Wisconsin spring football Q&A: Pace of play on offense, the return of lineman Michael Furtney and impact of Jake Renfro among topics discussed

MADISON - With one spring practice in the books, it is already clear that the University of Wisconsin football team is going to test the conditioning of its opponents with the up-tempo, spread attack that new offensive coordinator Phil Longo is installing.

Key to that will be the conditioning of the Badgers offensive linemen.

The biggest UW players got a taste of what that will feel like Saturday during the team's first spring practice. How did that increased pace feel?

That was one of the questions answered during a Monday interview session that included offensive line coach Jack Bicknell, guard Michael Furtney, Cincinnati transfer and center Jake Renfro, and tackles Trey Wedig, Riley Mahlman and Jack Nelson.

Here are selected comments from the interview sessions:

Jack (Bicknell), what has impressed you about the players so far?

Bicknell: The run blocking, the technique, how these guys do it. I think they’re way further along than some other places I’ve been. They’ve obviously been well coached prior to this. … I would say that’s really impressed me and the character of the group and the toughness of the group and all those things. When we go (meet with) the academic people, it’s boring. We’re all good every single week. That all corelates, believe me. The guys just take care of their business. The first day I was there I said let’s make this like an NFL O-line. Let me coach it like that, which means you guys are going to come ready to play. You’re all grown men which means I don’t have to chase you to turn in a paper or something. Let’s just act like the NFL and let’s act like grown men and I think they’ve embraced that and it’s been really positive.

Jack, what does Jake Renfro bring on and off the field?

Bicknell: He’s another guy who has been there before. It’s amazing. There is a certain edge to the guys who have been out there and played a substantial amount and then you’ve got the young guys figuring that out. …. Jake has been there before. He’s a veteran guy, so he approaches the game that way. I always say let’s be a pro, let’s approach it that way. Those NFL guys, they are so obsessed with it and I think that is what Jake brings.

Offensive lineman Michael Furtney (74) changed his mind about a possible transfer and is instead preparing for another season with Wisconsin.
Offensive lineman Michael Furtney (74) changed his mind about a possible transfer and is instead preparing for another season with Wisconsin.

Mike, what did the coaches tell you that made you change your mind about wanting to transfer?

Furtney: If I had a chalk board and I wrote down all the things I’d want in a new staff and new O-line coach, at times it got weird how they’d say things word for word how I’d word it. They brought everything to the table that I wanted and I was like if I get to be with all these guys I really care about, get to be in a city I love, rep the motion W still and I get to play for a staff that represents everything that I want, it’s really no brainer. I couldn’t get my name out (of the transfer portal) quick enough.

Jake, what steps have you taken as one of the new linemen to establish relationships and rapport with those who were here before?

Renfro: It was definitely a little difficult coming in seeing all these guys who have played a lot of football here, it's such a great offensive line university. But I really tried to make my voice heard. I tried to establish that leadership and let the guys know that I'm here to play. We're here to win a championship and we're going to do that this year.

Trey, what is the challenge of adjusting to the speed and tempo of the offense for a lineman?

Wedig: I think it’s a fun change. In high school we ran a little hurry up, so I’ve got my toes a little wet with the hurry up. When hurry is going, it’s going, so we’ve got to sneak in a little extra conditioning whenever we can at the end of plays. Once we’re in shape for it, we’ll (be) doing real good then.

Jack, when you’re going through the changes on the offense, wider splits, a different alignment up front, what are some of the pros and cons that you’ve found as you’ve been studying it and looking through it?

Nelson: I think it’s early to determine specific things like that, but I do know the one big change is the tempo, getting the plays out, getting set, no huddle. We’ve already seen it with some of the OTAs, the first practice, how the defense starts to struggle with that. That fast pace, that go, go, go is really starting to work toward our benefit.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin football Q&A with assistant Jack Bicknell and offensive line