As one of the proud and shiny faces of Wisconsin athletics, football coach Bret Bielema needs to successfully juggle many roles.
First and foremost, he is a football coach who seems to be maturing and improving, and has a Big Ten title under his belt. His recruiting classes have grown in prestige almost every year. He is an excellent spokesperson for Chevy trucks — pick one up today — and he has continued the proud tradition of football coaches mangling the English language.*
Bielema on an injured player: “He has got a bit of a groin.”
But one role Bielema has yet to master is judging the public reaction to his less-than-conventional moves. He experienced this last season when he was accused on multiple occasions of running up the score against Minnesota and Indiana.
Now, in both situations the criticism was pretty weak. If you can’t stop Nate Tice from scoring on a naked bootleg you deserve to have the score run up all over you.
It wasn’t that Bielema made the wrong move, however; it was that Bielema seemed surprised that it was even an issue when Minnesota coach Tim Brewster and the media brought it up after the game.
And there is a good chance Bielema will be in for the same type of surprise after the spring football game Saturday.
(Editor’s Note: As all opinions of spring football must be legally prefaced, we must note here that spring football is a bare bones excuse for a complicated game and any results must be taken with a Rob Havenstein grain of salt.)
This season, Bielema decided to please both the fans and media alike by pitting the No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense in the spring scrimmage. The UW Nursing School will rejoice for the added revenue that comes with a scrimmage worth watching, while the fans will actually have a reason to go besides copious amounts of day drinking (though, c’mon, that should be reason enough).
Of course, the issue with pitting ones on ones — and why very few college coaches do it in the spring — is that someone is coming out as the loser. Both sides cannot shine, though if the game is full of mistakes, both offense and defense can manage to look meager.
And the bet here is it will be quarterback Jon Budmayr coming out with question marks next to his name.
The sophomore quarterback, who has had all the reps with the ones this spring as Curt Phillips is still recovering from a torn ACL, has looked anything but dominant in practices open to the media. The two issues that have plagued Budmayr’s reputation — sloppy turnovers and batted passes at the line — have been out in full force.
And with the quarterback position wide open, he will be under an even more powerful microscope during the game.
From the first interception or overthrown open receiver, the value Scott Tolzien provided last season will become all the more apparent. As one of the departing seniors told The Badger Herald sports crew: “They are going to miss that fucking guy like none other. He was the only player we could not afford to lose last year.”
Bielema should do Budmayr the favor of letting him throw against the likes of raw freshmen and sophomores rather than pitting him against Antonio Fenelus and Aaron Henry. Because if the practices this spring have been any type of precursor, one of those two will be embarrassing Budmayr come Saturday.
Scrimmaging the best against the best might be the best entertainment value, but it is not what is best for Bielema’s team. Someone, and likely Budmayr, will be hearing not-so-subtle doubts about his readiness for five months before the team meets again for fall camp.
The fans paying $5 to attend Camp Randall Saturday appreciate the gesture of what Bielema has done. The ones v. ones will make for a better game and more interesting analysis.
But Bielema really doesn’t need to help the entertainment value — the day drinking should be plenty.
Michael is a senior majoring in journalism. Think he is an idiot? You are not alone. Let him know at email@example.com.