After the Wisconsin Badgers finished their 10th practice of the spring on Tuesday morning, offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Joe Rudolph spoke with the media.
As it was the first time meeting with reporters during these spring sessions, Rudolph answered questions regarding a variety of topics on the offense he helps guide. That included the relatively “new look” offensive line, running backs, and oh yes, the quarterbacks.
Below are the highlights from Rudolph’s availability. Note due to the length of the interview, we did not include all of his answers to the questions. However, you can view the interview in its entirety below:
On Logan Bruss working at right guard and if he will permanently move to that position:
No, I just think he has flexibility, and really the idea was to start him out at guard and then the last couple of weeks go to tackle. I kind of wanted everyone to have a vision where they could be a starter and there’s probably about eight guys, nine guys, that really expressed in their vision statement that that’s what they wanted to accomplish. They wanted to be out there starting, and so to do that, you got some flexibility. David Moorman could play guard, he could play tackle. Same thing with Bruss. I got a few guys that could play center as well as guard or flip side, so those just give him some more opportunities to hit the field.”
If Rudolph has an idea of his best five on the offensive line:
“You know what, I’m getting there, but I wouldn’t say. We got two weeks of spring ball left, and I think we got to it, maybe the last day of the last couple practices of spring ball the one year with moving [Michael] Deiter out to left tackle. I think with a couple guys out, it will take a little bit of time, but I’m just really looking for these guys to compete. I want to see who wants it.
“I’d say the guy that’s having the best spring so far is David Moorman. He’s busting his butt, man. He’s the one guy to me that’s kind of saying ‘I want this.’ There’s a lot more time left, so we’ll see how it continues.”
On Kayden Lyles back at offensive line:
“He’s doing good. He’s knocking the rust off. The hardest thing for him, which I go back and forth am I being fair with him, is we need him to play some center this spring, and we need him to play guard. Going against our defense, with a number of variations that we see, that’s not easy, but he is progressing. He’s progressing well. Every once in a while, you get a little bit ‘lost in the sauce’ because there’s so much going on. You get to who I have and what my assignment is, but you forget a little bit with technique. But I have been really impressed with what he’s been able to handle to this point, and he’s competing his tail off for one of those spots.”
On Logan Brown and potential to make the offensive two-deep as true freshman:
“I think when you say ‘make the two-deep,’ I think that’s always possible. Tyler Biadasz was one who came in, and he was about to play as we traveled to Iowa as a true freshman. We got ‘Dietz’ [Jon Dietzen] back off of [injury]. He goes, ‘I can play.’ Dietz is the best, I miss him. He played and kind of saved Tyler’s redshirt, but he was easily in the two-deep that year, so absolutely someone could compete and get into the two-deep.”
On the four new starters on the offensive line and if it is achievable for the group to play to the level of last year’s line:
“I don’t know yet. To be honest, I’m not sure. I do look at Cole [Van Lanen] as though he is a returning starter. I do, and I know he didn’t start many games, maybe one, but I do look at him that way because of the number of reps he did play in big situations and the way he competed. But I think there’s a lot of question marks still, and good question marks, as long as guys are growing and competing to fill those shoes.
“Bruss, with three starts at the end of the year, I kind of look at him as a guy that has been out there in that situation. Now, finding the best spot for him. Kayden started some games on the other side of the ball, coming back and doing that. Guys like [redshirt sophomore Josh] Seltzner, a guy like [redshirt senior Jason] Erdmann, who’s played a lot of ball, and a guy like Moorman who’s played a lot and has been around but really starting to put it together, which is pretty awesome. So I think we got great competition along with [redshirt sophomore Tyler] Beach at tackle, and it’s a good group, but I can’t tell you if we’ll reach that level or not. I just don’t know yet.”
On the development of running back Nakia Watson:
“We missed him these last few practices, but we had that first scrimmage, man, and the thing that I wanted to see to Nakia the opportunity that’s open is really what Taiwan brought to us last year. That physical presence that goes in the game. Not just physical, but the whole game. Taiwan affected the game from special teams, affected the games when he got in the game on offense and carried it. He brought a physical presence to his protections, so Nakia showed that in the scrimmage, but kind of need to kind of keep seeing it, so I think him and Isaac Guerendo having great competition. Brady Schipper showed up last scrimmage and played his tail off, so I think there’s some really good young backs. Those three especially as young guys have each really flashed but looking for someone to kind of grab a hold of it.”
On where junior Jack Coan has taken next steps needed at quarterback:
“I really like how the QBs have responded. I thought ‘Bud’s’ [quarterback coach Jon Budmayr] done a great job with them. I think where [Jack’s] grown is that he’s just doing a great job of leading those guys, like helping them. He’s spending as much time teaching Graham [Mertz] as he is working with ‘Wolfie’ [Chase Wolf] and working with ‘Boomer’ [Danny Vanden Boom]. He cares about them, and I think that’s making him feeling stronger and better about his position and his role. I like that, and I know I didn’t bring up something on the field, but I do think that affects you when you’re in that huddle and the confidence that you have, so I’ve really liked that about him this spring.”
More on Coan during a follow up question about his preparation now that Alex Hornibrook is gone:
“I think he’s just been comfortable. I think I’m seeing a little bit more of Jack’s personality now, because it is different. Like you’re really behind someone else and you want to be the biggest supporter that you can and getting yourself ready, but now, I think he’s comfortable just being him and I do see some of these things from him that really I think are lending towards his confidence. Like when you feel comfortable talking about something and helping guys, and when you got that type of confidence about yourself, it’s lending to his development. So I think do think he prepares different, but I also think he handles himself differently.”
On if Mertz is further along than other true freshman quarterbacks that have enrolled mid-year:
“You know what, it’s always hard to say. Biggest thing I can say about it is I love where Graham is at. He’s competing his tail off. He’s making plays when the opportunities are there.
“You know what, that whole group, I think I was just talking to Johnny [Budmayr] about it, and I said I don’t remember where like all four guys you feel like you would go into the game and you know what you would get. They would be themsleves. They would compete. That huddle would have confidence in them when they’re speaking, and they would have a hold of it, so I think that’s a compliment to him and that group. I think they are. I think they’re really coming along.”
On what he notices about Vanden Boom and Wolf, and if they do not pay attention to the hype of the others in the quarterback room:
“I think they do, and that’s the neat part is they’re all kind of being themselves. They’re different, right? I mean Chase gets in. and he does some things. He pulls the ball and takes off. He gets out of the pocket and delivers one.
“‘Boomer’ is really steady and will make plays, but I think they’re all confident in kind of being their own guy. Everyone of those guys, including ‘Wolfie’ and “Boomer,’ have really gone in and executed at times really well. I think they’ve all flashed, but in the end, we’re looking for consistency. Who can be the best play in and play out, but they’ve all done some things to really show their growth.”
On a two-quarterback system [question referenced 2016 season] and the key to having two guys and making it happen game-to-game, week-to-week:
“I think it takes guys that really care a lot about the team and they’re really humble in nature. So probably the guys that got bowed up then would have been Bart [Houston]. Bart, I’m sure he didn’t love coming out, but he just competed. When it was his opportunity, he went, and when it wasn’t his opportunity, he was doing everything he could from the sideline. You know what, you got to really resepct that, so that’s what would make it work.”
A question regarding if as a staff, there are any reservations about playing a true freshman quarterback:
“I don’t know the history at every position like that, but obviously, we had guys that did make big impacts like [running back] James White or a [linebacker] Chris Borland as a true freshman. I think that can happen at any position.”