Furyk said. “Hoping for the same tomorrow.” That gave the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am a good 1-2 punch at the top from the two highest-ranked players in the field. Furyk (No. 2) and Mickelson (No. 6) had a three-shot lead over rookie John Mallinger and Kevin Sutherland, who turned in the best round of the dreary afternoon by firing off 10 birdies for a 63 at Spyglass Hill. Mickelson only had to cope with the cold and rain – but not much wind – and that helped him sail to a 5-under 67 and a share of the lead with Jim Furyk at the PebbleBeach National Pro-Am. “It was a good day. We got a pretty good draw,” Mickelson said. “It was a little windy the last three or four holes, but I’m not going to complain. We had a great day to take advantage of scoring.” Phil Mickelson is so enthused about how well he is hitting the ball that he was looking forward to tough, windy conditions along the ocean Friday at Pebble Beach. He didn’t get what he wanted, and had few complaints. Sutherland thought briefly about the course record of 62at Spyglass, just long enough to snap-hook his 3-wood into the trees and out of play on the par-5 seventh. He reloaded with a two-stroke penalty, reached the green in two, escaped with a bogey and didn’t let one bad hole take away from his round. “Spyglass is one of my favorite courses in the world,” said Sutherland, who has played it countless times dating to his amateur days in Northern California. “I’d rather play there than Pebble Beach. But a 63was not the score I was thinking about when I teed off.” Davis Love III made a quiet climb into contention with a 67at Pebble Beach, but perhaps the biggest surprise came from the group behind Mickelson – 57-year-old Tom Watson, playing this tournament for the lasttime. Watson asked to play with his son, Michael, and birdied three of his first four holes. His 68 leaves him six shots behind at 6-under 138. Watson is also tied for second in the pro-am competition with his son. Flying high: Craig Stadler eagled the par-5 18th hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-stroke lead at the Allianz Championships in Boca Raton, Fla., while Nick Price shot a 71 in his firstChampions Tour round. The 53-year-old Stadler, winless the past two seasons after topping the leader board eighttimes in his first two years on the 50-and-over tour, had a bogey-free round on The Old Course at Broken Sound. The round was Stadler’s lowest since a career-best 60 in the second round of the 2005 Blue Angels Classic. Overseas: South Korea’s Ahn Sun-ju shot a 4-under 68 to take a one-stroke lead after the second round of the Australian Ladies Masters. Wie out a month: Michelle Wie injured her wrist in a fall while running and is wearing a hard cast that will keep her away from golf for at least a month, a family spokesman said. The 17-year-old’s raises questions whether she will recover in time for the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the first LPGA major of the year that starts March 29. New sites considered: The PGA Tour has narrowed its search to four cities to replace the International, and commissioner Tim Finchem said that a return to Washington, D.C., likely would be the first choice if all options were equal. The other cities being considered for the Fourth of July spot on the schedule are Portland, Ore., Minneapolis and another market he declined to identify that “just came across the tracks.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!