ESPN's 'Depth Chart' to feature Wilson, Badgers at 6 p.m. today"It'd be a must-see if you're a Badger fan," said Bielema, who has seen trailers for the episode. "It looks pretty entertaining, to say the least. We let them have some all-access at very unique times during fall camp and leading into that UNLV game (on Sept. 1) was pretty special. It should be a really good show."
By: By Jim Polzin, The Wisconsin State Journal, Superior Telegram
Bret Bielema was understandably apprehensive when ESPN approached him about featuring the University of Wisconsin football program in a show focusing on quarterbacks.
Distractions are a coach's worst fear, which is why the idea of having cameras follow the Badgers' every move during preseason training camp scared Bielema.
But there was an upside -- a tremendous one, in fact: Being in the spotlight for an hour on ESPN was a great way to market UW to potential recruits across the nation.
So Bielema signed off on the show, which is called "Depth Chart" and will air Wednesday at 6 p.m..
"It'd be a must-see if you're a Badger fan," said Bielema, who has seen trailers for the episode. "It looks pretty entertaining, to say the least. We let them have some all-access at very unique times during fall camp and leading into that UNLV game (on Sept. 1) was pretty special. It should be a really good show."
Auburn and Oklahoma State already have been featured on "Depth Chart," and Arkansas will close out the four-part series next week. Not surprisingly, the star of the UW's version of the show is senior quarterback Russell Wilson.
ESPN began talks with Bielema before Wilson had decided to transfer to UW from North Carolina State, but Wilson's arrival in June made the Badgers even more attractive to the network.
"Wisconsin was really always on our radar," said Vinnie Malhotra, the show's executive producer. "But I think as soon as the Russell Wilson news came out, it kind of shot to the top of the list."
Still, Malhotra admits ESPN caught a break with the Wilson story becoming bigger than anyone anticipated. The Badgers (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten Conference) are ranked No. 4 in the nation behind the play of Wilson, who has thrown for 1,557 yards with 14 touchdowns and just one interception in 128 attempts and leads the nation in passing efficiency with an astronomical 210.93 rating.
Wilson is already being mentioned among the favorites for the Heisman Trophy award, and that campaign could receive a huge boost this week with the airing of "Depth Chart" and UW's game at No. 15 Michigan State (5-1, 2-0) on Saturday night.
"I think we always expected that Wisconsin would be a really interesting episode," Malhotra said, "but I think it has really grown beyond our expectations."
Among the people Bielema consulted before agreeing to do the show were athletic director Barry Alvarez, offensive coordinator Paul Chryst and Wilson. All agreed that the national exposure outweighed any negatives.
"I thought the positives would be, it puts Wisconsin on a national map in terms of what we do on a daily basis and how we work," Wilson said. "So I thought it would be fun. It'd be interesting for some of the guys, as well, and it was a good experience."
Wilson said the Badgers quickly became oblivious to the cameras. That showed when backup quarterbacks Nate Tice and Joel Stave, forgetting they were wearing microphones, started singing during practice. When Tice remembered they were being filmed, he looked over and two producers were giving him a thumb's-up.
Needless to say, Tice is a little nervous to watch the show.
"A little bit," he said. "It's like, some actors say they never want to see themselves on film, they're scared to see themselves on film. It's kind of how I am right now. I hope I look OK, not too many embarrassing moments."
Malhotra said the show will be about more than just UW's quarterbacks. He said viewers will see the team's close-knit nature and how the Badgers are embraced by their fans. Malhotra also refers to Bielema as "intriguing" and "a standout character."
"It's something that we are incredibly proud of," Malhotra said of the episode. "And I think the Wisconsin community will be proud about this one as well."
-- Copyright (c)2011 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.)/distributed by MCT Information Services