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Offense strikes back in Saturday scrimmage

first_imgUW AthleticsAfter a Wednesday practice that was dominated by the defense, it was the offense of the Wisconsin football team that showed its teeth Saturday afternoon in the team’s scrimmage at Camp Randall.The scrimmage, which was attended by 850 fans, saw impressive performances from senior running back James White and sophomore quarterback Joel Stave.“This is important, it matters to the kids,” Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen said. “It gets them even more invested to the public and to Badger nation. It matters to them, it matters to us, people take a Saturday morning to come out and want to support the kids and see them out and the new offense and defense; it’s just great for us to be part of it, really.”The scrimmage was short and crisp, mainly because the Badgers are in rough shape when it comes to health. Andersen said with only “seven or eight” healthy players on the offensive line, Wisconsin sent out a starting line of redshirt senior Ryan Groy, redshirt junior Dallas Lewallen, redshirt freshman Dan Voltz, redshirt senior Zac Matthias and redshirt junior Rob Havenstein.Groy, traditionally a guard, started two games last season as a left tackle when starter Ricky Wagner went down with an injury. Although not his natural position, Groy’s mix of athleticism and experience at both tackle and guard make him an adaptable peg for the injury-depleted group.“These are good learning reps for him regardless of where he plays in the fall and further along in his future,” Andersen said. “Does this solidify him at left tackle? Absolutely not. We’ve got to get healthy again and see where it goes.”The offensive line is just one of several positional groups that is struggling with health issues. The linebacking core, which is already missing starter Ethan Armstrong as he recovers from an off-season surgery, took another blow this past week when it was announced redshirt senior David Gilbert, a projected starter at outside linebacker in the team’s new 3-4 defensive scheme, would not play his senior season due to an ongoing foot injury.“Anytime a young man is injured or can’t play anymore, our whole focus goes to David and making sure he’s set and moving along in life,” Andersen said. “We’ve lost a very good player and we all know that. It’s going to be fun spending some time with him and watching him get his degree and move along with his life over the next year and see what happens.”Multiple injuries also prompted a response from Andersen after practice that the Badgers’ upcoming spring game on April 20, a popular annual event that caps off the spring season, will look considerably different compared to years past.“We’ll have a good scrimmage and we’ll get after it and it’ll be fairly short,” Andersen said. “We’ll be on and off quick, which is good for spring games. That’s kind of what everybody wants when you’re on that last 15th practice. We’ll still use it as a work day. It will not be a traditional spring game.”But even with players like redshirt senior linebacker Chris Borland and No. 1 redshirt senior wide receiver James White being held out for some reps as a precaution, the Badgers’ head coach has still been impressed with the attention players have shown while on the sidelines.“We will be cautious and get them into the fall, especially if they’re a proven player,” Andersen said of limiting star players’ repetitions. “And those young men are doing a nice job of taking mental reps. It’s been impressive the way they go through practice and have their scripts and understand what’s going on.”Some highlights of the practice included a deep touchdown pass from Stave to Abbrederis, a reverse handoff taken by junior wide receiver Kenzel Doe for a touchdown and aggressive short-yardage rushes by White. The Badgers also used a handful of formations that included three tight ends on the field. With the team trying to find a suitable second and third wide receiver next to Abbrederis, offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig has found strength and depth in the tight ends to help conceal, at least for now, a lack of proven production at wide out.“Our tight ends are skilled,” Andersen said. “They run well, they’re athletic and cause some mismatches in space, as well as they can on or off the line of scrimmage. It can slow down an aggressive defense in their sub packages and not allow them to get as much skill on the field because they don’t know what’s coming their way.“It may be power football, it may be spread football, and coach Ludwig will do a great job mixing that and I think the kids are excited about the opportunity and every tight end wants to play wide receiver too, right? They always do, so it’s good for them,” he said.With only a handful of practices left and plenty of spots open for grabs, Andersen is still looking for players to prove their worth. Citing the need, at least defensively, to have “two starters” at each position to be competitive, the head coach wants to play as many people as possible come game time.“I’ll always be in favor of playing as many young men that are prepared to get out on the field,” Andersen said. “If they’re ready, we want to give them an opportunity to play.”last_img

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