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Wisconsin football: T.J. Watt, Sojourn Shelton, defense impress during Monday’s practice

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Notes and observations from Monday’s practice.

National University Holiday Bowl - USC v Wisconsin Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

MADISON—The Wisconsin Badgers are already into their third week of fall camp, practicing inside Camp Randall Stadium on Monday in preparation for their matchup against LSU on Sept. 3.

During Monday’s practice, a couple of defensive players stood out. Redshirt junior outside linebacker T.J. Watt, WHO has the ability to be a difference maker for Wisconsin’s defense this season, displayed his athleticism by blowing past a couple of offensive linemen in certain team drills (both in 11-on-11 and modified team segments). He also deflected a pass.

Wisconsin’s linebackers should be the defense’s biggest strength this season, and even with All-American and Big Ten Linebacker of the Year Joe Schobert moving on to the NFL and the foot injury to T.J. Edwards, defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox has a plethora of riches at both inside and outside linebacker.

Senior cornerback Sojourn Shelton also impressed in coverage on Monday. When targeted, the 5’9, 168-pounder was up to task, blanketing the receivers and intercepting a Bart Houston pass for what would have been a pick-six. Promising signs for sure from the lone senior in the defensive backfield.

Quarterback battle continues

The Wisconsin quarterback competition is not set, nor has there been a true leader emerging between redshirt senior Bart Houston and redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook. The first scrimmage last Monday went to Hornibrook, while Friday’s went to Houston. On Monday, Houston threw a couple of interceptions (one in 7-on-7/“skelley” drills, one in team drills), but he also displayed some nice passes in team drills that showcased his arm strength.

Hornibrook threw the ball decently as well, but he also tried forcing in a pass or two that could haven proven disastrous.

In my opinion, it’s going to be a tight race until the end. Both are receiving reps with the first-team offense, and both appear to be even. Some segments of practice, the southpaw looked better; in others, Houston displayed the greater ability to make plays. As Wisconsin Sports Zone Network’s Zach Heilprin noted, the competition’s still ongoing.

For complete stats, check out BadgerBlitz.com’s recap here ($).

Injury report

True freshman WR Quintez Cephus (right leg) returned to practice.

Tight end Troy Fumagalli was out of practice (right arm/hand), which allowed redshirt senior Eric Steffes and redshirt freshman Kyle Penniston extended looks with the first-team offense. Penniston had a few impressive receptions, including a couple in 7-on-7 drills.

Left guard Dan Voltz (rest) and left tackle Ryan Ramczyk (left leg) were held out of practice. The first-team offensive line appeared as follows (left tackle to right tackle): Brett Connors, Micah Kapoi, Michael Deiter, Beau Benzschawel, Jacob Maxwell.

Here’s the full report:

Roster moves

  • Defensive lineman Zander Neuville moved to tight end.
  • Offensive lineman Ian Dretzka replaced fellow lineman George Panos on the 105-man roster, according to a UW official. Panos, a redshirt sophomore, has been dealing with a right shoulder injury throughout camp.

Observations, odds and ends

  • I liked how wide receiver Jazz Peavy caught a couple of passes on Monday. Wisconsin could have a dynamic duo at the position group if senior Robert Wheelwright stays healthy. Junior George Rushing and fifth-year senior Reggie Love—along with true freshmen A.J. Taylor and Cephus—could provide stability to the position.
  • The first few “periods” of practice were dedicated to special teams. True freshman punter Anthony Lotti hit some impressive boots during that time, as the Badgers were practicing some basic and directional punting situations. The question remains if he or redshirt sophomore punter P.J. Rosowski will win the job, but there was a certain “boom” heard from one of his punts from the day.
  • It appeared both kickers Rafael Gaglianone and Andrew Endicott converted all of their field goal attempts. For the Brazilian, he connected on a 52-yarder through the north end zone uprights.
  • The Big Ten Network crew was in town to watch the Badgers practice.
  • Former Wisconsin kicking great Vitaly Pisetsky was also in attendance.