Examining three of Wisconsin’s key position battles

Wisconsin didn’t have a ton of position battles entering fall camp, but there were some vital ones. This week, a number of assistant coaches and players discussed where things stood at three key spots just two weeks out from the season opener against Western Kentucky.

Position: Left tackle
Who: Jon Dietzen (JR) and Cole Van Lanen (RS SO)
What they’re saying:

“It would be Dietzen, Van Lanen [or] Van Lanen, Dietzen, alphabetically, reverse and forward.”

— OL coach Joe Rudolph on where the position battle currently stands

What we know:

If not for Dietzen’s injury history, this battle would have likely already been decided. But with Dietzen coming back from hip and ankle injuries, Rudolph said it would be irresponsible of him to have the junior take every rep. That’s led to both guys getting work with the first-team at left tackle.

Still, it feels as if this is Dietzen’s job and only an injury will keep him from trotting out with the starting group on Aug. 31. Wisconsin is making a concerted effort for that to be the case by having him share reps and giving him planned days off to rest. Why are they being so careful with someone that’s never played a snap of left tackle in his college career? Well, by nearly all accounts, he’s taken to the position as well as one could expect, even impressing Michael Deiter, who made the same move Dietzen is prior to last season.

“It’s a little more space and he’s definitely athletic enough to do it. He needs to be healthy, obviously, to be as athletic as he can be,” Deiter said this week. “But he’s so strong that I just think it’s easier for him out there than it was for me, because he’s stronger than me. When he gets his hands on guys, it’s pretty much over.”

If Dietzen does end up being the guy, you can pencil Van Lanen in as his backup, as well as the backup at right tackle behind David Edwards. Rudolph said this week that those would be his three tackles. As for the inside spots, Tyler Biadasz will start at center, while Deiter will be at left guard and Beau Benzschawel at right guard. Junior Jason Erdmann and senior Micah Kapoi will serve as the backups.

Position: Defensive end
Who: Kayden Lyles (RS FR), Matt Henningsen (RS FR), Aaron Vopal (RS FR), David Pfaff (JR), Kraig Howe (JR), Gunnar Roberge (RS SO), Keldric Preston (RS SO)
What they’re saying:

“I’ve told my guys I’m going to play whoever’s the best. I don’t care if you’re a walk-on, or a scholarship player, or a redshirt freshman walk-on. I don’t care. I’m going to put the best guys out there.”

— DL coach Inoke Breckterfield

With the top five defensive ends from last year’s roster not currently available to Inoke Breckterfield, the defensive line coach has had to adapt. That’s led to something no one could have foreseen when spring ball concluded in April — former offensive lineman Kayden Lyles and redshirt freshman walk-on Matt Henningsen lining up with the first-team defense.

“I was surprised,” Lyles said of rolling with the starters so soon after moving from offense to defense in the summer. “At this level, with a coach that has seen that many defensive linemen, to put somebody that has no college experience in, was pretty shocking.”

But Lyles being in the starting group isn’t even the biggest surprise. That goes to Henningsen.

“I think Matt might be the most improved player I’ve seen in my career,” said Deiter, who faces Henningsen on a daily basis. “I remember watching him in spring ball just going, ‘He’s a guy.’”

Breckterfield saw the same jump and determined he deserved to be with the starting group ahead of redshirt freshman Aaron Vopal, the presumed starter coming into fall camp.

“He does a really good job against the run. I think he’s stout,” Breckterfield said of Henningsen, who is listed at 277 pounds. “Obviously, the way we play defense, we want to stop the run first and we take pride in those types of things. He was putting it on film and doing a good job that way, so I put him in there to run with the ones.”

Vopal and Pfaff were included in Breckterfield’s list of guys that could be in the rotation, as well as Isaiahh Loudermilk when he returns from offseason knee surgery, presumably early in the season. For now, though, it’s Lyles and Henningsen.

