Spring Practice Report: Day 10

With the perfect weather outside and another full contact scrimmage less than 48 hours away, Wisconsin football headed outside for practice number 10 - a two-hour practice that was highlighted by the defense atoning for past red-zone blunders.

MADISON - Bret Bielema left Saturday's practice disappointed in the execution of his defense during red zone drills.

It's probably safe to say that after running the same drill Thursday, Bielema couldn't be happier.

Wisconsin's defensive units shut down their offensive counterparts, not allowing the offense to crack the end zone once during a drill simulating a drive deep in Wisconsin's territory.

"The red zone — the goal line part of it — the one part we struggled with on Saturday," Bielema said. "So there was some adjustments, as well as some opportunity to put in some new goal line stuff. I really like the way the defense responded."

The interior of the defensive line looked especially stout, giving running back Erik Smith and the other UW ball carriers little room to operate between the tackles. When plays got bounced to the outside, there was a Badger there as well. On one third-down play in particular, reserve linebacker Matt Groff got a good surge into the backfield and pushed Smith out of bounds before he could turn the corner.

Two QBs an option?

With four quarterbacks still in the running for the top spot on the depth chart, there have been some questions as to how the pecking order might pan out.

How about this: A dual quarterback system.

The coaching staff would like to get Curt Phillips on the field to take advantage of what he can do as a running quarterback. Phillips would likely spell the starting quarterback in certain offensive packages.

It's a possibility that's at least being considered, according to Bielema. In fact, were the season to start tomorrow, it's one that very possibly would be utilized.

"If we had to play a game tomorrow, Dustin (Sherer) would probably be the guy," Bielema said. "But Curt Phillips, what he can do in the run game, you can't ignore certain things like that. If that allows you to put … two quarterbacks in the lineup, that's something we'll do."

Clay rests

After playing through pain for two practices earlier this week, running back John Clay was withheld from drills Thursday and instead watched practice in shorts and his jersey top.

"The reason we sat John today was to let him play Saturday," Bielema said. "Actually a helmet hit his ankle and it's more of a soft tissue-type deal than a structural issue. We just felt if we sit him today, sit him through tomorrow, we'd be able to get more out of him Saturday."

Redshirt freshman Erik Smith saw increased carries with Clay out of practice.

Nick Toon aggravated a hamstring injury during practice, but the injury did not seem to be serious and will likely return Saturday.

Linebacker Michael Taylor continues to receive more reps as he plays catch up from missing the start of spring football. More importantly, Taylor is looking to be making an impact with the No. 2 linebackers.

"Mike was a little bit limited on Tuesday," Bielema said. "They didn't want him to have contact. I had him in a drill and he wouldn't stop making contact. I kept telling him to don't hit anybody and he'd just go hit somebody."

Nortman bombs away

One of the disadvantages to practicing indoors, as UW has for much of the spring, is that getting a good feel for the kicking game is a tall task. Well-struck punts hit the McClain Center roof, making practicing punt coverage not an option.

That's what makes days like Thursday so valuable. Practicing outdoors on the Camp Randall field, the Badgers were able to get a good look at their new punt coverage formation and punter Brad Nortman got to air out his leg a bit.

Nortman drilled several punts high, hanging punts during the drill. On top of that, Bielema was happy with how the coverage looked.

"Brad really hit the ball well today," Bielema said. "Really, this is only the second time we've been able to work punt outside. There's some issues with protection … but I really like the way we're getting down the field."

Scrimmage on tap Saturday

With just a little over a week to go before the Spring Game, Saturday's practice will be fairly close to live action. Bielema said that while the coaching staff may force certain situations if they don't arise on their own, for the most part the scrimmage will flow like a game situation.

"We're going to move the ball for the most part," Bielema said. "If I don't get what I want specifically from the red zone or goal line, we may actually put them in that situation by the spot of the ball … Right now the intent is to put the ball on the 25 yard line and let them move the ball."

The Badgers will have Friday off before returning Saturday morning for practice No. 11 of 15.


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