With the spring game on Saturday, Wisconsin went with just half pads and helmets Thursday and got some good news on the injury front, as junior linebacker Jonathan Casillas returned to the practice field. Originally slated to miss the rest of spring after he got his ankle landed on, Casillas had his ankle heavily taped and participated in individual drills and some team work and could play on Saturday.
While the offense was running a variety of run plays to help the first team defense work on stopping the run, the wide receivers and cornerbacks were matched up in one-on-one competition. Some of the highlights from that include:
Plenty of highlights from sophomore David Gilreath. Running a cut out, Gilreath faked to the sideline, cut back to the middle of the field and caught the pass in stride with Niles Brinkley desperately trying to recover.
On an underthrown pass from James Stallons, Gilreath adjusted last minute, jumped up off balanced and caught the pass by pining the ball to Prince Moody's helmet and pulled it off once he got a better grasp on the pass.
Daven Jones caught a couple passes on out routes but dropped an easy one over the middle.
With Kyle Jefferson out for Thursday's practice (he could potentially play on Saturday if his workout goes well tomorrow), Isaac Anderson got reps with the first team and he looked impressive, catching a touchdown pass off Dustin Sherer's arm on a end zone crossing route and could of had another touchdown catch off Allan Evridge's arm if it wasn't for a diving deflection by freshman cornerback Otis Merrill.
Evridge went 2-for-5 during the drill with his one touchdown pass being to tight end Lance Kendricks. Cornerback Mario Goins had a shot at the ball but Evridge threw the pass at just the right height where only Kendricks could catch it.
On the other hand, Sherer went 4-for-6 during the simulation but in fairness, other than his touchdown throw, most of his completions were to running backs in the flat or wide receivers on short routes.
The first team secondary included Shane Carter and Jay Valai at safeties and Niles Brinkley and Mario Goins at cornerbacks. The second team was Aubrey Pleasant and Chris Maragos at safety and Josh Nettles and Merrill at cornerbacks.
Being the first-team tight end throughout camp, Mickey Turner executed a solid down field block on strong safety Aubrey Pleasant. On a sweep from P.J. Hill, Turner pulled out to the right and got his helmet on Pleasant, which allowed Hill to get nearly 10 more yards.
Although Sherer didn't air out his passes much, he did look impressive running the play-action pass. Selling the run, Sherer rolled out unprotected to the right and hit Kendricks midstride for a nice gain.
It wasn't all offense, however, as defensive tackle Patrick Butrym disrupted a sure completion by knocking down a Sherer pass at the line of scrimmage, showing good height for a 265-pound lineman.
11-on-11 Second Set Notes
Evridge looked a little bit off all practice and struggled during his second set, going just 2-for-5. He overthrew a wide-open David Gilreath, forced Gilreath to adjust to an underthrown pass and had trouble with the pitch to the running backs. Evridge was victim of a Kendricks drop and was nearly the recipient of an incredible diving catch by Gilreath, but the ball bounced off his fingers.
Sherer went a perfect 5-for-5 during his second set but his four passes were a screen to Maurice Moore, a 7-yard crossing route to Lance Smith, a screen to Clay and a curl route to Gilreath. The time he did go deep was, hands down, the catch of the day. Seeing Theus wide open, Sherer uncorked a beauty that Theus went up and grabbed, making the off-balanced catch and held on as he came crashing to the ground.
On a pass intended for Anderson, the sophomore wide receiver caught the ball but as soon as his hands found the football, Moody found Anderson, causing a big time collision. Anderson managed to hold onto the football and, more importantly, nobody was hurt.
In arguably his most impressive set of the spring camp, Curt Phillips threw a bullet between two linebackers and connected with wide receiver Nate Emanuel on a crossing route over the middle. After Theus dropped a pass, Phillips went right back to him on a 15-yard out route that Theus held onto and capped off the last spring practice of 2008.
Plenty of family members were in attendance Thursday as Jae McFadden's father Jonathan was there taking pictures, Jake Current had friends there and Phillips father Jim and brother Curt flew up from Tennessee for the weekend.
Wisconsin's spring game will be Saturday at 1 p.m. with free admission.