Photo via uwbadgers.com
MADISON - Ethan Armstrong will be 100-percent when he takes the field on Saturday against Massachusetts.
The University of Wisconsin linebacker missed all of spring practice while recovering from shoulder surgery – and in the offseason was moved from his inside linebacker spot to the outside in the Badgers 3-4 scheme. Tasked with getting up to speed in a new defense, it was going to be tight timing even if he had all of fall camp to get ready. When he lost nearly two weeks of practice time with a knee injury – things became even more uncertain. But the senior believes he’s ready for his final season opener at Camp Randall Stadium.
“I’m pretty comfortable,” Armstrong said this week. “I feel 100-percent with the defensive play-calls and the playbook. I definitely picked that up pretty fast. I’ve now had two weeks of practice to prepare for this game and I’m more than ready. I’m definitely just anxious to get out there.”
While he was out, Armstrong tried to stay involved. He took the new iPads the players were given everywhere he went, including to the training room while he was getting therapy.
“He’s one of the more detail oriented guys on our defense,” defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said after a recent practice. “He was always involved from a mental perspective on the sidelines when he was injured. So he knew the in’s and outs and what checks we should have made or did make. He was very involved in that way and that’s a credit to him.”
UW coach Gary Andersen has talked about how old his first team in Madison is – they are 23 seniors – and he’s made it clear they’ll scale back practice for the more experienced guys on the roster. That’s doubly true with Armstrong – who’s endured his share of injuries over his five years on campus.
“It’s just kind of making sure we’re not doing to much on it too fast,” Armstrong said of his most recent knee injury. “So they’d limit me in this practice or take a few plays off here. Just that type of thing. They kind of had me on a pitch count, more or less.
“But other than that, not really. It feels pretty good. After two weeks of practice and the start of the season you’re never going to be 100-percent but I’m feeling pretty good.”
For his part, Aranda hasn’t noticed any issues physically since he returned.
“When I think of Ethan Armstrong, I think of a tenacious guy,” Aranda said. “I think of a guy with a huge heart and a guy that is very instinctive and has great football smarts. That’s all there. The speed, the change of direction, there is nothing noticeable (missing). He’s going to be right in the fire of it, and I’m looking forward to seeing him go.”