Wednesday, April 27, 2011

UW Quarterback job is up for grabs.


No matter what Joe Brennan does in his time at Wisconsin, he probably will not be the most recognizable Badger to hail from New Jersey. A big running back that wore No. 33 and the name "Dayne" on the back of his jersey has that title safely locked down for the foreseeable future.   
Still, the redshirt freshman moves from spring practice to summer workouts with the opportunity to impress his teammates and coaches and challenge redshirt sophomore Jon Budmayr for the starting quarterback job sooner rather than later.
Following the departure of two-year starter Scott Tolzien, the quarterback competition looked to be wide open even before a lack-luster spring session failed to present an obvious candidate.
Ever since redshirt junior quarterback Curt Phillips learned he would miss the entire season—his second in a row—due to another knee injury, the race seems to be down to two horses. True freshman Joel Stave looked good at times, but having full control over offensive coordinator Paul Chryst's offense just months out of high school is asking a lot of the Whitehall native.
That is where Brennan said he feels he has made the most progress this year. He led the scout team offense last season and faced the likes of J.J. Watt, senior safety Aaron Henry and the rest of the Badgers' defense on a regular basis.
"It's great because I got the chance to look at a team's No. 1 defense and try to recognize different coverages and pressures and things like that," the Audobon, N.J. native said.
UW head coach Bret Bielema often talks about the difference between the first and second years in camp for young players and the inherent benefits that come with a year under the belt. Brennan has the natural tools—he's bigger than Budmayr at 6'3''—and he thinks his experience last year and this spring will go a long way towards his cause.
"I've already been through the process, I already know what to expect as far as the scheduling and stuff," Brennan said. "I'm really looking to develop, physically and mentally take advantage of the time we have to grow with other teammates."
The first step in that growth came Saturday, as the Badgers concluded spring practice with their annual intrasquad Spring Game. The offense struggled all around, and Brennan had a particularly rough go of it, completing just 4-of-23 passes and tossing two interceptions. Still, Bielema said afterwards that the Spring Game shows very little about how positional battles will develop once fall practice starts and Brennan said he knows he will have to work.
"Whenever you play quarterback there's always going to be tough competition," he said.
With Phillips out of the picture for the year, Budmayr and Brennan will likely see the vast majority of snaps this fall and take on the burden of leadership through the summer workouts.
As the younger and less experienced of the two—Budmayr saw game action in three games a year ago and threw a 76-yard touchdown to sophomore wide receiver Jared Abbrederis in the fourth quarter of an 82-20 blowout of Indiana—Brennan will likely have an uphill road to the starting job. That said, almost nobody thought Tolzien would win the starting nod before the 2009 season and Brennan thinks he has a chance to create similar surprise.
"I know this is the right fit for me. I'm just trying to show my talents," he said. "I see myself doing good things here."
Let's hope they choose wisely.  GO BUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spring Football game is this Saturday


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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Another solid running back?


Tuesday afternoon, the Wisconsin Badgers’ offense seemed to be rounding into shape. The shape, at least, expected as the end of spring practice approaches.
On the second play of the first-team scrimmage, quarterback Jon Budmayr dropped back, faked a handoff to running back James White and let rip a high-arching balloon of a toss down the left sideline. Budmayr — known especially for his strong arm — would go on to overthrow a few balls this practice, and this one was no different.
Yet, fullback Bradie Ewing kept pace with the ball, and just when it was within reach, he extended his left arm and hauled it in. The lefty, one-handed grab was the first of two impressive catches for Ewing Tuesday, and it was arguably the highlight of the entire practice.
Now a senior, Ewing has made just that kind of impression as a Badger. He’s consistently there, doing his job — he played in 38 of a possible 39 games his first three years — but he might not be noticed during the process. That, as the history of football has proven, is typically the life of a fullback. Line up in front of the tail back and behind the quarterback, make your blocks and don’t mess up. If the ball’s thrown to you, catch it.
Lets hope we see him scoring a touchdown in a BCS bowl game.  GO BUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Big Ten releases 2013 & 2014 schedule


Two weeks out from the 2011 Spring Game, and it's already time to start looking ahead—two years ahead, as the Big Ten Conference Wednesday released the 2013 and 2014 football schedules.
After a two year hiatus, the Heartland Trophy will again be up for grabs as Wisconsin travels to Iowa Nov. 2, 2013. The Badgers will then host the Hawkeyes in week two of 2014.
Also worth noting, beginning in 2013, Big Ten teams will have two byes each season, extending the league calendar deeper than in previous years. Wisconsin will host Penn State Nov. 30, 2013 in the season finale, marking the latest home game in Madison since 1899.
By 2013, Badger fans should be pretty familiar with a Nittany Lion season finale. Wisconsin and Penn State will match up in conference finales for the next four years, beginning this season.
Additionally, for the first time since 1992, the Badgers will open up conference play against Ohio State when they travel to Columbus Sept. 28, 2013.
With the Big Ten's new divisions, which begin this season, the Badgers now play in the five-team Leaders Division. This means Wisconsin will play Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State and Purdue every season. The Badgers will play Minnesota each season as well as two other rotating Legends Division teams.
In 2013 and 2014, UW will play a home-and-home against Legends members Iowa and Northwestern.
As for Minnesota, Wisconsin fans better get used to a bitter rivalry in the bitter cold. The Badgers and Gophers will play in the Twin Cities Nov. 23, 2013 and in Madison Nov. 22, 2014.
Let's hope we see victory on the field for the Badgers.  GO BUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!