September 2, 2011

Tackling needs to improve

MADISON - Mike Taylor, UW's appropriately honest outside linebacker, languished for a second before giving his defensive unit a collective grade for its performance against UNLV.

Yeah the No. 1 defense technically only gave up three points to a drudgingly bad and overmatched Runnin' Rebels, but there was way too much left on the field for the junior playmaker to be satisfied.

"We've got to tackle better," Taylor, who recorded six tackles in UW's 51-17 win, said. "Overall defensively that's something we're going to harp on all of this next week. We've got to become better tacklers. Oregon State is going to see that on film and they're going to try to duplicate some of the things that UNLV did.

"I'd give us maybe a C."

With the No. 1 defense still in, even though the Badger lead was insurmountable for the majority of the game, UNLV was able to feast on soft cushions, shady tackling and general lack of correct positioning.

Chris Ash, UW's co-defensive coordinator in charge of making play calls, was probably keeping his playbook incredibly vanilla, but that doesn't discount the fact that the Runnin' Rebels were still able to reel of 10 plays of 10 or more yards.

Against a team with a bit more firepower that type of big play mentality is not going to be nearly as successful as it was last night.

"The tackling was definitely disappointing," UW senior free safety Aaron Henry said. "Even if it's the first game, we just didn't tackle the way we wanted to. I definitely think there is going to be some emphasis put on that. We just have to improve on that.

"That's pretty much what it boils down to."

Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema, clearly rubbing off on his key defensive players, was anything but happy with the amount of missed tackling in the season opener. The quizzical look in his eye when talking about it screamed that he wasn't expecting that to be as much of a problem as it turned out to be.

You could blame UNLV's surprise Pistol look as the culprit of such poor positioning and tackling, but that isn't going to muster much credence from the head coach. Tackling is tackling, no matter what look a team throws at you.

"We gave up some yardage in the first half," Bielema said. "We've got to become better at tackling. We've got to make sure that we've got all our assignments, run support and all those good things.

"So I think we've got a real good week of work for us."

It would be asinine and unfair to suggest a team's defensive effort in a season opening game would serve as the barometer for the remainder of the season. Knowing that, Henry simply isn't concerned with the lack of consistent tackling throughout the regular season. He's confident it will all turn around.

"I don't think it's a lingering problem," Henry said. "In previous years when we were starting off tackling has been an issue. As we get towards the rest of the games, especially if we don't want it to be an issue, that's something that we have to fix now. That's something we've got to on. It's just repetition.

"Once you consistently do it and do it at full speed you can only get better at it."

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