Wisconsin at Iowa: Three keys

Wisconsin disappointed many last weekend when it lost a non-conference home game for the first time since 2003. The Badgers fell to BYU 24-21 despite closing as 21-to-22.5-point favorites, depending on the gambling service one prefers.

That loss may have surprised many, but it was in tune with how the Badgers have looked for the better part of the young season, which is underwhelming. Wisconsin was ranked No. 4 in the preseason AP Top 25 poll and has now fallen down to No. 18 after the loss to BYU.

Thing only get tougher from here on out for Wisconsin, and that begins on Saturday night in Iowa City. The Badgers are tasked with having to head into Kinnick Stadium – where national title dreams have gone to die in each of the past two seasons – and rebound from the early season loss.

Weather the early storm

As mentioned above, Kinnick Stadium has been a tough place to play for opponents the past few years. Last season, Ohio State traveled there ranked No. 3 in the country with a 7-1 record and clinging to hopes of making the playoffs. The Buckeyes left Iowa after a 55-24 shellacking at the hands of the Hawkeyes. In 2016 the Michigan Wolverines were ranked No. 2 in the country, 9-0 and trending towards a playoff appearance before a 14-13 loss under the lights at Kinnick.

This game has been circled on the schedule of Iowa all summer long. Like the Badgers, Iowa didn’t have a very difficult non-conference slate. Unlike the Badgers, Iowa was able to get through it unscathed.

This game being played at night makes things even tougher for Wisconsin. After a road schedule that didn’t have many tough environments last season, this will be the first true test for this program in a while, and one that many of the players haven’t seen.

No one on the roster has played at Iowa under the lights, but safety Scott Nelson was at the 2016 upset the Hawkeyes pulled over Michigan on an official visit. That’s as close as Wisconsin comes to having experience in this exact environment.

“It’s similar to here,” said Nelson of the atmosphere in Iowa City. “The hype around it builds up throughout the day. Everybody looks forward to it, their fans are crazy. It’s going to be loud, it’s going to be exciting, it’s going to be fun.”

Get the offense in gear

Yes, this team rushed for a Paul Chryst era high 417 yards against New Mexico two weeks ago. No, they haven’t been impressive in the least bit. Yes, those two things can absolutely co-exist.

With expectations as high as they were prior to the season, the best word to describe Wisconsin’s offense is underwhelming. This group was supposed to be able to light up the scoreboard and it hasn’t happened as expected. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook has been average, running back Jonathan Taylor has put up solid numbers, but his impact hasn’t felt as strong as it did last year, and the offensive line hasn’t lived up to expectations either.

The world expected more out of the Badgers’ offense this year. That group hasn’t been able to capture the magic that was on display in the 2017 Orange Bowl win over Miami despite bringing back 10 of 11 starters from that night. If there’s ever a night where this team needs to find that magic, this is probably it.

Attempt to replicate last year’s defensive effort

Mentioned above was the fact that Iowa dropped 55 points on then title contender Ohio State in 2017. What wasn’t mentioned is the fact that Wisconsin’s defense made life extremely difficult for the Hawkeyes seven days later.

Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley through for 226 yards and five touchdowns against the Buckeyes in that blowout victory. The very next week he finished 8-of-24 for 41 yards and an interception against the Badgers.

In Wisconsin’s 38-14 win, Iowa was held to just 66 yards of total offense on the day. The defense for the Badgers was absolutely suffocating, and that may be putting it lightly.

“I felt like we dominated the game as a defensive unit, honestly,” safety D’Cota Dixon said this week when asked to reflect on last year’s game. “Probably was our best showcase as a defensive performance, I think, that we’ve probably had here in a long time.”

It’s a stretch to think that effort will be replicated, but there can be some things learned from last year in an attempt to limit what Iowa can do offensively.

Wisconsin’s youthful secondary can thrive with Dixon’s leadership

CHICAGO – Continuity in college football is something that can be hard to find, for a number of reasons. Whether it’s coaches getting fired or moving on to greener pastures, players transferring or exhausting eligibility, it’s rare to see in today’s game. And that’s true for Wisconsin as well. Because while the offense returns nearly intact from 2017, the defensive side of the ball is a different story.

The Badgers bring back just four starters — linebackers T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly, nose tackle Olive Sagapolu, and safety D’Cota Dixon — from a unit that ranked third in the country in points allowed per game — its third-straight year of finishing in the top-5.

