2014 Wisconsin Football Spring Game
April 12, 2014 | Camp Randall Stadium
Head Coach Gary Andersen
ANDERSEN: Appreciate you all being here. The weather held, which was a beautiful thing, and we got a lot of good reps in and looks like we stayed pretty healthy for the most part. That's a huge positive. We were looking for a few things. Execution overall was pretty clean from an offensive and defensive standpoint, and we'll go back and make the corrections that we need.
We talk about administrative penalties and things that you can avoid pre snap, those were pretty good. We played a lot of young kids at the end. There were a couple snaps on the ground. Our second center was ill so he couldn't be out there, so Trent (Denlinger) had to come in and snap and all that stuff. But I thought when the ones and twos were in there, it was a good football game, had good pace. It was good to see Corey (Clement) and Melvin (Gordon) get in there and get some reps.
So, overall, mission accomplished. Proud of the way the kids handled spring, all 15 practices. I don't think we had a bunch of ups and downs. Some days were better than others, but they always are. But it was a good group. Now the challenge will be to continually move forward and get the right pieces of the puzzle in the right spots and make sure the kids stay fresh and excited about the game of football and prepared for summer conditioning and then obviously fall camp.
QUESTION: What were your impressions of Tanner's (McEvoy) day, and will you go into the fall thinking he and Joel (Stave) are sort of battling for the No. 1 spot?
ANDERSEN: Yeah, I would say we are exactly where we started spring, but now Tanner has some reps. When we walked into spring, it was more of a situation to where I thought Tanner deserved that opportunity and he wanted that opportunity, and he saw himself as a quarterback, and I think he's proven through spring that he's continually gotten better. He had a nice day today. He threw the ball well. He showed you what he can do with his feet.
There was a lot of the offense that you have with an athletic quarterback that we'll have with an athletic quarterback that did not show itself today. That's by design. And there's a lot of things that you can do to open it up if that's the direction, but we haven't spent that time in spring football on that stuff except for the last, you know, four or five practices. No need to work with that today.
But I'm proud of both quarterbacks. I'm proud of Joel. Joel fought like crazy. He's got an injury, and it's hard to deal with and we expect him to be better. He's got a great attitude, so does Tanner, and it will be a fight.
QUESTION: I know you just start to build your identity in the spring. Do you think you're closer to an identity on defense than offense right now, and what would that be do you think?
ANDERSEN: Yeah, I would think so, especially the last probably Thursday before the last scrimmage they kind of started to really kind of gel together. I think they looked at themselves, the defense has the capability and the speed to make some big plays. They want to be physical. Are they going to stopping the run is going to be the big question, and that will be the big question when that offensive line comes back in the fall and they're at full strength and Melvin and Corey are running more and Derek (Watt) is back at the fullback.
There's a lot of that stuff there that you don't see that much in the spring. They have to stop the run against us, and then the first opponent runs the ball really well, also, LSU.
A little bit early, but I think they've gained some confidence. They've got a little juice when they take the field, which I like, and the defense is a little bit ahead right now.
I'd say that the biggest reason is because there's a lot more injuries on the offensive side of the football or a lot more pieces of the puzzle that I don't allow to be there, two tailbacks that we all know are special. It changes, and you see it when we thud them up; the game changes once Melvin is in there and once Corey is in there, regardless of what offensive line is playing.
QUESTION: Warren (Herring) played end a lot. Is he going to play inside, outside, or can he play both? What's the plan for him?
ANDERSEN: Yeah, that's a great point. You guys don't miss anything, do you? He was pretty good. The ability to move Warren from the nose to the end is something that we will continue to work with in fall camp. It may be by package. The fact that Warren plays a zero and a nose, he can do that. He's proven he can do that. If we have some other nose guards and then he ends up being the best end, he's spent many years of his career playing in 3 technique, and the difference between a 3 technique and a 4 I is about six inches, so not a lot of difference that comes with that.
So he's a valuable player, and we need to make sure we get him on the field in the right spots, and Warren's challenge is to be prepared to play upwards of 60 snaps a game, so he's got to get himself in shape to be able to handle that.
QUESTION: I know Jack (Russell) missed a kick early, but were you pleased with the way he responded? I think he hit one from 41 and 30?
