March 18, 2010

Badgers enjoy outdoor practice yet again

MADISON - For the second time this week the Wisconsin football team practiced on the turf inside Camp Randall. And also for the second time this week, the team was graced by great weather.

With temperatures topping out in the 60's, UW completed practice No. 4 of 15 in approximately two hours.

The following is a report from Thursday's practice.

Claxton fitting into new position:

When Bielema conducted a coach-player interview with Kevin Claxton and asked the junior whether he would welcome a move from safety to linebacker, Claxton was quick to respond.

"I saw it as a chance for me to step in and help the team get better," Claxton said following Thursday's practice. "I was all for it when coach asked me to do it."

During 11-on-11 drills near the end of practice, Claxton filled a gap on third and two and delivered Zach Brown a solid pop that echoed throughout Camp Randall. Though the team was only wearing shoulder pads and shorts, the hit still dropped Brown in quick fashion.

As can be expected, several of Claxton's defensive teammates immediately mobbed him following the play.

Understanding that was only one play of a given practice, Claxton has been rather impressive at the position in the early stages of spring camp. He runs around with a physical demeanor and does not shy away from contact.

Having never played linebacker before, however, will make the transition from safety take a little longer to fully fulfill. Claxton is aware of that.

"I would say it's a little bit easier at safety because you don't have to worry about the run so much," Claxton said when asked about learning coverage sets at the two positions. "At linebacker you've got the run first and if it's not a run you've got to worry about getting to your points.

"I would say it's easier at safety."

Now, nearly a week into camp, Claxton says the playbook is starting to come along rather well.

"Being a safety I had to make those calls to the linebacker last year," Claxton said. "I'm kind of putting it all together and it's coming along pretty good."

Special work:

Towards the end of each practice, UW head coach Bret Bielema likes to have the punters come in and work on the punting aspect of the game. On Thursday, with a rather stiff breeze at their back, both Brad Nortman and Ryan Wickesberg performed pretty well.

David Gilreath, who received all the punts with no rush and no return, also seemed to have no problems reeling the ball in, even though the sight angles were a bit testy with the sun setting behind Camp Randall.

Only once did Nortman mishandle a snap during the period. Had the coaching staff not blown the whistle, Adam Hampton[/db[ probably would have blocked the punt.

Otherwise, Nortman and Wickesberg had a quick get off time combined with pretty solid distance and hang time, Nortman especially.

Highlight's and quick hits from 11-on-11 work:

-[db]Scott Tolzien only worked one series following the period of punt work in Thursday's practice. He finished by completing both of his two passes, one a 17-yard post to Gilreath and the other a five-yard check down to Brown.

He also handed the ball off three separate times, twice to Montee Ball and once to Brown. On a first and 10 play, Kevin Rouse sacked Tolzien when the pocket collapsed on a heavy blitz from the defense.

-Jon Budmayr, practicing with the No. 2 offensive unit, ended his day with an interception after Jared Abbrederis had a ball leak through his hands and into the arms of Marcus Cromartie.

Though that was an unfortunate way for the redshirt freshman to end his practice, he also had a couple of nice plays. He lofted a perfect touch pass to a streaking Bradie Ewing down the sideline that went for 50-plus yards when Cromartie and Shelton Johnson got mixed up in the coverage scheme.

-Curt Phillips looked better than he has all week throwing the ball. He did, however, make a poor decision on third and eight inside the red zone when he forced a ball into Isaac Anderson who was sealed in tight coverage. Culmer St. Jean eventually intercepted the pass near the goal line and turned it up field for a decent return.

-Jeff Duckworth, who has been somewhat quiet so far this spring, caught a couple of quick screens and turned them into a nice gain with some shifty feet and quick moves.

-Louis Nzegwu continues to progress at defensive end. On one play the junior dropped Brown with a punishing hit as the senior tailback tried to rush off of left tackle.

-Antonio Fenelus made a couple of solid plays during the late scrimmage portion of practice, but also lost contain on a check down pass to Kyle Jefferson. As a result, the senior wide receiver turned it up field for a big gain. Fenelus was left to deal with the wrath of new secondary coach Chris Ash, who let the junior cornerback hear his thoughts of the play.

In attendance:

Both Marquis Mason and Drew McAdams were in attendance for Thursday's practice. That marks the second-straight practice Mason was present for. He also took in Tuesday's practice inside Camp Randall.

Up next:

The Badgers will have Friday off before returning to the field Saturday morning for practice No. 5 of 15.

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