FB: Bradie Ewing
From the Infirmary
A bunch of injuries have piled up for Wisconsin, but none seems bigger than sophomore wide receiver Manasseh Garner, who will have hernia surgery tomorrow and will miss between two and four weeks. Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema ruled Garner out for the opener against UNLV Sept.1, but is hopeful his No.3 receiver will be ready for week 2 against Oregon State Sept. 10.
The receiving corps also took another hit when Bielema announced Chase Hammond would miss between four to six weeks after an ankle procedure. The Badgers removed him from the 105-man roster and brought in Jake Stengel, who ran routes with the second team.
Bielema also revealed that senior kicker Philip Welch is battling with a leg injury and that he wouldn't be able to play if Wisconsin had a game tomorrow.
"If we play tomorrow, Kyle French would be the starting field goal kicker without question," Bielema said. "To me, if I am Kyle, I wouldn't lose that job. He's out here, stroking (his kicks) as nice as anybody. (It's) pretty impressive."
Reserve lineman Dallas Lewallen, No. 2 on the depth chart at right guard, suffered a left knee injury Monday when he got twisted up during a two-on-one drill. Lewallen was walking without crutches, but had a knee brace and a noticeable limp. Bielema said he won't know the severity of it until this evening.
Monday was also a tough day for the linebackers with second-team backers Marcus Trotter, one of Borland's backups, and sophomore A.J. Fenton, Claxton's backup, being injured in practice with a couple of mild hamstring injuries. Tuesday, Michael Trotter followed with a strained hamstring of his own. Fenton is expected back within the next two days.
Dezmen Southward also didn't practice after rolling his ankle and could be back as early as tomorrow, David Gilbert didn't practice after some knee tendinitis flared up and Chris Borland is expected back tomorrow after being held out today as planned.
"As he works back into it, we're just taking it day by day and see how he feels and moves around," Bielema said of Borland. "That was our choice as coaches and to give our young guys reps."
For the second straight day, junior defensive end Brendan Kelly didn't do any team drills, but instead worked on calisthenics with a member of Wisconsin's strength staff. Bielema said there is a problem with support in his shoe and the medical staff is working on a special insert to give him more comfort on the outside part of his foot.
"It's a certain motion with his foot when he plants a certain way," Bielema said. "He's pretty good in everything except that one motion. We don't want to do anything until we get that shoe figured out so we can protect it."
Early Areas of Concern
The media has watched about five hours of practice thus far and it's evident that Wisconsin has two talented receivers at its disposal in Toon and Abbrederis. Now the big question is with Garner and Hammond out, what else do they have? Nobody from that group has really stepped up in skelly or team drills. Duckworth is the oldest of the group and while he made that great catch off the Wilson throw, he's struggled to catch the ball consistently. After a couple drops yesterday, Duckworth had a bobble that got the coaches' attention a drop in red zone team drills and another drop in team drills after he had inside position on his defender.
Williams is a big target, but he hasn't made a ton of difficult plays and Doe hasn't seen a lot of reps. The Badgers need more bodies that can catch passes in order to stay balanced.
"I am not ruling out any of the three freshmen, but I haven't something step forward there that I would like to come out of the pack," Bielema said. "I expressed out there to the team … I named three starters and asked them how they first got their chance. I asked Peter Konz, Travis Frederick, Mike Taylor, all those guys got their chance when somebody in front of them got injured. That's what usually happens in college football."
Red Zone Skelly Drills
Budmayr was not very impressive during the drill with four straight incompletions, three on overthrows. Wilson followed that display with an incompletion the result of miscommunication and a good pass that Fenelus broke out on the goal line with an aggressive play. On third down though, Wilson hit Ball for a would-be touchdown.
On a similar route that Budmayr overthrew, Wilson delivered a perfect pass to the back corner of the end zone that Toon hauled in for the score. The duo almost connected on a similar play on the other side of the field, although the pass was a touch high and just off the hands. Through two days, Wilson and Toon have shown impeccable timing and chemistry, which bodes well going forward.
"Russell does some really good things, some things he's trying to work through (and) as a quarterback, he's in control of that whole thing," Bielema said. "I think the more reps and teaching situations we put them in, the better for both of them."
In fact, Wilson threw a number of solid passes that resulted in touchdowns, giving a loud clap after each score. But those who think Wilson is perfect, he neglected to see safety Josh Peprah when threw to Duuckworth in hopes of a 25-yard touchdown, registering his first interception of the week. Wilson did throw another one later in practice, but that was more due to Johnson making a solid play on the ball.
