Wisconsin Head Coach Bret Bielema met with the media Friday after Wisconsin's fifth practice of fall camp.
Ball will be back on the field, fully participating sooner than expected.
First day in pads
Today marked the first practice in which the Badgers practiced fully padded.
"I thought our kids responded really really good," Bielema said at the conclusion of Wisconsin's practice Friday afternoon. "Tomorrow we'll jump into our first two-a-days, so kind of see where they are endurance wise.
"Been pleased so far for two reasons. First, we've stayed relatively healthy. In addition to that, really having some healthy competition at some positions we needed.
"Obviously quarterback, between Danny O'Brien, Curt Phillips, and Joel Stave. Really those three guys have performed very, very well. Defensively, I've been impressed with the communication. Defensive communication is as good as we've ever hard it."
Ball will be back earlier than expected
Senior Running Back Montee Ball has clearance to fully participate on Monday, but Bielema will take precaution before allowing him to go through contact drills.
"We didn't do anything with him the first three days on the practice field," said Bielema. "Tomorrow he'll go through his second day of shoulders and helmets, so when we come back on Monday, he'll be good to go full gear.
Borland is getting some reps on kickoff return.
"He's gotten the green light, other than I wouldn't throw him into a game on Saturday. Next week we'll probably break him in, keep in a green jersey, keep him out of contact for another week, and then two weeks out from the game, we'll hit the ground running."
Shaking up special teams
Bielema is exploring a few options for punt and kickoff returners, in addition to Jared Abbrederis.
"On punt return I think you have a host of guys," Bielema said. "James White has a chance back there, Kenzel Doe has a chance back there, and then a couple of the freshman, Darius Hillary has looked good, at least catching the ball.
"Kick returns, we'll have Montee back there. We'll see what he's got. A couple big guys that can run, Reggie Love. The possibility of some non-tradition guys, Chris Borland. Some guys back there that maybe can bring some size with it."
Receivers beginning to separate themselves
A few wide receivers are beginning to catch Bielema's attention.
"He's been impressive in camp," Bielema said of Chase Hammond. "He's a guy that will have two good days, then maybe slip off a little bit. But I've been impressed with him.
Lewallen is also close to returning.
"I've been impressed with Kenzel Doe. Kenzel is performing at a high level right now. Another guy that's really come on, Jordan Fredrick. A year ago at this time, he was a guy that we thought about playing. He's really jumped out to me during the first five days."
Lewallen could provide some depth
Sophomore Offensive Lineman Dallas Lewallen is close to being back and could help bolster Wisconsin's offensive line at the beginning of the season.
"Dallas isn't cleared, 100 percent full go, but I really want to have him in camp," Bielema stated. "The doctors gave him clearance to get involved in a lot of individual work. He can't get thrown into the team section.
"I've been impressed. He's right there. I doubt he'll be in that opener, but he might, in that third, fourth game, be able to give us some depth."
French stepping up
Being the favorite to replace Phillip Welch at kicker, Sophomore Kyle French is kicking the ball well.
"Kyle's been kicking the ball extremely well," Bielema said. "Kyle's been dead on the with PAT's and field goals.
"Jack Russell, obviously a great kicker from Waunakee coming in. Last time he was kicking in a state playoff game, now there's a little bit bigger guys out there. You can see he's got a good live leg."
Bielema says to expect a "big" announcement regarding Wisconsin's future schedule.
"We're probably going to have a nice, big announcement coming up here soon."