The Badgers were in full pads and an officiating crew was brought in for the second time of the spring, with Wisconsin's fifth spring practice held Wednesday at the McClain Center. It was the final practice before a two-week hiatus for Wisconsin's spring break. The Badgers resume practice on March 26.
Here are some news and notes from the scrimmage:
- This was by far the most lively practice of the spring. There was a lot of big-time hitting going on, and the intensity level was turned up several notches. The importance of this scrimmage was significant for many players hoping to break into the two-deep. The UW coaches rotated a lot of guys in and out of the top two units on both sides of the ball, and will evaluate the film carefully over the next few days.
- There was a shakeup in the secondary once again, with Levonne Rowan shifting to left cornerback and splitting reps with Scott Starks. Brett Bell was the starting right cornerback and got almost all of the reps at that position with the No. 1 defense (Chuckie Cowans was rotated in at that spot). Rowan and Bell were the corners on the field the most with the No. 1 unit, with Starks rotating with Rowan. Robert Brooks continues to get a lot of reps at safety and in the nickel package. Look for things to constantly change throughout spring football and into fall camp.
- The defensive line had an outstanding scrimmage. Anttaj Hawthorne is developing into every bit the player he was projected to be coming out of high school. With some added size and speed, combined with the extra experience, he is becoming a man-child inside. Erasmus James has also shown a ton of improvement and could be poised to have a Tom Burke-like season coming off the edge. He sacked Jim Sorgi, then batted down his pass on consecutive plays early in the scrimmage. Andre Williams is another guy that should get a lot more playing time next fall, and has looked really solid during spring ball.
- Jeff Mack missed practice again, presumably with a class conflict, only this time it was Mark Zalewski who replaced him at starting Mike linebacker. Zalewski had a very strong practice.
- Byron Brown, who somehow still has eligibility (doesn't it seem like he's been playing at UW for nine years?) had the best afternoon of any Badger wide receiver. He made several difficult catches. Brandon Williams had a beautiful catch in traffic on the sidelines, and Brandon White also had a couple of impressive grabs.
- Booker Stanley looked phenomenal running with the No. 1 and 2 offenses (Anthony Davis is being held back from contact). Stanley shows a great mix of speed, toughness and intelligence. He was able to make sharp cuts, take vicious shots and keep on going because he constantly keeps his legs moving. He had a handful of very impressive runs.
- Lamarr Watkins split reps about 50/50 with Kareem Timbers at outside linebacker. Timbers is getting a lot more reps now than he was during bowl practices.
- On the No. 2 offensive line, Jeff Lang practiced at right guard and Fred Nieforth practiced at right tackle. The two are listed as the No. 3 left guard and the No. 3 left tackle, respectively, in the spring prospectus. On that same line, Jason Palermo lined up at center, with Matt Lawrence at left guard and Morgan Davis at left tackle.
- John Stocco appears to be moving up the depth chart at quarterback. He is at the very least the No. 3 at this point, if not the No. 2. He looks to be getting better and while this is extremely premature, he has to be the runaway favorite to start at quarterback in 2004.
- Dan Buenning looks much improved in individual drills. I don't know if Buenning ever fully recovered from the illness (mono) that sidelined him for the majority of camp last year. He never seemed like himself last season, but he appears to be back where he should be.
- Lee Evans continued to look sharp in individual drills, working on the sideline with Donny Brady and trainers.
- Former Badgers Jason Jowers, Al Johnson, Ben Johnson, Brooks Bollinger, B.J. Tucker and incoming recruit Danny Kaye were among the attendees to the scrimmage.
- There was no interview access for media members following practice, as was the case following Monday's session. The next time players are available to speak with the media is following the March 26 practice.
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