MADISON - For the first time all week, the Wisconsin football team had the misfortune of succumbing to the fits of Mother Nature.
With heavy rainfall in the area, and scattered lightning present, head coach Bret Bielema decided to move Friday's night session inside the trusty confines of the McClain Center.
The fifth-year head coach also stuck to his word as he gave the team a bit of a break and allowed them to practice in just shoulder pads, shorts and helmets. The session was also a bit shorter than the team had been accustomed to as practice was over shortly past nine after starting around 7:30.
"Its amazing when you give these guys a little break like that how good they feel," Bielema said following practice. "I thought there was good tempo out there today. We were practicing specific situations there, particularly at the end of the game."
During most team drills, it seemed the offense was given a set situation it had to overcome to reach success. Whether it was red zone drills or two-minute drills, there was always some situation the offense was dealt.
For the most part, both sides of the ball held up pretty well. The offense scored a couple of touchdowns and the defense was able to steal a couple of interceptions or found a way to buckled down and shut the offense out.
In general, both sides performed pretty well throughout Friday's shortened scrimmage.
Late in practice, Devin Smith broke on a tipped pass and tried to scoop it up before it fell to the ground. In doing so, the redshirt junior found himself in an awkward position, one where it looked like his foot locked into the turf and his knee bent in an unenviable manner.
After staying on the ground and clutching at his right knee in obvious agony, Smith was able to stand up with the help of the trainers and walk away on his own.
"Everything was there," Bielema said. "I think it scared him. Anytime you have something that's not right and you haven't felt that before
but everything checked out over there for him."
Jake Current, a backup offensive lineman, will miss around a month after undergoing knee surgery Friday afternoon. The injury, according to Bielema, seemed to be one the junior sustained a while back, but only recently started affecting the Ohio native.
As a result, and according to NCAA rules, Alex Dietzen was called up to practice with the rest of the team as Current recovers from his injury.
"He basically had some tears in there," Bielema said. "They went in there and he had some pretty significant repair. The good news is I think he'll be back within three to four weeks."
Important Saturday scrimmage:
Following Friday's night session, Bielema spent a decent amount of time making sure his players, particularly the young guys, understand the importance of playing well during Saturday's scrimmage.
Only two weeks out from opening day, Saturday will provide the coaching staff the fuel it needs to sit down and decide who the players will be that will actually contribute this season, and who will need more time to develop and learn the system.
The staff will meet Sunday for an elongated evaluation meeting to decide who will fall into the two deep.
"Last Sunday we kind of gathered and said these are the guys we can conceptionally see helping us," Bielema said. "Now, you have to really make (the decision) as to where we're going, the guys that will get reps and the guys we're counting on to make up our special teams."
With some injuries at some key spots (Jay Valai, Mike Taylor, etc) Saturday's scrimmage will open some doors for some younger role players to step up and make a push for a spot in the rotation.
"Some safety has to step up," Bielema said. "Whoever that's going to be, whether it be Josh Peprah, Shelton Johnson, Adam Hampton and the young linebackers between Kevin Rouse and A.J. Fenton, that's going to be an exciting time."
Scholarships to some walk ons:
Usually about two weeks out to the opener, Bielema and his staff sit down and delegate available scholarships to deserving walk on contributors. In the past, players such as Chris Maragos and Will Hartmann received the honor.
This year, with players such as Jared Abbrederis making a strong push at a scholarship, Bielema will have to sit down with the NCAA and determine exactly how many scholarships he has available to hand out to his guys.
When a players such as Shelby Harris sign a letter of intent only to lose his scholarship for some other reason, the team must wait for him to move to another institution before it can assign that scholarship to someone else. So essentially, the number of scholarships available to walk ons is a moving one at this point.
"The scholarship count is in a moving transition," Bielema said. "Usually I give out all the ones I've got. Last year I think I had five and I gave out every one of them. Someone else's loss is someone else's gain."
-John Clay will not participate in Saturday's scrimmage. The redshirt junior did not participate in team drills Friday night as he spent the majority of the evening with strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert doing conditioning work.
-Jordan Kohout returned to practice Friday night. Following practice, Bielema was unsure whether he would be able to play Saturday.
-Eriks Briedis will give tomorrow a shot, but Bielema was unsure how much he'd get out of the redshirt sophomore defensive tackle.
-Blake Sorensen jumped into team situation drills at the end of practice. Depending on how he responds tomorrow morning will determine whether he participates in the scrimmage.
Towards the end of Friday's morning practice, Travis Frederick replaced Peter Konz at the center position because Konz was having issues with errant snaps.
During the night practice, Konz was back with the No. 1 offense. Bielema said the move was made because Bob Bostad was essentially trying to send the sophomore a message.
"I wasn't paying attention and I thought Konz had maybe gotten hurt," Bielema said. "Bostad said he had three erratic snaps. The good news is we've got depth there. Pete is by no means anointed the starting center or anointed to be the only guy that can snap the football for us.
"He needs to get that corrected and move on."
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