Whether it was the early morning sunshine or the fact that the Badgers had their first day off in over a week, the lacksidasical effort at times incurred the wrath of some members of the Wisconsin coaching staff – from throwing down headway to language that would make even the thick-skinned parents cover their child's ears …and that was just in the first 30 minutes.
"We started out a little slow today, which didn't please us and didn't please the coaches," defensive tackle J.J. Watt said. "We had to re-evaluate ourselves today and come back to pick it up in the second half of practice, which we did. We picked it up at the end but after a day off, we can't come out slow like we did."
Wisconsin is 12 days away from kicking off the season against Northern Illinois and Watt admits that the Badgers have things they need to clean up before playing a game. Looking back to the scrimmage, Wisconsin's defense played solid, but gave up three plays that went for over 60 yards, something that his unit is going to be focused on this week.
"We had those two of three long runs that we gave up that we can't have," Watt said. "Those are game killers for us. Other than that, our defense played pretty stout. Our defensive line had a good day, not a great day. We need to make a couple more plays but otherwise, it was a solid day."
After what Head Coach Bret Bielema said would be a lengthy position meeting on Sunday to determine who would be in the best position to help contribute to the Badgers this season, Monday morning's practice was expected to be a telling day.
So after fifth-year senior Dustin Sherer has seen his repetitions decrease and redshirt freshman quarterback Curt Phillips faltered in Saturday's scrimmage, the man under center with the first-team offense was junior Scott Tolzien.
In three appearances last season, all of which were blowouts, Tolzien combined to complete 5 of 8 passes for 107 yards and one interception. So far this fall, Tolzien has been one of the most consistent passers. Behind Tolzien was junior Zach Brown, who has taken the majority of the repetitions with the first-string offense and appears to be in position to see extensive work at running back.
Also with the first team, Mickey Turner was at fullback, Garrett Graham and Lance Kendricks were at tight end and Isaac Anderson was at wide receiver. The offensive line remained unchanged from last week, and Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt are day-to-day.
The biggest change with the first-team defense was to see Michael Taylor taking some reps at the Sam linebacker with Blake Sorensen. The Wisconsin coaching staff and upperclassmen linebackers have been anxious to see Taylor perform, but the redshirt freshman from Ashwaubenon has been slowed by neck and hamstring injuries the past two years. Over the past three practices, Taylor is fully healthy and has made plenty of solid plays, giving UW another option at linebacker.
Everything else remained unchanged with the first-team defense line (O'Brien Schofield, Jeff Stehle, Dan Moore and J.J. Watt), the other two linebackers (Culmer St. Jean and Jae McFadden) and the secondary (Devin Smith, Chris Maragos, Jay Valai and Niles Brinkley).
The second-team defense line (Louis Nzegwu, Dan Cascone, Jordan Hein and Anthony Mains), the linebackers (Kevin Rouse, Mike Taylor and Chris Borland) and the secondary (Antonio Fenelus, Shelton Johnson, Kevin Claxton and Dezmen Southward).
The second-team offensive line (Zac Matthias, Ryan Groy, Peter Konz, Robert Burge, Casey Dehn), the wide receivers (Kraig Appleton and Richard Kirtley), the running backs (John Clay or Erik Smith), the tight ends (Jacob Pederson and Brian Wozniak) and the quarterback (Dustin Sherer or Curt Phillips).
Team Drills Notes
Although UW didn't throw the ball a lot during the two-hour practice (and when they did, it was usually a simple route underneath the defense), Tolzien was impressive.
Although his first pass (a WR inside slant) was low and rushed, Tolzien had a lot of positives working with the first team offense. He showed some hop in his step when he ran the option, looking almost as good as when Phillips runs the play. Tolzien also showed some touch, when he aired out a perfect spiral to Maurice Moore, who did a little stutter step on Niles Brinkley to gain the needed separation and reeled in the pass with a rolling catch.
Tolzien should have had another completion when he delivered a solid throw on a sideline out route to Isaac Anderson, but Devin Smith covered a lot of ground to get to Anderson and barely get his fingertips on the ball, deflecting it away.
Sherer's set did not go smoothly. On third-and-one, UW attempted to run a sweep to the right with John Clay going down hill with a full head of steam. That didn't stop J.J. Watt from diving through the line of scrimmage and under cutting Clay in the backfield for no gain.
Although the coaching staff gave the offense a fresh set of down, Sherer was bailed out on his next pass by Nick Toon nicely adjusted to an underthrown pass by Sherer, as he out maneuvered Devin Smith and Chris Maragos to get back to the pass. Clay made up for it with a big run up the middle.
Speaking of redemption, Smith made up for his failed interception on Toon. On a high pass from Sherer than Anderson could only get a hand on, the tip pass went right to Smith, who out raced everybody for an 85-yard touchdown.
Phillips looked decent with the second-team offense during the team drill, leading a touchdown drive against the second-team defense, thanks in large part to freshman Brian Wozniak, who the defense basically ignored throughout the drive.
Wozniak found himself wide open along the left sideline, a spot where Phillips delivered the pass and Wozniak turned up field for a 20-yard gain. Later in the drive, Wozniak did it again, slipping untouched or unguarded through the defense and caught the touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone.
Earlier in practice, Wozniak slipped behind freshman Marcus Cromartie and reeled in a nice pass for a hefty gain, as the freshman from Loveland, Ohio, had his best practice to date.
Sherer was the first quarterback during 7-on-7 work, completing 4 of 7 passes, but the four plays were simple passes to the flat or underneath the defense. Phillips threw only a couple plays, a pass to Mickey Turner in the flat and a 12-yard sideline slant to Richard Kirtley. Tolzien was the same, hitting Turner, Graham and Wozniak on simple routes. Overall, 7-on-7 wasn't as impressive as it has been in past practices.
The interceptions continue to mount for Phillips. After a four-interception performance Saturday, Phillips made a hasty throw during early team drills when he was rolling out of the pocket. I can't say for sure who he was throwing to, because there was nothing but defensive players around, one of whom (Shelton Johnson) made an easy interception and returned it for a touchdown.
Kevin Rouse is having his best camp to date after finally being fully healthy for the first time in his college career. Rouse is a smart player and doesn't get baited easily, which was shown by his ability.
John Clay and Montee Ball received plenty of carried during the team portion of the drill with Clay turning out some big gains. Showing patience in the backfield, Clay waited for the play to develop and hit the hole with a burst of speed for a 15-yard gain, a play that could have easily went farther had the coaches not blown the whistle.
Most members of the walking-wounded club seem to be getting healthier. Walk-on freshman linebacker Ethan Armstrong shed the sling he was wearing throughout the week and did some light jogging with Tyler Dippel, who is recovering from a knee injury. Armstrong still isn't in shoulder pads, but Dippel was fully dressed and did not appear to have any reminisce of a limp. Zach Davison also did not practice, sporting a walking cast on his left leg.
Bielema continues to emphasize to his team to not beat themselves before the snap. With that in mind, Appleton and Travis Frederick were forced to do up-downs every five yards down the field. The two were joined by Phillips, who was punished for his bad interception.
Wisconsin returns to the practice field tonight at 7:40 p.m. After tonight, the Badgers have six more practices before fall camp concludes.