What we saw at the first Wisconsin spring practice

Wisconsin hit the field for practice Tuesday morning for the first time of spring ball.

New faces


Nose tackle Bryson Williams certainly passes the eye test (No. 91 in the video below). The early enrollee weighed in a 305 pounds and is more than strong enough to hold the point in the middle of Wisconsin’s defense. It was just the first day, but he was already running with the second-team defense behind starter Olive Sagapolu.

Meanwhile, wide receiver Aron Cruickshank (No. 11 in the video) looked extremely comfortable going in and out of his routes, and he caught the ball well. The kid can fly, too, though he’ll definitely benefit from a summer in the weight room as he looks exactly the 152 pounds he’s listed at.

The other early enrollee at wide receiver, Taj Mustapha, catches the ball with ease and can also get down the field in a hurry.

Cornerback Donte Burton worked with the second-team defense, while safety Reggie Pearson Jr. was with the third team.

Lighter, quicker?

Wisconsin is known for its size and ability to overpower other teams, but a majority of the players in the trenches have dropped weight. That includes Sagapolu, who dropped eight pounds to 338. It may not seem like much, but the senior appeared to be moving quicker in drills.

Defensive ends Garrett Rand and Isaiahh Loudermilk, along with offensive linemen Michael Deiter, Tyler Biadasz and Jon Dietzen, were all among those that were lighter than they were listed at last year.

Position battles

The Badgers have plenty of position battles that will play out over spring and into the summer, but here’s a few initial thoughts after one – ONE – practice.

Scott Nelson is definitely going to push for a starting job at safety. With his buddy D’Cota Dixon sidelined this spring, Nelson and sophomore Patrick Johnson were with the first-team. The two spots aren’t necessarily interchangeable, but a lot of the things you do at the strong safety spot are similar to what the free safety is asked to do. Nelson is big, can run and spent last season rarely leaving Dixon’s side.

With Patrick Kasl missing practice due to class, Cole Van Lanen was the first-team left tackle. Both of those guys are going to get their shot in the spring to prove they are good enough to allow Deiter to slide back inside.

At tight end, junior Kyle Penniston was with the first-team offense, while sophomore Luke Benzschawel came in when they went to 12 personnel. Probably should read a ton into that, though, as redshirt freshman Jake Ferguson figures to push for time as well.

With Dontye Carriere-Williams being held out, the Badgers starters at cornerback were sophomore Madison Cone and redshirt freshman Faion Hicks. Again, it’s early, but don’t be surprised if it’s those three guys lining up when they go into their nickel package this fall. Burton and sophomore Caesar Williams were working with the second-team defense.

Who is hurt?

OUT (practice)
CB Dontye Carriere-Williams
WR Danny Davis
WR Cade Green
RB Mark Saari

OUT (spring)

WR Quintez Cephus
OL Michael Deiter
OL Jon Dietzen
S D’Cota Dixon
RB Garrett Groshek
TE Zander Neuville
RB Bradrick Shaw
ILB Mason Stokke

It’s early, but…

First-team offense

QB Alex Hornibrook
RB Jonathan Taylor
FB Alec Ingold
WR A.J. Taylor
WR Kendric Pryor
TE Kyle Penniston
LT Cole Van Lanen
LG Jason Erdmann
C Tyler Biadasz
RG Beau Benzschawel
RT David Edwards

First-team defense

DE Garrett Rand
NT Olive Sagapolu
DE Isaiahh Loudermilk
OLB Zack Baun
ILB Ryan Connelly
ILB T.J. Edwards
OLB Andrew Van Ginkel
CB Madison Cone
CB Faion Hicks
S Scott Nelson
S Patrick Johnson

There was a lot of mixing and matching in the second groups, but a few observations:

Redshirt freshman Kayden Lyles is the No. 2 center, no question. Most believe he’s good enough to start, but he’s got a very good player ahead of him in Biadasz.

Junior Tyler Johnson and sophomore Noah Burks were the second-team outside linebackers, while the recently moved Arrington Farrar and sophomore Christian Bell were with the third group.

Junior David Pfaff, along with redshirt sophomore Keldric Preston and redshirt freshman Aaron Vopal, rotated with the second team at defensive end.

Paul Chryst post-practice availability

What’s next?

Wisconsin will be back on the field for practice on Thursday.