The month-long span of 14 grueling spring practices will come to a conclusion Saturday for the Wisconsin football team prepares to play in their annual spring game at Camp Randall Stadium.
The game will consist of four quarters with full contact, except on kick-offs. Since the starting offense only generated three points against the starting defense in last year’s spring game, the starting offensive and defensive units will face the rest of the roster.
“I really want the continuity of the ones [number one offense and defense] working together on both sides of the ball,” head coach Bret Bielema said. “I think that’s very important for us moving forward.”
The spring season has been a time for Bielema and his new coaching staff to evaluate the personnel, particularly on a defense that is trying to find its identity after a wildly inconsistent 2011 season.
“What I try to do as a head coach, I always say, ‘hey, we’re all working the same way,’” Bielema said. “I think defensively we’ve battled through some significant things. Our defense is made up of no-name guys. Just a bunch of guys that go to work, lineup and do what they’re supposed to do,” Bielema said.
Bielema acknowledged several players that have taken significant strides on the defensive side of the ball, including the safety combination of redshirt senior Shelton Johnson and redshirt junior Dezmen Southward.
“[Johnson and Southward] together might give us the best safety combination since I’ve been here coaching-wise,” Bielema said. “So I’m excited about those two.”
Bielema also noted the progression of junior defensive tackle Beau Allen this spring.
“He’s been so explosive and taking it to another level,” Bielema said of Allen. “Although he’s not a [defensive] end, he’s getting pressure.”
Fans won’t get a chance to see senior running back Montee Ball play in the spring game who is being held out for precautionary reasons as he has been throughout much of spring practice.
“When you see him run in practice you’ll know why he didn’t need the practice of getting hit,” Bielema said of Ball. “We will in the fall. He’ll take some shots in the fall. At this point, we don’t feel it’s necessary to take him to the ground.”
With transfer quarterback Danny O’Brien not arriving on campus until late May, the Badgers only have two quarterbacks, redshirt freshman Joel Stave and redshirt sophomore Joe Brennan, participating in spring practice, and Bielema has been impressed thus far with their work.
“I’ve been happy with both,” Bielema said. “I think the learning that they’ve taken from [offensive coordinator] Matt [Canada] and the transition in last year’s system to this year’s system has been pretty good.”