Badgers’ Toon shows he’s back in the game
MADISON This time last year, Nick Toon wasn’t even on the field.
He missed the 2010 opener at Nevada-Las Vegas with turf toe, a condition that hampered his progress early last season.
When Wisconsin’s big-play receiver from Middleton finally returned for the Big Ten opener against Michigan State, he dropped the first pass that came his way. That was sort of a snapshot for Toon’s junior year.
Now in his senior season as one of the go-to players on the Badgers’ high-powered offense, Toon has much expected of him in what could be a breakout year for the Badgers.
All during training camp, the UW coaching staff talked about how Toon needed to be a breakout player for the Badgers.
So far, he has.
After catching two passes for 54 yards last week in the opener at home against UNLV, Toon was back at it Saturday against Oregon State at Camp Randall Stadium.
In the first half against the Beavers, Toon caught six passes for 54 yards, half of them accounting for third-down conversions. He also caught a touchdown pass, his first of the season, for 10 yards from quarterback Russell Wilson.
Toon’s seven catches tied his career high. He also finished with 69 yards receiving in the Badgers’ 35-0 victory.
“Nick has been playing very well since camp,” UW coach Bret Bielema said. “He’s played big. He’s caught the ball well. He’s played at a high level.”
Although Toon missed 10 days of camp because of lingering tenderness from off-season foot surgery, he has played his way back into shape.
Not to mention motivated to have a big senior year.
“I jumped him in practice one day and he said, ‘Coach, stay on me.’ He’s hungry,” Bielema said.
“I’m very excited about Nick. As he goes, we go.”
Except for his ability to remain injury-free so far, Toon said he’s basically the same receiver he’s always been.
“Every day I’m just trying to get better and enjoy it,” he said. “I haven’t had any health issues this year. I feel good. Other than that, not much has changed.”
What’s exciting for the Badgers is Toon’s sense for Wilson after just a couple of months together. At the line, they gave each other a look as if the play to the back of the end zone was going to be there.
“Russell puts it in a great spot,” Toon said. “It’s pretty hard to be a defensive back and defend that. He made a great throw. I just went up and did my job.”
And of his seven-catch day, Toon said it was what he needed to keep his final year with the Badgers on track.
“Don’t be too cocky about it, but you’ve got to have confidence,” he said. “A day like today reinforces it. I had a good day today, but it could’ve been better.”