Starter John Stocco appears to have a little more arm strength this season, which is allowing him to squeeze passes into tighter quarters, both over the middle and along the sideline.
Stocco and his cast of new receivers, though, still need to develop greater chemistry. There have been far more miscommunications (where Stocco throws one way and the receiver breaks another) than there were last fall or last spring.
Stocco's best throw of the day was a delivery to receiver Paul Hubbard deep to the right side during 7-on-7 work. The junior wideout hauled in the pass for a 43-yard gain, despite having cornerback Jameson Davis and safety Shane Carter right on his heels.
Dustin Sherer had an impressive throw to T.J. Theus during 7-on-7 work for a reception along the right sideline.
The first-team offensive line acquitted itself fine Saturday, holding its own for the most part. The second team, however, really struggled against both the first- and second-team defensive lines.
The defensive lines are typically ahead of the offensive lines early in a practice season and this year that reality could be exacerbated. The Badgers have tons of depth and experience on the defensive line, and very little on the offensive side.
Converted defensive tackles Jeff Stehle and Mark Gorman are willing blockers with enough athletic ability and size to grow into their new roles as guards, but they struggled in the scrimmage Saturday, which was not unexpected. Still, Stehle and Gorman each have the potential to give the Badgers the depth they need at their interior line positions. We will have more on their position changes in the week to come.
Hill displayed impressive power and good acceleration. During 9-on-9 work, he bulled over safety Johnny White, ran over safety Shane Carter (after juking by linebacker Elijah Hodge), and knocked safety Roderick Rogers backward and to the turf before continuing on his way downfield.
Foster also possesses considerable strength and is a tough between-the-tackles runner, but his burst through the hole, and his ability to cut and accelerate with ease is what truly stands out.
At this point in spring, Foster receives the most-improved-player-since-fall-camp honor. He looked lost early in his first training camp, then rebounded to win scout offensive player of the year honors and has carried that momentum into spring and then some. Foster has the complete skill set needed to thrive at this level.
Walker can really run once he has a crease. He had a 14-yard scamper early in 11-on-11 work Saturday.
Butler was the victim of poor blocking for much of the afternoon, but he did have one 12-yard carry.
Dywon Rowan is dependable, though not flashy, option at tailback. During the 11-on-11 work he had an impressive 15-yard run before real contact.
Fullback Chris Pressley is effectively a sixth offensive lineman in the backfield, a punishing battering ram of a player. No matter who he is lining up, be it a defensive lineman or a linebacker, give Pressley an edge. If it is a defensive back, well, feel sorry for the defensive back.
Paul Hubbard continues to make major strides this spring and is putting himself in position to be the Badgers' No. 1 receiver in the fall. Hubbard has always had the physical tools but now he is developing the toughness to succeed in the Big Ten. He still needs to improve his hands, becoming more consistent, but his improvement to this point in his career has been impressive and he has taken a major stride since fall training camp.
Hubbard made a terrific catch along the left sideline with cornerback Ben Strickland running with him in stride. Hubbard reached out and snagged a hard-thrown pass from Stocco, and managed to tip-toe the sideline to control the catch in bounds.
A series later, Stocco again hooked up with Hubbard, this time finding him over the middle for what probably would have been a long touchdown in a completely live situation.
Jarvis Minton opened spring as the starter at the other receiver position, opposite Hubbard, but he is out for the rest of the spring with a right foot or lower leg injury. Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said after practice Saturday that Minton will not return this spring. The exact nature of the injury was not revealed, but Minton was walking with crutches and had a cast on his right foot.
Luke Swan also missed time Saturday due to injury.
Redshirt freshman Jarmal Ruffin made perhaps his best catch of the spring, when he hauled in an intermediate-distance throw from Tyler Donovan along the sideline, despite having corner Jack Ikegwuonu on his back.
Kirtley had two receptions during 7-on-7 work. In 11-on-11 scrimmage work, Kirtley made an impressive catch on a pass Stocco rifled over the middle.