ANDERSEN: Yeah, he missed the one. It's good to get those kids in that situation. We've been fairly solid in the kicking game, and they don't get challenged a whole bunch in spring. The kicking game, their challenge was the cold weather kicking that they had while we were in the indoor early in the spring and they were outside in the cold weather. But I thought those kids have worked together. They take a lot of pride as a group, and Jack, he's hitting the ball pretty cleanly. It came off his foot a couple times pretty nice today. He missed the one, but he also had some very good things going, and I liked the snaps.
We seemed to be in good shape there as far as moving forward with the snappers and the holders, and we should be. We've got the same guys we've had in the past, so that's good to see that happening.
QUESTION: Given the injuries you mentioned on offense and then how you limited Gordon and Clement, how would you evaluate the progress of the offense overall this spring?
ANDERSEN: Well, I think the two tackles overall as an offense I believe we got better where we wanted to get better and where we had kind of highlighted to get better, and that was quickly the pass protection of both the starting tackles. It did improve, and they will continue to take great pride in that. We got Corey and Melvin both better at what we wanted to.
We kept them healthy, but they got better at pass protection, and I think that showed up today. They got better at the screen game. The screen game didn't pan out very good today, but it will, and it'll be a vital part, and they're better at what they're doing.
I think the offensive line as far as depth wise, you've got Michael (Deiter), you've got Ray (Ball), they came in, you've got Trent (Denlinger), those kids all grew and developed and took a number of snaps and definitely got themselves in a better spot than they would have been if we'd have had 14 or 15 healthy offensive lineman.
At the wide receiver we've identified the problem. We know the problem. It's through injuries; it's not because of lack of work, it's not because of lack of want to, and we've got to get players in here that can make plays at that position. Tight end we got better. Sam (Arneson) did what he did. He's a proven player. I think (Austin) Traylor got better every week, and Troy Fumagalli showed he can make plays, and (Eric) Steffes also was doing some nice things, with also Derek who played tight end, so our numbers are good.
I think the offense definitely made the strides that they needed in kind of a difficult spring for the kids and really for the coordinator and all the coaches.
QUESTION: Going back to Warren a little bit, has Arthur Goldberg's play allowed you to kind of move Warren over and experiment with him a little bit?
ANDERSEN: Yes, it has. It gives you a chance to you want to be able to look and say you've got two nose guards if Warren is not in the mix right there and he is playing, then you've got two nose guards with Bryce (Gilbert) and with Goldberg, and then you've got Jeremy coming in as a potential see where he sits as a young freshman. Jeremy (Patterson) has the size and he has the strength, and we'll see where he sits mentally and physically as a freshman. He'll be given an opportunity.
It's just a luxury; it's kind of like we're going to ask Warren to get outside and rush on the edges in some of those sub packages, and right now he's definitely our starting nose guard and he'll jog out there with the ones but we'll see how camp goes, and a lot of kids want to play in a lot of spots. Warren gets a big smile on his face when he's an end, so don't tell him he's an end please; just keep him at nose. Keep him humble.
QUESTION: Back to the wide receivers for a second, I thought (Rob) Wheelwright practiced Thursday but he did not play today. Was that injury related, and given how much work he needed this spring for the time he missed, is he behind a little bit where you guys would have hoped at this point?
ANDERSEN: Yes, yeah. It's from the injury that he's behind. Robert, his care factor and his dauber is down. He wants to get out there, and you're right, we put him in some limited thud scenarios on Thursday, and I believe if I remember right, even on Tuesday he was in some of those, and we just today it just wasn't the time to take a chance.
It's still the knee. He's not 100 percent yet, but we project him and expect him to be 100 percent before he goes home for the three week break in the summer, and that needs to happen. If that doesn't happen, then we've done ourselves a real disservice, and it's got to happen because he needs to be on the field to get any better. Right now he's not anywhere close to coming in a game and playing for us. He hasn't taken any snaps.
QUESTION: Why was Bart Houston unable to mount a more serious challenge to the quarterback job?
ANDERSEN: You know, I don't know. I think as we go through, you look at Bart, they had a lot of opportunities, and it just -- Bart is a great kid. He battled through there, and you look at the evaluations and the throws and you look at the whole situation from skelly to normal drills to live drills to the ability to turn around and run the offense. I think there's a lot of communication that takes place between Andy (Ludwig) and all the quarterbacks, and it's just like anywhere else, any position. It's the way it went. Bart is a tremendous young man, he's a tremendous kid, but he's not in the fight right now for the starting quarterback position.
