MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin’s football team held its first of 15 spring practices on Tuesday morning inside the McClain Center. The two-hour session, which was open to the media, provided a glimpse into the Badgers’ future and proved to be quite eventful.
Here are some practice observations from Day 1:
Wisconsin released its initial injury report for the spring, which looked like this:
- Fullback Jake Collinsworth (left leg)
- Cornerback Dontye Carriere-Williams (abdominal)
- Wide receiver Danny Davis (abdominal)
- Wide receiver Cade Green (left leg)
- Running back Mark Saari (abdominal)
Out for spring
- Wide receiver Quintez Cephus (right leg)
- Offensive lineman Michael Deiter (right leg)
- Offensive lineman Jon Dietzen (right and left leg)
- Safety D’Cota Dixon (right shoulder)
- Running back Garrett Groshek (right leg)
- Tight end Zander Neuville (right leg)
- Running back Bradrick Shaw (left leg)
- Inside linebacker Mason Stokke (right leg)
Injury report notes
Perhaps the most interesting storyline to emerge from Wisconsin’s first injury report is the absence of offensive linemen Michael Deiter and Jon Dietzen for all of spring. Deiter started all 14 games at left tackle last season, while Dietzen started 12 games at left guard. Deiter opted to return for his senior season rather than declare for the NFL draft, and part of the rationale involved moving back to the interior, where he will play at the next level.
Without Deiter and Dietzen for spring practice, offensive line coach Joe Rudolph will have multiple line combinations at his disposal. But it also means we aren’t likely to know exactly what the line could look like in the fall. The Badgers return their entire two-deep on the line, so competition for spots should be intense. Expect to see a lot of Patrick Kasl, Cole Van Lanen, Kayden Lyles and Jason Erdmann, among others.
Wisconsin released its updated roster for the spring on Monday, and there were several players who made substantial changes to their body. One noticeable difference is what the Badgers’ strength and conditioning staff has done with the team’s offensive linemen. Right guard Beau Benzschawel is up 5 pounds from 317 to 322 pounds, and right tackle David Edwards is up 4 pounds from 315 to 319. But several offensive linemen have slimmed down considerably.
Dietzen is down 10 pounds from 336 to 326 pounds, and Kasl also dropped 10 pounds from 325 to 315. Other offensive linemen to drop weight include David Moorman (down from 314 to 306), Erdmann (down from 337 to 330), Deiter (down from 328 to 321), Tyler Biadasz (down from 322 to 316) and Micah Kapoi (down from 326 to 321). Tyler Beach increased his weight 11 pounds from 290 to 301, but that’s because weighing at least 300 pounds generally is a prerequisite to play offensive lineman at Wisconsin.
Here are some other notable weight changes on the new roster:
- Tight end Jake Ferguson: Plus 10 pounds (230 to 240)
- Fullback Jake Collinsworth: Plus 9 pounds (225 to 234)
- Wide receiver Danny Davis: Plus 8 pounds (186 to 194)
- Inside linebacker Ryan Connelly: Plus 8 pounds (228 to 236)
- Running back Taiwan Deal: Plus 6 pounds (219 to 225)
- Inside linebacker Chris Orr: Plus 6 pounds (223 to 229)
- Outside linebacker Arrington Farrar: Plus 5 pounds (237 to 242)
- Quarterback Alex Hornibrook: Plus 5 pounds (215 to 220)
- Inside linebacker T.J. Edwards: Plus 4 pounds (244 to 248)
- Tight end Luke Benzschawel: Minus 11 pounds (261 to 250)
- Running back Bradrick Shaw: Minus 9 pounds (220 to 211)
- Inside linebacker Griffin Grady: Minus 9 pounds (225 to 216)
- Defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk: Minus 9 pounds (306 to 297)
- Nose guard Olive Sagapolu: Minus 8 pounds (346 to 338)
- Tight end Kyle Penniston: Minus 8 pounds (244 to 236)
- Wide receiver Jack Dunn: Minus 7 pounds (180 to 173)
- Cornerback Dontye Carriere-Williams: Minus 7 pounds (192 to 185)
- Defensive end Garrett Rand: Minus 6 pounds (278 to 272)
- Outside linebacker Izayah Green-May: Minus 5 pounds (217 to 212)
Heights and weights of the 5 early enrollee freshmen
- Safety Reggie Pearson Jr. 5-10, 187
- Wide receiver Aron Cruickshank: 5-9, 152
- Nose guard Bryson Williams: 6-2, 306
- Cornerback Donte Burton 5-10, 182
- Wide receiver Taj Mustapha 6-0, 192
At 152 pounds, Cruickshank is the smallest player on Wisconsin’s roster. But he has speed to burn and fits best as a slot receiver, which he played some during 7-on-7 drills. He could contribute for the Badgers on special teams, although it’s clear he needs to bulk up. He’s 21 pounds lighter than holder Connor Allen and 32 pounds lighter than punter Anthony Lotti. Mustapha has nice size, and while the Badgers are loaded at receiver in 2018, he could position himself to see reps in the future.
