Inclement weather, highlighted by a sleet and snowstorm the day before, moved spring practice No. 11 onto the indoor turf of the McClain Center Saturday. Here are highlights, news/notes from Saturday's session:
Locked in a position battle with sophomore Levonne Rowan early in the spring, junior Brett Bell appears to be maintaining the edge at right cornerback. Bell had a few lapses in coverage early in the day, but rebounded for a strong practice. Bell's best play of the day came during the goal line situational scrimmage session, when he drilled freshman tailback Booker Stanley for a two-yard loss.
Bell also lined up at right corner in the first-string nickel defense, a specialty group built for speed. Joining Bell in the defensive backfield in the nickel set were starting free safety Jim Leonhard, a sophomore, junior left cornerback Scott Starks and their reserves, juniors Robert Brooks and Chuckie Cowans. Up front, Wisconsin moved senior Alex Lewis from his inside linebacker spot to a rush end position. He was joined on the line by ends Erasmus James, Darius Jones and Jonathan Welsh, with the latter two lining up at the tackle positions. Linebackers Jeff Mack and junior Kareem Timbers rounded out the nickel package.
Timbers continued to hold serve at drop linebacker in the base defense, with sophomore LaMarr Watkins working almost entirely with the second team unit.
Senior defensive end Jason Clemens received frequent reps with the second team defense and made the most of the opportunity, racking up no fewer than six sacks in seven-on-seven and live scrimmage drills. Clemens' day was not completely filled with highlights, though. During live scrimmage drills, junior Kalvin Barrett pulled from his right guard spot and pancaked Clemens for one of the day's best blocks.
Another reserve end, sophomore Andres Lezama, also had an impressive practice. On three consecutive plays toward the end of practice, Lezama and Clemens simply raced to the quarterback, blowing right past would-be blockers.
In fact, if there was a theme to Saturday's live sessions, it was a ferocious pass rush. James and junior tackle Anttaj Hawthorne also frequently paid visits to Badger quarterbacks.
Few players matched sophomore center Donovan Raiola's intensity Saturday. On a few occasions, Raiola continued driving and punishing defenders after the whistle blew.
As if Wisconsin's traditionally imposing offensive line wasn't enough, there comes sophomore fullback Matt Bernstein, who was a valuable short-yardage rushing option last season. Bernstein has added 20-25 pounds and is now listed at 6-2, 270. Bernstein now has the look of a defensive lineman and he appears to have maintained agility.
Heading into fall practices, one of the most intriguing position battles will be for the right to be senior quarterback Jim Sorgi's backup. Junior Matt Schabert continues to hold the No. 2 spot, but sophomore Devin Hollins and freshman John Stocco should not be counted out. Stocco displayed the strongest arm of the quartet Saturday.
The two longest plays during scrimmage sessions both came during the 3rd-and-two situational session. On the second play of the session, Sorgi rolled to his left on play action and found junior tight end Bob Docherty wide open in the middle of the field. Docherty picked up 40 yards before Timbers caught him from behind.
On the next play, on another simulated third-and-two, sophomore Dwayne Smith turned the corner with the aid of a Bernstein block and cruised down the sideline for a 50-yard gain.
Sophomore Dontez Sanders, the second-team strong safety, had an interception and a pass breakup in his first two plays on seven-on-seven drills.
Junior Travann Hayes, who moved from wide receiver to cornerback this spring, was back on offense Saturday and picked up frequent reps in three- and four-wide sets, especially with the second team.
April 5 Practice Report
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