Thursday Morning's Practice Report

The first of five two-a-days on Wisconsin's 2011 fall camp schedule, the Badgers worked for two-and-a-half hours on a cool Thursday morning. Getting individual, 7-on-7 and move-the-ball segments in, the Badgers thankfully survived with no new injuries.

MADISON – For the first time this season, the University of Wisconsin will practice twice in preparation for its opener against UNLV three weeks from today. It's a type of day head coach Bret Bielema cherishes not because of the mental and physical test, but because of the NCAA reluctance to have coaches push their players.

The NCAA has drastically cut the number of two-a-day practices over the years, a stark change from when Barry Alvarez was first starting as head coach and would sometimes schedule three practices on a day. Wisconsin has only scheduled five two-a-days during preseason camp, but allows him and his coaching staff to evaluate which players are able to push themselves, just like in a late game situation.

"I think it's the stamina," Bielema said. "I think it's the mental breakthrough, (the) mental and physical ability to push yourself over that hump. To put yourself in a position, 'Yeah, I'm tired, I got done with one but I've got to go through two.'"

The NFL players eliminated two-a-days in the new collective bargaining agreement and while Bielema says it's probably a good thing to limit the number of practices, he doesn't see college coaches eliminated them, especially since college doesn't have the luxury of preseason games.

"We're one of the few programs that take every Sunday off," Bielema said. "There is no rule saying you have to do that or no window (of days off) during fall camp. I really have learned over the test of time to keep guys healthy and move them forward is just as important as grinding on them. What we try to do is a little bit of both."

Luckily for the players, the temperature for Thursday morning was in the low 70s with wind from the north, making it very comfortable on the turf.

Two-Deep Offense

QB: Russell Wilson, Joe Brennan

RB: Montee Ball or James White, Jeff Lewis or Melvin Gordon

FB: Bradie Ewing

H-back: Jacob Pedersen, Jake Byrne

RT: Josh Oglesby, Rob Havenstein

RG: Ryan Groy, Robby Burge

C: Peter Konz, Jake Current

LG: Travis Frederick, Zac Matthias

LT: Ricky Wagner, Casey Dehn,

WR: Jared Abbrederis, Isaiah Williams

WR: Jeff Duckworth, Kenzel Doe or Connor Cummins

Two-Deep Defense

DT: Ethan Hemer, Eriks Briedis

DT: Patrick Butrym, Beau Allen

DE: David Gilbert, Warren Herring

DE: Pat Muldoon, Tyler Dippel

MLB: Josh Harrison or Cody Byers

SLB: Kevin Claxton, Ethan Armstrong

WLB: Mike Taylor, Conor O'Neill

CB: Antonio Fenelus, Andrew Lukasko

CB: Marcus Cromartie, Peniel Jean or Jameson Wright

SS: Shelton Johnson, Josh Peprah

FS: Aaron Henry, Dezmen Southward

From the Infirmary

Jon Budmayr (elbow) Dallas Lewallen (knee), Devin Smith (unknown) Marcus Trotter (hamstring), Michael Trotter (hamstring), A.J. Fenton (hamstring), Nick Hill (unknown) and Brendan Kelly (foot) did not practice.

After leaving practice early Wednesday with a left foot injury, Nick Toon returned to limited work. He didn't run any routes in skelly or team drills, but was in full pads and caught balls from the machine.

Senior right guard Kevin Zeitler sat out the morning session after tweaking his right ankle in yesterday's practice. Zeitler was in a walking boot, but it should be noted that he missed very few repetitions yesterday.

Senior Louis Nzegwu was held out of the morning practice because of his right shoulder, but says he expects to go tonight.

For the second day in a row, Chris Borland only participated in 7-on-7 skelly drills.

After being limited yesterday, David Gilbert (knee tendinitis) was back with the first team defense.

Move the Ball

Starting with the second string offense at its own 34-yard line, Brennan was able to complete a 10-yard pass to Kenzel Doe on second down to move the chains. The drive stalled there because of a center-quarterback exchange issue on first down and pressure from the defense to force an incompletion on third down.

When the first team came up, Butrym put them in a hole early, out muscling Oglesby on a pull block to tackle Ball at the line of scrimmage. The defensive tackles continued with its pressure, as Hemer was able to break through the line and force Wilson to throw the ball away. Offensive line coach Bob Bostad evidentially blamed that on Oglesby, as he replaced him with Havenstein, much to the senior right tackle's disgust.

