Football kicks off spring season

first_imgSenior Dustin Sherer, who started six games last year for Wisconsin, competing for the starting position this spring.With a little more than five months remaining before the season’s first game, the University of Wisconsin football team kicked off its spring season Tuesday with an afternoon practice at the McClain Facility.After a disappointing finish to the 2008 season at the hands of Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl, head coach Bret Bielema and the Badgers are eager to put last season behind them and look ahead to the 2009 campaign.“I’m very excited to start spring ball,” Bielema said. “We went through seven weeks of pretty aggressive winter conditioning and made some changes on how we approach that. During that time I was also able to sit down with 90 plus players and … they’re excited about the challenges and what they have in front of them.”One challenge Wisconsin will face during the spring season is attempting to replace running back P.J. Hill following his decision to declare for the 2009 NFL draft.Fortunately for the Badgers, sophomore John Clay improved steadily as the season went along in 2008, rushing for 884 yards and nine touchdowns on 155 carries. Although Clay struggled for UW in the bowl game, he showed signs near the end of the season — three games of 100 or more rushing yards over the Badgers’ last five — that he had the ability to take over the starting duties for Wisconsin.“As the season went along, we kept trying to give [Clay] more and more responsibilities,” Bielema said. “At certain points during the year he really embraced them and was able to step forward.”There are a few aspects of Clay’s game, however, that Bielema believes the player must continue to improve to earn the starting spot with ball security and knowledge of the playbook among the most important.“From a coaching standpoint, he needs to know the entire playbook,” Bielema said. “He needs to know every play and what his assignment is. We just can’t put him in on certain plays that we want to execute from an offensive point of view.”In addition to Clay, junior Zach Brown and freshman Erik Smith should see plenty of time in the backfield throughout the spring season, including in the April 18 spring game.Bielema holding players accountableIn an effort to improve the accountability of players, Bielema is making some changes that are less football-related and have a greater focus on the organizational aspect of the program.Bielema has encouraged his athletes to do a better job managing their time to avoid a similar situation to the one that kept defensive back Mario Goins from being eligible for the bowl game and has led to his subsequent suspension from the team.“Probably the first thing I talked about when we came back in January was just being on time, holding yourself accountable and doing things right,” Bielema said. “I’ve seen a big jump in the way that they’ve approached things, and hopefully that’s going to carry over into good football now too.”Because of the nature of the academic programs at UW, Bielema knows his players need to put forth as much effort in the classroom as they do on the field to ensure they’re eligibility to play for the Badgers.“We had … a couple players ruled academically ineligible for the bowl game and a lot of that might’ve been directly carried over to class attendance,” Bielema said. “Thankfully, anything that we’ve gotten (this semester) report-wise from the academic world has been outstanding as far as guys’ class attendance.”From the infirmaryWhile the Badgers returned to the field Tuesday for the first time since a Dec. 29 bowl loss, several players were unable to practice due to injury. Some of the players will miss the entire spring season, while some have a chance to return before the end of spring practice.According to Bielema, four players — defensive back Kevin Claxton, running back Bradie Ewing, wide receiver Daven Jones and defensive lineman Tyler Westphal — will miss the spring season entirely due to surgery.“Two players have had surgeries with a chance to return,” Bielema said. “Maurice Moore probably has the slightest chance to return, but Jay Valai had surgery almost seven weeks ago, (and) we expect him to be back on the early part of next week hopefully if everything goes through with where we expect it to be at the end of the week.”Early departuresIn addition to Hill’s decision to leave for a shot at the NFL, four former UW players, including linebacker Elijah Hodge, have decided to pursue their options elsewhere, according to Bielema.Kicker Matt Fischer, however, has left the program to follow an academic goal, rather than for football-related reasons.“He just received a scholarship offer to pursue a degree that he really wanted to, I believe at Cornell,” Bielema said.last_img read more

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Crunching the numbers of Malachi Richardson’s impressive responses to low-scoring 1st halves

first_imgMalachi Richardson’s last touch of the first half resulted in him lying on his back under Syracuse’s basket. Twenty-five seconds remained and Georgia Tech pushed the other way. An attempt to split two defenders and maneuver into the lane turned into a stumble, fall and forgettable end to the freshman’s scoreless opening frame.After the game, when Richardson had 13 points to his name after guiding Syracuse to a narrow win, Jim Boeheim wasn’t surprised. It’s happened before, three or four times the head coach estimated, when Richardson has wiped a rocky first-half slate clean with a breakout latter 20 minutes.Eleven times this season the freshman has scored three or fewer points in the first half. Eight of those games, Richardson has rebounded with double-digit scoring outputs in the second frame. In seven of those eight, Syracuse has won. Richardson may not be the consistent point producer that Michael Gbinije is (he’s only scored three or fewer points in the first half once), but the freshman has proven to bounce back from low-scoring starts better than every other teammate who falls under this criteria:-Score three or fewer points in the first half, which will be considered a “low-scoring start” for all intents and purposes–Have a “low-scoring start” in at least a fifth of Syracuse’s games–Play a minimum of 16 minutes per contestIn turn, Richardson has given the Orange a reliable scoring outlet down the stretch of games even when he’s anything but early on. It’s part of the identity he’s developed as a natural scorer, with little alternative to emerge from an in-game slump other than to keep attacking.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“He’s going to keep shooting and playing,” Boeheim said. “That’s what he’s going to do.”For perspective on how Richardson sizes up to his teammates in responding to “low-scoring first halves,” here’s a look at each Syracuse player who fits the criteria mentioned above (excluding Gbinije due to low sample size).The only game SU didn’t win when Richardson followed the trend was against St. John’s, when his 15 points, in his mind, were nowhere near enough to compensate for a 4-of-20 shooting day from the field. Isolated in a corner of Syracuse’s locker room at Madison Square Garden, Richardson spoke softly and said it was the first game he’d ever shot that badly from 3 – a paltry 0-of-11 mark with five misses in the first and six in the second.Despite an abysmal shooting performance, he was still able to get to the foul line for eight attempts in the second half. And in the eight games he’s responded with double digits after “low-scoring first halves,” Richardson has taken a combined 44 second-half free throws, which equates to almost three trips to the line in the second half of each game.“That’s what he’s been more focused on,” his close friend Rob Hines said. “When he’s not shooting the ball well in the first half, coming in the second half and just getting in the paint and just making plays that way.”In Syracuse’s win over Texas A&M that bumped the Orange to 6-0 and No. 14 in the country, Richardson went 1-of-5 from the field with a lone 3 to account for a trio of first-half points.In the second frame, he scored 13, getting to the foul line four times and making all six foul shots.“It’s two halves,” Richardson said after the game. “It’s always more.”For Syracuse, the second chunk of conference play has helped resuscitate a team. For Richardson, the second half of games has often helped resuscitate a player.After the win against Georgia Tech, Boeheim was asked if it’s not maturity, how is Richardson able to adjust after flat first halves. He cut off the question, with an answer as cut and dry as the reason behind it.“He’s done it all year,” Boeheim said. “He’s a scorer. He’s not going to lose his confidence.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on February 1, 2016 at 11:22 pm Contact Matt: mcschnei@syr.edu | @matt_schneidmanlast_img read more

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