Position: Cornerback
Who: Dontye Carriere-Williams (RS SO), Caesar Williams (RS SO), Faion Hicks (RS FR), Deron Harrell (RS FR), Madison Cone (SO), Donte Burton (FR)
What they’re saying:

“It may be a situation where we get into the season and we’re still looking to figure that out. Not many of those guys have done it in front of 80,000 people. I don’t know exactly how they are going to respond. I think I know how they’re going to respond, but until that happens I think that question is still going to be there.”

— DC Jim Leonhard on determining his rotation at cornerback

What we know:

Wisconsin was going to be young at cornerback no matter who started, but it always seemed like they’d have at least one experienced guy there in redshirt sophomore Dontye Carriere-Williams. He was the third cornerback last year, getting a ton of snaps with Nick Nelson and Derrick Tindal. But it hasn’t played out the way we thought it would. After spending much of the first week of camp with the starters, the Florida product has been taking second- and third-team reps as recently as Friday.

“He’s had the most experience but he’s a young player,” Leonhard said Thursday. “He knows what it’s like on Saturday. That doesn’t give him a pass to [not] compete on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday in training camp. I like the fact, that when he competes, he looks like we want him to compete. We just want it more often.”

Whether that will serve as a kick in the butt for Carriere-Williams remains to be seen, but what it does do is leave redshirt freshman Faion Hicks and redshirt sophomore Caesar Williams as the first-team cornerbacks, with Deron Harrell, who moved from wide receiver to defensive back prior to spring, coming in when the Badgers go to their nickel package.

“There’s a lot of highs. There’s a lot of good reps on tape,” Leonhard said of the group. “[We’re] just trying to find out who is going to play the most consistent.”

Sophomore Madison Cone is also battling for time, specifically as the slot cornerback.

Injuries starting to add up along Wisconsin OL

MADISON — Just as Wisconsin got one starting offensive lineman back, it was without three others on Tuesday.

For the first time in a week, center Tyler Biadasz was with the first-team offense during 11-on-11 drills. Though he was never listed on the injury report, the redshirt sophomore told the Wisconsin State Journal’s Jason Galloway that he had been a little banged up.

Unfortunately for the Badgers, three other starting offensive linemen either missed practice Tuesday or got injured during it. Right guard Beau Benzschawel (arm) and left tackle Jon Dietzen (leg) were held out of the session with minor injuries, while right tackle David Edwards sustained an upper body injury that led to him departing practice early.

By the end of two-hour session, Wisconsin was down to just nine healthy offensive linemen after starting camp with 16.

“It sucks, but I’m definitely not worried about it because this is part of [camp],” left guard Michael Deiter said. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a year where it has gone smooth. I think we’re being pretty [cautious with guys]. I think it’s safe to say that everyone will be alright.”

Though they have traded positions this year, Deiter and Dietzen have played a ton of football next to each other the last two seasons. But Deiter doesn’t think that means they can just show up Aug. 31 against Western Kentucky and hit the ground running. He wants his guys back as soon as possible.

“I definitely think we need all the time together [we can get],” Deiter said. “Just because we played together last year [doesn’t mean anything]. We still have to do it again this year. We need to get that rhythm back and going.”

Tuesday was the first practice Dietzen had missed in camp, a good sign after being hampered by ankle and hip injuries last year. He spent a portion of the practice going through pass sets on his own, and his injury isn’t expected to keep him out long.

Meanwhile, backup center/guard Jason Erdmann (leg) returned on a limited basis, while tackle Logan Bruss (leg) and guard David Moorman (leg) were held out.

With all the injuries, the first-team offensive line featured redshirt freshman Tyler Beach at right tackle, redshirt freshman Josh Seltzner at right guard, Biadasz at center, Deiter at left guard and redshirt sophomore Cole Van Lanen at left tackle.

