Spring practice report, April 7

News and notes from Wednesday's practice at Camp Randall

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  • Wisconsin's defense owned the team's intrasquad scrimmage sessions, especially then end-of-practice 2-minute drills. On the initial drive of that set, the first-team offense drove to the 14-yard line but came up empty, with Mike Allen missing a 31-yard field goal. The defense shut it down from there, allowing just three first downs in five additional series.


  • Jamal Cooper had an exceptional practice, picking up at least three sacks in scrimmage work and seemingly pressuring the Badger quarterbacks at will. When the second-team defense lined up against the second-team offense, Cooper was rarely blocked and sometimes barely touched. Cooper does not have the bulk to hold up against the run and has had an up-and-down spring from a run defense standpoint, but the only tackle who has consistently stuck with Cooper the pass rusher is Joe Thomas. Cooper is exceptionally quick off the edge and stands a good chance of competing for playing time as a designated pass rusher.


  • Plenty of defensive lineman joined Cooper in having strong workouts Wednesday. Mark Gorman recorded a sack for the second consecutive practice, Anttaj Hawthorne notched a pair and Justin Ostrowski was also a presence in the backfield.



  • John Gillen and Adam Purcell were not present at Wednesday's practice. In their place, Meckstroth and T.J. Wielebski rotated in at second-team sam linebacker, with Meckstroth receiving the bulk of the reps.


  • After taking part in practice on a limited basis Saturday, sam linebacker Mark Zalewski dressed for the past two practices but did not take part in any scrimmage work, whether full or light contact. He is wearing a heavy bandage and brace on his injured lower right arm.


  • Part of the reason for the Badgers' pass rushing success was the offense's frequent use of an empty-backfield. Wisconsin devoted multiple series to a set where tailback Anthony Davis and fullback Matt Bernstein lined up in an I formation, then shifted to flanker positions on either side of the field with receivers Jonathan Orr, Brandon White and Owen Daniels slotted between them.


  • The most impressive offensive play from this formation came when Dwayne Smith spelled Davis at tailback. Smith caught a slant about seven yards upfield and quickly darted down the middle of the field for a gain of about 25 yards. Smith has played at a very high level since returning from suspension this spring. Whether running up the middle, turning the corner or in the open field catching passes, Smith looks like he has an extra gear that was not present last season and he has not sacrificed power.


  • Tight end Kurt Ware and quarterback Tyler Donovan connected on a sterling seam pass during scrimmage work. Donovan hit the redshirt freshman in stride and Ware displayed good quickness as he turned upfield for a gain of 35.


  • John Stocco continues to widen the gap for the No. 1 quarterback job. After practice Wednesday head coach Barry Alvarez reiterated that in his mind the battle is for No. 2. Stocco has shown steady improvement throughout spring workouts and has been far more consistent than the other quarterbacks. The passing game, though, has plenty of kinks left to work out in the fall.




Note to readers: With the spring game Saturday, Friday's practice is expected to be a brief walk through. In lieu of a practice report Friday night, BadgerNation.com will preview the spring game.

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