Williams, meanwhile, has the look of a player who is ready to immediately contribute. His body type as a freshman is impressive, and his skill certainly has coaches excited. Williams worked as the No. 2 nose guard behind Olive Sagapolu during drill work.
Here’s more on what the lineups looked like Tuesday at practice:
During Wisconsin’s drill work, we were able to see the first-team front seven on defense, and it wasn’t much of a surprise. Nose guard Olive Sagapolu was flanked by defensive ends Isaiahh Loudermilk and Garrett Rand, who moved over from nose guard this offseason. Outside linebackers were Andrew Van Ginkel and Zack Baun. Ryan Connelly and T.J. Edwards, the team’s two leading tacklers last season, were the starting inside linebackers.
When Wisconsin moved to 7-on-7 skeleton work, the safeties were Patrick Johnson and Scott Nelson, while the cornerbacks were Madison Cone and Faion Hicks. Nelson should see major playing time as a redshirt freshman. Keep in mind that Dixon and Carriere-Williams, who are presumably two starters next season, did not participate.
Wisconsin briefly went to a nickel package with five defensive backs during 7-on-7 skeleton drills. That group consisted of cornerbacks Hicks, Cone and Caesar Williams, as well as safeties Johnson and Nelson.
The second-team defensive line consisted of defensive ends David Pfaff and Aaron Vopal, with Bryson Williams at nose guard. Keldric Preston also worked in at defensive end. Outside linebackers were Tyler Johnson and Noah Burks, with Chris Orr and Mike Maskalunas at inside linebacker. The next group of outside linebackers up were Arrington Farrar and Christian Bell.
Second-team defensive backs were safeties Eric Burrell and Seth Currens, as well as cornerbacks Caesar Williams and Donte Burton. Burton, one of five early enrollees, could push for the fourth cornerback spot as a freshman.
First-team offensive line
Wisconsin’s first-team offensive linemen without Deiter and Deitzen looked like this: left tackle Cole Van Lanen, left guard Jason Erdmann, center Tyler Biadasz, right guard Beau Benzschawel, right tackle David Edwards. Patrick Kasl, who could battle with Van Lanen for playing time at tackle, left practice early for class.
Second-team offensive line
Wisconsin used left tackle Tyler Beach, left guard Logan Bruss, center Kayden Lyles, right guard Micah Kapoi and right tackle David Moorman. But it’s clear the Badgers will rotate players through the first- and second-team squads during spring practice. During one portion of practice, Wisconsin had Van Lanen at left tackle, Erdmann at left guard, Lyles at center, Kapoi at right guard and Moorman at right tackle.
Rest of the offense
There wasn’t much in the way of big plays made during drill work. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook threw a pass over the middle that T.J. Edwards nearly intercepted. Hornibrook tossed a deep ball to receiver A.J. Taylor that was dropped near the end zone. Backup quarterback Jack Coan competed a nice pass to tight end Jake Ferguson down the field.
Without Davis and Cephus at wide receiver, Wisconsin rotated through a number of players during drills, including Adam Krumholz, Kendric Pryor, Taylor, Mustapha and Cruickshank. With Zander Neuville out, tight ends Luke Benzschawel and Kyle Penniston saw time with the first-team offense. Ferguson, who earned offensive scout team player of the year honors last season, played tight end with the second group.