MADISON, Wis. — Derek Watt was no stranger to being a two-way football player as a prep standout at Pewaukee (Wis.) High School. So perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Watt has taken to a position switch this quickly at the University of Wisconsin.
Watt, a redshirt freshman, has spent just three days playing fullback for the Badgers after moving from his linebacker spot. And the results have been outstanding according to Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema.
“He’s probably taken to that faster than I could ever imagine,” Bielema said Wednesday night. “There’s a lot of carryover. I do think a defensive guy moving to offense has a bigger advantage because he’s been a backer. His knowledge is good. We know his effort is good.”
Watt, the younger brother of Houston Texans linebacker and former Wisconsin standout J.J., received a call from Bielema on Sunday to discuss the position switch. Watt was sharing time with Marcus Trotter as the backup middle linebacker behind starter Chris Borland, and Bielema told him he might see playing time sooner as a fullback.
Sophomore Sharard Cadogan is the expected starter, but Watt’s quick development could give him solid backup time. Wisconsin is attempting to replace former fullback Bradie Ewing, who was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in April.
As a high school senior in 2010, the 6-foot-2, 227-pound Watt starred at linebacker and running back. He recorded 80 tackles with 15 tackles for loss, two sacks and an interception. He also rushed for 1,506 yards and 25 touchdowns.
Bielema said Watt was particularly impressive during Wisconsin’s pass protection drills on Wednesday morning.
“That takes some time to develop,” Bielema said. “He’s pretty natural. He caught the ball in the flat today against our 1s, took it for about 30 yards because he could definitely turn and run after it got in his hands. I’m excited where he’s at in a short amount of time.”
Taylor OK: Badgers linebacker Mike Taylor did not practice during the morning session of Wisconsin’s two-a-days on Wednesday. But Bielema said Taylor, who has a history of injury issues, was being held out to avoid any setbacks before the season begins.
“He’s had so many hamstring things that if he has any flare-up with that we just kind of back off and set him down,” Bielema said. “I don’t know how much I’ll scrimmage him on Saturday. I might let him go a little bit. My plan is to get him to next Monday. Two weeks of solid repping. Double days really starts to wear on guys that have had some leg issues.”
Bielema also announced that linebacker Vince Biegel sustained a foot injury that will require him to wear a boot for two weeks before returning to practice.
In other personnel news, Bielema said wide receiver Isaiah Williams, who was not with Wisconsin at the start of camp, had been added to the 105-man roster. Linebacker Jake Rademacher also has joined the team.
Havenstein impresses: Bielema said right tackle Rob Havenstein had been the most surprising player for him during Wisconsin’s fall camp.
Havenstein, a 6-8, 342-pounder, missed all of spring practice while recovering from shoulder surgery. But he has stepped in and solidified his position as a starter on the offensive line.
“It’s been so long since he played,” Bielema said. “He jumped right in there. … He physically has a lot of tools. Mentally, he’s pretty locked in.”