After enjoying a 66-day hiatus, the UW football team took the field for the first time since falling to Tennessee 21-17 in the 2008 Outback Bowl on New Year?s Day.
Although practice was held indoors in the McClain Center and the players wore no pads, everyone seemed excited to get back into the swing of things.
?[The first day] was great; it was a lot of fun,? said senior quarterback Allan Evridge. ?It?s fun getting back into it. It seems like we just finished up, but now when you start getting back on the field, you realize how long it?s been and how much you?ve missed it, so it?s been great getting back.?
Last season, Evridge began the spring looking to compete with Tyler Donovan for the starting spot under center. With Donovan graduating this semester, Evridge enters spring ball as the clear favorite to succeed Donovan as Wisconsin?s starting signal caller.
But despite his change in role, Evridge claims that his approach hasn?t changed from last spring.
?I don?t think that really changes anything,? Evridge said. ?My mental approach is the same as it was last year. I take every opportunity to be [getting reps]. That?s just the name of the game, especially at the quarterback position.?
With the regular season still months away, Evridge has one thing in mind: continue to improve.
His goal for the spring is the ?same as always,? Evridge continued. ?Get reps and improve and take one thing at a time and take advantage of everything. Right now our team?s trying to take advantage of every play, every snap, every series and every game. So I?m just trying to keep that mentality and keep pushing forward.?
Taking snaps alongside Evridge Saturday was freshman Curt Phillips, who graduated high school a semester early to join the Badgers. Phillips won the Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Tennessee as a senior and enjoyed his first day dressed in cardinal and white.
?I really enjoyed it,? said the Kingsport, Tenn., native. ?It?s definitely a big jump from high school, so I?ve been looking forward to getting in there and seeing what it was like.?
Phillips admitted that he was nervous, not having much time to go over the playbook.
?But coach Chryst helped me out and the other quarterbacks helped me out,? he added.
Even after only one day of practice, Phillips noticed a significant change in the pace of the game from high school ball.
?It?s definitely a lot faster,? Phillips said. ?I enjoy getting in here, getting used to the speed. That?s probably the biggest [difference], is the speed of the game.?
That, and the weather.
?It?s cold here,? Phillips joked. ?I?m from east Tennessee. It gets cold, but not like this. We probably get five to six inches of snow a year.?
Despite the substantial change in climate, Phillips is excited to be a Badger.
?Whenever I was looking (at schools), I wanted to find the best combination of academics and football, and here you can?t really beat the top-tier football program and top academics,? Phillips said. ?When I came and saw the atmosphere at Camp Randall, I thought it was pretty awesome.?
Catching passes from both Evridge and Phillips Saturday was sophomore Kyle Jefferson. Last season, Jefferson had seniors Luke Swan and Paul Hubbard to look up to and learn from. This season, Jefferson enters the spring as the mentor and UW?s No. 1 wideout, a responsibility he is willing to take on.
?I?ve just got to be a leader,? Jefferson said. ?I?ve got to do things right the first time. I?ve got to show my guys that I?m here every day working hard, so just follow behind me so we all can be great.
?It?s fun to be a leader to your group. It?s a big honor, especially being so young. To be able to be a leader to a group that?s much older, that?s been here longer than me, I feel honored.?