By TOM LEA
MADISON – It was just one exercise in the middle of April, but it seemed as though the Wisconsin coaching staff has some ideas in regard to future punt returners.
Jared Abbrederis, who did not return to practice even though Bret Bielema alluded to the possibility of his spring practice debut happening Tuesday afternoon, was UW’s punt return man a season ago, and a fine one at that.
But since he’s been injured through nine of UW’s 15 practices, somebody is going to need to fill that void at some point.
So though this probably needs to be taken with a grain of salt, it was still intriguing to see four players — wide receiver’s A.J. Jordan and Kenzel Doe and defensive back’s Terrance Floyd and Darius Hillary — return kicks for UW.
Of those four players, only Floyd, a redshirt freshman, botched one. Otherwise the remaining returners didn’t have a problem fielding punts.
QUARTERBACKS LOOKING BETTER
To say Joe Brennan and Joel Stave — UW’s lone healthy signal callers — have undergone an up and down spring camp might be putting it lightly. Both players have missed throws and made throws. They’ve thrown interceptions and touchdowns. In short, both Brennan and Stave have looked like the young, inexperienced players they are.
But they looked a bit better Tuesday night.
There were still some issues when throwing the ball downfield (Brennan threw an interception to Floyd and Hillary and Stave overthrew a seemingly open Jeff Duckworth) but for the most part both quarterbacks looked more confident and poised than they did during Saturday’s 80-play scrimmage, one that saw just one touchdown pass that might not have even counted because it looked like Brennan would have been sacked before delivering the pass.
Stave quarterbacked the No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense during ‘move the ball’ drills to end Tuesday’s practice. He completed 3-of-4 passes for approximately 26 yards, including a 15-yard strike to junior tight end Jacob Pedersen.
The drive only stalled out when Stave barely overthrew Duckworth on a third and eight play that looked as though it could strike for a big play.
Brennan, who’s second interception only happened after Jordan let the ball sail right through his hands, completed 2-of-3 passes during his nine-play drive, one that featured a heavy emphasis on getting the ball in the hands of up and coming running back Melvin Gordon.
PLAY OF THE DAY
Though it cost sophomore wide receiver Chase Hammond the remainder of his practice, his catch early on signified a change in guard for a position that has been just as streaky as the quarterbacks.
His leaping, fully extended catch over Floyd marked the finest catch of the day and maybe even spring camp. He caught the ball in traffic and at its highest point, doing so in such a manner where he gave up control of his body. His resultant crash to the Camp Randall turf resonated throughout the barren stadium, but he held on for an impressive 30-plus yard snare.
Though he stayed down for a handful of minutes following the catch, Hammond was able to walk off the field under his own power. He did not return to practice.
-Junior tight end Jacob Pedersen returned to practice. He caught a couple of passes throughout his first appearance without any limitations. He had been battling a sports hernia throughout the first half of camp.
-Derek Landisch, who continues playing with a clubbed right hand since suffering a fracture during Thursday’s practice, was stout in pass coverage during skeleton drills. Though live tackling wasn’t an option Tuesday evening, the sophomore was in position most every time to make a tackle on a crossing wide receiver for a minimal gain had he been able to hit.
-Senior quarterback Curt Phillips threw an pick-six to Shelton Johnson during 7-on-7 skeleton drills. It appeared he threw behind A.J. Jordan, but Johnson made a great read on the play.
-The Badgers return to the practice field Thursday afternoon.