Thursday's Scrimmage Report

Giving the media and onlookers the final look before it closes it doors and prepare for the season opener two weeks from today, Wisconsin football's lengthy scrimmage resulted in players making strides, a successful day for the defense and an inconsistent day for the offense.

MADISON – Ask junior center Peter Konz what his first impressions were of today's scrimmage and he won't hesitate what thinking of the right word. Yes, from an offensive point of view, Konz's word of ‘inconsistent' was fairly accurate.

"I want to say that because there were plays that we lost on because of penalties and other plays we didn't get anything on," Konz said. "Every play, we need four yards or more."

There are no mincing words when it comes to Konz and what his unit's expectations are heading into the 2011 football season, which begins two weeks from tonight at Camp Randall Stadium against UNLV. After being a part of an offense that led the Big Ten and averaged a school-record 41.5 points per game (fifth in the country), including 45.2 points in conference play (second-best in conference history), Konz is hungry for more from an offense that has had its ups and downs throughout fall.

"To be honest, I am always comparing us to last season," Konz said. "If our team wants to score 70 points, if we want to get back to a BCS bowl, we need to do more. Do we want to be consistently good or consistently great? We need to get back into it.

"I expect every drive for the offense, if not a big hit, then us grinding out a 15-play drive and we aren't there yet."

The way to do that is get healthy bodies back. Wisconsin got senior wide receiver Nick Toon back on the practice field but when it came time for the scrimmage, Toon watched next to projected starting right guard Kevin Zeitler and projected No.3 wide receiver Manasseh Garner, three weapons that have missed plenty of practice time over the last two weeks.

"A lot of these guys that are injured are going to be playing a lot of reps, so you wish they were out there, but it's good to take reps next to other guys," Konz said. "We had a lot of guys go down last year, but we always had a guy step in. We're getting better because guys are stepping in and working."

Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema certainly made his group work today. After a lengthy scrimmage in one of the hottest days of camp, Bielema made the team do a field's length of up-downs, enforcing the need to stay penalty free and the need to grind through.

"At the end of practice, having to do up-downs right after you have done the bulk of your work for the day, it's toughening us up," Konz said. "The season is only going to get tougher as we go along. You can't simulate those things right now but if you make it just a little harder at the end, guys can get a little bit tougher."


QB: Russell Wilson, Joe Brennan, Joel Stave

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

FB: Bradie Ewing, Derek Straus

H-back: Jacob Pedersen or Jake Byrne, Sam Arneson

RT: Josh Oglesby, Tyler Marz

RG: Ryan Groy, Robby Burge

C: Peter Konz, Ryan Groy

LG: Travis Frederick, Ray Ball

LT: Ricky Wagner, Casey Dehn

WR: Jared Abbrederis, Jordan Fredrick, Fred Willis

WR: Jeff Duckworth, Connor Cummins or Kenzel Doe


DT: Ethan Hemer, Jordan Kohout

DT: Patrick Butrym, Beau Allen

DE: David Gilbert, Pat Muldoon or Tyler Dippel, Warren Herring

DE: Louis Nzegwu, Brendan Kelly, Pat Muldoon, Konrad Zagzebski

MLB: Josh Harrison, Ethan Armstrong, Jake Keefer

SLB: Kevin Claxton, A.J. Fenton, Cameron Ontko

WLB: Mike Taylor, Conor O'Neill, Derek Landisch

CB: Antonio Fenelus, Marcus Cromartie, Darius Hillary

CB: Devin Smith, Peniel Jean, Adam Hampton

SS: Shelton Johnson, Josh Peprah

FS: Aaron Henry, Dezmen Southward

From the Infirmary

Nick Toon made his triumphant return to practice and any doubts about his durability were quickly answered when he sprinted right past Fenelus on a go route, caught the pass instep and went for 50 yards. With Toon open and Wilson under center, the play drew plenty of oohs and aahs from the Wisconsin boosters in attendance. Per the plan, Toon did not take part in the scrimmage.

