Practice Notes - 8.27.13

News and notes from Tuesday's partially open practice and interviews with offensive personnel as Wisconsin prepares for Saturday's season opener against UMass.

MADISON – Whether he is publicly or privately named the starting quarterback for the University of Wisconsin, Joel Stave says he could honestly care less.

"All that matters is our team, our coaches and how we prepare," said Stave.

In the 20 minutes that Tuesday's practice was open to the media, the redshirt sophomore took one fake snap with the first-team offensive line and promptly ran off the field so the punt team could come on. That charade of getting units on and off the field went on for 15 minutes to end practice, giving the few reporters in attendance no real nuggets of information.

But after BadgerNation reported Monday afternoon, citing sources, that Stave was going to be the starting quarterback, nothing on Tuesday refuted that. Stave didn't comment on who would start, but said his big area of growth this fall came between the first scrimmage two weeks ago and last week's second scrimmage

"I definitely feel more confident with this offense," said Stave. "Playing in the spring, everything is very defined. Coach Ludwig does a really good job of making sure crystal clear on what your call is, what your read it. Once you know what you are doing, it's just playing, so I am excited about that."

Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig also wouldn't divulge who would play, but confirmed our report that Wisconsin will be running a, "one quarterback system."

"Being in a quarterback competition is tough and it's stressful for everyone, but I think we all handled it really well and professionally," said Stave. "We all came out better players."

As the only one of the three quarterbacks who played last season to have a winning record in games they finished (5-1), Stave in anxious to get back on to the field and start pushing the offense forward.

"We had a lot of close losses last year, a lot of tough games, so we know finishing is important," said Stave. "I think this team has a lot of players who are ready to take that next step and win those close games. I feel healthy, I feel good and I am excited to keep preparing for the game this weekend."

Officially a Committee

Wide receivers Chris Beatty didn't mince words when asked about the progression of his position group from the start of spring to the end of fall: they're getting better, but they've got a long way to go.

Wisconsin's first depth chart didn't reveal many surprises when it comes to the wide receiver. Senior Jared Abbrederis and sophomore Jordan Fredrick were listed as the starters with junior Kenzel Doe and redshirt freshman Alex Erickson as the backups. The latter of those three, along with senior Jeff Duckworth, will take a committee approach to taking some of the pressure off Abbrederis, according to Beatty.

"I don't know if we have a ton of talent, but those guys want to do well," said Beatty. "They are the smartest group I've been around. I've been around some really talented groups at West Virginia and Vanderbilt. These guys transfer things over from the classroom to the field really well. That gives them a chance to be successful."

Abbrederis has been moderately used in camp, working a lot in 7-on-7 and team drills but had reduced reps during Wisconsin's two scrimmages. Not needing a lot of reps to get ready for the season entering his fifth year in the program, Abbrederis has been focused on blocking, eliminated extra steps and make the big downfield play.

After struggling last season facing double teams, causing him not to catch a touchdown pass in the final eight games of last season, Abbrederis has set the lofty goal of catching 90 percent of the passes thrown his way.

"For me it's been working on press coverage," said Abbrederis. "When you get double team, they can put somebody on the line and keep you off your marks. Our DBs do press coverage every day, so working on press releases and getting comfortable with that has been really beneficial."

And while Beatty is resigned to the fact that Wisconsin has what it has, Abbrederis said he has seen positives from his group that they are trending in the right direction.

"I think we are happy with where we are at right now," said Abbrederis. "Obviously you always want to keep improving, but I think we were right where we thought we would be heading into the season with all the work we had put in during the summer. We kind of knew what we had with all the guys on the team. I think we have been doing a good job in fall, but we have to continue improving and catch everything thrown our way. Assignments and alignments have been pretty good."

Beatty added that the blocking has also been good, as the Badgers have picked up on some new techniques implemented by the coaching staff.

"They've gotten better as we've gone along," he said. "They're willing. That's a big thing."

O-Line Update

Redshirt freshman center Dan Voltz worked with the starters in the brief time the media watched Tuesday, shifting Dallas Lewallen back to left guard and Ryan Groy back to left tackle. Tyler Marz also worked at left tackle and Zac Matthias continued to work at right guard.

When Voltz went down with a hamstring injury August 14, offensive line coach T.J. Woods jumbled the entire offensive line, giving Lewallen the biggest change of moving from starting left guard to starting center.

After some initial bumps and a handful of bad snaps, Lewallen is now confident he can start at either position; confidence that comes from finally being healthy after knee injuries limited him to six games the last two seasons.

"I feel great," said Lewallen. "The biggest thing for a lineman is technique and fundamentals. Being injured and not being able to be in a flow and work on our technique every day is tough. Being healthy for this fall camp and this past spring was great to be able to sharpen my skills and work on my technique even more."

Part of that also comes from continuing to work next to senior Ryan Groy. With Lewallen moving to center, Groy was moved to left guard, where he started 14 games last season, and Tyler Marz was bumped up to starting left tackle.

"It doesn't feel like we've been thrown off at all," said Lewallen. "It's a good group of seven or eight guys who you can throw in there and be pretty confident with."


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