When the Wisconsin hockey and basketball teams ended their respective seasons, the resounding cry for most of the campus was, "When will we be able to watch football again?" That answer to that question is "Saturday."
The Badgers will have their first organized competition Saturday in the annual Spring Game at Camp Randall Stadium. However, there is an extra twist to this year's game.
Head coach Bret Bielema has decided to shake things up a bit and scrimmage the team's top offensive and defensive units against one another instead of the ones against twos setup of previous spring games.
"To kind of spice it up a little bit and I think give a true assessment of where we're at, I'm gonna actually play ones against ones," Bielema said. "We'll put our number one offense out there against our number one defense and let guys compete. I think it'll be a cleaner game and really give us a better understanding of where we're at.
"So that'll be a little bit of a different twist that I think will give us a better quality game and really give the fans an outlook onto hopefully one of the better teams in the league competing out there."
With so many leaders from last year's Rose Bowl team either graduating or moving on to the NFL, Badger fans can expect a very intense and competitive game as many players vie for those vacant positions.
So far, Bielema said he has been pleased with the progress his team has made in spring practices over the last four weeks.
One of the most, if not the most, important positions for the Badgers to replace this year will be at quarterback.
With Scott Tolzien graduating, it seems sophomore Jon Budmayr currently is the leader in the clubhouse, but junior Curt Phillips could challenge him after Phillips recovers from an ACL injury.
"Jon has continued to get better every week and I really like some of things he's doing," Bielema said. "He's really sound with the football and making good decisions."
Another important position the Badgers will have to replace this year is the defensive end hole left by J.J. Watt, who is moving on to the NFL. There will be strong competition all along the defensive line, with three players vying for the two defensive end spots and a strong group of four or five men on the interior line.
Right now the two defensive end starters would be fifth year senior Louis Nzegwu and junior David Gilbert, but also watch out for junior Brendan Kelly, who has battled a series of injuries throughout his career.
Even with all the new faces that will make impacts for the Badgers this season, expect the returning players from last year's team to play a leadership role on the team this year.
The Badgers will be returning a number of starters on offense, including two standout running backs, junior Montee Ball and sophomore James White, as well as senior wide receiver Nick Toon.
The same can be said on defense as the Badgers return interior stalwart Patrick Butrym on the defensive line, Aaron Henry and Antonio Fenelus in the secondary and hope to get linebacker Chris Borland back after he sat out most of last year with a shoulder injury.
The 2011 Wisconsin football spring game is scheduled for Saturday at 1 at Camp Randall Stadium. Tickets are $5 and all proceeds will go to the UW-Madison School of Nursing's campaign to build a new nursing building.
I can't wait for football season. GO BUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!