MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin football coach Paul Chryst spoke to reporters following Badgers practice Friday. Chryst addressed the play of freshman early enrollee receiver Aron Cruickshank, the return of receiver Quintez Cephus to practice, a new NCAA kickoff rule allowing for fair catches inside the 25-yard line and more.
Here is what Chryst had to say:
Chryst: It was a good week all in all. It’s unfortunate we weren’t able to play the game outside for the fans. But I thought we got some good work done [Friday]. Every play this time of year is good. Whether it went positive or not, there’s great learning. So we’ve just got to make sure we keep growing and keep learning and finish next week strong.
Q: You have a lot of wide receiver experience back next year, but has Aron Cruickshank put himself in position to get looked at seriously in camp?
Chryst: Yeah, I think that’s the whole, our whole thought process going into spring ball is give yourself a chance to get reps for fall camp. And I think that the biggest thing that Aron and Taj [Mustapha] are facing is, “How can I learn this offense?” I think that both of them made some plays [Friday]. The biggest thing is knowing what to do and it’s studying how. So the more they can get the what out of the way, it’s good. I think Aron’s done some things that have been good and have earned him certainly the right for reps in the fall.
Q: What do you think it means for receiver Quintez Cephus to get back, even if it’s just a little?
Chryst: It’s good. He’s been chomping at the bit. It’s been a long time. Knowing Q, a big part of it is being around the guys. Certainly is with them in the weight room, but it’s different. So I think he was excited to get out [Friday] and wanted to do more. Next week, he can get more work.[Friday] was the first day out. It means a ton. It’s good for him and it’s good for Alex and all of us.
Q: When you don’t have an official spring game, are there any setbacks because of that or did you get done what you needed to get done?
Chryst: From what this team needed [Friday] was we got all we needed to get done and probably the same we would’ve gotten done had we played outside. Really, the venue changed for us. I think the big reason for the change is you can’t fit everyone in here.
Q: Will the new kickoff rule affect you guys at all?
Chryst: I think it’s a significant change. We’ve had some discussions but kind of saved it until we know for sure that the rule is going to pass or not. I think it’s a significant enough change that certainly our players, not just the return unit. It’ll be interesting to think through it a little bit. We’ve had some other discussions about strategizing and all that, so I think it’ll certainly have an impact.
Q: On your kickoff unit, does it help to have not only one but two guys who can put it in the end zone if you need it?
Chryst: Always good. It takes away a strategic part of it, especially after a penalty. It’ll be interesting. Even going back and looking at how many times we’ve had that situation come up and making sure your guys are aware of it on the return unit, on the coverage unit and then identifying it.
Q: How much do you think Jonathan Taylor is benefitting from having an entire offseason?
Chryst: I think it’s always beneficial. His bar is a high bar. There’s a lot of things that he thinks he can get better at, we think he can get better at. He certainly did a lot of good. But the more you’re around it and studying it, there’s not one guy on this team that can’t get better, and JT is one of them. Having a spring and then having a summer where he knows what’s going on. He was here last summer, but he was just learning it. There’s a lot for him to do.
Q: Why do you think it’s valuable to have the alumni around the team?
Chryst: I think it’s their program. They’re the ones that built this. Any time we can bring them back, it’s a good thing. And then connect them with this year’s team, this year’s group. It’s just all around really good. And you appreciate the guys that make the effort to come back.
Q: There were several players that could have gone to the NFL draft and came back. What does that tell you about their belief in this team and what they can accomplish?
Chryst: Certainly I think that the team aspect had something to do with their decision. And yet it’s a personal decision for them and they can all benefit from another year in the weight room and another year of playing on this team. And certainly they believe in each other. I think they all made individual choices, but we’re fortunate and appreciate the fact that they’re all back. We’re a better team with them. It’s their opportunity to make the most of it.