Spring Practice Report - 3.20.13

In its sixth and final practice before an 11-day break, Wisconsin football went through its first scrimmage of the spring that was dominated by the Badgers' defense

MADISON - After six spring practices, Wisconsin football will take the next 11 days off to recoup, regroup and enjoy the school's spring break. It also gives Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen time to get his furniture arranged just right.

"I think it's good timing," said Andersen. "I think it's good timing for me since the moving truck is leaving Saturday and rolling its way to Madison, so it'll give me a week to get settled.

"Six practices here, midpoint of the semester, there is a lot going through these kid's minds. I think a big deep breath of fresh air is a good thing for them and the coaches also."

Andersen felt good about Wednesday's first scrimmage of the spring, open to the media in its entirety, and felt it was a good stepping stone for the Badgers in order to go full speed when the team reconvenes for practice seven on April 1.

From the Infirmary

None of Wisconsin's main players scrimmaged Wednesday. Jared Abbrederis, Beau Allen, Chris Borland, Brendan Kelly, Jacob Pedersen and Chase Hammond did not practice because of rest. Michael Caputo and David Gilbert didn't practice because of injuries.

Melvin Gordon suffered an ankle sprain and was unable to return. That opened the opportunity for junior tailback Jeff Lewis to get some carries. Andersen said he has thought about moving Lewis to another position, but the in-state player wants to stick at running back.

In addition, Wisconsin's already thin offensive line appeared to take another hit when right tackle Walker Williams went put in a full brace on his left leg. Andersen didn't elaborate, but a source said the injury was to the MCL.

"The numbers are low; that's my biggest concern," said Andersen. "We'll see how it goes."

Defensive notes

With an improving pass rush, according to Andersen, Wisconsin got some good push in the pocket with guys like Ethan Hemer, Josh Harrison and James Adeyanju registering sacks. Wisconsin also registered a safety off a sack from its pass rush and saw safety Nate Hammon return a fumble for a touchdown.

"The ability for us to get the ball out, cause turnovers and score on defense is a big thing," said Andersen. "I want to see us have more energy and juice when that happens. I want to see us be more excited at times, but it's great when that can happen."

In the secondary, Wisconsin utilized Peniel Jean and Darius Hillary at the cornerback position and Reggie Mitchell and Michael Trotter at the safety position with the first team defense. Both made solid tackles and solid reads in coverage to limit any coverage busts.

On the second team, Wisconsin rotated combinations of Dare Ogunbowale, Sojourn Shelton and Terrance Floyd and Hammon, Kyle Zuelger and Leo Musso at the safety spots.

"They made some plays today," said Andersen of the secondary. "It was great to see. I think their confidence is growing a little bit. They look more comfortable in the man coverage, which is a positive. The corners coverage, which is the base coverage in which we play, is not a departure at all from what they have done for years. There's a ton of carryover."

As the issue with spring ball, however, it's really good on one side and really bad on the other.

Offensive notes

Wisconsin first-team offensive line: Dallas Lewallen, Ray Ball, Dan Voltz, Zac Matthias and Rob Havenstein. Second-team offensive line: Tyler Marz, Ball, Jacob Ninneman, Trent Denlinger, Riki Kodanko.

Wisconsin rotated in wide receivers Kenzel Doe, A.J. Jordan and Jordan Fredrick, but inconsistencies catching the ball –like Fredrick dropping a touchdown pass – continue to pop up with this group.

James White may have had the best play of the scrimmage, showing good vision to bounce a short run outside the left tackle for a touchdown. Curt Phillips also had a nice completion thanks to Derek Watt, who made a long game off the same kind of wheel route that hurt Wisconsin early in the 2012 season.

"There's always give-and-take with spring football but overall I'm proud of the kids the first six days," said Andersen. "We've had consistent days, physical days, which is what we're looking for."


Andersen called Wednesday's tape ‘big' for evaluating the play of the quarterbacks. Not only did Wisconsin allow pressure on his signal callers, Andersen allowed the play to go fairly long before blowing the whistle to kill the play.

Danny O'Brien, Bart Houston, Phillips and Joel Stave all had a couple really solid throws, including a Houston pass to Lance Baretz, along with some mistakes. Stave also made a nice completion to Brian Wozniak, who got a lot of repetitions with Austin Maly at the tight end role.

"He moves around well, he's very smart and throws the ball well," said Andersen of Stave. "You saw that today."

Andersen called the quarterback race "very open" and expects it to be "for the first days when we get back from spring break also."

Getting their kicks

Like the quarterbacks, the Wisconsin kickers were inconsistent throughout last season and finding a steady leg is a top priority. Junior Kyle French took a big step forward in holding that job, as he solid struck a pair of 47-yard attempts and a couple 30-yard tries. Sophomore Jack Russell badly missed a 47-yard attempt.


Andersen on playing Alabama in 2015

"It's a tremendous opportunity for the University of Wisconsin. It's a tremendous opportunity to kick off the college football season. It's a memory that kids will have forever. Regardless of the opportunity, it's a great opportunity and shows great respect for the University of Wisconsin as a whole as a football program and a university."

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