UW Health Sports Medicine 

The Voice: In the end, we're talking about practice

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgIt is probably becoming an annual advisory, but as the Badger football team continues its spring practices leading up to the annual Wisconsin Football Spring Game on April 28, once again I offer the following free advice -- do not get too wound up about what you see, hear or read.

Certainly there are some interesting story lines. Believe it or not, some of them do not include the quarterbacks, but it is dangerous for any Badgers fan to draw conclusions from what you might see on a given day.

In the nearly quarter of a century that I have been around this program, I can't remember one spring game where I walked out of the stadium thinking, "Man, this team looks great!"  It is a practice. If the defense has a good day, fans worry about the offense. If the offense lights up the scoreboard, the defense must be bad, right?

That is not to say the game has been devoid of memorable moments, such as the snow storm during the 1994 spring game. When snowball fights started breaking out on the field, you just knew the day was a little unusual.  The worst moment was in the 2002 scrimmage, when star receiver Lee Evans suffered a season-ending knee injury. The coaches wanted to throw him one deep ball, after which Evans' day would be done. It was, only not in the way anyone intended.

Let us hope nothing close to that happens on the 28th, or ever again in a spring game.

It should be an enjoyable day in Madison, with the 31st-annual Crazylegs Classic starting at 10 a.m., and the spring game getting started at 4 p.m. Consider it a Homecoming in late April.

As for some things to watch during the scrimmage, there appears to be a good battle going on at right guard, where Robert Burge, Casey Dehn and Kyle Costigan are getting turns. Costigan is catching the eyes of many as the sophomore makes the switch back to offense. Offensive line coach Mike Markuson has been doing a fair amount of mixing and matching during drills. With Rob Havenstein recovering from shoulder surgery, Dehn also is getting some run with the first group at right tackle.

A very young group of wide receivers continues to try to make an impression, including Chase Hammond, Marquis Mason, Isaiah Williams, A. J. Jordan and Kenzel Doe. If you watch the spring game, just sit back and see who among them can make a play or two.

You might be fairly familiar with a couple of the running backs, specifically Mr. Ball and Mr. White. But you should also enjoy seeing Melvin Gordon, who has turned in some very good work so far this spring.

Defensively, an encouraging sign has been the gradual return of cornerback Devin Smith. The 2011 season started in promising fashion for the senior, as he played well in the opener against UNLV and was off to an excellent start the next week against Oregon State. Then he broke his foot, ending his season. His return this fall should give the secondary a good lift. In the meantime, Marcus Cromartie gained priceless experience last season, and Peniel Jean is working the other side. A pair of redshirt freshmen, Terrance Floyd and Darius Hillary, show promise as well.

That just scratches the surface of things to watch. Beat reporters Tom Mulhern of the Wisconsin State Journal and Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel do an excellent job of examining each position group, and no doubt both will continue to do that in the next week and a half.

I encourage you to gather all the information you can, but remember, it's springtime. Yes, the practices matter -- perhaps especially this year with a new-look coaching staff gathering firsthand knowledge of the players, and vice-versa.

Enjoy the day. Hopefully the weather will cooperate, and everyone can have a great time. Just don't let yourself get too excited or concerned about what you see in one scrimmage.
ON WISCONSIN