Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Spring game photos: Quarterbacks

Curt Phillips looked perfectly comfortable running the first-string offense during the spring game. It certainly seemed that he had the unit in scoring position just about every time he stepped in under center. Speaking of which, he looked fine under center, after playing the spread in high school.

As advertised, Phillips showed some good wheels, this time running a bootleg left.

This would be a scene I'd like to see a lot in the next four years.

As mentioned Saturday, I liked what I saw from Dustin Sherer's new throwing motion. It made me cringe every time he threw the ball last year, but I think this motion will suit him well the more he gets comfortable with it. It's a higher release point, and has less of a hitch. He threw the one interception that was returned for a touchdown (while I was taking Will to the bathroom, didn't see it), but other than that looked good.

Phillips wasn't the only one who looked good running the bootleg. sherer was pretty good too.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Spring game photos

It's pretty clear that I'm not a professional photographer, and in all honesty that shot of Zach Brown in the end zone two days ago was as good as it got from my Saturday efforts. But here are some other ones I liked taken from my various vantage points in Camp Randall during the spring game.

Coach B leads the boys onto the field after halftime. Bret seems to have lost some weight, at least compared to the picture of him on the 2008 Wisconsin football wall calendar hanging in my office.

Kyle Jefferson seems to be a part of the offense again, which is nice. He had a promising true freshman season, but for a variety of reasons never really got it going last fall. If he develops to complement Nick Toon, with David Gilreath and Isaac Anderson chipping in, wide receiver could be a strong spot for us.

Looks like we'll be using that punt-protection formation where three guys line up behind the line of scrimmage. Seems like a lot of people are using that nowadays, but all I know is that when teams started using it a few years ago, a helluva lot more punts started getting blocked.

The White team had a hard time tackling John Clay. Here's hoping the same goes for Badger opponents this fall.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Spring game thoughts

Made it to the spring game today, and was glad I did. It was the first one I've been to in 11 years, if memory serves, and it's always great to watch live football in April.

Hard to tell too much, because a. It's the spring game, a glorified scrimmage, and b. I had Will with me, and if you've met him, he's a handful. We had a great time.

Overall, I was pleased with how efficiently the first team offense played. Granted, playing against third- and fourth-stringers they should put up good numbers, but for some reason it seems that the first string never looks that sharp in this contest. They looked as good as could be expected today.

No defensive players really stood out, although it's tough to judge the pass rush because plays were whistled dead before sacks could be finalized. In the secondary, Chris Maragos and Devin Smith both made nice plays on the ball, and Aaron Henry seemed to be moving around well.

At quarterback, Dustin Sherer was solid. It was clear his throwing motion has been improved (photos forthcoming), but he doesn't look entirely comfortable with it. Curt Phillips got in and made some plays, and while his arm wasn't as weak as I feared, it wasn't that bad. Scott Tolzien showed some shaky mechanics, throwing off his back foot. Jon Budmayr didn't look overwhelmed, but didn't create much; both he and Tolzien were probably held back by playing with the deep reserves.

As could be expected, the tight ends got themselves open and were a big part of the offense. Lance Kendricks had a nice touchdown catch, as did Garrett Graham. Mickey Turner did a lot of motioning into a fullback spot.

John Clay ran well, shedding tacklers left and right. Zach Brown ran hard inside. But Erik Smith was the biggest revelation. He showed nice lateral movement, in particular a nice jump cut, and some separation speed. He could play some this fall.

Notables seen in passing: Keaton Nankivil, Cecil Martin, UW band tuba legend Zack Dachel, and hockey/online video guru Todd Milewski.

Today did little to alleviate my main concerns heading into the 2009 season -- pass rush, defensive tackle, linebacker depth, offensive line newcomers -- but I didn't expect it to. It's fun to see all the new guys who get a shot to make a name for themselves as Badgers, and we'll be pulling for them all this fall.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Going to the spring game

After much deliberation, I've decided to take Will to the spring game. The deciding factors:

-Want to see Nick Toon
-Want to see Curt Phillips and Jon Budmayr
-Want to see J.J. Watt
-Want to see Aaron Henry
-Want Will to take part in the kids' day fun taking place before the game.

