The last move-the-ball series at the conclusion of practice was the shining moment of the week thus far for the offense, driving 80 yards against the first-team defense, using a combination of play-action passes, shotgun throws and relying on the Big Ten's Offensive Player of the Year.
After having a couple practices devoid of big run plays, junior John Clay made his presence known in a big way. Clay took the opening handoff and slugged right through the middle, carrying three players on his back and didn't stop turning his legs until he got 10 yards and a first down.
Two plays later, Clay turned something out of nothing. On a sweep to the left, Clay patiently waited for the hole to develop. Upon seeing the small seam, Clay blasted through, equipped with a small cutback, to move the chains one more time.
On the entire series, Clay was responsible for five first downs and roughly 41 hard-fought yards against the conference's top run defense last season. It was only fitting that he cashed in the 80-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown.
"John Clay was definitely running the ball hard today," junior defensive end Louis Nzegwu said. "We got a full cup of him today. Trust me, we're 100 percent happy that John Clay is healthy. It makes our whole team better and the defense better when you go against a player like that."
When the second-team offense took the field, the Badgers relied on their speedy second-team running back. After getting another chance to run the drill after going three-and-out, James White turned on some jets and some moves. After speeding through the middle for a first down, White eluded redshirt freshman linebacker Ethan Armstrong in the backfield with a juke move that sent Armstrong to the turn and White up the field.
White got better as the drill went on. Thanks to a great release and cut block delivered by Zac Matthias, White got to the corner and used his speed to turn up field, diving for the end zone. He came up two yards short, but pounded the ball into the end zone on the next play.
The momentum of the move-the-ball segment carried into red-zone work. The offense was able to shake off an athletic play early from the defensive ends to muster a touchdown drive.
On the first play, a play-action pass, Nzegwu out muscled Josh Oglesby to get in the backfield and get the sack on Tolzien. The coaches allowed the play to continue, which results in J.J. Watt tracking down Lance Kendricks for the second time. Earlier in practice, Kendricks caught a pass wide-open in the flat, but Watt showed good hustle on the play to run down Kendricks.
Just like the move-the-ball segment, UW cashed it its drive through the ground. On a handoff to Montee Ball, the sophomore cut his way through traffic and dove into the end zone.
The second-team offense had its chance on third-and-10, but a pass from Jon Budmayr went off the out-stretch hands of Abbrederis at the goal line. Budmayr had one more chance, but his pass in coverage was intercepted by Devin Smith.
Move the Ball – Part One
Antonio Fenelus continued to make strides at the cornerback position, making a solid defensive play on third down on a Tolzien attempted pass to Nick Toon. With Smith's up-and-down play and Fenelus' consistency, it appears he's in line to start the other as UW's right cornerback.
Smith did atone for the earlier flub in skelly drills by notching the biggest pop of the morning. After Budmayr floated a pass to Jacob Pedersen in between three defenders on first down, Pedersen was greeted with a solid pop from Smith, knocking him and the ball to the turf.
Budmayr was able to regain the composure and get another first down for the offense, completing a pass to tight end Brian Wozniak over the middle to move the chains. After narrowing avoiding a Kevin Rouse blitz on second down, miscommunication between Budmayr and Abbrederis let the drive stall at midfield.
With the first team getting stymied on first and second down, the offensive had its best sequence of the morning. On a double linebacker blitz, the first-team offensive line sealed the pocked, allowing Tolzien to attack Toon in single coverage, registering a 17-yard gain and a first down before the break.
More Bumps and Bruises
Senior safety Jay Valai did not practice Monday morning, as he was out of uniform with his lower leg wrapped. The severity of the injury is not known, but Valai was limping noticeably and using a crutch for support.
Third-year safety Shelton Johnson filled in on the first-team offense and worked opposite junior Aaron Henry, who is going through his first camp at the position. Johnson has received a lot of reps during fall camp already, especially with Henry practicing only once on double days.
There was also a shakeup with the second-team defense. Redshirt freshman Conor O'Neill, who transferred to the safety spot during bowl preparation did not practice and was replaced by fourth-year junior Adam Hampton.
Tight end Zac Davison (shoulder), defensive tackle Jordon Kohout (knee), linebackers Blake Sorensen (calf) and Mike Taylor (knee) and guard Kevin Zeitler (ankle) also did not practice. Head Coach Bret Bielema is scheduled to speak to media at the conclusion of Wednesday night's practice.
The only minor injury in practice occurred during the last move-the-ball segment, as redshirt freshman safety Dezmen Southward got the wind knocked out of him. He walked off the field under his own power and was replaced by redshirt freshman Jerry Ponio.
7-on-7 Skelly Drills
For the second day in a row, both quarterbacks were sharp in 7-on-7 drills. Tolzien was 7-of-9, completing three passes to Kendricks and two to White. Tolzien's only mistake was putting too much air under a deep pass, allowing Henry to catch up and make the pick.
Budmayr had a couple nice throws, taking advantage of a double move from Kyle Jefferson (cutting outside and then pivoting back inside) to throw a beautifully thrown ball. Budmayr also connected with Jeff Duckworth on a third-and-10 play. Duckworth slipped, but regained his football in time to make the catch and turn up field for a 25-yard gain.
During skelly drills, Defensive Line Coach Charlie Partridge worked double lines with the defense ends and tackles, working on explosion off the line of scrimmage and didn't types of rushes against the ever-dangerous tackling dummies. Offensive Line Coach Bob Bostad wasn't as kind, going live one-on-one completion between his linemen on pass rushing drills.
Bostad, the most vocal of the coaches, made sure his group was quick off the snap of the ball, good hand placement with their hands and good football, all things that proved important when Partridge and Bostad brought their units together.
Some of the better defensive moves were Eriks Briedis out maneuvering John Moffitt, Nzegwu using a speed rush to catch Moffitt and Josh Ogleby flat footed and Patrick Butrym using a successful inside swim move against Bill Nagy.
Offensively, Gabe Carmi didn't allow sophomore David Gilbert to get inside leverage and pushed him to the ground. Gilbert was also unable to cut inside against Oglesby, as the big offensive tackle kept pushing Gilbert to the outside. Peter Konz built a wall around the pocket that Beau Allen couldn't penetrate, being stopped cold in his tracks, and Moffitt didn't fall for any spin moves by Butrym.
Extra Points: Wisconsin worked on deep and shallow kickoff returns with Tight End Coach Joe Rudolph presiding. Senior wide receiver David Gilreath, per usual, with the No. 1 unit as the primary returner. Senior wide receiver Isaac Anderson and White also were in the rotation … There was no Stanley Cup appearance Wednesday morning, but Athletic Director Barry Alvarez and his three Rose Bowl rings roamed the sideline.