Wisconsin also got a scare at the end of practice when wide receiver AJ Taylor got tackled to the ground awkwardly and appeared to injure his ankle/knee. He got up and was able to walk off without assistance, but he was limping. Trainers checked him out on the side and he did not return.

Here’s the full injury report for Tuesday:

CB Madison Cone (leg)
ILB TJ Edwards (leg)
OL Jason Erdmann (leg)

WR AJ Taylor (leg)
RT David Edwards (arm)
WR Adam Krumholz (leg)

OL Beau Benzschawel (arm)
OL Logan Bruss (leg)
OL Jon Dietzen (leg)
K Rafael Gaglianone (leg)
OL David Moorman (leg)
TE Zander Neuville (leg)

DE Garrett Rand (leg)
OL Blake Smithback (leg)

What we’ve seen so far during Wisconsin’s fall camp

Wisconsin is nine practices into fall camp and the opener against Western Kentucky is less than three weeks away. With both of those things in mind, here’s what we’ve seen from the Badgers so far.

Looking good

Alex Hornibrook seems to be throwing the deep ball better than he has in his first three years. The junior has consistently found a variety of receivers down the field for big gains. Sophomore Danny Davis credited that success to an increased rhythm and confidence between the quarterback and his weapons on the outside. Hitting on those explosive plays is significant with all the attention the Badgers’ running game should get. Last year, Wisconsin had just five pass plays go for 40 yards or more — ranking 110th in the country. With what we’ve seen so far in camp, that number should go up.

Still searching

It doesn’t appear that Wisconsin is any closer to finding out who its No. 2 cornerback will be. Injuries have been part of the issue, leading to three different guys lining up opposite top corner Dontye Carriere-Williams. Things can change, but the trio of Caesar Williams, Deron Harrell and Faion Hicks look like the most likely options. Two of those guys — Williams and Harrell — bring a bigger frame to the position than Wisconsin has had in recent memory. Hicks was with the starters at the beginning of camp but missed a few practices before returning and lining up with the second-team defense.

All that said, there doesn’t appear to be a bad choice in the group and all three have taken nice jumps from the spring. Obviously, at some point, they’ll decide on who they want in there, but defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard is giving guys ample opportunities to impress.

As expected

Most thought this coming into camp, but it’s proven to be true. The Badgers wide receiver group is the deepest it has ever been and has legitimately five players you can expect to make plays. Juniors Quintez Cephus and A.J. Taylor, sophomores Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor, along with freshman Aron Cruickshank, have looked every bit as good as we believed they would. In fact, the guy some viewed as the No. 4 on the list — Pryor — has had the best camp of any of them.

Looking the part

Jon Dietzen doesn’t look out of place at left tackle. In fact, he’s looked pretty good despite playing guard his entire career. The junior has held up nicely in 1-on-1 pass rushing drills and has always been a strong run blocker. So far, he’s also been on the field for every practice, which is notable considering the injuries he’s fought the last few years.

Right tackle David Edwards was asked how the transition was going for Dietzen and his response is similar to our thoughts on the situation.

“He’s strong as heck and he feels healthy,” Edwards said. “That’s the biggest thing for him. When he’s healthy, he’s an animal.”

Backing it up

Coaches have said that Scott Nelson was ready to play at the end of last year, but they didn’t want to burn his redshirt. All the excitement has proven true, as the redshirt freshman has been impressive most days. He’s got at least three interceptions during teams drills/7-on-7, including one that would have gone back for a touchdown. He’s got the size (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) and the athleticism to be a major player at a position that has made a ton of big plays the last few years with the likes of Tanner McEvoy, Leo Musso and Natrell Jamerson lining up there. While acknowledging that he hasn’t played a game in college, it still feels like Wisconsin hit a home run on getting the Michigan native to Madison.

