After a two-week hiatus for spring break, the Wisconsin football team resumed spring practice with its sixth workout of the spring, and the first one held outdoors. Wednesday afternoon, the Badgers held a lengthy practice on the turf of Camp Randall Stadium, picking up where they left off March 12. The practice was held in helmets and shoulder pads.
Here are some news/notes from Wednesday's practice:
- The practice was formulaic, with basic individual drills followed by inside running drills, 7-on-7 and full team work with limited contact. The assistant coaches were hard at work installing some new looks on both sides of the ball. While players were coming off two weeks of fun and sun on spring break, the coaches took no pity on anyone yesterday. There was very little slack given to those who weren't practicing well.
Many of the players had to knock off some early rust, but things came back quickly. This was especially the case for the quarterbacks, who struggled early in the practice but all made some nice plays in various drills particularly later in the practice. Matt Schabert remains the No. 2 quarterback at this point, but John Stocco continues to make a strong push for that position. This is a battle that might not be resolved this spring. It could continue through fall camp.
Last year at this time, Kalvin Barrett was mired in a battle for the No. 1 right guard spot with good friend Jonathan Clinkscale. This spring, he's battling for the No. 2 right guard spot with Jeff Lang. Lang is splitting reps with Barrett on the No. 2 unit, and Barrett missed the last hour of practice yesterday with a class conflict. The No. 1 offensive line yesterday remained: LT Morgan Davis, LG Dan Buenning, C Donovan Raiola, RG Jonathan Clinkscale and RT Mike Lorenz.
The No. 2 offensive line had another minor change yesterday, with Fred Nieforth practicing at right tackle. Randy Gyllin has previously occupied the No. 2 right tackle spot. The second offensive lined up yesterday as: LT Jake Wood, LG Matt Lawrence, C Jason Palermo, RG Kalvin Barrett/Jeff Lang and RT Fred Nieforth.
Clinkscale had a particularly strong practice yesterday, making some very solid blocks to open up holes in inside running drills.
During one drill early in practice yesterday, the tight ends showed much better hands than they are given credit for. The tight ends went one-on-one with defenders, trying to get open on quick passing routes. There were very few drops and some athletic catches in tight coverage made by all of the tight ends, which is not considered a strength of anybody in that unit.
The starting defensive line remains Erasmus James, Anttaj Hawthorne, Jason Jefferson and Jonathan Welsh. The first two men to jump into the rotation are Darius Jones and Nick Cochart (these two guys can almost be listed as co-starters in John Palermo's system). All of the other spots in the rotation are up for grabs. The players lined up as the No. 2 defensive line early in team drills yesterday were LE Mark Gorman, LT Andre Williams, RT Lyle Maiava and RE Traison Lewis. But Joe Monty and Matt Gajda were also getting a ton of reps. Gajda made a few really nice plays during team drills and was rotating with Lewis as the No. 2 defensive end on the right side.
The starting defensive backs remained Scott Starks, Brett Bell, Ryan Aiello and Jim Leonhard. The No. 2 unit was Levonne Rowan ,Chuckie Cowans, Robert Brooks and Dontez Sanders. Brooks had two interceptions yesterday, while Scott Starks and Jim Leonhard also had interceptions for would-be touchdowns (keep in mind this was during 7-on-7 drills, not in a scrimmage situation, but it deserves mentioning). It appeared to be a red-letter day for the secondary, with a ton of pass breakups, interceptions and no visible, gaping breakdowns which were a staple of spring practices last season.
The play of the day was a diving catch across the middle by Jonathan Orr between two defenders for a 35-yard gain during team drills. And in the standard, "broken record" statement that comes with every practice, Brandon Williams made a few beautiful catches throughout the afternoon.
Kareem Timbers remains the starting drop linebacker, alongside fellow starters Jeff Mack and Alex Lewis. The second unit is Lamarr Watkins at drop, Kyle McCorison at Mike, and Elliot Goode at eagle. While Mark Zalewski had been practicing with the No. 1 and 2 units for the majority of the first five practices, he spent most of Wednesday working with the No. 3 defense. Timbers was the standout of the LB group on Wednesday, making a collection of pass breakups and never appearing to be out of position to make a play. There is a reason he's been bumped up to the No. 1 defense.
Defensive Coordinator Kevin Cosgrove spent a lot of time during practice in a running conversation with Lewis, who still is learning the nuances of the UW defense. Once he gets a firm grasp on all of his responsibilities in the defense, he has the potential to be one of the best defensive players in the Big Ten.
Dwayne Smith and Booker Stanley are getting the most reps as running backs behind Anthony Davis. As mentioned before, expect to see more offensive looks with two tailbacks on the field at the same time (with no fullback). With so much talent at the tailback position, and a serious lack of depth at fullback, Offensive Coordinator Brian White will surely tailor to his strengths in designing new wrinkles to his offense in the post-Brooks Bollinger era.
Former Badgers Russ Kuhns and Al Johnson were among those watching practice yesterday afternoon.
Spring Football Practice Report
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