"Nick and I are really good friends and we're doing a really good job of executing when we are in there," said Wilson. "He plays really smart but at the same time, he's got to get in there and just get a feel for me in terms of practicing and game experience. That's a good thing for him, and I'm glad he's back because we threw a lot during the summer."

Linebacker Mike Taylor worked the entire practice for the first time since Monday night and proved that the mild soreness in his right knee was just that: mild. Taylor showed good burst from his position and registered two TFLs for an 8-yard loss. He looked good on cuts, solid on his lateral movements and didn't appear to be favoring his right knee, a huge key moving forward.

- Offensive lineman Kevin Zeitler (ankle) and Rob Havenstein (ankle), tight end Brian Wozniak (hamstring), linebacker Marcus Trotter (hamstring) and Chris Borland (shoulders) dressed in full pads but did not scrimmage. Neither did sophomore quarterback Jon Budmayr, who has not thrown a pass in camp since Aug. 9 because of swelling in his right elbow. UW coach Bret Bielema revealed Wednesday that Budmayr recently saw a nerve specialist and that the issues in his arm still persist.

"We're in a wait-and-see mode right now," Bielema said Wednesday night. "Probably Monday or Tuesday of next week there are some things they are going to test out."

Move-the-Ball Scrimmage

Wisconsin's first, second and third teams run roughly 71 combined plays on Thursday, the last day practice was open to the media. Here are some of the highlights:

- It was obvious from the beginning that freshman Melvin Gordon was going to really be pushed during the afternoon. Stats were not kept, but Gordon unofficially rushed nine times for 28 yards and was involved on a number of passing routes and pass protections. At one point, Gordon was involved in seven straight series. When Wisconsin's first-team offense was pinned at the 2-yard line, Wilson turned to Gordon.

Gordon found a huge hole on the left side of the line, but was brought down by the ankles by Southward with open field ahead of him. It was certainly a test for the freshman, who carried the ball three consecutive times with the first-team offense and had been involved in seven straight series. When Gordon chiseled the distance to third-and-5, miscommunication between Wilson and Ewing forced a punt.

Still, Gordon showed he's ready to play and closes the media portion of camp as the No.3 running back, as the amount of work he has received far outweighs the number of carries Lewis received. His best play was one that, unfortunately for him, didn't count because of an illegal motion penalty.

Gordon finding a seem through the left side of the line, bursting through the front seven and out racing the secondary by tiptoeing down the sideline for a 50-yard touchdown. It was the eye-opening play of the day, and gave people a glimpse of the electricity he brings to the offense.

- When it came time for the scrimmage and the different situational drills Wisconsin worked, it's pretty easy to say, compared to the number of reps he took, Stave was the best quarterback of the three. The true freshman didn't receive a ton of reps, but was certainly was spot on with his throws over the middle to Cummins and Doe and good touch on a throw to Lewis down the left sideline for 25 yards.

When Bielema backed up Stave at the 3-yard line, Stave immediately delivered, using a play-action pass and hitting Isaiah Williams on an outside slant route for 30 yards. It was such a positive day for the freshman that he got every break, including a first-down dropped interception by Josh Peprah. Stave tucked and run on the next play and threw slightly behind Arneson on third down, giving a victory to the defense.

Stave came back strong on the final series of practice. He hit Arneson in stride down the center of the field for a 21-yard gain, hit Willis in the flat for 22 yards and then his Traylor for 20 yards down to the three in the red zone. Unfortunately, a fumbled snap recovered by the defense ended the drive, the only down point of his day.

- Drops. Too many drops again. On back-to-back plays during early team drills, Wisconsin's Abbrederis and Doe each dropped a pass that would have given the offense a first down. Abbrederis was short of the stick with room to run up field, but Doe's was a perfect 50-yard toss from Wilson that landed perfectly in between two defenders. Doe had it going down to the ground, but never secured the ball.

Fredrick had a ball hit him square in the numbers, Austin Maly had one go through his hands and Byrne dropped a third-down pass from Wilson that would have been close to the markers. The drops are a concern moving forward, unless you are the quarterback.

