Spring Practice - 4.12.13

Wanting to throw the occasional curveball to his players, Wisconsin goes through a 90-minute workout at 6:30 a.m. Friday. After practice, head coach Gary Andersen addresses the spring game, the quarterbacks and the previous work week.

MADISON - While he wants consistency from his players and his staff, head coach Gary Andersen is a fan of throwing a curve ball now and again.

It started with Andersen's decision to blare music during practice to test his player's ability to communicate. On Friday, he tested his team's mental ability by starting Wisconsin's 11th practice at 6:30 a.m., the first true morning practice of the spring.

"We talk about it all the time – nothing can faze you," said Andersen following practice. "In this game, you don't know what's going to happen. You might jump up 14-0, you may fall down 14-0, you might have to play three weeks in a row in the fourth quarter to win it or lose it. That's part of the reason I like to throw curve balls at kids."

Originally planning an open-to-the-public scrimmage this afternoon, weather forced Andersen to postpone the event to Monday, rain or shine, and moved practice early to give the players a long three-day weekend.

Whether it's changing up practice at the spur of the moment or putting players on the spot, Andersen is looking for the necessary response.

"You got to be ready for anything in this game, because you never know what could happen," said Andersen.

Calling the last two days in ‘Badger' gear (helmets, shoulder pads and shorts) solid teaching days for Wisconsin, Andersen recognized the fact that UW needs to scrimmage Monday, saying he ‘can't wait any longer.' Planning to do approximately 80 reps in practice No.12, Andersen is not concerned with running two scrimmages in a six-day span.

"If you break down a scrimmage, we tackle (which is) obviously different than a full practice, but the number of reps in a scrimmage are less than the offensive linemen, the defensive linemen and the tight ends get in a practice," said Andersen.

Bu while the spring game won't be an actual game, Andersen said the event will still be exciting for fans with a unique scoring system (where the defense can score by getting a tackle for loss, a sack, a three-and-out, etc.) and still a ‘game-like' atmosphere.

"I really think the fans are going to like it," said Andersen. "It'll be more intriguing than a water-down spring game where people aren't playing all the time. I think it'll be very entertaining … It's not a scrimmage. It's much more than a scrimmage. It's got a true feel of a spring game."

Back to Starters

After both have missed practice time this spring, junior Dallas Lewallen and senior Zac Matthias returned to the starting first-team offensive line Friday at left and right guard, respectively. With limited numbers and considering both have had injury-riddled histories (knee for Lewallen, back for Matthias), Andersen has appreciated what the duo has given his staff.

"Those kids are taking care of their bodies, and I am doing everything I can to keep the reps down," said Andersen. "They have grinded through it mentally and physically. Sometimes when you are an older player it's hard to look at it and say, ‘How many reps to I have to take?' or ‘How many reps do I get to take?'These kids are looking at is ‘I get to take' and that's a credit to them."

Improving the Passing Game

Citing the need to improve the passing game over the next three practices, Andersen said the throwing game ‘stalemated' this week with the defense throwing some different things at the quarterback.

"I don't know if I would like to see us further along, I just think we've had some ups and downs," said Andersen. "(We need to be) more consistent. One day we throw the ball a little bit better at the quarterback position and the next day we'll catch it at the wide receiver position better … It's progressed."

Andersen states he likes to look back at the first few practices of spring ball to see how certain positions have improved, and noted that the quarterbacks are throwing the ball better. In Thursday's teleconference, Andersen stated that senior Curt Phillips and sophomore Joel Stave have separated themselves from the group.

While Bart Houston didn't get much work in the media-open portion of practice, senior quarterback Danny O'Brien did a nice job against the first-team offense in team drills, completing a 20-yard slant to Chase Hammond, a 20-yard out to Jordan Fredrick and a 10-yard out to Brian Wozniak while rolling out to his right.

When asked what both Houston and O'Brien need to do between now and fall camp to get back in the first group, Andersen simply said ‘consistency in running the offense.'

"People say, ‘How can you be consistent if you aren't getting the reps?'" said Andersen. "There is an evaluation that takes place and we took those with splitting those reps up for the first six days. After spring break we filtered in the two guys getting most of the reps.

"Their ability to keep battling, keep understanding, make your reps count … Those two kids are competing. They seem to have a good attitude."

Third Downs

In keeping with the theme of quarterback needing to be more consistent, both Phillips and Stave struggled in their third-down session to close practice.

Working with the ones against the starting defense, Phillips failed to get a first down on his five plays, going 1-for-3 for five yards and tripping on what appeared to be a quarterback rollout on third-and-two. The only play where he didn't throw it was a handoff to James White on third-and-four that sophomore Joe Schobert stopped after two yards in a one-on-one situation.

Playing safety in high school, Schobert's versatility as moved into the starting ‘F' backer in Wisconsin's defense, which in essence is a glorified roll-down safety who plays at the line of scrimmage and out in space.

"It's a special technique and a special young man (who) gets there has to be very versatile," said Andersen. "He's handled it well … He comes to work every day and has done a nice job putting in the extra time to adjust to the scheme."

Stave has a little bit better success on his five reps, which included throwing a 14-yard touchdown pass to Wozniak on third-and-8. Stave went back to him on the very next play and while Wozniak got behind senior linebacker Conor O'Neill, he was unable to haul in what would have been a spectacular one-handed catch.

Extra Points: Andersen doesn't have a problem with players being competitiveness and intensity, but had a problem with Ray Ball and Vince Biegel getting into a physical tussle at the end of practice because it was have drawn a penalty, possibly ejection, in a game. "I appreciate the effort," said Andersen, "but they have to know the lines."

According to Andersen, players were excited that their YouTube dance-off video went viral and made it on ESPN Sportscenter's ‘Top 10' plays. "Any exposure is good exposure," said Andersen. "I think it's fun for the kids … When you get out there for recruiting, if I am a player I want to have fun playing football. I think it helps in recruiting side of things."

Much like his predecessor, Andersen's Twitter/social media philosophy is to represent Wisconsin and their families in a positive way by not posting anything that would not be approved of by their families.

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