Badgers open fall practice

first_imgThe ice tubs are filled, water bottles cooled and coaches’ whistles are all chirping away.It’s August; football season is right around the corner.The Wisconsin football team opened its fall camp Friday at Camp Randall Stadium, where the Badgers will open their 2011 season in a little less than one month against UNLV on Sept. 1.As the final stretch of the offseason kicked off, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema spoke with the media after the day’s practice. Until the full pads come out, Bielema said the first few days are mainly focused on developing team communication and implementing a friendly coaching atmosphere.“One of the things we’re really stressing these first two days is communication, being loud, being emphatic [in the] huddle – not only in the huddle but also out there on the field,” Bielema said.“We talked about accepting coaching. A lot of time young men… they don’t like to be told what they’re doing wrong. They like to hear all the good things.”Here are a few more notes from Bielema:Borland in the middleAfter sustaining a season-ending shoulder injury early last season that also ruled him out of spring camp, sophomore linebacker Chris Borland is finally getting back into the swing of things with the UW defense.Borland, who will move from outside to middle linebacker this season, practiced with the first team during Friday’s practice and, according to Bielema, looks to be in good shape.Bielema described how during a pass-skeleton drill, Borland dove for the ball at one point and landed on his shoulder. But he quickly “popped up and ran.”Bielema said he’s trying to teach Borland to be less “reckless” with his body and play with his feet underneath him more often, meaning a little less diving and reaching.“I think it’ll sink in,” Bielema said.Wilson takes to the fieldFriday marked the first occasion in which Bielema and his staff had the opportunity to work with senior quarterback Russell Wilson, the eagerly-anticipated transfer from North Carolina State.Being the first practice of the fall and it being without full pads, Bielema didn’t have much to praise or criticize, yet he was still complimentary of his newest quarterback.“He’s got great composure. He takes to learning very very easily, obviously a very accurate player,” he said. “Any quarterback can throw without pads on but I thought he showed some really nice things.”Position battles begin to take shapeAt the Big Ten media days last weekend in Chicago, Bielema mentioned seven positions that would feature a battle for the starting spot, including running back, tight end, right tackle, quarterback, SAM linebacker, defensive end and strong safety.When the USA Today preseason coaches poll was released Thursday with the Badgers at No. 10, Bielema was asked if seven positions open for competition seemed like much for a team with such high expectations. He didn’t seem worried, and answered by saying the internal competitions are healthy for the team.“I think all those things are good things,” Bielema said.Return menBielema listed off a roll of candidates for punt and kickoff returners, now that specialist David Gilreath has graduated.Fifth-year senior safety Aaron Henry, freshman Kenzel Doe and sophomore running back James White caught punts during Friday’s practice, while Bielema said “a host of guys” are in the mix for kickoff returner.“James White and Montee Ball are back there,” Bielema said. “You’d like to see maybe Manasseh Garner, and everybody’s favorite, Chris Borland, is back there. I know he can catch kicks. It’s kind of by committee right now.”Looking fitThe UW coaching staff hasn’t been able to see their team in action since spring camp concluded in late April, so Bielema was excited to see how his players sculpted themselves through offseason workouts.Bielema mentioned sophomore defensive tackle Beau Allen trimmed his weight from 335 pounds in the spring to 315, while fifth-year senior wide receiver Nick Toon added 15 pounds to the 205-pound frame he had in April.The head coach also noted the physical development of Borland and defensive linemen David Gilbert and Louis Nzegwu.last_img read more