By TOM LEA
MADISON – Though he’s coached back-to-back Big Ten championship winning teams and continually develops his players, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema wasn’t willing to unveil his newest squad to the media when spring camp opened late last month.
He knows the 2012 Badgers are limited at the quarterback position (right now) and that there are six new assistant coaches trying to implement some sort of cohesion amongst each other. Letting the media in right away would have made it easy for all the obvious problems and shortcomings to be exaggerated.
That’s why the first four practices of spring drills have been closed off to those with a pad of paper and a pen.
“I wanted to see for myself,” Bielema, entering his seventh year as UW head coach, said. “I don’t like displaying things that aren’t proven first. I wanted to give our coaches and our players the ability to adjust these first four practices and see where we’re at.”
Because spring camp started rather late this year — Bielema’s wedding in mid March likely had something to do with that — the football team only managed to get four practices in before it took a week off for spring break.
Bielema said all four of those practices were scripted with the purpose of slowly installing all the new plays, terminology and verbiage without overloading the returning players.
“They were scripted out before we ever did a day of practice,” Bielema said. “We tweaked a little bit, but for the most part they were set. We had to get accomplished what we wanted to do. I’ve been blown away by the way our kids have executed.”
The next practice won’t happen until April 10. From there, UW will engage in 10 practices — most of which will be open to the media — before ultimately ending spring camp with the spring game set for April 28. Being as excited about the progress his team was making prior to spring break, Bielema anticipates moving forward at a brisk pace once the team reconvenes.
“I’ve been amazed at the way they (the players) have handled it,” Bielema said. “To move forward we’ll probably accelerate things a little bit more than we had planned to do just because the kids have grasped it and done very, very well.”
There’s also a chance some of Bielema’s key players — Jared Abbrederis, Chris Borland, Devin Smith and Jacob Pedersen — will be able to return to practice after not having practiced much, if at all, during the first four practices of spring drills.
“They are some guys that have played some good football for us,” Bielema said. “If they’re not yet quite ready I said let’s just wait on them until after the two weeks of camp and then the week of spring break. That gives them three more weeks of healing and hopefully gets them back out there.”
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