The Badgers were in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts, practiced for the usual 2 hours 15 minutes and ended the practice in the two-minute drill.
There's an eerie trend developing when it comes to Wisconsin spring practices under Head Coach Bret Bielema. Two springs ago, the defense was crippled by injuries that happened before and during practices, the most notable were the ones happening to the defensive line. It ballooned when senior defensive end Matt Shaughnessy broke his leg on the final practice before the spring game.
After a relatively healthy spring last year, this spring is the offense's turn to be injury plagued. The Badgers were already planning on going through the entire spring without running back John Clay (ankles) and center Peter Konz (blood thinners) and half of spring without lineman Gabe Carimi (shoulder surgery) and John Moffitt (undisclosed injury).
Needless to say, the news of Curt Phillips being sidelined indefinitely did not help the situation. Bielema confirmed that Phillips has a torn ACL in his right knee and will have surgery in the next couple of weeks after the swelling goes down.
"There is probably a potential hope for the season next year, but really that's up in the air," he said. "Every knee injury is different."
Bielema also said they would pursue a medical redshirt, but getting it granted would be doubtful.
"If someone comes in and redshirts because of non-injury and they take it, really you won't be able to pursue a sixth year unless you have multiple injuries," Bielema said. "But we'll heavily document it. Obviously the ACL is a long-term injury."
Phillips sustained the injury during Saturday's scrimmage in the McClain Center when he took off on a scramble but saw his knee give out when he planted, collapsing without any contact. Phillips left the field on crutches and hasn't been seen since
Phillips injury means redshirt freshman Jon Budmayr will be the No.2 quarterback for the April 17th spring game and possibly for the 2010 season, if he can stay healthy. After missing virtually his entire senior year of high school after suffering a fractured collarbone in his right shoulder, Budmayr, who was on the shelf until December, suffered a partially torn muscle in his right forearm during the first week of fall camp that shut him down for eight weeks.
As long as Jared Abbrederis is on the field, Budmayr will be tough to stop. In 7-on-7 skelly drills, Budmayr and Abbrederis connected for the umpteenth time during camp on a deep route, as Budmayr hit Abbrederis in stride for a 50-yard gain down the sideline.
"Last year, we obviously had some times where I would be a wide receiver on scout team and he would be the quarterback," Abbrederis said of him and Budmayr. "We would get that down and this winter was really good for us because we would be able to get out on to the field about three times a week and just run routes, work on catching and really get that bond. He's just a good quarterback. He goes through his number one guy, his number two guy, his number three guy, so it really doesn't matter who he is going to throw to. I do think it helps a lot that we have that bond in the offseason."
Added Bielema: "(Jon's) looked good. He's got an arm. He's not afraid to throw it, you can tell that. I like the ability that he has. I thought Scotty and Jon both today stepped up in the pocket real nice. Jon knows that he's limited on the height, but the great thing is this is his second spring practice. Guys that come in early really benefit from this time."
After Budmayr, the Badgers have junior transfer Nate Tice as the number three quarterback, although his reps have been limited thus far throughout camp. In the fall, the Badgers will add quarterback Joe Brennan, a highly-touted throw from Camden Catholic High in New Jersey.
During skelly drills in the red zone, Tolzien went 5-of-6 with three touchdown passes (two in the corner to Nick Toon, a catch-and run in the flat to Zach Brown and a Lance Kendricks crossing route). Budmayr went 5-of-12 with two touchdown passes, although he was victimized by two drops.
Already thin at running back, the Badgers had to recruit freshman defensive back Kyle Zuleger to take reps at tailback for the second straight day, as sophomore Montee Ball was again wearing a green no-contact jersey (right shoulder bruise). Zulger, a walk-on from Appleton East didn't look too bad running plays in the UW offense, although I wouldn't brand him as the next John Clay.
The Badgers did do red-zone work and challenged the number one offense to go the length of the field in the two-minute drill. Tolzien made smart decisions during the drive, not forcing passes and finding his open receivers, which he did by hitting Zach Brown in the flat. Brown made a nifty move on Kevin Rouse for a 22-yard gain, drawing hoots and hollers from his offensive teammates on the sidelines and made Rouse hoping mad when he picked himself off the turf.
Inside the red zone on the drive, Tolzien hit Toon on third-and-10 for 15 yards down to the four, and promptly yelled for a timeout. After the timeout, Tolzien registered the knockout blow on the 11-play drive, throwing a pass up for grabs to Toon in the corner of the end zone that the junior wide receiver out jumped and out muscled Aaron Henry for the score with 11 seconds left.
Budmayr got a chance with the second string offense down four with 1 minute, 46 seconds remaining starting from the 32-yard line and promptly signaled out Abbrederis in one-on-one coverage. Abbrederis had a step on his receiver, but the pass went off his fingertips with on a diving attempt that would have given UW a first down inside the 40.
Budmayr didn't use his timeout after taking a sack on the next play, instead hurrying his team to the line and using a variety of sideline passes to slowly work down the field. Freshman Warren Herring threw a wrench in the plans when he burst through the line on a blitz, forcing Budmayr to scramble to his right and throw a lolly-pop up for grabs that luckily wasn't intercepted.
Budmayr had a chance with 16 seconds left and the ball on the opponent's 24-yard line, but he led Anderson too far on his deep corner route and did the same with a wide-open Kyle Jefferson in the back of the end zone with nine seconds left. With only two ticks on the clock, defensive pressure forced Budmayr to roll out of the pocket and throw a pass up for grabs that fell harmlessly to the turf.
Out of Hibernation
One of the few units onlookers don't see too often during spring football is the kickers. With the way he ended last season and with UW brining in a kicker – Menomonee Falls' Kyle French – specifically to challenge him, many fans are curious to see the status of junior Philip Welch. Missing a 41-yard field goal and an extra point in Hawaii, Welch was surprisingly replaced by freshman Chris Borland, who kicked and made the final three PATs.
Welch finished the season 17-of-24 (70.8 percent) on field goal attempts and missed two PATs, causing a little trepidation in the ranks. In his first witnessed action of spring, Welch split the uprights on four straight kicks, making from 27, 33, 41 and 47 yards.
Welch's backup – redshirt freshman Alec Lerner – also was 4-of-4 on his kicks with a long of 39. For now, Welch doesn't have to worry about Lerner overtaking his job. Welch's leg strength and experience is unmatched in camp, but French will provide immediate competition starting in the summer.
Bielema said left tackle Gabe Carimi is full-go and should be ready to full participate after next week's spring break … Brian Wozniak sustained a strained MCL in Saturday's scrimmage and will be held out through spring break …Wisconsin will have Wednesday off before returning Thursday afternoon for practice number eight of 15, the final practice before having a week off due to the university's spring break.