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Defense makes plays during Wisconsin’s seventh spring practice

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Highlights from Tuesday.

Jake Kocorowski

MADISON — As much as there’s been some flashes to the Wisconsin Badgers’ offense this spring, the seventh practice belonged to Jim Leonhard’s defense.

Though there were some nice plays from quarterback Alex Hornibrook, the defensive unit—both first-team and backups—held the upper hand during Tuesday’s practice.

Hornibrook appeared to throw three interceptions during team drills, with two tips or pass breakups that resulted in picks going the opposite direction.

The first was off a deflection out of senior wide receiver George Rushing’s hands with fellow senior Derrick Tindal covering. The ball bounced into the hands of redshirt senior outside linebacker Garret Dooley, who took it the other way.

Senior cornerback Lubern Figaro, several plays into Hornibrook’s next series, intercepted a pass as well.

On the last pass of practice, another pass breakup tipped the ball out what appeared to be a good chunk of the field. Safety Joe Ferguson, who appeared to have himself a pretty good day in place of D’Cota Dixon (rest), dove and caught the ball. The redshirt senior also sniffed out a screen pass earlier in team drills as well.

Throughout the practice, there were a couple called or would-be “sacks” by the defense against the first team and backups—and the interceptions weren’t just from the arm of Hornibrook. Redshirt freshman outside linebacker Keldric Preston picked off true freshman early enrollee Jack Coan towards the end of the nearly two-hour practice.

There were some good plays by the offense as well. Hornibrook hit running back Bradrick Shaw on a play-action off the jet/Jazz sweep for a substantial gain. Redshirt freshman Kendric Pryor reeled in a deep Hornibrook pass against what looked like true freshman cornerback Madison Cone.

Again, it’s just spring practices, and this is the time for players to test their limits and see what they can/cannot do.

Observations

  • The combination of running backs Chris James and Shaw, if the offensive line continues its progression and avoids injuries, should be something special. There’s a burst and a juke to James that could make him a game-changer and a special complement to Shaw.
  • Zander Neuville intrigues me more and more during spring camp. We’ll have a feature this weekend on the tight ends, but position coach Mickey Turner and Troy Fumagalli said good things about the former walk-on, who if not for a called “sack,” had a nice one-handed catch in team drills in coverage.
  • Cornerbacks Nick Nelson and Derrick Tindal could have some fun in the secondary this year. Expectations should be high for Nelson, the Hawaii transfer, who returned to practice after resting on Friday. Tindal’s charisma was continuously shown on Tuesday, as he made some plays in defending receivers and showcased some moves between the hashes. B5Q may or may not request Tindal to teach this beat writer how to dance.
  • It got a little chippy during practice. A few shoving matches or scuffles broke out, but if you’re facing the same teammates for 15 practices over a month-and-a-half in the same McClain Center—yeah, you’d get chippy too.
  • Redshirt junior outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel left practice, holding his left wrist walking off the McClain Center field. There was no update provided by UW after practice.
  • Redshirt freshman Tyler Biadasz continued to get looks with the first-team offense. Michael Deiter played center but would slide over to left guard, replacing Micah Kapoi, when Biadasz was inserted.
  • Former safety Arrington Farrar practiced with the inside linebackers on Tuesday, and it was confirmed by a UW official afterward that the former four-star talent would move to that position. It should be worth watching what the 6’2, 225-pound Farrar can do during spring instruction, though once the two-deep of Chris Orr, Jack Cichy, T.J. Edwards, and Ryan Connelly returns fully, making the two-deep may be difficult. Then again, as seen last season, a program can never have too much of an embarrassment of riches at one position.

Out of practice

  • Sophomore wide receiver Quintez Cephus was not at practice with his father in critical condition and reportedly on life support. Position coach Ted Gilmore accompanied Cephus to Georgia, according to UW (first noted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Jeff Potrykus). According to The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., 39-year old Andre Taylor died on Tuesday afternoon after being shot in the head on Monday. B5Q and its writers sends our deepest sympathies and prayers to Cephus, his family, and all those affected by this tragic loss.
  • Like Dixon, fullback Alec Ingold didn’t practice, though there was no explanation given for the junior’s absence from practice.
  • True freshman Faion Hicks was in a shoulder brace and did not participate.
  • Cornerbacks Dontye Carriere-Williams and Nelson returned to the field.

Wisconsin returns to practice on Thursday morning.