Spring football practice report, April 8

Notes and notes from the ninth practice of the spring

MILWAUKEE—The University of Wisconsin football team practiced for more than two hours at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison Saturday. Most of the practice was devoted to full-contact controlled scrimmage situations, with the first and second offense and defense alternating series in base, long yardage, short yardage, red zone and goal line. The third-team offense and defense engaged in a full-go scrimmage segment to close out the practice.

Quarterbacks

John Stocco generally threw the ball well Saturday, but he delivered three interceptions.

Tyler Donovan scrambled for a gain of 10 before the whistle stopped play, picking up a first down on second-and-9.

The most impressive throw of the day belonged to Dustin Sherer, who zipped a pass over the middle to receiver Richard Kirtley, beating tight coverage.

Sherer had a very strong pass along the sideline in between two defenders that was dropped.

Offensive line

Typically, the defense is leaps and bounds ahead of the offense during the spring and especially in the first real scrimmage situation of the season. With the Badgers returning quite a bit of experienced talent on the defensive line, and having only one returning starter currently participating with the first offensive line, it was reasonable to expect the defensive line to completely dominate Saturday's practice. That assumption, however, proved to be completely incorrect.

The front seven made its share of plays, but more often than not the quarterbacks had more than enough time to deliver their passes.

Andy Kemp, Danny Kaye and Kraig Urbik were particularly impressive.

Urbik moved back to right tackle for Saturday's scrimmage after working out at right guard Friday. Head coach Bret Bielema said after practice that Eric Vanden Heuvel was not cleared to participate in the complete scrimmage. Vanden Heuvel, who is recovering from a ruptured plantar fascia, played right tackle with the first offense throughout practice Friday, and prior to the full-tackle scrimmage periods Saturday.

Bielema also said that Jeff Stehle, who moved to tight end Wednesday, has returned to primarily being an offensive guard. Stehle is earmarked to play tight end in jumbo or short-yardage packages, but the coaching staff wants him to get reps on the offensive line this spring. There are fewer bodies on the offensive line relative to the tight end position, so Stehle can receive more reps by sticking with the offensive line.

Stehle rotated in at left and right guard with the second-team offense Saturday.

The primary second-team offensive line was Andrew Weininger at right tackle, Mark Gorman and right guard, Luke Knauf at center, Kaye or Stehle at left guard, and Mike Van Someren at left tackle. Van Someren also continues to rep with the first offense at left tackle. Weininger saw some time at left tackle on the second offense.

Running backs

Dywon Rowan had the most impressive day of the five tailbacks.

During the simulated game situations:

Rowan made a great cutback and picked up 12 yards.

One play later he stiff-armed Allen Langford to the turf and sprinted for 14 yards.

Rowan then had runs of 12 and 17 yards.

Rowan also did a commendable job in pass blocking.

Fullback Chris Pressley displayed good hands and an impressive burst for a player his size when he caught a pass in the flat and rumbled for a 19-yard gain.

Second-string fullback Bill Rentmeester also had a good day. Rentmeester had a very strong blitz pickup on sam linebacker O'Brien Schofield. He also made a pair of standout blocks to spring Rowan for impressive gains.

Dion Foster had an impressive first down run on second effort. Foster was the victim of less than impressive run blocking, but he did have a 10-yard run at one point and a three-yard gain after a nice hop-step into the hole to evade what easily could have been a tackle for loss.

Jerry Butler had one of his better days, using his speed to turn the corner on several occasions, including a run of 12 yards.

P.J. Hill displayed some nice hands on a reception over the middle on a ball thrown by Stocco. Hill also caught a pass for a first down during simulated game segment and had a catch for a 21-yard gain. Wisconsin's tailbacks have looked inconsistent at times catching passes, but Hill did very well in that regard Saturday.

Hill's best run was a gain of about six up the middle.

Wide receivers

Paul Hubbard and Jeff Holzbauer were the top receivers during the scrimmage segment, followed by Marcus Randle El and Richard Kirtley.

Randle El made an impressive diving catch for a 30-yard gain along the sideline.

Hubbard made a lunging catch for about a 5-yard gain early in the scrimmage time.

Hubbard also caught a 19-yard pass for a first down.

Kirtley made a good catch on a Dustin Sherer pass, evaded a defensive back and took off down the sideline for a substantial gain.

Luke Swan continues to work on a stationary bike while sitting out practice with an undisclosed injury.

The practice ended with the third-team offense and third-team defense squaring off, and Matt Gifford made a couple of good plays, catching passes for 12 and 18 yards.

