Gillins Sees His Confidence Rising

Enrolling early to get a jump on Wisconsin's offense and put himself in position to contribute as a true freshman, quarterback D.J. Gillins is seeing his confidence increase after every spring practice.

MADISON - Although D.J. Gillins has gone though many transitions since arriving at the University of Wisconsin in late January, the Jacksonville, Fla., quarterback lists one obstacle as being tougher than the rest.

"The big transition is the cold," Gillins said. "The cold is pretty different in Florida. It maybe gets around 20 degrees in Florida five times a year. Here it's like a couple times every week."

Gillins didn't pick the best winter to begin his Wisconsin career, but certainly has adapted to the new offense in his first semester as part of the Badgers program. Having the freedom to now call an audible at the line of scrimmage, something that wasn't a big part of his last high school program, Gillins said "knowledge" was the biggest thing that has improved since he started spring ball to where he is now, 10 practices in following Tuesday's workout.

"I'm a lot better than practice one," said Gillins. "Practice one was difficult because everything was thrown at me. It's different with all the Big Ten players around. Having to go against Big Ten players is a lot different, but something I am getting comfortable with. I am a lot more confident."

Gillins admitted that his confidence level was "OK" during the six practices leading into spring break, starting out rough and struggling to grasp the offense. He continues to receive reps during practice, although Tuesday his reps were limited to only a few series in the brief portion open to the media.

During the approximate half hour for the media to view, Wisconsin focused on the two minute offense. Junior quarterback Joel Stave went 5-for-8 on the drill, including a nicely thrown 15-yard pass to Jazz Peavy, but threw an interception to Derek Landisch that was returned for a touchdown on the third play of the series.

Junior Tanner McEvoy went 4-for-6 during the drill, with his best throw going to Austin Traylor over the middle for 20 yards and his worst being a dropped interception by Keelon Brookins when McEvoy rolled out to his left.

Both Gillins and sophomore Bart Houston worked with the second-team offense, but neither of them completed a pass.

"I thought the (dynamic in the room) would be a lot different," said Gillins. "In the room, it's a lot more relaxed. We're pretty much open about everything. We help each other. That's the biggest thing."

Gillins calls his relationship with offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig "solid," as Ludwig exclusively recruited Gillins out of Ribault High, getting the former three-star quarterback to commit last summer. Gillins rewarded Wisconsin by throwing for 2,371 yards and 22 touchdowns while running for 602 yards and eight rushing scores en route to all-state honors.

Now Ludwig is working with the 6-3, 185-pound quarterback on fine tuning his delivering, and shortening up and quickening his release.

"He's a great guy," said Gillins of Ludwig. "He's a coach I really feel comfortable talking to, him and Coach Andersen."

Gillins says his main goals for the following 10 days of spring practices and the summer are to improve his footwork and get comfortable in the pocket, as he admitted he's quick to run to an open area of the field if he feels pressure or his primary option is covered.

In reality, that speed might help him find a niche in the offense this upcoming season.

"I can see myself having a role on this team," said Gillins. ‘Whoever starts, I just hope they win the Heisman. I'll be a big support of whoever gets the job."

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