Badgers: ‘The Launch’ practice report

MADISON — A crowd of about 10,000 fans got their first look at Luke Fickell’s Badgers as Wisconsin held ‘The Launch’ at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday.

Play of the Day:

It was a day for defense and cornerback Ricardo Hallman delivered the highlight on that side of the ball. On the first-team offense’s third possession of the afternoon, quarterback Tanner Mordecai looked deep down the right side for Chimere Dike. But Hallman had near perfect coverage, holding off Dike with his left arm and corralling the ball in his right for a beautiful interception, one of three on the day for the redshirt sophomore.

The good: The defense

Wisconsin has been a defensive school for much of the last decade, routinely putting together top-15 defenses in the country. While the staff and scheme have changed, the unit looked every bit like it has in recent memory on Saturday. They got after the offense with a variety of pressures to rack up 10 sacks, while also grabbing five interceptions. There were some cracks against the run, while the second-team defense was not as stout against the pass as the first group, but overall it was the best day the defense has had this spring.

The not so good: Tanner Mordecai and first-team passing offense

At one point in practice, Mordecai had thrown five passes and three of them were interceptions. It was just that kind of day for the SMU transfer. He overthrew Will Pauling on the first drive and was picked by Kamo’i Latu. On the next drive, he looked for Skyler Bell and airmailed that one into the hands of Hallman. The third pick came on a deep ball down the side to Dike, and a fourth would happen on the first drive of the second half when CJ Williams couldn’t bring in a pass right in his hands and the ball bounced to Hallman for a pick. For an offense designed to create easy throws, nothing was easy for Mordecai or his receivers.


Ricardo Hallman — The cornerback has been on an absolute tear of late. He picked off three passes in Thursday’s practice and was back at it on Saturday grabbing three more. His second was the catch of the day, as he reeled it in with one hand.

Tommy McIntosh — It’s been a quiet spring for the redshirt freshman but he showed up Saturday in a big way, especially on a scoring drive in the second half. With the cornerback draped on him, McIntosh was able to track the ball over his shoulder and hold on for a 34-yard gain. On the next play, he had a 17-yard catch and run where he broke three tackles on his way down to the 15-yard line.

Braelon Allen — Seeing his first live action of the spring, the Badgers leading rusher the last two years showed off his typical power game mixed with a little dose of quick feet and agility. It was especially evident on a late first-half scoring drive where he carried four times for 50 yards and went in from three yards out for the touchdown.

Braedyn Locke — The backup quarterback wasn’t perfect but he showed poise and an ability to work through his reads at a higher level than most redshirt freshman. The Mississippi State transfer led two touchdown drives, finishing them off with a 9-yard score to tight end Hayden Rucci and a 15-yard toss to wide receiver Quincy Burroughs.

Jonas Duclona — The true freshman had a pair of pass breakups, including one on Burroughs that saved a touchdown. He also came up with an interception in the second half off of Oklahoma transfer Nick Evers.

What They Said

“It would be easy to look at Tanner and say, ‘OK, the ball is picked off (four) times,’ He didn’t bat an eye, he didn’t ’t get down, he kept coming back, kept firing. And I think guys rallied behind him. But I think you see some back and forth, like normal sometimes, you get into these situations and early on, defensively, maybe you are just naturally a little bit ahead. And (there are) probably more similarities to what we (used to do) do defensively (than what we are doing offensively). But I think all in all the competitiveness is what I really wanted to see.”

Coach Luke Fickell on his impressions of the afternoon (via 1070 AM)

Seen from the sideline

— UW said more than 20,000 tickets had been reserved, though the total number of fans that passed through the gates Saturday was 10,000. Fans were treated to temps in the high 30s, snow, sleet, wind and even some sunshine during the event.

— A host of former players returned to campus for the event with a reception held in the Buckingham Club. It included Dallas Cowboys tight end Jake Ferguson.

— The Big Ten Network broadcasted the game but it didn’t have its normal spot in the press box. That’s because for the first time in 20-plus years the press box is undergoing some renovations. It led to the crew broadcasting from outside in the elements just below the press box in the upper deck.

— Wisconsin’s kicking game was not pretty with Ohio transfer Nathaniel Vakos and holdover Nate Van Zelst going 1-for-4. Vakos had the only make, knocking one through from 47 yards.

— Kicker Vito Calvaruso was not at the game. A UW spokesperson told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that there was nothing official in terms of whether Calvaruso had left the program or not. The Arkansas transfer has gotten little to no reps in practice this spring.

— A number of projected starters missed the game, including center Jake Renfro and outside linebacker CJ Goetz. Renfro hasn’t participated since the second week of spring due to a foot/ankle injury, while Goetz has missed time recently with an injury.

Other notable players not taking part:

WR Chris Brooks Jr.
CB Max Lofy
LB Aaron Witt
TE Clay Cundiff
TE Cam Large
DL Darien Varner
WR Bryson Green

What’s next?

Wisconsin will return to the field on Tuesday for the 14th practice of spring.