UW Health Sports Medicine 

Lucas at Large: Herbert has Badgers ready to roll from Day 1

There is no gray area in Ben Herbert's world. As the UW strength and conditioning coach for football, Herbert deals in exacts, not inexacts. He doesn't have time for close enoughs or maybes.

You either do the work. Or you don't.

"I told them before they left for break,'' he said, "we're going to hit the ground running.''

That was Herbert's parting gift to the players following the post-spring practice conditioning phase, which was more about recovery than anything else. Most were off-campus in May.

That was their halftime.

"You can only encourage them to do certain things during the break,'' Herbert said. "But the one thing Day One will tell you is who did what they were suppose to do, and who didn't.''

Monday was Day One in the UW's summer phase.

"In terms of intensity,'' Herbert said, "it was the highest it has been the last three years.''

The Badgers, mind you, are coming off a Rose Bowl season.

"They came back hungry,'' said Herbert. "It's my job to feed them on a daily basis.''

The rallying cry in the weight room has been "Every day, every detail.'' No day will be wasted, Herbert promised, and no detail overlooked in advance of the Sept. 1 opener against UNLV.

"We're always smart about what we expose them to and how we monitor that,'' Herbert went on. "But they're two or three weeks ahead of where they would normally be on Day One.''

Tempo is the operative word in any discussion about Badger football. The UW coaches, headed by Bret Bielema, put significant emphasis on practicing with great tempo in the fall or the spring.

Gerry DiNardo, an analyst for the Big Ten Network, shared his perspective with Lindy's Sports.

"The day I was at practice,'' said DiNardo, the former head coach at Vanderbilt, Indiana and LSU, "they were in half pads, meaning just helmets and shoulder pads.

"It was the best half-padded practice I've ever seen. If there is a hangover from the Rose Bowl, it was not obvious. Just the opposite was true the day I was there.''

Herbert also believes tempo is critical to success in his area of the program.

That, too, stood out on Day One.

"I like this group,'' Herbert said. "They're locked in. They took care of their business over break. Anytime guys self-administrate and control what they're doing, it's always a good sign.''
Herbert is perceptive to such things, in part, because he's a former UW player. As a four-year letterwinner and two-year starter, he was the personification of the program's blue collar mentality.

A converted linebacker, he played where they told him to play - even as an undersized nose guard. So he doesn't ask his players to do anything that he hasn't done, or wouldn't do himself.

During the recent heat spell, Herbert noted, "You have to closely monitor where they are.''

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were scorchers in Madison with temps in the 90s.

"We always communicate, 'Listen to your bodies,''' Herbert said. "We're not trying to win any awards in Week One. We want to get acclimated and ready to transition into weeks two, three and four.

"With the heat, you just have to pay close attention to where they're at - with certain guys, you'll give them a chance to catch their breath and hydrate while others in the group may be fine.''

The presence of athletic trainers has been a positive development to out of season conditioning.

"You can never be too cautious,'' Herbert said. "From the standpoint of putting the guys in the safest environment possible, you have to make sure they can tolerate what they're exposed to.''

This group would appear ready to build on last season's success.

"They're ready to roll,'' Herbert said. "There are only so many work days from now until UNLV and we're going to take advantage of every one of them.''