Wisconsin’s secondary took an especially hard hit, as defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard lost starting cornerbacks Nick Nelson and Derrick Tindal, as well as starting safety Natrell Jamerson. Tindal and Jamerson exhausted their eligibility, while Nelson chose to forego his final season of college to enter the 2018 NFL Draft where he was selected in the fourth round by the Oakland Raiders.

Dixon is the lone returning starter on the back end, leading a group that is sure to be tested often through the air by opposing offenses.

“Our secondary is kind of like our wide receivers was last year,” coach Paul Chryst said Tuesday at Big Ten Media Days. “[They are] young and they’ve got to grow, but there’s talent there and you can go across the board on that.”

Last season the wide receiving corps entered with a few unproven guys behind Jazz Peavy, who left the team mid-season. The group of Quintez Cephus, A.J. Taylor, Danny Davis, and Kendric Pryor stepped up and heads into 2018 as one of the most explosive on the team, and the best group Wisconsin has had in quite some time.

The defensive backs will hope to replicate that formula of success.

Throughout his time in with the Badgers, Dixon has been a defensive leader, both vocally and emotionally. His biggest fault has been his ability to stay on the field due to injuries. Dixon suffered a season-ending injury in his freshman season and has missed time due to both leg and shoulder issues since then. Last year he played in 12 games for the Badgers, starting nine of them.

“I need to stay healthy. That’s my goal. That’s my biggest goal,” Dixon said Tuesday. “That is my objective for 2018. I want to be there for my teammates. I’m going to always be there to support them, but I want to also support them on the field.”

The secondary certainly has potential, just as the wide receivers did prior to last season, but much of it is unproven. Dontye Carriere-Williams and Madison Cone will both be entering their sophomore seasons, with Carriere-Williams being in his third-year on campus. Each of them played at times during 2017, including five starts for Carriere-Williams.

The other starting safety position is up in the air, although there is a strong possibility that Scott Nelson is opposite of Dixon. Those two are close friends and Dixon has taken Nelson under his wing. During the 2017 season, Nelson redshirted, but whenever Dixon was not on the field, Nelson could be found not far behind.

“Scott is like a brother [to me],” Dixon said. “I think he will be a leader here…As far as [the media], you guys will get to know him once you see him make a few plays. He’ll get some acknowledgement off of that, I think. You’ll start to see his personality and the character he really has as a person.”

Nelson figures to fight with redshirt sophomore Patrick Johnson, and Dixon would be just fine with that. But he also believes in Nelson’s talent.

“I would like to see him on the field with me,” Dixon said. “Obviously, as a player, there’s a lot of things you bring to the table and to the field as an individual. There’s a lot of attributes you can bring. But I think what makes me a better player is the guy next to me. I don’t make plays on my own. It’s the communication, it’s the pre-play recognition. Can you disguise? Can you talk coverage? Things of that nature. I would love to be on the field with him and compete with him more on a consistent basis.”

Dixon isn’t solely the leader of the secondary. He’s also one of the leaders of the team. He has an even-keeled demeanor but has always been the heartbeat of the back end.

His leadership has been best shown in his ability to bond with other players. The relationship with Nelson is one that the Badgers will need to see translate to the field.

“I think he knows that Scott Nelson is going to have to be a big part of what we do this year,” Edwards said of Dixon. “Literally, those two are inseparable. He’s with him all the time. They’re talking film, talking just off the field stuff.”

Obviously, Nelson won’t be the only fresh face in the mix for playing time in the secondary. Carriere-Williams saw extensive action as the third cornerback last year and that will expand. Cone was the fourth cornerback for much of the season, but he’s now in position to earn a starting spot. Injuries led Faion Hicks to redshirt in his first year and will almost certainly factor in as well.

Spring practice saw those players and a number of others get a massive number of snaps, especially with Dixon forced to sit out while recovering injuries that limited him as a junior.

“It was fun and cool to watch them actually communicate and create chemistry,” Dixon said. “I think it was actually easier because they all [were] kind of new in it together, as far as not starting in a game or anything like that. They approached it well. I think they handled it well. They’re growing [fast].”

Wisconsin is counting on that to be the case. If Dixon is proven right, and the young guys come along quickly, then the Badgers will have a great chance to show that even a lack of continuity can’t disrupt the standard the secondary has set in what have become the glory days for defense in Madison.

