December 17, 2008

Developmental practices key for scout players

MADISON, Wis. - During any given play on the football field there are typically 11 players on the field for each team. That is both an obvious and simple statement, but considering the Wisconsin football team has more than 100 players listed on its roster, many players have an impact that is not seen on the main stage.

Usually, those players are stuck on scout team units, simulating the preferences and players from the upcoming opponent behind closed doors during practice. However, every winter the Badgers make a bowl game, the scouts get to actually play Wisconsin football during developmental practices.

"It's real fun because what we saw the older guys do all year, the scrimmages and stuff where we would kind of sit out and just watch them, and now it's kind of our turn," UW freshman defensive tackle Eriks Briedis said. "It fires us up, just being there and competing. Besides the tackling, it's pretty much like a game situation."

Those practices also provide a platform for some of the teams up and coming stars to display their talents to the coaching staff on a level that is not made available throughout the regular season, particularly among units that will have several openings like the current defensive line.

"For me, practices have been games all year and developmental practices are really like games because we get to go in kind of a scrimmage format," sophomore J.J. Watt, and recently named defensive scout player of the year, said. "We get to go all out and it's a showcase to the coaches cause all year they've been watching the first teamers and now they're watching us.

"I got to show them what I've been working on all year."

For freshman Anthony Mains, work on his pass rushing capabilities knowing full well the departure of senior Matt Shaughnessy will open a slot in the end rotation for a number of younger Badger players to compete for, has been his main focus.

"It's been real good," Mains said. "I've shown the coaches I can come off the edge…From camp to now, I feel like I've definitely progressed a lot getting down the speed of the game and everything."

Along with Shaughnessy, both defensive tackles Mike Newkirk and Jason Chapman will exhaust their eligibility, leaving multiple voids on the Badger defensive front. Assuming Watt continues to develop as he did throughout the fall, he will likely put himself in a position to take one of the tackle positions.

However, even with him potentially earning that starting spot, veteran players such as Jeff Stehle, and Patrick Butrym will be back and competing with another year of experience. That development would likely leave several of the other guys such as Briedis, who has added over 20 pounds to his frame through the UW strength and conditioning program since he arrived on campus, Jasper Grimes, Dan Cascone and Jordan Hein vying for a spot in the rotation.

"It's not set in stone or anything," Briedis said. "That's why I'm looking forward to winter conditioning and spring ball because from what the coaches said, whoever works the hardest and gets better and gives us the best shot to win, that will be who it will be."

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