Spring practice report, April 3

News and notes from Wisconsin's eighth practice this spring

The University of Wisconsin football team practiced on the field at Camp Randall Sunday afternoon with a heavy focus on scrimmage sessions.

Quarterbacks

John Stocco took the vast majority of the reps with the first team and had a good practice. The junior returning starter was sharp throughout the day and did well in live scrimmage work. He made some clutch throws on third-down plays to keep the chains moving.

During 11-on-11 situational scrimmaging, Stocco made a good pass to Jeff Holzbauer in the back of the end zone for a short touchdown.

During the situational scrimmaging, Stocco and No. 2 quarterback Tyler Donovan alternated series for the first four rotations. Redshirt freshman Bryan Savage entered on the fifth series.

Donovan, who received some work with the first team, had a solid practice, continuing to show greater command of his throws. He executed a nice play-action fake and delivered a touchdown pass to Jonathan Orr in the back of the end zone.

Donovan also had the best throw of the day, a marvelously placed deep pass down the right sideline to Brandon White.

Savage threw a number of passes too low for receivers to make plays and his best passes were foiled on the pass receiving end. One pass zipped over the middle was dropped and a well-thrown deep ball fell incomplete after a receiver made a mistake in running his route.

Fourth-string quarterback Craig Meier made the play of the day. Feeling pressure from defensive end Brandon Kelly, the redshirt freshman walk-on scrambled to his left, ball faked and ran hard, if somewhat awkwardly, toward the sideline. Linebacker Julian Edwards appeared to have him stopped for a short gain, but Meier broke the tackle, ran up field, broke Michael Gust's tackle attempt about 10 yards down field, picking up a first down, and stumbled his way to a 33-yard gain to the 17.

On fourth-and-goal soon thereafter Meier threw a touchdown pass to a closely defended tight end Sean Lewis in the front of the end zone.

Running backs

Per usual, Brian Calhoun broke a few long runs on off tackle plays or outside runs, turning the corner and taking advantage of his exceptional speed. But Sunday many of his best runs came between the tackles, including several sizeable gains on draw plays.

Booker Stanley continues to play well this spring. He displayed good speed in turning the corner around left end. That play may have resulted in a touchdown had it occurred during a completely live situation.

Bill Rentmeester saw quite a bit of time at tailback with the second offense, lining up behind reserve fullback Josh Balts or as a single back. Rentmeester, who is being groomed as a potential future replacement for senior fullback Matt Bernstein, showed good quickness into his cuts and drive when delivering a blow. His future is at fullback, but due to UW's lack of tailback depth this spring, he and fellow reserve fullback Chris Pressley have spent an ever increasing share of their time at tailback.

Rentmeester caught a touchdown pass on a circle route out of the backfield during 11-on-11 drills.

Wide receivers/tight ends

Marcus Randle El returned to practice Sunday after being suspended for the first seven spring workouts. Considering his lack of practice reps, he looked sharp in pass catching drills, but he took very few reps in scrimmage situations.

Brandon White made a great play on Donovan's great throw down the right sideline. Donovan left some air under the ball, allowing White to adjust his stride to make a play on it. White essentially invited contact from the corner then used his body to shield the defender from the ball, leapt into the air, snagged it and tucked it away for a long reception.

White made a living on out routes Sunday, finding open space along the sideline. Stocco did a very good job delivering the ball to him in rhythm as he came out of his break.

In full scrimmage work, Jeff Holzbauer was the No. 3 receiver behind White and Jonathan Orr. Brandon Williams, who returned to practice Saturday after missing the first six workouts because of a stress injury to his shin, did not practice Sunday.

Jarvis Minton and Paul Hubbard were the top receivers on the second team.

Jason Pociask had a good day blocking, including a solid play to pin Jamal Cooper at the point of attack, but the normally sure handed senior tight end dropped a couple catchable passes.

Owen Daniels had a nice block on the edge but he too had a rare dropped pass Sunday.

Offensive line

Perhaps in a sign of the way the Badgers view their offensive line depth, during one scrimmage session center Donovan Raiola departed for a sequence and first-team right guard Jason Palermo shifted to center. First team left guard Matt Lawrence moved over to right guard and true freshman second-team guard Andy Kemp moved up to left guard. Joe Thomas and Danny Kaye remained at left and right tackle, respectively.

