We're trying something new today. Following the Badgers - or any major sports team for that matter - it becomes clear that coach's public statements at press conferences, media events etc. make up a large amount of the "meat" that goes into beat writers' articles, blog posts, and radio interviews. Thanks to the Interwebs (a series of tubes you know) we as fans now have direct access to these events. As a result we as fans can listen to the team's public statements and draw our own conclusions; that's what we're trying to do here. So without further ado here are a couple that we've broken down from the past week:
What to take from this:
- The team is more or less healthy and there are no major injuries. The most pressing injury is true freshman Arthur Goldberg's concussion from a simple numbers perspective The defensive line is thin already and this exacerbates the problem. Still, Goldberg was probably the 5th player in the rotation at best going into the season so his limited practice reps going into week one aren't disastrous by any means.
- Kyle Costigan, Dan Voltz, and Zac Matthias are all getting reps at right guard but the race is between Voltz and Costigan. Bielema described Matthias as needing to "get his weight in balance...and approach things with a little more urgency". I'm not sure that statement really means anything at all but best guess is he needs to get into game shape and give a more consistent effort in practice. If Voltz was moved to guard from center this late in camp it's clear the coaching staff sees value in having him on the field as much as possible. Barring major change the money is on the true freshmen to win the starting job here.
- Jared Abbrederis is going to return most kicks and punts this season. He is the best option on the team in these roles so it's doubtful coaches fail to use him extensively, especially in conference play.
- No matter what the depth chart says Jeff Duckworth will see the field plenty this season. Outside of Abbrederis he is the only player on the roster who knows all three WR positions; his knowledge and experience will compel the coaching staff to put him on the field frequently even if he isn't listed as a starter.
- Kicking sounds like a problem. Coach Bielema said he may well go with the "hot leg" for Northern Iowa which means neither kicker has shown enough consistency for the coaching staff to look past a bad day. Look for both to get reps in the opener on kickoff and placekicking before the coaching staff decides each player's role.
- James White will have a different role in 2012 than he's had in seasons past. Coaches insist they don't have a specific number of carries or game reps they want James White to receive which stems from an uncertainty relating to how he will be used. If 3 WRs can't provide consistent targets for the offense James White will be used as a slot back and/or out of the backfield to provide the needed threats on offense.
- Closing the press conference with "Derek Watt will be a phenomenal football player" was striking. What's to be determined is if this was meant as encouragement to Watt to continue to develop or a shot across the bow of Sherard Cadogan. Either way it sounds as though Watt could work his way into a starting role before the season is out. There is more on this from the 2nd video below.
What to take from this:
- Montee Ball is obviously the #1 tailback but James White is considered the 1-A back. Coach Hammock refers to him as having all the tools and technique of a starter. This is meant as a compliment to his skills but further implies the team will find a way to get him meaningful snaps in game.
- Melvin Gordon will largely determine the size fo his role on the team. He can force his was onto the field if his play dictates it. He will get playing time early in the year to prove his worth.
- Jeff Lewis is buried on the depth chart. Vonte Jackson has climbed past him into the 4th RB slot and doesn't have a role. Barring injuries or early departures he will have a tough time finding the field this season or next.
- This only reinforces the impression from the first video. Sherard Cadogan isn't ready or isn't adapting to fullback since making the move in the spring. Coach Hammock described the position as "developing" as a whole. This is a position that may become Watt's to lose over the course of the season. Look for the team to start non-conference primarily in 2 TE sets; as Watt learns the playbook as the season progresses he'll make his way onto the field.
Am I missing anything? Are the conclusions wrong? Let us know what you think!