- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Wisconsin's defense was the unit that entered the spring with question marks.
The Badgers had to replace All-Big Ten defensive end O'Brien Schofield, middle linebacker Jaevery McFadden, safety leader Chris Maragos and both starting defensive tackles. Plus, they had to build depth at linebacker as Chris Borland, the 2009 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, and Mike Taylor sat out with injuries.
But when spring practice ended Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium, it was the Badgers offense, a unit that returns nine starters, that seemed to be searching for answers.
The defense stepped up in Saturday's spring game, holding the offense to only two touchdowns and just 101 total rushing yards (for Wisconsin, that translates to about 30). The Big Ten's top red zone offense in 2009 had to settle for three short field goals after stalling near the goal line.
To be fair, the offense played without star running back John Clay and top wide receiver Nick Toon, and the offensive line has seen a lot of shuffling this spring because of injuries. But quarterback Scott Tolzien (12-for-22, 138 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs) and his fellow offensive teammates were disappointed in their performance.
"We need to be better than that come fall," Tolzien said. "It's good for us to have a setback like that as long as we use it to our advantage and just realize there's a sense of urgency here. We've got to have a great offseason."
Defensive end Louis Nzegwu moved closer to locking up a starting spot with three sacks, and linebacker Culmer St. Jean and safety Jay Valai both recorded interceptions. Cornerbacks Niles Brinkley, Antonio Fenelus and Devin Smith also came on strong toward the end of the spring.
Jon Budmayr is still settling in as Wisconsin's backup quarterback, and he'll need a strong summer after struggling in several spring scrimmages. Budmayr completed just 9 of 19 passes for 68 yards with two interceptions for the second-team offense on Saturday. He completed 3 of 6 passes for 16 yards with the first-team offense and was sacked three times in the game.
Lance Kendricks looks ready to become an elite tight end in the Big Ten and recorded six receptions for 63 yards, including a 19-yarder.
Redshirt freshman linebacker Ethan Armstrong recorded a game-high 14 tackles and a pass breakup, while linebacker Conor O'Neill had 12 stops and a pass breakup.
Head coach Bret Bielema confirmed that wide receiver Kraig Appleton has left school and won't return to the team. Appleton and two other players, defensive end Shelby Harris and linebacker Nick Hill, were indefinitely suspended in February for unspecified violations. Harris and Hill both could work their way back to the team.