Notes: OL Continues to Grind

With two more practices this week, including a scrimmage this afternoon, before Wisconsin's annual spring game Saturday, head coach Gary Andersen has been impressed with how his short-staffed offensive line continues to work.

MADISON - With a roster full of experienced players and 19 scholarship seniors, Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen has been affording to luxury of limiting the repetitions of players like Beau Allen, Brendan Kelly and a host of others.

"There's some real key pieces of the puzzle that aren't out there, especially on defense," Andersen said on Monday. "We've seen the film. Those kids have played a lot of football in a lot of games, and they'll absorb the information they've gotten through spring."

However, that luxury doesn't extend to the offensive line. While Andersen would love to give older players like senior Ryan Groy and junior Dallas Lewallen some rest, the Badgers were at one point down to as low as eight healthy scholarship offensive linemen.

And with the Wisconsin defensive coaches installing a year's worth of blitz packages so players could study the schemes over the summer, the offensive line certainly dealt with its fair share of challenges.

"The group seems to be bonding together," said Andersen. "Some of those practices are a grind for those kids, and I think Coach (T.J.) Woods has done a good job of putting them in the individual, getting them through the individual, working the reps, getting better on the things they need to get better at, but yet also saving them for the live drills so they can compete at a high level.

Two players Andersen singled out were Lewallen and sophomore Ray Ball. Overcoming knee injuries that have cost him most of last season, Lewallen has worked at left tackle and left guard while Ball, whose intensity has caused him to get into a few post-play altercations, has battled consistently at the guard position.

"Those kids have done a good job of keeping their head up, not making excuses, and battling through it. I think we pass protected much better the last two practices, and the physicality has gotten better throughout the spring."

Advanced Scouting

With the ever expanding platform of the Big Ten Network, every football team's spring game will appear on the network, including Wisconsin's this Saturday at 4 p.m. With him and the majority of his staff new to the Big Ten this season, Andersen is not letting an advanced scouting opportunity pass him by.

"I don't know how much of an advantage it is, but if you don't think I watched every second of those games that I could, and I've got them all DVR'd," said Andersen. "(It) gives me something to do on those summer days. You can't help it. Get it with the personnel and give you an idea the team's identity."

On the same account, knowing other coaches will probably be watching Wisconsin's spring game, Andersen says the Badgers will be very generic in their approach and not show too many cards in their hand.

Quarterback Update

Saying the position has come around since the start of spring camp in early March, Andersen has said each quarterback has gone through ups and downs, but senior Curt Phillips and sophomore Joel Stave still have the best command of the offense's direction at this point.

"What we're looking for right now are those first few kids with the ability for the offensive line, the tight ends, the wide receivers, the running backs, to look that quarterback in the eye and say, ‘I know you're going to get this done for us,'" said Andersen. "' We'll make plays. You have the ball. Just get it to the right spot, and we'll do the rest.' That's a real confidence factor, and it's always a work in progress in it spring football. But those two young men have done a nice job."

Extra Points: Even with the flexibility given to him by his tight ends, Andersen believes that the running back screen game will continue to develop, not to mention continuing what offensive coordinator Matt Canada did last year by splitting tailbacks out as receivers.

Andersen would love to have over 80,000 people attend Saturday's spring game, but says, "it will be awesome, however many people come out there." Andersen said the environment will be great for the players, a competitive "true game" for the fans to watch and all players who are cleared to play will see game action.

While tight end coach Jeff Genyk was hired as the special teams coach, safeties coach Bill Busch will be in charge of the punt return unit this season.

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