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April 8, 2013

UW defense regains its footing





MADISON - It looked like early morning rain would force the Badgers to practice inside the McClain Center on Monday afternoon, but clear skies allowed the team to practice outside once again in Camp Randall Stadium. Reporters were allowed in to watch the final 30 minutes of practice once again, and I jotted down a few notes from my seat in the bleachers.

-- Quarterback Joel Stave was a little inconsistent on his deep passes today, following up a strong performance during Saturday's practice, which was open to the public. Stave overthrew Jared Abbrederis twice after Abbrederis got behind his defender in the secondary, and both plays would have likely gone for touchdowns. Stave also missed Jacob Pedersen over the middle because the pass was a little too high and too fast. It's important not to read too much into one 30-minute session of practice, but it's a good reminder that Stave still has some room to improve, just like the rest of the quarterbacks.

-- Cornerback Darius Hillary had a nice pass breakup early on in the open part of practice when he swatted the ball out of Kenzel Doe's hands near the sideline. Hillary has really impressed me this spring, and I think he has made a lot of strides since earning playing time as the primary nickel back last season. Hillary has solid man coverage skills, and I think he and Peniel Jean will soften the blow the Badgers are taking after losing Devin Smith and Marcus Cromartie.

-- I'm probably starting to sound like a broken record, but I think A.J. Jordan has taken some steps toward being a useful wide receiver for the Badgers. He made another few solid catches today, including and impressive one on a deep ball while he was covered pretty well. Normally just saying 'he catches the ball well' wouldn't be saying a whole lot, but that's a big step for many of Wisconsin's receivers. We'll see if Jordan can keep catching the ball consistently, and if he does he'll continue to get reps with the first team offense.

-- I was a little surprised to see that running back Melvin Gordon took some team reps during the open part of practice. Gordon sprained his ankle during the second week of spring practice, and I thought that they'd hold him out of team drills to avoid risking a repeat injury. But obviously they feel he's healthy enough to go, and at the end he'll still be just a sophomore this season. Gordon impressed a lot of people near the end of last season, but that doesn't mean he doesn't need team reps with the rest of the offense.

-- From what I could tell today's practice was more back-and-forth between the offense and the defense than Saturday's practice was, but I'll hazard a guess and say the defense edged out the offense today. I counted sacks by Jesse Hayes, Ethan Hemer, and a combined sack between James Adeyanju and Sherard Cadogan. Hemer's stuck out to me because he chased down Bart Houston, who's not a slouch in the athleticism department. We'll see if Wisconsin's offense can get the upper hand on Wednesday when the Badgers are back in action.

For more Wisconsin Badgers news, notes and discussion, follow John on Twitter.


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