The Wisconsin Badgers football team is in the middle of a fall camp in preparation for their home opener against Penn State in just under a month, and we at B5Q had the chance to check out their ninth practice on Saturday morning.
With two of our writers in attendance, we went ahead and split out the practice reports so that each of them could focus on a specific side of the ball while watching.
Read up on the offensive report, and then go check out the defensive side that Matt wrote up!
Practice No. 9 was a good day for one side of the football...and a tough day for the other. The offense, unfortunately, was the latter. A lot of credit is due for the defense as they made a ton of good plays but the offense did not do themselves any favors looking a bit out of sync. There were some positives, but overall the offense was not quite as sharp as they hoped to be. Here is what I observed at each position offensively.
Quarterback: Graham Mertz has dazzled at some practices, but today was not his day. In drills his arm strength looked good, but in scrimmages and passing skeletons things just did not look in sync with his wideouts. Credit has to go to the secondary as they had a lot of plays where the coverage forced Mertz and backup Chase Wolf to check-downs. When they did push the ball downfield Caesar Williams made a nice play for an interception, as did Leo Chenal. John Torchio also snagged a pick-six on an out throw by Wolf as well.
One positive I took is that Mertz and Kendric Pryor seemed to have good timing and are developing into what could be a good combo. In practice today, Pryor beat the opposing corner on a route and took the deep ball from Mertz in stride for what would have been a touchdown. With Pryor being hurt much of last year it is good to see that those two are working well together in 2021.
Running back: There was not a lot to take from the running back room today. Jalen Berger broke a few runs but for the most part it was tough sledding for the run game, oftentimes just 2-3 yards and a cloud of dust. Chez Mellusi appears to be running split time with Berger and the starters. Braelon Allen continues to develop in the room and he lowered his shoulder in some drills, but overall was contained by the defense. In drills, I thought Brady Schipper looked pretty good and was shifty. Isaac Guerendo appears healthy and running well in his reps with the twos.
Offensive line: No group really dazzled on offense, but the line appeared to have a really tough day with assignments and injures. The front five that ran with the ones were Logan Brown, Josh Seltzner, Joe Tippman, Jack Nelson and Tannor Bortolini. Tippman being in at center over Kayden Lyles was a bit of a surprise, but Joe Rudolph mentioned that he had earned reps after a strong Friday practice.
The injury bug bit this group hard Saturday as both Brown (head) and Bortoilini (right leg) were banged up in the scrimmage. Logan Bruss was also held out due to a left leg injury, and Tyler Beach also did not practice due to a leg injury. This group has a lot depth to it, but it will be interesting to see how Joe Rudolph manages the rotation here with guys out. It’s early, but something to certainly monitor.
Lots of injuries on the o-line to maneuver around for Joe Rudolph right now, especially at tackle.— Matt Belz (@savedbythebelz) August 14, 2021
Will be interesting to see how quickly that group can get healthy.
Wideout/Tight End: As mentioned above wideout Kendric Pryor had a pretty good day in his reps with Mertz. However, the main standout was Chimere Dike. Dike ran really well and made a couple of really nice catches in both short and long routes. He may not appear to be the fastest of the group, but he runs very smoothly and looks to have gotten even better this off-season. He’s a player that will need more and more touches if he plays the way he did today. Freshman Markus Allen also looked sharp in his limited reps.
At tight end there wasn’t much that stood out today. Jack Eschenbach ran a nice route in the scrimmage and was wide open downfield, but Mertz was just a bit off target. Eschenbach appeared to have his hand wrapped, which might have made it a little bit tougher to haul the ball in. The other takeaway was Jaylan Franklin, who is new to the position, he seemed a little out of sync on formations but you can see why the coaching staff likes him in that room. His development will be interesting to follow.
Overall, it was a tough day for the offense, but those days can happen. The promising thing is that Mertz seems to be developing connections with his wideouts, the running back room is getting reps from a lot of different guys, and some younger wideouts are coming along. The offensive line injuries are a bit concerning, but let’s hope it's nothing major as the group works closer to their opener against Penn State on September 4th.