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B5Q Two-a-Days: Linebackers down, but not out

Taylor's surgery goes well; Sorensen hopes to be back by Monday

Editor's note: Practice is open to the media this week and I had a chance to get up to Madison this morning for the first of two practices today. I will also be at practice this evening. Be sure to follow @B5Q on Twitter for the latest updates.

Injuries continue to be an issue for the Badgers as we are in the middle of what J.J. Watt described as "grind week" after practice Wednesday.

Starting strong safety Jay Valai missed today's morning practice and had his right leg wrapped up while using one crutch to get around. He was not made available to the media, but head coach Bret Bielema is expected to provide an injury update after tonight's practice, which starts at 7:30.

Reserve safety Conor O'Neill also missed practice Wednesday so third-year sophomore Shelton Johnson worked with the first-team defense.

Meanwhile, senior linebacker Blake Sorensen missed practice for a third straight day with a right calf injury. He could miss the rest of the week.

"It's kind of hard. I don't know when it is going to feel better," Sorensen said after practice. "So I'd say at least by Monday, but we'll see how it feels. Hopefully the sooner the better."

Sorensen is already filling in for starting outside linebacker Mike Taylor who underwent a second surgery on his right knee Tuesday. It was a minor surgery and Sorensen was upbeat about Taylor's return.

"I know the surgery went really well. [Taylor] is actually pretty upbeat. It's not going to be too long before he's back out there so he's feeling pretty good," Sorensen said.

Junior Kevin Rouse filled in for Sorensen on the first team.


The Badgers ended practice with a full-contact (except for quarterbacks) scrimmage and the first team offense, specifically John Clay, looked great.

Clay opened the scrimmage with a crushing blow on Rouse, who attempted to tackle the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and probably regretted it. Clay gained 11 yards on what a UW official said was his first "live play" of camp.

"That's what happens when you try to tackle a 270 pound running back," Sorensen said in jest about Rouse.

Asked if he and his teammates razzed Rouse for taking the big blow, Sorensen said: "We will. We kind of let him cool down a little bit but we will tonight."

Clay sat out Saturday's scrimmage so today was the first time he played full contact since his ankle surgeries in the offseason. Considering he gained 55 yards on seven carries on a 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive against UW's No. 1 defense, it's safe to say Clay is ready to go for 2010.

Backup running back Montee Ball also was impressive, gaining 25 yards on a total of five carries on two drives with the No. 1 offense. He ended the second drive with a flashy 11-yard touchdown run.

Meanwhile, it appears that true freshman James White has passed third-string running back Zach Brown on the depth chart. White received most of the carries with the second team Wednesday morning and is also getting reps as the kick/punt returner.

White gained 39 yards on six carries against UW's No. 2 defense in Wednesday's scrimmage session. Brown only received three carries and gained a total of five yards.

Quarterback Scott Tolzien only attempted three passes and completed all of them for a total of 19 yards. It was obvious that UW was working on its running game and the No. 1 offensive line was incredibly effective.

As practiced ended, Bielema very loudly told his team to get used to the fact that they were going to run the ball behind the very strong left side of the O-line, led by senior tackle Gabe Carimi and senior guard John Moffitt.


While the whole world knows what Wisconsin does on offense, the defense sported a new look Wednesday that few have seen before.

At times, the defense went with only three defensive linemen and ran a 3-3-5 defense. With UW's lack of depth on the line and its level of athleticism at linebacker and in the secondary, it makes sense to at least try it out.

"Just mixing in some new things," linebacker Chris Borland said about the 3-3-5. "Just trying to keep the defense fluid and versatile. We have the personnel to do it and the coaches have done a great job drawing it up."

Both Borland and Watt said the 3-3-5 is something they will only use in certain situations.

But Borland, who Sorensen described as a "freak" Wednesday, was obviously loving the new defensive look as he got into the backfield a number of times on blitzes.

"The kid does backflips," Sorensen said about his teammate. "He can do anything you ask him to do. He's just a freak. Just a ball of muscle."

Borland is an undersized linebacker and may have snuck up on teams last year en route to earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors. It's safe to say opponents will be prepared for him this season, but he doesn't anticipate a sophomore slump.

"I'll definitely never be past the reputation of being undersized but I don't think I'll be sneaking up on anybody this year, but it doesn't bother me," he said. "If they thought they had me figured out last year, if I've improved, then I'm a different player. Every year is a new year."

Bielema said before camp that Borland could be limited in camp after shoulder surgery in the offseason, but so far he hasn't.

"We're almost two weeks in and I haven't been limited and I don't feel bad so I don't anticipate it," Borland said.


Reserve tight end Brian Wozniak left practice during the scrimmage when he was hit by free safety Dezmen Southward after catching a nine-yard pass from Jon Budmayr ... Reserve freshman Tyler Dippel did not practice Wednesday and had his left leg wrapped up ... Two likely first-teamers, offensive guard Kevin Zeitler (ankle) and defensive tackle Jordan Kohout (knee), continue to sit out practice.

The Badgers hit the field again Wednesday night. Follow Bucky's 5th Quarter on Twitter for the latest news and updates.