The secondary earned a sack on third down when its blanketed coverage force Wilson to stay in the pocket far longer than needed against a normal pass rush. Bielema allowed the play to continue, however, as Wilson connected with Abbrederis for a 30-yard completion. The defense responded to Bielema's decision with a three-and-out, helped by a drop by Abbrederis on a pass throw slightly behind him.

Brennan took advantage of his second opportunity. He ran a naked bootleg on first down to pick up four yards and got his team in a third-and-short situation to get a first down with a short run. Brennan got a big gain on second down when he completed a 15-yard pass to a sliding Drew McAdams. The drive stalled though when Brennan struggled with pressure defense.

For the first time this spring, the media got a look at the third-team offense run by Joel Stave and the third team defense. James Adeyanju looked solid off the end working against Tyler Marz, getting good pressure on Stave. Jesse Hayes was active on the other defensive end position working against tight end Austin Maly, making a nice stop on Kyle Zuelger. On the last play, Stave threw a great deep ball to Doe but another drop ended the practice.

"Jesse Hayes is as efficient as any defensive lineman we have brought in here about staying play side (and) using his hands," Bielema said. "You can tell his dad is a NFL coach. He's exceptional at his fundamentals."

Play of the Day

With the lack of depth at wide receiver because of graduation and injuries, Connor Cummins, a walk-on redshirt freshman from Kettering, Ohio (the same high school as Borland and Byers), took advantage of opportunity with a great catch along the right sideline in a one-on-one situation with Johnson. Cummins grabbed the pass above his head and pinned it quickly against Johnson's helmet to bring it in. It was a great pass by Wilson, throwing it in the right position to give his receiver a chance to make a play.

Fresh Impressions

- With Smith out, the Badgers coaches are finally getting a chance to see Cromartie work with the No.1 unit, and it's easy to see he has progressed. Matched one-on-one with Ewing, Cromartie provided good, close coverage and managed to deflect the pass with his back turned and allowed Henry to make the interception. Bielema gave him props, but Cross reminded him. We have seen flashed before from Cromartie, who has tailed off before in past camps, so the next two weeks will be important, seeing as he's the most experienced backup.

- Asked who the most impressive lineman is on Wisconsin's roster and you couldn't go wrong with a number of selections. My vote would be torn and Ryan Groy would definitely merit consideration. Groy may not have the strength of Frederick, the NFL ranking of Zeitler or the talent of Konz, but Groy has the best versatility on the squad.

Groy was one of the first commitments in the 2009 recruiting class and since then as played all throughout the line, including learning the center position in the spring to give depth behind Konz, and saw time early last season at fullback.

With Zeitler out on for the morning practice, Groy stepped in at right guard and excelled next to Oglesby. Should something happen on the line this year, like Bill Nagy stepping in when Konz went down, fans should feel confident with Groy in the fold.

- Brennan threw the ball really well in the morning session and has showed that he is much improved from the spring. Of course as I am writing this, he stepped up in the pocket and threw the ball right into the hands of Dezmen Southward. Still, he showed precision on a quick slant to the inside, threading the needle between Gilbert's hands and didn't have any quarterback-running back exchange issues, and that couldn't be said for Wilson.

There's no question Brennan isn't ready yet, but he is starting to unleash some throws that raise the eyebrows.

- If one of the main questions defenders have had to answer this offseason was how they were going to replace the production of J.J. Watt, the offensive players have had to find the answer of how to replace Lance Kendricks. Kendricks, a second-round pick of the St. Louis Rams, led team in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns last season and was a big blocked in the run game.

Jacob Pedersen will be the likely candidate to get most of the passes thrown his way, but don't count out senior Jake Byrne. Byrne has been an interesting case over his time here because in addition to improving his body, learning the playbook and fighting for playing time, he's had to battle diabetes and all the complications that come with taking care of that. With an open opportunity in front of him, Byrne has been solid in pass routes, as he and Wilson have connected on another of plays in 7-on-7 and in team drills by sneaking in to the secondary. Ranked as a decent NFL prospect by building his body up to 260 pounds, Bielema said earlier this week that might be one of those guys that can play to potential, it could mean the difference between the Badgers being a good team or a great team.

Speaking of the tight ends, Sherard Cadogan is a mammoth presence and a solid blocker, using every bit of his 255-pound frame. Sam Arneson also got some work for the first time with the second team, but had a drop in his few reps.

- Speaking of which, there were a lot of drops this morning from the second string receivers and the first string running backs in skelly and team drills. A rough estimate between the two groups would put the number around 10, and that's not counting the amount of plays where the receivers let the balls come to them instead of vice versa.

When Wisconsin takes the practice field tonight at 7:30 p.m. CT, one would hope that gets cleaned up.


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