Spring practice report, April 9

Notes from Wisconsin's practice at Camp Randall Stadium Saturday, the 11th practice of spring

Quarterbacks

Saturday was a so-so day for the quarterbacks, who made some quality throws but had several passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage and several more intercepted.

Second-team quarterback Tyler Donovan made a very good play against a blitz package. He recognized the coverage well and found Jonathan Orr on the left sideline, hitting him in stride to turn a 10-15 yard reception into a long touchdown.

Bryan Savage made a good play during a scrimmage session to break containment and scramble for about 20 yards before the whistle blew.

Running backs

Bill Rentmeester looked very fluid on a pass reception out of the backfield. He ran a good route and did a good job of catching the pass with his hands, then tucking it away and quickly darting up field. Safeties Johnny White and Roderick Rogers converged to make the tackle, but Rentmeester got the better of the collision. He picked up about 20 yards on the play.

Booker Stanley took advantage of a huge hole off right guard Saturday, bursting into the clear and making a move on a corner to pick up about 10 extra yards before the corner was able to corral him at the end of a long run that culminated along the right sideline.

Wide receivers/tight ends

Despite tight coverage from Ben Strickland, Brandon White made a good catch on a well-thrown pass from Tyler Donovan.

Luke Swan made a very nice catch, reaching back across his body to pull in a pass that had a lot of zip, but was thrown a little behind the target.

Third tight end Joel Nellis made a strong catch along the sideline, extending to snap the ball away from double coverage.

After practicing Wednesday and Friday, Brandon Williams did not take part Saturday.

With a Tyler Donovan pass coming in a little high, Jonathan Orr made a nice leaping catch near the sideline to pick up a first down.

Offensive line

With Joe Thomas in Tennessee for a track meet, Danny Kaye spent the past two practices as the Badgers' first-team left tackle, allowing Kraig Urbik to take all of the first-team reps at right tackle. Urbik has had some growing pains getting back into the swing of things since returning from an injury this week, but he remains in a tight competition with Kaye for the right tackle spot. The tandem split reps with the second team at right tackle the past two practices.

On Stanley's long run, the combination of right guard Jason Palermo, center Donovan Raiola and fullback Matt Bernstein collapsed the defense, opening a huge running lane.

Palermo and left guard Matt Lawrence continue to enjoy a strong spring. The offensive line needs to develop depth and settle what looks like a long-term competition at right tackle, but from left tackle to right guard UW's offensive line looks quite good.

Urbik caught a pass that was batted down behind the line of scrimmage.

Defensive line

It was Kurt Ware's turn to join the first team at defensive end Saturday. As has been the case throughout spring, end Jamal Cooper and was joined by tackles Justin Ostrowski and Nick Hayden on the first team. The fourth spot, however, has been a toss up between Jason Chapman, Ware and Joe Monty. Saturday, Ware, who had played defensive tackle the previous two practices, was back on the edge. He enjoyed a good practice, getting into the backfield on several occasions and knocking down one pass.

Mark Gorman and Gino Cruse served as the second-team defensive tackles. Cruse enjoyed a second consecutive strong practice, particularly in one-on-one drills with the offensive linemen, where his strength and athleticism have stood out. If Cruse can put it together he has the potential to give the Badgers some much-needed depth at defensive tackle.

In addition to Cruse, defensive ends Cooper and Mike Newkirk stood out during one-on-one drills.

Cooper also did well in scrimmage sessions. In close succession he sacked Tyler Donovan, then flushed Donovan out to his left, where Ware was ready to get a sack of his own.

Brandon Kelly knocked down a pass and recovered a fumble.

Linebackers

The musical mike linebacker scenario played out again Saturday, with Paul Joran receiving the most reps with the first team. Incumbent starter Andy Crooks, walk-on Josh Neal and first-team sam linebacker Mark Zalewski also received first-team reps at mike. Crooks, Neal and Joran all played with the second team at mike.

Joran had a very strong practice and has really played well since being shifted from sam to mike after spring break. At about 235 pounds he has enough size to hold up between the tackles and he has proven athletic enough to be solid in coverage and also to make plays when blitzing. He did, however, drop an interception Saturday. Including that play, Joran had two pass breakups Saturday.

For the one series that Zalewski played mike with the first team, Casey Hogan filled in at sam. Otherwise, Hogan again served as Zalewski's backup at sam. Hogan continues to enjoy a strong spring. He again made several hustle plays, taking good pursuit angles to run down ball carriers or receivers who had evaded other defenders.

Ben Landgraf, who worked in with the second team at will linebacker, had an interception near the right sideline.

Defensive backs

Zach Hampton was at it again Saturday. He intercepted a pass during 7 on 7 work and another in a live scrimmage session, giving him five in the past two practices. During one scrimmage segment Hampton walked up from his free safety position and locked onto slot receivers one-on-one and held up very well, allowing very little daylight for pass attempts.

Allen Langford and Levonne Rowan took most of the reps with the first team at cornerback, but Jack Ikegwuonu subbed in for Rowan for a few series. Ben Strickland took most of the second team reps opposite Ikegwuonu or Rowan, with Antonio Freeman rotating in. Strickland made the hit of the day, dropping tight end Sean Lewis in his tracks to break up a pass near the sideline. He had another pass breakup later in practice.

Strong safety Johnny White registered a pass breakup.

Special teams

The Badgers practiced punt coverage live Saturday, with Zach Hampton and Levonne Rowan serving as the first-team sprinters. Jack Ikegwuonu, Roderick Rogers, Luke Swan, Allen Langford, Ben Strickland and Jeff Holzbauer also took turns in the sprinter's role.

Ken DeBauche let rip a 55-yard punt during one live segment.

Another live punt was muffed on the receiving end. Rowan recovered the ball for the punt team.


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