Early playing time

A number of true freshmen have stood out and seem likely to play at some point this year. As mentioned above, Cruickshank has looked really good at wide receiver and may have a role in the return game. Safety Reggie Pearson seems to also have taken advantage of enrolling early and has taken a big jump, working with the second-team defense much of camp. Nose tackle Bryson Williams has been Olive Sagapolu’s backup since stepping on campus and that continues. With sophomore Madison Cone out the last two practices, Donte Burton has served as the slot cornerback with the starters, though it feels a little early to make too much of that. Other potential contributors down the road, depending on injuries in front of them, include defensive end Isaiah Mullens and running back Nakia Watson.

Depth takes a hit

Coming out of spring, the Badgers offensive line was among the deepest groups on the team. Since then, though, it’s taken several hits. With Brett Connors and Patrick Kasl leaving the program, Kayden Lyles moving to defensive line and injuries to Jason Erdmann, Logan Bruss and Blake Smithback, Wisconsin offensive line Joe Rudolph doesn’t have near the options he did four months ago. Now, he’ll likely get Erdman and Bruss back before the start of the season, but at this time he’s essentially got Cole Van Lanen and Micah Kapoi as perhaps the only two guys he can count on off the bench.

Missing Rafa

Rafael Gaglianone is going to break the school record for made field goals in a career this season.

Well, let us rephrase that.

If he gets healthy, Rafael Gaglianone is going to break the school record for made field goals in a career this season.

Right now, though, the senior is not healthy, battling a leg injury and reportedly an ailing back. That’s left redshirt freshman Colin Larsh and junior Zach Hintze to share the kicking duties. And while they might be solid options, they have yet to even attempt a field goal in college.

The last time Wisconsin was without Gaglianone, his replacement, Andrew Endicott, went just 13 of 19. Compare that to Gaglianone going 23 of 26 the last two seasons and you can see the difference he provides.

It’s unclear when the Brazilian will return, but with unproven options behind him, Wisconsin needs him.

New faces on DL

Two names no one was talking about in the spring are slated to start at defensive end, a spot that is currently missing its top five players from last season. Former offensive lineman Kayden Lyles has rolled with the first-team defense throughout camp and is certainly talented enough to play at a high level at the position. The other spot is manned by walk-on Matt Henningsen. A redshirt freshman, Henningsen is getting an opportunity earlier than expected, but doesn’t seem overwhelmed. The Badgers will get projected starter Isaiahh Loudermilk (knee surgery) back early in the season, but defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield needs more from the likes of redshirt freshman Aaron Vopal and veterans David Pfaff and Kraig Howe.

Solid options

They may not be having the jump-off-the-film camp that Leon Jacobs did last fall, but Wisconsin’s outside linebackers have looked pretty good. Senior Andrew Van Ginkel showed off his coverage ability with a near one-handed interception last week and is clearly the best pass rusher of the group. Junior Zack Baun is fully healthy and playing like it. He may not be the same kind of big body as his predecessors, but he has a chance to be disruptive with his athleticism. Junior Tyler Johnson, redshirt sophomore Christian Bell and senior Arrington Farrar should provide solid backup options for the Badgers.

Don’t let go

Because there haven’t been live tackling periods in the practices open to the media, it’s tough to know if Jonathan Taylor has improved his ball security. But it is clear that he’s been more aware of his surroundings, constantly keeping two arms over the ball in high traffic areas. It was one of the running back’s biggest focuses this offseason, but we’ll have to wait until real games to see if it pays off.

Depth Chart

Here’s a look at what we think the depth chart will look like for Week 1 against Western Kentucky. A lot can change in the next few weeks, though. All you have to do is look at last year. At this point in camp last fall, Jonathan Taylor was still fifth on the depth chart at running back. He ended up being a co-starter in the first week and went on to rush for 1,977 yards. So take this for what it is: A slightly educated guess.

NFL Badgers in preseason action

Wisconsin has a healthy number of former players on NFL teams, including many that are fighting for roster spots.

Here’s a look at how they did in the first week of the preseason.

