On Saturday morning, the Wisconsin Badgers welcomed thousands of fans and media members eager to get their first (or in my case second) chance to see the football team take the field.
While the team did not wear full pads and a large chunk of time was spent on individual work, the second half of practice included an extended team period in which the coaching staff shuffled the first and second-team players in on both sides of the ball.
Here is a rundown of what stood out on offense in the last open practice of camp.
- Freshman cornerback Al Ashford, who enrolled early, will miss the season with a left arm injury that required surgery.
- Donte Burton (right leg), Danny Davis (head), Skyler Bell (left leg) were also out. Additionally, Dylan Barrett, Logan Brown, Tanor Bortolini and others have been absent the past week.
Quarterback Graham Mertz was by far the most consistent signal-caller, and I thought he looked poised today. He had one ball sail on him on a deep out, but other than that he was solid through his progressions and delivered the ball well. The offense looked better than it did just a week ago. Wolf missed a couple of gimmes, but he held his own and moved the ball fairly well with the second team.
Mertz looked solid all day long. He’s currently working with Chimere Dike and Markus Allen after practice on some red zone stuff. Mertz connected on a TD to Dike in the red zone during practice. #Badgers— Matt Belz (@savedbythebelz) August 21, 2021
At running back, I thought the rotation of Berger, Mellusi, and Guerendo looked good. At this point, those three have emerged, at least to me, as the top group. I thought each of them displayed a nice burst and had their moments. Overall the running game was much better, and in talking with other media members, they agreed that this was the best they had seen from the running game. Julius Davis had a long run on one of his lone carries as well. The defense was rotating bodies in the front seven, but regardless the run game looked better.
A big reason for the running game was the work of the offensive line. Logan Bruss was back at right tackle with the first group and that seemed to help. Tyler Beach did not participate as he works his way back from an injury, so Cormac Sampson was the first-team left tackle. Working inside with the ones was Josh Seltzner (LG), Joe Tippmann (C), and Jack Nelson (RG). At this juncture, I think it is safe to say that these three have the inside track to be the starters in week one.
The second-team unit, from left to right, was Riley Mahlman, JP Benzschawel, Kayden Lyles, Michael Furtney, and Trey Wedig. Nolan Rucci also worked in at left tackle at times.
Jake Ferguson looked great in limited action, while Jack Eschenbach also made a couple of plays in the passing game from his tight end spot. Hayden Rucci and Clay Cundiff also saw time with the first and second-team as well. Jaylan Franklin nearly had a touchdown reception in the red zone, but Chase Wolf just missed him in the corner of the end zone.
The play of the day was a circus catch by Devin Chandler in skelly. Went up and over Faion Hicks for a fantastic grab from Mertz.— Matt Belz (@savedbythebelz) August 21, 2021
Also saw a lot more Markus Allen at WR with the ones and twos with Danny Davis still out (head). Thought Allen had a couple nice plays.
At wide receiver, the Badgers rotated a lot of players in with Danny Davis out. Kendric Pryor, Chimere Dike and Jack Dunn saw the most work with the first team. Behind them, Devin Chandler (who had the best catch of the day), AJ Abbott and Markus Allen all rotated in. Last week Allen didn’t receive much playing time in team action, but he saw reps with the first and second-team at receiver on Saturday. He had a couple of nice catches between team and skelly work, and I would not be surprised to see him push for playing time as the year wears on.