Wednesday Night's Practice Report

Wisconsin Head Coach Bret Bielema wasn't blowing smoke at the conclusion of Wednesday night's practice. With both units taking steps forward in preparation for the opener against UNLV, the fifth-year head coach was encouraged by the energy and work ethic of his 12th-ranked squad.

MADISON - Onlookers wondered how Wisconsin's offense would follow up its best performance of the week in Wednesday's nightcap. Needless to say, the Badgers' first-team offense is starting to click.

UW found success in the red-zone drill, during 11-on-11 work and in the two-minute drill, as Tolzien and company were able to assemble a passing attack that proved to put points on the board and give the defensive coaches plenty of teaching points.

Back to the Zone

After the first- and second-team offenses found the way into the end zone in the morning, the first unit showed no signs of slowing down. On the very first place, a handoff to James White around the left side, Lance Kendricks released and registered a great down-field block. Combine with the speed of White, it was an impressive score.

Resetting the drill at second-and-five, another impressive drive allowed Scott Tolzien to engineer a naked bootleg to the right corner of the end zone. Although the green jersey was a deterrent, Tolzien would have clearly scored on the play with everyone going 100 percent.

Not to be outdone, Jon Budmayr equaled Tolzien on the first play from scrimmage, finding a streaking Manasseh Garner inside the right hash mark for an easy score. While Budmayr couldn't register another score, Tolzien made sure the sieve kept leaking, rifling a rocket to the front left corner of the end zone. There was Nick Toon, who secured the pass and got one foot down before stumbling out of bounds.

The final run by the second teamers saw a physical run by Bradie Ewing get the offense down to the two, but great defense on a corner fade route by third-string safety Adam Hampton, filling in for Conor O'Neill, made the pass fall incomplete.

With the injuries to starters Henry and Valai, Bielema has been able to give reps to younger people at safety, including Hampton and redshirt freshman Josh Peprah.

"We're able to get a lot of guys through," Bielema said. "Henry had his best practice at safety this morning … as far as calls, making breaks. The thing is that Aaron just needs game reps at the safety position.

"Dez is getting a lot of reps, Shelton Johnson has looked good in there. Adam Hampton. Jerry Ponio. A couple guys that are young as far as being on the field, but have good upside."

First Team Starts the Clock

With the ball on the 32 and only one minute, 52 seconds left, the first-team offense needed to overcome a four-point deficit. A short screen pass to White and a rebound play from Devin Smith left UW in a third-down scenario. On the run by Ewing in the red-zone drill, Secondary Coach Chris Ash wasn't afraid to get in Smith's face, unleashing a verbal assault not suitable for young listening audiences. Smith bounced back by reading the second-down play and extending his hand into the passing lane.

Tolzien got things going from there. He was able to move the chains by targeting Kendricks for a 24-yard gain on third down. Southward, filling in for Henry (rest) couldn't turn around fast enough to break up the pass. With 33 seconds left, Tolzien threw a 14-yard strike to David Gilreath and a nine-yard strike to Toon, getting the Badgers to the two.

After an incompletion to Jefferson left UW with 15 seconds on the clock, Tolzien, from the shotgun, picked on senior Niles Brinkley. With Brinkley's back to him, Gilreath jumped over the cornerback and successfully came down with the ball

Second Team Starts the Clock

With Budmayr facing the same scenario, the redshirt freshman quarterback completed a pass to Jared Abbrederis on third-and-four to move the chains into enemy territory. Getting the yards down to third-and-three with 46 seconds left, a draw to White appeared to be short. Instead of running a fourth-down play, Bielema ramped up the pressure on the first team.

Tick Tock

Bielema put the first team on the 32-yard line, but gave them only 32 seconds and no timeouts. The offense wasn't as successful, only completing a deep circus catch to Isaac Anderson after Borland had broken through the line and sacked Tolzien.

"Isaac is sucking it up," Bielema said. "He's got a turf toe, groin is a little bit sore, so admire what he's doing right now. He's really stretching and trying to be strong."

Bielema gave the offense one more chance with six seconds left and the ball on the 18, but the attempt fell incomplete.

The list is growing

Tight end Zac Davison (shoulder), defensive tackle Jordon Kohout (knee), safety Conor O'Neill (ankle), linebackers Blake Sorensen (soft tissue swelling) and Mike Taylor (knee), Jay Valai (concussion) and guard Kevin Zeitler (ankle) did not participate in the evening session after missing the morning.

Sorensen's MRI was negative and Zeitler told Bielema he was going to be out of the boot by Thursday, seeing as it was driving him nuts and the offensive line was ribbing him. Kohout and O'Neill should be back practicing no later than Friday.

However, more injuries did pop up. Redshirt freshman Brian Wozniak, who missed valuable time in the spring with a strain MCL, has a fracture in his shoulder after taking a hit from Southward in the morning. He'll have x-rays tomorrow for a better indication of how long he'll be out.

Reserve offensive tackle Casey Dehn, reserve center/guard Jake Current, reserve linebacker Kevin Claxton (back) and freshman wide receivers Chase Hammond and Marquis Mason also did not participate. Mason hobbled out on to the field with crutches and it was later classified as inflamed tendinitis. He'll have an MRI tomorrow that could result in knee surgery.

Taylor's minor surgery was successful, as Bielema stated that the knee looked better than the doctors originally thought. Bielema also reneged on his earlier comment and said Taylor could be ready by the UNLV game.

"I know Mike is in good spirits," Bielema said. "Hopefully we can get him back sooner than later … Anytime you are dealing with a knee, you really don't know until you get in there. Nobody wants to be out there more than him, but we aren't going to rush him back because there's a lot of football after that."

Plays of the Night

Play of the night came courtesy of the Budmayr-Abbrederis connection. After running laps around the second-team defense all spring, the duo did it again. On a deep fade route, Budmayr trusted Abbrederis enough to make the play in double coverage. The redshirt freshman did, adjusting his body and going airborne to make a one-handed catch for a 30-yard gain.

There were many other notable catches off the arm of Tolzien, as well. Not wanting to be left out of the Abbrederis connection, the senior floated a pass down the right sideline that Abbrederis easily hauled in after streaking by Antonio Fenelus.

"I don't know if he had a drop today," Bielema said of Abbrederis. "He's a competitive kid and is trying to earn that (playing time). With those other senior receivers in front of him and Manasseh Garner is a guy I've been impressed with. Those two guys have jumped out to me the last three days."

One play later, Tolzien delivered a high strike across the middle to Kendricks, who showed his jumping and eye-hand coordinator by leaping and twisting to haul in the completion.

After a waterbreak, Tolzien's gamble with Gilreath provided a big payoff. Despite his small stature and being triple covered by both safeties and a cornerback, Tolzien lofted a deep toss on an inside slant route to Gilreath. Somehow, Gilreath timed it right and out jumped the group, earning a 50-yard gain (almost one-third of his 2009 total yards).

Extra Points: Bielema said John Clay is not in midseason form after his impressive first practice, but he is in ‘first game-week form' … Bielema identified freshman offensive players Sherard Cadogan, Garner and James White will play for sure, while Beau Allen and Josh Harrison will play on defense this season. Bielema also hinted at Jameson Wright perhaps contributing … Wisconsin is planning to scrimmage on Saturday before taking a day off Sunday.

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