UW Health Sports Medicine 

The Voice: Spring game an audition for young players

With any luck, this Saturday's spring game at Camp Randall Stadium will unfold with actual spring weather.

Then again, since that is out of our control, why worry about it? A day in the high 40s is football weather, right?

Outdoor practices have been infrequent this spring, but on Monday, coach Gary Andersen had his team scrimmage during a steady rain. While the offense had its struggles, Andersen was encouraged with a seemingly little thing that can become a big thing.

"We didn't drop the ball in the snap," he said. "That was impressive, especially from a rookie center (redshirt freshman Dan Voltz) and a bunch of different quarterbacks. (The players) didn't say a word about the weather. That's a good thing. They go out and take care of business, which is what we would expect to have done."

During an interview this week on Madison radio station The Big 1070, Andersen talked about the development of his team in general, and of some of the younger players specifically. Players such as outside linebackers Vince Biegel and Joe Schobert, as well as defensive lineman James Adeyanju.

Regarding the young players, or the not-so-young Badgers who could be in line for bigger roles this fall, Saturday's scrimmage matters.

"They need to get out there," said Andersen. "Saturday is big for them to get out there and play in front of people. They need to get out and do more than run down on a kickoff."

The defense is developing, especially the front seven. While you will not see some of the familiar faces on Saturday, spring practice has given the team a chance to develop some depth. 

"There are a lot of kids fighting for positions," said Andersen. "There are kids who have played for two and three years here, and played at a high level and played well that are getting pushed. And that is a good thing."

Andersen seems to fit the definition of a players' coach. He has sprinkled in some fun things during spring ball, such as having a dance contest, and having his players sing "On, Wisconsin." He says the team will sing the fight song after every game, both home and away.

My guess is Badgers fans will love it.

My guess is Badgers fans also will appreciate Andersen's sometimes candid nature. Candid without calling out specific players. During the radio interview, Andersen made it clear he wants to see more punch from the offense.

"Football is a hard game to play when you have to do everything exactly right. We need to be more explosive on offense. And that is hard sometimes when you don't have Jared (Abbrederis) out there, and James (White) doesn't get as many carries as you want. 

"At the end of the day, those are just excuses. We need to be more explosive as a football team.

"We need to get some throws over 25 yards, and we need to get some runs over 15 yards consistently. When you do that, you are a good offense," he added. "Show me a good offense that just trudges down the field, you know, 12 plays, three or four times a game, and goes four or five yards at a shot -- they are not a great offense. It is impossible. There is not enough time in a game, and there are not enough quarters in a game to be able to do it that way."

Andersen acknowledges those long drives can serve a purpose in wearing down a defense. He simply would rather not have to rely solely on long, time-consuming marches. He wants to see the ball move in bigger chunks.

"We can get it done in the backfield, there is no question," said Andersen. "We have tight ends that can make some big plays. Jared can make big plays. After that, we have got to challenge ourselves as coaches, myself and players to be able to have some young men on the offensive side of the ball that can consistently make big plays down the field."

While it is one scrimmage to conclude spring practices, maybe that is something to keep an eye on. 

Hope to see you this Saturday.