The Wisconsin Badgers concluded spring camp on late Friday afternoon on the grass fields outside of Camp Randall Stadium.
Fifteen practices started in late March. Fifteen practices completed in late April.
Wisconsin allowed media in for eight of those sessions, and B5Q was in attendance for seven. By all indications, spring camp performances usually springboard players into fall camp reps. Who precisely lines up with the respective “ones,” “twos,” and reserves to start those practices will be officially seen in late summer.
For now, B5Q predicts the potential depth chart for fall camp, along with giving thoughts on each position group. Here’s a look at my projections for the offensive two-deep:
Wisconsin offense projected two-deep for fall camp
|Quarterback||Jack Coan||Graham Mertz/Chase Wolf|
|Running back||Jonathan Taylor||Garrett Groshek|
|Fullback||Mason Stokke||John Chenal|
|Wide receiver||A.J. Taylor||Aron Cruickshank|
|Wide receiver||Danny Davis||Kendric Pryor|
|Tight end||Jake Ferguson||Luke Benzschawel|
|Left tackle||Cole Van Lanen||Tyler Beach|
|Left guard||Kayden Lyles||Jason Erdmann/David Moorman|
|Center||Tyler Biadasz||Jason Erdmann/Kayden Lyles|
|Right guard||Jason Erdmann||Josh Seltzner|
|Right tackle||Logan Bruss||David Moorman|
Maybe this was the hardest one to pick out of the offensive position groups. All four quarterbacks have made mistakes this spring, but all four have shown potential.
“That whole group, I think I was just talking to Johnny [Budmayr] about it. I said I don’t remember where all four guys you feel like you would go into the game and you know what you would get,” offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said on April 16. “They would be themsleves. They would compete. That huddle would have confidence in them when they’re speaking, and they would have a hold of it, so I think that’s a compliment to him and that group.”
All of Jack Coan’s reps received all first-team reps in the spring, and I’ll pencil him in to start fall camp just the same. I thought he threw the ball the best he has had in the two final Friday open practices that I attended. On April 26, he showed an ability to drive the ball downfield in hitting some deep throws to A.J. Taylor while also leading the offense to three scores in a scrimmage-like session. If he can do that in fall camp and show that in the season, it will definitely go a long way to keep defenses honest against the run game.
So ... who’s behind Coan?
Agh. Can I be honest? As of writing this, I feel the race for the No. 2 quarterback spot could be tight.
My gut tells me Graham Mertz and potentially Chase Wolf emerge as the main competitors just because of what they could bring to the position. Mertz shows a strong arm and the ability to extend plays, and he has led the offense to touchdowns in scrimmage portions. He really has processed a lot in this “baptism by fire” stage of fall camp where a lot is being thrown at him, and he’s more than competently competing alongside the others. The potential and talent are there, but he has also thrown some interceptions. He admitted a couple of Fridays ago he is still taking it all in.
“I got room for improvement,” Mertz said on April 19. “I got a lot of stuff I got to learn, got a lot of stuff to grow, but I’m just trying to be a sponge right now and grow as much as possible.”
Last week, I called Wolf arguably the most dynamic quarterback on the roster. I believe he has the strongest arm, based on my “eye test.” His mobility extends plays and can keep defenses honest in trying to lock up Jonathan Taylor in the run game.
On the flip side, Wolf admitted two Fridays ago that he still needs to work on decision making, something position coach Jon Budmayr referenced two weeks ago as well.
“For Chase, really with Chase, his strength is he can make any throw,” Budmayr said. “Now it’s just a matter of when is that a good decision to make that throw.”
I still do not count out Danny Vanden Boom necessarily far behind, either. He can be quick with his decision making and shows accuracy with his throws. He is the least flashy of the four, perhaps, but I like what he’s shown during camp.
“He knows what throws he can make, what throws he can’t and so when he can it’s a throw he can make, he cuts it loose,” Budmayr said. “When it’s one that he can’t, he progresses through the play, and I think that’s one of his biggest strengths.”
We all know who RB1 is with Taylor. I think Groshek really asserted himself as a No. 2 option of the other available options, and the rising redshirt junior looked the part in the open practices B5Q viewed. How Wisconsin incorporates its running backs into the passing attack more could be something to watch for again, and the former walk-on reeled in a dart of a Mertz throw, along with two Coan passes, for touchdowns in the past two weeks.
Nakia Watson showed some flashes of his potential, but he also missed some time due to injury in the spring. His long run during a scrimmage portion of the April 19 practice was arguably the best run by a Badgers back that I saw in these open sessions.
Isaac Guerendo and Brady Schipper, two redshirt freshmen who switched to tailback from the wide receiver position, took solid steps forward. I thought the latter’s stood out maybe a bit more, but you also cannot deny Guerendo’s speed and burst. More experience and reps will only help the former Indiana track standout in the backfield.
