Wisconsin spring football: Badgers begin practice

Jake Kocorowski

The Badgers returned to the field Wednesday, ushering in the second year of Gary Andersen's tenure.

Just over two months since Wisconsin ended its season in Orlando, the second year of Gary Andersen as head coach began with the first full spring practice of 2014 on Wednesday.

As expected, there was a lot of energy, a lot of hustle, but also mistakes -- though Andersen was quick to note he was pleased with how the team fought through them and moved in the right direction.

Wednesday's practice was longer than the typical 16-to-18 periods seen in the fall, as the team went for about 22-to \-23 periods today. Andersen admitted it was a "grinder," but the play was evident in the message he sent to his players.

"I want to see them have great effort," Andersen said. "If they make a mistake, move on to the next rep. Don't count your reps. Make your reps count."

Though the Badgers lost nearly two dozen seniors from their 2013 season, Andersen does not believe this is a rebuilding year. "We're a young football team, and I'm excited about this football team," he said.

Notes:

  • Joel Stave will be limited in team situations through spring break, but the hope is that he'll be able to go with the first team after break.
  • Garret Dooley and Alec James were working with the defensive linemen.
  • Former tight end Alex Walker is now wearing No. 65 and will be moving to offensive line, along with Logan Schmidt.
  • True freshman Jaden Gault underwent knee surgery. Andersen said he will be brought back very slowly during spring with his rehab to ensure he's ready for the fall.
  • Andersen thought quarterbacks Bart Houston, Tanner McEvoy and D.J. Gillins did well in their first practice, nothing how McEvoy looked more comfortable under center and did some things with his legs. He noted Gillins made some good plays, but as a true freshman, also made some mistakes. On Houston, Andersen thought he did a good job. "He's a competitive kid, and he's looked forward to this opportunity."
  • Running backs Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement won't be tackled once during the spring, Andersen said.

Observations:

  • A.J. Jordan appears to have made the full transition to defensive back, now working at safety. He had a nice interception against Gillins in passing drills. Andersen stated he is proud of Jordan's demeanor and mindset as he plans to start at safety in 2014. "He's worked very hard to get the techniques down, and he's worked very hard to understand the playbook," Andersen said, "so it's going to be exciting to watch him."
  • Michael Deiter and Ray Ball took over at center and left guard, respectively, while Dan Voltz and Dallas Lewallen continue to rest.
  • I'm intrigued by tight end Austin Traylor. He caught some nice balls during practice. In fact, there were some nice receptions by Troy Fumagalli, among others in this group.
  • There were some fumbled snaps in practice, but that will happen with youth and inexperience so early in spring practices.
  • All the quarterbacks have pretty nice arms. Houston has a rocket, but Gillins has some zip on the ball as well.
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