MADISON—After a rainy Thursday, the sun and comfortable temperatures returned to Camp Randall Stadium for another Wisconsin Badgers practice.
Fall camp is now heading into its second week, with both the offense and defense making some plays on Saturday in team and skeleton drills.
Among the more fun positions to watch are two key skill positions with the wide receivers taking on the secondary.
Cornerback Derrick Tindal started off modified team drills about midway through practice with an interception of quarterback Alex Hornibrook while closely blanketing wide receiver Jazz Peavy.
About two plays later, Hornibrook and Peavy returned the favor, connecting on a deep pass past Tindal for a long gain.
Tindal performed very well in the spring and has started off fall camp along those same lines. On Thursday, he reportedly also had another interception. Combined with Hawaii transfer, redshirt junior Nick Nelson, they could help lock down opposing offense’s passing attacks come the regular season.
After practice, a reporter told defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Jim Leonhard that Tindal said UW should have the best cornerback duo and the best secondary in the nation.
“The only thing you tell them is back it up. Make those words true,” Leonhard said when asked if he minds comments like Tindal’s. “If you’re going to be confident—I love confidence—but if you’re going to have it, work that way everyday, and I’ll be all over him knowing that he said that, every single day, because it’s consistency. If you want to be in that conversation, if you want considered to be in that group, it shows up everyday. It’s not an every other day, it’s not every two out of three, it’s every day, so I’m glad.
“Now, he gives me some stuff to work with so you love it when hopes are high and goals are high, and it’s obviously my job is to help get them there, but then hold them accountable to those standards that they want to set.”
Other standout plays during the session included a nice 20-yard touchdown run by Bradrick Shaw during what appeared to be team red zone drills, as he took it to the south end zone for an easy touchdown.
About three drives earlier, safety Joe Ferguson eyed up a Kare’ Lyles pass over the middle and picked it off in the same team red zone situation. Fellow safety D’Cota Dixon possibly had what could be called a “safety” (the first-team offense was sent back while the reserves came in to run plays) when team situation drills had the offense backed up on its own two-yard line.
Potential of Danny Davis stands out on Saturday
There appears to be four or five wide receivers at least showing early that they should receive reps this season (Peavy, Quintez Cephus, George Rushing, A.J. Taylor and possibly redshirt freshman Kendric Pryor), but true freshman Danny Davis flashed his abilities on Saturday.
He caught at least a couple of passes during practice, with one in particular where he caught around the middle of the field, then turned up near the sideline for a big gain.
“He’s very smooth. Runs better than I thought, runs a lot better. Very smooth,” position coach Ted Gilmore said on Saturday. “He might have some of the softest hands of the group. He catches the ball really natural, and things we’re working on because he’s such a low guy is learning how to transition, sink your hips and get out of the breaks that way. We’re putting more information on him so we’re trying to see what he can handle and what he can’t handle, but I’m very pleased from what I’ve seen so far.”
It absolutely still remains to be seen if Davis will see the field for the 2017 season. He has been among about a half dozen or so players seen fielding punts in practice, so there is special teams ability there, though Peavy, Nelson and Pryor are probably ahead of him. At wide receiver, it appears it’s too soon to tell, but it will be something to watch.
“Well right now, we’re telling all of them to ‘Hey, keep fighting, keep fighting,’ and it’ll shake itself out,” Gilmore said. “In another week or two, we’ll kind of have an idea of what that looks like. Right now, it’s still too early to tell, but any given day we might feed one of them more reps than the other just to see if they can handle, but he’s doing some good things. All of them are.”
- Hornibrook looked good overall for the day, though in my eyes maybe not as sharp as a few days back but still threw some nice passes, especially the would-be Peavy touchdown against Tindal. He can hit his receivers in stride for those deep passes, though there are times he can hang ‘em up there maybe a second longer than he’d like. Dixon had an interception early in those team drills, but could have probably been called for pass interference.
- For second-team offensive line, it looks like both David Moorman and Cole Van Lanen were trading off series at left tackle. Offensive line coach Joe Rudolph said he’s been using Moorman as a swing tackle (left or right tackle). He likes the growth of Van Lanen, saying the former four-star recruit has “taken a step.” The answer as to who can be the third tackle, outside of Michael Deiter and David Edwards, still is unsettled. I’ll work to transcribe the interview in full in the next day or so and post to B5Q.
- The team did not actually practice in full pads, as was initially expected, but that didn’t stop the energy from the players on the field.
Six Badgers were out of Saturday’s practice. Hold overs from the past few days include two true freshmen—wide receiver Cade Green (left leg) and safety Scott Nelson (left leg).
The four new ones include two outside linebackers, Zack Baun (right leg) and Christian Bell (left leg), along with tight end Zander Neuville (officially listed with a right leg injury) and inside linebacker Nick Thomas (left leg). Bell was seen in a boot on his left leg but moving around.
In Baun and Bell’s absence, walk-on Tyler Johnson appeared to work alongside Andrew Van Ginkel as the reserves to Garret Dooley and Leon Jacobs.