We'll see what that brings for the future, but he's a vital part to this program and will continue to be, and he's kept a good attitude. But there's a lot that goes into that as far as like any position battle with who's in first place, who's in second place I guess you could say. But we'll just keep moving down the lines, and those two kids are going to get most of the reps in the fall, those two being Tanner and obviously Joel.
QUESTION: When you think about what you saw from Tanner today and compare that to what you saw in August at quarterback, what are some of the biggest differences?
ANDERSEN: He carries himself like a quarterback. I think when he walked in here before, he carried himself like a quarterback that was absorbing a very difficult offense and new terminology. So much of the run checks that he has to handle and the demeanor that he carried himself with last August and the way he carries himself today is really completely different. You can always have the athleticism ability to throw the football, but you've got to fit within the system, and what I'm most proud about Tanner is he has fit himself in the system. He's getting the run checks down, he's understanding the play action throws, and he's definitely improved in that area.
He walks up to the huddle, he looks more comfortable, and I think the football team is more comfortable around him, similar to how they were with Joel walking in and saying, hey, this guy can get it done for us.
QUESTION: When you sat Joel down, how upset was he, and what's his timetable moving forward now?
ANDERSEN: It was really difficult for Joel. Like I said, I called him a week ago today and we talked about it, and I just felt I think he knows it's best, and he's such a competitor that it hurts him to not be out there. He knows that he's in a battle and he wants to be out there. I had a conversation where I was able to communicate with his mom and just kind of let her know that we had our worries about his shoulder at this point and we were going to try to be cautious and careful.
Joel cares a lot about this team and about football and about Wisconsin, but I think he's more worried about getting back right now more than anything else. He'll be fine. I believe when we walk back in here June 8th and we have our welcome back barbecue that he'll tell me his shoulder feels very good. That's what I'm hopeful for.
QUESTION: Jeff Lewis no longer on the roster. What's the story there?
ANDERSEN: Jeff is I talked to Jeff a couple weeks ago in the weight room, and he has actually not been in the winter conditioning since we started school again. He's going to transfer, and he wants to play somewhere, and I'm in the process of helping him get to a spot where he wants to be able to go play football. That was decided really even before the bowl game. That's something he wants to do. He's going to get his degree, so I've allowed him to get to school, get his degree, allow him to work out and get himself in a position to transfer. He wants to play tailback, and I think he's a tremendous kid, and I need to give him that opportunity to go play tailback somewhere his senior year.
QUESTION: Kind of a big picture question. Last year you came in and had to deal with a large senior class to kind of bridge things. This year is a little bit different. Is this going to be a different challenge, a more significant challenge of you've got some of your guys but not all of your guys trying to replace those guys and try and keep things going?
ANDERSEN: Yeah, I don't really feel it's any different. You walk in, and what's different is we've all been together for a year. That makes it very different. But as far as the number of young kids on this team, it is a challenge to get young kids prepared to be in the moment when their bodies are already physically prepared to be able to play at this level, if that makes sense, and that's something that's coaching. So when I say that on the field, that's the challenge.
Off the field it's having the young kids, and when I say young, maybe a sophomore, maybe even sometimes a junior, that hasn't had to be in a leadership role because this team had 24, 25 seniors on it, and those kids have never been asked to be in a leadership situation in the huddle, in the locker room, in school one day. They've never had to do that, and they've kind of got policed by the older kids. That's the challenge is for those young kids to be able to police themselves, make sure they're doing the right things on and off the field, take care of their business, and if they're a vocal leader, be a vocal leader. If you're a leader by example, be a leader by example, and a couple kids have really jumped out: (Michael) Caputo, big Rob (Havenstein) have done an unbelievable job becoming leaders, and so has (Derek) Landisch, and that's where we need to be. You don't need 10 great leaders, you just need a couple good leaders and we've got them on each side of the ball, and that's definitely moving forward.
Senior WR Kenzel Doe
On the importance of the spring game:
“You go through all of spring ball just hoping to get a chance and come to the spring game just to prove to all the fans, and even the coaches, that you can make the plays they need you to make. I happened to make them and it was just the best feeling in the world.”
On McEvoy’s touchdown throw:
“Yeah, it was a great throw. I told Tanner (McEvoy) that he put the ball exactly where it needed to be. I told him to just give me a chance and I will do the rest and he threw it out there and it was just a perfect throw.”
On how McEvoy has matured as a quarterback:
“Tanner has improved a whole lot. He has definitely learned the playbook. Just coming in last year, it’s fast-paced, trying to learn the playbook. I guess (the coaches) just felt like he wasn’t really ready so they moved him to safety. Now he is back at quarterback and he has proved to me that he can compete for the starting job and he doesn’t really care what people say. He can run, he can throw, just have to give him a shot.”
On the progress the team has made this spring:
“We have made a bunch of progress. We lost a lot of guys last year, a bunch of seniors who contributed to the game a whole lot. A lot of the young guys have really, really stepped up this spring and hopefully that carries on to the fall and we will go from there.”
Junior QB Tanner McEvoy
On how the offense performed today:
“I think the offense played pretty well all around. It was fun to get out there in front of the fans and just give them a little show and finish up spring ball the right way.”
On if his attitude would be any different depending on his position on the QB depth chart:
“Right now we just have to do what the coaches ask and go out there and compete. We are making each other better every day, and like I’ve said, I just have to do what they ask me to do and compete every day.”
On where he thinks he is on the QB depth chart:
“Right now I’m No. 2. Joel (Stave) is No. 1 and I just want to finish spring ball right and just go into summer camp ready to work for fall.”
On how he would assess his performance today:
“I think I played alright. I ran the ball a little more than I wanted to. I could have stepped up and thrown the ball a couple times. But other than that, I think the offense had a pretty well-rounded day and I think I played alright.”
On if it is a tough decision on deciding whether or not to run or pass:
“Yeah, I mean, it is just instinct. I try to lean more towards passing when I can. I think there were a couple plays I left out there where I could have passed it instead of run it. But other than that, sometimes you have to do it and sometimes you don’t, so I just have to make the right decision.”
On how much more comfortable he is this year compared to last heading into the season:
“Yeah, I think I’m a lot more comfortable. I think it shows. Hopefully I’m playing like it as well. I think I’m a lot more comfortable than I was. I can only make more strides so I’m looking forward to the summer and I’m looking forward to fall.”
Junior RB Melvin Gordon
On what it feels like to be kept off the field when healthy:
“It was different. Since I’ve been here, I’ve never sat out. I’ve always participated throughout the whole entire game. To sit out the second half was a little bit different. But they gave me a chance to sit back and watch and motivate those guys and get them going. It was good to be able to do that and feel like a leader.”
On what it was like to play but not get tackled:
“Our coach told us, regardless if it was tackle or not, tackle or thud, to play as if it was a game, to play aggressive and play with that mindset as if you were about to be tackled and that is what we tried to do. I think the defense got a little bit upset about it, how hard we were going. They like to compete just like we do, but even though it was thud we didn’t change our mindset. We definitely thought it was a game and we took it that way.”
On what it felt like to play in pads again in front of the fans:
“It was good. It was a good feeling, it is always good to have your fans out there supporting you and different families out there supporting you. So it is always good when they are out there cheering you on.”
On what it’s like to have Corey Clement back there instead of Montee Ball and James White:
“It’s good, it’s good. Corey (Clement) is definitely someone to push me. I’ve always chased after Montee (Ball) and James (White). They were my drive, but now Corey is chasing after me and he is pushing me to the limit. I love that he’s here, I’m glad he committed here.”
On what makes Corey Clement unique as a running back:
“He is really, really, really aggressive. When he hits the hole, he is so low, you can barely tackle him. You really have to get your pads low when you play against him. He is fast, too. He has a good burst, quick feet, he definitely brings a different element to the game.”
Redshirt-senior OL Rob Havenstein
On Spring Camp:
“It was a good spring. Guys got better. Guys were working really hard and really competing every day. We got a lot of young guys to take some steps. We still have a lot of work today before we get into playing mode, but it was a good step.”
On the Badgers’ play today:
“It was good. It was a little different spring game when you go thud the first period instead of doing a real live scrimmage type deal, with guys protecting Corey (Clement) and Melvin (Gordon). But I thought we did well, the offense played pretty well with those guys in there. They’re obviously special players and they’re really going to make this offense a lot better. “
On having pieces come together and looking forward to fall camp:
“We’re just looking for a great year. Last year we were really good, but we didn’t make that step to great and Coach (Gary) Andersen talks about it all the time. That’s something we always want to do, instead of being a good team, be a great team.”
