MADISON – After three practices of going heavy on the fundamentals and technique prior to spring break, Wisconsin put on full pads for the fourth of 15 spring practices Tuesday.
Or as sophomore center Michael Deiter called it, “real football.”
“You get to feel a good d-line, good linebackers come after you,” Deiter said. “With pads, you just kind of walk around making sure you are in the right spots. Now you actually have to move people, make sure your hands are good, feet are good, pad level good. Without pads, pad level is nothing. It’s important, but it’s hard to really emphasis if you can’t feel what happens if (the contact) is not there.”
There are many positions that are out to make large strides over the course of the next four weeks before the April 23rd spring game, but the offensive line might be near the top of the list. Although the group returns four starters from a year ago (three participating in spring with senior Dan Voltz out with a right knee injury), the Badgers went through last year with seven different combinations in 13 games.
In a way it was survive and advance, which was why the early practices that hammered home individual drills with offensive line coach Joe Rudolph were so important.
“As many guys as had play last year, we’re still young,” Deiter said. “We have a little experience, but we still have to grow. Going fundamentals heavy are still important as the days where we have to play as physical as possible. Without the (technique days), on the days where you have to play physical, you don’t look very good.”
With Voltz out, Deiter has emerged as a leader on the line, surprising considering his age as a redshirt sophomore until it’s realized he has the most starting experience (13 games) out of the healthy group. Described ahead of the curve since he arrived on campus as an early enrollee in spring 2014, Deiter takes the approach of approaching every practice with the utmost importance.
“Whatever the coaches tell you to do, make sure you do it,” Deiter said. “Sometimes when you are real young, you sometimes struggle being coached a certain way. I’ve seen guy struggle with that. It’s been my emphasis to be as coachable every day.”
Redshirt freshman Jon Dietzen took first-team reps at left guard for the third straight practice, working between junior Ryan Ramczyk at left tackle and Deiter at center.
“He’s still got a little growing to do, but he’s come along way,” Deiter said of Dietzen. “Technique wise he’s getting there; he’s close, but mentally he needs to get ahead. That’s the big thing he has to work on right now.”
Wisconsin’s second-string offensive line was redshirt freshman David Moorman at left tackle, redshirt sophomore Micah Kapoi at left guard, redshirt sophomore Brett Connors at center, fifth-year senior Logan Schmidt at right guard and redshirt freshman Kevin Estes at right tackle.
Wisconsin’s first-team defense appeared as follows:
Juniors Conor Sheehy and Chikwe Obasih at end. Olive Sangapolu at nose tackle.
Junior Jack Cichy and sophomore T.J. Edwards at inside linebacker (Sophomore Chris Orr also rotated in). These three also worked with the twos.
Senior Vince Biegel and junior T.J. Watt at outside linebacker.
Senior Sojourn Shelton and junior Derrick Tindal at cornerback.
Junior D’Cota Dixon and sophomore Arrington Farrar at safety.
Wisconsin’s second-team defense appeared as follows:
Sophomore Billy Hirschfeld and junior Alec James at end. Sophomore Jeremy Patterson at nose tackle.
Junior Garrett Dooley and redshirt freshman Zach Baun worked as outside linebackers.
Freshman Titus Booker and junior Natrell Jamerson at cornerback.
Junior Keelon Brookins and Joe Ferguson at safety (Senior Leo Musso also rotated in).
Under the Quarterback Microscope
It’s the first extended day of 7-on-7 and 11-on-11, so take these with a grain of salt. However, Hornibrook’s passing mechanics appear to still need some fine tuning. His delivery appeared to differ from individual drills and team drills, going from more fluid to more labored. Picture going from throwing a tennis ball to throwing a shot put and that’s what Hornibook looked like Tuesday.
As a result, the extra second in his delivery helped Wisconsin’s defense to read his throws. He threw three interceptions, two that were returned for touchdowns. A pass rush by Orr up the middle led to a sack, but the play continuing led to Hornibrook’s throw into traffic getting snagged by Edwards in 11-on-11. In 7-on-7, a telegraphed throw to the flat led to Baun jumping the route and heading for the end zone.
Musso was the beneficiary of the other interception, but there were numerous other plays that were tipped by the linebackers or secondary that could have led to more negative plays.
As expected, Houston looked much more comfortable than Hornibrook with his delivery and his throws. While a handful of throws were open completions to the flat or to the middle of the field, Houston fit a number of attempts into tight windows over the middle, completed a 15-yard post route to Krenwick Sanders right between his numbers and hit Reggie Love on a deep corner route. His only big miss was an interception to Jamerson along the sideline, although it appeared Love – the intended receiver – ran the wrong route.
Unofficial stats: Hornibrook 2-for-6 in 7-on-7 and 5-for-14 in 11-on-11. Houston 4-for-5 in 7-on-7 and 8-for-12 in 11-on-11.
From the infirmary
Limited on Tuesday – OL George Panos (left shoulder) and fullback Austin Ramesh (groin)
Out on Tuesday – WR Henry Houden (right thigh) and running back Mark Saari (right hand)
Out for spring – QB Kare Lyles (left hip), DE Zander Neuville (right shoulder), OL Dan Voltz (right knee) TE Michael Rolfe (right knee).
Extra Points: Tailback Corey Clement’s much-publicized number change from No.24 to No.6 was short lived. After only three practices, Clement switched back to number six. He wasn’t the only number change, as senior Reggie Love donned No.84 after wearing No.16 previously … Wisconsin closed practices in strength-vs-strength at the center the field. While there were a plenty of stalemates, redshirt freshman Titus Booker getting the better of senior receiver Rob Wheelwright was the biggest eye opener … Wisconsin returns to the practice field Thursday morning.