MADISON, Wis. - New Wisconsin running backs coach Thomas Brown makes a good first impression. In his first meeting with reporters since he replaced Thomas Hammock a few weeks ago, Brown came off as chatty and well spoken in front of a group of about four or five strangers.
In short, it's easy to see why head coach Gary Andersen moved quickly to get Brown on his staff. Brown said he originally got in touch with offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig on a Thursday, took a call from Andersen on Friday, and was in Madison on Saturday for an interview on Sunday. And while the Badgers had to wait to make the hiring official, Brown said he knew he wanted to be at Wisconsin as soon as the process started.
"I did everything I could to get the opportunity to be here," Brown said Monday after practice.
Brown's passion for football was obvious when he answered a question about his coaching pet peeves, and it was clear that while he has moved on from a playing career that ended just a few years ago he isn't about to forget about it any time soon.
"I hate guys who loaf, because it takes no amount of talent to finish hard and go hard. We have so many limited opportunities in this game, which I know first hand," Brown said. "You never know which is going to be your last play so you'd better make the most of it. I can't stand guys who are soft- thankfully we don't have any of those guys here."
And again, it is easy to see why the Badgers liked Brown's potential on the recruiting trail, where he will recruit his home state of Georgia along with other national running back prospects.
"Like I said when I first got the job, I don't think there's a better place in America to be if you want to be a tailback. If you think you're a top guy I think this is where you want to be," Brown said. "You have an opportunity to start and get 25 or 30 carries a game and as a back up get 15 to 18 behind the best offensive line in the country. Why wouldn't you want to be here?"
Brown also acknowledged that Hammock helped the Badgers make inroads in Georgia, after they signed two Georgia natives as part of their 2014 recruiting class. But Brown thinks he can take Wisconsin's presence in Georgia to the next level, because he's no newbie when it comes to the Peach state.
"I think I have a little more [name recognition] from growing up there, playing high school football there, playing college football there, and briefly playing in the NFL and also having recruited that area over the last two years," Brown said. "I know some guys, I know most of the coaches and some of the players are going to know me over the years. We have some trust there."
Joel Stave took some live skeleton drill reps for the first time this spring in a part of practice that was open to the media, and it didn't look to me like his shoulder was bothering him very much. Most of his throws were targeted at deeper routes, and it seemed like he had good zip on the ball. Stave participated in just the one drill, but it was clear to me that he still has the best arm at the position. We'll see if he can keep it up after the Badgers throw him back into the regular quarterback competition after spring break.
Joel Stave: 7-for-9, TD
Bart Houston: 6-for-11
Tanner McEvoy: 8-for-10
D.J. Gillins: 6-for-11, TD
D.J. Gillins: 3-for-4, 8 total reps
Bart Houston: 1-for-3, 7 total reps
Tanner McEvoy: 1-for-4, 14 total reps
D.J. Gillins: 1-for-2, 7 total reps
News and Notes
Devin Gaulden got some first team reps at cornerback during the latter part of Monday's practice. He was usually matched up with the field-side receiver, with Darius Hillary moving over to cover the slot receiver as a nickel back. The Badgers are hoping Gaulden or another can step up and play well in press-coverage. They like Hillary as a primary nickel back and would like to keep him there against three-receiver sets.
Dave Aranda told me after practice that Peniel Jean is a full-time safety now. He played cornerback last year but the Badgers want their corners to play more press coverage and matchup man-to-man against receivers. Jean was a better fit at corner in a 4-3 defense where they used a Cover-2 shell, but he has always been on of the team's better tacklers. From that standpoint safety is probably a better fit in Aranda's two-gap, 3-4 scheme.
Rob Wheelwright (knee) did not practice again on Monday and was in street clothes for the duration of practice. The Badgers are expecting to get him back after spring break, and aren't going to push him back into action on Wednesday or Thursday if he isn't ready.
Aranda also said that outside linebacker Leon Jacobs has been moved to inside linebacker as part of his large-scale position switch plan. Jacobs' move will allow Joe Schobert to see more reps back at his original position of outside linebacker.
Again, don't be surprised if Troy Fumagalli ends up contributing at tight end. That position is going through a lot of turnover and he has made plays consistently so far this spring. Sam Arneson and Austin Traylor have also played well.
Vince Biegel had a nice TFL during a live tackling part of practice, showing off the kind of speed the Badgers are looking for in the second and third levels of their defense.
Top five songs the Badgers played at practice today:
Don't Stop Believing - Journey
Nothin' But A Good Time - Poison
I Love It - Icona Pop
Hey Ya! - OutKast
Story of My Life - One Direction
The Badgers will practice again on Wednesday morning. That practice is open to members of the media starting at 7:15, and head coach Gary Andersen will meet with reporters at approximately 8 o'clock.
John Veldhuis covers Wisconsin football, basketball and recruiting for BadgerBlitz.com on the Rivals.com network. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnVeldhuis.