CHICAGO — The University of Wisconsin football team had only one significant injury during spring practices, but it was a big one.
Sophomore quarterback Curt Phillips tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during the first spring scrimmage on March 20, leaving redshirt freshman Jon Budmayr to back up senior starter Scott Tolzien.
Now, Phillips will take part in drills when camp opens on Aug. 9 and could play somewhere around the start of Big Ten Conference play on Oct. 2.
That was one piece of positive injury updates provided by UW coach Bret Bielema at the conference’s football media days on Monday.
“Curt Phillips is going to join us,” Bielema said of camp practices. “He’ll be in some type of modified drills. He’s dropping back, he’s throwing, he’s ahead of the schedule in the rehab department.”
Bielema admitted the start of conference play “might be pushing it a little bit,” but added, “Curt is just a hard charger and I know he’ll want to be back there sooner than later.”
Three other key sophomores and possible starters who missed all of spring drills — linebackers Mike Taylor and Chris Borland, as well as center Peter Konz — also have been cleared for camp.
Taylor, who suffered a torn ACL against Iowa on Oct. 17, might be limited at the start and will be held out of the second practices on two-a-days.
“His knee is feeling really good,” Bielema said. “We don’t want to aggravate it, because once you aggravate it, it gets that way (nagging problem).”
Konz suffered from blood clots in his lungs, which were discovered prior to the Hawaii game late last season. He couldn’t practice in the spring while still on medication but was “100 percent cleared” near the start of summer workouts.
Borland, the freshman of the year in the Big Ten last season, was sidelined after shoulder surgery.
“I doubt Chris will be (limited), just because he doesn’t like to be,” Bielema said. “He’ll get pissed.”
Freshman make impression
Bielema likes to get updates from the veteran players about the incoming freshmen during the summer months. One of them was a text message from senior safety Jay Valai about freshman defensive tackle Beau Allen.
Valai texted Bielema that Allen is one of the freshmen who gets it.
“Good players recognize good players,” Bielema said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean watching their skill set, it’s just the way they carry themselves, the way they do drill work. I think that makes a big statement.”
Other freshmen who have made a quick impression are linebackers Cameron Ontko and Josh Harrison, brothers Michael Trotter (safety) and Marcus Trotter (linebacker), and defensive lineman Kyle Costigan.
Bielema revealed a change to the way he is splitting up special teams coaching duties.
Defensive line coach Charlie Partridge will handle kickoff and punt coverages. Previously, Bielema said new nickel backs coach Greg Jackson would take the kickoff team.
But Bielema, who is giving up control of special teams after three years, wants to give Jackson time to get comfortable with the defense.
“Charlie actually ran all four special teams at Pitt,” Bielema said. “When I hired Charlie, I actually thought about naming him special teams coordinator. Really wanted to give him a chance to model the D-line into what it is.
“He really felt now, the way he’s got the D-line structured and (the players) he’s got involved, he can take on an additional role of running those two units.”
Tight ends coach Joe Rudolph will handle kickoff return as he continues to be groomed as the successor to offensive coordinator Paul Chryst.
“Joe Rudolph is a rising star in this profession,” Bielema said. “I want to give him something that allows him to take a coordinator-type position, see what he does with it.
“I’m not oblivious to the fact Paul Chryst is a very good coach and I’ve got to prepare for the unexpected. I just want to see what Joe does in that type of situation.”
New defensive backs coach Chris Ash will handle the punt return unit.
Three leave team
Offensive tackle Joe Schafer and wide receiver T.J. Williams have left the team, along with defensive lineman Shelby Harris, who was one of three players indefinitely suspended in the offseason. That leaves linebacker Nick Hill, recovering from an undisclosed injury, as the only player remaining from the suspended players.