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Takeaways from Badgers spring practice No. 7: Defense

The Badgers practiced inside Camp Randall Stadium for the first time this spring.

The Wisconsin Badgers conducted their seventh practice of the spring on Saturday, which marked the first day that players practiced inside Camp Randall Stadium.

Overall, it was a fairly balanced day for the offense and defense, with several standouts on each side.

Defense Rotations

The Badgers first-team defense remained the same as well, although the defensive linemen continued to rotate with the different defensive alignments for coordinator Mike Tressel.

T.J. Bollers took first-team reps for the third straight practice with C.J. Goetz out. Additionally, Kamo’i Latu didn’t appear to participate in team drills, changing the safety rotations, with Austin Brown and Owen Arnett seeing second-team reps.

Standouts

Returning to practice from a foot injury, Jake Chaney compiled a good practice for the Badgers with the second-team defense.

The backup linebacker made plays in three different facets: he contained the edge well in run defense on an assignment, earned a sack on Braedyn Locke on a blitz, and intercepted the Mississippi State transfer on the last play of the day.

Prior to his injury, he had picked up where he left off as a key piece of the linebacker rotation with Maema Njongmeta and Jordan Turner last year.

Njongmeta also had a nice day of practice, which included a pass-breakup in coverage against Jack Eschenbach.

PBU city

The Badgers’ secondary had a solid day to match the high-flowing tempo of the offense, recording a number of pass-breakups via several different players.

The defense had a nice sequence in the redzone after Braedyn Locke drove the offense down the field, as Amaun Williams broke up a near touchdown for Jack Eschenbach before Owen Arnett broke up a pass intended for Skyler Bell on the next play.

Maema Njongmeta recorded one of his own in coverage against Jack Eschenbach, while cornerback Jonas Duclona had a couple of nice plays with the second-team defense, breaking up a high throw from Locke to Jack Pugh downfield up the seam.

Freshman Jace Arnold got in the action as well, nearly intercepting a pass from Braedyn Locke on a ball to the sideline intended for wideout Quincy Burroughs.

Close coverage

The offense was able to move down the field on several occasions, but it wasn't always easy, as the Badgers had tight coverage for a good portion of the day.

There were several throws short of the sticks where defensive backs were right on the bodies of their receivers, but the wideouts were able to secure the catch before going down.

Additionally, there weren't many downfield throws with success apart from a Skyler Bell crosser, Chimere Dike go-route for a touchdown, and a miscommunication, as the cornerbacks and safeties were able to hold their ground.

Jace Arnold, who rotated in with the second-team defense, had a tough battle with C.J. Williams, as both sides had solid reps on the day.

Competition heating up

Last week, when speaking to defensive coordinator Mike Tressel, he made it clear that the cornerback room was fielding a lot of competition.

While top cornerbacks Alexander Smith, Ricardo Hallman, and Jason Maitre have been staples on the first-team defense, the second and third-team defenses have seen significant rotation.

On Saturday, A’Khoury Lyde and Jace Arnold were consistently rotating with Avyonne Jones and Jonas Duclona as the second-team cornerbacks.

That could continue for the duration of spring ball, as the Badgers continue to evaluate what they have in their secondary room.

Braedyn Moore continues to take third-team nickel snaps behind Amaun Williams and Jason Maitre, but was seen in the safety huddles during individual meetings on Saturday, potentially indicating where his future may lie with the Badgers.

Run fits

With the unique formations that coordinator Mike Tressel is utilizing defensively, how the Badgers defended the run was going to be an intriguing watch.

On Saturday, it was a strong performance by the front seven with their run fits.

Linebackers consistently contained the edge well, while players on the second and third lines of the defense filled in their gaps well, which wasn't the case consistently in 2022.

Discipline and aggressiveness will be vital in the Badgers’ run defense, and those factors were showcased on Saturday, although the offense was able to compile a few solid efforts in the run game.

1-on-1s

As expected, outside linebackers had a tough time winning 1-on-1 reps against the tackles, as they were consistently flushed to the outside after initially winning via speed.

Standouts of the day were James Thompson, who won in a variety of ways, and Isaiah Mullens.