Spending a majority of practice working on the spread, defense was the focus on Tuesday evening, as the Badgers are now one-third of the way done with spring workouts.
Tobi Okuyemi, a talented defensive end from Wayzata Senior in Plymouth, Minnesota, took in practice with teammates Grant Olson and Chris Kroeten. Okuyemi has five offers – Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin.
Mike Newkirk, back fresh from a workout with the Atlanta Falcons, roamed the sidelines, watching the defensive line of course.
From the Infirmary
The Badgers are still injury free in the workplace after five days. Isaac Anderson returned after sitting out yesterday and looked just fine.
Jake Current is another player the Badgers have on a limited pitch count and was given the day off to rest his surgically repaired knee. Louis Nzegwu was hobbled during the latter part of the drill but got up under his own power. Nick Toon got clocked on a deep route and tweaked his back, but didn't miss much time.
J.J. Watt, who moved back to the inside after spending the majority of yesterday's on the defensive end, was causing havoc in the middle, overpowering junior Jake Bscherer to wrap up John Clay in the backfield.
Chris Maragos was all over the field throughout Tuesday's practice, running over and flattening Zach Brown on a safety blitz. Later in practice, the senior broke up a couple plays during 7-on-6 that should have gone for touchdowns.
O'Brien Schofield created plenty of problems for Gabe Carimi early on, putting pressure on the quarterbacks and even batting down a Scott Tolzien pass attempt when the junior quarterback rolled to his left.
Redshirt freshman cornerback Marcus Cromartie had his best practice of the spring, providing solid coverage on Nick Toon and creating a solid breakup on a pass thrown by Tolzien. The breakup was so solid that the entire secondary rushed over from the sideline to congratulate him.
All of the split work was done from inside the 20-yard line, as the Badgers were looking for some solid success inside the redzone, an area of needed development after last season's struggles. Thanks to a solid defensive effort, the Badgers rarely found the end zone.
Sherer went 3-for-6 during his set but two were checkdown routes after all his primary receivers were covered. Sherer's one touchdown completion was a pass over the middle to Gilreath, which the junior receiver had to rip away from Cromartie, who got a hand on the pass.
Scott Tolzien faired no better on his handful attempts, as the only touchdown completion was a pass to Lance Kendricks, which cut its way through three defenders.
Curt Phillips went 3-for-5, but all three of his completions were short slant routes and cross routes underneath the defense.
Jon Budmayr had his worst practice of the early spring season. Budmayr completed two routes underneath the defense, but was intercepted by Kevin Rouse when Rouse jumped in front of a deep crossing route run by Kendricks and badly overthrew two endzone crossing routes on back-to-back plays.
Split Team Work
With the majority of the Big Ten turning to the spread offense, the Badgers, for the second straight spring, will spend a good portion of time working on defending the spread option attack. With Phillips quarterbacking the offense and Erik Smith being the tailback, the Badgers will get very good, very fast.
With the Badgers running a defense that consisted of four down linemen, two linebackers and five defensive backs, Phillips was able to showcase his speed on more than a few occasions by simply tucking the ball and sprinting downfield.
Erik Smith looks to be playing himself into an important role in the Badger backfield. Smith, on multiple downs, was either split outside and could run a reverse or stay inside and showcase his shiftiness by changing directions on the spot.
At one point in the drill, the offensive line from left to right was walk-on and converted freshman tight end Ricky Wagner, redshirt freshman Kevin Zeitler, freshman Travis Frederick, walk-on redshirt freshman Jordan Bergmann and walk-on redshirt freshman Robert Burge with the receivers being redshirt Jeremy Reierson, fifth-year Richard Kirtley, junior Nate Emanuel and redshirt freshman Zach Davison. Not exactly a group that will strike fear in opponents, but the young, inexperienced group held their own going up against the first- and second-team defense.
11-on-11 Team Notes
Each quarterback rotated in with the first and second-team offense going against the first, second and third-team defense.
Phillips went 2-for-4 during his progression and was forced to scramble a handful of times due to solid secondary coverage.
Dustin Sherer went 4-for-5 during his passing plays, including firing off a wide receiver screen and showing off his legs, having a burst of speed when he decided to tuck the ball and run, once earning an 18-yard gain before he was touched. His only incompletion was a 50-yard go route to Isaac Anderson that was slightly underthrown, allowing Aubrey Pleasant to catch up to the play and break it up.
Tolzien went 3-for-3 against the third defense, hitting Kendricks on a deep slant, Gilreath on a 15-yard slant and Nick Toon a slant route over the middle, and 2-for-3 against the second defense.
Budmayr's struggles continued, under throwing Kirtley and seeing Devin Smith bobble a sure interception. Budmayr completed a pass to Mickey Turner in the flat, but followed that up by rushing a pass to Graham and sailed it over his head.
But on the final play of practice, Budmayr made amends, hitting a streaking Nate Emanuel, who made a double move on Andrew Lukasko, in stride for the biggest play of the scrimmage.
Wisconsin will have Wednesday off before returning for the sixth of 15 practices on Thursday afternoon at 3:45 p.m.