That's why Wisconsin's second year head coach is orchestrating live tackling drills during certain portions of practice, and that includes making the quarterbacks fair game.
"That gets us fired up," said senior linebacker Derek Landisch following Saturday's practice, the first day in full pads. "Any chance to go live is really good practice for the defense. We don't get to take these guys down much in practice, trying to keep everyone healthy. When we do, we like to take advantage of it."
One of the biggest benefactors of that live action was Alec James, a redshirt freshman who spent last season building his weight on the scout team. After Andersen gathered the team around and told him that everyone was fair game, James sacked quarterback D.J. Gillins on the first play and ended practice with a tackle of Tanner McEvoy.
"It's been awhile since I got to throw a quarterback down," said James, with a big grin. "I tried to take advantage. It felt good. It felt real good."
Transitioning from the outside linebacker role, James has put on upwards of 25 pounds since last fall and is currently sitting around 250. He considers his goal weight at 255. Although the role is new to him, James simulated a lot of defenses with four down linemen last season, allowing him to get plenty of reps with his hand on the ground and perfect footwork and hand placement.
The biggest concern James had with the potential switch was losing his athleticism, which he showed Saturday is not the case.
"This d-line is so athletic, we can run fast and we can hang with anybody," said James. "We may not be the biggest size wise, but we'll definitely be the most physical and the fastest. That's all that matters really."
Many players rotated in and out, but this is the general consensus of who was where.
First-team offense: Offensive Line - Tyler Marz, Ray Ball, Michael Deiter, Trent Denlinger and Rob Havenstein; Wide Receivers - Jordan Fredrick and Jazz Peavy; RB – Melvin Gordon; FB - Austin Ramesh; TE – Sam Arneson; QB – Bart Houston.
First-team defense: Defensive Line – Konrad Zagzebski, Warren Herring, Jake Keefer; Linebackers – Vince Biegel, Derek Landisch, Marcus Trotter, Michael Caputo; Cornerbacks – Darius Hillary and Sojourn Shelton; Safeties – A.J. Jordan and Leo Musso.
Second-team offense: Offensive Line – Alex Walker, Ben Hemer, Aidan McNamara, Walker Williams, Hayden Biegel; Wide Receivers –Kenzel Doe and Connor Cummins; RB - Austin Ramesh; FB – Derek Straus; TE – Austin Maly and/or Austin Traylor; QB – Taner McEvoy.
Second-team defense: Defensive Line – Chikwe Obasih, Arthur Goldberg/Bryce Gilbert, Alec James; Linebackers – Michael Trotter, Jack Cichy, Joe Schobert, Leon Jacobs; Cornerbacks –Devin Gaulden and Terrance Floyd; Safeties – Keelon Brookins and Peniel Jean.
Third-team defense: Defensive Line – Brady Kelliher, Bryce Gilbert, Garret Dooley; Linebackers – Sherard Cadogan, Ben Ruechel, Matt Austin, Josh Harrison; Cornerbacks –Dare Ogunbowale and Hugs Etienne; Safeties – Brookins and Jean.
The Badgers were already going to be struggling to replace Jared Abbrederis in the receiving corps this season, so it was understandable when several people collectively held their breath when Jordan Fredrick required medical assistance during part of the practice open to the media.
Running a route down the sideline of the McClain Center that has little room out of bounds, the junior went hard into the padding and stayed down on the turf, as people around him immediately called for the team doctors.
Fortunately it didn't appear to be serious. Fredrick took about 15 minutes off before returned to the field and caught several passes during team drills.
Extra Points: Andersen gave every player on team a red rubber band bracelet with the word "Champions" written on him. Andersen said it is mandatory to wear during football activities … UW's only Saturday practice brought out a number of high-level recruits, including Seymour (WI) offensive tackle Jon Dietzen and Hartland (WI) Arrowhead offensive tackle Ben Bredeson … Derek Watt took some reps from the tight end spot and laid a couple solid blocks, much like he would at his fullback role.