MADISON — The Wisconsin Badgers scrimmaged inside Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday evening in what was the last fall camp practice session open to the media.
Before practice, junior wide receiver Quintez Cephus announced he would take a leave of absence from the team due to an unspecified legal situation. After practice, head coach Paul Chryst met with reporters.
“Earlier today, I met with Q, and I know he was planning to release a statement, and at this time really don’t have anything more to add to that,” Chryst said.
When asked if he and Cephus met and came to the decision, or if it was Cephus’s decision, Chryst replied, “Like I said earlier, I’m going to stick with that.”
Coach Chryst addresses the media following Saturday’s practice at Camp Randall pic.twitter.com/sYtfwyJ4oY— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) August 19, 2018
During practice, sophomores Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor saw many first-team reps at receiver, with Davis making a couple of noticeable receptions during the session. A.J. Taylor once again did not practice, but he will be among the top group at that position. Chryst was asked if he will treat the situation as he did when Cephus suffered a season-ending leg injury in early November.
“Yeah, as far as football-wise, we got the group,” Chryst said. “They got A.J. and Danny and KP, they played, and they’ve got to continue to develop. Then there’s going to be some other guys, you talk about depth. I think that’s where Jack Dunn and Adam Krumholz have given themselves opportunities, and then you got a young group that they got to start coming out of the fog.
“Right now, I think you got a lot of those young guys that have been in the fog and they need to come out of it. Guys are here, and we’ve got to help them grow and be the best they can be and help this team.”
Since Wisconsin scrimmaged on Saturday night, there was really no individual drill work. Therefore, you either played or you didn’t, so there was no “limited” designation that has been used recently for offensive linemen Beau Benzschawel, Jon Dietzen, and David Edwards, along with inside linebacker T.J. Edwards.
Tight end Zander Neuville suited up and was in full pads, but did not play in the scrimmage. He did some sled work on the sideline.
This may be the first time I noticed, but Garrett Groshek does not have the wrap/cast around his right hand/arm anymore.
Bare with me now, folks, as I was also working on the Cephus article during practice so I caught as much as I could in between writing. I do plan in the coming day or so to publish a couple articles to piece together a depth chart based on the first two-plus weeks of fall camp being open to the media. For now, here’s what I saw during Saturday’s scrimmage.
The first-team defense:
- Defensive line: Kayden Lyles and Matt Henningsen at DE, with Olive Sagapolu at NT (though true freshman Bryson Williams appeared to get some reps there later in the scrimmage). During nickel looks, I saw Henningsen/Lyles and Henningsen/Sagapolu combinations.
- Inside linebacker: Chris Orr and Ryan Connelly (with Edwards out). Mike Maskalunas and Griffin Grady mostly ran with the twos, but I believe I saw a series or so with the ones (guessing just more reps for them, the defenses intermingling players, and/or just rest for the experienced group of Connelly and Orr).
- Outside linebacker: Andrew Van Ginkel and Zack Baun.
- Cornerback: Caesar Williams and Faion Hicks; when in nickel, Madison Cone came in to play the slot position. It looked like Cone and true freshman Donte Burton also may have received some reps with the ones during a series as well.
- Safety: D’Cota Dixon and Scott Nelson
For the first-team offense, I’ll give my quick thoughts on who I think will be starting come Aug. 31 against Western Kentucky, due to the injuries that kept people out of the scrimmage.
- Quarterback: Alex Hornibrook
- Running back: Jonathan Taylor
- Fullback: Alec Ingold
- Wide receiver: A.J. Taylor and Kendric Pryor/Danny Davis
- Tight end 1 (in-line): Zander Neuville
- Tight end 2 (H-back): Kyle Penniston
- Offensive line, from left tackle to right tackle: Dietzen/Cole Van Lanen, Michael Deiter, Tyler Biadasz, Benzschawel, David Edwards
- During Saturday’s session, Dietzen/Van Lanen, Deiter, Biadasz, Jason Erdmann/Micah Kapoi, and Van Lanen/Logan Bruss made up the first-team line, with tight end Luke Benzschawel also receiving reps due to injuries.
- Van Ginkel intercepted two passes on Saturday night. The first was against No. 2 quarterback Jack Coan, but the second one was against Hornibrook in a battle of ones vs. ones. I honestly believe he could be the playmaker on the Wisconsin defense this season.
- On the one kickoff return I saw, true freshman Aron Cruickshank handled the return and looked decent. I wonder if Taylor would potentially get another look back there, but with the Cephus situation, maybe it could be the Brooklyn, N.Y., native’s shot. Again, we’re two weeks out with practices now closed to the media, so we’ll see once the depth chart is released come game week.
- From the punt-return opportunities, Dunn and Davis received opportunities.
- On the kickoff return unit, I saw true freshmen Taj Mustapha and Reggie Pearson but in blocking capacities.
- It was working against the reserves on defense and playing with the reserves on offense, but I liked what redshirt freshman wide receiver Cade Green did during the scrimmage as he reeled in several receptions.
- Toward the end of the scrimmage, Burton intercepted a Chase Wolf pass near the sideline, but he could have had one, possibly two more during the session as well.
- Pearson intrigues me a bit as to his potential for playing time. I believe he has had a pretty low-key, solid camp, and he picked off Coan when he stepped in front of a pass.
- Collin Larsh looked solid for the most part during camp, and from a consensus of reporters trying to figure out distance, connected on at least three successful attempts, with the longest being 48 yards. He did appear to miss one from 40-ish yards. His progression is something to watch due to the injury to Rafael Gaglianone, who has not practiced for going on about two weeks.
“Today was better than last time we did it,” Chryst said when asked about Larsh. “There was a little bit of inconsistency. That position is unique, right? It’s each kick its own entity, but I think he’s done some good things. That group works and you appreciate that out of him. That part’s been good for really all of those guys with Raf not being able to get work. It’s been good. I think he’s getting better, and even this, there’s no one in the stands, but it’s one kick and I think that does a little bit of pressure that he’s got to get used to, certainly.”
- True freshman running back Nakia Watson received a couple of second-team reps, including a carry and making a nice reception out of the backfield near the sideline.