Looks like decent to nice weather, hopefully I'll get some good shots and info for a solid report.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Will he run the Swing?

In case you missed it, Bo Ryan has been named to coach the U.S. team in the 2009 World University Games. Our boys will be competing in Serbia this summer.

Obviously, this is a great opportunity for Bo and the program. To have your coach acknowledged as one of the best in the country and one equipped to lead its national team is quite an honor. Every time there's a story written about the U.S. team, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan will be quoted.

What I'm most interested in is seeing what style of offense Bo uses with this bunch. Defense -- no problem, we'll just play it really well. But will he run the Swing?

My guess is no. Not because the Swing wouldn't be a good fit for some of our country's top players, but because it probably takes awhile to learn it well enough to be proficient at it. So Bo will probably use a more conventional offense that can be installed more quickly.

Then again, if nothing else Bo has proven to be stubborn in his style, so maybe we'll see how Stephen Curry would fare in the Swing. Hopefully some of the games will be televised, I'd really like to see how it plays out.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Q&A with Bret

Read that Bret Bielema will be answering questions from UW students at Grainger Hall tomorrow night. Shrewd move -- you're under a some heat, so get out in front of your constituency and let them ask you the tough questions.

My hope is that kids take the opportunity to show up and ask Coach B tough, but not stupid, questions. If any UW students out there are reading this and are looking for questions to ask, how about:

-Are you concerned about player development?

-Are you concerned that Minnesota appears to be making tentative inroads recruiting in Wisconsin, or at the very least protecting its borders better than in the past?

-Tell us about your non-conference scheduling philosophy.

-What has been your biggest mistake as head coach?

-Why did you fire Mike Hankwitz? Do you regret it?

-Why not allow members of the media access to practice on a more regular basis?

-Do you see us getting back to recruiting New Jersey on a more regular basis?

-What do you think of Facebook, Twitter, etc., in terms of recruiting, monitoring your players, etc.?

Please, please don't ask dumb questions pertaining to drinking, Cal Poly, 1-and-0, Notre Dame, his Hawkeye tattoo, Charissa Thompson, or Erin Andrews. OK, maybe Charissa and Erin questions are acceptable.

This is a nice opportunity for a true fan, take advantage of it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Should I go to the spring game?

This Saturday the Badgers will play their annual spring game, and I'm not sure whether or not to attend. On one hand, it's going to be a long time before we get to see these guys again -- family day in August. On the other hand, I haven't been to a spring game in over 10 years and don't feel like I've been missing out.

On one hand, the Big Ten Network is going to be televising some of it. On the other hand, why pass up a perfectly good reason to be in Madison on a spring day? Especially when, for the first time since 2001, I'll be missing Crazylegs this year. But on that same hand, the weather could be miserable.
I'm out of hands ... what do you think? Are you going, and why or why not?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Clap your hands

Charlie, who turned 11 months old on Wednesday, reached an important milestone this evening: clapping for our favorite team.

Today it was the Brewers, who came back and beat the loathed Cubs. When Rickie Weeks tied the game with a double over clueless left fielder Alfonso Soriano, I clapped and let out a muffled "Yeah" (Jana was napping). I looked over at Charlie, making a mess of himself with dinner, and for the first time I saw him clapping, beaming with an ear-to-ear smile. What a moment!

When the Brewers won a few minutes later we clapped again.

Thus far Will hasn't had the patience to sit through entire Badger games with me, but he's been getting lately. As a father with an interest with sports, you desperately want your sons to share your passion on some level. If it doesn't turn out that way, so be it, we'll find some other way to have fun together. But I so want the boys to Jump Around, sing Varsity with me ... do the ES-FU chant. Maybe not that last one.

Today was a tiny glimpse of that happening.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


In college, if either Burch (far right, goatee, funny hat) or I had a dream that we remembered into breakfast time the next morning, we made sure to tell each other so there was some kind of record of it. So it was with great pleasure that I read the following email from my good friend, recounting a Badger-related dream.

This will probably only be enjoyable to those of you who know the parties involved ... then again, that's like half my readership!