Tight ends

Travis Beckum had his best practice of the spring. He caught two touchdown passes during 7-on-7 work and a third during the full scrimmage.

On Beckum's first touchdown, he caught a pass over the middle, cut upfield and showed a great burst to out-run the pursuit into the end zone.

Beckum was active throughout the day, with several additional receptions during the scrimmage and other 11-on-11 sessions.

Andy Crooks had the catch of the day, leaping and extending to haul in a Tyler Donovan pass over the middle. He quickly tucked the ball and held on despite absorbing hits from two defensive backs.

Crooks also had an 11-yard gain on another pass reception.

Sean Lewis caught a touchdown pass during red zone work.

Jae McFadden caught a touchdown pass from Dustin Sherer during the third-team scrimmage.

Defensive line

Brandon Kelly had a very strong practice, providing the best sustained pass rush of the defensive linemen.

Kelly received a few series with the first team after Kurt Ware left the field briefly with an apparent injury. Kelly had a hurry and a "sack" on consecutive plays while with the starters. Ware held up fine upon his return.

Kelly had another sack once back with the second team. Kelly made it three "sacks" when he pressured Dustin Sherer.

Wisconsin again rotated defensive tackles Mike Newkirk and Justin Ostrowski in with the first defense here and there. Jason Chapman worked exclusively with the first defense and Nick Hayden spent the majority of his snaps on the first team.

Hayden tackled Jerry Butler for a loss.

Linebackers

Mark Zalewski had an incredible practice. He busted up a running play for a loss of four early in the simulated game situations. Zalewski took on two blockers on the play and drove both of them into the ground, making a pile in the backfield.

Zalewski slammed through the line to obliterate running back Dywon Rowan for a loss of six.

Zalewski combined with starting will ‘backer Jonathan Casillas to tackle P.J. Hill for a loss of three.

Zalewski had the hit of the entire spring midway through the simulated portion. Tight end Sean Lewis bobbled a short pass and, before he had a chance to adjust and go for the ball, Zalewski effectively ran right over the top of him with a hit that reverberated through the stadium.

Casillas's pressure forced Stocco to rush a pass and throw incomplete during the initial 11-on-11 wrap-up-tackle segment.

Jammar Crane was the primary will linebacker with the second team, though Ryan Flasch and Ben Landgraf also received work there. Crane would have had a sack on Stocco during an 11-on-11 segment had it been live on the quarterback. Crane had another "sack" later in practice.

Crane combined with second-team middle linebacker Elijah Hodge for a tackle for loss on Dion Foster.

Shortly thereafter Hodge took down Foster at the line of scrimmage.

On the last play of a second-team segment, Hodge, second-team sam O'Brien Schofield, and defensive linemen Mike Newkirk and Brandon Kelly all busted through the pass protection.

Flasch made impressive plays on two consecutive snaps during the third-and-short segment of the simulated game. First, he made a tackle at the line to stop a runner short of the first down on third-and-two. On the third-and-one that was set up to follow, Flasch and fullback Josh Balts had a big collision, and Flasch held the point, allowing Hodge and Schofield to clean up and take down Foster well short of the first.

Secondary

On the first play of 11-on-11 contact work, prior to the full-contact scrimmage, Roderick Rogers stepped in front of a John Stocco pass for an interception.

Rogers picked off another Stocco pass early in the full scrimmage segment. DeAndre Levy had coverage on Hubbard, and Rogers made a nice break on the ball to step in front and get his second interception of the day.

Johnny White made a diving interception on a Tyler Donovan pass intended for Andy Crooks.

Cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu made a diving interception on a pass that Stocco either was trying to throwaway or experienced some miscommunication on with his receiver.

Allen Langford had two pass breakups during the initial 11-on-11 segment and another PBU during the simulated game portion.

Strong safety Joe Stellmacher made a tackle at the line of scrimmage on a Jamil Walker run between the tackles.

The first-team nickel defensive backs included corners Langford, Jack Ikegwuonu and Ben Strickland and safeties Roderick Rogers and Shane Carter.

Strickland had a pass breakup while working with the nickel. Strickland had a generally strong day.

During the third-team scrimmage, safety William Hartmann broke up a pass intended for tight end Dave Peck.

Also during the third-team scrimmage, defensive back Joe Sibley made a lunging pass break up.

Special teams

With kicker Taylor Mehlhaff absent for Saturday's practice, redshirt freshman walk-on Matt Fischer made a 27-yard field goal and an extra point during the simulated game periods.


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