“For both of those kids, there is no limitations on the amount of snaps that they can take and that they have,” Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said Thursday. “We have the ability to keep them in really good shape, even though they’re not completely weight bearing with the training facility, all the trainers and strength guys. They’re not in perfect football shape but they should be good enough to get a pretty good amount of reps.”
Herring and Watt both suffered their injuries during Wisconsin’s season-opening loss against LSU in Houston. Sophomore nose tackle Arthur Goldberg and freshmen fullback Austin Ramesh were both able to fill in nicely but the return of Herring and Watt start to return Wisconsin to what Andersen envisioned when the season began.
While Herring recovered, Goldberg stepped into the starter role and registered 13 tackles in his first snaps of his Wisconsin career. Just like Goldberg, Ramesh filled in well for the injured Watt, recording three receptions for 18 yards and a touchdown.
While the offensive playbook was limited with Watt out, the playbook should start to gradually open up going forward with the experienced junior back in the fold.
“He’s been in this moment; he’s proven to be a very good fullback,” Andersen said. “I think he’s a weapon in the blocking; he’s a weapon in obviously catching the ball and he’s shown that. I think he brings a familiar face into a position. That’s good.
“Austin’s filled in and has done a very nice job also. It’s nice to get (Watt) back for our team and nice to get him back for himself. He caught a ball in the flat (Wednesday). He went in and walked in on the touchdown and you could see it through the film he had a big smile on his face. He was happy to be back out there.”
Although Watt’s original diagnosis was to be out until November, Andersen was always optimistic that Watt would be healthy enough to play against Maryland.
“This is the time frame I expected for about the last couple of weeks,” said Andersen. “As I said at the beginning of the week I was very optimistic that he would play, and he will.”
Tanner McEvoy’s Role
With Joel Stave set to make his second straight start, Andersen has no plans of making a position switch with McEvoy to try and get him on the field more.
“Not this week,” said Andersen. “He’ll be quarterback and quarterback only.”
After the loss at Northwestern, Andersen made it seem that Stave and McEvoy would see about the same amount of snaps against Illinois, but McEvoy ended up only playing on one offensive series in Wisconsin’s 38-28 win over Illini.
Offensive Coordinator Andy Ludwig told BadgerNation earlier this week that the flow of the game prevented McEvoy from getting more than one series; a drive in which he went 3-for-4 for 24 yards. Both Andersen and Ludwig are planning on using McEvoy more Saturday.
“I think a lot of that will have to do with the flow of the game,” said Andersen, “but I expect him to play definitely more than one series.”
Andersen on Melvin Gordon’s comments about the team still finding an identity
“I want him to be loose. I want him to have fun. I want them to have some character. I want them to have some swag amongst themselves, I think our kids handle that very well. This game has to be fun. If it’s a torture to walk out here and practice then you’re never going to be successful. I think our kids prepare well. If you watch us practice, we practice as high of level as anybody in the country, is my guess. I don’t see everyone practice but I love the way they practice, they enjoy each other, which is very important.”
Extra Points: Andersen doesn’t believe that playing in Camp Randall for the first time for Maryland will be a factor in the game, citing that they have played in big time atmospheres before...Despite Sojourn Shelton’s three pass interference penalties against Illinois, Andersen believes the sophomore played with better position, better technique, was fundamentally sound and played the zone coverage well. He added his recognition of routes has also improved over the course of the season...Andersen feels like the Badgers have had two good weeks of practice leading up to the game against Maryland, sensing his team is ready to get back out and play a game again.