In Green Bay, defensive tackle Conor Sheehy made his professional debut, finishing with a pair of tackles, while outside linebacker Vince Biegel had a fumble recovery. Biegel also faced off against former teammate Tyler Marz, who is a backup tackle for Tennessee.

Cincinnati beat Chicago 30-27, with wide receiver Alex Erickson finishing with two catches for 14 yards. He also returned one kick for 23 yards and one punt for six yards. Sojourn Shelton, a cornerback for the Bengals, is currently out with a thumb injury.

Two Badgers helped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Miami Dolphins 26-24 on Thursday night. Running back Dare Ogunbowale had 15 yards rushing and added another 18 yards on a pair of receptions. Linebacker Jack Cichy, playing in his first game since October 2016, finished with two tackles. Defensive tackle Beau Allen made his debut with the Bucs, but didn’t record a stat.

After leading the NFL in tackles last season, linebacker Joe Schobert had one stop in limited playing time as Cleveland beat the New York Giants. Offensive lineman Kevin Zeitler didn’t play for the Browns as he deals with a calf injury.

Russell Wilson only played one drive, but he made it count for Seattle. The former Badgers quarterback went 4 of 5 for 43 yards and touchdown against Indianapolis and also had 14 yards on two carries. Wide receiver Tanner McEvoy was targeted just once on the night by Seahawks quarterbacks.

Coming off a big role in a Super Bowl victory, running back Corey Clement led Philadelphia in rushing against Pittsburgh, picking up 30 yards on five carries. Safety Chris Maragos, who missed the Eagles run to the title last year with a knee injury, has yet to practice in training camp.

Down in Jacksonville, linebacker Leon Jacobs, who is running with the starters, had two tackles against New Orleans. Former teammate Natrell Jamerson had one tackle for the Saints, while Ryan Ramczyk, an All-American for Wisconsin in 2016, started at right tackle.

Center Ryan Groy got the start for the Buffalo Bills in their 28-23 loss to Carolina. Groy’s former teammate, safety Dezmen Southward, had a tackle and a pass breakup for the Panthers.

Several more players will hit the field Friday and Saturday for preseason action.

Here’s the full list of Badgers currently on NFL rosters:

WR Alex Erickson
CB Sojourn Shelton

G Ryan Groy

TE Troy Fumagalli
TE Austin Traylor

LB Joe Schobert
OL Kevin Zeitler

DT Beau Allen
LB Jack Cichy
RB Dare Ogunbowale

DL Alec James

RB Melvin Gordon
FB Derek Watt

C Travis Frederick

RB Corey Clement
S Chris Maragos

LB Leon Jacobs

OL Rick Wagner

LB Vince Biegel
TE Lance Kendricks
DL Conor Sheehy

S Dezmen Southward

RB James White

CB Darius Hillary
CB Nick Nelson

OT Rob Havenstein

DE JJ Watt

OT Tyler Marz

CB Natrell Jamerson
OT Ryan Ramczyk

WR Tanner McEvoy
QB Russell Wilson

LB T.J. Watt (currently injured)

LB Garret Dooley

Badgers fall camp: Practice No. 7

MADISON — Wisconsin was on the practice field late Thursday morning and in full pads for the first time.

Here’s what we saw and heard:

* Coach Paul Chryst lit into his guys after practice, criticizing their inability to fight through a two-hour session on a very warm and humid day in Madison. The message, essentially, was to stop thinking that anything they accomplished last season will have an impact this fall, as well as the need to lock in every single practice.

“It’s a new year,” tackle David Edwards said of what he took from Chryst’s message. “You got a hot day like this [and] a long practice, you have to be mentally prepared and focused for the entire time. [There were] a lot of ups and downs [Thursday]. It’s about staying consistent and staying even keeled the whole time.”

* Alex Hornibrook is clearly throwing the ball down the field better in this camp than he has the last few years. The junior found Quintez Cephus for a big gain in team drills and later put a ball right on Kendric Pryor for what would have been a near touchdown.