Junior OLB Joe Schobert
On the new look of the defense:
“Definitely losing guys like Chris (Borland), Ethan Armstrong and Ethan Hemer, those lineman, that’s a lot of experience. They’re all three, four-year starters. That’s a lot of experience we have to replace, but I feel we’ll be more athletic overall and faster. We’ll be a lot less experienced, obviously, but I think we can make up for maybe a couple more mistakes with speed and more athleticism to run the ball down and make plays.”
On what questions were answered during spring camp:
“The identity of the defense was a question mark coming in and who we are going to be. The secondary has played great all spring. Marcus Trotter, (Derek) Landisch have been solid the whole time. And the D-line has been really fast, really explosive with guys like Chikwe (Obasih) and Alec (James). They’ve been playing really good for redshirt freshman. And guys like (Konrad Zagzebski), (Jake) Keefer and (Warren) Herring, the guys coming back have been leading them, showing them along and playing very well.”
On Warren Herring’s versatile play:
“He’s a big powerful guy down there. He’s very quick for his size. It’s pretty astonishing how fast he can move sometimes.”
On being eager for the fall to get here:
“I wouldn’t say eager for fall camp, but eager to get back in the weight room, make some strides to get ready for the game in Houston against LSU definitely.”
Sophomore CB Sojourn Shelton
On if he is happy with where the defense is at right now:
“Yes. I think we showed really good out there today. Everyone’s flying around. I think that’s the best part. If we do break something off, you know there’s going to be guys down there chasing them, trying to make sure they don’t score, get any extra yardage, so that’s a good thing to see. Everybody’s just flying around, making plays and I’m pretty excited moving toward summer.”
On if spring camp has been different this year since it’s his second spring camp:
“A little bit. Last year I was learning. This year Coach Andersen and Coach Strickland are asking me to take a leadership role, lead by example and make plays. They have been a little bit harder on me this spring, but any player that has success, your coaches are going to want to push you to another level. So it has been a good thing and I just want to continue to progress.”
Redshirt-freshman DE Alec James
On how he felt returning to the field:
“It felt pretty good. I made a couple mistakes, but I just have to watch the film and learn from it. It was just nice being out there being able to hit someone. We’ve been working for this for like six weeks. So it was nice to be out there. My family was here so that was nice. It was just a good time.”
On returning to a structured game format instead of practice
“It was good. It’s just getting people used to that game type feel. You know, we’ve got a lot of young players so even that experience alone helps us a lot.”
On whether or not he thinks leadership from upperclassmen is stepping up:
“Yeah, I agree. Especially D-line wise. I can’t really speak for any other groups, but D-line wise, you know, Warren (Herring) and Zags (Konrad Zagzebski), they’ve helped me out. Especially with me coming in, this is my first time playing D-line since high school. So just having them there to help me. They’ve stayed after practice with me and worked on my footwork and stuff like that. They’ve really stepped up and shown how they can be leaders.”
On what he learned today that he didn’t learn in practices earlier in the spring:
“That next-play mentality, pretty much. If you make a mistake one play, you can’t let it affect you that next play. You just have to watch the film and learn from it and keep going.”
On what the team took away from today’s game:
“Just that we’ve got a lot of young guys but we’re all hungry. We’re not just going to let that youngness be an excuse. We’re going to gain experience quick and we’re going to fight for everything we earn so it’ll be worth it.”
Redshirt-freshman RB Austin Ramesh
On his physical toughness today:
“I knew that I felt I was pretty tough through spring ball. I stayed away from the injuries, which is good. I just want to be a consistent player every down.”
On whether or not he thought he was worked more than he originally thought in spring:
“It was a busy spring but I needed it. The coaches needed to see where I was and if I could handle it. I think I showed that I progressed a lot through spring and got a lot better. But there’s still a lot of things that I need to work on.”
On how valuable the number of reps he received were:
“It was awesome that I had the opportunity to do it. Obviously any time you get reps with our own offense is cool. But I think it was pretty important for me to just show them what I’ve got and what I can do.”
On the senior leadership so far this spring:
“All the younger guys that have a big role on a team, specifically in my position, Melvin (Gordon) is helping a lot, Derek Watt has. Even younger guys like Corey (Clement) have taught me a lot. Everybody’s stepping up, you don’t have to be a senior to take that leadership role.”