Badgers excited to study playbook on new iPads

BY foxsports • August 2, 2013

MADISON, Wis. -- Heavy playbooks that stuffed binders to their gills are a thing of the past for Wisconsin's football program. In its place, sleekly designed iPads are providing players with a 21st century touch for their studies.

All 105 players on Wisconsin's roster received iPad playbooks Thursday upon arriving for the start of fall camp. Several instantly took to Twitter to express their delight, claiming athletic director Barry Alvarez had arranged for the iPads, and more applauded the decision during Friday's preseason media day.

"It saves you a lot of time," Badgers linebacker Ethan Armstrong said. "It goes with you everywhere. Anytime you have 20 minutes between a class or while you're eating lunch, whatever it is, you have an opportunity to watch film, review your playbook. It's a lot more convenient. And it's just a piece of technology that's going to change it all for us. It's just incredible."

Wisconsin is among a select few teams that will utilize a digital playbook at the college level. Last season, Stanford became the first college team to use a digital playbook when it partnered with PlayerLync, a Denver-based company that inputs digital playbook information on iPads. PlayerLync has worked with several NFL teams.

Other college teams to adopt iPad playbooks last season included Duke, Ohio State, Syracuse and Arizona State. Georgia added digital playbooks this season as well.

The advantages to having iPads as playbooks are numerous. For example, coaches can update a playbook instantly or erase the information if a player loses an iPad. Players also can watch practice or game footage anywhere, including the comfort of their own apartments.

"Part of a deterrent from going up and watching film is you've got to go up to the eighth floor," Badgers linebacker Chris Borland said. "Maybe you're in your house and you've got to make a trip. It will encourage guys to watch it right away, watch it right after their shower or in the cold tub, as long as they're careful. It'll be great for us. I think a lot of younger guys will probably get their eyes on film more often."

Badgers coach Gary Andersen called it a "big step" for the program.

"It opens up a lot of windows, communication on a day-to-day basis," he said. "For instance, right now, the camp schedule is sitting there. The young man opens up his iPad, and there it is. He doesn't have to worry about putting it in his locker or wherever it's going to be.

"The challenge, as I told the kids, as we move through this with these iPads, is if you practice on Tuesday and you come back at 6:30 in the morning for meetings, and you haven't sat down and watched your practice on your iPad and watched you personally and go back through that, then it's really a waste of money."

Help on the way? Andersen continued to stress the importance of finding a second wide receiver to complement Jared Abbrederis. And though no player wowed during spring practices, incoming freshman Rob Wheelwright could be in position to earn playing time right away.

"We've got to have somebody we feel good (about)," Andersen said. "I'm not going to say he's got to be able to stretch the defense and be this great route runner. He's got to do something down those lines. We want that, but in the end we've got to have a playmaker. We've got to have somebody on third and nine that's going to get nine yards and an inch if that's what it takes to get us the first down."

Wheelwright, one of the top wide receivers in the country out of Columbus, Ohio, recorded 48 receptions for 903 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior in high school.

During the offseason, Wheelwright was paired with junior Kenzel Doe as part of the team's Big Brother program, and the two have spent hours watching film together.

Wheelwright said Doe had already taught him the value of competing every day. And Wheelwright hoped to take advantage of his big-play capabilities.

Doe said he had been impressed with Wheelwright's work ethic.

"He will come out here every single day and do whatever he's got to do to get better," Doe said. "I definitely try to come out here each and every day to work my craft. And I'll go early in the morning. I'm like, 'Rob, I know you probably were sleeping.' He'll be like, 'No man, you text me and you let me know. He's like, 'I'm a younger guy. I want to be up there as a freshman.'

"It made me realize he wants to play, he wants to contribute. Going at 7-on-7, he's been looking real good and I really feel like he's going to be a big contributor this year."

Outside forces: Andersen said Brendan Kelly and Ethan Armstrong would serve as the team's outside linebackers in defensive coordinator Dave Aranda's 3-4 scheme. Armstrong will play the field side linebacker, known as the F-linebacker, while Kelly will play the B-linebacker spot.

Both players missed spring practice while recovering from injuries but are healthy now.

"They're going to ask me to do a little bit of everything," Armstrong said. "There's not one specific thing that you're going to be doing more of than the other. Maybe on the line of scrimmage a little bit more than I was last year. But I'll be out in space the same.

"I have a lot of experience doing all types of different techniques. I guess the biggest one would be I'll be on the line of scrimmage against tight ends and fullbacks a little bit more than I was last year."

Armstrong's F-linebacker position is a hybrid role between a regular outside linebacker and a safety in Aranda's scheme. Kelly's B-linebacker spot will be a hybrid between a defensive end and a linebacker.

"They're both built for that," Badgers linebacker Chris Borland said. "They're both smart and hard working so they're going to master it despite being out in the spring. I'm excited for that. I love playing next to those guys the past few years and this year should be special."

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