"I don't think we'll be doing too much option," Donovan said with a laugh. "I think we're going to be staying away from that."
Imagine his surprised 24 hours later when the senior quarterback rolled out to the left side with P.J. Hill trailing right behind him.
During the fourth day of practice at Camp Randall and first day running the redzone offense, Donovan ran the option - albeit a little sloppy – and pitched the ball to trailing running back P.J. Hill. The play wasn't a huge success, but it did take the defense by surprise.
"Teams we're playing early on run one-back options," Coach Bret Bielema said. "[The option] is prevalent in our league this year so [the option] is for our defense as well."
Running the option on a routine basis, however, could be an option if the speedy Donovan is named the starting quarterback. Last season, Donovan proved that he can run with the ball as well as throw it. Last year against Iowa, Donovan rushed for 61 yards in addition to throwing two touchdown passes. Because of that, Bielema isn't ready to throw the option out the window.
"[Running the option] is playing to player's strengths," Bielema said. "These guys present an option to things with both their legs and their arms."
Thursday marked the first day Taylor Mehlhaff kicked off at the new distance of his own 30-yard line – pushed back five yards from last season. While his first kick was not up to his standards, Mehlhaff recovered to kick four balls into the end zone that probably would have been touchbacks.
According to Bielema, pushing the kicking distance back five yards poses more than just a few adjustments.
"A lot of people have the misconception that [the extra distance] is just five more yards of coverage," Bielema said. "That five more yards of coverage is probably going to generate 80 to 85 more returns and that's the part that is the unknown factor. It's going to greatly affect the game and we have to maximize our personnel. Taylor was still putting the ball in the end zone and had good hang time, so we will have an advantage in that regard."
Red Zone Struggles
The first day in the red zone was a big victory for the Wisconsin defense, which shut down the Wisconsin offense during the drill. The Badger offense – engineered by Donovan, Allan Evridge and Dustin Sherer – only managed three touchdowns in 28 tries (an 11 percent success rate).
"Our defense showed that they were up to the challenge," Bielema said. "Defensively, you don't have to cover that much area and there's a huge learning curve. They should be [proud] though of what they accomplished [today]."
It wasn't all the defense, however, that contributed to the offense's low conversion percentage. The offense fell victims to drops and allowing defensive pressure affect their catches.
"I pointed out to the offense that anytime you are down [inside the twenty] you don't want to see a drop," Bielema said. "Seeing a drop in the end zone glorifies and magnifies in 10 times over. We had two drops with our [first team]. We have to be able to catch the ball and deliver. That's why we practice though."
A complete play-by-play of the red zone drill can be found below.
Notes from Day Four
The first ‘fight' of camp came during offensive line drills when freshman John Moffitt seemed to push fellow freshman Gabe Carimi down towards the end of the drill. Some jawing and shoving occurred between the players but no punches were thrown.
Bielema said the job for kick and punt returner is wide open, as 12 different players were back fielding kickoffs during drills. Bielema laughed and said it's a lot different from last year when only Zach Hampton was back there, but admitted that the return position is something of utmost importance this year and something that has to improve.
Bielema said that linebacker Blake Sorensen is as good of looking freshman linebacker Bielema has had report to camp. Bielema also admitted that when Blake came to one of Wisconsin's early season games last year and, as soon as he saw him, offered him a scholarship on the spot without telling any of his coaches.
Elijah Hodge took the day off with an undisclosed injury and probably won't practice again until Monday.
Isaac Anderson is dealing with another hamstring problem and was held out of practice. He is day-to-day.
Matt Shaughnessy was kicked in the bottom of the foot and hobbled off the field. Bielema thinks it's just a bruise and was pulled out for precautionary reasons.
Red zone Offense Play Documentary
Play 1 (from the 20): Donovan incomplete pass intended for Hubbard in the end zone.
Play 2 (from the 20): Donovan sacked – a combination of defensive penetration by Cooper and break down on the left side of the offensive line.
Play 3 (from the 20): Donovan incomplete pass to P.J. Hill in the corner of the end zone – Hill had beaten the coverage but muffed the catch.
Play 4 (from the 20): Donovan incomplete pass down the middle intended for Marcus Randle El.
Play 5 (from the 20): Donovan incomplete pass – good defensive coverage in the end zone forced Donovan to throw the ball away.
Play 6 (from the 7): Donovan incomplete pass intended for Andy Crooks – Crooks had the ball in his hands until Culmer St. Jean dove in to knock the ball away.
Play 7 (from the 5): Donovan incomplete pass intended for Hubbard – ball overthrown in the corner of the endzone.
Play 8 (from the 22): Evridge incomplete pass intended for Xavier Harris – Harris had the ball until freshman Blake Sorenson knocked the ball free.
Play 10 (from the 15) Sherer sacked – tight coverage caused the pocket protection to break down.
Play 11 (from the 15): Sherer to Mickey Turner for a five-yard gain.
Play 12 (from the 10): Sherer to Travis Beckum down the middle for a five-yard gain.
Play 13 (from the 10) Evridge incomplete pass – ball thrown threw the end zone.
Play 14 (from the 5): TOUCHDOWN!! Travis Beckum caught a five-yard touchdown pass from Evridge in the corner of the end zone.
Play 15 (from the 22): Ben Strickland intercepted Donovan with a diving catch on the five-yard line … FIRST AND TEN WISCONSIN!
Play 16 (from the 15): Jeff Stehle intercepted Donovan and rumbled down the field. Donovan was setting up a screen and Stehle charged right on in to be at the right place at the right time.
Play 17 (From the 15): P.J. Hill caught a pass in the flat from Donovan and got a seven-yard gain.
Play 18 (from the 12): P.J. Hill ran to the left for a three-yard gain on the option.
Play 19 (from the 12): Jamal Cooper sacked Donovan – Donovan ran the naked bootleg and Cooper was right there to stop him.
Play 20 (from the 6): Donovan rushed up the middle for a two-yard gain – good coverage forced Donovan to scramble out of the pocket.
Play 21 (from the 4 1/2): Donovan incomplete pass intended for Hubbard. Play broken up by Josh Nettles.
Play 22 (from the 21): Evridge to Randle El down the left side for a 13-yard gain.
Play 23 (from the 20): Lance Smith rushed up the middle for a 10-yard gain.
Play 24 (from the 15): Touchdown! Evridge complete to Xavier Harris in the back of the end zone for the touchdown. Harris juggled the ball initially, but managed to come down with the catch.
Play 25 (from the 15): Touchdown! Donovan to Beckum over the middle for the score.
Play 26 (from the 9): Zach Brown rushed up the middle for a four-yard gain.
Play 27 (from the 6): Evridge incomplete pass to Randle El. Randle El was open, but Jack Ikeqwuonu got a hand on the ball to knock it away.
Play 28 (from the 3): Zach Brown rushed up the middle for a one-yard gain.