Spring Practice Report: April 10

Following an 11-day layoff, the Wisconsin football team kicked off its fifth practice in preparation for the April 28 spring game. On Tuesday, the Badgers' debuted a new formation, had some shaky play under center and UW coach Bret Bielema updated the injuries and player's progress.

MADISON - With Wisconsin's spring break pushing the days between the Badgers' fourth and fifth spring practice to 11, UW coach Bret Bielema was understandably curious to what he was going to see from his football team in full pads. The answer: a mixed bag.

There were some penalties, dropped passes, bad passes and a couple of angry coaches, but it was an overall good start to the third week.

"Obviously after the spring break, your guys come in a little rusty," UW coach Bret Bielema. "I did like their attitude, their energy. I think that's been there all spring. We just got a little bit sloppy with the football and some pre-snap things we can't allow."

Updating the Injuries

After going back for a follow-up procedure, UW doctors wanted to keep redshirt junior Jared Abbrederis on his current path and not push him. The result is that Abbrederis will be held out throughout camp to get him ready for the summer.

Another player out will be sophomore cornerback Devin Gaulden, who is again experiencing stress fractures with his shins. But while Gaulden missed time in fall camp with issues with his right leg, Bielema said the issues this time are with his left leg.

"He's healing, and they want to keep it going down that same path," said Bielema. "Again it's probably something that he had before he came here that we're just figuring out."

Junior receiver Manasseh Garner had groin surgery this past weekend and there is a ‘good chance' that he could come back for individual work later in camp.

Bielema also reported that after seeing two specialists, redshirt junior Jon Budmayr got agreeing opinions on what exactly his elbow nerve problem is, and the task now is to figure out how to attack and treat the problem. Bielema didn't go into the issue in depth, but said it involved a couple of issues that require their own decisions and treatments.

"There are some certain things going inside his body that were affecting his nerves," said Bielema, who said UW would know within the next month if Budmayr would be available in the fall. "We'll try to get that treated to the point of being healthy, let alone throwing at a Division 1 quarterback level. He's upbeat. He's very positive. It's the first time I have seen him as upbeat as he was today."

Defensive linemen Tyler Dippel (plantar fasciitis) and Jordan Kohout (head) were injured during practice and did not return. Bielema said Dippel had been fighting through the injury, but said he felt a pop unlike he had heard before, causing him to get ice and be on crutches. Nate Hammon also did not practice with his right foot in a walking boot.

Tight ends Jacob Pedersen returned to the lineup while Brian Wozniak, according to Bielema, will be more involved in Thursday's practice.

Building Depth

In past spring and fall camps, it was easy to see who was on the first-team offensive line and who was on the second team. With injuries causing some uncertainty, Bielema and first-year offensive line coach Mike Markuson are rotating plenty of bodies through the two deep.

While Ricky Wagner and Travis Frederick didn't move from left tackle and center, respectively, Robby Burge worked at right guard, Tyler Marz at right tackle and Ryan Groy at center. With the second team, Groy and Dan Voltz worked at center while Jonathan Coon worked at left tackle, Ray Ball and Kyle Costigan worked at left guard, Casey Dehn worked at right guard and Riki Kodanko worked at right tackle.

"I wanted to work Ryan Groy more at center, so that allowed us to move some guys through," said Bielema. "One thing Mike doesn't allow you do, if you make a mistake you are out. That's allowed us to get some guys in and role quite a few players through there. We really don't have a lot of depth there right now with a couple guys being out."

The depth started to get better with redshirt junior Zac Matthias (back) getting back to doing some individual work and Costigan making some nice plays in space.

"He was really getting after people," Bielema said. "He was aggressive in everything he did today."

The Badgers also rotated in Kenzel Doe, Isaiah Williams, Jeff Duckworth, Marquis Mason and A.J. Jordan at wide receiver and Brock DeCicco, Austin Traylor, Sam Arneson and Austin Maly at tight end.

