The first half of the Wisconsin Badgers' fall camp revolved around injuries, particularly on the offensive line and at inside linebacker.
At Thursday's practice, a couple players at those positions, redshirt freshmen T.J. Edwards and Jacob Maxwell returned to inside linebacker and right tackle, respectively.
Edwards, coming back from a shoulder injury, wore a non-contact jersey. Maxwell was receiving reps on the first and second-team offenses prior to being sidelined with a shoulder injury.
I made it back to the field just north of Camp Randall Stadium for the last half-hour of practice.
- Most of the first-team offense had its shine prior to my arrival, as BadgerNation.com's Ben Worgull notes ($).
- The first-team offensive line from what I saw, from left tackle to right tackle, was the following: Tyler Marz, Ray Ball, Dan Voltz, Michael Dieter, Walker Williams.
- For wide receivers, Alex Erickson, Tanner McEvoy, and Reggie Love received reps with the first-team. Redshirt senior Jordan Fredrick received reps earlier with the starters and caught a nice 20-yard fade for a touchdown from redshirt senior quarterback Joel Stave off of a double-reverse.
- With Stave, really like the zip and placement on his passes. If the offensive line can get healthy and provide some stability in the pocket, expect a big improvement over last year.
- Redshirt freshman Ryan Connelly, a walk-on, worked with the first-team defense again and intercepted a tipped pass off of Stave. Connelly and Orr worked with the ones today, and as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Jeff Potrykus writes, defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is comfortable with both Orr and fellow true freshman Alec Ingold seeing playing time this year.
- Still out on injury were inside linebacker Leon Jacobs for team drills, though he seems to be progressing more with work with trainers. Offensive linemen Beau Benzschawel, Hayden Biegel and Jon Dietzen are still held out of practice.
- Add junior wide receiver Robert Wheelwright to the injury list with a knee injury. Redshirt sophomore Alec James was also out with an ankle injury.
- Not injured, but senior safety Michael Caputo didn't receive many reps today. Without Caputo and McEvoy, junior Leo Musso and sophomore D'Cota Dixon took over.
- There was a nice collision towards the end of practice between the back-up offenses and defenses, as redshirt freshman safety Evan Bondoc tackled true freshman running back Bradrick Shaw. Bondoc also had a nice pass break-up, which led to cheering from the defensive players on the sideline.
When speaking with Wisconsin tight ends coach Mickey Turner after practice, the former Badger said his position group has a "chip on their shoulder" and redshirt sophomore Troy Fumagalli is playing "hungry." Though Fumagalli and junior Austin Traylor worked more as an H-back and "Y" (and in the ground) tight end last year, respectively, both are working to merge their skills together to play both the standard and hybrid tight end positions.
When asked who's behind both Traylor and Fumagalli, Turner said redshirt junior Eric Steffes and true freshman Kyle Penniston are working hard, though Steffes has had to deal with the injury bug in this camp.
Secondary coach Daronte Jones likes the progression of starting cornerbacks Darius Hillary and Sojourn Shelton with their leadership in teaching the younger players, along with their continued being "locked-in" with their on-the-field work pertaining to footwork and eye discipline, but still wants improvement out of the two. The leadership in the secondary is evident with Caputo as well, as Jones said the senior not only helps the younger defensive backs in teaching moments, but also other positions on the defense.
When asked if he is the leader of the defense, Jones said, "well, he is a team captain, so that's one of his roles, and he's embraced it."
Both Jones and Wisconsin offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph praised head strength and conditioning coach Ross Kolodziej for the work he and his staff did during summer conditioning.
Rudolph had high praise for Erickson, calling him "the definition of a Wisconsin player." He also complimented McEvoy.
"I think Tanner's different," Rudolph said. "I really do. I think he's pretty special."
When asked about the wide receivers as a whole, he noted many would be role players, but would have to become consistent in their roles.
Rudolph also mentioned the left guard and right tackle positions are still open for competition.