During Thursday morning’s football practice there was music blaring and pads popping. That’s right, the team was in full pads, and there was a heavy focus on tackling reps during individual work early in the nearly two and a half hour practice. Here is what B5Q noticed on the offensive side of the ball today by position.
If camp ended today, Jack Coan appears poised to be the opening day starter, after three solid practices this week in which he received the bulk of the first team work. Coan appears to be more confident and was on point with most of his throws, spreading the ball around to many different receiving threats. Coan will need to continue to work on his ability to extend plays and make things happen when his protection breaks down, but he has been the best passer from what the media has seen so far.
Once again Coan took vast majority of the first team QB reps, and looked very solid. Will be interesting to see how the battle between Wolf and Mertz shakes out for time behind him. Thought Wolf was the more consistent passer between the younger arms today. pic.twitter.com/jkkalBoIGI— Matt Belz (@savedbythebelz) August 8, 2019
The more interesting competition may come in what happens behind him. Touted freshman Graham Mertz and redshirt freshman Chase Wolf both received a lot of reps with the second team offense, and on occasion with the first team group as well. Mertz had some good moments, but also was bitten by a couple of interceptions and errant throws.
Wolf appeared to have the stronger day today of the two, but rarely pushed the ball down the field a ton, outside of a fade route to A.J. Taylor. Wolf demonstrated the ability to scramble and make things happen outside of the pocket, and used his running ability to his advantage on a couple of occasions.
Jonathan Taylor is still very good, go figure. But what was most interesting about his work today was the number of occasions when he and Garrett Groshek both lined up in the backfield. The two junior ball carriers bring a special ability with the ball in their hands, and they made plays in both the running and passing game while on the field together. This new wrinkle will be interesting to watch play out this season. Chris Orr noted in his media availability this afternoon that the duo creates a unique challenge when they are out there together.
Nakia Watson (#25) seemed to get the most first team running back reps outside of Jonathan Taylor and Garrett Groshek. Chris Orr noted after practice that Watson is now running, not having to think as much. pic.twitter.com/A6wmnlAqNT— Matt Belz (@savedbythebelz) August 8, 2019
Both redshirt freshman Nakia Watson and senior Bradrick Shaw got reps with the first and second team today at running back. The two backs bring a physicality in their running styles, and appear to be battling for the job of spelling Taylor and Groshek. Neither Watson nor Shaw had any breakout runs, but they both seem to be gaining confidence as camp wears on.
Wisconsin has never been known as a wide receiver hot bed, but they have a lot of solid options as they enter the 2019 season. Throughout practice a lot of players reeled in passes, with the quarterbacks spreading around the ball. Danny Davis had a great leaping catch on a contested ball around midway through practice and Adam Krumholz had a long catch and run that may have ended with a touchdown. Jack Dunn seemingly caught everything thrown his way, and he was all over the field in practice working in the slot. In what we have seen so far this fall, Kendric Pryor also seems destined for a strong season, as he has consistently made plays.
I thought the wide receivers looked good today. There wasn’t one specific guy who flashed, but Davis, Pryor, Taylor, Dunn, Cruickshank, and Krumholz all made plays in the pass game.— Matt Belz (@savedbythebelz) August 8, 2019
Both Tyler Biadasz and Cole Van Lanen remained limited in practice today, leaving Joe Rudolph without two projected starters along the line. Lining up in their places were sophomore Tyler Beach at left tackle and senior Jason Erdmann at center. Both players did a good job in practice, and Erdmann is a physical specimen at 6-foot-6 and 328 pounds. Also rounding out the starting line from today was sophomore Logan Bruss at right tackle, sophomore Kayden Lyles at left guard and sophomore Josh Seltzner at right guard.
Logan Bruss has been a fixture at right tackle for most of camp, and has grown from his spot starts at the position from last year. The guy who has continued to emerge is Seltzner, who is one of the strongest guys on the team. The 6-foot-4 327 pound guard has been a bully in run blocking during the two practices I have seen, and I think he has the inside track at the right guard position.
With Tyler Biadasz and Cole Van Lanen both limited, starting offensive line from LT to RT was Beach, Lyles, Erdmann, Seltzner, Bruss. David Moorman also rotated in at times along the line, but those first five received majority of snaps together. pic.twitter.com/3WzbgY2SwY— Matt Belz (@savedbythebelz) August 8, 2019
Tight ends / fullbacks
Knowing what they have in Jake Ferguson, Wisconsin gave a lot reps to younger guys at the position Thursday. Junior Luke Benzschawel, although not young, seems to be penciled in at the in-line tight end position which is primarily used in blocking situations. He had a long pass attempt fall just out of his outstretched arms during skelly, but has the size to block well in the Big Ten conference. Jack Eschenbach, a redshirt freshman walk-on out of Illinois, showed good quickness in passing situations at the h-back position, but was rarely called upon to block yet given his weight of only 224 pounds.
Two true freshman were the biggest winners of reps at the tight end position today. Although both players are young, they both still weighed in around 250 pounds, giving them a chance to see playing time this fall at either tight end position, h-back or in-line. Clay Cundiff and Hayden Rucci each had solid practices, hauling in a couple passes in team drills with the second team. Rucci appeared to get some more work with the first team offense today than Cundiff did, and showed some good burst with running after the catch in team drills.
John Chenal also could be an x-factor in the offense this season, as he got some work as both a traditional fullback and as a flexed tight end. Chenal brings a big pop as a blocker, and has similar size to most tight ends in terms of weight. In practices this week he has also been a steady pass catching threat out of the backfield, and looks to have a leg up on being the full time fullback.
Stay tuned to Bucky’s 5th Quarter, as the football team is scheduled to practice once again tomorrow, and we will continue to provide coverage of what we see and hear throughout fall camp.