What the future holds: Safety

With the 2017 season in the books, it’s time to look ahead to 2018 for Wisconsin. Over the next few weeks we’ll be going position-by-position to see what the future holds for the Badgers.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll refer to each player in terms of their class for 2018. If someone was a sophomore in 2017, they will be called a junior here.


Returning: D’Cota Dixon (SR), Eric Burrell (RS SO), Patrick Johnson (RS SO), Seth Currens (RS SO), Scott Nelson (RS FR), Evan Bondoc (SR)

Leaving: Natrell Jamerson, Joe Ferguson

Arriving: Reggie Pearson Jr. (3-star)

Season grades

Biggest question: Who replaces Natrell Jamerson?

Natrell Jamerson was a revelation in his lone year at safety. Starting all 14 games, he finished sixth on the team in tackles, had 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and two interceptions, including one that he returned for a touchdown. Because of his background as a cornerback, the Badgers had flexibility and weren’t worried if Jamerson was forced to cover a receiver in the slot. All of the skills is showed last fall are going to give him a chance to stick with an NFL team.

So how does Wisconsin replace him? Well, it won’t be as simple as it was last year. As soon as the starter in 2016, Leo Musso, was gone, the Badgers pegged Jamerson as his replacement. He grabbed the job in the spring and never let go. That’s unlikely to be the case this time around.

The reason for that is there is little to no experience within the unit outside of senior D’Cota Dixon. Entering his third year as a starter, Dixon overcame injuries and missing two games to earn All-Big Ten honors in 2017. When he was out, Joe Ferguson filled in and largely played well, but he also graduated.

It leaves a bunch of young guys — sophomores Eric Burrell, Patrick Johnson and Seth Currens — that have had small roles to this point, along with redshirt freshman Scott Nelson, to battle for playing time.

“All guys that have contributed on special teams — outside of Scott [Nelson] — and know the speed of the game,” defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard said about the group. “Now it’s time to go push. It’s time to push. That to me is the No. 1 thing.”

And by push, he means compete. There doesn’t appear to be a spot on the roster more open to competition than safety. And that means even a guy like Reggie Pearson, a member of the 2018 recruiting class that enrolled early, will have a shot.

Other notes:

It seems likely that Nelson will have some kind of role on defense. He, along with two other true freshmen, tight end Jake Ferguson and offensive lineman Kayden Lyles, traveled with the team to Minnesota for the final game of the year. Even though there was zero chance they would play, it followed a pattern used in the past by Wisconsin to get guys it expects to have an impact as redshirt freshmen used to the experience of being on the road.

Predicted depth chart:

1st-team: D’Cota Dixon (SR), Eric Burrell (RS SO)
2nd-team: Patrick Johnson (RS SO), Scott Nelson (RS FR)

What the future holds:
Running back
Wide receiver
Tight end
Offensive line
Defensive line
Inside linebackers
Outside linebackers

Grading the Badgers: Defensive backs

As a whole, Wisconsin’s defense was one of the best in the entire country this season. The Badgers did a terrific job of limiting the big play, and often times bailed out the offense from untimely turnovers.

A large reason for the lack of big plays, at least, was the play of the defensive backfield this season.

Wisconsin had five defensive backs see the field on a regular basis and they did an outstanding job limiting the passing game of their opponents. The Badgers only allowed an average of 160.6 yards though the air per game. Opposing offenses also completed less than half of their passes against Wisconsin this season, coming in at 49.1%.

Nick Nelson was their best player in the secondary on the season. The draft-eligible corner hasn’t decided whether or not he will return to Madison next season, but he may have the brightest NFL future of this bunch.

The only downside to Nelson’s season was that he was unable to record an interception. Other than that, he did everything Wisconsin’s defensive staff could have hoped when they accepted him as a transfer from Hawaii.

Opposite of Nelson was Derrick Tindal at the other cornerback position. Tindal also had a strong season on the outside for Wisconsin. He brought a large amount of experience to this unit. The senior has played in 42 games in his career at Wisconsin. This season he was tested less due to Nelson’s emergence. He finished the year with nine passes defensed and an interception.

At safety, the Badgers saw three players see significant time. Natrell Jamerson started at one of the safety positions in all 13 games, while D’Cota Dixon and Joe Ferguson both played the other safety position.

Jamerson was playing safety for the first time as a Badger, having been at the nickel back position in 2016 and starting his career as a wide receiver. Jamerson brought consistency to that spot despite the lack of experience playing it. His production skyrocketed from the previous two seasons. Obviously, he spent more time on the field, and he took advantage of it.

