August 19, 2009

Rain heavy throughout night practice

MADISON, Wis. - The Wisconsin football team had to battle the elements Wednesday evening after a picture perfect morning practice earlier in the day. The team responded well to the driving rain though and maintained a firm grip on the ball.

"It was good to get back out there," UW head coach Bret Bielema said following Wednesday's night practice. "Two things that happened this week already is that we got to practice in wet conditions. I really stressed to our guys ball security and really didn't have any issues when we were out there."

Wednesday evening was yet another practice in full-pads, the team's eight straight. But this time, the UW coaching staff decided it would be beneficial to cut practice a bit down. Earlier in the day, the team practiced nearly two and a half hours. Wednesday night, they practiced about 80 minutes.

"What we did tonight is backed off," Bielema said. "We've now gone straight pads all the way since last Friday. So, I really felt that we could get the better practice being fully equipped but we downscaled on the number of reps trying to keep the guys a little bit fresh."

Players slowly returning from injury:

Since practice has been open to the media, a number of players have yet to practice. However, with each passing session, more and more players are slowly regaining their health well enough to participate.

On Wednesday night, Mike Taylor, Bradie Ewing and Jon Budmayr were able to partake in practice.

"We're starting to get guys out there," Bielema said. "Mike Taylor, you know, we don't have a quarterback on defense, he's just running around in the green jersey. So, good to see him back out there.

"Then we're starting to work some of those guys. Bradie Ewing got back into the mix, Anthony Mains practiced this morning. Some of those guys who were nicked and strained can get back out and work."

But, some other players did not return to action Wednesday night. Brendan Kelly and Conor O'Neill were still sidelined with sore groins. And, of course, John Moffitt and Bill Nagy have yet to return from their respective injuries.

Then finally, Jake Bscherer was sidelined from both practices due to an illness. Bielema seemed to think he would be able to return tomorrow.

Breaking news via Twitter:

Following Tuesday's practice, Bielema made an announcement via Twitter that Gabe Carimi was only going to miss two weeks of practice. After being carted off the field in obvious pain, the injury seemed to be a lot worse than it wound up being. Bielema just wanted to put an end to any speculation.

"When we came off the field, they (the trainers) thought it was what it was," Bielema said. "But, I didn't want to comment to you guys and have it be….The reason I tweeted was because I wanted to end speculation. We go around and around about you guys being in the media….but one of the things I want to do is have correct information.

"I actually called Gabe, he was down in the training room, I said, 'Hey, you got relatives all over the country.' He's got people following him so I didn't want people sitting there worrying. So, I tweeted. To my aid. I never thought I was going to be able to do that."

Freshmen linebackers making noise:

Throughout the first week and a half of camp, Chris Borland a freshman linebacker from Ohio, has had his name called plenty of times. But it's not just him that is making an impact so far in camp.

"I like them," Bielema said. "I liked them through the recruiting process and Nick Hill, is actually a walk-on, so we were really able to get one there for us. I think Borland will play. We did talk about Nick Hill and Conor O'Neill, one of those two being able to play. A.J. Fenton to me, if you really watch the linebacker play the last three or four days, has jumped up."

This is really the first class of incoming linebackers to have as big an impact since DeAndre Levy, Jonathan Casillas and Jaevery McFadden came in. Naturally then, this freshmen class is beginning to draw comparisons.

"I'm sure they will," Bielema said. "You've got the Milwaukee kid in Nick Hill just like DeAndre was. He's kind of like that demeanor too. He doesn't say boo. He just goes about his business. Don't tell that to DeAndre, but he's probably a better athlete than Dre was at that time.

"Then you got Borland and that crew, so it is hopefully better."

Working the kickoff units:

During both practices Wednesday, a great amount of time was spent working the new punt formation and kickoff plans. After finishing so low on the totem pole a season ago in those departments, it is easy to see why so many reps are designated to the special teams.

"We're trying to work guys through there and find out who can do it," Bielema said. "Kickoff return is a unique block. It's the one time on the field where you have to take on a full speed cover person. You're usually at a very slow pace or even standing still when you're getting ready to make contact.

"It's a difficult thing. You have to be under control, almost like making a tackle, yet you can't grab or hold."

Team bonding at the hotel:

The football team will spend both Wednesday and Thursday nights at a hotel somewhere in the Madison area. In an attempt to build chemistry among the team, the players will be rooming with a player from a completely opposite background.

"Coach Kerry Cooks had a great quote the other day," Bielema said. "When I had all the coaches get up and talk about certain areas of our program, he made a little reference to getting outside your comfort zone. When you grow as a man, is when you are outside of your comfort zone. Do something that is going to put you there.

"So, we're going to be outside our comfort zone tonight. I'm going to put guys from opposite ends of the state, opposite ends of the country, big, little, white, black. We're going to have a good mixture out there."

During the stay, the players actually have a makeshift assignment that requires them to find out things about their new roommate. Things such as middle name, where they live, etc, will be the main draw.

"Tomorrow, I'll bring them up front like a little quiz show," Bielema said. "And find out if they got the right answers."

The Badgers return to practice yet again tomorrow afternoon. And, as always, will be there to provide coverage.

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