Bret Bielema said he's "blown away" by the carry over from the fall, especially with new players added at mid-term and additions of coaches, including coordinator Dan Enos.
Wide receiver Kenderick Edwards has been removed with the team and given permission to contact other schools.
JoJo Robinson has done well the past two days, but Bielema said he had a conversation with his mother in hopes of growth off the field.
“JoJo has had a really nice two days," Bielema said. "JoJo had continued to do some really good things on the field. Off the field, I had a very enlightening and spirited conversation with his mom yesterday. Because I’ve basically come to this point ... I said with JoJo, ‘Hey, you’re trying to become a young man. You’re a man on the field, but off the field you act like a child.’
"What do you do with a child? You call their mom and you tell them what’s wrong. So, that’s kind of how I’m handling it. His mom was very responsive to that and I expect nothing but good things to come.
"Kendrick has been removed from our program. I removed him late last week and put him on indefinite suspension. He won’t be with us in the spring. I’ve given him permission to talk with other schools; I’ve released him to a couple other schools. The issues with him here are not talent-based. They’re performance-based off the field. I just had a couple scenarios where it had been fed back to me that he wasn’t respectful in a way that we need to with the people that we need to be on this campus, and again, nothing legality-wise, nothing in trouble. Just a matter of doing things the way we want them done.”
Keon Hatcher, Drew Morgan, Jared Cornelius, Duwop Mitchell and Cody Hollister have led the receivers.
Bielema revealed that around 33 percent more time is being spent on the passing game. New offensive coordinator Dan Enos, who followed Bielema to the podium, said the practice times mirror what he has done previously, including his head coach time at Central Michigan.
"It's been a huge point of emphasis," Bielema said. "With Coach Enos here, our kids' eyes have lit up. (Wide receiver coach Michael) Smith has taken it to a whole new level with the wide receivers."
There has been talk that the Hogs are looking at more open sets featuring thee and four receivers.
"You play to your strengths," Bielema said. "You look at when I first got here, our best sets included Kiero Small on the field and we just didn't have many wide receivers. You'd think that I would inherit a stock of wide receivers. There was a stock, but not what we wanted."
That has slowly changed.
"I think we have five that have really looked good and we know we are going to get more," Bielema said. "(Brandon Allen) continues to step forward every day. You know that quarterbacks are excited when you talk about open formations. He's throwing it well on the move, left and right."
Enos said there "are a couple of things we tweaked as far as lower body, footwork," but noted that's generally always the case with quarterbacks.
"You just always are doing that and you can't ever get enough footwork to satisfy me," he said. "It's about moving in the pocket, resetting your feet. You continue to work with that as with any quarterback.
"He's seen a lot of schemes, a lot of concepts. He's had four offensive coordinators. He's able to relate to a lot of the things we are doing. He's told me his version of how he reads things, and I've made him understand we are going to read things a certain way and why we are doing that. He's quick to learn."
Concerning the receivers, Enos mentioned the same five as Bielema, but added, "JoJo Robinson has had two very good days. He's run crisp routes and is explosive."
Mitchell excites the new play caller.
"I told him after the first practice that he does everything natural," Enos said. "He's got great size, athletic ability. He's got a very high ceiling. He just needs every rep -- needs to see every combination of coverage as possible. Every rep he gets will just push his development. Some things are new to him. But he continues to work hard and take coaching. He has a bright future."
Defensive coordinator Robb Smith is pleased with the carry over in his system, but likes what he sees on the other side of the ball, too.
"I'm very impressed with the offensive changes," Smith said. "There are tweaks, but I know we are still going to do certain things with the running game. I see crispness with routes, a great tempo and great timing with the quarterback and receivers. It's a testament to what Coach Enos has brought to the offense."
Bielema and Smith marveled at the development in the defensive line where depth now appears to be a strength. Sophomore nose tackle Bijhon Jackson has turned heads.
"Bijhon stands out," Bielema said. "He is very sudden. He's also going to be a leader. He's changed his body. He came here at 345 or 350. He's dropped 30 and he's so much quicker and he's learned our defense."
Smith said, "He's got a better sense of the package. He's playing faster. He worked hard with Coach (Ben) Herbert in the off-season. I'm excited to see what he can do when we put on the pads."
Smith praised the way Brooks Ellis has taken to weakside linebacker, with an understanding of the quick decisions that must be made in space. Bielema likes strongside linebacker Khalia Hackett, too.
"I would say the surprise guy out of the group has been, without a doubt, Khalia Hackett," Bielema said. "Switched him to No. 27, he’s like a new man. Really, really engaged. I was talking to Martrell Spaight. Martrell came in my office on Monday and he said he had popped by to do some workouts late Saturday night about 9 o’clock, and Khalia Hackett was up here watching film. And just to show the light switch is going on with him."
Bielema praised punter Toby Baker and said placekickers Cole Hedlund, Lane Saling and Adam McFain are in a spirited competition. Hedlund has impressed after redshirting last fall after entering as the nation's top prospect.
“You know what, I think the redshirt year was good for him," Bielema said. "He’s a little bigger, a little stronger. Has hit the ball, I believe, in our first two days, he’s 7 of 8. Now we’re working with multiple holders and snappers, so all that stuff kind of factors into it a little bit, but he’s been 7 of 8 on field goals and impressive to watch and grow. I think he’ll make a very strong case, if he’s not the starting kicker, it will be surprising to me. For at least field goals. I’ve told all the kickers, I don’t care if travel three kickers. You know, if I’ve got to have a kickoff guy, long-range field goal and a short-range field goal, I’ll be perfect with that.”
That will be Thursday, the last day of this week's workouts before the team takes off for spring break.
Improved wideouts allow for open sets
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