The biggest question mark is how Bradrick Shaw works back into rotation as he continues progressing back from injury. However, if he can return to form in his redshirt senior season, he could provide a Taiwan Deal-esque presence (if Watson does not) as a complement to Taylor.
With Mason Stokke injured for a portion of practices, John Chenal received a good bulk of reps this spring at the position. The walk-on from Grantsburg caught some passes, ran some fullback dives and assumed the normal duties as previously seen from Alec Ingold and Austin Ramesh before him. Personally, I like what I saw out of the elder Chenal.
If called upon, I think both can contribute to the offense in some fashion this season, and we will see just how fast 2019 signee Quan Easterling can pick up the offense as well.
A.J. Taylor appeared to have his best spring practice on Friday, at least for the sessions that were open to the media. It really feels like a top three of Taylor, Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor. Davis missed a significant chunk of practices open to the media due to a right leg injury, though he returned and worked in some team/scrimmage periods on the last spring session this past Friday.
Who steps up as the fourth receiver? Honestly, three wide outs stand out the most for this—sophomore Aron Cruickshank and redshirt junior walk-ons Jack Dunn and Adam Krumholz.
Cruickshank finished spring ball on a high note with a nice receiving day on Friday and I feel he reels in throws nicely with his hands. Dunn is dependable and sure-handed, but I think Krumholz really showed something with some nice receptions. He caught a Mertz touchdown pass to end one scrimmage, but then also had beaten corners in some one-on-one positional battles at times.
For that matter, I thought redshirt freshman A.J. Abbott showed a nice ability to haul in some passes during the spring as well.
This position seems easy to predict in terms of depth chart, though the depth itself could be cause for concern if injuries strike during fall camp and the season. Ferguson is the clear No. 1, and it looked like he received some in-line style tight end reps with Luke Benzschawel out for the entire spring. Ferguson suffered a right leg injury, and Wisconsin kept him out the rest of the practices thereafter.
However, both should be on the depth chart heading into fall camp, though I feel walk-on Gabe Lloyd received some much-needed reps with the presumed “first-team” offense. He made a great play on a Coan throw during the April 19 practice, and if he could step up as a third tight end, it would help the group immensely.
Walk-on Jack Eschenbach received snaps this practice, and we will see just how much Hayden Rucci and Clay Cundiff can pick up in fall camp.
To me, three positions seem set—left tackle, center and right tackle, with Cole Van Lanen, Tyler Biadasz and Logan Bruss each respectively likely starting fall camp off in those spots. Maybe Van Lanen and Biadasz are the most secure in those spots, in my opinion.
The interior two guard spots should be the most interesting to watch. With Biadasz and Van Lanen out this spring with injuries, the first-team lines consisted of Tyler Beach and David Moorman at tackles (and flipping at both left and right spots for the last two weeks), Jason Erdmann and Kayden Lyles both receiving reps at left guard and center, along with some Bruss (before left thumb injury) and Josh Seltzner at right guard. Seltzner also worked at left guard with Erdmann limited for the first portion of camp, while Bruss bumped out to right tackle with a large cast on his hand for Friday’s spring practice.
Right now, I place Lyles at left guard and Erdmann at right guard with his experience, though I would not doubt if Moorman pushed for time at an interior line spot during fall camp.
Offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph told reporters on April 16 that Moorman, a redshirt senior, had the best spring out of the linemen through that point in time. The Michigan native can play both tackle positions as well as guard, where he saw some action on the left side of the line with the second-team during the last practice session. That versatility is key, especially with how injuries have hit the position group at times.
Who would be the second-team center right now is an interesting question. Both Erdmann and Lyles received reps this spring, with the latter receiving a good sampling of snaps throughout with the former limited to start camp. Rudolph mentioned a couple of weeks ago that with Lyles did not have a lot of experience at the position beyond moving to center as a high school senior and felt his pupil is the rustiest at that spot. That’s also considering Lyles’ temporary move to the defensive line last season.
The offensive line coach said that at that time, Lyles feels more comfortable being at guard.
“I like that I have ‘Erdz’ can go in at center,” Rudolph said. “He’s done that role before, and done an outstanding job of jumping into games and finishing games out. Then we’ll see. David Moorman has been that kind of emergency guy for us.”
True freshman Logan Brown will certainly be a player to watch come fall camp to see if he could break through. When asked about the potential of the five-star lineman making the two-deep, Rudolph said, “I think that’s always possible.”
“Tyler Biadasz was one who came in, and he was about to play as we traveled to Iowa as a true freshman. We got ‘Dietz’ back off of [injury], he goes, ‘I can play.’ ‘Dietz’ is the best, I miss him. He played and kind of saved Tyler’s redshirt, but he was easily in the two-deep that year, so absolutely someone could compete and get into the two-deep.”