The Badger freshmen participated in their second day of practice with the UW coaching staff at the O'Connor Center Wednesday. It will be the last time the freshmen receive exclusive attention from the staff, as the varsity players report Thursday.
The practices remained instructive in nature, as the staff taught the basics to the incoming players. The four practices are a tremendous learning tool for the players. For example, quarterback John Stocco received individual attention from Quarterbacks Coach Jeff Horton (and graduate assistant/former starting quarterback Scott Kavanagh), allowing him to truly get his feet wet before the full team begins practice.
Coach Barry Alvarez has been pleased with the attitude and talent level of his newest additions.
"This group came out as advertised, and a group of willing souls," Alvarez said.
The final freshmen-only practice takes place this afternoon.
One of the primary things Alvarez and his staff are looking for in the practices is to find athletes ready to contribute immediately on special teams.
"We have a void in the fullback/linebacker type body for special teams, and that's something we're looking for," Alvarez said. "And I think we have a group of them that physically are strong enough and run the way we want them to run. So we're going to work a group of them into special teams right away, into the depth, and see if we can move them into a starting role and get them involved right away."
There will be some fundamental changes in how the Badgers approach special teams this season. New Special Teams Coach Brian Murphy will have a green light to use any player on the roster for his kickoff team and punt teams, including all of the starters.
That has not been the case in the past.
"Those are the two field position special teams," Alvarez said. "We're going to put our best guys there, and if it happens to be a backup, great. We've had a number of guys make a name for themselves (on special teams). But we're going to put the best guys out there to start with."
It's been a major challenge for Alvarez and other coaches in Division I football to field traditional special teams units with a reduced number of scholarships.
"You have to help the team however you can," Alvarez said. "If you go back and look at some of the best players in our league, some of the All-Americans, they played everything. They liked special teams and they played on them. So we've been fortunate because of our walk-on program. A lot of our walk-ons have stepped in and that's how they've earned scholarships. You have 85 scholarships, but it's not 85 scholarships. Most people play around 79-80."
-- As mentioned yesterday, we expected to see some roster changes, and that was confirmed as Lyntrel Smith, Isaac Ballou and Kirk Munden have all left the program.
The biggest surprise of that group was Munden, who appeared in eight of 12 games last seasons, averaging 39.7 yards per punt. Scott Campbell now moves into the role of R.J. Morse's primary challenger for the starting punting job.
Speaking of the kickers, according to the latest roster, released yesterday, the Badgers' probable starting duo totals 522 pounds. Morse weighs in at 247, while Campbell is 225.
-- Alvarez will not attend Wednesday afternoon's final freshmen practice, because of a minor surgical procedure.
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