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Wisconsin’s inside linebackers move on without Jack Cichy

Notes and observations from Saturday’s practice.

T.J. Edwards at Saturday’s practice.
T.J. Edwards at Saturday’s practice.
Jake Kocorowski

MADISON—Just north of Camp Randall Stadium, the Wisconsin Badgers started their third week of fall camp on Saturday, the second practice without team captain and former walk-on Jack Cichy.

Adorning a red “Got Grit” shirt, Cichy made an appearance on the practice field a couple hundred feet north of the stadium, walking with crutches after Friday’s surgery on his right ACL.

In his place, redshirt sophomore Chris Orr saw reps alongside T.J. Edwards at first-team inside linebacker. Orr suffered a season-ending knee injury on the first offensive play vs. LSU in UW’s 2016 season-opening win at Lambeau Field, but now is back to taking snaps with the starters.

“I think his level of conditioning is getting better,” inside linebackers coach Bob Bostad said on Saturday. “He’s got to get used to that brace—we’re requiring him to wear a brace right now—so I think there’s a little bit of getting used to that. But some things that I’ve seen at that ‘Will’ position, he’s did some good things the other day just naturally that I really liked.”

Linebacker Chris Orr at Saturday’s practice.
Chris Orr at Saturday’s practice.
Jake Kocorowski

Good news appears to be on the way for the depth of the group, as redshirt junior Ryan Connelly should be returning shortly from a left leg injury that has kept him out most of this week.

“I expect him to have him in like two days, not by the first game,” Bostad said.

Behind Orr, Edwards, and Connelly—who all have started and played substantially for Wisconsin the past two seasons—there’s inexperience but promise. Redshirt freshman Mike Maskalunas and junior Arrington Farrar worked with the second team on Saturday.

Bostad said Farrar formerly a safety until switching positions during spring camp, has taken to moving to inside linebacker “really well” and that he jumped right in.

“I would say that they’re at the beginning stages,” Bostad said about the development of Maskalunas and Farrar. “They got a pretty good feel, but it’s not instinctual yet.”

The position group is one more injury away from needing both to step up. Bostad said he’s using five players right now, and defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard thinks it’s possible that Farrar could progress enough to move into the rotation.

“He’s done a great job of making that transition, not an easy transition from moving to linebacker from safety,” Leonhard said. “I think mentally, he approached it the right way, and physically, he kind of grew into that position, so it’s not like he had to change a whole lot once you moved him.

“It’s just a comfort level. There are things that you can just tell, sometimes he feels great and sees it and is very reactive, and then there are other times where that didn’t look quite right and kind of gets hung up. Its just continuing for him to push mentally and every rep for him is great because it’s a learning experience and he’s handled it well.”

Arrington Farrar during drills on Saturday.
Arrington Farrar during drills on Saturday.
Jake Kocorowski

Injury report

A couple more Badgers were added to the list given to media on Saturday morning. True freshman cornerback Madison Cone (left leg) and fullback Jake Whalen (right shoulder) were listed as out, while offensive lineman Jason Erdmann (right shoulder) was limited.

We also received clarification that redshirt freshman wide receiver Kendric Pryor was injured in a minor moped accident on Wednesday.

Also listed on Saturday’s injury report:

  • Outside linebacker Christian Bell (left leg)
  • Connelly (left leg)
  • Running back Taiwan Deal (right leg)
  • Fullback Aaron Maternowski (head, although it did appear he was practicing)
  • Safety Scott Nelson (left leg)
  • Tight end Zander Neuville (right leg)
  • Wide receivers Jazz Peavy (left leg), Emmet Perry (left leg), George Rushing (yes, left leg)
  • Cornerback Caesar Williams (head)
  • Erdmann and wide receiver Cade Green (left leg) were both limited.

Observations

  • Jack Coan had the better performance in the competition for back-up quarterback against Karé Lyles. Unofficially, I had the true freshman at 12-of-15 between team/modified team/skeleton 7-on-7 reps. Lyles did not have the best of days, especially at the start of the skeleton drills, when he threw three interceptions to defensive backs Nick Nelson, D’Cota Dixon, and Patrick Johnson.
  • Offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph mentioned there is still an ongoing battle to be the No. 2 quarterback behind Alex Hornibrook.
  • “I think it’s something you have to keep pushing forward and I like the way the two guys have competed,” Rudolph said. “Before two days ago, I thought both guys showed things in the huddle and in their execution that you just saw a confidence level on some things that you were like, ‘OK, guys are cutting it loose,’ but I think it’s ongoing right now and it’s the way it should be, probably.”
  • I didn’t see Hornibrook take any skeleton/7-on-7 reps, but he looked sharp in team drills.
  • Micah Kapoi again took reps at first-team left guard. Redshirt sophomore Jon Dietzen has not seen many team reps at that position this week.
  • “Dietz’ is fighting through something but he hasn’t missed a practice,” Rudolph said. “He gets as much as he can in, but I like what he did so far. He’s shown a lot of improvement mentally as much as physically.
  • “I think Micah came in his best shape that he’s been in, and I think that’s showing up. He’s a little lighter and that’s allowing him to play with a little better conditioning and it’s good. Jason Erdmann has done a really good job. He’s really stood out at different times, and that’s a guy there too that can play some center spot that’s done that for us in games before. So I think there is a lot of competition at guard and you know what, if last year plays true at all, you’re going to need everyone. You want to stay healthy and you want to do that, but when you’re confident in the back-ups you got, you don’t have to switch guys around to make something to work. It’s a much better feeling.”