Working on Growth

With the Badgers utilizing their extra bowl practices to the fullest, Wisconsin gave the starters the day off on Saturday in order to give the underclassmen 17 periods to prove that they can contribute next fall.

MADISON – With the Badgers now knowing what bowl opponent they will be competing against this December, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema made it clear that the Badgers will have seven quality practices to focus on the tendencies of Florida State, who UW will face on the 27th in the Champs Sports Bowl.

Until that time comes, UW has built plenty of time in for the underclassmen to get a jump start on spring football.

"This is a great opportunity for these kids and it's like another spring ball for them," said linebackers coach Randall McCray, who will need to replace two talented linebackers next season. "They get to work against the offense during scout team work for over two months. The last time they worked on what we do defensively in live team situations was August. You don't get to see a lot of them at the time, so this gives us a chance to see them work, see them play and see them learn the defense."

This past Saturday, Wisconsin's practice featured all underclassmen. With the seniors on the sidelines, UW's coaches worked out the reserves for roughly 90 minutes.

First Team Offense (from left to right):

Linemen: Sophomore Gabe Carimi, Freshman Kevin Zeitler, Sophomore John Moffitt, Sophomore Bill Nagy and Freshman Josh Oglesby

Specialists: WR T.J. Williams, E.J. Theus and Xavier Harris, FB Dex Jones, RB John Clay, QB Scott Tolzien and TE Garrett Graham

First Team Defense (from left to right):

Linemen: Junior Dan Moore, Sophomore J.J. Watt, Junior Jeff Stehle and Freshman Louis Nzegwu

Linebackers (Sam-Mike-Will): Sophomore Blake Sorensen, Junior Elijah Hodge and Junior Erik Prather

Secondary: Sophomore Aaron Henry, Junior Chris Maragos/Freshman Shelton  Johnson, Freshman Kevin Claxton and Freshman Devin Smith

Second Team Defense (from left to right):

Linemen: Freshman Anthony Mains, Freshman Patrick Butrym, Junior Jeff Stehle and Sophomore Ricky Gardner

Linebackers: Freshman Mike Taylor, Freshman Leonard Hubbard and Sophomore Tony Megna

Secondary: Freshman Marcus Cromartie (LCB), Junior William Hartmann, Freshman Adam Hampton/Johnson and Freshman Otis Merrill (RCB)

These were the basic units that participated in 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills

Elijah Theus had unofficially four drops on passes that hit him right in the hands.

John Clay practices with the first team offense as did Zach Brown. Kyle Jefferson did team work but was wearing a green ‘no-contact' jersey. Clay did little running but did struggling with catching passes in the flat on dump-off passes.

Otis Merrill was solid defending the out routes. Switching with Cromartie between left and right corner, Merrill got his hand in to break up numerous pass attempts.

Antonio Fenelus and Kevin Claxton were again joined at the hip, as they have been throughout much of the season. Both made plenty of pass breakups separately and together.

Dustin Sherer took minimal reps but was effective when he threw the ball, hitting Xavier Harris, who has worked his way back from a lower leg injury, between three defenders for a healthy gain.

William Hartmann picked a bad time to drop a sure interception, as he bobbled an overthrown pass off the arm of James Stallons with Coach Bielema standing right behind him. After punishing himself with push ups, Bielema gave the young defensive back and slap on the helmet.

Hartmann made up for it though, jumping a sideline out route for an interception, which he returned untouched into the end zone.

Scott Tolzien struggled to get a grasp on the football all morning, seeing the ball slip out of his hand twice as he went back to pass.

Pewaukee-native J.J. Watt was solid on the defensive line, elevating at the line of scrimmage to knock down a James Stallons pass and broke down several running plays at the line.

Four-star recruit Lendell Buckner was watching practice on his official visit this past weekend. Although committing to Illinois, Buckner wanted to take all of his official visits and will make his official decision in the middle of January.

2010 defensive end prospect Chance Carter was also back in Madison for his second unofficial visit to Wisconsin, taking in practice with his high school coach and having a long talk with Bielema early in practice.

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