The Wisconsin Badgers conducted their tenth practice of the spring on a very warm Saturday, one week ahead of “The Launch” at Camp Randall Stadium.
On a scrimmage-heavy day, both sides saw a ton of action, with a number of touchdowns from skill-position plays and interceptions from defensive backs.
While Rodas Johnson was not at practice on Saturday, the Badgers welcomed back two key players from injury: C.J. Goetz, and Jeff Pietrowski.
Goetz started with the first-team defense, working alongside James Thompson and Isaiah Mullens with the first-team defense, while the Badgers incorporated their three-linebacker look with Maema Njongmeta, Jordan Turner, and Jake Chaney.
The Badgers switched things up later on, operating with two outside linebackers in four-down sets, as Darryl Peterson replaced Chaney, while also putting Austin Brown with the first-team defense in a three-safety look with Kamo’i Latu and Hunter Wohler.
It wasn't just with the first-team defense that these looks were seen, as the Badgers experimented with three-safety and linebacker looks alongside their third-string defense, although that didn't always work as well, as slot receivers were beating safeties in coverage.
In cornerback news, Jonas Duclona and Jace Arnold paired up for the first time that I saw, working as the second-team cornerbacks, while A’Khoury Lyde and Avyonne Jones were the third-team safeties.
Alexander Smith compiled his best performance of spring ball, as Tanner Mordecai tested him several times deep on Saturday.
Smith broke up Mordecai’s second pass of the day intended for Keontez Lewis on a great pass-breakup deep downfield.
The sixth-year senior broke up another pass intended for Lewis, while displaying good coverage on an incompletion along the sidelines in the endzone for Chimere Dike.
Ricardo Hallman had another nice practice, intercepting Mordecai deep on a poor decision intended for Lewis, while breaking up a pass for the former UCLA transfer later that resulted in an interception for Jason Maitre.
The Badgers involve some Cover 3 concepts on the off-boundary, which can lead to some catches between gaps, although the defense does well to shut out yards after the catch.
However, in their coverage deep down the field, the top cornerbacks had a solid day of defense.
In his return to the field on Saturday, Jeff Pietrowski looked good, and showcased the makings of being a solid pass rusher for the Badgers this season.
In 11-on-11s, Pietrowski beat second-team right tackle Trey Wedig for a sack on Braedyn Locke.
In 1-on-1s however, Pietrowski flashed the variety of his skillset, winning a rep against Jack Nelson by first using an outside move before going back inside. Then, he beat John Clifford with a mix of power and speed for a win.
Pietrowski seems to have a unique combination of moves and traits for the edge rusher position, which could position him well, despite his smaller frame compared to offensive linemen.
Earlier this offseason, outside linebackers coach Matt Mitchell praised the Michigan State transfer for being one of the leaders in the room, while sharing that the main difference for the outside linebacker will likely be working in space as a linebacker.
In skelly drills, Pietrowski showcased solid speed when dropping back into cover, which will be helpful as an outside linebacker.
The Badgers seem to have gotten a good player with via the transfer portal.
The offensive line and defensive line had 1-on-1s Saturday. Here were the results.
#Badgers OL/DL 1-on-1s from Saturday:— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) April 15, 2023
Tanor Bortolini > Gio Paez
C.J. Goetz > Riley Mahlman(via speed).
Marty Strey > Riley Mahlman. Swin move inside.
Michael Furtney > James Thompson
Ben Barten > Tanor Bortolini. Good initial block before letting up.
#Badgers OL/DL 1-on-1s from Sat(cont)— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) April 15, 2023
Jeff Pietrowski > Jack Nelson
Jack Nelson > T.J. Bollers
Cade McDonald > Joe Brunner
Dylan Barrett > Manny Mullens
Isaiah Mullens = JP Benzschawel. Bull-rush, but fairly equal rep.
Dylan Barrett = Ben Barten. Good move/held up for few
#Badgers OL/DL 1-on-1s from Sat(cont.)— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) April 15, 2023
Darryl Peterson > Nolan Rucci
T.J. Bollers > Max Rader
C.J. Goetz > John Clifford
Jeff Pietrowski > John Clifford
Spencer Lytle > Barrett Nelson
John Clifford > (Didn't see)
Gio Paez > Tanor Bortolini
Kerry Kodanko > Cade McDonald
Max Rader > Gabe Kirksche— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) April 15, 2023
Apart from Pietrowski, C.J. Goetz was a standout in his reps on Saturday, winning both of his reps and showing a nice win via his speed against right tackle Riley Mahlman.
The outside linebackers had a fairly solid day with their reps, winning in a variety of ways after the offensive linemen have primarily beaten them earlier in spring ball.