Alvarez comments on scrimmage

The Badgers held a closed-door scrimmage at Camp Randall Stadium Saturday

The University of Wisconsin football team has less than a week left in its 2005 fall training camp. And Saturday morning the team held a scrimmage at Camp Randall Stadium that was closed to the media.

"Good scrimmage. A lot of plays, long time, very physical," UW head coach Barry Alvarez said afterwards. "Much like you'd like to see it. The momentum swung both ways. The offense had momentum early, the defense took it late.

"Taylor Mehlhaff is still kicking the ball very, very well. Got all of our kicking game scrimmaged and I thought the kickers did excellent.

"(Mike linebacker Mark) Zalewski really jumped out at me in the scrimmage. I thought he was all over the field and really looked… (he) made a lot of plays.

"(Wide receiver) Brandon Williams made a lot of plays.

"I thought (quarterback) John (Stocco) threw the ball well and handled the scrimmage well.

"(Fullback Chris) Pressley did a few good things.

"Those are just a couple guys off the top of my head that I thought scrimmaged well.

"All in all I was pleased. I really think it's a great teaching today. Really got a lot done."

During the Big Ten media days two weeks ago, Alvarez mentioned Brandon Williams as a player he hoped could step up and enjoy the type of production he had as a freshman, when he posted career bests with 52 receptions for 663 yards and three touchdowns. Williams has not missed a game the past three seasons, but a stress fracture in his shin robbed him of all of spring practices in 2004 and most of spring this year. However, this summer Williams was able heal in time to take part in summer conditioning.

"This is probably the first time he's been healthy (in fall camp) since he was a freshman, full speed 100 percent," Alvarez said. "And he's a playmaker. He makes things happen. He made a tough catch… on the boundary on a third down to keep the drive alive today. Catching everything, doing good things in the return game.

"He's always been a playmaker. You'd just like to have him do it when he's full speed."

Alvarez said he has seen progress in Stocco in the past year.

"I can remember a year ago we'd go through a practice and not complete a pass," he said. "So I definitely know we're a lot further along than we were a year ago."

Stocco has stated several times that, on deeper routes, he is focusing on putting the ball where the receiver can make a play on it, rather than trying to put it in a perfect spot where only his receiver can get to it. Was that something Alvarez spoke to him about in the offseason?

"(Quarterbacks coach) Jeff (Horton) may have talked to him," Alvarez said. "(Co-offensive coordinator) Paul (Chryst) may have talked to him about it. We've given him more opportunity in some of the things we're doing to get those shots, if people are overplaying us in the running game. If they want to play what we call Cover 9 and run those safeties down into the box on play action, then you are going to have to cover. Its 1-on-1 with a deep throw and half the field to work with. Those are good, safe throws and pretty high percentage throws."

Friday morning, Alvarez expressed his displeasure with the team's focus and seemed especially discontent regarding the performance of the team's wide receivers. Several passes were dropped during non-tackle 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work.

"That's the thing about camp. It's not just running plays and doing everything. It's about being mentally tough too," Alvarez said. "Everyone's tired. Every team in the country's going through two-a-days, everybody's tired. They are all sore… They probably have 80 percent of their legs. They're tired. They just scrimmaged the night before (Thursday), they bang around the night before. So no one's crazy about running around out here and getting into practice. And if you're not focused 100 percent that's what happens. The balls start ricocheting or (players are) jumping offside… We threw the [heck] out of the ball and I don't know how many we dropped. And that's just lack of concentration and focus. That's another training thing and I talked to them [today] about it. A college football game's a long time. It's a three-and-a-half hours of concentration. If you lose that concentration you are going to get beat. So you have to train yourself for that too.

"I thought our defense concentrated. They started slow today, but finished very strong, which tells me, mentally they're pretty tough and they can respond. And our offense was just the opposite. They started very fast and I thought it got a little less focused at the end…

"But when you go good-against-good that's what happens. Somebody's good and somebody's not as good."

For the season opener Sept. 3, the Badgers must contend with a Bowling Green offense that is expected to again have one of the nation's best passing offenses. Regarding pass defense, has there been a sense of urgency all camp?

"We've been going against our stuff," Alvarez said. "We're trying to establish some things with our offense and we want to do it against speed so we are doing it against our defense. Next week we'll get started on their scheme… The spread out stuff is nothing new for us. It's the tempos that they run. If all of our guys are healthy, they'll be a [heck] of a challenge cause this guy (Falcons quarterback Omar Jacobs) ain't going to miss a lot of them. It's not going to be the offense stopping themselves… We're going to have to stop them… "

On naming captains:

"I think probably for the first so many years we always voted for them at the end camp," Alvarez said, "and then we changed it, decided… when we knew we had good leaders and had them identified, then we would name them in the spring.

"But we've done it both ways. We started here probably the first eight or 10 years was probably at the end of camp we would name captains."

Are candidates emerging that you expected?

"I don't know who they are," Alvarez said. "The guys will tell me. We'll have an open vote to see who they think are their leaders."

Have the players Alvarez talked to in the spring about leadership reacted the way he would like?

"Our guys have been good. Our guys do whatever we ask them to do. I don't have any issues with our guys," Alvarez said. "The leadership a lot of times comes off the field, things that we don't see and we don't know. It's hard to determine. You can make a lot of noise out there and not be a leader. There's a lot more to it. It's someone… that can control the voice in the locker room and handle things off the field when they need to be handled. It's easy when everything's going well, but having somebody tough enough and who is a leader enough to tell someone, hey, that's not right, or that's not the way we do it. I don't know who those guys are."

On whether the bonding experience of camp has changed with it at Camp Randall instead of the Bishop O'Connor Center:

"I've kind of done a little investigating," Alvarez said. "Ben Herbert is close to the players because he's close to their age. And I've talked with some of them individually just to see if — have their been any complaints? What's the feedback? I haven't heard one negative thing about camp. We do a lot of things at night. Last night we had a hypnotist in, which was huge. It was a lot of fun for two hours and… some of the guys… they opened themselves up and I think it was a lot of fun for the kids. Kids got to know one another a little bit better… Even if we're at the seminary the older guys kind of hang together, the younger guys are around. Every other day the old guys are in their apartments, the young guys would stay out there. So I think we're getting here what we needed. I've been pleased with it."

True freshman tailback Jerry Butler was held out of practice Friday, while wearing a neck brace. The brace was gone Saturday, but he did not participate in the scrimmage.

"That's just a sprain," Alvarez said. "I would guess Jerry will be back Monday or Tuesday."

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