March 12, 2010
MADISON, Wis. -- March Madness may be upon us and the last of the snow may just be melting away in Madison but for a number of football fans Saturday is a big day as the Badgers kick off Spring Practice. It’s been over two months since Wisconsin took down Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl, and starting tomorrow UW will take the practice field for the first time since Orlando.
QB Scott Tolzien, RB John Clay and DE J.J. Watt talk spring football (video)
“We’re extremely excited to get back into action,” said junior defensive end J.J. Watt. “After seven weeks of training and conditioning, we’re very anxious to get back out on the field.
“The Miami game left a good taste in our mouth and we want to get back out there and capitalize on that game and the gains we’ve made in the offseason.”
Saturday’s practice is the first of 14 practices leading up to the Spring Game on April 17. The Spring Game starts at 2 p.m. with the Badger Kids Fair starting at noon.
The 2010 roster boasts a Big Ten-best 18 returning starters, including senior quarterback Scott Tolzien.
“I think it’s something I’ve got to take the lead on and step up more,” Tolzien said about having a year of experience under his belt. “I have more responsibility now. It’s not just me, it’s a lot of guys. We’ve got a lot of guys that need to step up from every position. We’ve got a lot of wide receivers coming back and they’ve got to step up along with the tight ends. It’s going to be exciting to see those guys rise to the challenge.”
Even with so many returners coming off a 10-win season, there is no time to get complacent. On the first two spring practices, the Badgers will go without pads focusing on fundamentals and taking the 1-0 mentality to a day-to-day mentality through to the 2010 opener.
“Our seniors had a meeting, and it was brought up by them,” said head coach Bret Bielema. “They've learned that you're never going to skip a step to get to where you want to be and get there. You have to put in the daily work … what they basically shared with me after the meeting was they want to do nothing but work on the day-to-day improvements to get to where they need to be.
“At the end of spring ball, then we'll attack summer conditioning, and we'll attack fall camp, and then obviously go out to Las Vegas for our opener. Because of what they've done, they realize those things are obtainable. But if you begin to think about that, you'll never get there.”
The Badger defense will also get acquainted with two new coaches throughout spring ball. Chris Ash will work with the defensive backs and Greg Jackson will work with the nickel backs, as well as linebackers.
Wisconsin’s high-powered offense will have to go through spring without junior running back John Clay, who will not participate in spring drills to rehab his ankles.
“It will be nice not to worry about somebody falling on it or not having to sit out a series to give it some rest,” said the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. “I’m looking forward to playing this year without pain.”
Along with Clay, linebackers Chris Borland, Mike Taylor and Tony Megna as well as offensive lineman Peter Konz, will miss the entirety of spring ball. Tight end Zach Davison, offensive linemen John Moffitt and Gabe Carimi and defensive end Brendan Kelly will miss at least the first two weeks of spring ball.
UWBadgers.com will have the most comprehensive coverage of Badger Spring Football Practice. Among the tools fans have to follow practice are: