Spring Practice Report: Day 3

Wisconsin football wraps up its first week of spring football indoors under the watchful eyes of hundreds of high school coaches and a handful of high school players. The Badgers enjoyed practice number three in full pads, which came in handy during parts of the day.

MADISON – With snow flurrying outside and winter making one final push, Wisconsin football, accompanied by hundreds of Wisconsin high school coaches looking on and taking notes, the Badgers take part in their third spring practice of the season.

Saturday's practice went 24 periods and gave the Badgers their first chance to work in full pads.

Only two players in addition to the original injury list were out Saturday, as Elijah Theus (rolled ankle) and Michael Taylor (hamstring) did not practice.

"T.J. Theus rolled up his ankle a little bit," Bielema said. "I do think he'll actually be back on Monday. Then Mike Taylor had a little bit of a hamstring issue. (We) didn't know if he was going to be able to go today. Hopefully we'll be able to get him back, if not some point next week, then the week after."

Late in practice, freshman running back Erik Smith suffered what seemed to be a minor ankle injury during inside team drills and did not return to practice after getting an ice treatment. Bielema did not have a report on the severity of the injury but it doesn't seem to be anything long term.

Roster Bonus

With the departure of junior Matt Fischer causing a lack of depth at the kicking position, the UW coaches added kicker Pat Hughes from Marquette (Wis.) high school to the roster to back up sophomore kicker Phil Welch.

"He contacted us a year ago," Bielema said. "I didn't want to have three kickers going into fall camp, so he came out. Tuesday was his first kick. I told him if he made his PAT, we were going to back him up one yard at a time so he got out there today and actually went over the left hash and did a good job."

First Team Defense (written from the viewpoint of behind the secondary)

LE to RE – Brendan Kelly, Dan Moore, Jeff Stehle, O'Brien Schofield

WLB to SLB – Jae McFadden, Culmer St. Jean, Blake Sorensen

LCB, SS, FS, RCB – Aaron Henry, Aubrey Pleasant, Chris Maragos, Antonio Fenelus

Note - Niles Brinkley also rotated in with Fenelus. Second Team Defense

LE to RE – David Gilbert, Patrick Butrym, J.J. Watt, Louis Nzegwu

WLB to SLB – Tony Megna, Kevin Rouse, Erik Prather

LCB, FS, SS, RCB – Otis Merrill, Shane Carter, Shelton  Johnson, Niles Brinkley

First Team Offense

LT to RT – Gabe Carimi, Jake Bscherer, John Moffitt, Bill Nagy, Josh Oglesby

Wide Receivers – Kyle Jefferson and Nick Toon (Isaac Anderson and David Gilreath also rotated in)

Tight End – Garrett Graham and Mickey Turner

Running Back – John Clay

Quarterback – Dustin Sherer

Second Team Offense

LT to RT – Ricky Wagner, Kevin Zeitler, Travis Frederick, Joe Schafer, Peter Konz

Wide Receivers – Isaac Anderson and David Gilreath (all the receivers rotated in with the first team)

Tight End – Jake Byrne and Lance Kendricks

Running Back – Zach Brown

Quarterback – Scott Tolzien or Curt Phillips

The only change to note was Schafer replacing Jake Current at the guard position with the No.2s on Saturday.

Individual Drills

The linebackers worked on shredding blockers to get to the ball carrier and agility; cornerbacks worked on pursuit angles and catching interceptions; the tight ends working on catching passes over the middle; wide receivers worked on screen passes with Curt Phillips and making stutter steps and the defensive line worked on striping the ball and recovering fumbles, pursuit and exploding off the line of scrimmage.

- Louis Nzegwu was guilty of a couple false starts during individual work, earning pushups for his mistakes. Nzegwu is one player position coach Charlie Partridge has said publicly needs to step up his game if he wants to contribute at the end position.

- Nick Toon, a name you are going to hear more of during this report, made a couple nice adjustment catches during individual drills, catching balls thrown behind him or low.

Split work

After individual work, the wide receivers and cornerbacks worked on pass routes and pass coverage while the rest of the first and second team worked specifically on running the ball and defending the run.

Freshman quarterback Jon Budmayr, sophomore Scott Tolzien and senior Dustin Sherer were throwing the passes during the drill, which yielded a number of solid plays. Aaron Henry was able to out-jump Toon for an interception, Kyle Jefferson threw a quick stutter step that fooled Niles Brinkley and caught a nicely thrown pass from Sherer over the shoulder, redshirt freshman T.J. Williams did a similar move to sophomore Chukwuma Offor but couldn't haul in the over-the-shoulder catch off the arm of Tolzien.

