Spring practice report, April 13

News and notes from Wisconsin's practice at Camp Randall Wednesday afternoon

Quarterbacks

After a so-so 7-on-7 workout, No. 1 quarterback John Stocco settled in and was fairly effective Wednesday. He did an adequate job reading coverages and making decisions with the ball and his accuracy was a step up from last week.

He made a good play with his feet as well, stepping up into the pocket to avoid a blitz and scrambling for about 15 yards.

Tyler Donovan had a very good 7-on-7 performance, completing two well-thrown deep outs to Brandon White, in his first series of plays.

Donovan generally had a good practice, though his consistency still fails him at times. He threw a poor pass along the sideline that was intercepted, but on balance he displayed good command in the pocket, delivering passes in rhythm. Donovan has always had arm strength, but he appears to be putting it together now. Of course, Donovan remains an excellent athlete. With Brandon Kelly and Justin Ostrowski bearing down on him, Donovan stepped to his left and sprinted for the sideline, outrunning his pursuers to pick up a yard or two when it looked like he was going to be sacked for sure.

Stocco also completed a pair of deep outs during 7-on-7 play, one to White and one to Jarvis Minton, but for the most part had a tough time completing passes other than check downs to his running backs before he smoothed out his play later in practice.

Bryan Savage, who received an extended series during 7-on-7 work and played some with the second-team during 11-on-11 sessions, had a tough practice. He was alternately short, long or high with his throws. His best pass —a perfectly placed slant route — was dropped.

Running backs

Billy Rentmeester made one of the plays of the day. First, the fullback drilled defensive end Mike Newkirk, throwing him off his pass rush. Then Rentmeester made his way to the flats, where he caught a pass from Tyler Donovan and darted up field for about 12 yards.

Tailback Dywon Rowan caught several passes out of the backfield and scored a touchdown on a short running play. He missed a block, however, that resulted in a sack.

During an inside running drill, fullback Matt Bernstein teamed with guard Matt Lawrence to clear a substantial hole for tailback Booker Stanley.

Wide receivers/tight ends

Jarvis Minton had a good day. In both drills and scrimmage sessions he ran crisp routes and was able to gain separation on the defensive backs. Minton is still locked in a tight battle with Jeff Holzbauer for the No. 4 receiver slot.

Holzbauer was also in the mix Wednesday with several receptions.

Jonathan Orr made a very good catch along the sideline during 7 on 7 work, leaping above two defensive backs to pull down the pass. Despite being in the vicinity, the secondary coverage on the play was not good, but credit Orr for going up and making the play.

Orr also had a long touchdown catch during 11-on-11 work. Ben Strickland had excellent coverage on the play but Orr out-muscled him to make the catch, jarring the corner enough to take him out of position to make the tackle afterwards. Orr sprinted the about 50 remaining yards down the sideline for a 70-yard score.

Orr generally had a good day, but he looked lost on a deep pass during full scrimmaging. The throw from Stocco was a little too far ahead, but Orr did not adjust well to the pass, cutting off his route too early before leaping in the air to try to get a hand on the ball.

Marcus Randle El, still working himself into the swing of things after being suspended for the first half of the spring practice season, made a very nice catch in the seam on a well-thrown pass from Stocco.

Tight end Owen Daniels made a leaping catch over a defensive back near the sideline. Later in practice he caught a touchdown pass from Stocco.

Receiver Paul Hubbard caught a pass after it was tipped at the line of scrimmage.

Minton closed the day's events with a deep touchdown grab.

Offensive line

After missing last weekend's practices due to a track meet, Joe Thomas was back at left tackle Wednesday. Kraig Urbik and Danny Kaye rotated at right tackle with the first and second teams.

Andy Kemp spent some time with the first team at left guard, while regular left guard Matt Lawrence spent time at right guard and regular right guard Jason Palermo spelled Donovan Raiola at center.

The first-team offensive line was serviceable Wednesday but the second unit struggled to keep the Badgers' pass rushers at bay.

Defensive line

There were not many sacks, but the Badgers' defensive line and linebackers put UW's quarterbacks under near constant duress.

Jason Chapman was back playing defensive end with the first-team defense, but he lined up at nose tackle in the 3-3-5 nickel set, with Kurt Ware and Jamal Cooper flanking him.

In 4-2-5 work, Ware slid from end to tackle and Mike Newkirk played end.

Ware and Newkirk also took up roles on the second-team defense, with Ware playing tackle, alongside Gino Cruse. Mark Gorman rotated in at second-team defensive tackle.

Newkirk registered a sack.

Linebackers

Andy Crooks was back taking the bulk of the snaps with the first team at mike linebacker, after ceding that role to Paul Joran last week. Joran still worked in with the first team but took the bulk of his reps with the second team. Josh Neal also played on the second team at mike.

The Badgers used a nickel defense more than at any other time this spring. When employing a 3-3-5 look, first-team sam linebacker Mark Zalewski moved to mike, with Casey Hogan playing sam and LaMarr Watkins at will. In the 4-2-5 Hogan left the field in favor of a defensive lineman.

Early in the first 11-on-11 session, LaMarr Watkins and Mark Zalewski converged on John Stocco for a ‘practice sack'.

Hogan broke up a pass intended for tight end Jason Pociask and sacked quarterback Tyler Donovan.

Zalewski had an interception during 11-on-11 work.

Crooks stopped Bill Rentmeester short of a first down during a live scrimmage session. After delivering a big hit, Crooks drove Rentmeester to the turf.

LaMarr Watkins broke up a pass with a bit hit on Jason Pociask, knocking the tight end off kilter just as the ball arrived.

Defensive backs

The secondary really struggled early in practice. The quarterbacks and receivers were making plays, yes, but the defensive backs helped consummate those connections with generally porous coverage.

After Levonne Rowan left practice, presumably for class, the nickel defensive backs were safeties Roderick Rogers and Johnny White and corners Allen Langford, Jack Ikegwuonu and Ben Strickland.

Strickland had three pass breakups and an interception.

Second-team free safety Zach Hampton also had three pass breakups, but dropped an interception on one of them and may have had an interception on another had he not made a break on the ball intent on knocking it to the ground.

Johnny White broke up a pass over the middle.

Third-string strong safety James Kamoku intercepted a pass that was tipped by the intended receiver.

Special teams

The first-team punt returner was Brian Calhoun, followed by Marcus Randle El and Jarvis Minton.


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