Full Transcript: Bret Bielema Opening Statement: We're cutting back on some of the team periods (tonight). We're going half line skelly here so that only two defensive linemen have to go at the same time. We did get Mike Newkirk back for certain drills but he is not cleared for contact. Ricky Garner is still a little big banged up due to a hamstring. Really nothing new on the injury front. O'Brien Schofield should return Tuesday. He had a fracture in his hand but it was not displaced. They are just waiting for that to begin to heal a little bit, club it up and go Tuesday, Thursday next week.
Do you anticipate at all that this spring that Newkirk will return?
Bret Bielema: No, not at all. We wanted to get him out there and doing some foot work. Newkirk wanted to scrimmage last Saturday but they basically allowed him to get clearance to do foot work, non contact and moving some things. His shoulder surgery wasn't nearly as major as Garrett or Travis.
What you get healthier defensively, what role do you envision for Butrym? Where is he going to play for you?
Bret Bielema: You know Patrick, we felt when we recruited him he would be an inside guy. But on the same account, the reason we started him at defensive end in the fall, I would rather start a guy outside and move him in. I think it's a lot easier to do that. Where Patrick fits? He probably can do both. I think as his career develops, we hope he can become bigger, thicker and stronger to be an inside player. As to where he fits next year, I really don't know. On the flip side of it, our starting rotation probably is not on the field right now and most of our package, with three of our top four and Kirk DeCremer, whether he's our best other defensive end or not remains to be seen.
As far as reps go, how valuable has his reps been to him and you?
Bret Bielema: Butrym huge but even more important for Stehle. I think last year, we thought Jeff could come in and maybe had to put him in. Now, we're in a situation where, I think, he's our third tackle and can spell both sides. We're really happy with Jeff Stehle. If you ask all the defensive coaches, probably is the MVP of the spring the way he's been able to improve.
Josh Nettles, is there an update on him?
Bret Bielema: Josh has a high ankle sprain. I don't know if we're going to get him back but it could be right down to the end if we get him for the spring game or not, which is a little disappointing since he had been performing pretty well. Him and Mario have benefited from having Aaron Henry and Allen Langford out. Those two guys are getting a lot of reps.
Do you have a new weapon (in Travis Beckum) at punter?
Bret Bielema: (laughing) You know that goes back to my first year. We were at North Carolina and we were on the field the day before the game and just screwing around with Travis. He lined up and punts one about 70 yards in the air. I said, ‘Hey, do that again,' and he goes, ‘I only got one a day, otherwise my leg gets sore.' I kind of laugh about it, joke about it with him. Because of his limited spring ball, I asked him to do some things with the punting and today I let him go in the team period because he's got a live leg. Just that he was one for two today. The first one went 25 and the next one went the distance you saw.
Bret, how seamless has the transition been from Bostad to the defensive line?
Bret Bielema: I think that it's an easy transition but it's been totally different. If you really watch what goes on during our individual periods and the way those guys work and the way they go about their business, they are a lot more repetitive about getting off the football, basic fundamentals (and) a little different footwork with Bob compared to Coach Palcic.
It was easy that our guys were familiar with him. They've worked with him already a lot of the times, especially the tackles. But I have really seen a significant increase in the way we have been able to move people off the football from an offensive line point of view.
You didn't have to twist his arm very much when Palcic left did you?
Bret Bielema: No. It was something that I agreed to him when I hired him. He had been an offensive line coach his entire career and then actually a year ago after out first bowl game, I wanted to kind of refigure the offensive line by title. We didn't do it by title, we did it by what we did on the practice field. I understand where Coach Palcic was coming from but it's really been great. It's something that I wanted to do from the beginning.
Coach, where do you see the strength of your defense so far throughout spring practice?
Bret Bielema: (smiling) The twos are getting a lot better (laughter). You know, I see a guy like Culmer St. Jean at the Mike Linebacker position, who's really changed the way he can play the game probably in the last four or five games of the year last year and out there. He got his first start in the Illinois game I believe it was. I see a guy like him, because Elijah (Hodge) missed that first time, he has really taken those reps and moved forward.
And a guy that has really has kind of jumped out to us is Blake Sorensen, just his ability as a linebacker to play from the line of scrimmage. On the flip of that, Chris Maragos is really taken advantage of the reps he's gotten at the free safety position.
Josh Oglesby has gotten a couple snaps at left tackle. Do you just like your tackles to play both sides?
Bret Bielema: Well, and again, depth issues. We want to put our best guy on the field. Jake Bscherer has played everywhere. We wanted to kind of get Josh and see if he's a familiar with either way.
When you made the move with Stehle, is there something that you saw right away that made you believe that he could be a good defensive guy?
Bret Bielema: Well we recruited him originally. I remember sitting in the staff meeting with the offensive coaches and he was a tight end. The coaches didn't approve of him offensively. We thought he was good enough player to play division one football so we took him as a defensive lineman. As a defensive lineman, we were really thin on the offensive line so we moved him to the offensive line. After basically sitting on the sidelines for a year, he came back to me and said, "Coach, I would really like to move to defense and play," and now he's taking advantage. That's why I kind of admire him from where he was and where he's come directly.
You see some of the drops from the wide receivers. Is that high number youth, you think, or due to a lack of concentration?
Bret Bielema: All we have is youth out there. There's no experienced guy out there. The most experience guy is Elijah Theus and he's not really involved in the rotation. It seems to be kind of an everyday, it seems, some one guy pops out. Daven (Jones) had the drops today, Kyle was last week but has caught the ball pretty well today, David caught the ball real well last week and has struggled a little bit today. I think it's more of, we can't throw enough balls at each other during the course of the summer to get ready for the fall.
How would you evaluate Scott Tolzien's spring season so far?
Bret Bielema: Scotty knows where the ball is supposed to go. I think he has a good understanding. His nickname is ‘niedermayer.' He is a really good student, a good student of the game and it carries forward. He always has got the right answers and I know it's important to Scott. The thing he's got going is he's just trying to sit in the background, doing what he's supposed to do and it will be interesting to see how it pans out.
What have you liked from Tony Megna?
Bret Bielema: We moved him to linebacker and he's doing a good job. He's a guy that works everyday.
Did Hodge just have late class?
Bret Bielema: Elijah, Aubrey… four kids had a test at eight o'clock. We got them out here as fast as we could.