MADISON — Another Friday night practice, another Friday night scrimmage.
The Wisconsin Badgers threw on the pads and helmets under the lights of the Camp Randall Stadium, conducting their second scrimmage since returning from spring break.
The offensive and defensive squads both traded some plus-plays, with touchdowns, turnovers and miscues on both sides of the ball. The first-team offense, however, did appear to be improved from what was seen on Tuesday — scoring three touchdowns and a field goal against the first-team defense.
Running backs Chris James and Bradrick Shaw combined for three touchdowns during the scrimmage. Both appeared to run hard, with Shaw scoring a touchdown on the first-team’s second series. James tallied two scores, along with a nice reception out of the backfield he took about 48 yards down the field.
Even back-ups Sam Brodner and Garrett Groshek flashed at times in the backfield on runs. A reception by the former, with an added juke to a defender, picked up extra yardage.
“I think the group’s been working. You’ve got to always keep building the depth,” head coach Paul Chryst told reporters after the scrimmage. “You’ve been around, you’ve seen young guys stepping up and hopefully improve. I think they’re doing that. The younger guys are, kind of like we were talking about with the offensive line, they’ve giving themselves the chance to get those reps.
“I think Bradrick’s, what he did last year and learning from it, I think he’s taking some strides forward and I think it’s been a good spring for Chris. He’s getting a lot of work and doing some good things, and then there’s areas he’s got to improve on. He’s no different than anyone else, he’s got to take advantage of these next six practices.”
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook did not throw a touchdown during the scrimmage, but did find some nice completions that included the pass to James and a completion to tight end Zander Neuville that allowed the former walk-on to gallop 50-plus yards later in the scrimmage.
The defense also had their moments. On one short drive alone, back-up outside linebacker Christian Bell “sacked” Hornibrook, to be followed later in that series with a Nick Nelson interception.
Redshirt senior Joe Ferguson, in with the first-team defense at strong safety in place of D’Cota Dixon (rest), stepped up as well with some nice plays from the secondary.
Quintez Cephus returns
Cephus returned to practice on Friday, just days after the death of his father in Georgia. Earlier this week, 39-year old Andre Taylor was shot in the head on Monday outside of a convenience store in Macon.
Wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore accompanied Cephus to his hometown.
“Both Ted and I were with Q right when he found out, so it came pretty quick to us what the right thing was,” Chryst said.
The sophomore worked with the first-team offense opposite redshirt senior Jazz Peavy during the scrimmage.
“Q got back, I think it was Tuesday. It’s a hard, hard time for him,” Chryst said. “I think it was good for him to be back around the guys. He’ll be heading back down [to Georgia] for the service. It’s hard, and I think it’s hard anytime something so unexpected. You, I think everyone, coaches, players, you want to be there for him, but there’s things that he’s got to go through as well.
“It’s a hard deal. I appreciate how he’s handled it. You certainly feel for him, and the guys—this is a good group—he knows that and I think that’s been helpful for him, but there’s still, it’s a long process.”
- With senior Conor Sheehy out (rest), redshirt freshman Isaiahh Loudermilk received some reps with the first-team defense alongside fellow end Alec James and nose tackle Olive Sagapolu. The 6’7, nearly 300-pound Kansas native also worked with the second-team. Chryst said the coaching staff has been happy with the steps he’s taken, but there are still opportunities for growth.
“I think anytime within the lines—offensive line, defensive line—there’s so much technique involved, and there is such a fine line,” Chryst said when asked about Loudermilk. “The shorter you get those spaces, a six-inch mistake on the line is like a two-yard mistake the further away you get from the ball. There’s a ton to learn, but Isaiahh comes and he works, and he’s certainly talented. He’s getting a lot of reps, so this has been a good spring for him.”
- Left tackle David Edwards left the scrimmage after appearing to suffer a lower left leg injury. It looked near the ankle rather than the knee, something he looked like he initially grabbed at first. The redshirt sophomore and former tight end did walk off under his own power and was seen walking around after practice.
- True freshman quarterback Jack Coan went up first with the second-team offense during the scrimmage, though redshirt freshman Kare’ Lyles engineered a decent drive the next time that squad worked on the field. Lyles completed at least four passes in that one series before Rafael Gagalianone’s field goal attempt was blocked.
- Redshirt freshman Kendric Pryor appeared to have received some first-team reps during modified team drills and the scrimmage itself. During that second second-team series, he and Lyles connected a couple of times.
- Good day for the tight ends, even with redshirt senior Troy Fumagalli out (rest). Wisconsin could have a sleeper with Neuville as that “hand in the ground” tight end. He can block, but also has an ability to catch the ball, as definitely seen this week. Redshirt freshman Luke Benzschawel also reeled in some receptions with the second-team on Friday night.
- It was alumni day at the Camp, as former Badgers came out to watch the practice. That include the NFL’s highest-paid guard in the Cleveland Browns’ Kevin Zeitler, who after practice spoke with the offensive linemen.
- Other alumni in attendance included former right guard Bill Ferrario, fullback Matt Bernstein, wide receiver Brandon Williams, running back Corey Clement, defensive back Zach Hampton, quarterback John Stocco and future Pulitzer Prize winning author Joel Nellis (yes, he’s my co-author for Walk-On This Way, he deserves it.)