Practice Report: Earning the W

MADISON, Wis. - The Wisconsin Badgers kicked off fall camp with their first official practice of the season Monday afternoon in Camp Randall Stadium. The team went without pads today, and practiced in on-and-off periods of light rain. A cleaned-up version of my notes is included below, with a few thoughts on Wisconsin's safety spot, new players, and the quarterback competition.
Freshmen need to earn the 'W'
Andersen is also bringing over a new tradition to the Badgers from Utah State. Freshmen and other incoming players, like Tanner McEvoy and T.J. Reynard, now have to earn the 'Motion W' decal before they get to wear it on their helmets. New players wore a single black stripe on their helmets during the first practice of the season, and Andersen said veteran players will ultimately decide when a newcomer has earned the 'W.'
"It's something we've done for a number of years," Andersen said. "We put the black stripe on there, and they've got to earn that Motion 'W' on the helmet.
"The big brothers are the ones that basically [decide] this young man has moved in the direction to strap the 'W' on. So you need to do something on the practice field where the veterans are going to look at him and say 'This guy is ready to take that next step.' I think it's a good tradition, and those rookies want to get that stripe off and strap the 'W' on there real quick."
This is just a guess, because I don't know exactly what a player needs to do to earn a 'W,' but I wouldn't be surprised if running back Corey Clement gets to ditch the stripe for a 'Motion W' sooner rather than later.
Musso starts camp with first team
The Badgers will rotate a few players in and out of the first team at strong safety this fall, but Leo Musso saw the most action there today. The coaches are obviously impressed with the 5-foot-10 former running back from Waunakee, Wis. Musso signed with the team as part of their 2012 signing class last February, and I was certainly surprised when head coach Gary Andersen mentioned him as one of the contenders at safety at the Big Ten Media Days.
But Andersen said Musso is athletic enough to handle the position, so we'll see how he stacks up with the likes of Jeffrey Lewis, Michael Caputo, and Michael Trotter as we get deeper in to fall camp.
"Musso runs, he's instinctive, he's a well-rounded athlete in the weight room, and his quickness and his speed shows," Andersen said Monday. "Those are all things a safety has to be able to do, and as you know we're going to look at four or five kids at that spot, but Musso seemed to do a good job this summer of improving himself mentally."
Arms Race
I'll be keeping track of Wisconsin's quarterback battle in a little space I'm going to call the "Arms Race." I'll post my unofficial passing stats from each practice in this spot, and post a few thoughts of my own here as well.
Joel Stave and Curt Phillips got the lions share of the reps during today's practice, but McEvoy was able to make up for that a bit in the final 15 minutes of practice by working in the "young players"-only skeleton and team drills.
It's still clear to me that Stave has the best arm of the bunch, and I thought he looked the best today, even though he struggled during the 11-on-11 drills. I think Phillips is healthier now than he was last season, but his arm strength is still concerning. I thought he was pretty accurate today, but if the Badgers are going to make their choice based on arm strength alone, Stave is clearly the better option of the two.
McEvoy didn't blow me away, and his throwing motion makes me nervous. It's closer to a 3/4ths delivery than I'm sure the coaches would like, but he still gets some good zip on his passes. He's got good feet, which you should probably expect out of a dual-threat quarterback, but I don't think the staff will be making a decision any time soon. McEvoy was at least accurate today, even if he didn't complete a lot of passes. You can blame the wide receivers for some of that, but I think we'll have a much better picture of what McEvoy can actually do when the Badgers scrimmage this time next week.
"Skelly" Drill
Curt Phillips: 7-for-8 (eight total reps)
Joel Stave: 7-for-8, TD (eight total reps)
Tanner McEvoy: 0-for-2 (two total reps)
Bart Houston: 2-for-2 (two total reps)
Joel Stave: 3-for-7 (11 total reps)
Curt Phillips: 0-for-2 (10 total reps)
Tanner McEvoy: 1-for-2 (five total reps)
Injury Report
The Badgers didn't have anyone leave practice with an injury, but there were a few notable players missing from the 105-man fall camp roster due to an injury:
Matt Miller
Devin Gaulden
Isaiah Williams
Marquis Mason
It's my guess that all of those players are rehabbing injuries, which is why they weren't included on the roster. Andersen said Miller (undisclosed) and Gaulden (ACL) are not expected to return any time soon. We already knew Mason would miss the season with a torn ACL, and Williams was hurt during spring camp so it's possible he is still rehabbing as well.
News and Notes
The Badgers put senior linebacker Nick Hill on scholarship recently, as Jon McNamara reported recently in the Badgers' Den. Andersen said Hill deserved the scholarship and he was happy to award it after all Hill has been through during his tenure with the Badgers.
"Nick has put in all kinds of time. He's almost graduated, he's gone through some ups and downs in this program," Andersen said. "Those are the best days, when you have an opportunity to give a young man a scholarship and he's worked so hard, and he's battled like crazy and done everything we asked him to do."
The Badgers also gave Derek Watt a few carries today out of the fullback spot, and I think they'll consider adding that particular play to their playbook for the regular season.
"He'll get the ball in his hands," Andersen said of Watt. "He's a very good fullback, he can catch it very well. We don't just want a fullback who's going to block every time. We'd like to give him a little sugar once in a while. It's good for him."
The Badgers also put a few players back on kickoff return duty during practice, including linebacker Chris Borland. Borland joined Jared Abbrederis, A.J. Jordan, Melvin Gordon, James White and Corey Clement on return duty, and Andersen said anything is possible, but I wouldn't expect to see Borland returning a kick off in a real game any time soon.
"Chris wants to get back in those drills and be involved," Andersen said. "We might see him on some short yardage plays on offense, too. I think that'd be an interesting place to see him get the ball in his hands with his want-to. That could get real interesting for a defense really fast."
Call me skeptical about putting Borland in as a running back at the goal line, but I guess it wouldn't surprise me.
As far as other depth chart notes go, Kyle Costigan worked mostly as the first team right guard on Monday, and Jeff Lewis was mostly working with the second team at safety. Cornerbacks Sojourn Shelton and Hugs Etienne were on the second team today, and T.J. Reynard got in the mix there as well.
Name that tune
Top five songs the Badgers played at practice today:
Run This Town - Jay Z, Rihanna & E.S. Posthumus
Come on Feel The Noise - Quiet Riot
Seven Nation Army - The White Stripes
Play Hard - David Guetta
Gangnam Style - PSY
Up Next
The Badgers will practice again on Tuesday afternoon, from 2:15 to 4:00. That practice is open to members of the media.
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