Spring Practice Report - March 25

Following an 11-day break, Wisconsin returned to the indoor practice field on Tuesday, as did its starting quarterback. Limited through the first two weeks of spring, junior quarterback Joel Stave competed without limitation during the portion of practice open to the media.

MADISON - In another highly competitive quarterback battle, Joel Stave was put behind when the UW coaching and medical staff choose the caution approach with their starting quarterback.

Now after nine days off and a relaxing trip to San Diego for spring break, Stave is back without any limitations.

"It feels good to be able to get back out and practice and go through the team drills and everything like that," said Stave following Tuesday's practice. "Obviously there's going to be a little bit of a curve coming right back into it, but I felt good."

Stave was expected not to practice during the first six practices of spring, but ended up doing some throwing in team drills when Wisconsin did 7-on-7 work in the red zone. According to head coach Gary Andersen, that was done to keep Stave fresh, while the coaching staff controlled the length of his throws.

There were no such restrictions in UW's seventh practice for Stave, who threw to all three levels of the defense during the approximate 45 minutes the practice was open to the media.

Stave took nine of the 24 reps during 7-on-7 skele drills – completing passes in the flat, medium slant routes and some deeper out routes, one of which that was broken up by an athletic play by cornerback Devin Gaulden.

During team drills, Stave, and fellow junior quarterback Tanner McEvoy, worked with the first-team offense against the first-team defense and completed 4 of 6 passes during 12 reps.

"It's taking it one snap at a time, one practice at a time, one play at a time, just doing what you can do on every play to be perfect on every play," said Stave of his goals. "Obviously that's not going to happen, but doing what you can do to be perfect on every play and consistently performing in that way."

McEvoy went 7-for-7 during skele drills and 3-for-4 during his 10 reps with the one-on-one offense. Bart Houston went 4-for-5 and D.J. Gillins went 2-for-3.

Just like last season, the quarterback competition between Stave and his competitors will likely not be decided until two weeks before the Badgers opener, this one being against LSU in Houston. Stave came on top of last year's competition and threw 2,494 yards, completed 61.9 percent of his passes, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions to lead Wisconsin to a 9-4 record and a fourth straight January 1 bowl game.

Diagnosis with a shoulder spring following the third-quarter hit he absorbed from South Carolina cornerback Victor Hampton, Stave spent the better part of the offseason resting his body and learning how to avoid those hits in the future.

"I got a cardboard box and have been practicing my sliding on it," said Stave. "I ripped my knee and ankle a little bit the first try. There's a learning curve with that, too. I think I've got it down pretty good now."

Now with 19 starts under his belt, Stave feels comfortable being thrown into the mix with another group of eager quarterbacks.

"Every position has competition," said Stave. "Every good team has that, so we're going to be no different. You want competition at every position, guys pushing other guys. That's how it's been since I've been here, and that's what I am used to."

Doe Driving for Leadership

While many of his teammates took off for warm locations, senior receiver Kenzel Doe stayed on campus to work out and run routes with Jared Abbrederis, who is in town training for the NFL. Considering Doe's junior season and the void of leaders ahead of him, it was a perfect opportunity to get better.

That showed in practice number seven, as Doe caught passes from Houston, McEvoy and Stave and was targeted by Gillins during the team drills open to the media.

"I talk to the quarterbacks daily and they trust me," said Doe. "Some of them say, ‘Hey man, when we're out there, I look for you.' They know I can make DBs miss and I'm older, so they rely on me a little bit more than the younger guys. That helps me, build my confidence and have that chemistry where all I have to do is get open and they look for me."

Doe was one of the standout players in last year's spring game, but caught only seven passes for 57 yards and no touchdowns last season, missing two games with a hamstring injury and being limited in others while he recovered.

"I am excited," said Doe," to get out there and show people what I can do healthy."

Needing Leaders

If the post-practice conditioning was any indication, the first practice back from spring break was not a positive one from the perception of the defensive coaches. Wisconsin defense ran twice across the field from sideline to sideline while defensive line coach Chad Kauha'aha'a lit into the unit, questioning where the leaders were on the defense.

"When times get tough," shouted Kauha'aha'a, "somebody has got to step up."

When the defense broke into position groups, Kauha'aha'a was much more blunt with the group, saying that "this has to be the group" where the leaders of the defense are.

Extra Points: Sophomore receiver Rob Wheelwright was supposed to return following spring break, but did not practice in team drills during the last 45 minutes of practice … Junior receiver Jordan Fredrick left practice with his right arm in a sling … Wisconsin returns to the practice field Thursday afternoon, with the final 45 minutes being open to the media.

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