Spring practice report, April 12

News and notes from Wisconsin's 10th spring practice

The University of Wisconsin football team practiced for more than two hours under the lights at Camp Randall Stadium Wednesday night. Scrimmage segments were contact, but not full tackle.

Quarterbacks

The Badgers received a scare during a skeleton drill (partial lines, full complement of skill-position players) when starting quarterback John Stocco's right ankle gave out as he attempted to plant and throw. Stocco fell to the turf in pain with what at first looked like a significant injury. But after receiving a heavy tape job on his right foot and ankle, Stocco returned to the practice field. The ankle injury — originally suffered during winter conditioning — has bothered Stocco from time to time during spring practices, but he has not missed a drill yet.

Offensive line

With Luke Knauf absent, Danny Kaye took reps at center with the second-team offense. Kaye also rotated in at left guard with the first offense behind Andy Kemp.

Tackle Eric Vanden Heuvel and guard Kraig Urbik made up the right side of the first-team line.

With the second-team offense, Jeff Stehle played left guard and Mark Gorman played right guard. On the scout team, however, Stehle lined up at left tackle, with Gorman at right tackle.

Wednesday was one of the best days of spring for the first-team offensive line, particularly from a run-blocking standpoint.

Running backs

Wisconsin broke into a scout team and a corps "in the depth" Wednesday. Tailbacks Dion Foster and Jerry Butler were placed on the scout team, while P.J. Hill, Jamil Walker and Dywon Rowan worked with the first and second teams.

Walker had a decent day, showing off his speed on a run around the right edge and making a good strong run off left tackle during 11-on-11 segments.

Hill is really emerging as a pass receiver out of the backfield, an intriguing development considering he is also the Badgers' best runner between the tackles. Hill has a nice burst, he runs good routes and he has pretty consistent hands.

Rowan got the better of a collision with strong safety Joe Stellmacher during 11-on-11.

Butler's exceptional speed was put on exhibition Wednesday night when he took a handoff running right, sprinted around the edge and zoomed into the open field, bursting down the sideline before anyone could catch him, despite four players having some sort of angle on him.

Fullback Chris Pressley does a good job of getting down field and making a reception for a player his size. He had a 30-yard catch-and-run Wednesday night.

Wide receivers

Walk-on Richard Kirtley appears to be moving up the depth chart. Kirtley, who had the best day of any of the receivers, was a primary first-team wide receiver Wednesday night, along with Paul Hubbard, and typically ahead of Marcus Randle El and Jeff Holzbauer.

Kirtley is not a particularly fast receiver, but he runs good routes and he has very good body control and strong hands. He is also a tough receiver who has shown a knack for hanging on to passes regardless of any hits he is dealt.

He displayed that toughness during a red-zone period when he took a pop from free safety Shane Carter just as the ball was arriving but managed to catch the pass with his hands, shielding it away from Carter, and hold on.

Kirtley has also shown a knack for finding a soft spot in coverage, as he did for a big gain early in an 11-on-11 segment.

Luke Swan returned to practice but was limited to drill work.

Tight ends

Travis Beckum has really been coming on from a receiving standpoint the past several practices. After an excellent performance in last Saturday's scrimmage, Beckum had a very good day Wednesday night, aside from one dropped pass near the goal line late in practice.

Defensive line

Defensive tackle Nick Hayden made a couple stops at or behind the line of scrimmage, and also made a fine play to track down a screen pass and limit it to a short gain.

With Joe Monty absent, end Terrance Jamison received reps with the first team.

Kurt Ware played a series at defensive tackle.

Defensive tackle Jason Chapman made a tackle for loss.

Defensive tackle Mike Newkirk made a play to stuff Dywon Rowan at the line of scrimmage.

Linebackers

Redshirt freshman Jae McFadden, who has been a tight end up until this week, has converted to sam linebacker. McFadden was buried at tight end and he immediately became the fourth-string sam in spring practices, behind DeAndre Levy, O'Brien Schofield and Paul Joran. McFadden and Joran rotated with the third-team defense Wednesday night. McFadden also received some reps with the second-team defense. Another sam linebacker, Casey Hogan, is out for the spring as he continues to recover from a broken leg suffered during last season.

With Jammar Crane absent, walk-on Ryan Flasch was the second-team will linebacker. Flasch played well Wednesday night, exhibiting a good feel for the position.

Flasch had an interception versus the scout-team offense.

Flash made a stop on Dion Foster just past the line of scrimmage during 9-on-9 team work. During the 11-on-11 period at the end of practice, Flasch tracked down Jerry Butler along the sideline near the line of scrimmage, then did so again, with the aid of mike Elijah Hodge, on the next play.

Flasch also broke up a pass intended for Andy Crooks during 7-on-7 work.

On the previous play, second-team sam linebacker O'Brien Schofield had broken up a pass intended for Andy Crooks.

Walk-on Ben Landgraf, who had been rotating fairly evenly with Flasch and Crane at the second-team will spot, worked in at the will position from time to time.

Starting will linebacker Jonathan Casillas intercepted a pass after it was tipped into the air by Mark Zalewski.

Casillas also had a pass breakup during the red-zone period.

Secondary

Ben Strickland and Zach Hampton were the primary second-team cornerbacks.

Strickland and Hampton each had pass breakups during 11-on-11 work.

Strong safety Johnny White recovered a fumbled quarterback-center exchange during 9-on-9 work.

Second-team free safety Shane Carter made a great play to get to a deep pass and have a chance to intercept it, but could not quite come up with it.

First-team cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu made a similar play along the sideline, showing a great jump to get to a pass before the possible interception slipped out of his grasp.

Cornerback Allen Langford broke up a pass early in 7-on-7 work. Langford in general had one of his strongest days in coverage this spring.

Also during 7-on-7, starting free safety Roderick Rogers dislodged a pass from Paul Hubbard with a big hit.

Special teams

Early in practice place kicker Taylor Mehlhaff lined up for three field goals. He was wide left and then wide right from 37 yards, but he drilled one from 42 yards out.

Jerry Butler, Marcus Randle El, Ben Strickland and Zach Hampton worked out at punt returner.


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