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News conference notes

Wisconsin's reputation as a physical team was a major part of today's news conference with Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill, quarterback Chandler Harnish, defensive tackle D.J. Pirkle, wide receiver Landon Cox and linebacker Cory Hanson. We'll have plenty on that in Wednesday's Daily Chronicle.

Unlike 2008, this season's non-conference schedule is finished for the Huskies before the Mid-American Conference slate begins, so I wanted to know what Kill and his players hope to learn about the team before the MAC season begins.

Here was Kill's response: "I think the big thing is we'll find out how disciplined we are. We'll find out how our young players handle going to play in front of 70,000 people, which I think they'll do fine, but we'll see. You get to find out are you a stronger football team than you were a year ago? Are you a faster football team? Have you found some guys that have made some plays? Are we playing team defense or are do we have a couple of guys not playing defense?"

"I think you just get those questions answered. There will be a lot of things that I won't expect on Saturday that we'll be good and there will be other things where I'll go 'Boy, I'll tell you what. We worked on that and I don't understand why we're not better at it.' That's the way it is. That's why we play those games."

And here was Harnish's response: "I want to learn if we can execute on a consistent basis and if we can go out and have a good first drive of the game, that will tell us a whole lot about what we're made of. Obviously we're playing some young guys and I want to see what they can do. I think we'll be just fine."

I'll have more on the youth of this team later this week.

Seeing good things: Pirkle essentially played next to an audition for the first two weeks of camp as the Huskies tried to find a replacement at nose guard for Mike Krause, who is out for the season with a heart ailment.

Redshirt freshman Brian Lawson won the job, and Pirkle said Lawson was impressive in camp.

"Brian stepped up," Pirkle said. "He's real fast and real strong. He just stepped up and made plays when he had to make plays."

Little changes: Cox was asked about what fans can expect from the offense this season.

"I feel like this offense has improved from spring ball and from camp," he said. "We've thrown in new things, taken out old stuff, put in new things that we think are going to work better. Some parts are easier to understand."

Harnish said that he feels he has more and input and responsibility with the offense this year, but isn't calling the plays just yet.

"I think we're not to that point yet," he said. "That comes in time, with maturity, especially me. I'm able to suggest what plays we like. That's one thing we're trying to do this year."
Ready to return:
The depth chart was released on Sunday with redshirt freshman cornerback Tommy Davis on top at punt and kick returner (he'll return kickoffs with safety David Bryant) after a long battle in camp with running back Me'co Brown, who is listed with Davis at punt returner, wide receivers Perez Ashford and Martel Moore and linebacker John Tranchitella.

"He made plays, now we've got to see it on Saturdays," Kill said. "Tommy's a confident kid. He's worked his tail end off. I wasn't going to redshirt him last year but decided to do it and that was a smart move now. He can go now."
"The Wildcat package, which was being run 20 years ago and they put a new name on it and it's nothing new, but somebody acts like they invented football." – Kill on the Wildcat package that's become popular in college football and the NFL.

Don't forget to send your questions for Thursday's Q&A to me at jsahly@daily-chronicle.com. We've got some good questions so far. The deadline is Wednesday night.

We'll have video from today's news conference up either late tonight or tomorrow morning.

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