MADISON — Oh, hello, organized football. We have missed you.
The Wisconsin Badgers kicked off the first of their 15 spring practices on Tuesday morning inside the McClain Center.
Now, it is just the first day of these sessions that extend until April 20, so as much as watching a practice gives us a glimpse of what Wisconsin could have in store for its players this year, a lot can change.
Eight Badgers will miss the spring sessions entirely, including five potential starters. Four more were listed as out of practice on Tuesday.
Again, it was the first day of spring practice, so please take many of these observations with a grain of salt. The players donned just jerseys and shorts with helmets.
There wasn’t a lot of team work, with some position work and special teams drills to kick everything off, though the offense and defense participated in some 7-on-7 passing drills with the linemen also getting some work against each other. With some starters sidelined, younger players stepped in as expected.
- With Michael Deiter and Jon Dietzen out, Cole Van Lanen and Jason Erdmann worked with the “first-team” offense at left tackle and left guard, respectively.
- Patrick Kasl was at class, according to a UW official, so David Moorman saw some action as the reserve right tackle.
- Kayden Lyles worked as a center with the reserves,
- Madison Cone switched numbers from No. 24 to No. 31.
- Quintez Cephus is out for the spring, but he still caught some passes early on when the quarterbacks were throwing to the wide receivers, running backs, and fullbacks.
- Isaiahh Loudermilk and Garrett Rand were paired with nose tackle Olive Sagapolu on what could be inferred as the first-team defensive line. Behind them, it looked like true freshman Bryson Williams was the second-team nose tackle, with ends David Pfaff, Aaron Vopal, and Keldric Preston also seeing time on that iteration of the line.
- Playing alongside Andrew Van Ginkel with the “first team” was Zack Baun, who is back from a season-ending foot injury last year. Tyler Johnson, Noah Burks, Christian Bell, and newly-repositioned outside linebacker Arrington Farrar worked in as well.
- Defensive back-wise, Scott Nelson and Patrick Johnson worked at safety, with Cone and Faion Hicks appearing as a “first-team” unit. Eric Burrell and Seth Currens worked at the safety positions with Caesar Williams and early enrollee Donte Burton in the next unit.
- After practice, I saw Kendric Pryor, Jack Dunn, and Aron Cruickshank fielding punts. I also saw Dunn and Cruickshank catching them during punt coverage drills early on as well, and with the latter wearing No. 11, I almost did a double-take to ensure Nick Nelson wasn’t back there (yes, you can obviously tell the difference with the 5’8, 152-pound Cruickshank).
- Chikwe Obasih was in attendance, and I saw Nelson after practice chatting with defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard and the secondary.
- Early on, it appeared Sagapolu successfully kicked an extra-point attempt. Here is the 338-pound will-be senior celebrating (I should’ve taken video, as it was a joyous celebration):