MADISON — Wisconsin hit the practice field for a fifth time in fall camp late Monday morning.
Here’s what we saw:
* With T.J. Edwards missing practice with a leg injury, junior Chris Orr was with the starting group at inside linebacker. He made perhaps the defensive play of practice, dropping into coverage and going up high to intercept a pass at the goal line.
That Wisconsin can lose an All-American like Edwards and still have the experienced Orr to fill in is an absolute luxury.
* It was a big day for redshirt sophomore Kendric Pryor. The wide receiver had at least three touchdowns, including on back-to-back plays during 7-on-7. On the first one, backup quarterback Jack Coan put nice touch on a post route that cleared the linebackers and found Pryor in the back of the end zone for an 18-yard score. They ran essentially the exact same play on the next snap and this time Can rifled one that Pryor hauled in for another touchdown.
Later, he pulled a Quintez Cephus, skying for a ball that seemed destined to be incomplete. Instead, it found Pryor’s hands. He punted the ball in the air and Cephus came sprinting over to celebrate.
* Wisconsin is, essentially, trying to replace five defensive ends from last season. The three that exhausted their eligibility, along with two more — Garrett Rand and Isaiahh Loudermilk — that are injured. It seemed to be a foregone conclusion that redshirt freshman Aaron Vopal would be one of the starters after a strong spring. But on Monday, it was walk-on Matt Henningsen lining up with the first-team defense.
“First of all, understanding the defense. He knows what he’s supposed to do,” defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard said when asked what he liked about the redshirt freshman. “Going through last year, I think he took huge strides physically [and] got his body in a place where he’s going to put himself in a position to compete. [Because of] his consistency…he’s put himself in that conversation of earning big time reps and a big role this fall.”
Henningsen turned down scholarship offers from several programs, including Northern Illinois, to walk-on at Wisconsin.
“I think we definitely saw a guy that, down the line if he progressed the way you thought, was going to be a scholarship kid physically. There were a lot of programs that really liked him, ourselves included,” Leonhard said. “It doesn’t necessarily surprise us. It maybe surprises you that he may have the role he’s going to in year two. Traditionally, there’s guys that may get that role year three, year four, year five. But [he] just works. That’s a credit to the kid. To put in the work mentally and physically to give yourself a chance.”
Leonhard was also very high on what Kayden Lyles has done through the first five practices. An offensive lineman last year — and in the future — Lyles moved to defensive line this summer and has run with the first team every day.
“He looks like he’s been there for a while,” Leonhard said. “He’s still got a lot of stuff to clean up and will grow a lot, but he looks like he belongs. He’s not one of those guys that has a million questions [or] has that confused look on his face. He’s very sure of what he’s doing.”
* It was just one day of 1-on-1 pass rushing drills, but Jon Dietzen looks pretty comfortable at left tackle. The junior, who has spent his entire career at guard, went 4-1 against a variety of outside linebackers, with his only loss coming on a quick inside move by junior Zack Baun.
“I didn’t really know until this summer when we started doing drill work,” offensive line coach Joe Rudolph said about when he knew his decision to move Dietzen could work. “I watched the way he moves and I think he’ll be fine. He’ll have a learning curve, but I think he’ll do a real good job.”
Dietzen is battling redshirt sophomore Cole Van Lanen for the job, and the two have mostly split reps with the first-team offense, though Dietzen has usually been the first up.
* Wisconsin awarded a pair of scholarships to walk-ons this summer before camp.
Outside linebacker Tyler Johnson actually went on scholarship in the spring, taking the spot of cornerback Nick Nelson, who left early for the NFL. At that point, it wasn’t clear if he would stay on scholarship in the fall, but the numbers worked out in his favor.
The team also placed offensive lineman Jason Erdmann on scholarship. The junior has played in all 28 games the last two years, including splitting time with Dietzen at left guard last fall. He’s worked at center and guard so far in camp, and would likely be called upon if center Tyler Biadasz were to go down.
* Senior Rafael Gaglianone got the day off from practice to rest.
WR Jack Dunn (leg)
RB Garrett Groshek (leg)
LB TJ Edwards (leg)
CB Faion Hicks (leg)
FB Alec Ingold (leg)
WR Adam Krumholz (leg)
DE Isaiahh Loudermilk (leg)
TE Zander Neuville (leg)
WR Emmet Perry (leg)
OL Blake Smithback (leg)
INJURED IN PRACTICE
CB Deron Harrell (leg)
CB Cristian Volpentesta (leg)