Spring Practice Report: Day Eight

With the Badgers looking to have a intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday morning, Wisconsin players go in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts in a shorten practice Thursday morning.

MADISON - With spring workouts reaching the midway point and with the Wisconsin coaching staff planning for an intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday, the Badgers took it ‘easy' Thursday morning, practicing in half pads and holding out semi-injured players (Patrick Butrym (shoulder) Ricky Garner (hamstring), Xavier Harris (back) and Nick Toon (hamstring)) out in hopes of getting both players back by Saturday.

DeAndre Levy, however, did practice Thursday after missing Tuesday with a stiff back and looked to be full healthy and ready to go for Saturday, which will be a 10 a.m. practice.

11-on-9 (Defense vs. Offense)

Mike Linebacker Elijah Hodge was back working with the first team defense and continues to improve from off season surgery. Hodge looked solid shifting his weight from sideline to sideline pursuing the ball carrier.

Strong Safety Jay Valai started with the first team defense for the second-straight practice but Aubrey Pleasant continued to rotate in at times.

With Brad Thorson transferring out of the program, Wisconsin is looking for a new number two center. That role, today, was in the hands of sophomore Bill Nagy. Nagy (6-foot-4, 300 pounds) originally started the spring as the No.2 right guard behind Kraig Urbik and now looks to be taking on another position. Nagy took snaps with senior quarterback Allan Evridge during this part of the drill and later on during 11-v-11 with other quarterbacks, with all his snaps being clean.

Junior running back P.J. Hill continues to benefit from finally being healthy for spring workouts, as he continued to looks better each day. During 11-v-9, Hill bullied through the over-manned secondary and out ran a couple defensive backs when he cut the corner and ran outside.

Quarterbacks Evridge, Dustin Sherer and Scott Tolzien all took part running the offense in this drill, which was just limited to running plays.

7-on-7 (red zone, full playbook)

Freshman Otis Merrill had a chance to record the first interception for the defense this week when he jumped in front of a Tolzien pass, but the pass bounced off his chest at the apex of his jump. His reaction was face first on the ground in disgust and pounding his fist on the FieldTurf.

Off the right hand of Sherer, both wide receivers David Gilreath and Daven Jones made tough, sideline catches on the out route. While Jones caught his pass with room to spare, Gilreath had little room for error as he dove for the ball, managing to drag his back foot inbounds to complete the catch.

Gilreath (5-foot-11, 154 pounds) also showed off his vertical, leaping to catch a touchdown catch and the back of the end zone on a pass that threaded the coverage.

The only drop of the drill belonged to John Clay, who looked to run before he caught the ball in the middle of the field.

11-on-11 (full playbook)

Mike linebacker Culmer St. Jean finally got the defense out of the doghouse, elevating on an Evridge pass to pick off the pass and return it for the touchdown.

Sophomore Niles Brinkley continued the defensive onslaught when he picked off a Sherer to Daven Jones pass. Providing tight coverage on Jones, Brinkley picked the pass off with one hand.

A couple plays later, Valai ran up and knocked a sure completion away from tight end Lance Kendricks.

It wasn't all defensive highlights, as wide receiver Isaac Anderson made a couple nice catches over the middle and along the sideline off the arms of Evridge and Sherer.

Notes:

After the interception play, Brinkley and Jones got into an intense shoving match, which ended with them wrestling on the ground and having to be separating by their units.

Travis Beckum worked out catching passes, planting and route running with Evridge and Tolzien for the second-straight practice.

Fifth-year senior Josh Neal, a converted linebacker, worked at defensive tackle with the No. 1 defense in the place of Patrick Butrym, who sat out practice with a minor shoulder injury.

Early enrolled Jake Byrne had his right hand wrapped in a similar club-like cast than Andy Kemp and Ben Strickland had a season ago. Byrne still was able to be effective running routes in 11-on-11 at the end of practice and was able to corral a few throws.

With defensive linemen Butrym, Jason Chapman (ACL surgery), Kirk DeCremer (back), Garner (hamstring), Dan Moore (knee) and Mike Newkirk (shoulder) all out of spring practice this week, Wisconsin has converted redshirt freshman Evan Millard (Tuesday) and redshirt sophomore Kenny Jones (today) to the defensive line to give the Badgers eight lineman for the first and second team.

Millard played linebacker and Jones played offensive guard last season.

With his mom and dad hanging out with him and sporting a Stevens Point Track and Field jacket, tight end recruit Nick Peplinski (6-foot-5, 215 pounds) woke up early to come to practice Thursday.

Wisconsin returns to practice Saturday, April 5 at 10 a.m.

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