MADISON, Wis.- Only three practices remain before the annual spring game next Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium. With a large part of the team suffering injuries, head coach Bret Bielema has had the opportunity to give some of the younger, less experienced players an opportunity to see playing time.
The following is an audio transcript of the interview:
Bielema: Well just based on our pure numbers, that's why we are cutting back on some of the team periods. We are going to half-line skele (skeleton) here so only two defensive-linemen have to go at the same time. We did get Mike Newkirk back for certain drills but he is not cleared for contact. Richard Garner is still a little bit banged up with a hamstring so really nothing new on the injury front. I think O'Brien Schofield should return on Tuesday. He's had a fracture in his hand, but it's not displaced so we are just waiting for that to begin to heal a little bit and club it up. He should be able to go Tuesday, Thursday of next week.
Do you anticipate at all this spring that Newkirk will return for practice?
No. We want to get him back out there to do some footwork. Newk wanted to scrimmage last Saturday, but they just basically allowed clearance to be able to do footwork, not contact, moving some things. His shoulder surgery wasn't near the extent of Garrett Graham or Travis Beckum.
When you get healthy up front defensively, what role do you envision for Patrick Butrym?
Patrick, we felt when we recruited him that he was going to be an inside guy. On the same account, the reason we started him at defensive end in the fall is I'd rather start a guy on the outside and move him in, I think it's a lot easier to do that. Where Patrick fits, he probably could do both. I think as his career develops, we hope that he gets bigger, thicker, stronger to be an inside player.
But where he fits next year, we don't really know. The flip side of it is basically our starting rotation is probably not on the field right now for us with most of our package with three of our top four. Then Kirk DeCremer whether he is our best defensive end or not remains to be seen.
How valuable are the reps for Butrym this spring for him and for you?
Butrym huge, but even more important for Jeff Stehle. I think last year we felt Jeff could come in and maybe, if we had to, put him in. Now we are in that situation where I think he is our third tackle and can spell both sides whether it be Mike (Newkirk) or Jason Chapman. We are really happy. I think Jeff Stehle, if you asked all the defensive coaches, probably is the MVP of the spring, just the way he has been able to improve.
Do you have an update on Josh Nettles?
Josh. High ankle sprain. I don't know if we'll get him back, but it could be right down to the end if we get him into the spring game or not. It's a little disappointed because he really had been performing pretty well. Him and Mario Goins, the benefit of having Aaron Henry and Allen Langford out, those two guys have gotten a lot of reps.
Do you have a new weapon at punter in Travis (Beckum)?
You know, that goes back to my first year. We were at North Carolina and we were on the field the day before the game, and I was just screwing around with Travis and he lines up and punts the ball about 70 yards in the air. I said, 'hey, do that again,' and he goes, 'I only got one a day, otherwise my leg gets sore.' I kind of laugh about it, joke about it with him and then because of his limit in spring ball, I asked him to do some things with the punting. Today, I let him go with the team period because he's got a live leg. It's just he was one-for-two today. The first one went 25, the next one went the distance you saw.
How smooth was the transition for Bob Bostad to offensive line?
It's an easy transition, but it's totally different. If you really watch what goes on during our individual periods and the way those guys work and the way that they go about their business. They are a lot more repetitive about getting off the football, basic fundamentals, a little bit different footwork with Bob compared to coach Bob Palcic. It was easy because our guys were familiar with him, they worked with him already a lot of times, especially at tackle. I've seen a significant increase in the way we've been able to move people off the football coming from an offensive line point of view.
You didn't have to twist his arm much then after coach Palcic left then?
No. That was something that I agreed to him when I hired him. He'd been an offensive line coach his entire career and then actually, a year ago, after our first bowl game, I wanted to kind of refigure the offensive line by title. We didn't do it by title, we did it by what we did on the practice field. I understand where coach Palcic was coming from, but it's really been great because it was really something I wanted to do from the beginning.
What do you see from your team progression-wise this spring
The two's are getting a lot better. You know, I see a guy like Culmer St. Jean at the "mike" linebacker situation who's really changed the way he can play the game. Probably in the last four or five games of the year last year and then out there, he got his first start in the Illinois game I think it was. I see a guy like him, because Elijah Hodge missed that first time, he's really taken those reps and moved forward. Then a guy whose really kind of jumped out to us is Blake Sorensen. Just in his ability as a linebacker to play from the line of scrimmage. On the flip side of that Chris Maragos is really taking advantage of the reps that he's gotten.
Josh Oglesby has got a couple snaps at left tackle. Do you just like your tackles to be able to play both sides?
Again, the depth issue. We want to put our best guy on the field. Jake Bscherer has played everywhere so we wanted to kind of get Josh and see if he's a little familiar with either way.
When you made the move with Stehle, was there something right away that made you believe that he would be good defensively?
When we recruited him originally, I remember sitting in the staff meeting and J.P. was recruiting him and the offensive coaches. He was a tight end. The coaches didn't recruit him offensively, we thought he was a good enough player to play Division I football, so we took him as a defensive lineman. He was a defensive lineman, when we were really thin on the offensive line, we moved him over to offensive line. Then after basically sitting on the sidelines for about a year, he came back to me and said, 'coach, I'd really like to move back to defense and play.' Now he's kind of taking advantage. That's why I kind of admire where he was and where he has come to right now.
When you see some of the drops by the receivers, has there been a high number? Is that youth, a lack of concentration?
Well, all we have is youth out there. There is no experienced guys out there. The most experienced guy is Elijah Theus and he's not really involved in the rotation. Everyday, it seems one guy pops out. Daven Jones had the drops today. Kyle Jefferson did last week, but he's caught the ball pretty well today. David Gilreath caught the ball real well last week and then struggled a little bit today. I think it's more, we can't throw enough balls to each other over the course of the summer to get ready for the fall.
How would you assess Scott Tolzien so far through this spring?
Scotty knows where the ball is supposed to go. I think he has a good understanding. They call him "Niedermayer," he's a really good student, a good student of the game. He's always got the right answers. I know it's important to Scott. The thing he's got going is that he's kind of sitting in the background doing what he's supposed to do. It will be interesting to see how things are.
Did Elijah Hodge just have class late?
Elijah, Aubrey Pleasant, Ryan Flasch, there were like four kids that had a test at eight o'clock, so we got them out here as fast as we could.
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