The Rite of Spring

With the first of 15 spring practices in the book, Badger Nation gives its five things to watch and read about as Wisconsin's spring season progresses.

1, Quick as a Deer

The only scholarship athlete to enroll early, Kenzel Doe said the reason he did it was that a) he had nothing better going on and b) he could get a head start on earning playing time. If the Badgers had a game tomorrow, don't be surprised if Doe was in the mix somehow.

A player that was under recruited , Doe - a 5-foot-8 athlete from Reidsville. N.C., ¬- has come to campus and wowed the coaches and players in the program. His speed will be essential to his development, as the Badgers plan on playing him at wide receiver along with giving him a shot at replacing David Gilreath as the team's punt and kick returner.

"We really fell in love with him … especially now that we've had him on campus," UW coach Bret Bielema said on Monday. "He's not the tallest guy in nature. He's pretty firmed up, got good body weight. Physically some of the stuff he's been able to go so far in winter conditioning has been off the charts, and really excited to see him once we put the pads on."

2, Unfortunate Infirmary

There were already were a handful of injuries that would keep some key role players out of spring practices, but the one Bielema disclosed on Monday was that senior Nick Toon has surgery on his foot last week and will miss all of spring ball.

Toon had an injury-plagued 2010 season and was limited to nine games due to a turf toe injury that bothered him most of the season and a thigh contusion that forced him to miss the Iowa game. He was second on the team with 36 receptions for 459 yards and three touchdowns. According to Bielema, Toon suffered a stress fracture in his other foot, had surgery that went "very, very well" and should return for the start of summer drills in June.

"It's a common procedure that a lot of other wide receivers have had, even some high name guys over the past couple of years at the NFL Draft."

Jared Abbrederis, UW's only other wide receiver with a good amount of experience, will likely be the No. 1 receiver during spring camp, seeing as he is UW's leading returning receiver with 20 receptions for 289 yards and three TDs. The only other returning receiver to catch a pass last season is sophomore Jeff Duckworth, who caught three passes for 32 yards.

"Jeff Duckworth is really looking good through his winter conditioning," Bielema said. "There are a couple of freshman that have intrigued us. He's a big body that you can get a lot out of. Really, it's a bunch of walk-on guys and guys that haven't proven themselves to this point."

Though he won't be able to physically participate in spring camp, Toon will still take on a coaching role of a coach, something Bielema thinks will be important to his development.

"I'm actually excited to see how he handles that," Bielema said. "This is actually the first time he's really been in that position. Even though he's been a productive player for us when he's healthy, he's always had those three or four guys older than him with the guys that just left.

Bielema also updated other injuries. Curt Phillips won't be involved in live situations this spring, but he will participate in passing drills without any sort of rush. Phillips suffered his second torn ACL in eight months midway through the 2010 season. Offensive tackle Josh Oglesby will be in the same boat, missing the live portions of practice.

Also limited this spring will be redshirt freshmen Isaiah Williams (wide receiver), Jameson Wright (cornerback) and Konrad Zagzebski (defensive lineman) and redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Tyler Dippel.

3, On the Ball

With John Clay leaving early, the door is open for Montee Ball to be an effective presence for the entire season. As a result, Ball is spent the offseason building on his '10 success, in which led team in rushing touchdowns, ranked second in rushing attempts and scoring, third in rushing yards and all purpose yards and fourth in total offense.

"Montee is down probably 10 or 12 pounds. He looks very quick and agile in everything that he's doing," Bielema said. "He's taken a huge step physically."

The man blocking for Ball — fullback Bradie Ewing ¬— also has caught the eye of Bielema based on his tenacity and consistency last season.

"Bradie Ewing was playing about as good of football as I've witnessed at the fullback position and I think he's continued to make steps forward," Bielema said.

4, Line of Trust – Part I

With Oglesby limited and Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt heading to the pros, the Badgers have moved Ricky Wagner, who played in Oglesby's absence a season ago, and inserted Travis Frederick, who started four games two seasons ago, to left guard.

With the right tackle position open, Badgers are going to give redshirt sophomore Casey Dehn, who started at left tackle against Austin Peay last season, the first shot.

"He would probably be the first guy to line up there," Bielema said. "But (there is also) Robert Burge and Rob Havenstein. Robby Havenstein and Kyle Costigan both went through out of season knee injuries so he's just getting back into it. But Casey started a game so he's kind of got a natural lean. If Josh was healthy he'd obviously have a lean on that spot.

"But I'm excited because we've probably got four or five guys that are truly in contention over there."

5, Line of Trust – Part II

Wisconsin didn't lose any seniors on the defensive line from last season, but they did lose junior All-American J.J. Watt. As a result, Wisconsin is looking for both Louis Nzegwu and David Gilbert to physically take the next step at the defensive end position.

At the interior, behind incumbent starters Patrick Butrym and Jordan Kohout, watch out for sophomore Beau Allen, who adds depth and strength after appearing in 12 games as a 325-pound true freshman last season, and Patrick Muldoon, a redshirt sophomore who continues to build strength in his surgically-repaired knees.

"It's nice to finally have him healthy," Bielema said. "He's a guy that was a highly recruited, again, another kid out of Ohio that really had big expectations, and he's just never been able ... he had the ACL injury, and then right before fall camp, he had another meniscal injury, and his body's really changed.

"Charlie is very excited about where he's going to fit in next to Louis (Nzegwu) and David Gilbert, so he's playing and is set to be as physically ready to play since we've been here, and he is, he's going to play a lot of good football for us."


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