Jamerson finished the season with 49 tackles, including 1.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. He also picked off a pair of passes, returning one of them for a touchdown in the Big Ten opener against Northwestern.

Dixon and Ferguson split time mainly due to the leg injury Dixon suffered. Dixon started eight of the games while Ferguson got the nod in the other five. Both of them were productive, although Dixon is certainly the more talented player.

Before the injury set in for Dixon he was one of the leading tacklers on the team. He finished the year with 52 tackles, including 1.5 sacks. Dixon played a role that many safeties aren’t asked to, where he was typically closer to the box making tackles. In most cases seeing the safety as a leading tackler is a bad thing, but that wasn’t the case for Wisconsin.

While Dixon was less than 100%, Ferguson saw much of the time in his absence. He was a much different type of player than Dixon. Ferguson wasn’t the same tackler as Dixon, finishing with 16 stops. However, he found himself around the ball much more. Ferguson intercepted four passes, returning one for a touchdown, and also recovered a pair of fumbles. Despite his limited time on the field when the Badgers were healthy he was the team leader in takeaways.

GRADE: A- : This secondary was very impressive for Wisconsin. Stopping the big play was something they did well in nearly every game, with the loss to Ohio State the exception. The Badgers allowed plays of more than 50 yards only three times during the regular season. Unfortunately for them, they allowed four such plays against Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game, preventing them from receiving a higher grade. THat being said, the season as a whole was impressive. Next season they’ll certainly be missed with Jamerson, Ferguson, Tindal, and possibly Nelson moving on from Wisconsin. Dixon does have another year of eligibility and is expected to return.

Wisconsin 45, Indiana 17: 2-minute drill

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The Wisconsin defense forced three turnovers and fullback Alec Ingold scored three touchdowns as the Badgers beat Indiana 45-17 to move to 9-0 for the first time since 2004.

Play of the Game

Wisconsin trailed 10-7 midway through the second quarter when outside linebacker Tyler Johnson ripped the ball free from Morgan Ellison just before he hit the turf. Though officials initially said Ellison was down — and the whistle blew — a mad scramble for the ball ensued and the Badgers recovered. It then went to replay and officials determined it was indeed a fumble, giving Wisconsin the ball deep in Indiana territory. Two plays later, the Badgers took a lead they would not relinquish.

Game Balls

Offense: Jonathan Taylor

After missing nearly three quarters against Illinois with a leg injury, the freshman running back was a force against Indiana. He took his first carry for 45 yards and finished the day with 183 — his sixth game of at least 100 yards this season. Taylor showed great vision on his touchdown, taking a jet sweep, cutting up and then out to get free. Wisconsin’s offense is a different animal when he’s on the field, even if he wasn’t necessarily 100 percent.

Defense: Joe Ferguson

Subbing in for an injured D’Cota Dixon, the senior safety was involved in all three of Wisconsin’s takeaways. He recovered the pivotal fumble that led to a touchdown, and then had a pair of second-half interceptions that led to touchdowns. According to UW, Ferguson has been involved in six of Wisconsin’s 19 takeaways this season.

Dixon has been very good and the Badgers are better with him on the field, but Ferguson has been a nice fill-in when needed, including on Saturday.

Special Teams: Wisconsin’s punting unit

The duo of Connor Allen and Anthony Lotti combined to punt four times and none were returned. They also dropped two of them inside the 20-yard line, forcing the Hoosiers to start deep in their own territory.

In their own words
Wisconsin fullback Alec Ingold talks about his three touchdown day.

In Case You Missed It

— Wisconsin was hit hard by injuries on Saturday. The Badgers lost linebacker Chris Orr to a leg injury in the first quarter, safety D’Cota Dixon to a leg injury in the second quarter and then wide receiver Quintez Cephus also to a leg injury in the third quarter.

— Wide receiver Danny Davis returned to the field after missing the past two games with a leg injury. He finished with one catch for 10 yards.

— When Indiana went up 7-0 in the first quarter, it was the first time since the Big Ten opener that Wisconsin had trailed.

Inside the Numbers

15 — That’s the number of games Wisconsin has won in a row with Alex Hornibrook under center.

18 — That’s the number of pass break-ups cornerback Nick Nelson has this season, just one short of the school record.

14 — That’s the number of touchdowns Alec Ingold has in his career after scoring three on Saturday. He’s averaging a touchdown every six times he touches the ball.

