Badgers open spring football practice

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

On the opening day of spring football practice, Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen and his staff used their time to evaluate personnel and shift players around in an attempt to maximize talent and plug holes on the depth chart.

Linebackers Garret Dooley (6-foot-2 and 227 pounds) and Alec James (6-3 and 239), both of whom redshirted last season, have been moved to defensive end.

“I think that is the best spot for those kids, without question,” Andersen said after practice Wednesday. “They can get in there and play. They're going to get a little bit bigger as they go through time.

“Speed is part of it. We want to be a fast defense, and I think those kids are going to grow into that position and be very talented players.”

With centers Dallas Lewallen and Dan Voltz being held out this spring to recover from surgery/injury and the staff being careful with right guard Kyle Costigan (knees), the numbers on the line are thin.

As a result, reserve defensive end Logan Schmidt (6-4 and 278) has been moved to guard. He got work on the right side Wednesday. Reserve tight end Alex Walker (6-4 and 239) has been moved to tackle. He worked on the left side Wednesday. Both are walk-ons.

“We're going to continue to try to build those numbers,” Andersen said.

Freshman center Michael Deiter worked with the No. 1 line Wednesday. Walk-on Aidan McNamara worked with the No. 2 unit.

Offensive line coach T.J. Woods will be without touted freshman Jaden Gault for some time. Andersen revealed Gault recently underwent knee surgery and will be held out all spring.

“He should be fine in the fall,” Andersen said. “It's not a serious injury. It's just something that we're going to be slow with him as we come through spring.

“He will continue to rehab and he'll be with us in the fall and be ready to go.”

In addition, the staff plans to occasionally use fullback Derek Watt at H-back next season.

That means freshman fullback Austin Ramesh will get plenty of work in the spring.

“He is our fullback, let's make no mistake about it,” Andersen said of Watt. “But Derek does not need to block power 'O' 40 times in the spring.

“We're going to ask him to do that (H-back) next year because he is a good receiver. He is more than just a fullback.”

The first day of what should be an intriguing quarterback derby was interesting.

Returning starter Joel Stave left early to attend class, which resulted in Bart Houston, Tanner McEvoy and freshman D.J. Gillins getting the bulk of the reps.

Houston again showed a quick release, strong arm and the ability to put the necessary touch on certain throws.

McEvoy, who eventually settled in at safety last season, threw the ball better than he did at any point last season. Gillins displayed a live arm but is raw.

“It was good to see,” Andersen said of McEvoy's progress.

Stave, who suffered an injury to his right shoulder/collarbone in the Capital One Bowl, threw the ball smoothly before he left for class.

However, Andersen said the staff will limit his work in team drills until after spring break.

“Then we'll see if we can get him full-steam,” Andersen said. “It is a precautionary deal.”

Last updated: 11:15 pm Wednesday, March 5, 2014

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