The Badgers returned to the gridirion Saturday afternoon for the second of three weekend practices at the McClain Center. The team will be off until Friday afternoon following Sunday's workout.
Here are a few notes from Saturday's practice:
- For the second straight day, the group of recruits for the big recruiting visit weekend attended practice. Lee Evans has also been present at both sessions, coming off his second surgery.
- Coach Barry Alvarez was unavailable for comment for the second consecutive day, but should be available following Sunday's practice.
- Jim Leonhard has been fighting through an injury to his right wrist, wearing a cast to protect the injury. He continued to participate in punt return and special teams coverage, but the wrist looked to be bothering him a couple of times.
"I'm getting used to it," Leonhard said. "It limits me a little bit because it is sore at times, but I'll get used to it. The injury really doesn't really bother me on the field, but we'll have to see."
- Special teams has proven to be a bright spot for the Badgers the last few games, and if Leonhard cannot return punts, it will need to find a reliable substitute. Wide receiver Brandon Williams and defensive back Scott Starks looked good fielding punts during practice and would be solid replacements if Leonhard can't go.
- Offensive Coordinator Brian White commented on the Badgers' move to play Owen Daniels at tight end following the conclusion of the regular season.
"We know that if we put him in there, he will make plays," White said. "Owen is a big guy that can be a big target for us on offense. He definitely will not be a decoy on the field. He'll be out there to make a play."
- Quarterback Brooks Bollinger has been plagued with a minor injury. Bollinger has a broken pinky on his left hand, but it hasn't seemed to bother him. Brooks looked very sharp in Saturday's practice, hitting his receivers consistently and with great accuracy. White attributed Bollinger's injury to the recent increase in physicality.
"Our guys have picked up the physical play the last few weeks," White said. "We have shown great improvements all across the field. Our offensive line has been and needs to dictate the game and set the tempo."
-During group work early in practice, the defensive line worked a bit on their techniques. Darius Jones looked sharp with his footwork and use of hands and also appeared very energized. Jones, Erasmus James, and Anttaj Hawthorne spent time working off double teams and their pass rush. Jones and James established the most consistent success in drills working off the double coverage.
-At the same time, the linebackers were working with defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove on footwork and quickness to the defender. Alex Lewis and Jeff Mack looked solid and appeared extremely physical in drills. Mack looks to be well rested and recuperated coming off his stinger injury and showed that by flying all around the field.
-The receivers worked on trying to improve their hands. A great deal of improvement can be noted from the beginning or even the middle of the season until now. Darrin Charles looked exceptionally sharp, making some nice catches with his hands and clearly using his height to an advantage. Jonathan Orr's performance in practice mirrored his freshman season, making some very difficult catches while dropping a few as well.
"Our wide receivers have made great improvements throughout this season," White said. "They are good bunch of young guys that are learning and improving each practice. As they continue to drop passes they continue to learn. They are getting the experience they need that will make them better in the future."
-Early on, the running backs were working with the offense on footwork and hitting the holes. The offensive line looked exceptionally strong and helped make the backs look that much better. Anthony Davis looked like the same Davis we've seen against Minnesota and Michigan. He outran everyone down the sideline and showed great quickness inside when hitting the holes.
"AD is our No. 1 back and he will get the majority of the snaps," White said. "We'll be helping him out by putting in Dwayne (Smith) or Jerone (Pettus) once in a while to give him a breather. But, AD is our guy. His speed is incredible and just so tough to stop if he gets to the outside. We'll be trying to utilize his speed as much as we can throughout, because we know that by setting the tempo running the ball, we'll have our best chance at winning."
-After position drills, the first team offense and first team defense took the field. The entire starting defense donned black jerseys.
Early on, defense was clearly the focus of the coaches during practice as the voices of Cosgrove and defensive backs coach Ron Cooper echoed throughout the McClain Center. Cooper was pleased with his DB's performances during practice.
"Our guys looked good," Cooper said. "The secondary is working on its footwork, adjusting to the play on the field and trying to work off some of the rust of the past couple weeks.
-Cooper acknowledged Leonhard's injured hand but said it was not a big concern for the defense.
"Jim will be fine," Cooper said. "He'll be sore for some time, but he's tough and he'll be out there making plays. He has been an important part of our defense and will continue to be. We don't plan on adjusting our coverage or scheme at all because of Jim's injury. It's not that significant and if it limits him, we have the confidence in guys like Robert Brooks and Scott Starks to pick up the slack."
-Linebackers Alex Lewis and Jeff Mack set the tempo for the first team defense during practice, as they looked very good tackling and appeared very physical and focused throughout. Lewis gets the vote for the hardest hit of practice as he laid out Pettus on a counter run play. Lewis was celebrated with on outcry of approval from Darius Jones.
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