MADISON - Ray Ball becomes more important to the Badgers with every injury they suffer on the offensive line. They were already short on scholarship linemen to begin with, but injuries to Kyle Costigan, Walker Williams, and other nagging injuries have forced healthy linemen like Ball to take more snaps than they probably expected.
Ball has repped with the second team offensive line at left guard, and even worked with the first team at right guard last week. I caught up with Ball after practice on Monday, and he was kind enough to talk a little bit about how spring is going for him.
How do you think you've been doing so far this spring?
Ray Ball: I'm feeling pretty good, pretty confident in myself. I'm hoping that I get that chance with the ones and twos a lot more. It's definitely that time … with coach T.J. Woods this year and all those past coaches, to show them that I'm ready to work and to work with them to make myself better as an athlete.
What's it like working with coach Woods so far? I know the offensive line has had its fair share of transition over the past year.
RB: I'd say he's the type of coach that really pushes you. I really love working with him. If it's something that I'm not truly understanding then I can go up to him or coach Oglesby and just talk to them and they'll break it down for me. That really helps me out as an athlete to become better each and every day in practice.
How about coach Josh Oglesby? Is it nice to have a familiar face around here?
RB: The fact that you do know coach Oglesby, that kind of gives you, not necessarily more confidence but you can actually talk to him. I [knew] him my true freshman year, and I can talk to him. And whenever it comes down to something that I need help I can go to him in a joking manner and then be fine. I go to him multiple times for film advice, or if I need help with corrections or anything. He definitely fits the role as that GA that can help out here.
Do you have anything that you really wanted to work on during the offseason to make yourself better as a player?
RB: Definitely my footwork. I need to constantly work on that. All of my past coaches have been telling me 'make that your craft, and focus on that and you'll definitely be playing.' The fact that every single one of those coaches has said that, that's the number one thing that I constantly stress on.
How would you work on that after the season ended?
RB: Definitely some of the things that they told me, and also some of the things that the strength coaches have told me. Working with bands, flexibility, keeping a base, ladders and all those types of things. I kinda do all those footwork drills, and also probably working with a defensive lineman.
You've been splitting your reps between left guard on the second team and occasionally right guard on the first team. Does one spot feel more comfortable to you than the other?
RB: There's definitely a difference when it comes to switching your stagger and your stance and all that. If it came down to the most comfortable it would have to be the left because that's where I was at from high school, being at left tackle, then Bostad moved me to left guard. It comes more easily.
What are you like on the field? What's your attitude like?
RB: I've been told this by many of my coaches: [I'm] definitely very aggressive. My father and mother, they always taught me: you be the nice Ray off the field, but once it comes down to that field you just have to flip that switch on and just become as aggressive as you can.
You you think you need to have that aggressive streak to be a good offensive lineman?
RB: Oh yeah. You're at the University of Wisconsin, and on the offensive line it's a known tradition that you have to be the most aggressive person on the field. I feel that if you're not that way then you practically won't play. And if you do that, that kind of separates you from everyone on field.
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