Line'em Up

First-Team Defense

DL – Pat Muldoon, Ethan Hemer, Beau Allen, Brendan Kelly. LBs – Derek Landisch, Marcus Trotter, Conor O'Neill. DBs – Marcus Cromartie, Shelton Johnson, Dezmen Southward, Peniel Jean.

Second-Team Defense

DL – Konrad Zagzebski, Bryce Gilbert, Warren Herring, Jesse Hayes. LBs – A.J. Fenton, Derek Watt, Jake Keefer. DBs – Darius Hillary, Michael Trotter, Michael Caputo, Terrance Floyd.

Quarterback Troubles

Going through 7-on-7 skele drills, senior quarterback Curt Phillips was impressive with his amount of velocity he had on delivering his throws. Unofficially, Phillips completed 6 of his 7 passes, including one where Duckworth made a nice adjustment to bring in a low pass with a sliding catch. In red zone skele drills, Phillips completed two touchdown passes, one of which he feathered between two defenders that Williams brought in with a sliding catch at the pylon.

In team drills, Joel Stave looked poise and confident with his throws and his delivery. To say Joe Brennan struggled would be an understatement. In fact, one onlooker said he couldn't hit the ocean if he was standing on the shore. As harsh as that sounds, it described how Brennan looked during practice five, which was lost. Brennan went 1-for-7 during skele drills, including a drop, a 0-for-5 during red-zone skele drills, including a drop. For the most part, Brennen's passes were either too low, way too high and seldom on target, the complete opposite of Stave.

"They have their ups and downs," said Bielema. "Both of them do some really good things. I thought they've handled the new playbook very, very well as far as communication and verbage. They both still get wires crossed at times but when they were in the fall to where they are in practice five has been very encouraging."

It'll be interesting to see how both fair during a scheduled practice on Saturday with future Badgers quarterback Danny O'Brien expected in town for another visit.

"He's one of those kids that is a football junkie," Bielema said of O'Brien. "Kind of like Russell's situation, when he's on campus we can't do a lot with him. He can work with our strength coaches and workout with our guys, but it'll really be about what he can process without us in the room."

Two Prong Attack

With Heisman Trophy finalist Montee Ball returning to the backfield, it's obvious that the Badgers are going to use him as the team's workhorse, which is bad news for James White. The 2010 Big Ten Freshman of the Year after leading the team in rushing yards and all-purpose yards as a freshman, White finished second on the team with 713 rushing yards and third with 1,178 all-purpose yards last season.

His touchdowns also dropped from 14 to 8, but White has proven to be a valuable commodity in the receiving and return game, as he caught 15 passes for 151 yards last year and had 15 kick returns for 315 yards, an average of 21 yards per return. That's the main reason why the Badgers are experimenting with having Ball in the backfield and White split out as a wide receivers at certain times.

"You're just trying to get your best personnel on the field," said Bielema. "They just have to get used to being out in routes when they are outside the formation. They think it's the same timing when you are coming from behind center, and it's just not."

Bielema also said Melvin Gordon can do some special things when he puts his foot in the ground and redshirt sophomore Jeff Lewis did some good things in coming back from his pre-spring break aliments.

Final Thoughts

- Very impressed today with how Marquis Mason caught the football in stride and along the sidelines. After being sidelined all last season with the ACL injury, Mason appears mentally back in the game.

- Very impressed today with how Darius Hillary played the cornerback position. In addition to having the day's lone interception, coming against Phillips' in skele drills, Hillary broke up a pair of passes in red zone skele drills that would have gone for touchdowns. He missed a couple opportunities for interceptions by not reading the QBs eyes and jumping the route, but he has good hand-eye coordinator that comes from playing receiver in high school.

- Very impressed today that St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) defensive end Joey Bosa appeared to legitimately be enjoying himself at spring practice. Spending time talking with fellow Florida defensive end David Gilbert, Bosa is considered a long shot to commit to UW, especially with all his SEC offers, but getting him on campus and talking to the right people is a huge step forward.

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