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December 9, 2013

Badgers get back to basics





MADISON, Wis. - The No. 19 Wisconsin Badgers got back to basics on Monday, practicing for the first time since their 31-24 loss to Penn State on senior day.

But while head coach Gary Andersen and several other assistants were out of town and older players had the day off, Wisconsin's younger players got some quality reps of their own during a brief practice in the McClain Center. Media members were allowed to watch part of the practice on Monday, and I've included my notes below.

McEvoy back at quarterback

Sophomore safety Tanner McEvoy took significant reps at quarterback during Monday's practice for the first time since fall camp. McEvoy made the switch to wide receiver and eventually safety after he fell out of the running for the starting quarterback job, but McEvoy has been adamant since then that he's still a quarterback at heart. McEvoy has played well at safety this season, but Monday's practice shows that the Badgers still want to see what the 6-foot-5 McEvoy can do under center.

I did see some improvement in McEvoy's throws when compared to fall camp- especially during the skeleton drills. McEvoy had a bit more zip on his throws than he did a few months ago, but I didn't see a whole lot of improvement in his throwing motion, which is still a little too long. McEvoy finished the day completing 4-of-10 passes in skeleton drills, and completed 2-of-2 passes in team drills, including a touchdown throw to Robert Wheelwright.

McEvoy still has a long way to go if he wants to give Joel Stave a run for his money this spring or again next fall. But the fact that they gave him some more reps under center suggests that he might not be a safety for good. In the end I'd be surprised if he ends up playing anywhere other than safety next season.

News and notes:

-- Bart Houston split reps with McEvoy under center for the most part. I'd still rank Houston's arm above McEvoy's, and Houston completed 6-of-10 passes in skeleton drills, even while he was working with some of the younger receivers.

-- Alec James and Leon Jacobs worked as the 'starting' outside linebackers with all of the older players getting the day off. Chikwe Obasih was a second-team defensive end, and Garret Dooley worked as a second-team inside linebacker.

-- The Badgers will have plenty of playing time available on the defensive line next year, with Konrad Zagzebski and Warren Herring set to be the oldest players left from this season's rotation. From what I could see, James Adeyanju, Bryce Gilbert and Jake Keefer made up the 'first-team' defensive line on Monday, so keep an eye on some of those guys to see if they'll crack the rotation next year.

-- Speaking of Keefer, I was surprised to see him back since he suffered what was then reported to be a season-ending knee injury during fall camp. It could be that Keefer is just back ahead of schedule, but he moved pretty well as a defensive end. We'll see if that position will be a good fit for Keefer, who has moved around a lot during his career and is still looking for a position he can really call home.

-- In other injury news, I saw Keelon Brookins getting some significant reps at safety. Brookins is still wearing a brace as he works his way back from an ACL injury that ended his high school career, but he enrolled early last January so these bowl practices could help him a lot in terms of getting comfortable out on the field when spring camp rolls around next year.

-- Hayden Biegel worked at both left and right tackle during the practice, including playing at both spots on the first team in the 11-on-11 drills the Badgers ran at the end of practice. Walker Williams is still probably ahead of him at left tackle moving forward, but the extra reps will be good for Biegel, who was originally supposed to greyshirt this season and enroll this January.

-- I still didn't see any sign of freshman offensive lineman Matt Miller, who was forced to redshirt this season after he suffered an undisclosed injury during the summer. I thought that today would be the first time we'd see him since it had been a few months, so hopefully Andersen will clear up what Miller's status is this week.

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



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