MADISON -- Wednesday was the first day of fall camp that the players were donning pads, at least shoulder pads anyway, as head coach Gary Andersen's squad took to battle with the sweltering Madison heat on Wednesday afternoon. Practice lasted just under two hours, with the offense being largely comprised of first- and second-year players while the defense was split at about 50-50.
Tanner McEvoy and Bart Houston got all of the reps at the quarterback position when the defense and offense faced off toward the end of practice (Session 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16), and neither were really all that consistent. By my unofficial count, McEvoy completed 7-of-14 passes with two interceptions while Houston completed 5-of-8 passes. McEvoy's best play came in session 13 when Natrell Jamerson beat Peniel Jean and Derrick Tindal, and received a beautiful throw from McEvoy on the press-box sideline with just over a minute left in the session. For Houston, he didn't really have an outstanding play, rather a lot of solid plays, especially his two completions over the middle in traffic to tight end Eric Steffes.
However, their mistakes stood out. McEvoy had two interceptions -- one off safety Leo Musso on the second play in session 12 and another off by Dare Ogunbowale for a long gain down the suite-level sideline in session 15 -- and Houston overthrew several receivers, especially on corner routes. More offensive miscues came in session 14 and 15. Freshman guard George Panos had two total false starts, one in each, and Brett Connors had one immediately after Panos did in the latter session.
I was very impressed by the wide receivers and secondary. Krenwick Sanders and Jamerson are going to special, even though it's very early in their playing careers. Sanders is long and lengthy and has really solid hands. Jamerson, on the other hand, is smaller, but has some serious top-end speed. Reggie Love, who has battled injuries early on in his career, turned in a solid practice. If he can stay healthy, he's an able body that can help out the position.
Michael Caputo is an extremely physical safety and he proved that on more than one occasion. The young corners -- mainly Ogunbowale, Tindal and D'Cota Dixon -- showed some positive flashes, but got caught in some crossing routes over the middle between two receivers, resulting in wide-open options for McEvoy and Houston. To put it frankly, that's an area that needs to get fixed across all levels.
Between session 13 and 14, the team held a one-on-one drill that featured an offensive guy vs a defensive guy, with the objective to see who can deliver the hardest first hit. It was a great drill to rev up the competitive juices, especially for the younger guys, and a number of guys stood out. Running back Tawain Deal bulldozed freshman linebacker Ben Fischer; defensive tackle Jeremy Patterson absolutely flattened Panos; and defensive end Billy Hirschfield won both of his battles, the first against offensive lineman Beau Benzschawel and the second against Connors. Again, by my unofficial count, the defense won eight of the 11 total matchups, with Deal, offensive lineman Micah Kapoi and offensive lineman Jacob Maxwell winning for the offense.
The kicking competition for the afternoon took place in the waking moments of practice, and both kickers did well from the 11-yard line, 26-yard line and 41-yard line. Andrew Endicott nailed all three while Rafael Gaglianone came up short on his final attempt, pushing it short and left.
Only assistant coaches were available to the media after the conclusion of practice of Wednesday. I caught up with defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, Brown and wide receivers coach Chris Beatty about their thoughts on fall camp so far and who impressed them in Wednesday's session.
On figuring out the fourth outside linebacker position:
"No, not to this point. Today was kind of the first step that way with pads," Aranda said. "Chasen Andersen did some good things today. He's picked up on the defense; he's really studied hard and I applaud him that way. T.J. Edwards did some goods things, he's a true freshman. He moved around good. ... There's some guys that are pushing for that spot. That's a question mark and we need an answer to that pretty quick."
On the intensity that the head-to-head battles brought forth:
"When you go through something like that, I wish we could do that on recruiting visits, but they're not going to let us do that" Aranda joked. "That drill tells you more about who the kid is, what the player's like, more than anything else. That's a real telling drill and have learned that from coach Andersen, and there's some positive things in there."
On Deal receiving a majority of the afternoon reps at running back:
"[Deal is] doing some things a little bit better. He's slowly learning how to operate," Brown said. "From a mental toughness standpoint, he's got to continue to pick it up every single day to understand the consistency it takes to be successful.
"The big part about it is learning to think when you're tired. ... I'm not going to feel sorry for him, nobody else is going to feel sorry for him out here. We all came to be successful and to continue to work and push each other to be the best they can be."
On the young wide receivers needing to be physical, not only fast, especially in Big Ten play:
"That's part of it. Speed helps you not have as many jump balls," Beatty said. "Krenwick is going to have more jump balls and Natrell can hopefully run away from some guys. But I think it's a process. There's a lot of guys who can run in his league; there are a lot of guys who can run on this team, so windows are really small. You've got to make contested plays, you've got to make contested catches and you've got to be able to operate in a tight space."
Fredrick spent most of the time on the sidelines, while wide receiver Jake Stengel and running back Caleb Kinlaw spent their time almost exclusively with the training staff. Stengel appeared to have inflammation in his left knee while Kinlaw and Fredrick's injury did not appear to be as obvious. Both of them, however, were doing lower body exercises and stretches. Running back coach Thomas Brown did not get into the specifics of Kinlaw's injury, noting he should be good to go sooner rather than later.
Here is the unofficial and incomplete playlist of the songs that were played through practice:
DMX "X Gon' Give It to Ya"
Korn "Coming Undone"
Lil Wayne ft. Rick Ross "John"
Spawnbreezie "Oh My Goodness"
PhillyPhil "Racks on Racks (Remix)"
Jadakiss and Styles P "How I Get Down"
Lil Wayne "Fireman"
Linkin Park "Burn It Down"
Timeflies "All The Way"
The Sugarhill Gang "Rapper's Delight"
Martin Garrix "Animals"
Rodney Atkins "Take A Back Road"
Calvin Harris "Summer"
Rick James "Super Freak"
2 Chainz ft. Wiz Khalifa "We Own It"
The White Stripes "Icky Thump"
Thomas Rhett "Get Me Some of That"
Aloe Blacc "The Man"
Queen "Another One Bites The Dust"
Luke Bryan "Crash My Party"
Talking Heads "Burning Down The House"
Michael Jackson "Smooth Criminal"
Rick Ross "Everyday I'm Hustlin'"
Alex Clare "Too Close"