With Wisconsin Badgers football team reaching the the halfway mark in their spring practice schedule, we here at B5Q thought it was a good time to recap all the goings on from camp thus far. A status check if you will.
With over 40 players going through their first round of spring practices, there is plenty of intrigue and development that has, and surely will continue, to happen before camp wraps up at the end of the month.
Without further ado, here is a position-by-position look at what has stood from the first few weeks of practice. Let’s start with the offense and the defense will post on Friday.
That No. 5 kid is once again getting most of the first team reps, go figure.
Graham Mertz shared with media members back on April 2, that he received cortisone shots for a shoulder injury that he battled throughout last season. That was some fairly big news and one would imagine that it definitely impacted his play.
Mertz mentioned that it is completely different so far this year with nearly all of his pass catching threats back. Mertz is also rocking a visor in practice now, and appears to be taking better care of the ball halfway through spring ball.
Also, Daniel Wright is one of the biggest quarterbacks you may ever lay eyes on at 6-foot-8 and pushing 260 pounds.
Jalen Berger is still definitively RB1 for all intents and purposes, but the depth behind him has been tested thus far this spring. Isaac Guerendo and Julius Davis, both of which came into the spring hoping to bolster their chances of snagging meaningful carries come fall, have been battling injuries. Guerendo once again has dealt with hamstring issues, while Davis has been hampered by a leg injury at times as well.
It appears as though the staff is being very cautious with players with slight bumps and bruises, but regardless both players are viable candidates to spell Berger if they can stay healthy. Guerendo told the media on April 12 that he is feeling “excellent” and is ready to contribute, so it may be nothing to worry about.
New running backs coach Gary Brown heaped praise on Berger when he spoke with media members, comparing his smooth running style to one of his former NFL ‘backs, DeMarco Murray. Berger is supposedly working on being better in all three phases of his role: running/vision, pass blocking, and catching the ball out of the backfield. Berger mentioned that last season teams may have been able guess the play would be a run with him on the field.
Walk-on Brady Schipper continues to be not only available, but also fully capable of helping out as well. Last season Schipper saw carries late in the year, primarily in mop up duty, but he could provide the team with a reliable third-down back given his ability to help out in all three of the phases Berger mentioned that he was hoping to grow in.
John Chenal appears poised to take on a larger role in the offense this upcoming season. After waiting behind Mason Stokke the past two years, Chenal is the primary fullback, and has been working on being a better pass catcher he said in a April 12 Zoom.
In fact, Chenal and reserve fullback Quan Easterling have been getting plenty of opportunities to tote the rock in practice given the previously mentioned running back injuries. Chenal had the longest rush of the season last year, and he should continue to earn carries in short yardage situations one would assume.
One of the players that has taken advantage of spring ball to this point is A.J. Abbott. The junior wide receiver has been mentioned after each practice that has been open to select media members. The 6-foot-2 receiver is one of the bigger outside targets on the roster, and he could provide another threat for Graham Mertz to throw to.
Abbott has seen extended reps with Chimere Dike and Kendric Pryor both limited at times with injuries, but his inclusion with the top group is a positive sign for the former three-star recruit out of Michigan.
He said “Look Ma, One Hand” pic.twitter.com/o4RDSWy9IC— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) April 3, 2021
Danny Davis displayed his receiving acumen with a highlight reel, one-handed grab as well.
Devin Chandler is another player that has turned heads at times this spring, both at receiver and as a kickoff returner. There is a lot of experience ahead of him on the depth chart, but he and Dike are the near future at the position.
Wide receivers are expected to Zoom with media members on April 21. There should be more information on the group to discuss the, but Paul Chryst did mention that Davis, Pryor, Jack Dunn, and Dike are the top four at the position.
Another group that has yet to speak with media members, the tight end room has been fairly quiet so far.
Jake Ferguson paid homage to his grandfather (drink), following Barry’s announced retirement, but other than that there has not been much news about the play of the tight end group. With the bulk of the group going through their first spring, this is a position that could see nice gains come fall.
Offensive line coach Joe Rudolph is usually a great interview, and per usual the long-time assistant was straightforward with the media early in spring practice. He laid out his present depth chart and highlighted the work of some of his key players.
Depth chart per Rudolph as of April 7...
LT: (1)Tyler Beach, (2) Logan Brown
LG: (1) Josh Seltzner, (2) Cormac Sampson
C: (1) Kayden Lyles, (2) Tanor Bortolini
RG: (1) Jack Nelson, (2) Michael Furtney
RT: (1) Logan Bruss, (2) Trey Wedig
At first glance the two noteworthy developments are that Tyler Beach (who started most of last season on the right side of the line) has shifted over to left tackle. Former five-star tackle Logan Brown is supposedly battling with Beach for that starting spot, but he is still working on becoming a more consistent player according to Rudolph.
Redshirt freshman Jack Nelson getting first team reps at right guard at 6-foot-7 is another huge development, as he was in the two-deep all of last season and has a great blend of athleticism and physical play. Rudolph goes out of his way to play his best five players, and there is plenty of time before fall camp for things to change.
Interior offensive linemen Tanor Bortolini and Cormac Sampson have also earned praise for their work in practice as well. Both saw playing time late last season after Kayden Lyles went down with multiple injuries, and are vying to earn a spots along the line in the future.