The first set of team drills was held in the red zone and was a good display of how physical Wisconsin's running game can be this year despite their smaller size. Frustrated with the amount of lower body tackles he was susceptible to last season, Ball entered camp having dropped his weight 20 pounds down to 210 and it's easy to see a difference. On one run in team drills, Ball hit the secondary in a flash and then knocked down Henry with a shoulder, allowing the senior safety to get some ribbing from Bielema.
"Montee has lost some weight that I think was excess baggage," Bielema said. "The muscle, the power, all the strength numbers are up."
Ball looks quicker in his lateral movements and hits the running gap with authority. A number of times, despite his smaller exterior, Ball hit the hole with his shoulder lowered and bullied his way into the end zone. Although he didn't go to Ball's extreme, White chiseled his frame, as well, adding strength to his lower body to also avoid lower body tackles. So far, White's speed and video game-like moved are still present, but there is a little more power to his game.
"I just love the way he worked," Bielema said of his two running backs. "James said he respected how Montee competed every day and his work ethic, and I think those two got something special going on right now. I think it's rubbed off on Jeff Lewis. Jeff has probably had as good of camp as I expected."
On one play in particular, Nzewgu was able to beat the right side of Wisconsin's offensive line by cutting inside and pulled up before he hit Budmayr. When the play wasn't blown dead, Nzgwu continued his pursuit, swimming around another blocker to sack Budmayr again.
"I've been excited by Lou," Bielema said. "I thought yesterday especially, Lou and David were exceptional."
Budmayr's struggles continued when he underthrew a receiver and the pass landed right in the arms of Harrison and failed again to see the middle linebacker in split-team work, throwing the pass right to true freshman Jake Keefer. With Borland and Trotter out, Harrison is one of the guys Bielema talked about of a guy taking advantage of an opportunity.
"When I went over to him right after, I said great play, but you've got to make all of them," Bielema said. "The Mike is our voice, our quarterback on defense, (and) Josh is very athletic, a willing soldier and a good kid to be around. He's got to make sure he makes all the right calls to get us to that third-down interceptions."
Although he wasn't as sharp as Monday, Wilson had the play of the day, uncorking a 40-yard missile that hit Duckworth in stride for what would have been a 70-yard touchdown. It was Duckworth's best play of the week, as he faked outside and made a solid plant to cut back toward the center of the field.
Of Wisconsin's young cornerbacks, it seems Darius Hillary is slightly ahead of Terrance Floyd in terms of ability. Hillary is an aggressive cornerback that likes to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage and has the speed to turn around and match them step for step. Since he played wide receiver in high school, it's not surprising to see Hillary has good hand-eye coordination and some ball skills. Floyd shows a good break on the ball, but he had trouble finishing the play Tuesday, dropping a couple of interceptions. Even so, he has the makings of a good cover corner.
James Adeyanju is a big presence, which made it interesting to see him run on the scout kickoff unit. I doubt he'll have a career in that, especially since he is built like Nzegwu. He'll probably be redshirted because of the depth on the defensive line, but the true freshman from Chicago is build like a solid rush end.
A day after he made some impressive catches in position work, Bielema said Jordan Fredrick has opened his eye and could be a factor at the receiver position because of the injuries.
"Jordan Fredrick isn't afraid of anybody," Bielema said. "We put him in two drills yesterday and I saw him take on Mike Taylor hand to hand and beat him on an inside move. I think of all the freshmen coming on, Jordan is the guy."
Bielema on Melvin Gordon's progression
"The first day, it was like he was back at Kenosha. He was all over the place. The second day was a little bit better, yesterday was a lot better and the jump from yesterday to today was big time. I don't think he's ever been involved in detail protection. He stepped up there in the end and I think his learning curve is going to be very steep … Melvin is going to be a very good football player here."
Extra Points: Wisconsin ran kickoff return for the first time this week and had Abbrederis, White, Lewis, Doe and Kyle Zuleger. Everyone caught the ball cleanly except for Lewis, who botched his first attempt … Frank Tamakloe made some good plays against the first-team offense in split team drills and appears to making strides after two tough seasons … Bielema compared sophomore Ethan Armstrong to former Badger Blake Sorensen, saying Armstrong could play multiple linebacker positions for the defense … Wisconsin returns to the practice field tomorrow at 2:35 CT.