April 15, 2010

UW closing in on annual spring game

MADISON - With only one practice remaining before Saturday's spring game, it seems as though the Wisconsin football team has been able to accomplish some goals without losing anyone to serious injury.

Granted, assumed starters Mike Taylor,Chris Borland, John Clay and Peter Konz have missed the entirety of spring camp and offensive linemen Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt were sidelined for the first half.

But when the team showcases what it's been able to improve in front of a live crowd inside Camp Randall, it seems as though the team will be relatively healthy with all things considered.

At this point, it looks as though Nick Toon will be the only player that won't participate in Saturday's festivities.

"It looks like he probably won't make the scrimmage," UW head coach Bret Bielema said following Thursday's practice. "He got a little banged up from the scrimmage on Saturday and we won't put him back out there."

-Kevin Claxton, who has suffered a bit of a tight back will likely be held out of Friday's practice with hopes of letting him play during Saturday's spring game.

-Clay, who has been sidelined following his second ankle surgery last month, has been cleared and won't be needing the aid of crutches any more.

"We're getting healthy and hopefully we'll have a good day on Saturday."

What is the head coach looking for?

By the time Saturday's spring game starts, the Badgers would have participated in 14 separate practices. In that time, it has become evident that certain strides have been made from all position groups.

So, when the team takes the Camp Randall field in front of a gathering of fans, what is it that coach Bielema is looking for?

"First off, everybody that takes the field I want to come off the field," Bielema said. "Other than that the guys that need to make jumps that have need to show up on Saturday. It will be the most realistic game day situation."

Two of those guys, that Bielema aptly noted, play the tight end position.

"You take a guy like Lance Kendricks, and it won't be as apparent to people in the stands, but he's done such a good job of blocking," Bielema said. "I'd like to see that continue now. And Jake Byrne, two guys at the tight end position."

On the defensive side of the ball, where most of the question marks surrounding this team reside, Bielema is hoping for continued momentum up front.

"We've had great growth among our defensive tackles," Bielema said. "I want to see them do that Saturday when it's game like."

Scrimmage set up:

Over the past couple of seasons, Bielema and his coaching staff have set up the spring game in a fashion that pits the No. 1 offense against the No. 2 defense. Expect this year to be much of the same.

"Points will count double for our guys in white (second string)," Bielema said. "For the guys in the red, everything will be normal. We'll have a kicking competition in the middle. It was a great day today, I thought our kickers before practice went 4-for-4. With a windy day like this, that was a positive."

Sizing up the specialists:

With most of spring camp set up for every down players to get reps, the specialists spend a lot of time practicing their craft on their own. With that being said, both Philip Welch and Brad Nortman have performed pretty well when they've had a chance to jump in.

"With punt we've tried to change up our protection as to where our ball is being placed," Bielema said. "By far, those two (Nortman and Ryan Wickesberg) have made a nice step. We haven't done a lot of pooch punting, but that will be the big step in the fall."

Quarterback setup for the scrimmage:

With Curt Phillips sidelined as he recovers from a torn ACL that was suffered early in camp, the Badger quarterbacks are a bit shorthanded as Saturday approaches. Because of that shortfall, it seems as though Scott Tolzien and Jon Budmayr will receive the majority of the reps while back up Nate Tice will get some opportunities as well.

"Scotty will start off in the first half," Bielema said. "Jon will start off with the whites and will eventually come out and work with the No. 1 unit. When Scotty comes out, Tice will take it home from there."

Watt named to the Lott Trophy watch list:

Following somewhat of a break out year during his first season on the Badgers, J.J. Watt has garnered some national attention. On Thursday, the Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation and Ronnie Lott announced Watt was one of 42 candidates for the award given to the defensive player that best exhibits similar characteristics that Lott embodies during his playing career: integrity, maturity, performance, academics, community and tenacity.

Past winners include such greats as Ohio State's James Laurinaitis, LSU's Glenn Dorsey and Georgia's David Pollack. The winner, announced in December, receives $25,000 for his school's general scholarship fun. The three runner-ups are awarded $5,000 for the same fund.

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