As quickly as it came upon us, spring football will be an afterthought following the Wisconsin Badgers’ annual spring game on Friday night.
Fourteen practices are complete and now the last one is open to fans under the lights of Camp Randall Stadium. Tickets are $5 each and like in years past, proceeds will go to a particular group associated with the university.
This spring, the money from the game will be given to UW’s Waisman Center for a scholarship fund in the Waisman Early Childhood Program (WECP), “an inclusive preschool program with a developmentally diverse enrollment.”
Prior to the spring game itself, families and fans can head inside the McClain Center for the Badger Sports Kids Fair from 5-6:30 p.m. Another nice perk to this event: it’s free.
When and where is the game?
Friday at 6:30 p.m. CT at Camp Randall Stadium.
How can I watch?
Tickets are $5 each, with proceeds benefiting the Waisman Center and its Waisman Early Childhood Program scholarship fund. This is a great cause.
If you cannot make it out to Camp Randall, the Big Ten Network will broadcast the game from 6:30-8:30 p.m. CT with Jay Wilson, former UW and NFL wide receiver Brandon Williams and Kyndra de St. Aubin calling the action.
Can I listen on the radio?
The game will be on The Big 1070 here in Madison with Brian Posick, Mike Lucas and Patrick Herb. You can also listen on the iHeart radio app by searching “The Big 1070.”
Head coach Paul Chryst gave us a hint of the game’s format during Monday’s press conference: a mix of practice with a brief intermission, then a scrimmage.
“We’re going to do some practice where we’re not tackling, and we’ll do some team, we’ll do a skele, do another team,” Chryst said. “We’ll do a punt period and then at some point we’ll go in. They want the field for 15 minutes, game management does, so we’ll leave the field and then we’ll play what looks like football hopefully.”
Wisconsin announced on Wednesday that this will be similar to a normal Friday practice with the individual/team drills to start, then the one-hour scrimmage. The offense (Cardinal) will face the defense (White).
Here’s the scoring structure for both teams:
Touchdown = six points
Field Goal = three points
20-plus yard play = one point
Three consecutive first downs = one point
Defensive touchdown = six points
Interception or fumble recovery = six points
Sack = one point
Three-and-out by the offense = one point
Missed PAT/field goal = one point
Players to watch
How much playing time the projected starters will get on Friday is unknown, especially considering injury risks. Here’s a mix of potential starters and some younger players who will, in all likelihood, receive substantial reps during the glorified scrimmage.
RB Chris James
The Pitt transfer has turned heads in practice with the first-team offense, displaying a combination of running and pass-catching abilities that could provide a home-run threat on every snap he takes. His speed is evident, along with an agility and shiftiness that allows him to juke defenders in the open field.
Combining his talents with redshirt sophomore Bradrick Shaw and a more experienced offensive line could actually trump the production seen last year from Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale.
TEs Troy Fumagalli, Zander Neuville, Kyle Penniston
This group could be special this season, led by redshirt senior Troy Fumagalli. The former walk-on has been a constant, reliable target for redshirt sophomore Alex Hornibrook during the spring sessions. He should be an all-conference candidate at the very least, barring injuries and other unforeseen circumstances, and could lead the team in receptions for the second straight year.
Another former walk-on, Zander Neuville, has progressed nicely. I see him as the standard “hand in the ground” tight end compared to more of an “H-back” role seen with Fumagalli and redshirt sophomore Kyle Penniston. The former defensive lineman is not just a tenacious run-blocker still learning the position, but he’s also reeled in some nice receptions during the spring. If he develops further, the 12 and 13 personnel could be potent looks with multiple offensive options.
Penniston was called “Mr. Versatile” by position coach Mickey Turner a couple of weeks ago, whether he can spread out wide or in the backfield blocking. Welcome back to Tight End U.
QB Alex Hornibrook
Named the starter for 2017 a day before spring practices started, the southpaw appears more confident in the pocket and is delivering stronger throws from what was seen last year. During both winter and spring breaks, he worked with George Whitfield, Jr., quarterback “guru” to NFLers Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Jameis Winston, and Johnny Manziel.
There’s a zip on Hornibrook’s throws that maybe wasn’t seen last year as a redshirt freshman. Combine that with his accurate deep passes, and he could be in for a huge 2017 season.
OL Tyler Biadasz
The former Amherst prep standout was originally expected to play defense at Wisconsin, but Biadasz has moved over to offensive line and now has apparently given the Badgers’ coaching staff some options and depth at that position.
With injuries to Jon Dietzen and Jacob Maxwell holding them out for the spring, Biadasz has rotated in at first-team offense at center, allowing Michael Deiter to bump out to left guard (or like Tuesday and Thursday, even try an experiment at left tackle with David Edwards nursing an ankle injury).
CB Nick Nelson
Like James, Nelson transferred in from another Division I program (Hawaii). Taking over for Sojourn Shelton, who started 51 games in his UW career, the Maryland native looks the part. He’s had a solid spring and has made some interceptions over the course of the 14 practices as well. Stay tuned to see his potential unlocked in the fall underneath defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach Jim Leonhard.
ILBs Griffin Grady, Mike Maskalunas, Arrington Farrar
With Jack Cichy and Chris Orr limited this spring and T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly both not practicing at all, sophomore Griffin Grady and redshirt freshman Mike Maskalunas have received a ton of reps at inside linebacker with the “first-team” defense.
Maskalunas, a walk-on, seems to received the most action. Watch him, Grady, and also junior Arrington Farrar, who just moved to linebacker recently. If Cichy, Orr, Edwards, and Connelly all come back healthy, this could be the deepest position group for assistant Bob Bostad, who has boomeranged back to Madison after stints in the NFL and Northern Illinois since 2012.
DL Isaiahh Loudermilk
The redshirt freshman and former eight-man football standout from Kansas has stood out during these 14 previous practices. He’s 6’7 and around 300 pounds, an intriguing frame for a defensive end in Leonhard’s 3-4 scheme.
He’s also made plays throughout practices, which have appeared to allow him to work in with the first-team defense at times with senior Conor Sheehy resting and redshirt senior Chikwe Obasih out for the spring.
He could be a wild card to make the two-deep for the season, but if not, he’s certainly put himself in good shape to be a contender for 2018 with Sheehy, Obasih, and Alec James all exhausting their eligibility after next year.
Honorable mention: Wide receivers Quintez Cephus and Kendric Pryor, offensive lineman Patrick Kasl, safeties Natrell Jamerson and Joe Ferguson, outside linebackers Zack Baun, Leon Jacobs, and Andrew Van Ginkel