Expectations for the 2018 season included Garrett Rand bumping outside to start at end on Wisconsin’s defensive line that lost three key contributors. Unfortunately, a bump in the road caused a significant delay.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Jeff Potrykus first reported Rand’s Achilles injury last June, and the Wisconsin State Journal’s Jason Galloway wrote in December that the defensive lineman suffered a torn right Achilles tendon.
Now in spring camp, Rand’s return to the field creeps closer and closer as he continues to work his way back.
“It’s really good,” Rand told B5Q on Saturday when asked about his rehab. “I mean, we’re on track so far so I’ll be fine, 100 percent here in a little bit. Hopefully fall camp and summer conditioning I’ll be doing everything with the guys back again.”
During some practices open to the media, Rand has been seen working on the sidelines during what appears to be conditioning drills. Though not suiting up in helmet, shoulder or lower body pads, “100 percent here in a little bit” seems like a promising timeline for the redshirt junior from Chandler, Ariz., who played in 28 games from 2016-17 as a nose tackle in Wisconsin’s 3-4 scheme.
He anticipates trying to advance up to some individual drill work during spring practices, and when these 15 sessions finish up at the end of April, he plans on “doing everything with the team and going on from there.”
So does that 100 percent mean for summer conditioning and fall camp as well?
“Yeah, yeah, definitely,” Rand said.
The time away from the field, though unfortunate, also has seemingly rekindled Rand’s passion for the game.
“It definitely, definitely sucked at first, but I kind of think of it as kind of a blessing, too, because I think my drive to play is much like my fire is burning for football, so I can’t wait to play,” Rand said. “I think that’s helped me to realize how football is so special to me. So it was a really long process, but I’m thankful for all the people I had to help me along with that, my teammates, friends and parents.”
The injury to Rand cut the depth and likely stunted the production on Wisconsin’s defensive line last season. Interior offensive lineman Kayden Lyles crossed over the line of scrimmage to join position coach Inoke Breckterfield’s group and eventually played in 12 of the 13 games (seven starts). Walk-on Matt Henningsen emerged to start 10 of the 13 contests on way to earning a scholarship.
Rand’s return this upcoming season can only help a defensive line that will see sophomore Bryson Williams replace the NFL-bound Olive Sagapolu as the starting nose tackle—though Williams started three games last season when Sagapolu suffered a season-ending injury at Northwestern.
The defensive end group also returns fellow redshirt junior Isaiahh Loudermilk, Henningsen redshirt senior David Pfaff and a trio of redshirt freshmen in Isaiah Mullens, C.J. Goetz and Boyd Dietzen. 2019 signees Rodas Johnson, Gio Paez and Keeanu Benton will also presumably join the line for summer conditioning and fall camp.
Rand mentioned the line has been focused on “coming out (of) your hips,” shedding and getting off of blocks and running to the ball. He believes he is seeing growth from those with less experience and with the group as s a whole.
“I mean there’s always little things like that you can do to get better,” Rand said, “but as of now, our two points are staying in the box, coming out your hips and getting off the ball. So that’s the two things that we could work on as a group right now as to working into the season.”
2019 signees in attendance
B5Q highlighted some of the 2019 signees who stated they were attending the open practice late last week.
Based on who B5Q saw—along with pictures below from photo editing guru Badgers Digitals and one of the recruits—running back Julius Davis, specialist Blake Wilcox, offensive linemen Joe Tippmann and Logan O’Brien and tight ends Hayden Rucci and Clay Cundiff, inside linebacker Maema Njongmeta and walk-on safety Donte Caputo all showed up to watch their future teammates on Saturday.
Bet you can’t tell which one I am pic.twitter.com/Fr7LCETHT7— Badgers Digitals (@BadgersDigitals) April 13, 2019
2021 offensive lineman Nolan Rucci joined his older brother as an attendee on Saturday as well. In the coming day, B5Q will have a full wrap up of who attended this weekend, along with a feature on the younger Rucci’s time in Madison this past weekend.