MADISON -- The Wisconsin Badgers wrapped up their fourth and final day of split practices on Thursday. As was the case Wednesday, the offense was filled with much younger players outside of the quarterback position. Thursday, the defense also got more experienced with the addition of linebacker Derek Landisch.
Joel Stave and Bart Houston manned the quarterback position on Thursday afternoon, and Houston's play definitely took a step backward from Wednesday, while Stave showed flashes of why he could be the starting quarterback for the Badgers in 2014. Lasting from sessions 12 to 17, Stave went 10-of-19 for two touchdowns, whereas Houston went 2-of-8 with one interception. Of course, these are unofficial counts. Sessions 14-16 were the only sessions that featured 11-on-11 action.
Stave's touchdowns came on back-to-back plays as session 13 came to a close. Stave found wide receiver Reggie Love for the first one on the suite-level sideline where Love did a little spin move around the defending corner. Stave then found Austin Maly as he was flushed outside of the pocket on the same side. However, those nine incompletions were all over the map. He didn't handle the screen passes all the well, either, as the defensive line tipped the ball away on several encounters, but he did completed a nice pass to Love for considerable gain.
Houston's interception came courtesy of D'Cota Dixon in session 12 on a pass directed for Maly over the middle near the goal line. This was Houston's second pass of the afternoon. At the very end of practice, Andersen opted to switch the typical musical tunes to crowd noise with Houston under center. The California native completed a pass to freshman tight end Sam Eckert on an out route, but misfired on his next two passes -- freshman running back Taiwan Deal dropped a low one and Houston threw short of freshman wide receiver Natrell Jamerson.
Speaking of Jamerson, he was returning punts from freshman punter P.J. Rosowki earlier in practice, and had mixed success working with wide receivers coach Chris Beatty. There's no doubt that Kenzel Doe will be back there when the season gets underway, but Jamerson's ability fits in perfectly for a future role returning kicks and punts. Could that role begin this season? We'll see.
The defense, meanwhile, was very, very physical, whether that was in drills or pass skeleton. In particular, Vince Biegel was by far the most tenacious. During the middle part of session 15, he ripped Derek Straus' helmet off, but let his play do the talking throughout parts of practice. Without any wide receivers and cornerbacks during session 11, Biegel stuffed Deal on the near sideline and was disruptive in the backfield with Michael Caputo and Landisch on several other run plays.
Caputo was not far behind in terms of intensity, though. He was vocal during the pass skeletons and 11-on-11, and he made a great play on a pass from Houston directed for Love in the third play of session 13. That's a promising sign if Caputo can be reliable in pass coverage, given he is known primarily as a run-stopper. Leon Jacobs also got his hands on a number of screen passes and safety Lubern Figaro made a great tackle at the line of scrimmage on Love. You could tell last season that defensive coordinator Dave Aranda wants to play a physical and aggressive defense, and that doesn't seem to be changing thus far in camp.
During session nine, the running backs paired up with the linebackers to work on pass protection, with the objective of grabbing a sweat towel. Again, by my unofficial count, the defense won four of the six contests. There were some solid matchups that displayed Deal's physicality, including one against redshirt freshman linebacker Garret Dooley and another against Dixon. Deal is a lot slimmer than I would have imagined, but he still possesses the knack for running downhill with a powerful edge.
Before practice officially ended, Andersen held the same one-on-one drill from yesterday. All of us media were already on the field so we didn't get a bird's-eye view of it, but it became apparent that the players sitting in the crowd were cheering on freshman defensive tackle Jeremy Patterson, who won the final matchup of the day before the team broke down for the day.
Caleb Kinlaw and Jordan Fredrick were on the sidelines again, but Kinlaw saw the field during session six. T.J. Watt had his right leg wrapped, yet Andersen said his timetable for a return is days, not weeks. Freshman outside linebacker Justin Schweitzer was also seen frequently on the sidelines during Thursday's afternoon session.
Only Andersen was available to the media after the conclusion of practice. The team's first live scrimmage, available to the public, will take place Sunday at Camp Randall Stadium and consist of 100 plays. The top two running backs -- Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement -- will not be tackled in an obvious addition to the quarterbacks.
Additionally, Andersen noted that seven total freshmen will most likely not redshirt this season. Those include offensive lineman Michael Deiter, Deal, some of the wide receivers, one of the outside linebackers and someone in the secondary. Among the possible freshmen that could play, safety Serge Trezy has yet to arrive on campus, and it's looking more and more realistic that he will enroll in January.
On the split-team practices during the first four days of camp:
"They handled them well," Andersen said. "The split sessions were good. Probably most proud of is the coaches dug in and had four two-a-days in a row. None of us have had to do that for a few years, so it's good for them to get out here. The learning was awesome; this schedule has been very good for the kids to be able to play, watch themselves, get ready for the next day."
On the team's youth not being an excuse this year:
"For me, I would say some of that would have to do with comes from the experience the backups got, some kids that haven't been tagged as starters but have played a lot of football," Andersen said. "Most importantly, every season to me is about the senior class. The senior class does not deserve to have anyone talk to them about, 'Well, this is my senior year and all of a sudden, my team is the team that had to be the young team and be the rebuilding team.'
"We're going to do everything we can to take care of those seniors the right way and get them out of here with a great season under their belt."
On the early quarterback competition between Stave and Tanner McEvoy:
"The opportunity to succeed in the morning is much better than the opportunity to succeed in the afternoon," Andersen said. "It's a fight right now and we have to get them in those live scenarios, real football, get the whole scheme in and see how they're handling it from there."
On playing LSU in game No. 1 rather than a "cupcake" opponent, and the difference in preparation:
"Coach talk, you always want to say, 'We'll take every game one game at a time,' and all the stuff that comes with that," Andersen said. "There's a lot of truth to that, depending on your first opponent, but ... we have to make sure we go in level-headed, not play above our head a little bit as far as the emotions and everything that comes with the first game, let alone playing a tremendous opponent."
On the lack of play from the backup noseguard position:
"Where we sit with [Arthur] Goldberg, [Conor] Sheehy and Patterson at the backup noseguard spot, I don't know how much of a battle it is right now, but I know it's not where we need to be," Andersen said. "Right now, Warren [Herring] will probably have to play every snap, that's a big concern."
On the newest NCAA reform that gives power-five conferences autonomy:
"I'm glad it's camp, I didn't know anything about that," Andersen joked. "Things are going to change. If it gets better for the kids and it's manageable for the coaches and the programs, then I'm all for it."
Repeats from Wednesday's will not be included (there were two), but here is your unofficial and incomplete playlist of songs played throughout practice:
"Lucky" -- Pharrell
"One" -- Creed
"Just A Friend" -- Biz Markie
"Is This Love" -- Bob Marley & The Wailers
"Good Morning" -- Chamillionaire
"Teach Me How To Dougie" -- Cali Swag District
"Jump" -- Kris Kross
"Summertime Sadness" -- Lana Del Rey
"Livin' On A Prayer" -- Bon Jovi
"One More Time" -- Daft Punk
"Crawling In The Dark" -- Hoobastank
"What Is Love" -- Haddaway
"Barracuda" -- Heart
"Make It Bun Dem" -- Skrillex & Damian Marley