The Badgers practiced at Camp Randall Thursday afternoon on what was by far the warmest day of fall camp. It was also the last practice of fall camp that is open to the media. Wisconsin will conduct a closed-door game simulation at Camp Randall Friday morning, during which time the systems at Camp Randall will be tested to make sure everything is operational for the Sept. 4 opener. Practice is closed to the media throughout the regular season.
Thursday's practice was similar to all the rest: position work, 7-on-7, 11-on-11, some special teams and work against the scout team all were incorporated. It was impossible, though, for attention not to turn to the player in street clothes, Dwayne Smith. Less than two hours before practice commenced the Badgers announced that Smith would no longer play due to a heart condition. Smith only practiced once this fall, so there was some normalcy in seeing him on the sidelines. Knowing the extent of the condition made the steps Anthony Davis, Booker Stanley, Chris Pressley and Jamil Walker took that much more important, even if it the breakdown in reps did not change Thursday. After all, there has been some feeling that Smith would not be available for an extended period of time as soon as he began missing practice on Aug. 12.
Davis took his regular reps with the first offense and looked his spectacular self. Stanley worked in with the first and second offense, as did Pressley and Walker. For a few minutes when he was on the sideline, Davis played catch with Smith.
On the field:
Wisconsin continued to experiment with a variety of kick returners, including Booker Stanley, Jarvis Minton, Marcus Randle El, Zach Hampton and Scott Starks. Incumbent Brandon Williams remains the favorite to assume the top kick return duties this season. Who will set up deep alongside him, however, remains a mystery. Another player who had been tried as a deep back, Jamil Walker, is now lining up near the front of the Badgers' kick return unit.
Cornerback Levonne Rowan had an interception and a pass breakup during 7-on-7 work.
Also in 7-on-7 work, strong safety Joe Stellmacher lined up as a linebacker for one series with the first-team nickel defense.
Talk about versatility: starting right guard Jonathan Clinkscale played left tackle, left guard and right tackle in addition to his customary position, all with the first team, Thursday afternoon. Entering his fourth year as a starter, Clinkscale did play center for the second half of a game three years ago, after Al Johnson went down with an injury.
Starting center Donovan Raiola also rotated in at other positions this week, playing left guard and right guard in spots.
Plain and simple, Nick Hayden has had a better fall camp than his second-team defensive tackle counterparts, Kalvin Barrett and Justin Ostrowski. In fairness, Barrett missed some practice time with an injury. He has returned to full practice but is not as active nor does he appear to have the endurance that Hayden possesses. Ostrowski is a big body in the middle who may prove more durable than Hayden this year, but the latter is more likely to make a big play. Look for the true freshman to receive an ever-increasing amount of playing time this season.
Josh Neal made a rare appearance in team drills, working in with the third team at mike linebacker during 7-on-7 work. He is also playing mike linebacker on the scout team.
John Stocco threw a number of a very crisp passes Thursday, including a well-thrown pass over the middle to receiver Jeff Holzbauer, who also had a good day of practice.
Tyler Donovan also had a strong day. Donovan delivered a beautiful deep ball to Jarvis Minton for a would-be touchdown. Shortly thereafter he threw a perfect deep out to Brandon Williams.
Kraig Urbik has primarily played left guard with the third offense throughout fall camp, but he worked out at left tackle at times Thursday.
Publicly, Mike Newkirk is still slated to play this season. There are signs, though, that he could redshirt. He has not been a part of a first-team special team the past two days and has been working out consistently with the scout defense at end. The Badgers' coaches could be trying to speed him up quickly, however, after using him as a linebacker for most of camp. Newkirk has typically worked against Joe Thomas.
The hit of the day belonged to Raiola. On a toss sweep he blindsided Anttaj Hawthorne, decleating the potential All-American defensive tackle. The block helped spring Anthony Davis for a jaunt down the sideline that was only stopped by the whistle.
Honorable mention belongs to Erasmus James, who used a beautiful counter move to decleat would-be blocker tailback Chris Pressley.
Joe Stellmacher and Zach Hampton served as Wisconsin's second-team safeties for most of practice Thursday afternoon.
Reggie Cribbs recorded a fumble recovery.
Wisconsin's blitz continues to look good; the quarterbacks, however, had one of their best practices in terms of blitz recognition.
Offensive guard Marcus Coleman was promoted from the scout team to those "in the depth" Thursday.
Jim Leonhard had a textbook pass breakup, timing a hit on Jarvis Minton perfectly.
Note to readers: This is the final fall camp report of the 2004 season. BadgerNation.com will wrap up fall camp with a brief nine-part position-by-position series, beginning Friday evening and concluding Monday morning.
Fall camp report, Aug. 26
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