First, a few highlights: One of the complaints last season regarding starting quarterback John Stocco was that he struggled to throw deep passes. If the first practice of spring is any indication, Stocco has taken some substantial strides in the offseason thus far. He may have had his best practice throwing deep passes in the past two years.
- Tight end Owen Daniels, generally expected to be one of the Badgers top offensive weapons, is listed at 6-foot-3 and 247 pounds. But despite adding about 20 pounds since last summer, Daniels looks just as quick in and out of his cuts and just as fast in the open field. Though he is expected to spend more time as an in-line tight end this season, Daniels is officially listed as a tight end/wide receiver.
- True freshman Andy Kemp, who graduated from Menasha High School a semester early in order to take part in spring practices, began his much-anticipated UW career as the Badgers' second-team left guard.
- The Badgers' official 2005 spring practice roster acknowledged the following previously unacknowledged walk-ons: redshirt freshmen free safeties Michael Gust and Phil Arnold, strong safety Julian Edwards, receiver Dustin Warner, linebacker Alex Sell, defensive end Chad Wert and sophomore fullback Matthew Sorg.
- The Badgers have just three tailbacks on the spring roster, meaning plenty of reps for the first-team tandem of Brian Calhoun and Booker Stanley and walk-on reserve Dywon Rowan.
- Linebacker Reggie Cribbs and offensive lineman Randy Gyllin were not listed on the official roster. Players and coaches were not available for interviews Friday and it is not known whether Cribbs or Gyllin plan to return in the fall.
- Jamil Walker, expected to miss all of spring while recovering from shoulder surgery, watched practice while wearing a sling. Dontez Sanders is also expected to miss all of spring workouts with a shoulder injury.
- Joe Thomas, Wisconsin's starting left tackle, is competing in the shot put Saturday at the NCAA Indoor Championships in Fayetteville, Ark.
Offensive line notes
Four of the Badgers' top six offensive lineman played their final collegiate game at the Outback Bowl, leaving three starting spots in their wake. Friday, those spots were filled by right tackle Kraig Urbik, left guard Matt Lawrence and right guard Jason Palermo.
Donovan Raiola returns at center, while Thomas returns at left tackle. With Thomas in Arkansas for the NCAA Indoors, however, Danny Kaye filled in with the first team at left tackle. Kaye also served as the second-team right tackle.
Palermo, who served as Raiola's backup the past two seasons, also took some reps with the second team at center, but primarily played right guard with the first team.
The only other offensive lineman on the spring practice roster is tackle Mike Van Someren.
Stocco took nearly every snap with the first team Friday, with a smattering reserved for Donovan. The Arrowhead High School product, in turn, took the bulk of the reps with the second team, with Savage working into the lineup. Meier took a handful of reps with the reserves.
In addition to throwing a much improved deep ball, Stocco put more zip on his passes on out routes.
Donovan had a few nice deep passes of his own. Savage displayed the strongest arm of the top trio, especially on out patters and intermediate throws.
Booker Stanley heads into spring listed as the Badgers' official No. 1, but it would be a shock if that role does not go to Brian Calhoun in the end. Friday's efforts were non-contact, but it was clear that Calhoun possesses rare abilities. Both he and Stanley looked very sharp catching passes out of the backfield.
Dywon Rowan is going to get a lot of work this spring. He is effectively the only tailback running with the second or third units.
This position, on the other hand, is a bit crowded. Matt Bernstein is the clear No.1, but there is quite a cluster behind him. Josh Balts, Bill Rentmeester and Chris Pressley all took snaps with the second team. Pressley also played a series at tailback. Walk-on Matthew Sorg also worked in with the reserves, though sparingly.
Another crowded position, tight end could be one of the real strengths of the 2005 Badgers. With the added weight, Daniels be able to block from the line of scrimmage more often, though those potential talents were not put to the test Friday.
Fellow seniors Jason Pociask and Joel Nellis provide solid depth. On one play, Pociask worked free along the sideline on a corner route and hauled in a Stocco pass for what would have been about a 35-yard gain.
The play of the day belonged to sophomore walk-on Luke Swan, listed officially as a fourth-team receiver. Swan got behind the defense and, with three Badgers in pursuit, managed to haul in a one-handed, over-the-shoulder catch of a very well-thrown deep pass from Donovan. The play covered about 60 yards, the pass traveling about 50 in the air.
Brandon Williams, the Badgers' leading receiver last season, is not listed on the official depth chart, though he is present on the roster. Coaches were not available for comment, but an athletics communications official confirmed that Williams was intentionally left off the spring depth chart. Williams wore workout clothes Friday as he watched practice from the sideline. It is not uncommon for established players to be held out of spring practice.
The Badgers must replace all four starters and a top reserve at this position. Friday's first quartet was ends Jamal Cooper and Joe Monty and tackles Justin Ostrowski and Nick Hayden. Defensive end Kurt Ware also worked in with the first team.
As expected, Casey Hogan made the shift from safety to sam linebacker; he was part of the Badgers' fourth trio for some position-specific work.
Another part of that fourth trio was walk-on will linebacker Alex Sell, a 6-foot, 208-pound native of Eau Claire.
Jack Ikegwuonu stood out Friday. The redshirt freshman played exclusively with the second-team defense and he broke up a few passes, including a magnificent, lunging deflection of a well-thrown deep pass from Savage that was intended for Jarvis Minton.
Minton, who had a good practice, was the victim of another of the day's best plays. He worked his way free along the left sideline, but corner Allen Langford made the play, getting his hands on Minton's arms and effectively dislodging Minton from the ball.
Credit Langford for a nice play. The 5-11, 187-pound redshirt freshman worked with the No. 1 defense Friday, along with senior Levonne Rowan. Returning starter Bret Bell is recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Sophomore walk-on Ben Strickland moved back to corner from free safety. Strickland was one of the Badgers' better special teams players last season.
James Kamoku also could get in the mix after converting back to safety from linebacker.
A compliment of walk-ons rounds out the safety depth.
A number of the tightest position battles of 2005 will be among the specialists. The Badgers, in fact, did not even bother to list a projected depth for punt returners, kick returners or holders.
Antonio Freeman, Levonne Rowan, Jarvis Minton and Brian Calhoun worked out at returner.