10-0 — That would be Wisconsin’s record if it beats Iowa next Saturday. The Badgers have never been 10-0.

What’s Next

Wisconsin (9-0, 6-0) will welcome Iowa to Camp Randall Stadium next Saturday. The home team hasn’t won in the series since 2008.

Wisconsin owns the day, dominates Illinois 48-3

MADISON | Corey Clement scored three touchdowns, and the Wisconsin defense forced four turnovers in a dominating 48-3 win over Illinois on Saturday.

The seventh-ranked Badgers (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) owned the game almost from the opening kickoff, put up 21 points in the first quarter — tied for the most in a single quarter this year. Two of those belonged to Clement, who scored from 2 yards out on his first and 4 yards on the second.

Illinois was able to get on the board with a field goal, but the Badgers answered with a 6-play, 78-yard drive of their own, highlighted by a 48-yard run from Dare Ogunbowale. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook hit Jazz Peavy for an 8-yard touchdown to cap the scoring in the opening stanza.

The offense was buoyed by an opportunistic defense that had a more than willing participant in Illini quarterback Jeff George Jr. The sophomore was harassed early and never settled in. He had nearly as many completions (5) as interceptions (4) before being replaced by senior Wes Lunt to start the second half.

Wisconsin’s four interceptions — two by Leo Musso, and one each from D’Cota Dixon and Ryan Connelly — were the most by a Badgers defense since posting that same number against Northwestern in 2010. And by holding the Illini to just 3 points, they are now giving up just 12.7 points per game.

The Badgers rushing attack, which had come to life over the last four games, was the story of the day on that side of the ball. Clement (123) and Ogunbowale (107) each topped the 100-yard mark, the first time a pair of Wisconsin backs had done that since Clement and Melvin Gordon accomplished that in the 2015 Outback Bowl. In total, the Badgers ran for a season-high 363 yards.

The win keeps the Badgers on-track to win the Big Ten West. Tied with Nebraska and Minnesota coming into the day at 4-2 in conference play, if Wisconsin beats Purdue next and then the Gophers on the final Saturday of the regular season, they’ll play in the Big Ten title game for a fourth time in six seasons.

Hornibrook still the starter, Shelton responds to those saying he got beat and an injury update

MADISON | Despite not being under center during Wisconsin’s final three drives of regulation, or its only possession in overtime, Alex Hornibrook remains the Badgers starting quarterback with Bart Houston as the backup.

Asked Monday whether the redshirt freshman would get the nod this week against Northwestern, coach Paul Chryst said, “Yup,” and didn’t expound on his answer.

Two weeks ago, the job appeared to be Hornibrook’s and his alone. He started all five of Wisconsin’s Big Ten games, but against Iowa on Oct. 22 Chryst decided to give Houston two series and followed that up with the senior getting six of the Badgers’ 14 series against Nebraska, including the final four of the game.

“No, there’s never a plan,” Houston said after the game on whether he knew how much he’d be playing going in. “It’s kind of how our coaching staff goes. No plan. It’s just whatever happens, happens.”

The two quarterbacks combined to throw for just 114 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions on the night, and for the season, the duo has thrown more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (9).

Shelton wasn’t beat

In the wake of Saturday night’s game, many said that safety D’Cota Dixon bailed cornerback Sojourn Shelton out on the final play of the game by knocking the ball away from Nebraska wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. And while part of that is true — he did keep Morgan from catching it — the idea that Shelton was burned on the play is inaccurate.
Shelton tweet







Nebraska faced a fourth-and-8 at the Wisconsin 25-yard line, knowing they needed a first down or a touchdown to keep the game going. On Monday, Shelton described what his responsibilities were on the play.

“We were in 2-man,” Shelton said of the call, which has corners undercutting routes and more aggressive because they know they have safety help behind them. “In my mind, I’m thinking they’re trying to get to the (first down) sticks and get another set of downs. (Morgan) ran a double move, and I bit on it knowing D’Cota was over the top (to help).”

Dixon was right where Shelton expected him to be, and he took care of his end of things. Shelton said for those that still don’t understand what his responsibilities were on the play, the internet is a great resource.

“If anybody doesn’t know what 2-man is, Google does explain what 2-man coverage is,” Shelton said with a laugh.

Injury update

Only one player has already been ruled out for Wisconsin’s game at Northwestern with that being nose tackle Olive Sagapolu, who has missed the last two contests with an arm injury suffered against Ohio State.

