Was it fitting? Was it a bad omen? Maybe it was a sign of things to come?
"No pain, no gain," senior end O'Brien Schofield said with a laugh. "The rain is washing away the bad season."
That's the first step these Badgers have taken – burying last season's disappointing 7-6 season deep underground and focusing in on replacing 10 starters heading into the fourth year under head coach Bret Bielema.
With 14 spring practices and a spring game on the schedule, the Badgers took the first steps to shake off the rust and get Wisconsin to its first Rose Bowl since 2000.
With practice number one going 24 periods and the players practicing in shorts and their helmet for roughly two hours and 25 minutes, the Badgers are off and running.
First Team Offense
Running Back – John Clay
Quarterback – Dustin Sherer
Second Team Offense
Wide Receivers –David Gilreath and Kyle Jefferson (all the receivers rotated in with the first team)
Tight End – Jake Byrne Lance Kendricks
After a team stretch, each unit broke off into individual work to get things moving. Defensive line coach Charlie Partridge stressed to his unit that they ‘weren't finishing' and the unit spent the majority of the time working on blocking technique and staying low to get leverage on the opponent.
Defensive coordinator and co-linebacker coach Dave Doeren worked with the linebackers on reading the play from the line of scrimmage.
The defensive backs worked on route coverage, trading off between running pass routes and guarding the route runners.
Tight end coach Joe Rudolph was working with his unit on pass blocking while the running backs and wide receivers were working on running routes and catching with offensive coordinator Paul Chryst and wide receiver DelVaughn Alexander.
The offensive line and coach Bob Bostad, faced with the task of replacing three starters, stated earlier that it was his goal to find out who would start by the end of spring camp. With that thought in mind, he didn't hesitate putting the group to work, working on reads, exploding from the line of scrimmage, getting to the second tier and reacting to the movement of the defense.
All the big hits have caused Jefferson to develop some bad habits, as the junior wide receiver, on three straight occasions, caught the ball and then ducked his head down and tilted it to one side as he turned up field. Alexander wasn't too pleased, telling him to be active or he'll take the big hit … something Jefferson knows a lot about.
As the wide receiver group ran slants, go's, outs, cut routes and catch and turn, plenty of players show plenty of rust, as sophomore Eric Kossoris, junior Nate Emanuel and freshman T.J. Williams all dropped multiple passes. It got so bad that at one point, the unit as whole dropped four straight passes, but sophomore Nick Toon made it for it.
On a sideline fade route, Toon was off balance and airborne when he made the mid-air adjustment to haul in the pass with his left hand and get both feet down before falling to the ground.
7 on 6 Notes
On the first play during drill work, senior Garrett Graham slipped through four defenders and Sherer delivered the pass on target for a solid gain. On the next play, St. Jean redeemed the defense, making a diving breakup on a midfield out route.
Although Mickey Turner was slowing down after making the catch and running up field, Aaron Henry didn't quit, chasing after the senior tight end and punching the ball out with his right hand and causing a mad scramble.
Redshirt freshman Curt Phillips struggled with his accuracy by forcing passes into coverage and did get any help from Gilreath, who failed to haul in a low throw as he brought the ball into his chest.
11 on 11 Notes
Early in the drill, Will Hartmann skied to pick off a Tolzien pass and returned it for a touchdown. Tolzien completed only one pass during the first team drill, including almost throwing a couple more, but responded better in his last set, going 7-for-8.
Isaac Anderson made the play of the day, beating Henry in a one-on-one matchup and catching a beautifully thrown pass over his left shoulder from Sherer.
On the very next play, Sherer was lucky to escape with an incompletion, as fifth-year senior Aubrey Pleasant dropped a sure interception, much to the chagrin of his defensive teammates.
During the drills, Wisconsin ran a steady diet of run and pass with Clay, Brown and Smith all getting pretty equal reps. Clay was bigger than last year (told me he was at 247 but is looking to slim down), but looks more confident in the offense now that he knows most of the playbook. Zach Brown looked like he got some of his explosiveness back after last season and freshman Erik Smith shows flashes of speed that has the coaching staff excited for his role within the unit.
Sophomore cornerback Devin Smith was solid on defending wide receiver screens, showing good footwork to make sure both Jefferson and Gilreath stayed in front of him.
Remember, it's early but all quarterbacks had some bugaboos. All four quarterbacks received equal reps and all had solid completion percentages during 7-v-6 and 11-v-11. The only knock on the group was that 75 percent of their pass attempts were thrown into the flat and 15 percent were thrown on routes 10-yards-or-less over the middle.
Phillips struggled in the pocket, throwing passes too high or behind the receiver, but his best throws came when he was rolling out of the pocket and delivered throws on the run. Phillips also showed a good burst when the defense shut down his options and he tucked the ball and ran.
Sherer still has great command in throwing the sideline out route, but struggled to throw two solid passes back-to-back. On some of the passes he did complete, Sherer was bailed out by his experienced wide receivers. One example was when Sherer, faced with pressure from the defense, delivered a high, wobbly pass that Graham stretched out and hauled in before hitting the turf, which resulted in him getting a nice applause from the offensive line.
The best quarterback on Tuesday, however, was Jon Budmayr. The freshman who has been with the team since January and is fresh off collarbone surgery was solid in all of his throws during split work (throwing tight, crisp spirals to his targets) and continued to do so during 7-on-6 and 11-on-11. Budmayr, like his colleagues, threw a lot of check-down routes but showed no signs of nerves.
The one time he did go down field, linebacker Tony Megna dropped a sure interception, as he was wide-open near the sideline and could have walked into the end zone. It was on that note that day one ended.
One year removed from a spring camp that was full of injuries, including plenty of the serious kind, day one started with no injuries to report.
However, as was noted from Bret Bielema's presser earlier in the day, Kevin Claxton, Bradie Ewing, Daven Jones and Tyler Westphal all were ruled out for spring camp as they recover from off-season surgery.
Seven weeks removed from his sports hernia surgery, safety Jay Valai was in attendance and should resume workouts next week. The only question mark is wide receiver Maurice Moore, as there is a chance he could practice with his team towards the end of camp after recovering from his surgery.
Athletic director Barry Alvarez strolled in and sat to watch the team for over an hour, commenting that he loves spring practice because, "there's no pressure to game plan for an opponent. You can have the kids full attention and just teach them the fundamentals."
Three coaches from the Lodi High School football team was there to watch the Badgers practice.
Wisconsin second spring practice takes place tomorrow at 4:15 p.m., but is closed to the media (the only practice this season that is off limits to reporters).
Wisconsin will lift Thursday, have off Friday and have practice number three Saturday morning.