He's not considering a position switch, but senior walk-on turned scholarship player Bradie Ewing certainly played like a wide receiver on Tuesday. Ewing was the best receiver on the field, as he caught a number of deep passes out of the backfield, with one hand nonetheless.
"My neck was a little stiff with the cowboy collar, but I got my hands on the ball," Ewing said. "I think there was a little luck involved, too. One of those catches I just stuck out my hand and (the ball) stuck in there pretty nice."
Ewing played in all 13 games with three starts last season, but injuries in fall camp derailed his progress as the starting fullback throughout the season. After catching eight passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns last season, Ewing appears ready for more in his final season.
"I am happy at fullback," Ewing said. "I am just trying to make the best of my opportunities when I get them."
The first set of team drills was a literal tug-of-war, as every time the offense got an inch, the defense took one right back. With Jon Budmayr under center, the redshirt sophomore hit wide receiver Jared Abbrederis on a deep ball and then got back-to-back lengthy runs by backs James White and Jeff Lewis.
On the next two plays, the defense responded with senior Louis Nzegwu pressuring Budmayr into throwing a pick to Aaron Henry and redshirt freshman Josh Harrison netting a sack. Soon after, Budmayr hit Ewing for his first one handed catch down the sideline after sneaking through the line of scrimmage and then Joe Brennan hit Jacob Pederson on a tight end release that went for a lengthy gain.
After a skelly drill, Budmayr completed 3 of 4 passes, one of which was the catch of the day by Ewing, a one-handed, off-balance catch that he described above my sticking out his hand and hauling it in for 30 yards. Budmayr also hit Abbrederis between two defenders that went for 70 yards. Brennan didn't fare as well, rushing a pass to avoid backside pressure that ended up hitting the back of an offensive lineman, going high into the air and then picked up by redshirt freshman Warren Herring.
Budmayr unofficially went 7 of 13 during the two skelly drills, numbers that included a couple of drops and a Henry interception. Trying to throw over the secondary, Budmayr slightly underthrew Abbrederis, resulting in the pass bouncing off Harrison's back and into the hands of Henry for a lengthy gain.
Junior Curt Phillips unofficially went 10 of 14 and unleashing some pretty passes. One of which was to sophomore Manasseh Garner, who used a slight push and his big frame to lean back and catch a 24-yard pass in one-on-one coverage against junior Marcus Cromartie. Phillips also unleashed a jump ball to 6-foot-5 receiver Chase Hammond, who out muscles the coverage for a 29-yard gain, a play which secondary coach DeMontie Cross could be heard yelling to his group that they had to play with more fight and finish when the ball was up for grabs.
Later in practice, Brennan unofficially went 3 of 5.
While the first-team defense did a jogging walkthrough against defending the spread offense, the offense (quarterback and five receivers) worked on the two-minute offense, running a play, hurrying up to the line of scrimmage and either spiking the ball or running another play. It was foreshadowing for the last 15 minutes of practice, when Head Coach Bret Bielema put 1 minute, 38 seconds on the clock and put the offense on the 24-yard line trailing by four.
Budmayr, Brennan and Stave each got a chance to run the offense and each did some positive things.
Budmayr went 13 plays and 72 yards before being stopped inside the red zone on the second pass deflection on the drive. Still, Budmayr completed three third-down completions on the drive, one for 12 yards amidst heavy pressure on 3rd-and-10, 17 yards to Manasseh Garner on 3rd-and-12 and 10 yards to Ewing on 3rd-and-2 in the red zone, and appeared to have his huddle and team well in command.
Stave's chance got off to a rough start with Cody Byers notching a tackle for loss, but rebounded when, thanks to a nice chip block by White, completed a pass to Jeff Duckworth for eight yards. After White twice moved the chains, Stave threw four straight incompletions, including a fourth-down pass that was tipped at the line, for the turnover on downs.
After going 0-for-3 on the first attempt, Brennan was unable to get a first down on his own during his second try. After getting bailed out with a 15-yard facemask penalty on third down, Brennan delivered a high pass that Chase Hammond couldn't hang on to, a pass to Isaiah Williams that Josh Peprah broke up and an overthrow with less than a minute to play that was intercepted by Dezmen Southward to end practice.
Extra Points: Redshirt freshman Michael Trotter remains out with a toe injury, but redshirt sophomore Brian Wozniak (MCL) returned to practice with a left leg brace on … Hartland Arrowhead linebacker Derek Landisch was the only recruit to enjoy the weather and practice … Henry was named one of 42 players to the Lott IMPACT Trophy Watch List. The honor annually goes to the defensive college football player who best reflects the attributes of integrity, maturity, performance, academics, community and tenacity. Former Badgers defensive end J.J. Watt won the award last year.