Without question, the Badger defense stole the show during fall practice number eight, the first practice opened to the media. Plenty of UW players showed signs of things to come, while other positions struggled. Unfortunately for Badger fans, one of those positions was the quarterbacks.
TEs: Garret Graham and Lance Kenrdricks
DEs: O'Brien Schofield and J.J. Watt
QBs: Dustin Sherer/Scott Tolzien
WRs: Nate Emmanuel/T.J. Theus/T.J. Williams
DTs: Eriks Briedis and Patrick Butrym
QBs in Hiding
Whether it was the new practice jerseys or purely by design with the media finally being in attendance, the five Wisconsin quarterbacks sported green jerseys with no numbers on them. Luckily, each QB could be distinguished by their attire, which was not a good thing if you are senior Dustin Sherer.
In the marquee battle, both Sherer and freshman Curt Phillips had some good moments, and had a lot of so-so moments, proving that consistency is once again a factor heading towards the season opener.
During 7-on-7 drills, Sherer delivered some solid spirals to Toon and hit his tight ends in the flat with ease. On the same accord, Sherer struggled to string multiple good throws together, as he either delivered a poor pass or gambled by throwing a ball into coverage. On one occasion, Sherer tried forcing a pass to senior Garrett Graham, disregarding the fact that Devin Smith and Jae McFadden were camped out behind him. The result was an easy pass breakup for the duo.
Things didn't get easier for Sherer in 11-on-11, as he delivered a perfect pass to linebacker A.J. Fenton. Fenton cut the route, but the pass was vastly underthrown.
Whether it was just the plan for the day or reflects recent performance, Sherer didn't see as much time under center as Phillips during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills.
Phillips' 7-on-7 session was far below his expectations, either delivering an overthrown pass or underthrown, like one such lollypop throw to the sideline that could have easily been intercepted had the coverage not broken down. Phillips also had two fumble snaps, one from the shotgun, that could be partly caused by the sudden downpour.
Phillips delivered the only interception of the drill when his pump fake didn't fool Shelton Johnson, who went up and snagged the interception. To be fair, the interception was a good play by Johnson and Richard Kirtley didn't go up and fight for the ball.
In 11-on-11, Phillips showed more patience, going through his progressions to find the best option. With the secondary blanketing his coverage, Phillips found Lance Kendricks in the flat, his third option on the play, and delivered a precision pass for six-yard gain.
Phillips also hasn't been deterred from a collapsing pocket, staying in the frying pan and delivering the pass instead of automatically tucking the ball and running. Even so, when the opportunity presents itself, Phillips isn't afraid to put the ball under his arm and run for a healthy gain.
One of his first plays from scrimmage was a broken play, but Phillips improvised and ran through the line for a hefty gain. On the next play, Phillips ran the naked bootleg, floating a pass over a charging defenseman and hitting Graham in stride. Phillips also showed that he could run the option to perfection, going right up the middle for a solid gain.
Even so, Phillips still has many things he needs to find tune and improve upon if he wants to be the starting quarterback.
The pass of the day came off the arm of Scott Tolzien. Tolzien stood in the pocket and delivered a 40-yard spiral to Toon, who was streaking across the middle on a cross route and caught the pass between two defenders.
Running roughly six plays from inside the 10-yard line, the Badgers worked marginally on running the ball.
On the first play, a Zach-Brown handoff went no where when UW's offensive line succumbed to pressure and was stopped. Oglesby was the main culprit as J.J. Watt and Jeff Stehle were able to burst through the line of scrimmage and stop Brown in his tracks.
The Badgers made up for it on the next play when Phillips faked the handoff to Brown, ran the play action and found Graham in the left corner of the end zone, as the senior beat McFadden across the middle.
From there, it was all defense. Zach Brown was stopped when his run up the middle went nowhere. It didn't get better on the next play, when senior Dan Moore burst right through the middle, getting to the ball carrier and stopping the play as soon as Tolzien did.
Sophomore John Clay showed good speed to the outside, bouncing a broken play outside. He would have scored a touchdown if it wasn't for excellent pursuit by freshman safety Josh Peprah, who managed to push Clay out of bounds before the power back could stretch the ball across the goal line.
Play of the Day
If anybody has doubts about Chris Borland and his ability to crack into the starting linebacker rotation, the last play during red-zone drills will show that Borland is ready and able to contribute.
On a handoff to Clay, Borland broke through the line of scrimmage on a missed blocking assignment, and pushed Clay to the ground using mostly his body. Clay was not happy by the play, as he immediately got up from the ground and ran 10 yards right into Borland. Unfortunately for Clay, Borland did not go down, getting even more high fives and congratulations from his cohorts.
Ever since the UW coaches mentioned that safety Jay Valai's aggressiveness gets him into trouble from time-to-time and they want him to harness back, it's obvious that Valai still hasn't fully embraced that concept. Valai had a clear shot at Clay in the backfield, but Clay did a little shake move to make Valai miss, turning a loss into a modest gain.
Valai made up for it on a safety blitz. As Tolzien started to thrown, Valai reared back and put his arms up, which resulted in a deflected pass.
After seeing a lot of time at the mike linebacker position last week, according to defensive coordinator Dave Doeren, Borland spent the majority of the day working at the sam linebacker position with the second-team defense. At one point, Borland saw reps with the first-team defense after Sorensen missed a couple tackles.
It's a good thing green means stop, or Devin Smith would have had the hit of the year. Smith went untouched on a cornerback blitz and could have creamed Phillips on his blind side. Luckily, Smith pulled back and ran right by Phillips.
St. Jean, Watt and Henry all showed outstanding pursuit during the last period of practice. St. Jean and Watt found holes in the offensive line and went all out after Sherer, who was rolling left out of the pocket, and managed to throw the ball away. A few plays earlier, Henry showed good tackling fundamentals on a Brown run, shifting from side-to-side with the junior runner, not letting him cut up field and ultimately forcing him out of bounce.
Although Brinkley and Henry look to have a near lock on UW's starting cornerback spots, Antonio Fenelus is showing that he deserves some snaps. Rushing over to cover tight end Zach Davison in the flat, Fenelus made a jumping right-handed slap at the ball, knocking it out of harm's way. The play was so solid that it excited his fellow defensive teammates, who started chanting ‘defense' on the sideline.
Freshman Kraig Appleton continues to recover from a tweaked hamstring and usually was seen jogging around the perimeter of the field. Appleton is expected back sometime in the next three-to-four days.
Sophomore Bradie Ewing is recovering from a tweaked groin, but appeared to be near 100 percent, as he was able to run the short shuttle Monday morning with relative ease.
Freshman Mike Taylor continued to battle a hamstring injury that has sidelined him for most of the 2009 calendar year. After missing most of spring with the problem, Taylor has been limited and still doesn't look comfortable during drills.
Bill Nagy and John Moffitt were still out with their injuries, but linemen Jake Current and Alex Dietzen didn't practice in the morning. Freshman walk-on Ethan Armstrong didn't practice after hurting his shoulder Saturday morning, having his left arm in a sling. Also in a sling was Dan Cascone, who had his right arm hung up.