There are worse places to be Christmas Day than on an airplane destined for warmer temperatures.
Such was the plight — and flight — of Jake Meador and his teammates in the University of Wisconsin’s football program as they began preparations for a Rose Bowl showdown against Stanford.
The 6-foot-7 redshirt freshman from Whiteland Community High School returns to Madison today after observing Tuesday’s game from the comfort of his team’s sideline.
This is how 2013 started for the mammoth Badgers right guard. What the next 364 days hold in store remains anybody’s guess.
Meador during a 16-day span in early December watched his head coach leave for Arkansas, learned Wisconsin legend Barry Alvarez would pull himself from coaching mothballs to lead the Badgers in Pasadena and watched the school hire former Utah State coach Gary Andersen.
A whirlwind to be sure, though at 325 pounds Meador isn’t easily moved.
The Meador File
Name: Jake Meador
Year: Freshman (redshirt)
Size: 6-foot-7, 341 pounds
Position: Offensive lineman
High school: Whiteland (2012)
High school sxperience: Three-year starter; started every game at defensive tackle his sophomore season; switched positions his junior season and started every game at various spots on the offensive line through the end of his career
Favorite NFL team: Indianapolis Colts
Favorite NFL player: Peyton Manning
Favorite musician: George Strait
Family: Parents, Joe and Kathy Meador; two older brothers, Reid, a former offensive tackle for Hillsdale (Mich.) College, and Mitch, a defensive end for the University of Cincinnati
“Coach (Bret) Bielema told us he was leaving during a Monday meeting after the Big Ten Championship Game,” said Meador, referring to the Badgers’ 63-17 romp against Nebraska at Lucas Oil Stadium on Dec. 1. “It was kind of an eye-opener. I was shocked, but I respect his decision.”
In retrospect, had Badgers players and fans realized what was going to transpire they would have paid closer attention to the events of Sept. 15. Wisconsin played host to Andersen’s Aggies that day, fell behind 14-3 and exited Camp Randall Stadium breathing a huge sigh of relief after rallying for a 16-14 victory.
“We’ve had a team meeting with (Andersen). He seems like a player’s coach,” Meador said. “We did play Utah State this year, and they played us tough.”
Meador during fall camp was moved from tackle to guard, a switch he insists isn’t that big of a transition. Wisconsin’s starter this season at right guard has been 6-4, 313-pound redshirt sophomore Kyle Costigan.
Another likely change will be playing for yet another new offensive line coach.
Meador came to Wisconsin thinking he would be learning from former Arkansas and University of Mississippi offensive line coach Mike Markuson, who during his time at Ole Miss tried to recruit Meador to come there.
Bielema, however, opted for a change two games into the 2012 season. Markuson was fired, and graduate assistant Bart Miller took over line duties the rest of the way. Speculation now is that Andersen already has persuaded Utah State offensive line coach T.J. Woods to join him at Wisconsin.
“It was a little surprising to me (about Markuson),” Meador said. “It seemed some of the older guys weren’t buying in.”
Meador himself is bracing for a new voice to be heard during practices. Either way, this redshirt season has proven valuable in regards to gaining strength and adapting to the speed of Big Ten football.
As for the temptation of transferring, Meador claims there was none.
“I really enjoy the city of Madison and the school,” he said. “Football-wise, it’s a matter of getting used to the new play calls and playing at a consistent level. I’ll kind of keep chopping away and see what happens.”