On the other side of the field, J.J. Watt was a fixture in the offense's backfield. On back-to-back plays, Watt beat incumbent center John Moffitt to stop John Clay in the backfield and then split the seam between the center and guard for an equally-impressive stop.

Redshirt freshman Dex Jones rotated in to play some fullback, putting a couple good licks on Jae McFadden to take him out of a couple plays.

Senior safety Chris Maragos made the mistake of going outside on one play (and was reminded so by Bret Bielema) and fixed it the very next play, going into the middle to stop Erik Smith after a minimal gain.

Sophomore linebacker Kevin Rouse looks healthier than he has his entire career and showed it, putting a move on Gabe Carimi to knife into the backfield and create some havoc.

11-on-11 Notes

Maragos made a handful of solid plays, breaking up a sure Garrett Graham catch by reaching around and slapping at the ball with his right hand and, after Lance Kendricks made a reception and turned up field, punched the ball out with his left fist.

The first interception came on the first play, as Tolzien didn't see Blake Sorensen camped out in the middle of the field. Devin Smith one-upped his teammate a few plays later, making a one-handed grab off a Budmayr pass.

Freshman quarterback Curt Phillips continued to be a handful running the option but it took awhile to recognize him. Phillips discarded his No.10 jersey for the number 19 during practice because, for whatever reason, his number 10 was a little tight this morning.

"The quarterback's have all become jersey experts," Bielema said. "We've actually got new jerseys coming in that are going to be exactly like their game jerseys in the fall."

Phillips isn't throwing the ball very well in two open practices, but he runs in the open field better than any quarterback UW has had since Brooks Bollinger.

Sorensen's pick actually caused some excitement on the far sideline, as senior wide receiver Richard Kirtley took exception to a hit he received during the chase, causing some minor pushing and shoving to break out before a handful of players that went on for a brief few moments before coaches and other players broke up the excitement.

Senior Mickey Turner was the MVP of the 11-on-11 drill, making plenty of good grabs over the middle, including one full-extension catch that he made just out of the reach of Maragos, and a couple athletic catches, one of which he skied to make a catch with his fingertips and received a friendly hit on the way down.

Jefferson, who told me that he's fully over his concussion problems from a season ago and is wearing a new-and-improved helmet to help prevent head injuries, showed he isn't afraid to make plays over the middle, showing off his vertical capabilities on a couple of grabs. Without question, Jefferson has more confidence in his abilities this spring and looks more like the 07 version of himself.

Budmayr, who had looked solid on most of his throws throughout spring camp, was bailed out on a bad decision when he tried to force a pass into traffic that easily should have been picked off. Lucky for him, Devin Smith and Kevin Rouse collided and the ball fell to the turf. Budmayr made up for it on the next play, throwing a perfect 17-yard out route that Nate Emanuel grabbed and got two feet down.

Although the players were in full pads, the Badgers rarely did any major hitting. That didn't hold true for McFadden, who came across the middle and laid a good hit on Zach Brown, knocking the junior down to the turf and then extending a hand to help him up.

After dropping an early pass in individual drills, T.J. Williams made some solid catches in team drills, including extending to real in a high throw along the sideline and still get two feet down.

Toon was solid in his drill work, catching a pass by the nose of the football and one pass with redshirt freshman Marcus Cromartie hanging all over him. After making the catch and wrestling the pass away from him, Toon got up and handed the ball to Cromartie with a smile. Cromartie responded by throwing the ball at Toon's head.

The best play of the day came on the last play of the day. With Budmayr finishing off practice with 10 straight plays, his final pass was a perfect deep throw to T.J. Williams, who caught the ball in stride against cornerback Chukwuma Offor.

In Attendance

In addition to the hundreds of high school coaches that came, the Badgers had a number of 2010 high school prospects watch spring practice: Aaron (A.J.) Armstrong (ILB from Neenah (Wis.)), Zac Epping (OL from Kenosha Tremper (Wis.)), Will Hagerup (P from Whitefish Bay (Wis.)), Barrett Powell (WR from Wauwatosa East (Wis.)) and Tom Parish (QB from Hartland Arrowhead (Wis.)).

Next Up

The Badgers are off on Sunday and return to the practice field early Monday evening for practice number four; a practice that will have a similar look and feel to today's workout.

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