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Badgers' Bye Week Brings Opportunity

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Bret Bielema's team is working on the fundamentals during the bye week.
Bret Bielema's team is working on the fundamentals during the bye week.

MADISON, Wis. -- The Badgers won't square off against another Big Ten foe this Saturday, but that doesn't mean they can simply take the week off. In a post-practice conference with reporters, head coach Bret Bielema said there are still thing his team can do to get better during their off week.

"This week is a great week for us developmental-wise, and to get a few guys healthy," Bielema said.

In that sense, the Badgers' bye week comes at an opportune time. Several players that were sidelined against Nebraska or got dinged up during the game now have extra time to get healthy before the dog days of the Badgers' schedule. After a home game against Indiana, the Badgers have back-to-back primetime road games against Michigan State and Ohio State.

Bielema also mentioned the bye week serves as a good chance for his younger players to focus on fundamentals. 

"Anybody that's a two that needs work [is practicing]," Bielema said. "Tomorrow is a lot of good on good, but there'll be three to four periods of just developmental work."

Bielema said he tries to teach his young players that the bye week is not just about getting an extra week's practice in preparation for their next opponent. 

"And I've really stressed to those guys 'This is when Jacob Pedersen got good three years ago, this is when Ryan Groy got great two years ago,'" Bielema said, "and kind of stress that 'you might not be preparing this week to win a game next week, but we might be preparing to win a game next year."

Injury Update

-- Strong safety Shelton Johnson is still recovering from a leg injury, but Bielema said he expects him to be back in time for next week's game against Indiana. 

-- Defensive end David Gilbert developed a stress fracture in his foot last Tuesday, but Bielema said he didn't make the injury public so Nebraska wouldn't be able to scheme around his absence. Gilbert is out indefinitely. 

-- Right guard Kevin Zeitler is doing better than the staff expected after hurting his ankle. Bielema said they'll probably hold him out of practice this week, but Zeitler will definitely be back next week. 

News and Notes

-- Russell Wilson and Montee Ball shared this week's offensive MVP, Mike Taylor won the award on defense, and Derek Landisch took home the special teams' award again. 

-- The Badgers are planning on rotating players on kickoff coverage, mainly because the offense is making the unit do a lot of work. 

"As many points as we're scoring, it's creating a lot of reps," Bielema said. "We actually have a system in now where have got guys rotating on kickoff coverage just cause that's six or seven full speed sprints of 100 yards."

-- Bielema had high praise for his young linebackers, including one Badger fans might recognize. Derek Watt has impressed the coaching staff, and there's a chance he could outgrow the linebacker position and switch to the defensive line, which was recently anchored by his older brother J.J. 

-- It's not just Wilson that's getting the media hype: Bielema mentioned he might do another ESPN appearance on Friday, and that he'll tweet more information about it. 


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