With the defense working on tackling drills and exploding off the line, the quarterbacks and wide receivers continued to work on building a connection. Using two wide receivers and two quarterbacks, the Badger signal caller and wide outs went through dozens of uncontested repetitions inside the red zone. The result was hands down better than the spring. The receivers look crisp in their route running and pass catching ability, which was the big question mark when entering the season.
There were some drops and miscommunications between the very young members of the group (i.e. redshirt freshman Nick Toon and first-year T.J. Williams) but overall, David Gilreath caught plenty of passes in stride and Kyle Jefferson made some nice grabs as well.
Stationary 11-on-11 and 7-on-7
A good omen of the first 11-on-11 practice of the day was a wide-receiver screen pass to David Gilreath went for 14 yards and Evridge's toss off the option to P.J. Hill grabbed 11 yards. James Stallons showed tremendous touch on his out routes and fade routes, hitting Nick Toon over the defense and came back to show excellent touch and timing on a deep route to Jefferson, which the sophomore took for a touchdown.
Evridge was extremely accurate in his throws during the two drills, threading the needle between three defenders on passes to Isaac Anderson and Jefferson, both going for big gains.
The defense had plenty of solid moments as well. First-year linebacker Tyrell Rosenmeyer knocked down an Evridge pass at the line of scrimmage and Jae McFadden was the beneficiary of a solid pop by Jonathan Casillas on Mickey Turner, popping the ball into the air and right into McFadden's hands.
After two straight incompletions, Evridge began to find his groove, hitting running back Zach Brown out of the flat and Jefferson over the middle for a touchdown. Jefferson could have easily had a touchdown the play earlier if it wasn't for Niles Brinkley. Despite being seven inches shorter, Brinkley was able to sneak a hand and knock the ball out of the wide receiver's hands.
Scott Tolzien was next up but relied on workhorses P.J. Hill and John Clay early on to help march towards the end zone. After Clay went out, first-year Bradie Ewing took the majority of the carriers, looking like Mr. Clay as he pounded right through the middle of the defensive line. On Tolzien's first pass, however, he was granted a reprieve by DeAndre Levy, who dropped a sure interception after reading Tolzien and jumping in front of the receiver.
On the very next play, however, the defense didn't miss. On Dustin Sherer's first pass in the redzone drill, Sherer under threw his receiver and Mario Goins made sure he paid for it, making a leaping interception at the goal line. Sherer came right back, however, making amends by running the same exact slant route to the other side and hit sophomore Maurice Moore for the touchdown.
Coupled with a touchdown by Zach Brown up the middle, Sherer's redzone session was extremely successful, as he completed four of his five passes.
Stationary Scrimmage No.2
Evridge and Sherer rotated in with the first and second team offense but the first series did not start off too promising as the Badgers were whistled for multiple false starts. The Badger defense also clamped down, as DeAndre Levy ripped through the line for a touch sack on Tolzien and Jay Valai, who looks more and more like he'll be the starting strong safety, flew in for a big hit on Jefferson to break up the play.
Garrett Graham had a tough session. One pass hit him square in the chest and harmlessly fell to the ground and he was unable to corral another as he went over the middle.
Wisconsin's offense finally got on the move for the last 40 minutes of practice with Evridge running the show first. The fifth-year signal caller and P.J. Hill needed only three running plays to move the chains until Evridge aired out his first pass, an incompletion that hit Gilreath dropped on a 25-yard out route. Faced with a third and about five, Evridge was able to get the first down on a quick out route to the far sideline, hitting Graham right in the chest.
Gilreath made up for his drop by catching a sideline pass, putting on a juke that stopped the cornerback cold and took for a big gain of 30+ yards. Then, using a steady diet of pounding the football and short passes, Wisconsin's offense had little trouble advancing into the end zone, driving 80 yards that was capped off with a P.J. Hill 20-yard catch-and-run down to the one and a Zach Brown touchdown on the next play.
Tolzien was the next quarterback up and once again, used a steady diet of power run plays with Clay and Ewing mixed in with some short-yardage passes. Tolzien's biggest play was a wide receiver screen to Gilreath, who once again showcased his speed and gave the offense a big gain of over 20 yards. The very next play, Tolzien aired out a pass to Daven Jones toward the sideline that the sophomore, despite falling to the ground, was able to reel in for another 20+ gain. Two plays later, Clay was in the end zone.
Sherer was again plagued with the interception in his first drive, overthrowing Gilreath and watching the pass fall right into the hands of safety Shane Carter, who returned the ball inside the five.
Redshirt freshman James Stallons was up next and on the first play from scrimmage, aired out a beautifully thrown spiral that fell right into the hands of Jefferson for a 45-yard gain. Other than that, the defense registered their first stop of the day, as first year Brendan Kelly snuffed out a naked quarterback bootleg and made the stop.
Last and certainly not least, first year Curt Phillips took the stage but the only thing we really saw early was his ability to handoff to Ewing. Phillips did air in out and found a rhythm in his four attempts: one completion to Ewing in the flat, a 22-yard out route that Toon had until he hit the turf, a pass intended for fullback Sam Spitz that went over his head and a 20-yard gain on a slant to first-year T.J. Williams.
As expected, senior Travis Beckum did not practice after having tightness in his back earlier in the week. Richard Kirtley, ACL surgery, did not dress but worked on making cuts and exploding off his injured knee. Both of those players should be back by Monday.
Chris Maragos will not practice today after getting kicked in the calf Friday and getting a decent-size contusion.
First-year defensive lineman Anthony Mains hurt his wrist during practice and was taken to be x-rayed.
Matt Shaughnessy also missed practice but unfortunately it was for a much more serious reason. On Thursday, the Wisconsin coaching staff got word that Matt's brother passed away suddenly and Shaughnessy flew home to be with his family. Roughly 11 months ago, Shaughnessy's brother was in an undisclosed situation that forced the senior to fly home right after the UNLV game.
Because it was an emergency situation involving the family, Wisconsin was allowed to drive him to the airport and pay for a round-trip plane ticket home in accordance with NCAA rules.
Shaughnessy left this morning and is not expected to rejoin the team until Thursday.
Wisconsin ran max punt protect after redzone work and while Brad DeBauche continued to struggle with hang time and leg strength, first-year punter Bradley Nortman looks like he has a leg up on the punting duty. Although his punts did not show overwhelming length, Nortman's hang time was stellar, giving his unit plenty of time to get down field and surround the ball carrier.
Bielema's end message to his team that although they have 18-some practices left, the communication errors on offense and lining up offsides three-plus times needed to be corrected in order to keep moving forward.