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August 18, 2012
MADISON, Wis. - After going through two weeks of fall camp, the Badgers had their first big scrimmage Saturday afternoon in Camp Randall Stadium. The actual scrimmage was closed to the media, but Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema met with reporters at the conclusion of practice.
Badgers to name starting QB soon?
Bielema mentioned at the beginning of camp that he was planning on naming a starting quarterback 10 days before the Badgers' first game on Sept. 1, and it seems like that plan is still on track. Bielema even hinted that he had a feeling about who was going to end up winning the competition.
"I feel during the course of the week and going through today I think I know where it's going," Bielema said after practice Saturday.
For what it's worth, that seems like a good sign for Danny O'Brien. After failing to separate himself by any meaningful margin from Joel Stave and Curt Phillips early on in camp, it seems like O'Brien has taken a step or two in front of the pack.
O'Brien was impressive Friday, going 5-for-6 during a seven-on-seven drill, and his accuracy carried over into the first few periods of Saturday's practice. O'Brien went 5-for-6 again Saturday, and would have been perfect if not for a drop by Jake Stengel. Saturday's scrimmage was closed to the media, but Bielema said afterward that all three quarterbacks had their good and bad moments.
But it's clear that Bielema knows what he's looking for under center.
"I think we've just got to have somebody that manages that whole situation as best as possible," Bielema said.
If you ask me, that favors O'Brien.
Stave on scholarship, Brennan transferring
One year ago, Joel Stave was starting his college football career as a walk-on quarterback for the Badgers. But now the 6-foot-5 Stave is competing for the starting quarterback job as the team's newest scholarship player.
Bielema announced Saturday that Stave was placed on scholarship earlier in the week, but said that the team had been planning on awarding one to the redshirt freshman for a while now.
"He was going on already, but just because of an unfortunate deal with losing a couple kids and really a couple guys in limbo right now, and some guys transferring out obviously it opened a couple scholarships," Bielema said.
Bielema also mentioned that redshirt sophomore quarterback Joe Brennan decided to transfer out of the program, but Bielema couldn't say which school the 6-foot-3 quarterback chose.
"Joey has told me at least where he's going, I don't know if I can comment (where)," Bielema said.
Brennan previously fell out of contention for the starting quarterback spot, after he opened the spring as the Badgers' No. 1 quarterback. And with O'Brien, Stave, and Phillips above him on the depth chart, it looked like Brennan wouldn't have the chance to compete for the starting job any time soon.
News and notes:
-- I've been watching the last few practices, but Saturday was the first day where walk-on punter Drew Meyer really impressed me. Meyer's spring game performance raised some concerns about his ability to replace the departed Brad Nortman, but the redshirt freshman had great hang time and distance on his punts Saturday.
"Any time you get that combination good things happen," Bielema said. "We're very very happy with where that's at now."
-- After Kyle Costigan got all of his reps with the first team at right guard yesterday, I wrote that that might be a turning point in the position battle between the redshirt sophomore and Robert Burge.
As it turns out, that just might be the case. Bielema said that the position battle wasn't completely over, but it sounds like the coaches were impressed with Costigan's performance on Friday.
"I wouldn't say (the position) is 100 percent solidified, but we did feel Kyle had shown us enough that if we just gave him some more reps, he's going get to where we want to be," Bielema said.
It'll be interesting to see who gets the most reps with the first team next week when the Badgers return to the practice field.
-- On the other hand, it looks like an "open" position battle has closed. Redshirt junior Ethan Armstrong appears to have won the open spot at strong-side linebacker, but I'm beginning to think that the job was only open in name only. The Badgers are high on Armstrong, who was just awarded a scholarship this week, and he's played well in practice recently.
In addition, Bielema said Derek Landisch would backup the unit as his fourth linebacker. It also sounds like Bielema and the Badgers are planning on having Landisch take over for Mike Taylor next year at weak-side linebacker, so expect him to get plenty of reps there this year.
-- The Badgers have yet to establish a firm two-deep at wide receiver, since several players fall into and out of consideration each day. Besides Jared Abbrederis, Bielema mentioned Jeff Duckworth, Manasseh Garner, Jordan Fredrick, and A.J. Jordan as serious candidates to fill out the depth chart.
But Bielema mentioned that one receiver was definitely not ready to take on a significant role in the offense: redshirt sophomore Marquis Mason.
"Marquis, I don't think is ready to play at this level in any way right now," Bielema said.
Those are strong words from Bielema, but they're probably deserved. Mason has struggled with his consistency throughout camp, and has been prone to dropping more than his fair of passes so far.
-- Linebacker A.J. Fenton is experiencing back issues, but Bielema said they expect him to come back to practice in the next couple of days or so.
-- Defensive end David Gilbert strained an oblique during the scrimmage, but it's unclear how much time if any Gilbert will miss.
-- Tight end Sam Arneson is having a knee procedure soon, but Bielema said the team expects him to come back within five days or so.
The Badgers have finished up their two-a-day practices, and will practice just once per day from now on. The Badgers do not practice on Sunday, and will return to the field on Monday.
For more Wisconsin Badgers news, notes and discussion, follow John on Twitter.