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A new rule will allow Gary Andersen and his staff to meet with their players during the summer months.

Spend it wisely

By ZACH HEILPRIN
 
MADISON - The timing for the University of Wisconsin couldn’t have been any better. A year after fielding a team stocked with veterans the Badgers head into the 2014 season with plenty of talented but unproven players. And that makes the arrival of a new rule allowing coaches and players to have contact during the summer that much more valuable for Gary Andersen and his staff.
 
“They’re going to be able to get with their coaches. They’re going to understand the drills. You can’t go out and take a ball and throw it around but you can do what you did in the old times in January and February and spring conditioning time,” Andersen said Monday prior to his golf outing at Lake Wisconsin. “So there is drill work that can get done. It’s past running sprints. It’s past what the strength guys do. It is more intensive toward their position group, and their ability to learn is extreme on the field.”
 
The workouts are limited to eight hours per week over an eight-week period in June and July. Two of the eight hours can be spent breaking down film together, an aspect of the new rule that Andersen seemed to be the most excited about.
 
“Now (the coaches and players) can get into the meeting rooms, which is a huge advantage,” said Andersen, who is entering his second season at Wisconsin. “Our coaches have done voiceovers for years and basically they are having a meeting on the video screen. But now your ability to interact with a human instead of a screen is much, much better, so they should be ahead of the game. They’re expected to be ahead of the game. They understand that. That is their role.”
 
The sessions should be especially valuable for the incoming freshmen. In past years they wouldn’t be able to spend time with their position coaches until fall camp opened in August. That all changes and could be significant at certain spots where the coaches are counting on young players to come in and contribute.
 
“I think it’s a huge advantage,” offensive line coach T.J. Woods said on Monday. “It’s something that I look forward to taking advantage of. I think the biggest thing for an offensive lineman is the ability of a freshman to really truly have a chance when they come in. Usually, how it’s been in the past, you don’t visit with them all summer and then you really have two weeks (during camp) to try and see what they can do and how much they can absorb. The multitude of schemes, the diversity of schemes we have, it’s almost too much at times.
 
“I think having an eight week period where you get two hours a week, you’re able to grind those young kids and at least give them the building blocks, the foundation, all the language that we have, all of our plays, all of that stuff, all the techniques.
 
“We should be able to pretty thoroughly go through most of that stuff throughout the summer, so I think that’s where you’ll see a big jump.”
 
Getting the scheme down is usually one of the determining factors in whether a true freshman or first-year player can have a significant role. It was something that held quarterback Tanner McEvoy back from having a realistic shot at winning the starting job last August. If he had the ability to talk with offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig in the middle of the summer his head may not have been spinning so much when the Badgers hit the turf for fall camp.
 
“I think it’s good from a strategic standpoint,” tight ends coach Jeff Genyk said, “ensuring the kids continue to grow and develop in the offense, because our offense is very sophisticated, especially if you’re a young player. I think the bonus is there.”
 
It is there but the coaching staff is also wary of putting too much on the players and overwhelming them. In previous years the summer provided an opportunity for leaders to step up and take on new responsibilities through player run practices. Those will continue and Andersen wants to make sure the sessions with the coaches are worthwhile.
 
“We are not going to make summer miserable,” Andersen said. “A lot of places, in my opinion, are making summer just miserable for the kids.
 
“Summer is important for the leaders (and) the team to be by themselves. They’re going to go take the field and play at some point. They’ve got to look each other in the eye when things are hard in conditioning or whatever they may be going through.  We’re going to allow that to continue to happen but we are going to use that couple of hours a week to help the old and the new progress.”
 
For Genyk it’s a fine line between getting your players coached up and wearing them out.
 
“What’s very important is you’re going to spend everyday with your players, virtually from August first until mid-January at the College Football Playoff,” he said. “So that is a long time. Therefore when you get together in August you want your players to be excited to see you and vice versa. So we’ll definitely get together and learn and grow and improve, but we want to be cognizant of not overdoing it.”
 
 
Listen to Zach Heilprin every weekday on “The Jump Around” at ESPNWisconsin.com, and follow him on Twitter: @zachheilprin

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