“No specific timetable,” Chryst said when the sophomore might return. “We knew when he first got (hurt) it was going to be a little bit of time. We’ll just see how it goes.”

Rest of the injury report:


ILB Griffin Grady (shoulder)
CB Natrell Jamerson (leg)
OL Jake Maxwell (shoulder)
FB Austin Ramesh (shoulder)
OLB T.J. Watt (shoulder)

Wisconsin up to No. 8 in AP, Coaches polls

MADISON, Wis. — Coming off its first official road game of the season, Wisconsin’s football team moves up to No. 8 in both the Associated Press poll and the Amway Coaches poll.

Led by a defensive unit that allows an average of 11. 8 points per game (seventh among FBS schools nationally), Wisconsin upset then-eighth-ranked Michigan State on the road on Saturday. D’Cota Dixon led the Badgers with seven total tackles and a forced fumble. T.J. Watt was next with six, but he also had 2 ½ sacks and 3 ½ tackles for loss to earn honors as the Walter Camp Player of the Week.

The Spartans dropped all the way to No. 17 in the AP poll after the loss, being held without a touchdown at home for the first time since 2012.

Wisconsin is on the road again next Saturday taking on Michigan, which ranks fourth and fifth on the AP and Coaches polls, respectively.

Wisconsin football: Practice report 8/13

MADISON | The Wisconsin football team was back on the field Saturday morning for the first of two practices on the day.

Getting testy

A pair of scuffles ended the practice about 15 plays early, with head coach Paul Chryst shutting things down and forcing the entire team to do wind sprints back and forth across the field.

The first altercation came at the end of a long catch and run by wide receiver Reggie Love. A defensive back knocked the ball out of his hands late, a scrum for the fumble ensued and Love came up swinging, first at safety Joe Ferguson and then at cornerback Titus Booker.

On the very next snap, tight end Kyle Penniston got into it with a defender and once again punches were thrown as the tussle spilled over into the bench area. Seconds later, every player was lined up on the sideline and doing multiple gassers.

“We’ve got (only) so much time, and how we use that time is up to us,” Chryst told reporters after practice. “I thought we had a couple of undisciplined things and that maybe we needed to address the discipline part of it. So, that’s how we’re going to spend our energy. I’d prefer that we do that in other ways, but that was the purpose behind that.”

Following the sprints, Chryst gathered the team up on the opposite side of the field from where reporters were standing and appeared to rip into them about the opportunities lost by their actions. That was followed up by sophomore linebacker Chris Orr asking and being allowed to address his fellow players, and do so with emphatic gestures.

“Reps are valuable,” Chryst said. “That’s what makes you mad when we use our time elsewhere. That’s 15 more reps that we can get. That’s 22 guys, 15 more reps — my math isn’t quick — but it’s a pretty good number.”

It wasn’t just the fights that bothered Chryst. For the first time in fall camp, there were officials present and there were a number of mental errors that resulted in flags being thrown, something Chryst considers to be a discipline matter.

“Discipline comes in so many ways,” the second-year coach said. “There’s great [teaching] moments and you want to learn from them.”

Injuries and rest

Wisconsin was without eight players on Saturday that are currently projected to be starters.

Four of them – safety D’Cota Dixon, left guard Dan Voltz, right tackle Jake Maxwell and wide receiver Rob Wheelwright – were held out for rest as part of a schedule to limit their reps in fall camp. Those four, along with tight end Eric Steffes, were expected to take part in Saturday night’s practice that is closed to the media.

The other four – running back Corey Clement (hamstring), right guard Beau Benzschawel (shoulder), inside linebacker T.J. Edwards (foot) and wide receiver Jazz Peavy (chest) – are dealing with injuries.

Up and down

It wasn’t a great day by either of the starting quarterback candidates, but Alex Hornibrook had the best throw. Rolling to his left, the redshirt freshman found Love streaking behind the defense for a 70-yard touchdown. Hornibrook doesn’t have the fastball of senior Bart Houston, but his deep balls are on point more often than not.

As for who will be under center come Sept. 3 against LSU, a decision, as expected, still hasn’t been made, according to Chryst.

“No, if I would have [chosen a starter] I would have started with that, and then I wouldn’t have to talk about all this other stuff,” Chryst said half-jokingly in reference to the discipline issues that dominated his post-practice press conference.

Asked what he saw from the two quarterbacks this week, Chryst simply said, “They’re working. I like it.”

Two-way player?

For the first time in fall camp, cornerback Derrick Tindal got some time running routes as a wide receiver. The junior was impressive in limited opportunities in the spring, and might be a part-time possibility for Chryst and company.

Young receiver continues to make plays

True freshman Quintez Cephus abused one of Wisconsin’s veteran defensive backs on a slant and go route during 1-on-1’s, resulting in a touchdown. When the wide receiver caught the ball, the defensive back was nearly 10 yards behind him.

It was the continuation of a strong first week for Cephus, who along with fellow freshman A.J. Taylor, has turned some heads.

“I think they’ve done some good things to where they’ve earned the right to keep getting more reps,” Chryst said. “[But they] absolutely have a long way to go.”

Watt causing havoc

Second day in a row that T.J. Watt forced a fumble in team drills. This time he took his blocker and slammed him right into running back Dare Ogunbowale, jarring the ball loose and the defense recovered. Later, the junior battled a ball down at the line of scrimmage. When Watt is around the ball, good things usually happen for the Badgers.

Listen to Chryst’s full post-practice press conference with reporters:

Wisconsin football: Practice report 8/8

MADISON | The University of Wisconsin football team hit the practice field for the first time of fall camp on Monday.

It was a non-padded session and most of the two-and-a-half hours were spent in individual drills.

Some observations:

— As they did in the spring, quarterbacks Bart Houston and Alex Hornibrook each got some time with the first-team offense, though Houston was first up. All the routes they threw were with no defensive backs present, but it’s still obvious the advantage Houston has when it comes to arm strength. When you throw defenders into the mix, which should happen on Tuesday, Hornibrook’s anticipation on throws evens the playing field.

Should also be noted that true freshman Kare Lyles made his debut after hip surgery kept him out of spring practice. He and fellow freshman Garrett Groshek will likely compete for the No. 3 quarterback job.

Former Edgewood athlete Bobby Dunn, who was brought in to play quarterback in the spring with Lyles out, is no longer a member of the team but is serving as a manager.

— Corey Clement weighs 227 pounds and plans to play at 225, which is up about five to 10 pounds over last year. But it doesn’t seem like it has impacted his quickness or speed. He showed the same difference-making burst through the hole on Monday that he’s put on tape over the past three seasons.

“I still feel the same,” Clement said of the weight gain during media day on Sunday. “I don’t think I can help it. I’m short already as it is, so I guess [my body] adds on pounds easier than the leaner wide receivers.”

— The first three wide receivers in during team drills were senior Rob Wheelwright and junior George Rushing on the outside, and junior Jazz Peavy in the slot. The second trio included senior Reggie Love, redshirt freshman Henry Houden and redshirt sophomore Ricky Finco. Quintez Cephus was the first of the three true freshman receivers to get reps in team drills.

— Along the offensive line, it was expected that senior Dan Voltz and redshirt freshman Jon Dietzen would be sharing the first-team reps as Voltz makes his way back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. But on Monday, with it being a non-contact practice, Voltz took a majority of the reps with the starters. It’s the first time he’s lined up anywhere other than center since coming to campus in 2012.

The rest of the line saw junior Ryan Ramczyk at left tackle and then three redshirt sophomores — Michael Deiter at center, Beau Benzschawel at right guard and Jake Maxwell at right tackle.

The second-team line included a pair of newcomers – true freshman Patrick Kasl and former tight end David Edwards – sharing snaps at the right tackle spot. Though offensive line coach Joe Rudolph is excited about both guys, their presence so early speaks to the lack of depth at the tackle spots.

Head coach Paul Chryst talked about the young offensive linemen, including Kasl, following Monday’s practice.


And one note on Edwards: Rudolph said on Sunday that he could see Edwards being a part of a jumbo package where he would line up at tight end. It’s something head coach Paul Chryst used during his time as Wisconsin’s offensive coordinator.

— There are not very many jobs open on the defensive side of the ball outside of safety.

On Monday, it was senior Leo Musso and junior D’Cota Dixon lining up with the starters, while sophomore Arrington Farrar and junior Jake Ferguson took snaps with the second team.

Finding the answer at safety is probably trails only the quarterback question in terms of importance for the Badgers in fall camp.


The only player listed on the injury report was inside linebacker T.J. Edwards. He’s expected to be out for most of fall camp with a broken foot.