Spring football notebook

Looking for consistency, halftime report

MADISON—A schedule change borne of necessity turned into a mental test for the University of Wisconsin football team Wednesday morning.

First-year head coach Bret Bielema was not pleased with the results.

"We were just sloppy," Bielema said from the McClain Center, after the Badgers' seventh of 15 spring practices. "I thought (in how) we approached everything from stretch to the way (they) handled themselves."

Wednesday's practice was originally scheduled for 7:30 p.m., in an effort to conform with the players' class schedules. But Bielema discovered that five starters would have to miss that practice time due to test periods that were scheduled for this week, outside of the normal class schedule.

To avoid that conflict practice was moved to 6 a.m.

"I knew this would be clean if we got in the morning," Bielema said. About a half-dozen players arrived late and a few had to leave a little early for an 8:30 class, but the Badgers were able to get in a nearly two-and-a-half hour workout.

If only the practice had been as crisp as Bielema desired.

"I kind of like being able to put a little mental pressure on them," he said. "It's one way as a coach you can kind of control it. I know we'll never play at 6, but we do have early kickoffs."

In the post-practice huddle, Bielema expressed his displeasure with the team's performance in no uncertain terms.

What did he want to get across to the players?

"Consistency was a big one," Bielema said several minutes after addressing his team. "Ownership in everything we do. Those are two things. I knew that coming in early in the morning would be a little bit of a change of pace, but they've been coming in all semester, early morning workouts on Tuesdays and Fridays… In the morning, I'll go in there and get a workout at 5:15, 5:30 in the morning and there will be 30 guys in there already. It is not like they haven't been up early."

Bielema was pleased with how spring practices had gone prior to Wednesday. He was not happy with how the squad reacted to this early-morning practice.

"If we're going to be able to establish anything over time—if it's going to be consistently good—it has to be every practice," Bielema said. "And I don't think we were on that way today. It was practice No. 7 so they begin to get in that little bit of a mode of halfway point. And then threw that in conjunction with being an AM practice. I wanted to test them mentally. I think the game is so hard to manage from a mental standpoint, as coaches we've got to make practice as hard as we can, so the game is still easy."

Halftime report

Bielema said he did point out some positives in his post-practice huddle. He was happy, for instance, with how quarterback John Stocco threw the ball, with how middle linebacker Mark Zalewski and wide receiver Paul Hubbard played and, for the most part, with second-team free safety Shane Carter.

Bielema's response to a question regarding the first half of the spring-practice season was overwhelmingly positive:

"Well, going into today I was pretty good with where we were at," Bielema said. "I still think so. I know that offensively there will be a couple key guys that return. Eric Vanden Heuvel got out there today and while he was in there, I think that made a noticeable difference. You start getting him and Joe Thomas back in the mix—

"Our tight ends are making development.

"I really like what Chris Pressley and Billy Rentmeester are doing at fullback. I really think that… the fact that they've been able to do the things that we're asking of them, more so than they were a year ago has really made a big difference, as far as the way you can think offensively.

"I thought Hubbard probably had his best practice today. He really did a good job and from what I saw there was only one dropped ball on his part. So that's positive.

"And defensively, I still think the linebacker corps can really run. I'm happy with the development, especially (Jonathan) Casillas and (DeAndre) Levy at the outside positions. We know Zew (Mark Zalewski), what he can do in the middle.

"(Strong safety Joe) Stellmacher's continued to make development. I want to keep putting pressure on (cornerback) Jack (Ikegwuonu) because I think Jack can be a special player in this program. The only limitations he's going to have are his own. So he's got to continue to come along."

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