The Badgers were up and at it early on Wednesday, hitting the field inside the McClain Center for a practice session that got underway just before 6 a.m. in order to accommodate pre-spring break exams for a number of players. Darius Hillary and the defense spent a good portion of the session backed up against the end zone working to defend the Badgers' receivers.
- Photo Gallery: Spring Practice #5
Head coach Gary Andersen met with members of the media following the Badgers' early-morning practice session Wednesday inside the McClain Center.
Among the highlights of Andersen's update:
- Assistant coach Chris Beatty has taken over as the Badgers' recruiting coordinator, replacing Thomas Hammock, who is now the running backs coach with the Baltimore Ravens
- Leon Jacobs has moved from outside linebacker to inside linebacker, with Andersen noting the play of Jesse Hayes at OLB this spring as a reason for shifting Jacobs inside
Spring football is underway, but it's hardly the first time the Badgers have been on the field since returning from the Capital One Bowl. How did they get to this point? Check out a behind-the-scenes look at winter conditioning for the Badgers, which was designed by the UW strength and conditioning staff to be a highly-competitive lead-in to spring ball.
- Wisconsin Football: First Quarter
The offensive and defensive lines battled it out in a series of one-on-one drills during Monday's practice, including this head-to-head matchup between OL Kyle Costigan and DE Konrad Zagzebski (Brian Mason photo).
Running backs Corey Clement and Melvin Gordon are expected to spend most of spring on the sideline as less experienced players get the majority of the reps, which was exactly the case Saturday as the duo looked on at drills inside the McClain Center (Brian Lucas photo).
- Photo Gallery: Spring Practice #3
In this week's issue of Varsity magazine, Mike Lucas sits down with UW head coach Gary Andersen and coordinators Dave Aranda and Andy Ludwig for an in-depth at what to watch for during spring practice:
Wisconsin offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig has a favorite phrase to describe the standard growing pains for everyone involved. "A year ago at this time, you were drinking water through a fire hose," he said. "Now, you're going about your business and getting ready for a great spring."Read the full story here: Varsity: A Time for Change
The operative word is "settled." Andersen used it, so did Ludwig. "We're so much more settled," Ludwig said. "The coaches know each other. The coaches know the players. The players know the coaches and the system is intact. The system is not changing. There's no new terminology to learn."
It's fair to say everything has settled down on both sides of the ball. That's what UW defensive coordinator Dave Aranda was saying. "In the attitude, in the expectations and in the anticipation of what's coming -- in all of those things -- I just think we're ahead (this spring)," he said.
Spring football is, more than anything, a learning opportunity and assistant coach Ben Strickland used sophomore-to-be Sojourn Shelton as a teaching tool for his fellow cornerbacks during Wednesday's first practice session (Brian Mason photo).
Hey Badger Fans!
The time is here! Its playoffs, the best time of the season, and the team is more excited than ever to hit the ice tonight and get one game under our belt. I caught up with a few teammates about the game, getting their thoughts on heading into playoffs, and for freshman forward Sydney McKibbon, what her thoughts were heading into her first set of college playoffs ever.
"I wouldn't say that I'm nervous, but more anxious to get the games going. This is the best time of the year to be playing hockey," McKibbon said. "When you get into playoff time anything can happen and I think that's what makes it so exciting. Every team starts over again and no one is guaranteed anything. I am looking forward to the energy we are going to have in LaBahn this weekend with the band and all the fans."
Sophomore forward Erika Sowchuk also agreed about the exciting games heading into the weekend.
"I am looking forward to the intensity," Sowchuk said, "every game is a nail biter and every team is putting it all on the line. We need to compete for the whole game and show a lot of tenacity."
One final teammate I caught up with was Katy Josephs. A key right-winger on a line with Blayre Turnbull and Brittany Ammerman, who often goes unrecognized, is essential to the teams success this weekend, and she fully recognizes the effort that will be necessary for the team to advance to the WCHA playoffs.
"I am looking forward to seeing our tam give it all we've got," Josephs said. "Everyone knows that now it's do or die and the intensity of every game will go up for our team as well as for other teams. It's always fun to see what happens during playoffs because there will be teams that make it to tournaments that you don't expect. It makes for a fun and exciting couple of weeks."
The team can all agree on two things: the weekend will be full of intensity and nothing is guaranteed. The team knows that we need to bring 100% each night for 60 minutes in order to advance on in playoffs, and we need to focus on playing our game and doing the little things that have helped us to find success up to this point in the season.
"In order to be successful this weekend we need to play the way we've been playing all year," McKibbon said. "We need to come out fast to set the tone for the series this weekend and play a consistent 60 minutes. I think that if everyone plays their role and works hard we will be very successful."
Josephs agrees that we need to stick to our game and not worry ourselves with changing too much heading into the weekend.
"I think as a team we just have to keep doing what we have been all year which is playing and competing as hard as we can but also having fun doing it," Josephs said. "I think one of the biggest reasons we've been successful this year is because everyone looks forward to coming to the rink every day with a positive attitude. This results in a strong work ethic where everyone is pushing themselves to be better."
The team hits the ice tonight at 7 p.m. to face off for the first game of the series against Minnesota State. We hope to see all the fans out and cheering us to victory as we continue on our journey to the ultimate goal. If you like Badger Hockey, this will be a series you don't want to miss!
Until next time, thanks for reading, and On Wisconsin!