Hey dudes,

I had to get this dream down on paper and share it with you guys. In the dream, the 3 of us are watching the Badgers play in the NIT championship game. We're sitting in the front row, but the game is being played in a high school gym-like setting. Fast-forward to the final minute of the game: the Badgers are down by one (can't remember who they are playing) and we're seriously nervous. A Badger player is fouled and goes to the line. As the 3 of us discuss end of the game strategies, I glance over at the player on the line and it's Schwalbach. He's wearing his old Badger middle school uniform. So as we discuss strategy, the elder Schwalbach (sitting next to us) is critiquing the younger Schwalbach at the free throw line. Here's a vivid version of the exchange:

Tappa: "I'm nervous. Schwalbach has problems with his hands."
Schwalbach: "I have carpal tunnel syndrome, so free throws are not my strong suit."
[Young Schwalbach shoots free throw. Picture two clenched fists held together with a basketball balancing on them -- that's his form. He does this odd-looking push shot that makes it halfway to the basket and rolls out-of-bounds (similar to Koebel's pathetic free throw attempt captured on video during the St. John's tourney). The second shot is a line drive that hits the bottom of the rim and goes straight down, again landing out-of-bounds. Badger fans let out a collective groan.]

Burch: "Gosh I feel sorry for him".
Schwalbach: "Me too".
Tappa: (face buried in his hands, he's irate) "God! Come on Schwalbach!"

The Badgers eventually go on to win the game and we storm the court, moshing with the rest of the team as "Jump Around" blares over the PA system (strangely it's only us celebrating with the team -- no one else stormed the court).

Reflecting on the dream, in particular Schwalbach's shooting style/horrible FT attempts and Tappa's reaction to the mildly-handicapped younger Schwalbach, still have me laughing and it's almost 3 in the afternoon.

Hope all is well with you guys .... NIT champs baby!


Several thoughts:

-If you've never seen "Koebel's pathetic free throw attempt" referenced by Burch, please try to. We're in eighth grade playing in a tournament in a typical middle school gym, and John Koebel, aka Chez Whitey, shoots a free throw so horrible it goes about 5-6 feet right of the rim and out the door, into the hallway! Has to be seen to be believed.

-I've seen Schwalbach shoot free throws before, using a clenched-fist style might be an improvement.

-On the flag football field, Schwib's hands were his strong suit. Unfortunately, as a lineman, he was prohibited from using them aside from the sneak point-after attempt.

-Another way this dream was not grounded in reality -- the Badgers don't play in the NIT anymore.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Tony Bennett

Did you see that Tony Bennett was hired as Virginia's head coach? My first thought on that was that it's surprising he did not pursue or take, depending on reports, offers to coach Indiana and Marquette last year when those jobs were open and he was a hotter commodity.

Virginia is clearly a better job than Marquette, and while less prestigious than Indiana there's less baggage accompanying the job. They have a new arena on the way and play in the ACC.

Sounds like the people at Washington State were stunned that he left. Not sure why. He had two outstanding years followed by a so-so year. As good a coach as Tony is, it's not a given that he would have gotten the Cougars back to the level they reached in his first two years. His stock is as high as it's going to be for awhile, so taking the opportunity to coach in the ACC makes a lot of sense.

My friends were discussing what this meant to Bennett's chances of succeeding Bo Ryan in Madison. I don't think it means much, unless he a. Succeeds spectacularly or b. Fails miserably. Both are possibilities, but the greater likelihood is that he'll have a fair amount of success that qualifies him, as a home state boy, to be the next guy in charge at Wisconsin.
Bo could do like Dick Bennett did with Brad Soderberg and position Greg Gard or Gary Close to be the next coach, but just as Pat Richter dismissed Sodes to take Bo, I can't see Barry Alvarez just rubber stamping Bo's preferred choice.
Best of luck to Tony in Charlottesville.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

North Dakota State in 2010?

I might have something of a scoop on future Badger football scheduling. Currently in 2010 we have two open dates, September 11 and 25, to go along with non-conference games against UNLV and Arizona State.

