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Monday, October 02, 2023
Badger Offense

Alex Hornibrook takes reps with the offense at The Don Hutson Center in Green Bay. 

Spring Practice Notebook: April 2

GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Wisconsin Badgers bussed up to Green Bay to see the sites of Lambeau Field and conduct practice next door at The Don Hutson Center, giving them an early look at where they will be playing LSU for the first game of the 2016 season in September.

Head coach Paul Chryst used this opportunity to run a lot of scrimmages to get extended looks at his team in 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 situations. Fortunately, he let the media follow his team up and watch. Here are some of my observations and notes from the practice.

Both Alex Hornibrook and Bart Houston have a long way to go in the quarterback battle. There were a lot of inaccurate throws in the Hutson Center, and each passer seems to have different weaknesses.

Houston’s footwork and general mechanics are not clean, and it results in poor placement on throws, whether that be putting it a little too far out in front or not putting enough juice on his throws. He doesn’t always step into his throws and turn his hips, and that’s when the ball ends up in the turf.

Hornibrook’s issues come more with the mental aspects of the game—reading the defense and making the right decision. He threw a few nice deep balls, but he was also lucky to only have one pass intercepted with a number of questionable decisions.

Chryst wouldn’t get into the specifics about his quarterbacks, but his tone and word choice indicated that he thinks both passers have a long way to go.

“It’s not as simple as ‘if he improves this, then he’ll be that.’ I think it’s just complete quarterback play,” he said. “At the end, you’re looking for consistency.”

The lack of consistency at practice was especially concerning because the defense wasn’t mixing its coverages up too much. As is typical of defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox’s previous defenses, the Badgers sat back mostly in different variations of Cover 1 with some Cover 2 and Cover 3 mixed in. They did run a handful of different man and zone blitzes, but those were mostly saved for third and fourth down situations.

One player who struggled today in those coverages was cornerback Natrell Jamerson. He and Derrick Tindal played quite a bit, as the team let Sojourn Shelton take a number of plays off, and Jamerson was slow to react to the ball, earning a pass interference penalty at one point and giving up a number of catches that could have been prevented had he kept his head on a swivel.

After Jamerson gave up one deep completion, Shelton spent a good five minutes with him on the sideline, going through the play and encouraging his teammate. It is clear the senior cornerback is entrenched in the leadership role, filling the shoes of the graduated Darius Hillary.

The entire secondary had trouble bringing down running backs Bradrick Shaw and Taiwan Deal, who took the majority of the snaps with Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale getting some plays off. Shaw was too quick in the open field, and Deal threw down safety Leo Musso with a nasty stiff arm up the sideline after breaking through the front seven.

The Badgers’ offense practiced a lot more fullback handoffs, getting some extra reps for Leon Jacobs, who is new to the position after playing inside linebacker last season. For a player who is still learning the position, he runs very hard, unafraid to lower his shoulders and absorb contact as he fights for every yard.

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Chryst worked to keep the intensity of the practice high, and Jacobs’ runs did a good job of getting guys amped up. The second-year head coach gave an inspiring speech to his team following the practice, emphasizing that the team has to make the most of the 153 days and counting before the team’s game at Lambeau against LSU. This team still has a long way to go before they can even think about winning that game, but it’s still April and, as Chryst would tell you, there’s a lot this team can build on moving forward.

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