Camp Report: Keeping with the Times

With the NCAA rule change involving the play clock for this upcoming season, switching from the 25-second clock to the 40-second one, teams around the country are going to have to adapt to the new system. For Wisconsin, there is no time like the present.

MADISON - One rule change the NCAA implemented this year that figures to have a significant impact on the flow of games this fall is the switch to a 40-second play clock.

Teams will now have 40 seconds from the end of one play to get the next play off. This is a change from the 25-second play clock that has been used in the past. That clock didn't start until officials had marked the ball, a fact that left some room for variables to come into play. The play clock could be started at a different pace from week to week as different officiating crews worked different games. Even during a game, the speed at which the play clock started could differ as officials grew tired, leaving offenses at risk for delay of game penalties if they weren't careful.

A 25-second play clock will still be used for plays following dead ball situations like penalties, changes of possession and timeouts.

Since the rule change will affect how coaches call plays and quarterbacks manage the huddle, it is something the Badgers will work on during Saturday's scrimmage.

"We'll have a Big Ten (officiating) crew in here and they'll run the clock as they would on [game days]," UW head coach Bret Bielema said following the third practice of fall camp Wednesday. "The biggest thing, and I've discussed this with the Big Ten office, is just getting [officials] used to doing it consistently … as well."

Bielema channels inner Herman Boone

Much like in the movie Remember the Titans, when coach Herman Boone makes his players get to know one another by talking to teammates of the opposite race, Bielema is bringing together teammates that might not normally talk to each other all that much.

Three times during fall camp, the Wisconsin football team is shacking up at a Madison hotel for the night. Players will room with teammates from the opposite side of the ball who mirror their position. For instance, defensive end Matt Shaughnessy and left tackle Gabe Carimi roomed together during the first such night.

Since the Badgers don't hold camp off site like they used to, players don't spend as much time together off the field as they used to when they roomed at the Bishop O'Connor Center in Madison. These nights give the UW players a chance to bond in a team setting.

"I asked them to inform me about three things they had to talk about with their roommate that night before they went to bed," Bielema said. "I had several players come up to me today and talked about something they took out of last night's talk or rooming with a guy they really didn't know."

Early kicks

Replacing both departed kicker Taylor Mehlhaff and punter Ken DeBauche will be a tall task for Wisconsin's special teams this season. Knowing that, Bielema is getting a jump-start on the process.

The Badgers worked on kickoffs for the first time Wednesday, something they didn't do until the second week of camp a year ago.

It will be a two-man race between redshirt freshman Philip Welch and redshirt junior Matt Fisher for kicking duties this fall, and Bielema said both took three reps on kickoffs Wednesday.

"Fish[er] put one into the end zone today, into the wind, which kind of surprised me," Bielema said. "Hopefully we'll see some positives out of that."

Fisher also seems to have the upper hand when it comes to field goals.

Bielema also had high praise for freshman punter Brad Nortman. Bielema said Nortman has looked very solid in his fundamentals and the tempo at which he gets his punts off.

Neither Nortman nor redshirt freshman Brad DeBauche punted at all Wednesday.

Extra points

Contrary to published reports Wednesday, Bielema said sophomore cornerback Mario Goins did not sustain an injury during yesterday's practice.

Before Tuesday's practice finished, Goins was seen limping from the Camp Randall field back to the locker room. Bielema said that Goins was simply still dehydrated from the first day of practice and started cramping "all over" with about 20 minutes remaining in practice.

According to Bielema, Goins participated fully Wednesday…

Wearing a black number 23 sleeveless Nike jersey, former Wisconsin running back and Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne was seen leaving Camp Randall with two of his sons shortly before practice ended…

With one round of spring drills already under their belts, the trio of freshman that graduated high school early and enrolled in classes at UW in the spring semester are well ahead of their classmates, according to Bielema. Offensive lineman Jake Current, quarterback Curt Phillips and tight end Jake Byrne have a jump start on the difficulties of learning the UW offense.

"Just hearing the verbiage, processing it … it's just a matter of repetitions and hearing it over and over," Bielema said.

Bielema also mentioned the UW coaching staff is interested in having as many players from their 2009 recruiting class as possible enroll a semester early.

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