Just because freshman running back Vonte Jackson can't take part in spring practices while recovering from knee surgery doesn't mean he's not taking advantage of his early enrollment at the University of Wisconsin.
Jackson, who tore an ACL in the first game of his senior year at Kenosha Bradford, has already put on about 17 pounds, up to 198. He is also getting exposed to the offense and how practices work.
"The great thing he can get from (this spring) is how to work, how to compete," running backs coach Thomas Hammock said.
"Now, you're going from, 'I was the best guy maybe in the state,' to 'I might not be the best guy at my position.' How do you become the best? Competing. You've got a great example."
That example, of course, is senior running back Montee Ball, a Heisman Trophy finalist last season.
"The best thing a young guy can have is a Montee Ball," Hammock said. "Watch how Montee Ball works, watch how he competes. As a young player, I'm going to try and do better than him."
With so much talent at the position, being a Badgers tailback is not for the faint of heart.
Jackson was a high school teammate of UW redshirt freshman running back Melvin Gordon. While that brings a comfort level for Jackson, Hammock wants his young players to set their sights on the player at the top of the heap.
"You've got to take the bull by the horns," Hammock said. "That's what I tried to explain to Vonte. Him and Melvin went to the same high school. I said, 'This is not high school anymore, don't worry about Melvin Gordon, worry about Montee Ball.'
"That's what you always want to strive to do. If you want to be the best, go after the best. I think Montee will give him a great example."
Jackson is one of three freshmen who enrolled early, along with offensive lineman Dan Voltz and cornerback Hugs Etienne. Voltz and Jackson are the most ready to play physically, according to coach Bret Bielema.
"Probably one of the more gifted O-linemen since I've been here that I've ever seen come in and handle things so well from the get-go," Bielema said of Voltz.
Voltz is playing both center and right guard. He could ultimately be a candidate to start at right guard, but offensive line coach Mike Markuson wants to see if Voltz can be a center first. UW needs a backup to junior Travis Frederick at center.
"Dan does a lot of good things," Markuson said. "He's learning, he's trying to snap the ball. It's been on the ground a little bit with him, but we've thrown a lot at him. He's young, but (a) great kid, works hard.
"They all work hard, these kids at Wisconsin. What an awesome bunch. It's really fun being here."