Alvarez' take on spring practice

Badger head coach gives his thoughts on QB situation, Brandon Williams and more

After practicing inside the McClain Center last Wednesday with rain and tornado watches abound, Wisconsin got a chance to practice outside in Camp Randall stadium with the sun shining brightly Saturday afternoon.

The Badgers had a bit of an audience, as the practice was part of a coaching clinic for high school staffs. Considering the surroundings, head coach Barry Alvarez was pleased with his players' performance.

"I really thought we got a lot done today," Alvarez said. "I thought our guys really bounced around well. They were out there a long time. We had 3,000 high school coaches, over 3,000 high school coaches in for the weekend. This was part of the clinic, so we were involved with everything. A player was involved in demonstrations, so it was a long day. But, I really thought they concentrated and we got a lot done."

Wisconsin is now halfway through its spring practice schedule leading up to the annual intra-squad spring game on April 16.

"I think we've shown improvement in seven practices," Alvarez said. "I really like the way our young guys are stepping up and I think we've got a group of kids that really like football."

Return of Williams

Wisconsin received a boost with the return of senior wide receiver Brandon Williams, the team's leading pass catcher a season ago. Prior to Saturday, Williams had missed all of spring with a stress fracture in one of his shins and also missed last year's spring session.

"The good thing about Brandon, he has three years of playing time," Alvarez said. "He's had a lot of reps. It'd be less important to have him out there than (sophomore) Jamil Walker (who has also missed all of spring thus far). Jamil really needed it. It wouldn't hurt to have Brandon out there, because there are some new things that we're installing. It'd be nice for him to have some reps so we can correct him off of it instead of waiting until two-a-days. I think we'll get him through some practice…it's not as important with a veteran as it is with the young guys."

Quarterback situation

Returning starter John Stocco continued to take the majority of snaps with the first team, while backups sophomore Tyler Donovan and redshirt freshman Bryan Savage have repeatedly shown promise. Alvarez entered the spring hoping for better play out of the position, and is pleased with what he has seen thus far.

"I think John is playing with a lot of confidence," Alvarez said. "Some of the new things that we've put in, I think he's grasped it very well. But, I think we've thrown and caught it well in only seven days of practice."

Donovan has continued to display his ability to scramble for yardage and move in the pocket, while Savage has flashed his powerful throwing arm on numerous occasions.

"Tyler is very talented, very athletic," Alvarez said. "I think he has a better grasp than he had going into spring. I think he's shown a lot of improvement and has had some bright spots in practice. [He] has to be a little more consistent, but he's a very talented young man. Bryan has a lot of ability, has to learn a sense of urgency."

Rowan's time

Wisconsin lost three starters in the secondary after last season, including cornerback and playmaker Scott Starks. As a result, senior Levonne Rowan has been given the opportunity to start this spring. Rowan started nine games two seasons ago, but played only in a reserve role last year.

"[Levonne Rowan]'s played a lot of football for us," Alvarez said. "He's another one who's been inconsistent, but he has all kinds of ability – he's a big corner, he can run fast, he has sprinter's speed. He shows flashes, I think he shows flashes of being a great player."

Rowan is a 6-foot-1 cornerback who has run track for UW in the past. Alvarez is hoping the senior will finally translate that physical ability into productivity.

"I think he has matured, I know he's much more physical right now than he's ever been," Alvarez said. "He's playing with more confidence than he's ever played with in the past. Hopefully that will start showing up in consistency, a guy that we can depend on every down."

In the absence of returning starter Brett Bell, redshirt freshman Allen Langford has worked with the first team defensive unit. Bell, a senior, has missed the entire spring thus far recovering from a knee injury.

"They anticipate [Bell will] be ready for two-a-days," Alvarez said. "He's progressing very well, probably a little ahead of schedule. He's been very positive and upbeat about how he feels and wants to be a little more aggressive in his rehab. But, they think he's at least on schedule."

No decision on play calling

With the addition of co-offensive coordinator Paul Chryst in the off-season, Alvarez has not yet made a decision on UW's offensive play calling. Fellow co-offensive coordinator Brian White has controlled the reigns of the Badger offense since 1999, but Chryst joins the program after calling plays at Oregon State the last two seasons.

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