Badgers counting on more disciplined Vince Biegel

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Jeff Potrykus, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
August 31, 2015

MADISON—Vince Biegel's numbers in his first season as a full-time starter were impressive.

The rangy outside linebacker led Wisconsin in tackles for loss (16½) and finished second in sacks (7½) and sixth in total tackles (59).

“He played very well last year,” said Tim Tibesar, who is in his first season as UW's outside linebackers coach.

And in 2015?

“We want to get that same high level of play on a consistent basis,” Tibesar said, “game in and game out.”

Biegel, arguably the most free-spirited player on the UW roster, put it more colorfully.

“Now it's just trying to pin my friggin' ears back and become the player I want to be,” he said. “That is the goal.”

Biegel's first opportunity comes when UW (ranked No. 18 in the coaches poll, No. 20 in the AP writers poll) opens the season against No. 3 Alabama at 7 p.m. Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Effort never has been an issue for Biegel, a 6-foot-4, 246-pound redshirt junior from Wisconsin Rapids.

Who can forget his mad dash of 50-plus yards on the first play of the final quarter in UW's 27-10 victory over South Florida last season?

Biegel chased fullback Kennar Swanson down the sideline after being beaten on a wheel route and put himself in position to recover Swanson's fumble at the UW 10.

The fumble was forced by safety Lubern Figaro. Biegel was responsible for Swanson on the play but was beaten badly because he took his eyes off his man and drifted 3 yards behind the line of scrimmage, with Swanson already moving out into the flat.

The display of hustle was tremendous. However, the lapse in technique by Biegel allowed Swanson to get open for a 52-yard gain that would have put the Bulls in position to score a touchdown in a 20-10 game if not for Figaro's hit.

“We've just got to make sure his effort is going in the right direction every snap,” Tibesar said. “That will be the big thing.

“When you're hustling really hard but you're going the wrong way, you just got yourself more out of position. Vince has done a great job through winter and spring. His ability to grasp the playbook has really improved.

“So I think those are all things that are going to help him.”

Biegel doesn't sound as if he is threatened by the challenge.

“You can always improve on your footwork, and coach Tibs is a perfectionist,” Biegel said. “He holds me, holds our room to a high level. It always starts with footwork, and the rest will take care of itself.

“It is a progression. Feeling comfortable with the scheme is the biggest thing. Understanding what you've got to do instead of just thinking out there … you're reacting.

“I understand the scheme, so now I'm just playing ball.”

Biegel was disruptive in several games last season.

Perhaps his most dominant performance came in a 34-16 victory at Purdue when Biegel recorded three sacks, four tackles for loss and seven total tackles, all career highs. Biegel was named Big Ten defensive player of the week.

He was much more quiet in other games, though, including the loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game and the victory over Auburn in the Outback Bowl. Biegel had one assisted tackle against the Buckeyes and one solo tackle against Auburn.

“We want to see him be the guy who can make plays for us against even the very best competition,” Tibesar said. “That is the next thing for him. I am challenging him to do that. He knows that.

“We expect big things from him and he expects a lot from himself.”

Biegel possesses the physical tools—size, strength, mobility—to be such a player. What he must do is improve his footwork so he doesn't take himself out of plays and avoid the urge to make a play that isn't his to make.

“I don't need to make a defensive tackle's play,” he said. “I don't need to make the safety's play. I need to make my plays.

“That is one thing coach Tibs has taught me—patience. You're not always going to get the ball coming to you. But when the plays come to you, you've got to make 'em.”

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