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Starters, storylines, and observations from Wisconsin Spring Practice

In preparation for the 2016-2017 season, the Wisconsin Badgers opened spring football practice this past Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium.

With position changes, new faces in the coaching staff, and a starting quarterback competition, the first practice gave an introduction to who to watch for in the following fourteen practices including the spring game on Saturday, April 23rd.

With former starting quarterback, senior Joel Stave, in pursuit of a career in the NFL, a quarterback competition is underway for the starting job this fall. With incoming freshman quarterback Karé Lyles out for spring with a hip injury, fifth year senior Bart Houston and redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook are the two main competitors for the job. Walk-on Bobby Dunn, who played quarterback at Edgewood College in Madison and has been at UW for two years, is the current third string quarterback.

On Saturday, Houston played with the first string team. He remains the only quarterback on UW’s roster with any regular season playing time.

Head coach Paul Chryst had little notable information to say of the two quarterbacks following Saturday’s practice.

“You know they’re gonna get a lot of reps…and the expectation is that they improve,” Chryst said of the quarterbacks. “Obviously both have to stay healthy, but one thing guys fight for is reps, and they’re gonna get a ton of reps, and what they do with those reps is really the key to it.”

Wisconsin running back Dare Ogunbowale felt the transition from playing with Stave to Houston and Hornibrook has been smooth thus far. Ogunbowale also talked with the media Saturday about the excitement he and his offense have for this upcoming season and the changes made in the offensive line.

“We shuffled around a lot of guys, you know, but that was good,” Ogunbowale said. “We got a lot of guys’ experience and a lot of guys a chance to get on the field.”

Ogunbowale discussed the strength of the offensive line. Collectively, the line has experience playing together last season. Ryan Ramczyk took over as starting left tackle for the departing Tyler Marz.

“He’s a freak; he’s a very athletic guy,” Ogunbowale said of Ramczyk. “We’re excited to have him holding down that left tackle spot.”

On the defense, outside linebacker Vince Biegel switched positions to cover his former teammate, Joe Schobert’s spot. Biegel moved from a boundary outside linebacker to a field outside linebacker. Opposite from him, T.J. Watt will play the boundary outside linebacker with Jack Cichy and Chris Orr or T.J. Edwards playing inside linebacker.

“I knew T.J. was gonna be a big time starter for us coming into this year,” Biegel said.  “I’m really excited to see what me and T.J. can both bring off the edge…I think me and him are gonna have a lot of fun in the backfield with quarterbacks,”

Of his linebacking core, Biegel said, “We have a very very deep linebacking core this year, and I’m excited about what we’re gonna have collectively as a group making plays.”

With the departure of starting safeties Mike Caputo and Tanner McEvoy and cornerback Darius Hillary, eyes will be focused on the defense for who will take the starting jobs. For recently hired defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and defensive backs coach Jim Leonhard, the competition for safety will be more difficult than that for cornerback.  Four Badger safeties had playing time last season, D’Cota Dixon, Leo Musso, Joe Ferguson, and Arrington Farrar.

In Saturday’s practice, Dixon and Musso were the two starting safeties, and Sojourn Shelton and Derrick Tindal started at cornerback.

Wilcox holds a lot of control in the decision making process for the Badgers defense.

“You want guys to take ownership; it’s never been about one person, and that’s one of the reasons I felt Justin was a great fit,” Chryst said about Wilcox.

Biegel praised Wilcox, comparing his intensity for the game to that of former defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.

“I thought Coach Wilcox was a great fit for us,” Biegel said. “I’m excited about the future. I’m excited about what else he can bring to the game and making the Wisconsin defense a better defense.”

Coach Chryst discussed his expectations for technical improvements for his team during spring training.

“That is the tremendous thing about spring ball, we aren’t getting ready for an opponent, so you can focus on what that is that you need to improve,” Chryst said. “There’s a lot of teaching going on, and the kids are in a good spot to learn, and that’s what makes coaching fun.”

The Badgers have two more practices before UW’s spring break. The team will practice in no pads for the next two practices.

The starting team for the first spring practice was as follows:

Offense

Quarterback: Bart Houston

Running backs: Corey Clement, Dare Ogunbowale

Fullback: Austin Ramesh

Wide receivers: Robert Wheelwright, Jazz Peavy, Reggie Love

Tight ends: Troy Fumagalli, Eric Steffes

Offensive line: Ryan Ramczyk, Micah Kapoi, Michael Deiter, Beau Benzschawel, Jacob Maxwell

Defense

Defensive line: Chikwe Obasih, Olive Sagapolu, Conor Sheehy

Inside linebackers: Chris Orr, T.J. Edwards, Jack Cichy

Outside linebackers: Vince Biegel, T.J. Watt

Cornerbacks: Sojourn Shelton, Derrick Tindal

Safeties: D’Cota Dixon, Leo Musso

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