Spring Practice: Day 13

With the spring season winding down and winds whipping out of the north, the Wisconsin football team runs a defensive-minded practice that produces plenty of productive results.

MADISON - Since Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema decided to move morning practices back to night in hopes of capitalizing on the warmer weather, the weather wouldn't cooperate, sending rain, even snow, from the heavens and dropping temperatures into the 30s. So when the mercury climbed into the low 60s, it finally looked like the Badgers would get some decent weather and be outside for the first weekday of spring.

They were outside all right, but the weather was far from balmy.

With winds whipping off Lake Mendota and temperatures in the 40s, the Wisconsin football team practice for its usual two hours Tuesday night, focusing the majority of time on six-on-six squad work, defending the run and running/defending the screen.

Six on Six

With Allan Evridge in sweats, the fifth-year senior went 4-for-6 during his set, including a 15-yard out to David Gilreath, a post pattern to Mickey Turner (a pass completed because LB Ryan Flasch was face guarding the tight end and not watching the ball) and an out pass to Maurice Moore, which Moore promptly did a stutter step after the catch to fake out Niles Brinkley.

Junior Dustin Sherer followed and went 2-for-3 in his set with his one incompletion falling into the hands of the defense. Looking for Gilreath in the middle of the field, Sherer never saw linebacker Jae McFadden. The result was McFadden jumping up to tip the ball straight up into the air and then right into his lap for the first turnover of the night.

Sherer wasn't deterred, as he came back on his next pass by floated a touch pass between coverage along the left sideline that wide receiver Daven Jones easily caught over his right shoulder.

Sophomore Scott Tolzien followed by going 2-for-2, completing a pass to Isaac Anderson and hitting John Clay in the flat.

Freshman James Stallons went 2-for-3 in the last set with the highlight being a 10-yard slant pass caught by Anderson, who received a shoulder to the chest from Shane Carter for his efforts.

11 on 11 Set One

Running approximately 95 percent runs plays during the first 11-on-11 set on Tuesday night, the Badger offense only passing plays were ones in the flat or screen passes, giving the defense plenty of reps at run defense.

As Evridge got enter center, mike linebacker Elijah Hodge started slowly creeping up to the line of scrimmage and timed it perfectly to bolt through the right guard and tackle at the snap of the ball. His reward for his efforts was stopping P.J. Hill on a run play to the outside.

After getting shouldered by Carter, Anderson decided to return the favor after catching a wide-receiver screen pass, this time laying into defensive back Jay Valai as the sophomore safety closed in.

Freshman quarterback Curt Phillips saw plenty of reps with the scout team offense, running the spread offense from a variety of offense formations – duel running backs, trips and three- and four-receiver sets to name a few. The only turnover came from Phillips went to handoff to running back Mike Preisler and Preisler's knee appeared to hit the ball during the exchange. Hodge was right there to cover up the loose ball.

Special Teams

Working on punting in the elements, freshman kicker Phil Welch booted a beautiful 58 yard punt but followed it up with a 35-yard duck.

Freshman Brad DeBauche (the only true punter in camp) was used in a pooch punt situation. Of his three kicks from the 45-yard line, one landed at the 20, one at the 15 and one at the two-yard line.

11 vs. 11 Full Offense

Stallons completed 50 percent of his passes (2-for-4) but it took two impressive defensive plays by O'Brien Schofield that prevented him from being perfect. After missing last week with a non-displaced fracture in his right hand, Schofield had his hand wrapped in a club and back with the first team. Evridge probably wishes he was out longer, as Schofield got his club up and batted down two passes, prompting injured defensive tackle to yell, "That thing is illegal man!"

Tolzien has the best completion percentage of any quarterback during the second set, going 5-for-7, completing passes to a sliding Gilreath on a 15-yard out, a pair of screens to Hill and two to Zach Brown, a wide receiver screen to Gilreath and a wide-open 35-yard catch-and-run to Anderson. DB Chukwuma Offor was guarding Anderson but closed in after Tolzien executed the play action to perfection.

Tolzien's two incompletion passes were again results of solid defensive plays. On ‘third and 10,' senior end Matt Shaughnessy leaped up and just got his hand on the pass, which was intended for Moore on a screen. The other was on a pass intended for Anderson, but was broken up by the defense.

Sherer went 2-for-3 in the set, completing a screen to Lance Smith and a wide-receiver screen to Gilreath and Evridge went 1-for-2 in limited action.

Curt Phillips struggled under the windy Camp Randall conditions going roughly 1-for-8 to wind down practice. Brinkley added two picks off Phillips, the second one coming after he jumped a curl route, another coming with a solid defensive play by Tony Megna, as he dove to knock the ball away, and freshman cornerback Andrew Lukasko providing tight coverage on Lance Smith, forcing an incompletion.

Notes:

After getting beat on a go route, freshman cornerback Otis Merrill quit on the play. As he jogged to the sidelines, Bielema, position coach Kerry Cooks and defensive coordinator Dave Doeren all yelled at Merrill with their displeasure. A two-lap jogging punishment was given to Merrill, after which he received a stern talk from Bielema and was inserted back into the rotation.

In attendance was Middleton offensive guard Ryan Groy, a 2009 verbal commit to UW, coaches from Deforest (WI) High School, Jake Byrne's father and Jim Leonhard.

Wisconsin returns to the practice field Thursday night for its final practice before Saturday's spring game.


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