MADISON - The Wisconsin Badgers finished their first full week of spring practices on Saturday afternoon, practicing for the fourth time this spring in the McClain Center. Head coach Gary Andersen spoke to the media after practice and said he was happy with how his team has progressed so far during the early stages of his time in Madison.
"I thought they competed very well today," Andersen said. "They came out rested, and I thought their legs were underneath them pretty good. Mentally they were sharp. [They] had a huge care factor about them and had a very smooth and crisp practice. I'm proud of the kids the way they went through practice today."
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The Badgers practiced in full pads for the first time on Saturday, and spent several periods at the end of practice working on several red zone drills for the first time. The results were a little mixed- the offense and defense went back and forth a few times, with Jared Abbrederis and Melvin Gordon both scoring touchdowns while Sherard Cadogan and Peniel Jean both pulled down redzone interceptions.
Andersen said he's also seen his coaches and players get a little more comfortable with each other during the week. That's important because the Badgers are working with a new staff for the second time in two seasons. That means changing their defensive and offensive schemes again, but Andersen thinks the Badgers have handled the installation process well.
"I would say today that there was not as much thinking going on," Andersen said. "Pre-snap awareness is much better on offense, defense and special teams, which allows you to play faster."
"Today I felt like they came out with a little more energy and juice. I'm never going to jump up and down for joy and say 'We're right where we want to be,' I don't know if I'll ever say that. But one week in I'm very proud of these kids."
Wide receivers stepping up?
Wisconsin's wide receivers were much maligned during the 2012 season, apart from Abbrederis. A lack of experience hampered Wisconsin's air attack, and other teams were able to double team Abbrederis to take him out of the game.
Andersen wants that to change this year. They've been testing the wide receivers so far during camp by giving them plenty of reps, and there haven't been nearly as many dropped passes as there were this time last year. Andersen also wants the receivers to work on breaking out of one-on-one coverage this spring, but said he's pleased with where they are so far.
"They've made some plays down field," Andersen said. "I'll say this, the way we're throwing the football is putting it on them. When they turn around the ball is going to be there, and we've got three or four quarterbacks who are throwing the ball very well. They've pulled some balls out of the air, they've run some nice crisp routes, we've caught some contested balls."
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