"I think they are doing a great job and (drops) are a part of camp," said Wilson, who unofficially completed nine of 17 passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns with a long of 20 yards to Pedersen, numbers that were affected by the drops. "Sure there may be seven drops, but that's out of 100 throws. They just have to keep working and executing. We've all done a great job of diving into the playbook."

- As much as the groans were for the amount of drops, most of the oohs and aahs were reserved for Wilson, who many people saw work under pressure for the first time. Wilson throws the ball so well on target and with such precision that you can't help but be impressed with how he works.

With the pocket collapsing on one play, Wilson calmly stepped up on the pocket and, while still on the move, uncorked a 50-yard perfect spiral to Duckworth. Duckworth, who has had problems in camp catching the football, reached above his head with his left arm, secured the ball and pulled it into his chest, hands down his best catch of camp in a team setting.

"We did some great things but there are some things we can be more opportunistic on," said Wilson. "That's a good thing. We've got two weeks before the first game, so we need to get better every day. I feel really comfortable with the offense and the playbook, so that's a positive thing."

- As Fox Sports Wisconsin's Paul Imig noted and Konz confirmed, the offensive line is still a work in progress. There was a false start by Josh Oglesby and several plays where a breakdown in the pocket forced Wilson to make a play outside of the pocket. Though this did give Wilson an opportunity to prove how good he can be outside the pocket, he was chased far too often. Once the backup quarterbacks were in, the mistakes were more noticeable as Brennan and Stave didn't have the ability to escape as easily.

- Another younger player that made an impression was Arneson. After Pedersen and Byrne, he was the most active pass catcher during the scrimmage and came through quite a bit. After Fred Willis was unable to hang on to a tough, low throw over the middle, Arneson was able to make up for it by getting the Badgers into the red zone with a nice over-the-shoulder catch to advance UW down to the 16.

The drive ended there when Cromartie broke up a third-down pass attempt Willis, but made it a more manageable attempt for the kicker because of the freshman from Merrill.

"We might use him a lot like we used Sherard Cadogan a year ago," Bielema said. "He's a guy that we rep and continue to bring along and travel him, but really only go to him in an emergency type situation."

- When asked earlier in the week who has made the most strides from a pure fundamentals standpoint, defensive line coach Charlie Partridge didn't hesitate to mention the most veteran player on his group. Patrick Butrym showed why. Butrym was aggressive in the middle of the defensive line with his most impressive play being the one where he used his upper-body strength to break through the line for a two-yard TFL on a Ball run. Butrym also added a sack.

"Pat Butrym is fundamentally playing at a high level and that's leaving us some plays," Partridge said.

Not far behind, Nzegwu had a couple TFLs during the scrimmage, including a solid wrap up on White, who tried and failed to break free.

Badgers Release 2012 Schedule

The 2011 season is still two weeks away, but with the release of the Badgers' 2012 schedule on Thursday, the Wisconsin football team already knows the road it will face the following season. Needless to say, the non-conference season isn't much of a challenge compared to other seasons … and that's saying something.

UW's non-conference slate includes three games at Camp Randall Stadium, beginning with the Badgers' season-opener against Northern Iowa on Sept. 1. A trip to Corvallis, Ore., to face Oregon State follows on Sept. 8 before the Badgers return to Madison and close out the non-conference season with home contests against Utah State (Sept. 15) and UTEP (Sept. 22).

The Badgers' four-game Big Ten Conference home slate begins with Illinois on Oct. 6 and includes cross-divisional matchups with Michigan State and Minnesota -- in the battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe -- before ending in a late-season clash with Leaders Division foe Ohio State on Nov. 17.

UW will open Big Ten play with a road game against Nebraska, the Badgers' first trip to Lincoln since 1973. The schedule also includes three road contests in Leaders Division play, with the Badgers traveling to Purdue and Indiana before taking on Penn State in their regular-season finale.

The 2012 Big Ten Football Championship Game is slated for Dec. 1 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Up Next

Wisconsin will hold its final two-a-day practice tomorrow. The practice is closed to the media.

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