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Spring preview Q&A with Coach Bielema, Part II

ON WISCONSIN <b>UW's spring football practice kicks on on Saturday, March 13.</b>
UW's spring football practice kicks on on Saturday, March 13.

March 9, 2010

MADISON, Wis. -- With spring practice less than one week away, head coach Bret Bielema took some time to answer some questions for UWBadgers.com. In the second of the two-part Q&A, Bielema talks about some key position battles on defense, who may be changing positions and the team's overall goals for the spring.

Read part I of our Q&A with Coach Bielema here. Also be sure to check out Coach Bielema's pre-spring practice news conference on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. live-streamed on UWBadgers.com.

Q: You talked a little about the defensive line earlier, who are some guys you are looking at in the defensive tackle spots?

Coach Bielema: “Obviously Patrick (Butrym) will be our leading candidate there. But then you’ve got guys like Jordan Kohout, Eriks Briedis, guys that will be with us in the spring here and see exactly where they can go. But another X factor on the defensive line is a guy by the name of Tyler Dippel, who we recruited and thought he was going to be an outside guy, but now he might be a little more inside. And then a freshman walk-on, Ethan Hemer, who was scout team player defensive player of the year and has really changed his body. We’re excited to see exactly how good of football he can play.”

Q: With Chris Borland and Mike Taylor out for the spring, does that open up some opportunities at the linebacker position?

Coach Bielema: “It does. We are going to move Kevin Claxton from strong safety to linebacker and really feel that’s been a good move for him to this point. We’ll try to figure out what he can do during the spring. And then Kevin Rouse, who hasn’t really played that much and was a heavily recruited player out of high school. You can really see his body changing now and see exactly where he can go.”

Q: You mentioned a lot of experience returning in the secondary but they now have a new coach, Chris Ash. Is the spring a perfect time for the players to get comfortable with Chris and vice-versa?

Coach Bielema: “I think it’s huge. One of the main reasons that I hired Chris was for his teaching abilities and what he can bring to the table as far as a technician and teaching kids how to play the game. Especially the way that we approach spring ball from the beginning, the first two practices, almost half of it is dedicated to fundamental work so you really get a chance to see his hands-on touch and see how the players respond.”

Q: Is Aaron Henry the favorite to replace Chris Maragos at free safety?

Bret Bielema: “He’s definitely got the chance to be the guy. It’s in his hands and we’ll see what he decides to do with it. There’s going to be some other guys. We’ve moved a couple of corners around to see if they can give us some experience or a chance to do something as well. You’ve also got guys like Shelton Johnson or Josh Peprah, guys that we lined up on the strong side, might try free safety and see what he can do.”

Q: Last year, one of the stated goals heading into spring practice was to get back to playing “Wisconsin football.” What are the goals heading into this year’s practice?

Coach Bielema: “The part that I was excited about, some of the seniors got together early on in the semester and one of the things they realized was they can’t set any goals that are far out there, to be too specific. Their short term goal is they need to work every day to get to where they need to be. I think if we take that approach, the kids really buy into, hopefully we’ll have some of the same results.”

Q: You mentioned Kevin Claxton moving from safety to linebacker. Are there any other players that will be changing positions?

Coach Bielema: “We’ve had a couple of walk-ons that we moved around but for the most part that’s pretty much it as far as a dramatic change. We are going to move Zach Davison and Rob Korslin into some more of fullback-type positions to see what they can bring to the table there. But other than moving a couple of defensive backs around between safety and corner, that’s pretty much it.

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