The Wisconsin Badgers concluded spring camp late Friday afternoon on the grass field just north of Camp Randall Stadium.
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, and there were quite a few players that made their case to see snaps come August.
B5Q looked at the potential depth charts for both sides of the ball this week—offense on Monday, then the defense on Tuesday. Now, let us break down who we felt popped out during our time in and around the program this spring.
Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Joe Rudolph singled out the redshirt senior among those competing to be the top five linemen for the season.
“I’d say the guy that’s having the best spring so far is David Moorman,” Rudolph said in mid-April. “He’s busting his butt, man. He’s the one guy to me that’s kind of saying ‘I want this.’ There’s a lot more time left, so we’ll see how it continues.”
Moorman worked at both left and right tackle with the presumed “first-team” for most of the spring, but then also saw some time at left guard and even reportedly (according to the Wisconsin State Journal’s Jason Galloway) center.
I feel like the tackle spots with Cole Van Lanen and Logan Bruss at left and right, respectively, are accounted for (though Bruss also worked at right guard before his left thumb injury). However, Moorman could push for time as an interior linemen. It should be interesting to see what role he finds himself in during fall camp and the 2019 season.
The mid-year enrollee and true freshman worked in with the second duo of inside linebackers alongside walk-on Mike Maskalunas. He flashed with two interceptions against fellow true freshman Graham Mertz, and he pulled down one against Danny Vanden Boom in the first session open to the media as well. The 2018 WFCA small school offensive and defensive player of the year also showed a penchant for physicality on the field.
Keeping with the theme of those physical attributes, at 6’2, 239 pounds, he appears ready to play in the Big Ten right now. You have all likely seen his bench pressing video as well, but defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard also noted the Grantsburg standout’s effort.
“Leo physically, is very impressive. The strength, the speed, the way he moves,” Leonhard said on April 16. “I’ve been most impressed with how he’s picked up the defense. He has mistakes but that’s when the physicality sometimes comes into play. Him being here this spring is very big for his development, so it’s awesome to get him reps and really push him. He’s embraced the work, he’s embraced the meetings, doing extra. He’s a kid that wants more all the time, so it’s really fun to get him in the program early and we’re excited about seeing where he can get come the fall.”
Yeah, I’ll go with the four safeties who I believe will be in the two-deep come fall camp—Eric Burrell, Scott Nelson, Reggie Pearson and Collin Wilder.
“I think the safeties have done a great job of competing and making plays this spring,” Leonhard said. “We’ve taken a big jump forward.”
There were interceptions by the group, including Nelson during the last spring practice on Friday. Just off the top of my head, Pearson stood out with his pass breakup ability. The sophomore also laid a hit on walk-on Jacob Heyroth that jarred the ball loose in that final practice late last week.
As far as position groups, I feel this unit very well may be the strongest on the team. My only hint of concern is depth, as UW really only had six healthy safeties rotating in and out during the practices open to the media. Incoming freshman Titus Toler will join the program for conditioning and fall camp, and it will be interesting to see how quickly he adapts to the college game.
Izayah Green-May and Noah Burks
One of the biggest questions for the team heading into 2019 remains who will replace the productivity at outside linebacker of Andrew Van Ginkel opposite Zack Baun. In the spring, and as noted in our projected two-deep for the defense earlier this week, it appears Wisconsin has found at least a couple of options with their play during these practices.
In a base 3-4 scheme, Burks predominantly received reps with Baun as the first duo up. He held his own and really looked the part.
When the team switched to nickel (five defensive backs), Green-May found time alongside Baun as the edge rushers. On Friday, Burks praised the rising redshirt sophomore for gaining more strength and having the ability to bend.
If Green-May continues to progress in fall camp, he could provide a valuable service as an athletic pass rusher—something Wisconsin needs since the unit did not get to the quarterback enough in 2018.
Maybe it is recency bias here, but I really was impressed with how the rising junior threw the ball the last two Friday practices. In particular during the final spring session, he showed the ability to drive the ball downfield accurately with the help of senior wide receiver A.J. Taylor. He threw three touchdown passes on Friday in total, two to running back Garrett Groshek.
All of his reps in the practices open to the media appeared to be with the first-team during 11-on-11 sessions, and he also looks like the leader in the room, for now, heading into fall camp.
The other quarterbacks
Not to cop out here, but I really saw flashes of the other signal callers as well. In particular, Mertz and Chase Wolf have intriguing skill sets.
Mertz led two touchdown drives during Wisconsin’s open practice on April 13 and also threw a dart of a touchdown pass to Groshek during the April 19 scrimmage session. He can make the required throws and is accurate. He is still learning and transitioning to the college game, and that was even evident during the final practice on April 26 when he threw a pick right into Nelson’s hands.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, but Wolf is arguably the most dynamic quarterback on the Wisconsin roster due to his blend of mobility and arm strength. That proved itself several times during the spring sessions open to the media in either escapability out of the pocket or making a tough throw. He admitted after April 19’s practice that he is still working on his decision making, but he definitely showed potential.
I also thought Danny Vanden Boom made some throws and led successful drives this spring. He may not have the hype of Mertz and the true dual-threat nature of Wolf, but he is accurate. Position coach Jon Budmayr also noted that the redshirt sophomore knows what passes he can and cannot make.
- Fullback John Chenal: Took on a lot towards the end of camp with Mason Stokke injured and out. The elder Chenal brother on the team looked like he could carry the load at the position with blocking, running those fullback dives and sometimes catching the ball out of the backfield.
- Wide receiver A.J. Taylor: The senior wide out really reeled in the throws this spring and capped the 15 practices off with a pair of deep receptions and a touchdown catch off a Coan back-shoulder throw. With Kendric Pryor and Danny Davis injured at times during the spring—the latter really not getting much team work at all during open practices until the last Friday—Taylor seems like “Mr. Dependable” in the group.
- Wide receiver Adam Krumholz: I thought especially during the midway point of camp, the walk-on from Stoughton showed the ability to separate and make some great catches. Including one highlight reel grab from Mertz to end Wisconsin’s open practice on April 13.
- Wide receiver A.J. Abbott: The redshirt freshman really caught the ball well this spring. I know there feels like a logjam at the wide receiver position with more veteran players above him, but I liked how he performed overall.
- Running backs Garrett Groshek and Brady Schipper: Groshek ran the ball well this spring while also catching passes out of the backfield. Touchdown receptions from Coan and Mertz, including two from the former on the last day of practice, stand out. For Schipper, someone just transitioning over to the position group, I thought he handled the move well and showed flashes of potential. We will see just how many reps he will receive in August.
Update, May 7: Apologies on my end. Relooking at records, Chenal actually intercepted two Mertz passes. By my records he only picked off one of Mertz’s throws in the first week—the other was by Danny Vanden Boom. He also hauled in an interception off of Mertz during Wisconsin’s 10th spring practice.