Yesterday at Pick 'n Save in Waupaca, while enjoying my Saturday morning routine of muffins and coffee with Will and Charlie, I was talking with my friend John, a fellow Badger nut. John told me that Brock Jensen, who quarterbacked Waupaca to a state football championship last fall, is headed to North Dakota State to play his college ball.

Apparently NDSU has told Brock that they will be playing Wisconsin soon, presumably to show him that they would be playing in his home state and he could have friends and family down to watch.

Looking at NDSU's schedule, they have September 25 open next year.

Before sighing and complaining about another I-AA opponent on the schedule, remember that the Bison beat Minnesota in 2007, and its basketball team, now coached by Bo Ryan protege Saul Phillips, beat Wisconsin at the Kohl Center in 2006.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The worst Final Four ever

From my living room, this Final Four is unfolding as a worst-case scenario. In the first game you have Little Tom Izzo stomping and yelling and flailing his team into the finals. In the second game you have the Yankees/Microsoft beating Villanova in their drama-free march toward the inevitable.

This sucks. It's the worst Final Four since 1993, when Michigan played Carolina in another nobody wins championship. At least Chris Webber came out of that one a massive goat.

The thing about Michigan State is that, aside from Suton, none of their guys bug me. And Suton doesn't even come close to bugging me as much as Drew Neitzel did. So really it's all about Izzo.

If State can use its formula of having its opponent shoot horribly and play their worst game of the year, like Louisville and UConn did, they've got a shot.

So do I pull for Huckleberry Hound and Psycho T to beat the Little Toms? Or do we suck it up, mutter something about Big Ten pride, and pull for State?

I'll sleep on it.

Two other things:

-At least the Big East, the Greatest Conference In The History Of College Sports, will not have a champion.

-Clark Kellogg makes me miss Billy Packer, bad.

-Here's a drinking game for Monday night: every time a talking head makes a reference to Michigan's tough times, unemployment rate, Magic Johnson, the auto industry, Kid Rock, Eminem, or Kalin Lucas being from Sterling Heights, do a shot. You'll be three sheets to the wind before tipoff.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Duany Duany Duany Duany Duany Duany ...

Remember Duany Duany? Of course you do -- it seemed like he was in Madison for about 10 years, including the 2000 Final Four year.

And yet, this is his first mention on Badgercentric.

Why? NPR ran a story on him earlier this week. The story has holes in it, but the gist of it is that Duany and his brother Kueth are tryin to steer kids from the Sudan to the U.S. in hopes of landing basketball scholarships. Mostly big kids, really big kids.

Hey Doc, how about steering some of those kids to Madison?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tweetin' Brew

The other day our good friend Erik Olson, aka EAEO, alerted me to Tim Brewster's Twitter feed.

Lots of good stuff here. Take this, from March 25:

It is a great day to be a Minnesota Golden Gopher!! Practice film #1 showed excellent effort. Defense was flying around. GO GOPHERS!!

OK dude, let's be honest: March 25 wasn't a great day to be anyone in the Midwest. I don't remember exactly what that day was like for me, but odds are it was cold and raining and unemployment was reaching recent record levels somewhere around here. Apparently the best way to overcome this and force a positive attitude on yourself and those around you involves two steps:

-Turn on your Caps Lock
-Hit Shift-1 for the exclamation point early and often

Here's my second-favorite nugget:

Vince Vaughn is a big Gopher football fan!!

Brew's so money, and apparently he knows it!

Then again, at least Brew's offering something. Check out our Coach B's page.

Umm, come on coach, say something! You don't want to lose the Border Twitter Battle! Tell 'em about how Fonzie and Andy North love the Badgers! Remember to use lots of capital letters and exclamation points!
It will be interesting to see if Twitter takes hold as a widely popular means of communication on par with Facebook. I signed up a couple years ago, forgot about it, then started Tweeting again because some of our groups at work are trying it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Badgers to forfeit Cal Poly win

According to a Cap Times story by our good friend Jim, the Badgers will have to forfeit their overtime win over Cal Poly from last season. The reason? Illegal goalposts. Must be why their kicker missed all those extra points.

Are you kidding me?


My gosh, could things get any worse?

Jim did some great reporting, and even better writing, on this one. Make sure you read all the way to the end.