Spring football notebook

Van Someren an "unsung hero", return game, formulating a depth chart, coaches in the booth

MADISON — Asked about major surprises from this spring practice season, which concludes with today's spring football game, University of Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema called walk-on offensive lineman Mike Van Someren an "unsung hero." Bielema also singled out wide receivers Paul Hubbard and Marcus Randle El, will linebacker Jonathan Casillas and second-team free safety Shane Carter as pleasant surprises this spring.

Van Someren has been an ironman this spring, taking nearly every snap at left tackle with the first- and second-team offenses. Van Someren's heavy workload has been a necessity for a program short on offensive lineman.

UW's need was especially strong at tackle this spring, with All-American left tackle Joe Thomas nursing a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in the Capital One Bowl. And Thomas' backup last season, Eric Vanden Heuvel, was working his way back from a ruptured plantar fascia through the first half of spring practices.

That left UW without a true left tackle.

"Mike Van Someren is a guy at that left tackle position, might ideally be at a center or guard, but we needed someone at tackle just because of the absence of Joe and Vandy, and (Van Someren) has really done a nice job," Bielema said. "Really competed and has done a lot of good things. Played to the most of his abilities.

Van Someren struggled at times against the speed rush of defensive end Brandon Kelly but all told the 6-foot-7, 320-pounder did a commendable job while taking more reps than any other offensive lineman.

Bielema expects Van Someren to move to guard or center in fall training camp — improving the team's depth on the interior line — with Thomas returning to left tackle. The Badgers could use more depth at center in particular.

"(Van Someren has) played (tackle), but just his composition and the way he plays he'd probably be better off being a little protected on the inside," Bielema said.

With Thomas on schedule to be ready for summer conditioning in June, Bielema is comfortable with his starting offensive line, which appears set with Andy Kemp at left guard, Marcus Coleman at center, Kraig Urbik at right guard and Vanden Heuvel at right tackle.

Vanden Heuvel's successful move to the right side allowed Urbik to slide down from right tackle, giving the Badgers' a formidable right side of the line.

"(Vanden Heuvel) makes a big difference when he's in there," Bielema said last Saturday. "That's a big body that can run. Some of those zone plays to the right were really significantly better this week once he got solidified in there. And then his pass (protection) is pretty good."

On returns

The Badgers must replace one of the nation's best kick and punt returners — Brandon Williams — next season. The punt return game was a focal point this spring, with UW trying Marcus Randle El, Jarvis Minton (before his injury), Ben Strickland, Zach Hampton (once he returned from injury) and Jerry Butler at the position.

Randle El and Hampton have separated themselves from the pack heading into the summer. Hampton has the most return experience, having served as Williams's personal protector the past two seasons on kickoff returns.

"Marcus has ability if he can just catch the ball with consistency," Bielema said. "The most reliable guy back there probably is Zach Hampton. Zach, he's still a little bit hobbled up but he naturally catches the ball very, very well.

"And then there's also a host of freshmen. There's about five or six of them that returned punts in high school. So kind of counting for a mix out of them as well."

Formulating a depth chart

Bielema said that he has a two-deep in mind.

"What I want everybody to have an understanding of, is we want to have open competitions," Bielema said. "We want the guys to understand — a guy like Richard Kirtley is a guy that has come out and made a lot of plays. He's technically probably a two or three on the depth chart, but he runs with the ones every once and a while, gets an opportunity to get out there.

"But I'll release a two-deep right after the spring game and just kind of get guys solidified."

Bielema has stressed several times this spring that he feels Wisconsin is a developmental program.

"I really think that Wisconsin is a program that develops people," he said recently. "And developing people means that you can't skip a step. It's a process. They've got to learn how to line up. Then they got to learn how to execute. Then they got to learn the techniques and the fundamentals that they have to have to have success on any given play.

"The same way when we first met in early January we talked about winter conditioning and then the process to get to spring football. In spring football we talked about at the beginning of our first practice what we wanted to accomplish as a unit on both sides of the football and as an entire group. It's a process to get to this Saturday and then we'll reset goals immediately after the game."

In the booth

Bielema said he will wait until the fall to finalize a plan regarding which assistant coaches will be on the sidelines on game days and which ones will be up in the press box.

"I wanted to get through the spring, learn personalities, but the coaches have given me a tentative game plan," he said. "But I want to kind of wait until after spring to see how guys responded to certain people. To me — I was a defensive coordinator that was on the sideline all the time. It was just because I wanted to see the look in their eye and understand what they're saying. But from a defensive point of view it is probably a little bit easier said than on the offensive side. I know Paul (offensive coordinator Paul Chryst) likes to be upstairs because he can kind of see the whole thing develop. (Offensive line coach Bob) Palcic I think will definitely want to be on the sideline. But as far as some of those other guys we'll make that determination in the fall."

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