Wisconsin Football: Week 2 Fall Practice Stock Report
Week 2 of Wisconsin football fall practice featured the most important day yet of camp—the Badgers' first intrasquad scrimmage.
It's the scrimmages that separate players and help settle position battles, which is what makes Aug. 12 so important for so many players. All eyes have been on the quarterback competition, and at least one signal caller will find his name on this stock report.
Safety is another position up in the air, and just like last season coaches are waiting for a No. 2 receiver to emerge. Right guard and middle linebacker are other spots in which we are awaiting the announcement of a starter.
While there is another scheduled for the third week of camp, the first scrimmage is in the books as well as the second week of fall practice for Wisconsin. Which players are catching the eye of head coach Gary Andersen and who is falling out of favor?
Stock Up: Corey Clement
Position: Running back
Year: True freshman
Vonte Jackson is out for the season with a torn ACL while Kyle Zuleger, Jeff Lewis and Leo Musso have all made the move from tailback to safety. Almost by default, Corey Clement has become the Badgers' No. 3 running back, but he is marching towards a bigger role in 2013.
According to FOX Sports Wisconsin's Jesse Temple, Clement was the most impressive offensive player in Monday's scrimmage, rushing 20 times for 98 yards while capping off the scrimmage with a 7-yard touchdown run.
James White and Melvin Gordon are the unquestioned No. 1 and No. 2 backs respectively, but that doesn't mean Clement can't have an impact. After all, it was Gordon last season who emerged despite being the third-stringer, and Ball back in 2010 when John Clay and White where the top two tailbacks.
Clement was impressive throughout the first week of practice, and he's continuing to show he's deserving of playing time in his rookie campaign.
Stock Down: Tanner McEvoy
It's never easy for a player to step into their first fall practice and win a job, and Tanner McEvoy is one of the only first-year Badgers expected to compete for a starting spot. It also happens to be at quarterback.
Entering fall camp, it appeared to be a three-man race between the junior college transfer, Joel Stave and Curt Phillips. But during Monday's scrimmage, McEvoy took a step back, going 2-of-9 for 22 yards, a touchdown and a lost fumble.
Following the scrimmage, Andersen said he thought there was "some slight separation at this point" when referring to the quarterback position. In other words, that competition may have just become a two-man show (via Temple).
Another damaging blow came during the Aug. 15 practice, when Benjamin Worgull of Badger Nation noted that redshirt freshman Bart Houston and walk-on freshman Connor Senger, who received his decal before McEvoy—a 'Motion W' sticker given to newcomers who have earned their stripes, so to speak—looked better than the JUCO recruit.
McEvoy was the only one out of the top three to be recruited by Andersen, and his dual-threat ability seemed to make him a perfect fit for what Andersen wanted to do on offense. But if McEvoy can't throw the football, it's all for naught.
Stock Up: Zac Matthias
Position: Right guard
The offensive line was all but set entering fall practice, but it turns out there is one position unsettled in the trenches—right guard. That position was believed to belong to incumbent starter Kyle Costigan, but after missing the spring due to right knee surgery, Costigan is shaking off the rust this fall.
Andersen wants to make sure he isn't putting out a player who isn't ready to contribute at right guard, so senior Zac Matthias is receiving reps with the first-team offense, a step in the right direction.
Costigan battled injury last season, suffering a dislocated knee cap in the Big Ten opener against Nebraska and then missing the rematch with the Cornhuskers in the B1G Championship Game with a concussion. Matthias has battled injuries of his own, but he has improved, taking advantage of more reps in the spring.
Matthias could even see some time over at left guard during fall camp (via Tom Mulhern of the Wisconsin State Journal), a position currently occupied by Dallas Lewallen. In fact, with center Dan Voltz out with an injury, Lewallen has shifted over to center while Matthias now occupies left guard. That versatility could help Matthias win a starting job in 2013.
Stock Down: Jeff Lewis
Jeff Lewis failed to ascend the running back depth chart during his time at Wisconsin. Following the losses of Reggie Mitchell and Donnell Vercher, Andersen convinced Lewis that his best bet would be to make the transition to safety and compete for the vacancy opposite of Dezmen Southward.
Well, that transition has been anything but smooth for Lewis, who wouldn't even crack the two-deep if the season began today. Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel didn't appear optimistic about Lewis' future, and reported that Andersen and Lewis discussed on Monday why Lewis wasn't getting many reps during practice.
Lewis' switch to safety came during the summer, while other running backs who made the switch to safety like Musso and Zuleger have had more time to adjust to their new position. Musso has surprisingly worked with the No. 1 defense for the majority of spring practice.
Lewis is a great athlete, but he needs more time to become acclimated in Wisconsin's defensive backfield, hence his downward trending stock.
Stock Up: Michael Caputo
The talk of the secondary in fall camp thus far has been redshirt freshman Leo Musso, who made an appearance on our Week 1 stock report, but Michael Caputo is hot on his heels for the starting strong safety spot.
Caputo saw some extended time last season when Shelton Johnson was out with a broken arm, but it was Michael Trotter who started in Johnson's absence. Now it appears that Caputo has leapfrogged Trotter in the depth chart, as he started alongside Musso in Monday's scrimmage with Southward sitting out (h/t John Veldhuis of BadgerBlitz.com).
Andersen himself praised Caputo for having a nice couple of days during the first week of camp, and he benefited by earning a start in Wisconsin's first scrimmage of the fall. There is certainly time for Caputo to wrestle the strong safety job away from Musso before the Aug. 31 opener.
Stock Down: Tyler Dippel
Position: Defensive end
With Tyler Dippel out of spring practice with an injury, we weren't really sure where he'd fit in with the defense. With defensive coordinator Dave Aranda implementing a 3-4 formation, Dippel could either remain an end or shift back to outside linebacker as a pass rusher a la Brendan Kelly.
Dippel was one of Wisconsin's top pass rushers in 2012 and tied for the team lead in sacks. This summer, it appeared the only opening in the front seven would be outside linebacker, a prime opportunity for Dippel to start. Instead, Ethan Armstrong was listed as an outside linebacker rather than a middle entering fall camp, leaving Dippel with no place to start.
The starting defensive ends as it stands are Ethan Hemer and Pat Muldoon, and while Dippel could still see the field in situations that call for a pass rush, he won't have an every-down roll. That is unless he jumps off the page to Andersen during the remainder of fall practice.
For now, Dippel has a limited role, and that doesn't bode well for his stock.