MADISON - The Badgers have only practiced twice so far this spring, but things seem to be going well for the football team as they get ready to defend their most recent Big Ten Championship. Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema spoke about how he thought camp was going in his first press conference of the spring, and brought the media up to speed about a few of the issues his team is facing.
Bielema won't change philosophy
To be sure, the Badgers have had their fair share of uncertainty at quarterback over the last few years. They face the same problem again this year, when two older quarterbacks will be sidelined for a long period of time, leaving Joe Brennan and Joel Stave to compete for the starting job.
But even with the turnover his program has faced at one of the most important positions in all of sports, Bielema said he isn't going to change how he recruits and brings quarterbacks into his program. The Badgers will still take one quarterback every year, to avoid developing a logjam at the position.
"I think two things have helped us- first off, I made a decision in my first year to sign one quarterback and one tailback every year," Bielema said. "Obviously the predicament that you get in is if you have two quarterbacks, or in our situation three quarterbacks, that don't work out because or injuries or because they flunked out. I think it provided an opportunity for what we saw last year with Russell.
"The quarterback position and the running back position are both unique in that you can only get one of those guys on the field at a time, which allows us to hopefully get a better person in that spot."
Future bright for Badgers?
It's not unnatural for a coach to feel optimistic about their upcoming season in the spring. After all, if you can't be optimistic in the spring, it's going to be much harder when fall rolls around and the actual games begin. But Bielema mentioned that his "two-year forecast" of his program looks pretty bright.
"I just sat down with a recruit and I was highlighting the next two years of Wisconsin football. The thing that excites me is that next year I think we have a chance to be a very, very good football team if we get all the right players at the right positions," Bielema said. "But two years from now we could possibly be starting as many as nine or 10 seniors on offense, and on defense next year we'll lose three, maybe four starters. The thing that gets exciting for me, is not only does next year look promising, but the year after that, our two-year forecast is pretty exceptional."
Part of that comes as a consequence of having a very young roster, with small senior classes giving the younger players time to work their way in to bigger roles on the team.
From a scholarship standpoint it's been a little difficult because the Badgers can't take many more than nine scholarship players this season, but if they can sign the right players they could keep themselves on their recent path to success.
- Cornerback Devin Smith is close to returning to practice. Bielema said Smith will take until the end of spring break to continue his rehab, and will hopefully be back for the remaining part of spring camp.
- Injured quarterback Jon Budmayr is visiting the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota this week, and Bielema said Budmayr got some "good news" recently about what is causing the nerve problem in his throwing arm. Bielema said the hope is that they can get Budmayr back on the right path.
News and notes:
- It certainly sounds like freshman offensive lineman Dan Voltz has made a favorable impression so far this spring. Bielema sounded very impressed with Voltz' attention to detail, and there's certainly enough opportunity for him to earn some early playing time as a true freshman.
"I can't say enough positive things about Dan, a guy that from the recruiting process to where we are today has never been anything but a highlight for us," Bielema said. "He's very detail oriented, (and) he's going to be a very good player for us at the center or guard position."
- Kicker Kyle French was 4-for-4 on field goals in practice on Saturday, but will still have to compete with some walk-on kickers to earn the starting job this season.
- Linebacker Derek Watt will get reps with the first team at middle linebacker to spell junior linebacker Chris Borland.
"He makes a lot of nice, natural football plays that you love to see," Bielema said.
- Wide receiver Marquis Mason has made a jump from day one to day two, which could be a big boost for the Badgers. They're losing an athletic threat in Nick Toon, and are generally short on experience at the position this spring behind Jared Abbrederis.
"Nobody made a bigger jump, in my opinion, from Thursday to Saturday as Marquis," Bielema said. "Here's a guy that has a little something (athletically) that no one else has, and the more we can bring that out the better we'll all be."
- For the moment, Derek Straus will back up Sherard Cadogan at full back, but Bielema said he's had an impressive spring camp so far.
The following is an audio recording from Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema's Monday news conference.
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