Spring Practice Report: April 16

Officially over halfway through spring practices, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema has no complaints about where his team is at. Facing a week with four practices, the Badgers went approximately 90 minutes on Monday, turning in more efficient work.

MADISON - With a scholarship banquet being attended by a good portion of his players and the first of back-to-back four practice weeks, UW coach Bret Bielema decided to ease into the fourth week of spring ball.

Not only were the players in half pads only, but the Badgers worked for roughly 90 minutes.

"I thought the kids came out, had great tempo, had great energy and we came out of the scrimmage relatively clean," said Bielema. "I am happy with where we are at."

That allowed Wisconsin to get a number of players back on the field. Senior cornerback Devin Smith (foot) worked in 7-on-7 drills, but has yet to be fully cleared for contact. Redshirt sophomore defensive end Konrad Zagzebski (shoulder) returned to individual drills while junior tight end Jacob Pedersen (groin) returned for 7-on-7 drills.

Not all the injury news was good news and unfortunately for Brian Wozniak, it's reoccurring news. Often limited in his tenure because of hamstring and groin problems, Wozniak is now dealing with a sports hernia and is in St. Louis seeing a specialist.

The Badgers have had their fair share of bad luck with hernia issues, since Connor Cummins, Manasseh Garner, Pedersen and Smith have all struggled with similar issues.

Defensive ends David Gilbert (broken foot) and Tyler Dippel (plantar fasciitis) continue to sport walking boots.

7-on-7

Attempted 16 passes during 7-on-7 skele drills between the three quarterbacks, Curt Phillips, Joe Brennan and Joel Stave were a combined 9-for-16, but that number is deceiving. On one hand, the three signal callers competed four passes under five yards, rarely went deep and made several off-target throws. On the other hand, the receivers committed two drops, continuing their consistently inconsistent play.

"We've got young players," Bielema said referring to the receivers. "I think the tight ends make our wide receivers better. I think our offense, at times, is difficult to defend because of the tight end passing game. It really jumped out to me three years ago when we played Miami because they didn't know how to cover a tight end."

The drill did yield some good plays. Sam Arneson caught a touchdown pass when he ran straight down the hash marks and caught the pass in stride off the hand of Stave and redshirt sophomore Marquis Mason continues to take some steps forward, catching two passes and turned in a solid practice.

"Marquis is a little like a box of chocolates, you don't know exactly what you are going to get all the time," Bielema said. "He does a lot of really good things. He's more engaged right now. I think (receivers coach) Zach (Azzanni) has done a nice job of doing some independent teaching with him. He does a lot better with one-on-one. Where he is right now compared to the fall has been nice."

Special Teams Duties

The always popular special teams coaching question came up Monday, as Bielema announced that he would once again be dividing up the special teams duties among his assistant coaches this season. Defensive line coach Charlie Partridge will continue coaching the punt team while new head coaches Zach Azzanni will coach punt returns, Eddie Faulkner will coach kickoff and Andy Buh will handle kickoff return.

With six new assistants on staff, Bielema has been pleased with how smooth things have run.

"I think all our coaches are good communicators, getting kids in the right spot at the right time," said Bielema. "I was a little excited, it may sound a little weird, but Saturday was our scrimmage. Sunday when I came in the office to get grades, I like to see how people grade film. I don't mandate how they have to do it, but it was an interesting perspective some of them brought to the table."

Final Thoughts

Kyle Costigan and Casey Dehn were given the first-team spots at right guard and right tackle, respectively, when Wisconsin did its two-minute offense at the end of practice. Costigan continues to improve and appears to be senior Robby Burge's number one competition at that position.

Given the keys to the two-minute offense for the first time this spring, both quarterbacks looked shaky. Unofficially, Stave went 1 of 7 on passes with two overthrows and Brennan completed 4 of 6 passes. Brennan had some good throws, including one on an inside slant to Mason for a first down, but would follow that up with a duck, under throwing a wide-open A.J. Jordan that allowed Terrance Floyd to catch up and break up the pass.

Brennan also had Kenzel Doe open on a sideline post route, but underthrew the pass and allowed safety Michael Trotter to make an off-balanced interception. Brennan had moved the chains twice, but that throw ended practice. It was a poor throw, but a very athletic play by the redshirt sophomore safety.

"I knew (the two minute) would be kind of a cluster," said Bielema.

Bielema confirmed after practice what we had been seeing the last week – that A.J. Jordan and James Adeyanju are going to be good players for Wisconsin. Jordan added some weight to his receiver frame and looks like a natural pass catcher. Adeyanju has added enough weight where he can function inside or outside on the defensive line, giving UW more depth at a position overflowing with talent.


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