Spring Rewind: Quarterbacks struggle, defensive line shows depth

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first_imgA.J. Fenton (left) proved he can make plays all over the field Saturday, recording four tackles and an interception in the spring game.[/media-credit]With spring camp over and done with, the Wisconsin football team is now gearing up for summer conditioning before practice resumes for fall camp.Here’s a look back at how spring camp went for the Badgers with a position-by-position breakdown.Quarterbacks:How the Badgers replace quarterback Scott Tolzien is the single biggest question surrounding the team this offseason. Redshirt sophomore Jon Budmayr has a firm handle on the starting job, but that isn’t based solely on his performance this spring.Curt Phillips was participating in passing drills while recovering from ACL surgery, but the redshirt junior has been ruled out for the year after a minor procedure revealed more damage. Redshirt freshman Joe Brennan is still mastering the playbook and working on refining his delivery, while newcomer Joel Stave is still adjusting to college in just his first semester on campus.That leaves Budmayr as the clear choice to start for UW in the fall. He’s shown flashes with his strong arm and accurate deep ball, but the 6-foot Budmayr threw a ton of interceptions this spring, in addition to having numerous balls batted down at the line. The Badger offense is still adjusting to its new signal caller, and Budmayr will have to develop more consistency and better appreciation for ball security if the Badgers want to compete at the top of the conference.Running backs:Montee Ball slimmed down, James White added lower body strength and the entire UW offense is reaping the benefits. Ball and White had productive springs and the two running backs are set for even better seasons in 2011. Zach Brown and Jeff Lewis will also provide running backs coach Thomas Hammock with tremendous depth and versatility.Tight ends:Jake Byrne has emerged as the leader of the group and will work as the primary blocking tight end on the line of scrimmage. Byrne has the ability to make plays over the middle in the passing game, but redshirt sophomore Jacob Pederson will fill the playmaking void left by Lance Kendricks. Pedersen was a reliable target all spring at the H-back position, making tough catches in traffic and stretching the defense as a downfield threat. Brian Wozniak and Sherard Cadogan fought through injuries to see reps this spring, and both have shown promise heading into fall.Wide receivers:When Nick Toon returns from injury, he and Jared Abbrederis will be the clear No. 1 and No. 2 wideouts. However, the Badgers still need to find third and fourth options. Manasseh Garner impressed with his combination of size and athleticism, and he also has the ability to play both wide receiver and tight end. Jeff Duckworth and Isaiah Williams had their ups and downs, and both will continue to battle for playing time.Offensive line:Despite losing left tackle Gabe Carimi and left guard John Moffitt, the O-line found some stability in spring camp. Ricky Wagner and Travis Frederick settled in to those two positions, respectively, and Peter Konz led the group from his center position before suffering a leg injury late in camp. Kevin Zeitler had a solid spring at right guard, so the only real uncertainty lies at right tackle. Redshirt freshman Rob Havenstein showed better mobility and continued to maul defenders with his 343-pound frame, and he overtook Casey Dehn for the first-team spot. But fifth-year senior Josh Oglesby wasn’t able to practice all spring and will make a run at regaining his starting spot when he returns.Defensive line:If spring camp made one thing clear, it’s the D-line has plenty of depth. The Badgers have a steady rotation set for fall camp at both end and tackle, and they’ll have plenty of bodies ready to man the trenches. Pass rushing is the major concern, but ends Louis Nzegwu and David Gilbert continued to progress in that area throughout the spring, and both Patrick Butrym and Jordan Kohout created more pressure from their tackle positions.Linebackers:This position group took a big step forward this spring under new linebackers coach Dave Huxtable. Mike Taylor finally looked to be back to 100 percent, and Kevin Claxton brought tremendous physicality as he looks to crack the starting lineup at the opposite outside linebacker position. Marcus Trotter filled in admirably for the injured Chris Borland at middle linebacker, and both Connor O’Neill and A.J. Fenton showed they could make plays in pass coverage with their athleticism, as well as against the run, thanks to some added weight.Secondary:Free safety Aaron Henry established himself as one of the leaders of the defense this spring with his physical play every practice, while fellow seniors Antonio Fenelus and Devin Smith are set at the starting cornerback positions. Shelton Johnson and Dezmen Southward competed throughout camp to work as the first-team strong safety, and Southward made a strong push late to seemingly gain an edge over Johnson, but that battle should continue well into the fall.Specialists:Kicker Phillip Welch and punter (as well as fellow senior) Brad Nortman have plenty of experience, and they’ll be counted on for productive final seasons this fall. In the return game, true freshman wide receiver Kenzel Doe was given a chance to show off his speed, but head coach Bret Bielema revealed Abbrederis would be his return man if he had to make the decision right now.last_img read more