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Wisconsin’s defense plays well in in full pads on Monday

News and observations from earlier today

Redshirt senior defensive lineman Alec James works during positional drills on Monday.
Jake Kocorowski

MADISON—The full pads came on for the Wisconsin Badgers during Monday’s practice on the field just north of Camp Randall Stadium.

Though players on both sides of the ball some plays, Jim Leonhard’s defense appeared stout and up to the task against their offensive counterparts.

There is significant potential of this first-team defense’s run-stuffing capability. Redshirt senior outside linebacker Garret Dooley had a nice play sniffing out a run and stopping a running back in his tracks. The front seven is experienced with seniors, even with outside linebackers maybe still figuring out how deep it could be after Dooley and fellow upperclassman Leon Jacobs.

Three interceptions also highlighted the defense’s solid day, with two likely contributors creating some nice turnovers.

Redshirt junior cornerback Nick Nelson picked off a pass in team drills later in practice against starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook. The Hawaii transfer has looked the part in Wisconsin’s defense early on.

Three drives prior, fellow redshirt junior Andrew Van Ginkel made a nifty interception while out in coverage off of redshirt freshman quarterback Karé Lyles.

Lyles earlier in the practice was picked off by true freshman cornerback Madison Cone in modified team drills. Not necessarily sure what happened on that play, but it appeared to be an easy pick for the early enrollee from North Carolina.

“I think our D does an amazing job coaching-wise, player-wise, the experience they have, the detail they bring to their play, I think it really makes you play with an awareness,” offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Joe Rudolph said on Saturday. “You can’t relax for one second, whether it’s seeing something before the snap, being able to adjust, make calls. They really help, I think, expand the knowledge base of your o-line, and that’s a good thing for us. So it’s always a challenge. It’s fun.”

That’s not to say some offensive players didn’t look good at times. Hornibrook made a great throw to sophomore wide receiver Quintez Cephus, who reeled in an even better catch deep down the field against what appeared to be the likes of Nelson and free safety Natrell Jamerson (maybe 35-45ish yards?).

Two redshirt freshmen, wide receiver Adam Krumholz and tight end Luke Benzschawel, also hauled in a couple of solid receptions with the reserves.

Two rotate in at left guard with first-team offense

Redshirt junior Micah Kapoi, along with redshirt sophomore Jason Erdmann saw time at first-team left guard during Monday’s practice. Redshirt sophomore Jon Dietzen, who played the first week as starting left guard, did not appear to receive reps there or on second-team. Kapoi worked at left guard for the reserves behind the first-team.

On Saturday, Rudolph mentioned UW has three guards that have played extensively. Redshirt junior Michael Deiter has started all 27 games that he’s played in—11 at left guard in two seasons—but has gotten work exclusively at left tackle for the first nine practices of fall camp.

Redshirt juniors Kapoi (25 games with 12 starts) and Beau Benzschawel (22 games, all starts), along with Dietzen (10 games, eight starts), could be in contention for the two starting roles at left and right guard. Benzschawel has worked with the first-team offense at right guard throughout fall camp through Monday.

“I think for us as an o-line, it pushes us to get better, especially between me, Beau, and Dietzen,” Kapoi said on Monday when asked about the guard competition and working with the first-team. “It pushes us to get better, you always want to be one step ahead of the next person. So with that mentality, we’re always working. We’re always trying to one up each other in the weight room trying to one-up each up in the film room, and I think it shows on the field and it’s great for our offensive line. God forbid somebody goes down, that next guy can step in and there wouldn’t be so much of a drop off as a normal ones to twos in the offensive line.”

Observations

  • I liked how running back Rachid Ibrahim ran the ball today. It’s a loaded backfield with Chris James, Bradrick Shaw, and Taiwan Deal probably in front of him, but I think the Pitt grad transfer has some moves of his own.
  • It appeared redshirt senior defensive end Chikwe Obasih worked with the “starting” defensive line, and was in what looked to be the contributors in the nickel package. It appeared he was initially working with the “second-team” unit. BadgerBlitz.com’s John Veldhuis reported on Saturday that according to position coach Inoke Breckterfield, they were progressing the Brookfield native “along slowly after offseason surgery.” Obasih was out for the spring with a hip injury.
  • The offense did incur some false start penalties during team drills.

105-man roster updates

  • Both inside linebacker Nick Thomas and nose tackle Gunnar Roberge were taken off the 105-man roster due to injuries.
  • Replacing them is wide receiver Peter Roy and offensive lineman Blake Smithback.
Outside linebacker Zack Baun returned to practice in limited fashion on Monday.
Jake Kocorowski

Injury report

The good news: Redshirt sophomore outside linebacker Zack Baun returned to practice in a limited fashion on Monday.

The bad news: Inside linebackers Ryan Connelly (left leg) and Griffin Grady (illness), along with true freshman wide receiver Emmet Perry (left leg) were added to the report as out.

With Connelly and Grady out, converted safety Arrington Farrar worked with redshirt sophomore Chris Orr with what appeared to be the “second-team” inside linebacker tandem. That’s one deep position group.

Outside linebacker Christian Bell, wide receiver Cade Green, safety Scott Nelson, and tight end Zander Neuville were still listed as out for Monday’s practice.