MADISON - When Nick Toon was sidelined for a number of games last fall with a nagging turf toe injury it was obvious how frustrated the then junior was. Now, entering his senior campaign, the injury bug has cropped up yet again.
Toon, UW's most veteran receiver, will miss the entirety of spring camp with a fractured left foot. The injury is not related to his turf toe injury he endured to his right foot last fall.
"He had surgery on it last week," UW head coach Bret Bielema told reporters during his pre-spring camp press conference. "He came out of it very, very well. It's a common procedure that a lot of other wide receivers have had, even some high name guys over the past couple of years at the NFL Draft.
"He'll miss spring ball but he should be there for the entirety of summer conditioning."
Jared Abbrederis, UW's only other wide receiver with a good amount of experience, will likely be the No. 1 receiver during spring camp. Toon's injury leaves plenty of opportunity for several young receivers on the roster, which could be beneficial in the long run.
"Jeff Duckworth is really looking good through his winter conditioning," Bielema said. "There are a couple of freshman that have intrigued us. He's a big body that you can get a lot out of. Really, it's a bunch of walk-on guys and guys that haven't proven themselves to this point."
Though he won't be able to physically participate in spring camp, Toon will still take on the role of a coach. That will be essential considering he's the oldest and most experienced receiver out of the entire position.
"I'm actually excited to see how he handles that," Bielema said. "This is actually the first time he's really been in that position. Even though he's been a productive player for us when he's healthy, he's always had those three or four guys older than him with the guys that just left.
"So it's his first time in that position."
FROM THE INFIRMARY:
-Curt Phillips won't be involved in live situations this spring, but he will participate in passing drills without any sort of rush. Phillips suffered his second torn ACL in as many years midway through the 2010 season.
"There won't be any bodies around him," Bielema said. "But he can throw routes, work on timing and do different things."
-Offensive tackle Josh Oglesby will also miss live portions of spring camp, but like Phillips, will be able to participate in certain aspects of the spring practice schedule.
"He won't be able to be in live competition," Bielema said. "But hopefully he'll be able to participate in all the individual work."
-Freshman wide receiver Isaiah Williams will participate throughout spring drills, but his reps will be limited. Bielema did not disclose what his injury status was.
-Chris Borland and Ethan Armstrong are both recovering from off-season shoulder surgeries. They will each miss the entirety of spring practice.
"They won't be involved with live contact," Bielema said.
-Fellow linebacker Nick Hill will participate in certain aspects, but he won't be able to go during live portions of practice.
-Cornerback Jameson Wright had ACL surgery during the fall. According to Bielema he will be able to participate in a very limited fashion.
Because Oglesby is slowing rounding back into form following his injury, one area of concern on the offensive side of the ball rests at right tackle. Ricky Wagner, who played in Oglesby's absence a season ago, is now over at left tackle so the position vacated by Oglesby is now wide open.
Though it's early and camp will provide an opportunity for several players to gain valuable reps, it looks as though Casey Dehn has the early head start for playing time.
"He would probably be the first guy to line up there," Bielema said. "But (there is also) Robert Burge and Rob Havenstein. Robby Havenstein and Kyle Costigan both went through out of season knee injuries so he's just getting back into it. But Casey started a game so he's kind of got a natural lean. If Josh was healthy he'd obviously have a lean on that spot.
"But I'm excited because we've probably got four or five guys that are truly in contention over there."
Sophomore athlete Manasseh Garner has been moved to tight end. Towards the end of bowl practice, Garner was playing exclusively with the wide receivers. Though he's only been on campus for one season, Garner has gained a ton of experience playing multiple positions. The Pittsburgh native also played defensive end at various times a season ago.
Now, entering his first spring practice, Garner seems to have found a permanent home. At least for the time being.
Because both Borland and Armstrong are injured and are slated to miss the entirety of spring camp, Bielema and his defensive coaches are doing some shuffling around at the linebacker position.
During his pro day meeting with the press Bielema mentioned the idea of moving Borland to middle linebacker. With new linebacker coach Dave Huxtable running the more traditional Sam, Will and Mike linebacker scheme, it seems to make sense.
But in the meantime, look for several younger players to step up and get reps at that position.
"We talked a little bit about moving Mike Taylor around just because Chris isn't going to be out there," Bielema said. "But we're going to keep him right where we're at and let him be coached by Hux because he has never done that before.
"Kevin Claxton will be at Sam as well as A.J. Fenton and Nick Hill as he can get worked into it. At the middle we just have a host of young guys. We're going to move Chris in the during the fall, but Marcus Trotter, Josh Harrison and Cody Byers are all going to be in that middle linebacker spot.
"At Will linebacker we'll have Conor O'Neill. He might actually flip a little bit to Sam as well."
THE PRESSURE IS ON?
Junior Marcus Cromartie has been around the Wisconsin program for a number of years now. And for a number of years the athletic corner hasn't quite put it all together.
Now, entering his fourth year in the program, it seems as though the time is now for Cromartie to step up.
"He needs to get aboard," Bielema said. "He's shown signs of being very, very good. Last spring we were excited. The beginning part of fall camp he kind of sloughed off. I will say Marcus probably had one of the best winter conditioning sessions of our entire team.
"It is going to be a big one."
Bret Bielema on Mike Bruesewitz:
"I want to slap him in a tight end jersey so bad, especially after I saw him touch the big man (Jon Leuer) with his bleeding head. I thought that was awesome."
The following is the audio file from Bielema's presser: