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):
First Team Defense (from left to right):
Second Team Defense (from left to right):
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.