In an off season filled with hungry players hoping to make up for the disappointment of last season, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema has been pleased with what he has seen from his group heading into this week.
"The one thing that I felt held steady is our work ethic and attitude," he said during his Monday Press Conference. "I think we've approach things the right way and it's great to finally be in game week."
With another new quarterback taking the reigns of the offense, the Badgers are expected to throw a heavy dose of running plays at the Akron front four; a defensive line that gave up an average of 183.8 rushing yards per game last season. How those carries are divided up between junior P.J. Hill, sophomore Zach Brown and freshman John Clay remains to be seen, as Bielema has a wealth of talented runners that are good in different areas of the game.
"P.J. by far has the most experience and the most experience in all phases," Bielema said. "When you characterize our tailbacks, Zach's probably stronger in third down situations, also good on first down, but maybe the last guy in the goal line situation. John Clay is first down, second down and maybe a role for us in short yardage/goal line situation."
Pressley Making a Push to Play
Bielema announced that cornerback Aaron Henry (knee surgery) and linebacker Kevin Rouse (shoulder surgery) are out for this week and that Jonathan Casillas (knee), Travis Beckum (hamstring), Chris Pressley (finger) and Antonio Fenelus (ankle) are all possible for Saturday.
"They've haven't been ruled out but it depends on how they handle the next couple days," he said.
Pressley recently underwent surgery to repair a broken thumb and was thought to be ruled out of the opener because of the open exposure to the stitches. According to Bielema, Pressley has appealed to (running back coach John) Settle, Bielema and the doctors to allow him to play on Saturday.
"I'm still going to have a conversation (with him)," Bielema said. "Obviously we're put him out there to further injury or put himself at risk. But if he is healed up and the doctors have cleared him to play, he'll be eligible."
Should any one of those starters not be able to play, Bielema praised the depth the Badgers have at most positions, citing that UW would not have a drop off in production.
"We're banged up at certain positions but we've enjoyed all the defensive linemen that were nicked haven't really showed any signs of the injuries carrying forward with them," he said. "Anytime someone listed as a probable starter who may not play will effect your team. Thankfully for us, we're very fortunate that we have depth … and we have the backups we have."
Of the 27 scholarship and walk on players in the class of 2008, Bielema announced that upwards of eight first-year freshmen will see time on the field Saturday. Offensively, Jake Byrne, Jake Current, Bradie Ewing and Kevin Zeitler should see snaps while Brendan Kelly and possibly Kevin Claxton and Fenelus could see time defensively. Brookfield Central's Bradley Nortman will also play and start as punter on Saturday.
One of the most impressive players of the fall camp has been Ewing, who has stepped into the void created by the departure of Lance Smith and injury to John Clay to have many positive repetitions during fall practice.
"Bradie has done everything we've asked him to do," Bielema lauded. "He's an intelligent football player and nobody has better work ethic … I don't know how much from the running back spot he'll play but he'll be involved in all phases of our kicking game."