Spring football notebook

Notable and quotable after Wisconsin's first three spring practices

MADISON — The University of Wisconsin football team will include live tackling in spring practice for the first time Wednesday, head coach Bret Bielema said late Monday night, following the Badgers' third of 15 spring practices.

The team had today off, and will practice Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays through April 22 — the date of the spring game at Camp Randall Stadium.

The NCAA allows teams to conduct 15 spring practices, of which 12 can be in pads and six can included full-tackle drills and scrimmage sessions. Bielema said that, in addition to the spring game, the team plans to include tackling in practice on the two preceding Saturdays, April 8 and April 15. This Saturday's practice is not expected to include tackling because the Badgers are hosting their annual spring coaches convention this weekend.

"We'll get into a little bit of a tackle situation on Wednesday because on Saturday it's probably going to be a little bit more of practice-oriented because of the coaches convention," Bielema said.

Logistical challenges

Wisconsin's practice Monday was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. start in an effort to best accommodate the players' academic schedules. Even so, wide receiver Jarvis Minton, defensive end Jamal Cooper and tailback Dywon Rowan still missed practice due to class or study obligations.

"It is tough to find a time and really the only academic requirements they had in the evening at this time was study hall, but we worked them in during the day," Bielema said of scheduling the night practice. "It was just a way to have a clean practice during the spring."

On the mend

All-American left tackle Joe Thomas (knee) and third-string strong safety Aubrey Pleasant (shoulder) will not take part in spring workouts after undergoing surgery since the Capital One Bowl. Linebacker Casey Hogan is also out for the duration of spring. He broke his leg against Northwestern Oct. 8. Defensive end Matt Shaughnessy (knee) may take part in some very limited work during spring and defensive end Jamal Cooper (knee) is being held out of contact drills for the duration spring. Thomas, Shaughnessy and Cooper are all recovering from torn anterior cruciate ligaments.

Offensive tackle Eric Vanden Heuvel has suited up for each practice so far but has been limited to non-contact work while nursing an undisclosed injury.

First-team cornerback Allen Langford suffered an upper body injury during Monday's practice. He was tended to by the UW training staff and watched the rest of practice from the sideline.

Second-team corner Zach Hampton (foot) and first-team defensive end Kurt Ware (knee) missed Monday's practice due to injury.

"Zach hopefully (is) just out for a day," Bielema said. "He basically came down hard on a foot yesterday, so we did x-rays. So (holding him out Monday) is a preventative thing. Kurt tweaked his knee a little bit but we expect him to be back out."

Reserve kicker/punter Adam Schober has not been in full uniform yet this spring. But he took some kicks at the goal posts with a soccer ball Monday night.

Receiving options

Bielema was asked Monday night if any receivers had jumped out at him early in spring workouts. The Badgers need to find replacements for three departed seniors: Brandon Williams, Jonathan Orr and Brandon White. Williams and Orr are two of the most prolific receivers in school history.

In the early going, Jarvis Minton, Paul Hubbard, Marcus Randle El, Luke Swan and Jeff Holzbauer appear to be the primary "depth" receivers.

"I think Hub… he broke the deep one here," Bielema said, referring to about a 35-yard touchdown reception Hubbard hauled in Monday night. "I think that's the one thing that he's able to do, is he's able to stretch the field vertically. And obviously he looks the part in the jersey and the pants and everything in between.

"And then we just have a nice complement to that. I really like the way Marcus is catching the ball. He's one of those guys that finds an empty hole. He (made) a nice adjustment on the ball a couple times already this spring.

"And just like Luke Swan. He read that hot blitz today. I really like the way he adjusted, settled and that's an understanding of the game and that's what he's strong at."

After UW's first spring practice Saturday, Bielema said that the receivers were playing with a "chip on their shoulder because everybody's talking about the people that have left. And they want to make a statement about who they are.

"The issue that probably is going to come up with them, just from what I saw today (Saturday), and I imagine will be their constant battle, is consistency. They've all shown at times being able to do something, but you need that consistent effort to know that we can call it on any given play and execute the assignment they have."

How are the receivers displaying that chip on their shoulder?

"Just the way they're practicing," Bielema said Monday. "(Receivers coach Henry) Mason has a way of getting across to them certain things that you need to do. There's a lot of pride within the group. They're encouraging each other but also they know there is great competition. Because the three best guys, the two best guys in certain situations, will be out there. I think that's the true sign. If you've got guys within a group that are being hard on each other, that's when the best comes out."

New faces at tight end

Converted linebackers Travis Beckum and Andy Crooks appear to be adjusting very well to the route-running and receiving aspects of their new role as tight ends. But as Bielema pointed out, it will be a new ballgame when full contact work begins and they have to prove they can block consistently.

"The part that they're going to really need to make a big amount of gains in is just the day-to-day routine of blocking: down blocks, reach blocks, folds, all that good stuff."

The Badgers have an interesting dynamic working with their new offensive line and tight ends coaches. Tight ends coach Bob Bostad originally interviewed for the offensive line job, and had previously only coached the offensive line, so he understands how the tight ends must fit into the overall blocking scheme. In about three decades as an assistant, offensive line coach Bob Palcic has ample experience with both tight ends and the offensive line. And offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Paul Chryst was UW's tight ends coach last year.

"Paul and I both really, really liked the way (Bostad) taught, the way he came across," Bielema said. "The hiring of Coach Palcic, who had a tight end experience. We knew that combination — as you see down there in individual — they are able to kind of just split that up, and I think that's a good combination. And then Paul has a tight end background as well. So it's kind of an osmosis to him."

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