MADISON, Wis. - Though the quarterback position gets the majority of the publicity, the rest of the Wisconsin football team continues to chug along with the season opener a week and a half away.
With practice closed to the media for the first time since August 17th, the coaching staff felt it necessary to go through another extended scrimmage Wednesday evening. After Saturday's interception fest that saw each of the three quarterbacks in the fold for the starting slot thrown picks, Wednesday's went much smoother.
According to Bielema, there were no interceptions thrown whatsoever.
"What a difference a couple of days make," Bielema said. "With the interceptions we had on Saturday to where we are today, we almost went through the exact same scrimmage, the exact same situations and didn't have one interception the whole day.
"So, that's a positive sign in the right direction. Not only did the quarterbacks play better, I think the people around them, the receivers, all came through."
Bielema also acknowledged the defense played well during the scrimmage. He did not go into many specifics, but it seemed he was pleased with the way they were able to bounce back from the big plays they gave up as a unit Saturday afternoon.
On Thursday, Bielema will issue Northern Illinois scouting reports and start practicing with the scout team as NIU. On Friday, the team may undergo another double day with a mock game situation during the second practice.
With the opener 10 days out, three members of the starting offensive line are still not back to full go as they recover from their respective injuries. John Moffitt (pectoral), Bill Nagy (heel) and Gabe Carimi (knee) all possess the possibility of returning for the opener, but some progress still needs to be made.
"We had a medical meeting today with my staff," Bielema said. "But they were modified. Moffitt and Nagy were modified in practice beforehand, Carimi didn't. He did a lot of work individually with trainers, but hasn't stepped into a team situation yet.
"As far as them, I doubt we get any of them before Friday. But we'll take Saturday off and come in Sunday. We'll have at least two of the three back on Sunday."
With injury comes opportunity:
One of the motto's the team preaches is 'next man in.' Since the three members of the offensive line suffered injuries, several young players have been given the opportunity to impress the coaching staff and gain valuable reps.
Ricky Wagner, a tight end turned left tackle, Travis Frederick, Kevin Zeitler and Ryan Groy have all been able to make a name for themselves throughout fall camp. And in the two and a half weeks since the camp opener, much progress has been made.
"As I sat back there and watched, that first week was a little rough," Bielema said. "You got guys in there doing it for the first time with the ones, against our one defense. I think we kind of threw them into the fire, which is paying dividends now.
"Ricky Wagner has been going against J.J. Watt and O'Brien Schofield and has really been playing well now because of it. I think our O-line as a group may have taken a bigger jump in the last two weeks than anybody on the football team."
With the release of the depth chart expected Thursday morning, it is only natural to inquire about redshirts and the possibility of freshmen contributing right away.
Throughout the first two plus weeks of camp, some freshman (Chris Borland, Frederick) have heard their named mentioned plenty. However, Bielema believes a number of other young players have a chance to get into the mix along with those two.
"We got a good idea and I think you guys know those," Bielema said. "On defense for sure Chris Borland, Dezmen Southward and Josh Peprah made some really nice plays today. Up front, we may have a few guys. Maybe a Jordan Kohout, a David Gilbert, we haven't closed the door on that.
"On offense, Kraig Appleton is in the mix in the wide receiver position, Montee Ball at the running back position. Then up front, Travis Frederick and Ryan Groy, both of those guys potentially. Then some guys like Brian Wozniak as a tight end on the outside. Those guys all kind of on the bubble, some peripheral guys."
New faces returning kicks:
Bielema has said he would like to take some of the workload off of David Gilreath so he is able to focus more on his task as a wide receiver. Following Wednesday's practice, he let several reporters know who has been able to make some noise returning kicks to this point.
"It's a work in progress," Bielema said. "There's a couple of guys that excite us. Nick Toon back there, he's a big body that runs downhill. Marcus Cromartie surprisingly. He's a guy that's done it in high school.
"A guy that you might see back there with them is Bradie Ewing and Chris Borland because they can catch it and they get going north and south."
Captains via Twitter:
The team held a vote for team captains Tuesday night. While Bielema acknowledged he had an opportunity to tally the votes, he said he may use Twitter to make the captains known to the public.
"Follow Twitter," Bielema said. "You might find out. Captains might be tonight, but I'm not meeting with the team until 10. So, if you go to bed before 10:30, you might be out of luck."
UW returns to practice Thursday afternoon.
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