Thursday Afternoon Practice Report

The Badgers practiced Thursday afternoon in front of a crowd of alumni observers at the O'Connor Center. Here are some thoughts/notes from the afternoon session:

The Badgers practiced in front of an additional 120 people this afternoon. Selected program donors were invited to watch practice from a tent. As a result, the team conducted its practice exclusively on the upper practice field, rather than using the bottom two fields as it normally does.

Here are some notes/thoughts following Thursday afternoon's session:

- In addition to Erasmus James, Jake Sprague and Jim Leonhard, Jeff Mack was also awarded a black jersey in recognition for his strong performance in Wednesday's scrimmage. Mack missed the morning session because of a class.

- Michael Broussard is now working with the No. 3 defense, dropping below Leonhard and Robert Brooks. Scott Starks and Darius Jones remain with the No. 2 defense. Broussard was a starter last year, but Coach Barry Alvarez has mentioned several times that the staff will send messages to everyone that no job is guaranteed. There has particularly been a lot of shuffling in the secondary throughout the past week.

"We're mixing and matching," Alvarez said. "We have a lot of combinations with the nickel package and the dime package. I think (Defensive Backs Coach) Ron (Cooper) tests them every day, and I see results. I see them getting better. I see them making adjustments, and I see them improving."

While Broussard and Starks have been demoted, the other two projected starters are holding up very well. B.J. Tucker had a solid practice Thursday afternoon, while Ryan Aiello has quickly developed into one of the stars of fall camp. As mentioned in a couple of previous updates, Aiello is beginning to resemble a Jason Doering-style player in his timing and ability to knock people around in the open field.

"He's a smart football player and he's a physical football player. He likes to mix it up and he's very heady," Alvarez said. "He understands the game, he knows where he's supposed to be, he's good with the calls, he's good with communicating. He's done a nice job."

- While many people are waiting for Alex Lewis to unseat Broderick Williams as a starting linebacker, that hasn't happened yet. Alvarez feels Williams has performed very well and improved since the spring. He is hoping to have four solid inside linebackers to share playing time.

"You'd like to have four," Alvarez said. "Five is a luxury, but you always like to have four, three minimum, that you can trust and count on…two of those kids (Lewis and Mark Zalewski) are brand-new guys. They're just learning. I like where they are right now. They have to progress a little bit more. I think Broderick has made tremendous strides from the spring. Jeff Mack has been very steady and solid. I think the other two kids, we feel by the time we finish camp, certainly have the ability and we really like the way they've progressed. If they continue to progress, we'll be right where we need to be when we start."

- Brooks Bollinger continues to look nearly flawless during most practices. The amount of noticeable mistakes he's made during the first week of practice, you can probably count on one hand. A lot of people take Bollinger for granted, and many people within the program feel he's one of the most underrated players in college football, and from the looks of things in practice, he could be poised for a huge year.

- Jonathan Orr had another really solid practice Thursday afternoon, making some tough grabs. He's had a phenomenal week of practice.

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