The Wisconsin Badgers conducted their 12th practice of the spring on a short day in their final practice ahead of “The Launch” on Saturday.
Once again, the defense prevailed, although the receivers had a better day on Thursday.
C.J. Williams continues to earn all of the first-team reps over Keontez Lewis after stepping into his role on Tuesday, working alongside Will Pauling and Chimere Dike.
Additionally, Joe Huber continued to earn all the first-team left guard snaps in place of Trey Wedig for the third consecutive practice, while splitting reps with Dylan Barrett as the center on the second-team offense.
Hayden Rucci continues his return from injury, working primarily with the second-team offense, while Jack Pugh, Jack Eschenbach, and even Riley Nowakowski eat up the first-team reps at tight end.
After a fairly strong start to spring ball, Tanner Mordecai has gone through a tough week, throwing three interceptions to Ricardo Hallman in a short practice on Thursday, including a pick-six on the first play.
Through his short time at Wisconsin, Mordecai has operated the RPO system well, specifically in the short and intermediate areas of the field, but has struggled with his deep ball accuracy, often overthrowing receivers and forcing balls into close coverage.
Mordecai did have a nice throw up the seam to Nowakowski, but the tight end dropped the pass.
Two areas I wonder how Mordecai will fare in are the redzone and in two-minute drills.
The Badgers’ RPO-style offense isn't the best match for the redzone, while two-minute drills can require taking more downfield shots.
A big positive from Mordecai, however, was his growing relationship with wideout Chimere Dike, which was displayed on several throws on Tuesday.
cHIM.— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) April 20, 2023
That is all. pic.twitter.com/f5tFHH3VbM
Braedyn Locke continues to work well with the second-team defense, as he made several nice throws, including a 45-yard deep shot to Keontez Lewis over a defender, as well as a laser to Skyler Bell for a touchdown and another nice play in a 1-on-1 opportunity in the corner of the endzone.
drop it in the bucket @Braedyn_Locke3 —> @Juicebe11 pic.twitter.com/f36AOUI29N— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) April 20, 2023
Locke did have one poor decision: an interception to Preston Zachman where he fielded a low snap, which led to him being late on a read that the safety intercepted.
Locke needs to improve more in the two-minute drills, as he often looks for checkdowns, which run the clock, although it has been seen in a short sample size, albeit with the second-team offense.
But, it’s been impressive how the backup quarterback has a command of the offense thus far, which has led to the number of reps he’s earned.
Nick Evers saw a solid amount of third-string reps on Thursday, making a nice throw to Quincy Burroughs on a deep pass under pressure where the wideout got behind his defenders fairly easily.
Additionally, Evers was seen utilizing his legs several times, which has been a go-to for the quarterback when improvising on plays.
Receivers bounce back
After a drop-heavy day on Tuesday, it was a much cleaner performance by the wideouts, although it didn't necessarily translate into the offense moving consistently.
Still, Chimere Dike had one of his best days of practice, connecting with Mordecai on several occasions, making catches in the short, intermediate, and deeper ranges, while also showcasing good ball control in contested areas.
Dike’s top plays came on a deep backshoulder catch, as well as a touchdown catch in traffic on a busy day for the top wideout.
Keontez Lewis and Quincy Burroughs each shared deep catches behind defenders on the far sideline, while Skyler Bell had another quietly productive day with two touchdown catches out of the slot with the second-team offense.
The offensive line and defensive line had 1-on-1s Tuesday. Here were the results.
#Badgers OL/DL 1-on-1s Thursday— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) April 20, 2023
Jack Nelson > T.J. Bollers
Rodas Johnson > Joe Huber
Michael Furtney > Isaiah Mullens
C.J. Goetz > Riley Mahlman
Riley Mahlman > Marty Strey
James Thompson > Michael Furtney
Jack Nelson > Kaden Johnson.
T.J. Bollers > Nolan Rucci
Joe Brunner > Cade McDonald— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) April 20, 2023
Dylan Barrett > Ben Barten
Gabe Kirksche > JP Benzschawel
Trey Wedig > Jordan Mayer
Trey Wedig > Jeff Pietrowski
JP Benzschawel > Manny Mullens
Dylan Barrett > Curt Neal
Jack Nelson > T.J. Bollers
Cade McDonald > Kerry Kodanko
Joe Huber > James Thompson— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) April 20, 2023
Barrett Nelson > Jordan Mayer
Barrett Nelson > Gabe Kirksche
Kerry Kodanko > Ben Barten
Jack Nelson > Jeff Pietrowski
Rodas Johnson > Nolan Rucci
Tanor Bortolini > Curt Neal
Michael Furtney > James Thompson
Riley Mahlman > Gabe Kirksche