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Paul Chryst talks quarterbacks, position switches, Badgers out for spring practices

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The head coach spoke with reporters on Monday morning.

MADISON—With the Wisconsin Badgers starting their 2019 spring practice sessions on Tuesday, head coach Paul Chryst met with the media inside the McClain Center on late Monday morning for a 20-minute (TWENTY MINUTE!) session.

Though the spring roster has not been released yet—something that should occur soon—Chryst provided some player position changes and a few notable Badgers that will be out for the spring.

The media will be able to watch eight of the 15 practices starting on Tuesday, Apr. 2. B5Q will be there for all eight available sessions and provide recaps, photos and analysis. For now, here are the highlights from the chat with the head football coach:

Who’s out, who could be limited this spring

  • Chryst said offensive linemen Cole Van Lanen and Tyler Biadasz, along with outside linebacker Christian Bell, will not practice during the spring. Chryst noted Bell suffered an injury during bowl prep practices.
  • Chryst noted that rising redshirt junior defensive lineman Garrett Rand is one of the players “that is kind of limited” and does not know what type of “pitch count” the redshirt junior defensive end will be on.
  • The head coach also said rising redshirt senior running back Bradrick Shaw will also be limited.
  • For who gets the reps at center in place of Biadasz, who spurned a chance to declare for the NFL Draft to return to UW for his redshirt junior season, Chryst pointed out that both Kayden Lyles and Jason Erdmann will get “the bulk of the center snaps” during spring practices.

Position changes

  • Both rising redshirt freshmen Isaac Guerendo and Brady Schipper will move to running back from wide receiver.
  • Seth Currens is now with the inside linebacker group after being a safety.
  • Griffin Grady will work with the outside linebackers now as the group works to replace the production of NFL-bound Andrew Van Ginkel.

Lots of quarterback talk

  • On Alex Hornibrook deciding to leave Wisconsin and pursue another chance at a different program: “I mean certainly had a number of conversations with him and his folks, and lot of that I’ll just keep between us, but every guy goes through things, and certainly appreciate what he did here. He’s going to graduate with a heck of a degree and was a contributor to some really good teams and good moments, and so you wish him well as he goes forward. I’m excited with the group that we got here.”
  • If he came to Chryst initially about the decision to transfer or if it was mutual: “Like I said, we visited and more than just one conversation.”
  • Who will be in competition for the starting quarterback spot without Hornibrook: “Well we have four quarterbacks, and obviously Jack [Coan] has started games and that’s what good about this time of the year. They all get a chance to work and improve, and like I said earlier, I’m not worried about who’s starting right now. We’re worried about how can we help each guy get better in the spring.”
  • When asked if it’s difficult to divide reps for the quarterbacks, Chryst replied, “not really.” He referenced Wisconsin’s running back situation where Jonathan Taylor will probably be the starting tailback but he still needs enough work in order to get better during the spring, but then everybody (like Garrett Groshek, Nakia Watson and Guerendo) needs reps. Regarding quarterbacks, he said, “Like in your mind if you’re trying to see who’s going to be the starter out of spring, then you better give them more snaps early, right? You got to narrow it all down quicker, and we don’t have to do that right now. I think that’s one of the things I’ve always appreciated about this program is what guys do in the first spring, in the second spring—I think those all add up. They might not start until their junior year, but Scott Tolzien benefitted from all those reps leading up to when he was in position to play, so I think you have to give everyone a lot of work. I think that’s where we talk about with our players—and it’s probably good to go over with you guys again—the goal is not to come out with who’s starting, right, because it’s who is getting better and how do you create that in the spring for everyone. Therefore, every position, every guy will get work, needs to get work.”
  • What advantage spring ball gives incoming freshman and mid-year enrollee Graham Mertz to compete for the starting quarterback role compared to coming in “I think it does help, and I think that we’ve got Graham, [outside linebacker] Spencer Lytle and [inside linebacker] Leo Chenal [as mid-year enrollees]. I used to think that the season kind of started, the calendar started when you’d come in fall camp. Really when you go through and teach it, it gives you a chance to learn at a different pace. Even when you’re in spring practices, we’ve had eight weeks where we’ve been able to talk through and get them familiar with things. Then you’ve got a practice day, then you got a meeting day, so I think it does help the learning quite a bit. I think you said it right, to give himself an opportunity to compete in the fall. Right now, it’s about learning it, understanding, still getting comfortable with his teammates, all those things.”
  • On areas where he’d like to see the quarterback position grow compared to last season: “I think that you want to take the quarterback position from last year, there was some good, but I think every part of it has got to improve. I think that as a team that we did some good things, but we can be better and need to be better. I think Jack [Coan] certainly has some things because he played, he’s got a list of things that he can point to—and that you guys should probably do because you watched him play in games—and yet there’s still more. I liked the way that he kind of grew throughout those experiences, but I mean it goes to the basics of how do you move a team? What can you do within it and how do you, knowing what we’re doing, knowing what the defense is doing, knowing situations, all that just keeps, you’re always working on it.”
  • Any chance Chryst wants to name a starter at quarterback at the beginning of spring camp, like he did for Joel Stave in his first season as Wisconsin head coach in 2015? “Probably not. I really like Joel though. He probably needed that as much as anyone when we did it, but yeah, I don’t think we’ll do the same today. Forgot about that.”
  • On the traits of Mertz that stood out from him compared to other high school quarterbacks: “Certainly I think he’s got a good talent base. I think he’s a talented quarterback, good football player. Like any kid, the more you get to know him, then you appreciate who they are and obviously [he] had success. The team had success in high school, and I think he did have a lot of attention. I appreciate the way he handled all of that. One thing that I liked about the whole class, and he certainly was a big part of it was they’ve become close, and he worked to help recruit other guys so kind of the team is important to him. So those are all things that you thought you saw in him, but the more you’re around it, it just reinforced it. Obviously, we’re excited that he’s here.”

More from Chryst on...

Here’s just a couple other topics from the head coach’s availability (did not include everything in the 20-minute long conversation):

  • On offensive lineman Jon Dietzen’s retirement from football: “No, it wasn’t out of the blue, and boy, I appreciated all that he did and how he did it. He gave his all, and it was the right thing for him to stop playing.”
  • On the topic of not having a spring game, Chryst does not remember when it stopped being a game, but alluded to the open practice (that is on April 13) that will be free to the public. “Hopefully it will be good weather. Like last year, you want to make sure you got all of your practices, and then you know you come inside if it’s bad weather. So hopefully it works out and we have good weather that day and people can come and see it, but we can still get our work done.”
  • Chryst ended the availability with congratulating the Wisconsin women’s hockey team winning the NCAA championship on Sunday.