Wisconsin kicked off spring practice late last week, but with most of the team's media corps in Boston for the NCAA basketball tournament, head coach Bret Bielema held a news conference Monday during which he touched on several topics.
He addressed the team's personnel makeup, which I posted about last week after Wisconsin released its spring roster. The Badgers have only nine players classified as seniors, and only one true senior in running back Montee Ball. Wisconsin signed only 12 players in February, five fewer than any other Big Ten team, and might only sign nine to 10 players in the 2013 class. Despite limited recruiting opportunities, Bielema remains optimistic about the team's future, particularly in 2013.
"Next year we have a chance to be a very, very good football team," he said. "... Our two-year forecast is pretty exceptional."
Other nuggets from the Badgers' head coach:
The outlook seems to be a bit brighter for quarterback Jon Budmayr, who has been dealing with nerve issues in his throwing elbow since last summer. Bielema said Budmayr received some good news about what could be causing the elbow trouble. Budmayr is at the Mayo Clinic this week getting further evaluation.
Cornerback Devin Smith, who missed most of last season with a foot injury, is close to returning to practice. Wide receiver Jared Abbrederis and tight end Jacob Pedersen also are making progress. All three are projected starters.
Wisconsin needs more help at wide receiver after losing Nick Toon to graduation, and it could get some from sophomore Marquis Mason. Bielema said Mason is making significant strides this spring after missing all of the 2011 season with a torn ACL suffered last spring.
Bielema praised early enrollee Dan Voltz, a 6-foot-4, 288-pound offensive lineman, and said another new arrival, running back Vonte Jackson, is up to 198 pounds despite recovering from ACL surgery.
Junior linebacker Chris Borland checks in at 250 pounds, 15 pounds more than his freshman year weight, but remains "as gifted as he's ever been," according to Bielema.