Spring Practice Report - March 12

Flipping a scheduled afternoon workout to the morning, Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen said his team isn't ready to play a game, but that the Badgers are making good progress in all three phases.

MADISON - Originally scheduling all of the team's weekday spring practices in the late afternoon, Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen thought practice number five would be a great day for a curveball.

So instead of sleeping in, Wisconsin began at 6 a.m. for a full workout in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts.

"I thought they handled it well," said Andersen, who also noted it allowed players time to study for tests in the afternoon. "Also wanted to give them some curveballs to see how they are handling to adjustments to the schedule and some surprises for the coaches and surprises for the kids.

"It was a good morning. They are working hard. We have a long way to go on offense, defense and special teams, but the care factor is there."

In the 45 minutes that was open to the media, Wisconsin primary concentrated its efforts on red zone drills, and another opportunity to give junior quarterback Joel Stave some work. Still recovering from a shoulder injury suffered in the Capital One Bowl, the short field allowed the UW coaches to control Stave's throws.

Taking seven reps, Stave completed four passes, including touchdowns on a 10-yard slant to Jazz Peavy, a crossing route to Eric Steffes and a four-yard pass to Reggie Love, although it could be argued the latter two could have resulted in sacks had there been a pass rush.

"He doesn't have to throw it as far, so we felt we could get him into those drills a little bit," said Andersen. "It was good to see Joel get out there and compete a little bit. It was as controlled of a situation as we can."

Junior Tanner McEvoy was efficient with his seven reps in team red zone drills, including one play where he rolled to his right to buy time in the pocket and hit Love, who beat cornerback Terrance Floyd, across the back of the end zone. The drill also saw positives from Chikwe Obasih (pass breakup at the line of scrimmage) and cornerback Devin Gaulden, who worked with the first-team defense and broke up a deep pass intended for Kenzel Doe in one-on-one coverage.

Gaulden has battled stress fractures in his legs and knee injuries since arriving on campus in 2011, but is finally healthy and has been working with the first-team defense at corner.

"He's such a competitive kid," said Andersen. "He definitely pushed his rehab. Was that the reason for his setback? I can't say that but all competitors push their rehab."

Out of all the quarterbacks during the open media session, nobody got more work than true freshman D.J. Gillins, who took seven reps during team red zone drills and another 13 reps during team drills. He completed 4 of 8 passes in team drills and while Andersen said Gillins isn't making jumps day to day, he's sustaining and maintaining his knowledge of the offense.

"There's a lot offense going in every single day (and) you don't see a lot of busts," said Andersen. "That's impressive for a young quarterback. He's stayed focus since day one here. I'm sure he's excited to get on an airplane Friday and go home for a week."

Hayes Has Opportunity

Andersen calls the development of the front seven a work in progress, especially with the amount of young players and different moving pieces the Badgers are shifting around. The first five practices have seen development from players like Alec James, Leon Jacobs and Joe Schobert, but Andersen said the development of redshirt junior Jesse Hayes is the biggest piece to the defensive puzzle.

"Jesse Hayes is going to have an opportunity to play," said Andersen. "If you look at our best guys and sit back and say, ‘Where's Jesse?' It's time for Jesse to stand up and be the guy, or least given the opportunity to be the guy. He kind of earned that right and now if Jesse takes advantage of that, that'll be a good thing."

Beatty Gets Small Promotion

Not only did Thomas Hammock departure to the NFL cause Andersen to hire a new running back coach, the Badgers had to find which assistant coach would take the role as recruiting coordinator. Andersen has given that role to wide receiver coach Chris Beatty, who was instrumental in UW landing a number of receivers in the 2014 class and who has been making progress recruiting the state of Virginia.

"(I'm) excited about that," said Andersen. "He brings good fresh clean ideas to the direction that we want to head. He's right in the middle of that. He takes great pride in being a recruiting coordinator, something he has done in the past. That's his spot."


Has Andersen seen Warren Herring and Derek Landisch emerge as leaders of the defense?

"I have. I think Warren is still kind of a quiet leader. Landisch is much the same. When I want to see their leadership come and rise to the top when it's going to get harder in spring ball. Then we'll see. When there's some adversity to the defense, we'll see how their leadership is, but they're moving in that direction. They are respected by their teammates, but respect doesn't make them a leaders. They're making good strides."

Extra Points: After coming back from a knee injury last week, redshirt freshman tight end T.J. Watt tweaked his other knee late in practice. Andersen said he didn't believe the injury to be serious … Andersen said Rob Wheelwright is making progress daily and expects him back after spring break … Redshirt sophomore safety Nate Hammon worked for the first time this spring, another player UW is going to move slowly with.

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