Lucas at Large: Multiple voices rule UW special teams

2010-08-31T04:20:00Z 2010-09-01T02:08:30Z Lucas at Large: Multiple voices rule UW special teamsMike Lucas | The Capital Times | mlucas@madison.com madison.com

University of Wisconsin defensive line coach Charlie Partridge has his own thoughts on what makes a good special teams player.

"Someone who's accountable; someone who's willing to do what's best for the team without necessarily all of the glory,'' he said.

UW tight ends coach Joe Rudolph was asked what is the most important element  in doing a good job on special teams.

"Without question, it's attention to detail,'' Rudolph cited.

Both have more of an investment in special teams this season, especially the kickoff units. Partridge is handling kickoff cover, and Rudolph is taking over kickoff return.  Last spring, UW head coach Bret Bielema opted to delegate some of the responsiblities.

So in addition to Rudolph and Partridge (who has been involved with the punters and kickers for a couple of seasons), secondary coach Chris Ash (punt return) has also been drawn into the mix.

UW assistant Greg Jackson, meanwhile, will assist all of the speciality units. Of course, Bielema, who has heretofore been the primary caretaker of the special teams, will stay involved.

"You know the part that I've really enjoyed is four new minds working on one unit,'' Bielema said of Rudolph, Partridge, Ash and Jackson. "It kind of brings a fresh approach to the kids.''

What about the inherent logistical concerns of having position coaches spreading themselves too thin? On punt and punt return, Bielema said, "Chris and Charlie will be coaching (the defense) and those (special team players) will come to me ...

"And we'll either decide before the game on what we're going to do. Or I'll just check with them (Partridge and/or Ash) on third down, 'Hey, what are we going to do here, what's the call?' And then I'll relay it to the kids to take out on the field.''

Wisconsin's return units have swing between lousy and a Charles Barkley terrrrrrrrrible. Last season, the Badgers ranked No. 106 in kickoff returns (106 out of 120 FBS schools). That was improvement.

So what is Rudolph looking to bring to the equation?

"We need guys who are accountable to their techniques and responsibilities,'' he said. "You want consistency. You want the kids to be able to look at the film and say, 'I did this right. Or I can see what I did wrong on this kickoff return.'

Does it all come down to the kickoff returner?

"That has something to do with it,'' Rudolph allowed. "If there's a belief in the returner from everyone on the unit there's a little more excitement to be a part of it. But it's also about consistency upfront. And the returner has to believe in them (his blockers on the front row). If one person breaks down, it can look ugly at times.''

Conversely, what's essential to covering kickoffs?

"You have to have someone who certainly has speed, someone who can cover ground,'' Partridge said. "If we get a good kick when the ball is caught we should be beyond or at the 35-yard-line at worst. So you have to have guys who can flat-out cover that ground.

"Then it becomes a matter of vision so they can work to where the ballcarrier is. They also need the ability to defeat blocks and still gain ground in the process of doing so. It's a combination of things.''

Momentum, however fleeting, is always hanging in the balance. "If you can keep them pinned inside the 25 on a consistent basis, you're going to help our defense,'' Partridge said.

And he added, "You're going to help us win as a team.''

Special teams could use a few victories.

 

 

 

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