Jonathan Orr enjoyed a very strong practice Monday and has generally enjoyed a good spring. He has always been a big, fast receiver, but he seems to be running better underneath routes and he has been more aggressive going after the football. He had a handful of impressive catches Monday, mostly on routes along the sideline. On one leaping catch, he also did a good job of getting his feet underneath him and coming down in bounds. In scrimmage work, only one reasonably catchable pass eluded him. That throw was too far in front of Orr and little on the high side; Orr made a good effort to leap for it, but mistimed his jump.
It is no secret the Badgers' offense could use a productive Orr and this spring is crucial to his success in the fall. To this point the senior has performed admirably.
Though Orr finished last season as the Badgers No. 4 receiver, he will almost certainly start in the fall. Darrin Charles, last season's No. 2, has exhausted his eligibility, and Brandon White, last year's No. 3, is playing flanker, while Orr is situated at split end. With returning No. 1 Brandon Williams nursing a stress fracture to this point in spring practices, White and Orr are each working out as starters. Williams will be back at flanker, probably after spring break, and is expected to push White to a reserve role. It is a backup position in name only, however, as White will be a significant part of the offense, both as a substitute and in three-receiver packages.
There is no question that Owen Daniels is going to be a big part of the Badgers' 2005 offense, but when discussing two-way tight ends, do not forget senior Jason Pociask. He is a tough blocker, capable of delivering a blow against defensive linemen or linebackers, and he has enough athleticism to be a potential threat in the passing game.
Booker Stanley looks healthy and happy this spring. He has had a bounce in his step, and has run like the tailback who was a productive reserve in 2003, rather than the struggling runner of 2004. Never much of a wiggler, Stanley has been surprisingly elusive this spring, making a habit of evading tacklers as he cuts to a hole, or of sprinting past would-be tacklers as he bounces outside.
Speaking of sprinting, Brian Calhoun makes dashing into the open field look easy with his seemingly effortless gait. Calhoun broke around the outside for long runs at least twice in live scrimmage sessions Monday. Calhoun has also shown some niftiness in 9-on-9 red zone drills, where the offense takes the ball at the 10 or the five and tries to work its way into the end zone. Calhoun is not the biggest running back out there, but he is tough and he has a knack for bouncing and spinning off tacklers in traffic.
Fullback Chris Pressley again took some reps at running back, mostly in one-back sets.
Walk-on Dywon Rowan had an impressive practice, breaking two long runs on carries between the tackles during scrimmage work. Though he was not even acknowledged on UW's official roster until this spring, Rowan has a legitimate shot at playing time — there are only four tailbacks on the roster right now, with only three working out this spring (Jamil Walker will not practice this spring due to a shoulder injury), and Rowan's size (5-foot-9, 239 pounds) is something Stanley, Calhoun and 2005 tailback recruits Dion Foster and Jerry Butler do not bring to the table. If nothing else Rowan has already proven willing to run hard and take a lot of practice reps, which could make him a valuable contributor on the scout team.
Rowan also caught a touchdown pass in 7-on-7 work, receiving a swing pass in the flats and taking it about 20 yards to the end zone.
Fullback Matt Bernstein recorded a pancake block during scrimmage work.
Due to the Badgers' lack of bodies, left tackle Joe Thomas double shifted a bit Monday, playing with both the first and second teams for part of the session.
Andrew Weininger held up well in a 1-on-1 pass rush drill.
Tyler Donovan and Bryan Savage split reps behind John Stocco Monday… Donovan made arguably the best throw of the day, hitting Jarvis Minton on a deep route with a spiraling pass that had a nice trajectory.
In a near carbon copy of a play from Sunday's practice, Savage evaded a pass rusher that had broken free and threw a short pass on the run. This time, however, the pass was broken up, but Savage still showed the ability to escape and make a decision on the fly.
Savage also threw an excellent deep pass on Holzbauer's long touchdown.
Stocco had a scramble play of his own, breaking containment and jaunting about 20 yards downfield before the whistle blew.
Allen Langford had a very good practice, and was excellent particularly late in the scrimmage work, blanketing the receivers he was assigned to cover. Luke Swan was able to get a little separation on Langford on a quick out, but Langford jumped the route and put a hit on Swan, jarring the ball free.
With starting corner Bret Bell out with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Langford has taken all of his reps with the first-team defense this spring. At the very least Langford will be a solid nickel corner for UW in the fall. He may even challenge Levonne Rowan for a starting spot after Bell returns.
Walk-on Josh Neal received quality reps with the second-team defense at mike linebacker. Neal is the son of Marvin Neal, a former Badger letterwinner.
Andy Crooks made one of the plays of the day when he burst through the line of scrimmage on a blitz and sacked Donovan. Crooks also made a nice play to track Calhoun down along the sideline as the tailback was trying to turn the corner.
Mike Newkirk stood out during pass rushing drills and played well in general Monday. He continues to work with the second team at defensive end.
Kurt Ware, the other second-team defensive end, continues to have a solid spring. After shifting to defensive end from tight end last season, Ware has put on about 30 pounds and is learning some finer points at defensive end, but he looks like someone the Badgers can and will count on in the fall.
Antonio Freeman, Jarvis Minton, Levonne Rowan and Brian Calhoun continue to work on kick and punt returns, but expect this battle to boil down to Freeman and Minton, with Marcus Randle El and perhaps Brandon Williams thrown into the mix later this spring.
Calhoun and Rowan both have excellent speed but are expected to play big roles at tailback and cornerback, respectively, this season. Freeman and Minton are also expected to be in the depth at their positions this fall, but not to the same extent. Both are plenty fast to produce as a return specialist; Minton in particular looks to have the ball skills and quickness to potentially thrive in the role.
The Badgers have yet to work on kick or punt return at full speed, however, so much remains to be seen.