Sophomore Danny Davis credited the recent success to all the snaps the receivers got with Hornibrook last season, as well as the time spent with him in the offseason.

“Our timing last year was a little rough,” Davis said. “But [getting better timing is] what happens when you come in here and throw with Alex [a lot]. You just get that connection.”

* Rafael Gaglianone was held out of a third straight practice and for the first time he appeared on the injury report with a right leg injury. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also reported the kicker is dealing with some pain in his back.

The senior has actually had back surgery twice since coming to Wisconsin — once after his freshman year and then again a few weeks into the 2016 season.

Gaglianone was walking with what appeared to be slight limp, but it’s unclear how severe the leg or back injury really is. The Badgers hopes is it’s not serious considering their two backups — Zach Hintze and Colin Larsh — are a combined 0-0 in field goal attempts in college.

* Cornerbacks Faion Hicks and Deron Harrell returned to practice after missing a few days with injuries. When camp opened Hicks was one of the starting corners. When he went down on the first day, Harrell replaced him. But even with both of them back, the Badgers rolled with redshirt sophomore Caesar Williams as the man opposite Dontye Carriere-Williams with the first-team defense.

The musical chairs that defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard has had to play so far is not ideal considering the youth in the secondary. The Badgers have to be hoping that Hicks, Harrell and Williams can stay healthy the next few weeks and give them a better grasp on who the No. 2 cornerback will be.

* Injuries are becoming more of a story as camp moves along. On Thursday, tackle Jason Erdmann (leg), along with linebackers Griffin Grady (arm) and Christian Bell (dehydration), dropped out of practice.

The most serious of the three appeared to be Erdmann, who stayed down for several minutes before limping off and being taken inside for further evaluation. With redshirt sophomore Tyler Biadasz (unknown) being held out of most drills, Erdmann’s injury forced the Badgers to go to their fourth option at center with senior Micah Kapoi.

* Freshman Reggie Pearson has played well enough that he’s running with the second-team defense at safety. An early enrollee, Pearson has normally been paired with redshirt sophomore Patrick Johnson.

* Running back Jonathan Taylor is too good of player to fumble as much as he did last year. On his way to setting the FBS freshman rushing record, Taylor also put the ball on the ground eight times and lost six of them — the third-most in the country.

He said Thursday that after going back and watching each turnover, it became clear his biggest issue wasn’t technique, but rather an inability to recognize where he was on the field and protecting the ball as needed. Rectifying the issue is a top priority in camp.

Nigel Hayes finds a new team

Nigel Hayes has found a new team.

Draft Express’ Jonathan Givony reported Wednesday that the former Wisconsin star has agreed to a deal with the Turkish team Galatasaray for the 2018-19 EuroCup that gets underway in October.

After going undrafted in 2017, Hayes spent much of last season in the G-League as part of the Westchester Knicks. He averaged 16.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game, while also shooting an eye-popping 45.4 percent from beyond the arc.

Hayes also played in nine games with three different NBA teams — the Los Angeles Lakers, the Toronto Raptors and the Sacramento Kings. He averaged 3.0 points and 2.4 rebounds in those stints.

Wisconsin has a rich history of former players having successful careers overseas, including the likes of Brian Butch, Jared Berggren, Alando Tucker, Mike Bruesewitz, Jordan Taylor, Kam Taylor and Rashard Griffith.

Badgers fall camp: Practice No. 6

MADISON — The Wisconsin football team practiced under the lights Tuesday night for the first time this year, and the roughly two-hour session provided plenty of highlights.

* Wide receiver Aron Cruickshank has picked up where he left off in the spring, showing once again what a weapon he could be. In a night full of strong plays, the one that stood out came in 1-on-1 drills in the red zone. The true freshman ran a slant and put a move on the defensive back that left him on the ground. