With Wisconsin cancelling its spring game this Friday due to the threat of inclement weather, fans will have to wait until this fall to get a look at the 2018 Badgers. For die-hards, that’s probably tough news to swallow. So in an effort to ease the disappointment, here’s our best effort to give you an inside look at spring practice.
5 guys that have stood out the most so far:
TE Jake Ferguson
Whether it’s been the one-handed catches, the tough grabs while absorbing a big hit or even the fun back-and-forth trash talk with the defensive backs, Ferguson has been hard to miss this spring. The Madison Memorial product is the prototype for what a tight end should look like these days and is showing what made him Wisconsin’s Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year last fall. At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, Ferguson has a chance to be a true playmaker in a Badgers offense that loves using the tight end.
WR AJ Taylor
Taylor was playing his best football at the end of 2017, and he’s continued it here in the spring. The junior has been forced to take more reps than ever before due to injuries, and he’s made plays nearly every practice. His commitment is evident — he spent his spring break working out with quarterback Alex Hornibrook in California — and it’s led to him catching the ball with more ease than his first two years on campus. Taylor is a dynamic weapon, one of many on the Wisconsin offense.
A forgotten man of sorts, the redshirt sophomore appears to have taken the necessary steps to get on the field. He’s had three interceptions in team drills or 7-on-7 work this spring and has proven to be a nuisance for Wisconsin’s quarterbacks. A little bigger and longer than most of the Badgers defensive backs, Williams has taken first-team reps at cornerback the last few practices and figures to be among those battling to start opposite Dontye Carriere-Williams in fall camp.
LB Chris Orr
There hasn’t been a ton of live drills this spring, but Orr has flashed when there has been. The junior has constantly been in the backfield on running plays and has largely owned Wisconsin’s running backs in pass rushing drills. Fully healthy after a hamstring injury limited him in the final two months of last season, Orr gives the Badgers an embarrassment of riches at inside linebacker. If T.J. Edwards or Ryan Connelly miss time this fall, Orr won’t let the defense miss a beat.
RB Jonathan Taylor
As you’d expect, Wisconsin has kept Taylor out of most live situations this spring, not wanting to risk him getting hurt. But when given an opportunity to show what made him so special as a true freshman, Taylor hasn’t disappointed. Just look at a play from Tuesday’s practice. In a goal line situation, the sophomore appeared ready to put his head down and push into the end zone. It’s what the defensive backs thought. All of a sudden, Taylor’s head shot up and he made a quick burst to the outside where he outran the startled cornerback for a touchdown.
It’s also been impossible to ignore the time Taylor has spent with coach Paul Chryst every practice working on route running and catching the ball out of the backfield. He’s got a chance to be an even bigger headache for opponents in 2018 than he was in running for 1,977 yards last season.