Spring Football: Badgers back in pads with all QBs on display

first_imgJon Budmayr (No. 5) has the early nod to replace the graduated Scott Tolzien as the Badgers’ signal caller. Curt Phillips, now healthy, also will challenge for the spot.[/media-credit]Wisconsin football head coach Bret Bielema wasn’t expecting Curt Phillips to do much this spring while recovering from a second ACL injury to his right knee.But lo and behold, Phillips is back on the practice field, whipping the ball around in skeleton passing drills.“He’s kind of a genetic freak,” Bielema said. “He has probably surprised himself.”Saturday’s practice was the first one open to the media, and it was also the first day the Badgers were back in full pads since their Rose Bowl defeat.Phillips remains limited and will not participate in contact portions of practice, but the redshirt junior quarterback saw plenty of action taking snaps from the shotgun during throwing drills.Phillips is still not comfortable dropping back and planting firmly with the injured right knee, but he’s shown the ability to throw quick passes from the shotgun.“He basically does all skele. A lot of times when you come back from an ACL, it’s actually the pivoting movements that scare you the most,” Bielema said. “We are trying to be really cautious, but as you can tell, he is healing very quickly.”While Phillips continues to work his way back to full strength, redshirt sophomore quarterback Jon Budmayr is working extensively with the first-team offense.Budmayr completed about 50 percent of his throws during the skeleton drill – many of which were short throws underneath. Senior defensive backs Aaron Henry and Devin Smith each recorded interceptions during the session, with Henry returning his for a touchdown.Budmayr had a couple of nice throws during the 11-on-11 portion of practice, and his longest completion came on a deep throw to tight end Jake Byrne over the middle. But the 6-foot Budmayr also had some trouble getting the ball past the line of scrimmage at times, as a few throws were knocked down by the outstretched arms of the defensive line.Still, Bielema was encouraged by Budmayr’s performance and acknowledged he’s looking forward to seeing him compete when the team scrimmages next week.“He’s got a little moxie to him,” Bielema said. “He’s a competitor, and my guess is next Saturday when we scrimmage, that’s when it is really going to come out.”True freshman quarterback Joel Stave certainly isn’t expected to compete with Budmayr and Phillips for the starting job, but he’s taking advantage of every rep he gets.Stave displayed a strong arm and had some of the more impressive throws of the day, completing several impressive out routes to tight end Manasseh Garner.Spring starting lineupThe UW depth chart may fluctuate throughout the spring, but as of now, here is how the first-team offense and defense looked during practice Saturday.From left to right, Ricky Wagner, Travis Frederick, Pete Konz, Kevin Zeitler and Casey Dehn served as the top offensive line. Jake Byrne worked as the first-team tight end, with Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Duckworth seeing extensive action at wideout. Fifth-yera senior Nick Toon, one of the Badgers’ starting wideout last year, will miss all of spring practice after undergoing foot surgery.Bradie Ewing worked as the top fullback, while James White and Montee Ball alternated touches as first-team running backs with Budmayr under center.On defense, Louis Nzegwu, Patrick Butrym, Jordan Kohout and David Gilbert rounded out the starting defensive line.Mike Taylor and Kevin Claxton worked at outside linebacker with redshirt freshman Marcus Trotter manning the middle in Chris Borland’s absence.In the secondary, Antonio Fenelus and Smith were the first-team cornerbacks with Henry and Shelton Johnson at free and strong safety respectively.Running backs off to quick startBielema mentioned earlier that Ball had lost weight and gained quickness.It showed Saturday.The junior tailback broke off a couple long runs and also caught a few passes out of the backfield.Not to be outdone, White displayed the athleticism Badger fans have become accustomed to witnessing. White juked his way past defenders and had a few long scampers in his own right.White did have one fumble, however, and the sophomore got some extra running in for new position coach Thomas Hammock as a result.Groy shows his versatilityRyan Groy may not be a member of the first-team O-line at the moment, but his versatility could prove to be a major asset down the road.Groy worked as the second-team center Saturday, and he and quarterback Joe Brennan had some issues with fumbled snaps.Overall, though, Bielema was encouraged by Groy’s ability to provide depth along various parts of the line.“Ryan can probably play center, guard or tackle,” Bielema said. “We just want to be able to have quality depth at that [center] position and Ryan is very intelligent, so we are giving him some reps at that spot.”Full pads bring out intensityThe players were noticeably energized to put on the pads and hit someone for the first time in months, and that over-excitement usually leads to some rough stuff after plays.Ewing, a fullback known for playing with a physical edge, lowered his shoulder and delivered a heavy blow to Fenelus while finishing a run. The senior cornerback wasn’t too pleased with that, and the two exchanged some shoves.Tight end Brian Wozniak then entered the fray to defend Ewing, and he and Fenelus had some words until Claxton arrived to stand up for a fellow member of the defense.Claxton got right up in the face of Wozniak until teammates separated them and practice resumed.“We knew they were going to be a little rambunctious,” Bielema said.Badgers’ land 2nd verbal commitKenosha Bradford running back Vonte Jackson was in attendance to watch practice Saturday, and the junior ended up verbally committing to UW during his visit.Jackson is now the second verbal commit in Wisconsin’s 2012 class, joining Barrington, Ill. offensive lineman Dan Voltz.Jackson is also the second Bradford running back to commit to UW in two years, following the path of Melvin Gordon, who is set to join the program for his freshman season this summer.last_img

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