Wisconsin Athletics
Running back Chris James could have a big year in the Wisconsin backfield.

Spring practice superlatives, Badgers get out of spring healthy, and a grad transfer set to visit

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Today is Monday, April 24, and this is what’s for breakfast.

Spring superlatives

The spring game is in the books, and we won’t see Wisconsin on the turf at Camp Randall Stadium again until fall camp opens in August. So, as we hit the true offseason here’s our forward-thinking spring practice superlatives.

Most likely to embarrass another team this fall: RB Chris James

No player committed more Wisconsin-on-Wisconsin crime this spring than James. Barely a practice went by that the running back didn’t leave a defender grasping at air or looking foolish after getting juked.

No one got it worse than defensive lineman Garrett Rand, who crumpled to the ground after one of James’ cutback runs. The team tweeted video of the move, leading Rand to seek out James and jokingly tell the junior that he ended his life after the clip went viral. Rand and the rest of the Badgers defense will be happy when James is doing that to someone else this fall.

Most likely to have a breakout season: WR Quintez Cephus

There might not have been a more impressive player the first half of spring practice than Cephus. Though the death of his father midway through camp clearly and understandably affected him, it’s impossible to see the things the wide receiver did prior to that and not be excited if you are a Wisconsin fan. The sophomore is going to get his chances with defenses focused on stopping the Badgers running game, receiver Jazz Peavy and tight end Troy Fumagalli.

Most likely to go from backup to starter: C Tyler Biadasz

Technically, Biadasz is the backup to Michael Deiter at center, but with things unsettled at left guard and the two tackle spots, it’s possible that he could be the starter come Sept. 1 against Utah State.

“Tyler is doing a really good job. That’s a guy, I think, come fall we’ll be able to count on him. I would say right now he’s ready to play for us.” — Michael Deiter on Biadasz

A quick study, Biadasz went from having never played center to almost being used as a true freshman. Now, with a year in the weight room and a ton of reps with the starters this spring, he could end up joining the first-team on a permanent basis.

Most likely to make a big jump from spring to fall: QB Jack Coan

Coan’s head was swimming for much of the spring as he tried to learn a college offense while the rest of his classmates back in Long Island were in their final semester of high school. As things began to slow down for him, especially in the scrimmage portion of practices, his talent started to become evident.

With a summer full of learning and working out, the true freshman could make the jump Wisconsin needs from its potential No. 2 quarterback.

Most impactful newcomer: CB Nick Nelson

Yeah, he was on the team last year, but he was ineligible to play after transferring from Hawaii. Now ready to go, Nelson lined up with the first-team defense from the start of spring and is poised to team with senior Derrick Tindal to give the Badgers a starting duo that could be as good or better than Tindal and Sojourn Shelton were in 2016.

Most likely to get punched by an opposing player: LB Jack Cichy

The senior inside linebacker plays with an edge, physically and verbally. Cichy’s the type of guy you love to have on your team — and the type you hate when he’s on the other side. He knows how to get into people’s heads to the point that they lash out. And Cichy can’t get enough of it.

“I love doing it,” Cichy said of talking trash and pushing the envelope. “If we’re in a game and I can throw an opponent off by doing it, it’s probably worth it. It just adds a little bit of life to it. It brings contagious energy. If I can accomplish anything beneficial for [our defense], I’m all for it.”

Got out healthy

Wisconsin’s spring game was largely a snooze-fest, complete with just 1 touchdown and barely any recognizable names taking part in the full-contact portion. No Alex Hornibrook, Jazz Peavy, Troy Fumagalli, Derrick Tindal, Jack Cichy or D’Cota Dixon. Instead, it was akin to a futures game, with young players like Garrett Rand, Isaiahh Loudermilk, Kendric Pryor and Eric Burrell standing out in a battle of backups.

And that was just fine. The 8,095 people who showed up seemed to be OK with it. They probably know, like the coaching staff, that the goal of the 15 spring practices is to get better and start the competition for jobs. But the only thing that truly matters, especially in the final practice of the spring, is to make sure all the players stay healthy and are available in September. In that respect, consider Wisconsin’s spring a success.

There were some injuries, including to redshirt freshman running back Sam Brodner on Friday, but everyone the Badgers will be counting on to help defend their Big Ten West title will be happy and healthy when they return for fall camp.

Potential graduate transfer

On the same day that Jordan Hill announced he’d be attending Seattle University after graduating from Wisconsin in May, there came word that the Badgers would be hosting a possible graduate transfer.

Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports tweeted that Oregon guard Casey Benson would be visiting Wisconsin on Wednesday.

Benson could help the Badgers boost their young, inexperienced backcourt. After starting 38 games as a sophomore in 2015-16, he came off the bench this past season as the Ducks made their run to the Final Four. With star freshman Payton Pritchard in front of him, Benson made the decision to move on for his last season after graduating in three years.

The Gatorade Player of the Year in Arizona as a high school senior, Benson is a career 37 percent 3-point shooter, which is a skill the Badgers could put to good use with the departure of Bronson Koenig and Zak Showalter.

If Benson chooses Wisconsin, it will be a first for the program. Sure, the Badgers have added transfers — Zach Morley and Sharif Chambliss come to mind — but this would be doing something that former coach Bo Ryan very much opposed. He detested the idea of hundreds of college players acting like free agents with the ability to move on and help coaches who made mistakes in recruiting or were unable to develop their own guys.

But his longtime assistant and current Wisconsin coach, Greg Gard, is open to the idea if the fit is right, and it appears the Badgers believe that is the case with Benson.

Catching up

  • Where Wisconsin’s depth chart stacks up at the end of spring ball.
  • Here’s what coach Paul Chryst had to say after the spring game on Friday.
  • Jim Polzin of the Wisconsin State Journal caught up with new men’s basketball assistant coach Dean Oliver.
  • Wisconsin approved contract extensions for several winter-season coaches on Friday, including basketball coach Greg Gard.