Fall Camp Report: Afternoon Aug. 17

Find out which two tailbacks have separated themselves from their competition and how Thursday's weather changed practice.

Mother Nature did her best to put a damper on Wisconsin's football practice Thursday afternoon. The Badgers opened practice inside Camp Randall, playing through a light drizzle.

Practicing in helmets, shoulder pads, jerseys and shorts, the rain continued to strengthen throughout the first 45 minutes when it got so strong that head coach Bret Bielema moved the rest of practice into the McClain Center.

"It gave an opportunity for quarterbacks and receivers to work on wet ball, center-quarterback exchanges and all that goes with that," Bielema said. "We wanted to back off them a little bit and do a lot of team situations."

  • The first-year head coach admitted after practice that redshirt freshman P.J. Hill and fifth-year senior Dywon Rowan have set themselves apart from the fellow running back contenders thus far in fall camp.

    "[Hill] is really beginning to understand what we're trying to get across," Bielema said. "Dywon is what he is, he's consistent and he knows what he's doing."

    Those two continued to do the brunt of the work out of the tailback position. While Bielema said Hill seems to be working hard to understand the game, he also works hard in practice on every carry he gets.

    Jamil Walker and Lance Smith just have not made the same progressions as Hill and Rowan, though Walker looked decent on the few reps he saw Thursday afternoon.

    Perhaps to create a bigger sense of urgency for them, Jerry Butler continued to see plenty of action after being switched to the cornerback position earlier in the week. Dion Foster also received a few reps.

    "I went to Jerry Butler and I knew he was wanting to get back to the running back position pretty quick … and I think he took advantage of it today," Bielema said.

  • Tyler Donovan looked fairly crisp throwing in the rain outside and carried his steady outdoor performance inside for the rest of practice. His decision making continues to improve.

    Dustin Sherer did not have the best of starts to practice, but really picked things up late in the two-minute drill session. He motored his team down the field with improved accuracy.

  • On the wide receiving front, fifth-year senior Jeff Holzbauer stood out in the afternoon session. His name has not come up much during camp, but he had several strong catches throughout practice, and did so with receptions of many different lengths.

    While junior Marcus Randle El did not have many real flashy catches, he did have some big receptions in terms of the situations the Badgers were practicing.

  • Wisconsin's quarterbacks were without a couple of their usual targets as tight ends Andy Crooks and Sean Lewis both sat out of the afternoon session.

  • Defensive end Kirk DeCremer is making it difficult on the UW coaching staff. While the Badgers seemingly have a lot of depth at the end position, DeCremer has impressed all week long.

    "As the recruiting process unfolded, I distinctly remember having a conversation with him and his mother about he'd probably be a redshirt guy … but his body dramatically changed," Bielema said. "He really comes off the ball fast and has a high motor.

    "Now he's a guy that we're going to evaluate over the next two days thoroughly to make sure we're making the right decision."

  • Speaking of evaluations, Bielema said he would like to make decisions about redshirts by Wednesday of next week.

  • DeCremer has been seeing more reps all week and was joined on the second-team line by tackle Dan Cascone. With Justin Ostrowski still out and Nick Hayden out for the first time this fall, Cascone was called on to fill in.

  • Left tackle Joe Thomas also did not participate, though it is likely that he was just given the afternoon off. Danny Kaye took his spot on the first team.

  • While Allen Langford and Jack Ikegwuonu have been rock solid in practice this fall, the depth looks to be getting stronger as Kim Royston continues to improve.

    He is improving on playing the ball and has not been afraid to make a big hit or a steady tackle.

  • Elsewhere in the secondary, Aubrey Pleasant was back in pads for practice, though he was used sparingly.

  • It is quite clear that the Badgers' outside linebackers are not lacking anything in the speed department. DeAndre Levy and Jonathan Casillas showed their quickness last year and now Jaevery McFadden and Culmer St. Jean are right there with them.

  • It is no secret how just how good punter Ken DeBauche is, and even backup Paul Standring will admit to that. But the junior is not sulking about not seeing reps.

    Instead, the Chicago native is doing anything he can to help the team. He went to Bielema and asked to be a part of the Badgers' special teams units, a request that has been granted.

    "Paul constantly wants to get on the field," Bielema said. "My only concern was, if Kenny DeBauche isn't there, about our next punter—if we let Paul participate on special teams and all the sudden he's not there, who's our next punter? And Taylor Mehlhaff has actually been doing punts and actually looks halfway decent doing it."

The Badgers will resume camp Friday afternoon at the Kohl Center.

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