After going in full pads on Tuesday, the Badgers scaled back to half pads and shorts in a practice that went just over two hours at Camp Randall.
Patience is a Virtue
After many felt him and John Clay were going to be a 1,000-yared tandem in the backfield for Wisconsin last season, providing similar success that Terrell Fletcher and Brent Moss had during their four-year career in the early 1990s, senior Zach Brown is aiming for a comeback.
After his confidence shaken during the Wofford and Minnesota game, and carrying the ball a combined 12 times for 68 yards in the final eight games, Brown has shown earlier through spring that some of his moxie has returned.
Throughout 11-on-11 drills, Zach Brown showed patience after taking the handoff, not rushing to the line and letting the play develop in front of him. On third-and-two, the senior from Palm Beach let his lineman initiate their blocks for muscling into Claxton for the first down. Later in the drive, Brown showed his quickness and shiftiness, sneaking through a seam between Ricky Wagner and Jake Byrne on the left side for a 15-yard gain.
Brown also provided a solid pass-catching option out of the backfield, catching a number of passes in front of the linebackers.
Not to be forgotten, sophomore Montee Ball, who has added muscle and trimmed the fat off his 222-pound frame, has become more physical fighting for extra yards, something he did multiple times on handoffs up the middle.
Claxton Taking Steps
Admiring practice from the sideline on a break from his NFL workouts, safety Chris Maragos called converted-linebacker Kevin Claxton a wild card, meaning that the junior from Fort Lauderdale has a chance to really make an early impact. Claxton was all over the field during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11, providing blanketed coverage and sticking his nose in to break up several pass attempts.
Claxton also was solid on his keys, correctly filling a gap on third and two and delivering a solid hit that knocked Brown off his feet.
Claxton saved his best for last. With Jon Budmayr under center and looking for his favorite target (Jared Abbrederis), Budmayr delivered the ball on target but Claxton made a good pop on Abbrederis just as the ball arrive. The result was a free ball that landed right into the hands of Marcus Cromartie, much to the chagrin of the offensive starters that tried to tackle Cromartie on the way down the sideline.
Budmayr was solid on multiple occasions during 11-on-11 work, including hitting an unmarked Bradie Ewing in the flat that went for 45-yards, as Ewing showed off his speed. Budmayr looked confident going through his progressions, with his pump fakes and had a lot of zip on wide receiver screen passes.
Culmer St. Jean continued to make plays in the middle of the field, this one coming in the red zone against Curt Phillips. Dropping into coverage on Isaac Anderson, St. Jean jumped the pass, made the pick and advanced the ball out of enemy territory.
One of the best overlooked defensive plays of the day came from Louis Nzegwu, who is playing opposite his roommate, J.J. Watt. On a Brown handoff, Nzegwu was able to get penetration into the backfield and wrap up the running back, much to the delight of his defensive teammates. A.J. Fenton was a close second, has the freshman showed good lateral movement and read his keys to make a number of plays by filling the gaps.
Fully recovered from the shoulder injury that limited him last fall, freshman Jeff Duckworth is fully healthy and it shows. He's added a little weight to his frame but still has his speed, which he showed by turning some quick wide receiver screen into some decent gains (although the secondary deserves an assist for playing off him at the line of scrimmage).
Duckworth and Abbrederis are still learning, however, as evident by the hands-on coaching done by DelVaughn Alexander. When the players were confused by the calls he was shouting out, Alexander ran out on to the field and physically adjusted the two so they were in the right place. Nick Toon had fun with it, grabbing and moving Kyle Jefferson and Anderson along the sideline.
The Badgers will have Friday off before returning to the field Saturday morning for practice No. 5 of 15.