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Who and what stood out through six Wisconsin open spring practices

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We’re in the final stretch, folks!

Jake Kocorowski

Media will be able to watch Wisconsin practices No. 13 and 15 on Tuesday and Friday, respectively, in the final week of spring ball.

Crazy how fast the month of April has flown by, and pretty soon (see: likely next week), it will be time to recap who stood out, to project depth charts heading into fall camp, and yes, talk about the quarterback position.

Before that, however, B5Q highlights who and what stood out last week and through the six practices we have been able to view—along with what we will look for in these final couple of sessions (along with my predictions for Avengers: Endgame? OK, maybe not).

Izayah Green-May’s potential role heading into fall camp

I called out last week that I would follow more of UW’s outside linebacker rotation, and precisely who has been paired with whom.

Zack Baun and Noah Burks worked what can be construed as “first-team reps” as the initial duo up in UW’s base 3-4 scheme. Both, I believe, have played relatively well. In my opinion for that matter, I feel Baun could have an impressive 2019 campaign in his final season in Madison.

However when Wisconsin has gone into a nickel look the past few practices open to the media, it appears redshirt sophomore Izayah Green-May paired with Baun as the “first-team” outside ‘backers.

“He’s in the stage where he knows what to do, and it’s more just executing,” Baun said of Green-May on April 13. “[Outside linebacker coach Bobby] April has realized that he’s earned those reps, and I’m glad he’s getting them.”

I’ve noticed the pairing of redshirt senior Tyler Johnson and Green-May as the second tandem up with the reserves, so potentially a two-deep could be inferred here (not forgetting Christian Bell, of course, who is out this spring due to a rehabbing a bowl prep injury).

At 6’6 and 223 pounds, Green-May seems lanky but he showed up well on Friday’s practice in recording a sack and tipping a pass. If he continues earning those reps, his emergence could be a big boost for the position group replacing Andrew Van Ginkel in 2019.

A versatile offensive line

Jason Erdmann returned a week prior, so we saw both him and Kayden Lyles interchangeably receiving reps at left guard and center positions with the presumed “first-team” the past few practices.

Tyler Beach and David Moorman flipped tackle spots this past week, as Beach helmed the left tackle slot and Moorman the right side.

Moorman, for that matter, was listed on the 2018 Pinstripe Bowl game notes as the No. 2 left guard behind Michael Deiter. Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Joe Rudolph praised the redshirt senior last Tuesday for having the best spring so far out of the linemen.

Rudolph also divulged that the plan for Logan Bruss (left thumb), who recently returned to individual position work with a large cast on his hand, was to having him play some guard then bump back out to tackle for the final couple of weeks. That has not happened yet because of his injury, but it shows that cross-positional work is valuable for Wisconsin.

Running back depth is intriguing

Of course, Jonathan Taylor will be the guy in the backfield. Behind him, I like what I’ve seen out of the other backs.

I feel Garrett Groshek and Nakia Watson can bring different attributes to the offense. Groshek has run hard during practices but also has the ability to catch out of the backfield. That was evident when he hauled in a Graham Mertz dart for a touchdown during the scrimmage portion of Friday’s practice.

For Watson, he missed some team work in practices recently, but on Friday he pulled off a reported 44-yard run during the scrimmage portion of practice. Last Tuesday, Rudolph mentioned how the opportunity ahead for the redshirt freshman is similar to what outgoing senior Taiwan Deal brought last season.

“That physical presence that goes in the game,” Rudolph said. “Not just physical, but the whole game. Taiwan affected the game from special teams, affected the games when he got in the game on offense and carried it. He brought a physical presence to his protections, so Nakia showed that in the [first] scrimmage, but kind of need to kind of keep seeing it, so I think him and Isaac Guerendo having great competition.”

You can see the potential Guerendo displays when he touches the ball. Groshek mentioned earlier this spring about what the redshirt freshman—who’s returning to the position from wide receiver after starting at running back early on in fall camp—could bring once he stops “thinking too much.”

Like Guerendo in switching positions from wide receiver, Schipper has received a ton of reps at tailback this spring. Groshek also complemented Schipper, who followed a similar path to Wisconsin as a walk-on. Rudolph also mentioned the Stoughton native’s effort.

“Brady Schipper showed up last scrimmage and played his tail off, so I think there’s some really good young backs,” Rudolph said last Tuesday. “Those three especially as young guys have each really flashed but looking for someone to kind of grab a hold of it.”

What I’ll be looking at the final week of spring practices

How the tight ends continue to develop

Luke Benzschawel has not practiced due to rehabbing from injury, and Jake Ferguson (right leg) has not practiced recently as well.

That has allowed walk-ons Gabe Lloyd and Jack Eschenbach to receive more reps during practice. Lloyd hauled in a nice catch from a Jack Coan throw on Friday, while Eschenbach reeled in a grab from a Chase Wolf bullet during the same practice.

Depth is definitely necessary at this group, and if injuries hit Benzschawel and Ferguson later on this season—the latter a vital part of the receiving game—others will have to step up.

Any tinkers to rotations/positions in these practices

Remember two springs ago that Rudolph tested Michael Deiter at left tackle, and he eventually started the entire 2017 season on that island.

I’m not sure if we’ll see anything along those lines this spring, and I have a good idea on projecting the two-deep heading into fall camp at several positions. However, I will be watching the reps at quarterback, at outside linebacker and at cornerback, along with if there are other changes on the offensive line.