UW Health Sports Medicine 

The Voice: Plenty to watch as Badgers hit field Saturday

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgFans thinking about attending this Saturday's spring football game probably have a few questions, not the least of which is the weather. Hopefully it will be a decent spring day, but given we can't control Mother Nature, here are some other things you might want to watch at Camp Randall Stadium:

The tailback position appears to be in very good shape. Montee Ball and James White provide a very good one-two punch, but Jeff Lewis and fifth-year senior Zach Brown also are battling to get in the mix.

Whoever runs the ball should have a good offensive line, which is saying something given it lost All-Americans Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt, not to mention the valuable contributions of Bill Nagy.

Coach Bret Bielema has been pleased with Ryan Groy stepping in for Peter Konz, who has missed time with a sprained ankle. Ricky Wagner has moved to left tackle, and Rob Havenstein has been getting plenty of reps with the ones at right tackle. Travis Frederick, who redshirted last fall, is back in the mix at left guard, while Bielema has been impressed with the work of right guard Kevin Zeitler.

After two terrific years from Scott Tolzien, Jon Budmayr is getting his shot at quarterback. Making spring camp more challenging is the collection of inexperienced receivers.

Offensive coordinator Paul Chryst likes to remind anyone who asks that it is still April. "Jon has an understanding of what we are doing," says Chryst. "He's going to make mistakes. He's needs to learn from those mistakes and keep pushing forward."

While Budmayr's skill set might be a bit different from his predecessor, there are important similarities that Chryst appreciates, starting with how Budmayr took note of how Tolzien carried himself. "It is not what was said as much as it was just how Scotty went about his business," Chryst said. "He (Budmayr) did a great job of truly taking it all in.  

"A lot of those things were the things Scott controlled. The things he did going into each practice and each season. They are the same type of guys, so I think it fits Jon like it did Scotty."

The receivers are young, so maybe on Saturday you will enjoy seeing players such as Isaiah Williams, Kenzel Doe, Chase Hammond and Marquis Mason.

While Nick Toon works his way back from foot surgery, the veteran of the group is Jared Abbrederis. Receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander says the sophomore has developed as a leader, but admits there is bit of a problem.

"He's got a little farmer in him," Alexander says with a smile. "He likes to get the guys up at 6 a.m. Some of these guys are city guys. They don't get up that early."

The Badgers likely will have good depth at tight end. Special mention to Brian Wozniak, who earlier in camp suffered a knee injury that figured to keep him out four to six weeks, but he returned a week later.    

In fall camp last August, Wozniak hurt his shoulder and missed half the season. He has had enough bad luck.

On defense, gone is Lott IMPACT Trophy winner and likely first-round NFL draft pick J.J. Watt. Co-Defensive Coordinator Charlie Partridge isn't worried about any returning players being the next Watt.

"Pat Butrym needs to be the best Pat Butrym he can be, and on down the line. To replace the amount of production J.J. gave us, everybody has to step up."

As was written in this space last week, there could be some nice depth at linebacker. No doubt LB coach Dave Huxtable is eager to see how Marcus Trotter, Josh Harrison and Cameron Ontko, among others, perform in more of a game-like setting.

Co-Defensive Coordinator Chris Ash is quick to say that while he likes much of the what the defensive backs have done this spring, there is still is plenty of work to do.  An encouraging sign for Ash is the development of senior cornerback Devin Smith.

"I've told him this--I am not saying anything that is a secret," says Ash "Last spring he (Smith) just didn't compete. He's a totally different person now."

And this is a different team. Yes, the Badgers won the Big Ten title and made a trip to the Rose Bowl, but for fans, Saturday marks the beginning of the 2011 season.

Don't make too much of what you see this Saturday, but consider it a little preview of some of the newer faces you could be seeing much more of beginning Thursday night, Sept. 1, when the UNLV Rebels come to town.