Spring practice report, March 12

Position-by-position notes on the Badgers' second practice of 2005

The Wisconsin football team continued spring practice Saturday morning at the McClain Center, working without pads for the second consecutive day.

Highlights

  • The Badgers will put pads on Sunday — not a moment too soon. After going more than two months without hitting, it was clear Saturday UW was ready to get back at it. Fights broke out twice late in what was a pretty intense practice, especially for an early spring, non-contact workout.
  • The depth chart remained largely unchanged from day one to day two, though there were some notable variations in scrimmage reps. The biggest change was that redshirt freshman quarterback Bryan Savage received quality reps with the first team in scrimmage drills and effectively split reps on the second team with sophomore Tyler Donovan. Incumbent John Stocco remains the clear No. 1, though it is obvious that the coaching staff is going to take a very close look at what Donovan and Savage can do. Donovan is the official No. 2 signal caller. On Friday, he took more reps with the 2s than Savage and also spent a few series with the 1s. The rep breakdown was effectively reversed Saturday.
  • Brandon Williams again watched practice from the sidelines. After Saturday's workout, UW coach Barry Alvarez said Williams is recovering from a stress fracture. The Badgers' leading receiver is expected to return to action after spring break.

Quarterbacks

For all of the top three quarterbacks, more passes hit the turf Saturday than Friday. Some of the struggles fell in the quarterbacks' laps, but it also appeared that the timing between quarterback and receiver was not quite crisp. In addition, the Badgers' secondary and linebackers made more plays Saturday; coverage was typically tighter all the way around.

That said, there were some shining moments for the signal callers, including a well-thrown deep pass from John Stocco to Paul Hubbard for about a 60-yard touchdown catch.

Running backs

Brian Calhoun's speed, hands and ability in the open field were all on display Saturday. Calhoun has as good of hands as any of UW's receivers. And when he gets a sliver of daylight he has an extra gear that is tough to defend.

Booker Stanley led off the scrimmage sessions as the tailback with the No. 1 offense, but Calhoun rotated in regularly.

Receivers and tight ends

Brandon White, who watched Friday's practice from the sidelines, made an excellent catch along the sideline Saturday, snaring a John Stocco pass and tip-toeing the turf to stay in bounds.

White also made a nice play on a deep pass from Bryan Savage, adjusting his route and coming back to the ball, then fending off a defender to make the catch before going out of bounds.

Jeff Holzbauer made a tough catch on short out route, holding on despite tight coverage from Levonne Rowan.

Hubbard's long touchdown catch was impressive. First, he showed off his athleticism, making a quick move into his break and gaining separation from the cornerback. Hubbard bended his route a little too far inside, however, and had to shift his way back to the sideline as Stocco's pass was in the air. Hubbard displayed good concentration, hauling in the over-the-shoulder catch, then breaking into stride to ensure that he would not get caught from behind.

Jonathan Orr made an excellent catch along the sideline, stretching out to pluck a pass out of the air.

Offensive line

The two-deep remained unchanged from Friday to Saturday. Danny Kaye continued to take first-team reps at left tackle in place of Joe Thomas, who competed at the NCAA Indoor Championships Saturday, while also backing up Kraig Urbik at right tackle. In one small change, however, Urbik also took some reps with the second team at right tackle.

Defensive line

Kurt Ware rotated in with Joe Monty at first-team left defensive end. Ware made the play of the day, intercepting an attempted screen pass and running it back for a touchdown.

Brandon Kelly also found the end zone Saturday, gathering in a fumbled quarterback/tailback exchange and running a short way to pay dirt.

Jason Chapman focused on defensive tackle after spending some time at end Friday....Nick Hayden knocked down a pass at the line of scrimmage.

Linebackers

Redshirt freshman mike linebacker Josh Neal joined classmates Nick Sutton (sam) and Ben Landgraf (will) as the third-team linebackers.

Starting mike linebacker Andy Crooks knocked down a pass.

Secondary

Redshirt freshman cornerback Jameson Davis is noticeably slimmer this spring and his play is improving as a result. Davis enrolled early at UW last spring and checked in at 204 pounds, but he struggled to carry the added muscle mass he had built in his first winter in the Badgers' training program.

Davis is listed at 6-foot, 199 pounds on UW's official spring roster, but he said Saturday he has actually trimmed to 190. As a result, Davis shaved about a tenth of a second off his 40 time in the past year. He is running with receivers better than he did in the previous spring, fall or bowl practice seasons and his change of direction has improved greatly.

Davis has spent most of his time with the second-team defense at cornerback, but he also rotated in at free safety with the third-team defensive backs Saturday. That unit also included Ben Strickland and Antonio Freeman at corners and James Kamoku at strong safety.

Second-team strong safety Joe Stellmacher made a very good play Saturday to break up a pass intended for tight end Jason Pociask in the middle of the field. Stellmacher timed his break well and reached around Pociask to knock the ball away.

Special teams

The same group of players have been working on punt and kick return catches through two practices: senior Levonne Rowan, junior Brian Calhoun and redshirt freshmen Antonio Freeman and Jarvis Minton. All four have exceptional speed and solid ball skills, though those characteristics will not be put to the test until the Badgers begin live practice work.

Two other players will be in the return mix: injured receiver Brandon Williams, who has handled kick return duties the past three seasons, and Marcus Randle El, who is suspended for half of spring practices.

Zach Hampton and Ben Strickland are the Badgers' primary gunners on punt coverage; Hampton is also expected to return to his spot as the second deep man on kickoffs.


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