April 14, 2009

Spring camp report: Day 13

MADISON, Wis. - After a cold and snowy Monday kept the Wisconsin football team inside the confines of the McClain center, Tuesday's weather took a turn for the better. The sunny 60-degree day allowed UW to get back out to Camp Randall where they practiced for just over 24 periods Tuesday evening.

"I was excited to get out here today for a couple of different reasons," UW head coach Bret Bielema said following practice. "We haven't had many chances to have full live punt. I wanted to get that good work today because really the next time we'll be able to work good will be Saturday."

Punting drill:

The Badgers coaching staff has installed a new punting formation, similar to what fellow Big Ten programs have run in recent years. The line is spread out wider with three players hanging back several yards in between the punter and the line.

While no one picks up the rushers up the middle until the final three players, the extra space spreads out the defense and allows the punting team to cover the opposing return in a more efficient manner.

During today's session Brad Nortman punted the ball particularly well. He had both distance and hang time that allowed his teammates time to get down the field and forced David Gilreath into waiving for a fair catch.

There was one instance, though, where a bad snap went over Nortman's head. Other than that, the reps went seemingly well without any problems.

Offense was sloppy:

On several occasions during practice, the quarterbacks, centers and running backs had a difficult time either receiving the snap or completing the handoff. As a result, the ball was fumbled approximately a half dozen times throughout the two hour and 15 minute practice.

"There was a lot of balls on the ground on a couple perimeter plays today that's concerning," Bielema said. "Because that could either be one of three things. Either the center, quarterback exchange, the quarterback footwork or the running back's footwork. So we got to clean that up."

On top of the fumbles, several balls were dropped from the receiving core. Whether or not the team is starting to wear down as the conclusion of spring practice is coming to a close or if it was an off day is arguable. Still, the fact that there were so many offensive miscues did not go unnoticed by the coaching staff.

"There were certain guys that stepped up Saturday," Bielema said. "But there was still a lot of dropped balls on the offensive side."

Play of the day:

With Curt Phillips dropping back for the pass, Niles Brinkley made an excellent read and break on the ball. By the time it was thrown towards Elijah Theus, Brinkley had stepped in front of him and intercepted the pass and returned it for a touchdown.

Hit of the day:

Although the team was not tackling, Jay Valai still laid the lumber during Tuesday's practice. During inside drills, Valai came flying through the line, and without using his hands or arms, de-cleated running back Zach Brown. It seemed that the impact of Valai's body contact was enough to take Brown down.

Spring practice format:

Similar to recent spring game formats, Bielema will split the team up by No. 1 and No. 2 offense and defenses. Scoring for the No. 1 unit will be standard, but scoring for the second stringers will be doubled, so 12 points will be awarded for touchdowns and six points for field goals.

Up next:

The Badgers will have Wednesday off before returning for practice No. 14 of 15 Thursday afternoon.

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