Wisconsin football notebook: Gary Andersen talks offensive line rotation, secondary depth and true freshmen

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Gary Andersen spoke to the media for the final time before the season begins. He gave some clarity on the potential offensive line rotation, expressed his concerns for the Badgers' thin secondary and noted that outside linebacker Leon Jacobs, cornerback Jakarrie Washington and wide receiver Robert Wheelwright are among true freshmen likely to see playing time against UMass.

MADISON -- After practice Thursday evening, Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen provided a little more clarity as to what the offensive line will look like Saturday against UMass.

Freshman center Dan Voltz, who missed a good portion of fall camp with a hamstring injury, will play Saturday, but Dallas Lewallen is expected to start in the middle of the Badgers' line.

Without naming anyone specific, Andersen also said two players will rotate at the right guard position. When the team released its first depth chart of the season earlier this week, senior Zac Matthias and junior Kyle Costigan were listed as co-starters at that position.

"I hope we're in a position to possibly play seven or eight (offensive linemen) early in the game, a little bit of a rotation there, and see how it goes," Andersen said.

The coach also noted that senior Chris Gill -- currently not listed on the team's two-deep depth chart -- remains in the mix for that rotation.

"(Gill) is right in the middle of that," Andersen said. "He's gaining momentum. Now the good thing is, we get Dan back, so (Gill) can start to absorb some of the guard terminology now, and it's just another body. But he's in that equation."

Depth in secondary still a concern

Despite recent comments from some of the team's top cornerbacks, Andersen still sees a need to improve depth in the Badgers' secondary.

Although the coach likes the way the group finished this week of practice -- including specific praise for corners Peniel Jean and Darius Hillary -- Andersen admitted he isn't sure exactly how the back end of his defense will respond come game time.

"In the back end, no, we are not (comfortable with our two-deep)," Andersen said. "We're still a work in progress. It would be nice if we had another kid jump up into the spot at the safety position. I feel good about the young corners.

"I'm proud of P.J., and I'm proud of Darius the way they've gone through the last week of camp. I really am. There was some times when they were being challenged at the position and they were battling like crazy, but I just feel them settled in the last two or three days, which has been great to see, and I see them leading the young kids. ... I'm proud of the way they've handled it."

Andersen also said he's concerned about placing a true freshman like Sojourn Shelton out on the field as a starter during the first week of the season, as he would be with any player who hasn't seen playing time in past years.

The potential mistakes from Wisconsin's inexperienced secondary likely won't be coming from a lack of communication, though.

"It was encouraging to see the communication we had in the back end on defense," Andersen said. "We need that communication because it's going to be loud here. We have a great crowd, and it's really loud. We get to third down and we can't communicate hand signals, we're going to have a big problem on our hands. I think we made strides (Thursday) in that area."

Washington, Jacobs among true freshmen expected to play

Andersen said Thursday that at least four true freshmen, and probably five to seven, will see playing time against UMass Saturday.

He noted cornerback Jakarrie Washington and outside linebacker Leon Jacobs will play, and gave a 70 percent chance that wide receiver Robert Wheelwright will see snaps. Shelton is expected to start at cornerback.

"It's a pretty good mix," Andersen said. "It's a good class so far during camp, so we'll see what they do in games."

Quick hits:

-- Andersen likes the fact that controversial replays are now expected to be shown on Camp Randall's big screen this season, but he said wide receivers coach Chris Beatty and safeties coach Bill Busch will be the ones responsible for letting Andersen know whether to throw the challenge flag.

"We have a plan in place," Andersen said. "What I don't want to happen is six coaches in my ear saying, ‘Oh yeah, throw the flag. No, don't throw the flag.' We've got a coach on each side (of the ball). We talked about it in the staff meeting. If we have a chance to look at it, there will only be two mouths speaking and then we'll make the decision if we need to contest."

-- Andersen said he's set his DVR to record Thursday night's Utah-Utah State game, which he planed to watch later the same night. He coached at Utah State last season, and his son, Keegan, is a junior tight end for the Aggies.

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