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Fall Camp Update: Bielema dishes on the Badgers

MADISON - Head coach Bret Bielema addressed reporters Tuesday, following what he described as a physical practice for the Wisconsin football team.

Bielema did not sound pleased with some of the sloppy play he witnessed on both sides of the ball. He said he is looking forward to seeing how the team responds after a night off. The Badgers will meet Wednesday afternoon and then play a mock game Wednesday evening under the lights at Camp Randall Stadium.

"We'll do as close as we can to hitting every phase of the offense, defense and special teams," Bielema said. "Unique situations, onside hands team, blocked punts, blocked field goals, fake field goals, fake punts."

Bielema was happy to report that several Badgers have gotten healthy over the past few days. He said redshirt freshman running back Jeff Lewis should return to practice at some point this week after aggravating an existing hand injury.


Bielema also addressed various pieces of the team's depth chart, which was released following Monday's practice. While the two-deep features nothing shocking, it is noteworthy that Bielema opted to go with veterans Jared Abbrederis and James White as his return men. The plan is to have both players on the field for kickoff returns.

"What we learned last year is that, especially after the Ohio State and Iowa games, they started kicking away from David (Gilreath) a lot," Bielema explained. "What we like to do is have two guys back there that can field the ball."

Co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Charlie Partridge emphatically confirmed that sophomore walk-on Ethan Hemer's name was not accidentally listed with the rest of the first-stringers.

"He is our starter right now," Partridge said. "He started seven games last year after Jordan (Kohout) got hurt and really did a nice job and hasn't relinquished control of that starting spot since he's been in there."

Hemer has held off both Kohout and Beau Allen in his bid to start alongside senior captain Patrick Butrym Sept. 1.

"(Kohout's) not quite 100 percent," Partridge allowed. "And Beau Allen's really performing at a high level, too. But Ethan Hemer's taken advantage of all those reps and he's playing at a really high level." 

Bielema spoke about the always-pressing issue of quarterback depth. Despite being listed as the team's backup on Monday's depth chart, sophomore Jon Budmayr won't know until Thursday whether he needs right elbow surgery that could sideline him for the entire season.

In such a scenario, an injury to starter Russell Wilson would be a frightening proposition. Still, Bielema remains optimistic.

"Depending on how the game is and where the game is, Nate (Tice) can get you in and out of some situations," Bielema said, referring to the senior transfer. "Between Joe Brennan and Joel Stave, one of the benefits of Jon's bad situation is they've gotten a lot of quality reps and have improved a great deal. I'm really excited about both of them. If we had to play a game tomorrow, we'd probably go more with Joe Brennan."

Bielema indicated that, in a perfect world, Stave would redshirt in 2011.

Not every true freshman will go that route, however. Bielema said he expects contributions this season from several rookies, including linebacker Derek Landisch, cornerback Darius Hillary, running back Melvin Gordon and at least one true freshman from a green group of wide receivers.

The pass-catching depth remains uncertain behind starters Nick Toon and Jared Abbrederis and Bielema hasn't been blown away by anyone else, including sophomore Jeff Duckworth. One reporter asked whether Duckworth could be called "dependable."

"At times," Bielema said. "Not quite yet. A little bit inconsistent maybe with some of the details, sometimes catching the ball, also just where he needs to be, especially in red zone situations. I think, once he tastes it a little bit, that confidence is going to go through the roof."

Bielema said he is hopeful sophomore Manasseh Garner, who has missed time after undergoing hernia surgery, could return to practice as early as next week. Garner was initially expected to miss the opener against UNLV, but he would be the third wide receiver if healthy.

Serious injuries to freshmen Marquis Mason and Chase Hammond leave redshirt freshmen Isaiah Williams and Connor Cummins and true freshmen Kenzel Doe and Jordan Fredrick to pick up the slack.

"All those guys are in this little basket of availability," Bielema said. "I'm waiting for one of them to kind of shoot to the top."


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