MADISON — The weather forced Wisconsin to cancel its spring game, but that didn’t mean the team got the night off from practice. No, they were in full pads and scrimmaging Friday night inside the McClain Center.
Here are a few things that stood out:
Quintez Cephus was supposed to be out the entire spring. That ended up not being the case. For the first time since breaking his leg at Indiana on Nov. 4, the junior was back on the practice field Friday. The wide receiver only took part in individual drills, but having him back was a welcome sight for coach Paul Chryst.
“He’s been chomping at the bit. It’s been a long time,” Chryst said after practice. “If you know (Quintez), a big part of it is just being around the guys. Certainly, he was with them in the weight room, but [being on the field] is different.
“It means a ton. It’s good for him, and it’s good for Alex and all of us.”
Hello, Sam Brodner
A little less than a year ago, Sam Brodner was being helped off the turf at Camp Randall Stadium after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. On Friday, he had the most impressive run of the scrimmage.
With the ball at the 20-yard line, the redshirt sophomore bounced a run to the outside, juked the cornerback, stiff-armed the safety and then jogged into the end zone. What seemed like the entire offense — on the field and off — sprinted to celebrate with the running back.
Aron Cruickshank can take a hit
He probably weighs less than he’s listed at — 152 pounds — but true freshman Aron Cruickshank won’t be backing down from his bigger teammates, especially the ones on defense trying to take his head off. He showed that twice (No. 11 in the video below), first popping right back up after getting crushed by cornerback Donte Burton, and then again when he ran through four tackles on a jet sweep that could have gone for 5 yards and ended up going for 20.
Wide receiver is a stacked position for the Badgers for the first time since the early 2000s, but Cruickshank is turning heads and could have a role this year, whether it’s as a returner or in some other facet of the game.
“Our whole thought process going into spring ball is give yourself a chance to get reps for fall camp,” Chryst said. “I think Aron has done some things that have been good and earn him [the] right for reps in the fall.”
Defense shined, too
Linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel started 7-on-7 drills with an athletic interception, and cornerback Caesar Williams added his own by skying over wide receiver A.J. Taylor in team drills. Later, safety Scott Nelson came free and spun quarterback Jack Coan to the ground for a sack. The defense added another sack later with defensive end Kraig Howe getting to Kare Lyles and forcing a fumble that was recovered by another defender.
Wisconsin’s spring game may have been canceled but that didn’t mean other aspects of the night didn’t play out as planned. The sideline at the McClain Center was packed with families of current players, several 2018 commits, including quarterback Chase Wolf, and a large number of recruits in the 2019, 2020 and 2021 classes the Badgers are targeting. A group of former Wisconsin players were also there at the invite of Chryst.
“It’s their program. They’re the ones that built this,” Chryst said of why he thought it was important to have them back around the program. “Any time we can bring them back it’s a good thing, and then connect them with this year’s team, this year’s group, it’s just all around a really good [thing].”
The alumni in attendance included Scott Tolzien, Bart Houston, John Stocco, Bill Nagy, Todd Gregorie, Bryan Jurewicz, Montee Ball and Ben Strickland.