Andrew Weininger, who has primarily played left tackle with the second team, spent some time at right tackle with the second team Sunday.

Palermo made a nice block pulling to the edge, sealing off Cooper to spring Stanley for a big run around left end. Palermo also pounced on a fumble to preserve possession after linebacker Mark Zalewski jarred the ball loose from a running back.

Defensive line

Jamal Cooper had an up and down day. He struggled at times holding the point of attack versus the run, which was a rare exception to what has generally been a sparkling spring for him. But he did a good job rushing the passer, with a pair of practice sacks.

Jason Chapman, who spent the vast majority of his reps at tackle before spring break, took nearly all of his reps at end this weekend, including consistent work with the first team at left end Sunday.

Chapman and Nick Hayden combined for a sack during situational 11-on-11 work.

Mike Newkirk had a good practice, showing a burst as a pass rusher with both speed and power moves. He had a pair of sacks during full scrimmage work.

Brandon Kelly had his best practice of the spring. He closed down on a run play to tackle Rentmeester for a short gain and had a sack in full scrimmage work.

On that play, walk-on Adam Purcell, playing on the third unit, provided pressure from the backside to force the quarterback into Kelly's grasp.

Linebackers

There was substantial juggling at some linebacker spots Sunday, particularly at mike ‘backer. Paul Joran, who entered spring as the second-team sam linebacker, spent this afternoon's workout as the No. 2 mike. Walk-on redshirt freshman Joshua Neal was third on the depth at mike, followed by senior Elliot Goode and redshirt freshman walk-on Alex Sell.

Neal and corner Ben Strickland combined to stop Rentmeester for a loss during third-team work.

Ben Landgraf, who split his practice reps at will linebacker between the second and third units, forced a fumble in 9-on-9 scrimmage work. Defensive end Brandon Kelly recovered it.

Sophomore Casey Hogan, who shifted from safety to linebacker this spring, spent most of practice working as the second-team sam linebacker, but also played with the second and third team at will. Hogan is not particularly physical at either position, but he has shown good range and an ability to track plays to the sidelines. He made a good tackle to keep Tyler Donovan from picking up a first down on a scramble during full scrimmage work.

Regular starting linebackers Mark Zalewski (sam) and Andy Crooks (mike) were joined on the first team by redshirt freshman Jammar Crane (will).

Crane's classmate, Nick Sutton, primarily played sam linebacker on the third string, but also played will linebacker with the second and third units. Sutton's physical play stood out Sunday; he had some of the fiercest hits of the day.

At times Zalewski has been unblockable when he comes on a blitz. He had two quarterback hurries during full scrimmaging.

Walk-on Julian Edwards, who opened spring at free safety, played sam linebacker Sunday.

Secondary

Johnny White had a very good day in run support, making several big hits to stuff Stanley and Calhoun. Particularly impressive has been his ability to take a good angle of pursuit and head Calhoun off before he can turn the corner. Few Badgers have been able to do that against the speedy Calhoun with any semblance of regularity.

It was a good day for the strong safeties in general. Joe Stellmacher had an interception for the second consecutive day and was also strong in run support.

Special teams

Taylor Mehlhaff and Adam Schober took turns kicking field goals during an early practice team session. From about 40 yards out, the left footed Mehlhaff connected from the right hash but was wide left from the left hash, while the right footed Schober was good from the left hash but wide right from the right hash.

Both Mehlhaff and Schober have shown improvement kicking field goals this spring and have typically gone 2-for-2 each in similar situations. They both have good range and are becoming more consistent.

UW practiced kick returns live Sunday afternoon. Jarvis Minton was the first-team kick returner, followed by Levonne Rowan, Brian Calhoun and Marcus Randle El. Matt Bernstein and Zach Hampton split work as the secondary deep man, who effectively serves as a lead blocker. Special teams dynamo Ben Strickland served as the up back with the first team, a role that Bernstein held last year.

Mike Newkirk was lauded by the coaching staff for a block he made with the second team return unit.


Badger Nation Top Stories