Holzbauer was the recipient of the biggest hit of the day, when strong safety Joe Stellmacher lit into him in the back of the end zone. Holzbauer, though, had caught a pass from Stocco a moment previous, and he held on for an impressive touchdown.
Walk-on Derek Konkol caught a touchdown pass from Tyler Donovan during 11-on-11 red-zone work.
Count Dave Peck as another of the Badgers' most improved players. In his second spring practice season, Peck is emerging as a consistent all-around player who can contribute in a variety of fashions. He is a solid enough blocker and a good route runner with dependable hands. He is not a game-breaking athlete, but he can work into the open and make a play. He also is the No. 2 long snapper.
Peck is probably fourth on the depth at tight end behind the triumvirate of Sean Lewis, Andy Crooks and Travis Beckum, but Peck's continued development could make that a quartet. He has made a huge improvement since fall training camp.
Peck caught a touchdown pass during 11-on-11 red-zone work, when he used his body to shield the ball from the defender who was right behind him.
During the 11-on-11 scrimmage, Peck hauled in a first-down pass near the sideline on a throw from Dustin Sherer.
Lewis was the primary tight end with the No. 1 offense Saturday. The most experienced of UW's returning tight ends, Lewis appears to have the best feel for the position at this point.
Crooks caught a touchdown pass from Stocco during 11-on-11 red-zone work.
End Kurt Ware had a terrific day. He moved back up to the first-team defense Saturday and made several big plays, including three tackles for loss and a fumble recovery. He nearly took the handoff before tackling Jerry Butler for a loss during 11-on-11 work.
End Brandon Kelly, who swapped places with Ware, returning to the second team, also had a strong day. During 9-on-9 work he made an impressive play when he drove the left tackle down the line of scrimmage and into tailback Dywon Rowan. Kelly effectively tackled Rowan and his blocker.
Defensive tackle Jason Chapman had a tackle for loss on tailback Jamil Walker during 11-on-11 work.
During 9-on-9 work tackle Nick Hayden stopped Walker for no gain. He duplicated that feat in 11-on-11.
Walk-on defensive tackle Derek Yentz had a stop for loss on tailback Jerry Butler.
On the next play, during the 11-on-11 scrimmage segment, end Terrance Jamison combined with mike linebacker Elijah Hodge for another tackle for loss.
First-team will Jonathan Casillas had a tackle for loss on P.J. Hill.
O'Brien Schofield tackled tailback Jerry Butler for a loss during 9-on-9 work.
Josh Neal typically maintained his role as the third-team mike ‘backer, but he also played a series with the first defense Saturday. Neal had a tackle for loss on the last play of the 11-on-11 scrimmage segment.
First-team mike Mark Zalewski had a pass breakup on a throw intended for Andy Crooks.
Cornerback Zach Hampton returned to practice for the first time since suffering an injury about a week ago. But Hampton was held out of full-contact work.
Free safety Shane Carter had an excellent practice, with a pair of interceptions.
Second-team cornerback Ben Strickland batted away a deep pass intended for Richard Kirtley during a 7-on-7 segment.
Strong safety Joe Stellmacher broke up a pass intended for Sean Lewis during 7-on-7. He also had a pass breakup during 11-on-11.
Corner Jack Ikegwuonu had a pass breakup during 7-on-7 and another in 11-on-11 work. He also displayed good technique and toughness in limiting P.J. Hill to a 3-yard gain when the latter had a head of steam and some room to work with on a running play. That had not been a good combination for UW's secondary, but Ikegwuonu was up to the challenge.
Cornerback Prince Moody stopped Hill at the line of scrimmage during 11-on-11 work.
With Jarvis Minton out, Ben Strickland is filling in as a punt returner. He displayed arguably the most trustworthy hands of UW's current options in the role, which also include Marcus Randle El and Jerry Butler.