Spring Practice Report: Day Four

The Wisconsin football team was back in action after a 12-day layoff for its fourth spring practice of the season. Badger Nation's Benjamin Worgull was there and delivers a full report.

MADISON – Fresh off the sandy white beaches and Easter brunch after a 12-day layoff, the Wisconsin football team resumed practice Tuesday morning and were on the field for approximately two hours from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.

Tuesday was the last day the Badgers were without pads (NCAA regulations mandate three of a team's 15 practices must be with helmets only).

Defense Reigns Superior

During 7-on-7 drills, the Wisconsin defense showcased how talented they can be.

With Allan Evridge at quarterback, he tried to force in a pass into coverage. The result was Jaevery McFadden giving a hand on the ball, tipping it straight in the air, securing the pass and returning it for a touchdown.

Evridge's next pass was a go route to Lance Smith in one-on-one coverage that had too much air underneath it. The end result was strong safety Jay Valai batting the pass out of the air.

CB Josh Nettles should have had another interception on Evridge, but the interception slipped out of his hands, causing him to do up-downs as punishment.

Usually a quiet observer during practice, Bielema spent two periods working with the defensive line, including giving instruction to Jasper Grimes to keep his head on a swivel.

Nothing changed in terms of the players working with the first team:

Defensive Line (from right to left from QB perspective): O'Brien Schofield, Patrick Butrym, Jeff Stehle and Matt Shaughnessy.

Linebackers (from right to left): Jonathan Casillas, Culmer St. Jean and DeAndre Levy.

Cornerbacks: Mario Goins and Niles Brinkley.

Safeties: Shane Carter and Jay Valai.

Embracing their new positions and workout together with the linebackers, defensive coaches Dave Doeren and Randall McCray matched the same level of energy and intensity as the players were showing – encouraging, cheering and instructing vocally on morning during individual work.

With the cornerback position vacated during camp, many young corners are being put through a lot of reputations with one-on-one tutelage. Such was the case with junior cornerback Prince Moody, who worked one-on-one against Aubrey Pleasant with McCray and Aaron Henry giving advice.


There was a touch of spring hangover on the offensive side of the ball, especially at the running back position.

John Clay, Chris Pressley and Lance Smith all dropped easy passes in the flat, looking to run before they secured the ball. Smith received a big groan from the offense after a pass hit him right in the hands, Kraig Urbik committed a false start on a hard count, Nick Toon received a reminder from Paul Chryst to chase the ball until the whistle blows and lined up wrong on two offensive sets and quarterback Scott Tolzien dropped the ball dropping back to pass.

Since they weren't recruited to catch the ball, both Clay and sophomore running back Zach Brown looked refreshed running the football. Brown showed off his 4.45 40-speed on a run between the left guard and tackle, exploding from the backfield and down the sideline while Clay showed his elusiveness, putting a juke on No.1 strong safety Chris Maragos that could have broken his ankles.

While some players seemed still on spring break, junior quarterback Dustin Sherer was raring to go. He was crisp throwing the 7-to-10 yard curl and he was spot on over the middle and on the deep ball. Having Lance Smith along the sideline, Sherer completed a tight, 35-yard spiral that hugged the sideline, falling right into Smith's hands and was thrown where only Smith could catch it and Pleasant couldn't get his hands on it.

As stated above, Evridge struggled with his performance Tuesday. Having trouble hitting his receivers, Evridge was either a touch too high or too low all day and have delivered the deep ball with too much air underneath.

Special Teams

Bielema worked on punt coverage with the special teams unit for two periods Tuesday morning, with freshman Brad DeBauche (Ken DeBauche's younger brother) handing the kicking duties.

Fielding punts Otis Merill and Maurice Moore were back fielding punts and senior Joshua Neal was barking out the signals.

Injury Report

Sophomore left end Ricky Garner went down at the beginning of practice with what head coach Bret Bielema described as a tweaking of his hamstring. Garner was stretched out by the athletic trainers and was taken to the locker room for some treatment. He returned to the practice field in sweat pants and is expected to participate on Thursday.

Linebacker Elijah Hodge practiced for the first time this spring but did not participate in 7-on-7 or 11-on-11. Bielema said Hodge had a doctor's appointment today and should be cleared for practice Thursday.

Senior defensive tackle Mike Newkirk's shoulder surgery was successful a week ago Friday and is expected to make a full recovery in times for summer workouts. Newkirk was at practice without any noticeable brace or wrapping on his shoulder.

Travis Beckum and Garrett Graham (shoulder) and Jason Chapman, Aaron Henry and Aaron Langford (ACL surgery) all were at practice with no noticeable signs of an injury.

News and Notes:

2009 prospect Mark Willis (Oak Park River Forest (Ill.) H.S.) took in Tuesday morning's practice with his mother by his side. Wearing his high school letter jacket and a Badger sweatshirt, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound defensive end/linebacker spent most of team watching the lineman partake in individual drills and spent time with his mother chatting with Bielema.

Mark Willis Highlight Tape

The play of the day was more comical than spectacular. On a go route, freshman Curt Phillips overthrew wide receiver Kyle Jefferson down the sideline. As the ball was about to go out of bounce, lineman Brad Thorson jumped out from the sideline, caught the pass above his head and ‘sprinted' to the end zone, receiving a good laugh from the players and coaches.

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