MADISON—The refs made their way to the McClain Center as the Wisconsin Badgers scrimmaged in their ninth spring practice on Friday.
The practice went over two hours as the players participated in some special teams and position drills to start, but then worked in variations of team drills before scrimmaging.
As disclaimer, I did not necessarily see a lot of projected starters receiving reps during the actual scrimmage session. However, the defense made some plays throughout the practice itself. Three defensive backs—safeties Scott Nelson and Patrick Johnson, along with cornerback Caesar Williams—intercepted passes from the arm of quarterback Alex Hornibrook in different variations of team-based drills (either full 11-on-11 or some skeleton drills). Spring is a time to work on timing and your limits, so do not chalk up those interceptions to anything major.
The Nelson pick was impressive, however, with the redshirt freshman keeping his feet in bounds. He told me and the Wisconsin State Journal’s Jason Galloway on Thursday that he worked at the jugs machine after that practice because he dropped two potential interceptions.
Guess practice makes perfect there.
For that matter, Hornibrook did throw two touchdown passes—one to A.J. Taylor and Emmet Perry—during skeleton passing drills.
Safety Eric Burrell laid a pretty decent smack on tight end Jake Ferguson that caused an incompletion and riled up the defense in the process.
Some injuries popped out during practice. Outside linebacker Zack Baun—who did not play last season due to a left foot injury—left practice and was seen later in street clothes and a protective walking boot over that left leg.
Running back Chris James practiced but then was seen later on with ice wrapped around his lower right leg near the ankle area. There were no other details about the two injuries from UW, so when practice resumes on Tuesday morning, it will be worth watching the status of both players.
Jack Dunn also appeared to be hobbled during the practice, but continued to work through reps.
Reserve offensive linemen Logan Bruss was held out (right leg) along with wide receivers Adam Krumholz and Kendric Pryor.
Other observations from the scrimmage
- From what I did see, Faion Hicks worked alongside Madison Cone at cornerback with Nelson and Johnson as safeties with the “first-team.” I expect Caesar Williams to continue to mix in as well during the spring as finding those four-to-five game-ready cornerbacks will go into the summer camp. It looked like Williams did receive reps in with Hicks and Cone in a nickel package during one part of practice.
- It does appear walk-on will-be redshirt freshman Coy Wanner is getting some looks out of the fullback position in particular passing and blocking drills.
- I had to leave a few minutes before practice ended, but true freshman Taj Mustapha ended practice on a good note:
#Badgers practice in the books. Ends on a fantastic TD catch in traffic by Taj Mustapha.— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) April 7, 2018
Visitors at practice
Quite a few visitors were in attendance on Friday. As noted earlier, the most notable former Badger there, cornerback Nick Nelson, watched practice on crutches after his reported meniscus injury.
There were also some high school recruits in town, including 2019 verbal commit, running back Julius Davis. 2019 In-state prospects like Austin Ertl, Caden Blum, Jacob Rock—along with 2019 Michigan standout Brock Horne, 2020 standout prospect in offensive linemen Trey Wedig, among others—watched the practice as well.
Here are some tweets from the recruits on Friday:
Awesome time at Wisconsin today!! ⚪️ pic.twitter.com/Gk2TBe4k0t— A U S T I N E R T L™️ (@AustinErtl71) April 7, 2018