Freshmen introduction

Gabe Carimi (Matthew Kutz/Badger Nation file)

Incoming freshmen defensive end Kirk DeCremer, right tackle Gabe Carimi and wide receiver Lance Kendricks shared their thoughts on the University of Wisconsin football team's summer workouts, and the camaraderie the team is building for the upcoming season.

Kirk DeCremer and Gabe Carimi have been understandably linked since early in their respective recruiting processes. Both student-athletes were raised in the Madison area and grew up Badger fans. They competed against each other in high school, developed a friendship as they were recruited by the University of Wisconsin football program, and each made an early verbal commitment to the Badgers.

This week Carimi, a 6-foot-7, 290-pound right tackle from Monona Grove High School, and DeCremer, a 6-5, 240-pound defensive end from Verona Area, are staying on the UW-Whitewater campus with the rest of the South squad in preparation for the annual Wisconsin Football Coaches Association All-Star game, which takes place at 7 p.m. Saturday at Titan Stadium in Oshkosh.

With the exception for this all-star week, though, they have been commuting to the UW-Madison campus (DeCremer from his home in Middleton, Carimi from Cottage Grove) to work out with their new Badger teammates since June 12, when UW opened its summer training regimen. And this fall the duo will be roommates.

"Me and Kirk talked about that we should (be roommates)," Carimi said Tuesday afternoon, during a break in practices at Whitewater. "I didn't say anything about it (to the coaches). I think Kirk did."

"We'll help each other out," Carimi added. "We'll push each other."

In addition to continuing old acquaintances, the summer workouts have provided DeCremer, Carimi and other incoming freshmen the opportunity to build camaraderie within their class and throughout the team, while receiving a crash course in what it really means to be prepared for college football.

"(Workouts) are going really well," DeCremer said. "I'm having a lot of fun with them. They are a lot more challenging than any high-school workout (was) even close to. But it's a whole lot of fun because they change it up, they do something new every time. So you are not always doing the same thing, where it feels like, ‘Oh, man, I have to go work out again.' It's actually kind of fun to go to."

It is not just that the lifts are different and more challenging, DeCremer said, but the pace of the workouts is faster. The Badgers' strength and conditioning staff sets up the workouts so that the athletes can quickly go from one lift to the next. "It's less recovery time," DeCremer said. "Everything is just cut out right away and it's just boom, boom, boom, right down the line, and you just keep going and going."

"It's been a big change," Carimi said. "I'm really liking the workouts that we're doing right now. Workouts are something that I really like to do, so the workouts at UW have been great."

The Badgers' summer regimen also includes a running component, but it is not endurance conditioning.

"It's a little different," said wide receiver Lance Kendricks, a Milwaukee King graduate who is also playing for the South All-Stars this week. "Instead of working on (our) all-around game, we focus on main stuff… We don't condition, we work on speed and agility. We work on getting off the ball and everything. And we do a lot of weightlifting. And this is like basically the first time I had a real weightlifting program. It is kind of tough at first, but after a while you get used to it. I've been getting used to it."

"Everybody does (the same agility work)," Kendricks added. "We are in groups of three, and in every group—we might have a lineman in one group and we might have a kicker, but we all do the same thing. But it's pretty basic as far as what we do, as far as like agility and speed."

"They are going to start doing more position(-specific work) in the next few weeks, getting us more and more ready," DeCremer said. "But when they brought us in it was to pretty much just learn the type of program and just kind of get involved and get accustomed to what is going on."

Groups are mixed among classes, allowing the more experienced players to help the freshmen get a handle on things.

"There are a lot of nice guys," DeCremer said. "Like (Matt) Shaughnessy has been really nice and Kurt Ware and all those guys, pretty much. And Joe Thomas has been a really great guy too, even though he's on the other side of the ball… It is a really good team atmosphere. They want to involve everybody. It's just a lot of fun."

"It's not like the freshman group are lifting by themselves," Carimi said. "You have seniors there that will give you help. I've talked to Joe Thomas a couple of times, and he's given me technique advice, and same with all the other guys with lifting technique... We're just getting a better community, or camaraderie with just the freshman class working in there with the whole group. Upperclassmen are really accepting and take you right in."

"We are starting to really pick up the team right now and I think we are getting a good community with our freshman incoming class," Carimi said. "… All of them are pretty good guys that are coming in, and they are all great athletes."

The best part about the camaraderie, Carimi said, is that "it is nothing you even have to work for. Everyone is a great group of guys that are coming in. We all look after each other. It's a good thing to have and it's good that it's so easy."

"It's a lot of fun," DeCremer said. "Just getting to talk with the guys too is really nice. We've hung out. We've gone mini-golfing and stuff like that. Just hang out on the weekends. It's fun to get to know the guys."

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