The University of Wisconsin football team took part in its final practice on Thursday before next week's spring break for students. After taking next week off, the Badgers will return on April 6, with six more practices, leading up to the spring game on April 17.
The practice was held in full pads, inside the McClain Center. Here is a report from practice:
WELCOME BACK: Senior left tackle Gabe Carimi, who is returning from a knee injury, took part in his first full practice -- and it was an eventful one.
Carimi wasn't expected back until after the break but he did some individual drills on Tuesday and was cleared to return for the entire workout.
"I admire him," UW coach Bret Bielema said. "I know it's been eating at him not to be out here. Gabe's built himself into what he is off practice.
"He knew he wanted to get back out here. They originally told me after (the break), but I think he kind of surprised himself. He got out here Tuesday, did drills, really felt good and wanted to hop in. but I didn't think that was good."
It was an eventful practice for Carimi, who might have had some pent-up energy, getting in two scuffles.
First, sophomore cornerback Marcus Cromartie gave a shove, and Carimi responded, after a block that continued while the two were out of bounds.
But the main event, surprisingly enough, came between junior end J.J. Watt and Carimi. On a quarterback bootleg to the other side of the field, Carimi blocked down on Watt and the two wound up in a heap and started going at it rather heatedly on the turf.
While the two were rolling around, senior left guard Bill Nagy jumped into the fray, apparently coming to Carimi's aid. Watt ended up getting his helmet ripped off and did not look too pleased when it was over.
It's fairly unusual -- although not unheard of -- for two of the best players on the team to go at it like that.
"It’s good to see the Alphas going at it," offensive coordinator Paul Chryst cracked afterward.
Said Bielema: "I had to go down (in the locker room) and make them kiss and make up. I never forget my first year, Joe Thomas and Joe Monty went right at it, right in the middle of practice.
"I just came over and asked Joe Thomas, `What's that all about?' He said, `It needed to happen.' Sometimes they're better off doing that stuff."
MOVE THE BALL: Bielema was going to have a scrimmage session, but elected not to do it, because of the thin numbers at several positions.
But he did have a couple move-the-ball sessions -- minus the live tackling -- featuring the ones going against the ones and the twos going against the twos.
The first involved moving the ball away from the offense's own goal line, starting at the 2-yard line.
The No. 1 offense managed one first down -- coming on a 4-yard completion to Nick Toon on first down and a 6-yard run by Zach Brown. It was stopped when quarterback Scott Tolzien's pass on third-and-3 was incomplete to Kyle Jefferson, with cornerback Devin Smith providing tight coverage.
The second offense managed two first downs, coming on an 11-yard run by Kyle Zuleger on the first play and an 11-yard completion on a flanker screen from Jon Budmayr to Isaac Anderson. That drive ended with a third-down sack by freshman defensive end Warren Herring.
A red-zone session followed with the No. 2 offense once again moving the ball the best.
The No. 1 offense had a three-and-out, starting at the opponent's 18-yard line. It included a nice second-down stop by linebacker Kevin Rouse against Brown and a third-down sack by Louis Nzegwu against right tackle Josh Oglesby.
The No. 2 offense then took over at the 18 and scored in one play, coming on a play-action pass from Budmayr to Jeff Duckworth, who got behind Dezmen Southward.
The No. 2 offense got a second crack and scored in three plays, including runs of 9 and 7 yards, the latter for the touchdown, by Zuleger.
FINDING A HOME: After a couple impressive red-zone runs by Zuleger, a converted safety, running backs coach John Settle said the sophomore walk-on from Appleton East will remain at running back.
GETTING HELP: The Badgers hope to get several injured players back after the break. One of them is tight end Zach Davison, who has been out with an ankle injury.
Bielema said center-guard John Moffitt (hernia), probably won't be back until the final week of the spring. Redshirt freshman tight end Brian Wozniak, who suffered a slight knee injury in the scrimmage on Saturday, could return either the first week back or the following week.
Sophomore defensive end Brendan Kelly, who missed most of last season with a groin injury, probably won't be back until the final week of the spring.
"He's done a lot of work with our trainers, but he hasn't done (it against) live bodies (on the field)," Bielema said. "If he isn't full go that first week (back), I think he would be by the second week."
LINE DEPTH: One of the most impressive things from the first two weeks of practice has been the depth in the offensive line.
The Badgers were missing three starters before the return of Carimi, with sophomore center Peter Konz (blood clots) and Moffitt also out.
Nothing bogs down practice like an offensive line that can't block anybody, but that has not been the case. By the looks of it, the Badgers have still put two solid lines on the field.
"The good news is, because of the (injury) situation we found ourselves in last year, a lot of those guys have played," Bielema said. "I really think they benefited."
With Carimi back at left tackle, the rest of the line featured senior Bill Nagy at left guard, sophomore Travis Frederick at center, junior Kevin Zeitler at right guard and the junior Oglesby at right tackle.
The second line featured, from left to right, sophomore Ricky Wagner, redshirt freshman Zac Matthias, junior Jake Current, redshirt freshman Ryan Groy and sophomore Robert Burge.
"We need guys out there," Chryst said. "Guys have got to be practicing. So many things are good, no matter what time it is, (when) you can put the pads on and practice. It was really good to see (Carimi back)."
Bielema praised the progress of Wagner, who filled in for Carimi and is now the team's No. 3 tackle. Also, Bielema singled out the gains made by Current and Frederick.
"One thing we've been able to do is recruit big guys here," Bielema said. "Hopefully, that's going to continue."