Wisconsin Football: Week 1 Spring Practice Stock Report
We're only a week into the Wisconsin football spring practice schedule, but it didn't take long to realize there was a new man in charge of the Badgers.
From the black pants to the names on the back of the jersey to the blaring music, head coach Gary Andersen has laid his imprint on Wisconsin and the way his football team looks and feels during practice. Heck, Andersen has even physically shown how he wants his centers to snap the football and his cornerbacks to play press coverage.
Every last detail is meaningful to Andersen, and that mentality is beginning to rub off on his players. At least it better, because otherwise, they will find themselves heading in the wrong direction on this weekly stock report.
Following the first week of spring practice, let's take a look at whose stock is rising and whose is falling for the Badgers.
Stock Up: Marquis Mason
Photo courtesy of 247sports
At wide receiver, there's Jared Abbrederis, and then there's everyone else. Somebody, anybody needs to step up for the Badgers as the No. 2 receiver, and early signs point to junior wide-out Marquis Mason making a run of sorts at the position.
Mason's work ethic has been called into question in the past, but perhaps the arrival of Gary Andersen will help straighten him out. Early in the week, Mason was the first wide receiver other than Abbrederis to make an impression on the new staff according to Tom Mulhern of the Wisconsin State Journal.
WR Marquis Mason, who was buried on depth chart with previous regime, emerged to make a couple grabs in 30 mins open to the media.
— Tom Mulhern (@TomMulhernWSJ) March 12, 2013
Last season, Bret Bielema shunned Mason, saying that he didn't think he was ready to be a Division-I receiver, and that couldn't have helped Mason's psyche, especially considering the attitude issues he's had in the past.
For Badger fans, it's refreshing to see Mason appear to turn things around, even though it's very early. At 6'4" and 228 pounds, Mason has the build to develop into a solid receiver and impress his coaches, so now it's just a matter of if he can stay on track.
Stock Down: Joel Stave
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
It's not as if Joel Stave has actually done anything to hurt his stock. It's more of what he hasn't done.
Last season, Stave played the role of hero when he took over for Danny O'Brien in Week 3 and righted the ship. As a freshman, Stave appeared poised to become a four-year starter at Wisconsin and was exceeding expectations.
But after fracturing his clavicle, Stave was out for the season and only had one pass attempt in the Rose Bowl with Curt Phillips taking the job over in November. Since Phillips held the starting quarterback position at the end of the year, he entered spring practice as the No. 1, forcing Stave to prove himself all over again.
If that wasn't enough, junior college recruit Tanner McEvoy has yet to arrive on campus. Andersen is also looking for a mobile quarterback, an ability Phillips, McEvoy and even redshirt freshman Bart Houston possess—and something Stave doesn't bring to the table.
That doesn't completely rule out Stave, but the arrival of Andersen and a new philosophy on offense automatically diminishes his stock.
Stock Up: Vince Biegel
Photo courtesy of 247sports
Nobody is happier to see another linebacker spot open up due to the implementation of the 3-4 defense than redshirt freshman Vince Biegel.
Biegel was forced to redshirt due to injury last season, but the 6'4", 234-pound outside linebacker is already getting his fair share of looks with the No. 1 defense in practice. Injuries have a lot to do with that, but the highly touted Biegel is ecstatic to see the arrival of a 3-4 defense (via Mulhern).
“That’s what I was looking for in my recruiting,” Biegel said. “I wanted a 3-4. For these coaches to come here and have a 3-4, at Wisconsin, my home state, I couldn’t be more excited.”
Before he was shelved last season, Biegel was being groomed as a third-down pass rusher. In the 3-4 defense, the outside linebacker will be doing plenty of that next season. Even though he loses in the seniority battle to players like Tyler Dippel, Ethan Armstrong, David Gilbert and Brendan Kelly, Biegel can leave a lasting impression with so many players recovering from injury.
Stock Down: David Gilbert
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Will David Gilbert be starting by the time the 2013 season rolls around? Probably, but news recently broke that Gilbert would require surgery on his foot—the same foot he broke twice during his sophomore season.
This time, ligament damage will sideline the senior defensive end/linebacker, but Gilbert still expects to be ready for the upcoming season.
Being healthy enough to play is one thing, but with a new system being implemented on defense, losing so many reps will be costly for Gilbert, especially since he needs to get used to playing standing up. The Badgers won't exclusively use a 3-4 defense next season, but Gilbert has to adjust to shifting between outside linebacker and defensive end.
That includes learning different coverage schemes, so if Andersen doesn't feel as though Gilbert is well-versed by the start of next season, then he won't be on the field. There are plenty of other defensive ends-turned-linebackers who will be more comfortable in defensive coordinator Dave Aranda's system than Gilbert, and that's detrimental to his current stock.
Stock Up: Reggie Mitchell
There aren't many videos or action photos of Reggie Mitchell, and that's because the redshirt freshman hasn't seen the field yet for Wisconsin. But the quarterback-turned-cornerback-turned-safety is catching the eye of Aranda in spring practice (via Mulhern).
The Badgers have three openings in the secondary, one of which is at the safety position next to senior Dezmen Southward. Several young players have been rotating at corner and safety, including redshirt freshman Nate Hammon, sophomore Terrance Floyd, sophomore Darius Hillary and junior Peniel Jean.
The fact that Aranda went out of his way to praise Mitchell is meaningful, as he likes having a good cover man at the safety position, especially if Southward winds up blitzing more and playing close to the line of scrimmage. That's a likely scenario considering the aggressive style Aranda plans to use on defense next season.
As with at quarterback, a junior college recruit named Donnell Vercher will enter the mix at safety this summer, but in the meantime, Mitchell's stock is on the rise.
Stock Down: Michael Trotter
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With Shelton Johnson missing time with injury early last season, junior Michael Trotter saw significant time at safety in two games. Apparently, that experience hasn't translated over to spring practice, because Trotter's name is nowhere to be found.
There is plenty of competition in the secondary, but other players, like Reggie Mitchell and Dezmen Southward, are receiving more reps at safety than Trotter. We shouldn't read into that too much as spring practice is only a week old, but with a new coach comes a new philosophy and a different outlook on players.
Interestingly enough, Trotter started against Utah State, Andersen's former school, last season. He has more experience than several of his counterparts in the secondary, and perhaps that's what led Andersen to getting some younger players more looks early this spring.
As we heard from Aranda, however, he would like someone next to Southward with good cover skills, and Trotter has been a safety all along during his time in Madison. Lacking this attribute may wind up hurting Trotter's shot at winning a starting job this fall.