Jack Ikegwuonu made a quick impression on Wisconsin's coaching staff, facilitating a move from free safety to cornerback for Thursday's second practice of fall camp.
"He jumped out at me," head coach Barry Alvarez said, "And he was one of the guys that Ron Lee mentioned that he was very impressed with. And, boy, I'll tell you, he can run, he's physical, he's very athletic. I'm impressed with him."
Ikegwuonu wanted to play wide receiver at Wisconsin but is adapting well to corner. He spent Thursday's practice working exclusively with the No. 2 defense and has not shown any signs he is experiencing any freshman jitters.
"We wanted to give him a shot," Alvarez said of the decision to play Ikegwuonu at defensive back. "I just like the way he looks. I think physically and athletically he's what you're looking for in a secondary."
Ikegwuonu is one of four true freshmen corners in the Badgers' camp this fall, who are competing for spots on the Wisconsin's third team. The Badgers have four veteran corners—Scott Starks, Levonne Rowan, Bret Bell and Chuckie Cowans—who lead the depth. In addition to Ikegwuonu, the true freshmen are Allen Langford, Antonio Freeman and Jameson Davis, who enrolled at Wisconsin a semester early and took part in spring practices. Alvarez commented on the three newcomers Thursday.
"Just (Freeman's) raw speed and his size, he brings a lot to the table," Alvarez said. "Fundamental-wise I don't think he's probably as far along as Jack is right now.
"Allen Langford is another impressive corner for a true freshman. He's physical. Some guys just adjust to the tempo of this game and the speed of college football a lot faster than others. Whether it be the high school program they came from or whatever. Those guys really have just fit right in with the tempo."
True freshman receiver Jarvis Minton was still waiting to receive the go-ahead from the NCAA Clearinghouse and did not take part in practice Thursday. Alvarez reiterated that he hopes Minton will be cleared by Friday.
"That's out of our hands," Alvarez said. "By the time the high school sends information, the Clearinghouse gets it, deciphers it, gets it back to us. I'd like for it to happen before this weekend but that's something that we can't control."
Let turnovers ring
Throughout Thursday afternoon's scrimmage session, a familiar refrain rang out from the Badgers' sideline.
"Strip it! Strip it!," defensive coaches and players exclaimed.
The Badgers defense ball hawked all afternoon, recording five interceptions and at least a half dozen fumble recoveries during scrimmage sessions.
"The teams that normally get a lot of turnovers are the ones that coaches emphasize it," Alvarez said. "Sometimes you get so wrapped up in coaching your guys you forget about the strips and going for the ball and getting the ball out. And having young quarterbacks helps in the interception game. But that's OK. It helps them have a little bit of fun. It's just like blood in the water for sharks. They get it and then they want to get more. I like the way they've been flying around back there."
Alvarez said Thursday it was too early to offer an assessment of quarterback Bryan Savage, who impressed his teammates in summer workouts.
"Way too early to tell," Alvarez said. "The freshmen quarterbacks' heads are swimming and rightfully so. It happens every year. We've thrown so much at them. Just to get the offensive play, to be able to articulate in the huddle is an accomplishment the second day. We felt when we recruited him he had a lot of physical ability and really a strong arm. And he hasn't disappointed us in that. But it's way too early to tell."
Alvarez likes what he has seen so far from his team in fall camp.
"I really like the enthusiasm and the way the guys have practiced," he said. "Good teams have fun practicing. Because football practice many times is not real easy. This group has a lot of fun. They push each other. We go against each other. We test each other all the time. I just like the way they have gone about their business. And with no pads on it's a delicate time because we're pushing guys to get it done, hustle, get around the ball on defense, and block people on offense, and yet you have to respect your teammates with no pads on. So I've been pleased with their overall attitude and what we've accomplished in two days."
The unseasonably cool weather in Madison Wednesday and Thursday does not concern Alvarez at this point.
"We don't have any choice," he said. "I guess our alternative is to go indoors and crank (the temperature) up. But we'll have some heat before this is over. This is OK."
Ikegwuonu makes an early impression
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