MADISON - The Wisconsin Badgers held their preseason media day Friday afternoon at Camp Randall Stadium, and new head coach Gary Andersen held his first press conference of the season to kick off the event. Andersen spoke for about 30 minutes, but to save you some time I've pulled out some of the highlights to dissect before the Badgers hold their first practice on Aug. 5.
The Badgers are shifting to a base 3-4 defense under Andersen and new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, which means a few players will have to switch positions this fall. In addition to Jeffrey Lewis switching from running back to safety, Andersen said linebacker Ethan Armstrong will play on the edge for the Badgers as one of their field or 'F' linebackers. Armstrong missed spring camp to recover from injuries he sustained during the 2012 season, but Andersen said Armstrong has the athletic tools to succeed as a field linebacker.
"I think that's best for him and where he sits in his career, and he fits it very well for our defensive scheme," Andersen said.
In Aranda's defense the field linebacker is a hybrid between a regular outside linebacker and a safety, so Armstrong will have to be able to both seal the edge on the running game and cover a lot of ground in the passing game. Andersen also said sophomore linebacker Joe Schobert will compete for playing time at 'F' linebacker after his strong performance during the spring.
"Joe deserves to play after spring," Andersen said. "Everywhere we put him he simply made plays so he's going to be right there with Ethan, and it's going to be interesting with him at the F linebacker. He's a very athletic young man."
Taking applications at wide receiver
The Badgers will have a lot of players competing for playing time at wide receiver this fall. Jared Abbrederis is their lone experienced option, but he'll need some help if the Badgers want to have a balanced offense this season. Andersen said their priority is to find someone who can keep defenses from double-teaming Abbrederis, in addition to picking up a first down when they need one.
"We've got to have someone who, I'm not going to say he has to stretch the defense or is a great route runner, we want that- but at the end we've got to have a playmaker," Andersen said. "We've got to have someone on third and nine who is going to get nine yards and an inch if that's what it takes to get us the first down.
"I'm not going to say it has to be a super-fast guy or an unbelievable route runner. There's kids in this program who can do it, and if they've put in the time and wrapped their arms around it we can have success."
Clement's time to shine
The Badgers already have a pretty potent one-two punch at running back with James White and Melvin Gordon, but Andersen said he's still looking for another running back to step up and give them some good reps during the season. And with Vonte Jackson out for the season and Lewis competing for time at safety, the responsibility has largely fallen on true freshman Corey Clement to step up and give the offense an extra dimension this season.
"Corey has some big shoes to fill," Andersen said. "We'll try a couple different young men, but really Corey is big in that situation. He came here for a reason. We're not going to play a young man if he's not ready, but that's the guy right now."
Clement should give the Badgers a change of pace at running back. Clement weighed in at 210 pounds after participating in Wisconsin's summer conditioning program and that extra size makes him an intriguing option for the Badgers on short downs and at the goal line. They haven't had a true power running back since John Clay left after the 2010 season, and the Badgers will likely give Clement a lot of chances to win game reps this year.
"Right now we're expecting that to be Corey's show," Andersen said. "It's a lot of pressure, but that's why he came to Wisconsin."