MADISON — The final week of spring ball for the Wisconsin Badgers began Tuesday morning inside the McClain Center with the 13th of 15 practices.
There were some great receptions by various receiving targets, including some younger players who have consistently impressed since mid-March.
Wide receiver A.J. Taylor dove to haul in a nice throw from quarterback Alex Hornibrook close to the goal line against what looked like solid coverage from a defender. He also caught this deep pass from sophomore Jack Coan:
I missed about a half-hour of practice, but from what I saw, true freshman Aron Cruickshank had another solid day. The early enrollee hauled in a long pass from Coan for a would-be touchdown to end the morning session. The Wisconsin State Journal’s Jason Galloway also noted a 44-yard grab by Cruickshank from the arm of Hornibrook.
It feels like Cruickshank has started to hit his stride. I mentioned the true freshman’s performance and development through 12 practices in last week’s scrimmage report, so on Tuesday I asked offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph if Cruickshank, as well as fellow true freshman wide receiver Taj Mustapha, have put themselves in position for some reps during fall camp even with the presence of Quintez Cephus, Taylor, Danny Davis, Kendric Pryor, and others.
“We have depth, but you don’t know how quickly the depth gets down to who we need, and I think Aron’s done some really good things,” Rudolph said. “I think he’s fought his way to say, ‘Look, man, you need to take a long look at me in the fall,’ and earn reps. And I think Taj has fought through some things. There’s a lot of learning. Like, you walk in the door, I don’t think you expect to be [in] every rep, and he really has. He had his best practice last Friday, and you like that out of young guys because you don’t know when it’s all going to click for them, and so seeing him continue to get better is exactly what you want to see.
“So I’ll reserve comment until we get through all of spring, and Friday will be a good day for both of them, but I would say Aron right now, you’re looking at him, saying, ‘OK, I can see a role for him as soon as this fall.’ So we’ll see how he finishes up.”
Lastly, redshirt freshman Jake Ferguson made a tremendous one-handed grab with safety Eric Burrell blanketing him in coverage from a Hornibrook throw toward the end of practice. If I had not seen Taylor’s one-handed grab for a touchdown on Twitter, I would have counted the Madison Memorial product’s snag as the catch of the day. I hope to write a feature before the end of the week on Ferguson’s progression and what it may spell for the Wisconsin offense in the fall.
- Cephus worked more on Tuesday beyond the positional work seen on Friday, including some modified team drills. A great sign for the will-be junior who was poised for a huge season before his leg injury against Indiana last November.
- I thought Coan threw the ball well today, finding Cruickshank and Taylor for big plays.
- Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Logan Bruss lined up at right tackle with the “first-team” offense with Patrick Kasl presumably in class and David Edwards out for the spring. That was the first time I saw him out there.
- True freshman cornerback Donte Burton had a nice pass break-up against Mustapha on a Coan pass during team drills.
- No new injuries to report, as running backs Taiwan Deal (left leg) and Chris James (right leg), wide receivers Adam Krumholz (right leg), Cade Green (left leg) and Emmet Perry (right leg), outside linebacker Zack Baun (left leg), and inside linebacker Mike Maskalunas (left leg) were out.
- Outside linebacker Tyler Johnson appeared to hurt his right hand after a play and was being looked at by the staff. However, I saw him after practice and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. We’ll see what his status is on Thursday.