MADISON—The final spring practice of 2018 started with bright sunshine inside Camp Randall Stadium on a gorgeous Friday afternoon.
Though as the practice wore on and the sun faded behind the west side of the stadium, one player continued to shine throughout the session.
That would be true freshman wide receiver Aron Cruickshank, who caught several receptions—including some deep catches that showcased his speed and potential.
Now first, a bit of a disclaimer.
For the scrimmage, a good chunk of starters did not participate, which allowed key back-ups and reserves to receive a good chunk of reps. Cruickshank did, however, beat sophomore cornerback Madison Cone for a long touchdown pass from quarterback Jack Coan. He also caught a deep pass from Kare’ Lyles for another would-be score.
It wasn’t a touchdown, but quarterback Danny Vanden Boom hit Cruickshank with a completion maybe 15-20 yards down the field, but the early enrollee put a move on safety Jake Benzing that allowed him to use his speed to get inside the five-yard line. Vanden Boom found tight end Jake Ferguson for a touchdown later on that drive.
Cruickshank also showcased his talents throughout the team and modified team drills prior to the scrimmage session, which included beating fellow true freshman, cornerback Donte Burton, for a big gain in team drills. During modified team drills, he hauled in a deep throw from quarterback Alex Hornibrook on the right sideline heading towards the south end zone (not a “would-be” touchdown).
Cruickshank also carried the ball on a flanker sweep in the early part of the scrimmage, following his blockers and gaining a good chunk of yardage.
If you’re looking for unofficial stats for the early enrollee, the Wisconsin State Journal’s Jason Galloway broke it all down here:
Unofficial stats from today’s #Badgers scrimmage, which lasted 16 offensive possessions. pic.twitter.com/xJbKCqsCJ2— Jason Galloway (@Jason_Galloway) April 21, 2018
Spring Practice... ☑️— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) April 21, 2018
Only 133 days until kickoff...#OnWisconsin || #Badgers pic.twitter.com/7IsBWI0oUG
- Again with the scrimmage portion, not a lot of starters really participated, so a lot of key reserves/rotational players got received plenty of playing time. Some groups, like the defensive backs and the linemen who have composed of the “first-team” offensive line, did receive some work from what I saw. Kayden Lyles did take over at center at some point.
- Really, the only running backs that received any work during the scrimmage were Mark Saari and Hunter Johnson. Both performed pretty well to say the least and ran hard (see Galloway’s tweet above). Saari scored a rushing touchdown while Johnson saw significant work carrying and receiving the ball as well. Johnson caught a pass in the flat and with a nifty move, juked out a defender and got the ball down to inside the 15-yard line.
For the #Badgers scrimmage, Mark Saari and Hunter Johnson received bulk of work at RB. Saari with a nice TD run, and Johnson had a good day—big reception with a juke of a defender, also ran ball well. Carried off field by fellow RBs. pic.twitter.com/AZ5sa85j2Y— Jake Kocorowski (@JakeKocoB5Q) April 21, 2018
- Pre-scrimmage, liked what I saw out of A.J. Taylor with some receptions during modified team and team drills.
- Inside linebacker Chris Orr looked like he got a lot of work during the scrimmage, and he mades some nice plays, getting in on many running plays. He forced Coan to throw a pass out of bounds on a nice blitz, then had a nice tackle for loss later on.
- With all the talk of Cruickshank, I thought true freshman wide receiver Taj Mustapha also played well. He made a great catch over cornerback Caesar Williams, with safety Scott Nelson unable to get over to help before the reception.
- It was not just all offensive highlights, I mind you. I counted at least a handful of sacks (maybe six or seven?) by various defensive players on Friday night, including defensive end Kraig Howe getting in on the action on at least two. Christian Bell, Gunnar Roberge, Griffin Grady and safety Brad Laufenberg ere among others who found their way to the quarterbacks.
- The scrimmage ended with a Deron Harrell interception off of Lyles, which appeared to caused to some miscommunication with wide receiver Jack Dunn
- Kicking-wise, I do not believe Rafael Gaglianone missed on his field goal attempts, and I had Collin Larsh converting three of four (Galloway had Larsh as connecting on four of five).
Nose tackle Bryson Williams (left leg) returned to practice, but outside linebacker Paul Jackson missed the scrimmage due to a right leg injury.
Kicker Zach Hintze (right leg — also had a boot on), defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk (left leg), 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 still out for practice to end the spring.
Recruits in attendance
Quite a few recruits were in attendance on Friday afternoon. 2018 signee, inside linebacker Jack Sanborn, took in the action. 2019 offensive lineman commit Joe Tippman flew in from Indiana and watched the practice.
Others in attendance included:
- 2019 defensive end Jake Karchinski from De Pere, Wis. (West De Pere)
- 2019 running back Derik LeCaptain from Brussels, Wis. (Southern Door)—listed as an inside linebacker by Rivals
- 2019 kicker Blake Wilcox from Wales, Wis. (Kettle Moraine)
- 2019 nose guard Keeanu Benton from Janesville, Wis. (Craig)
Be sure to follow us on Instagram!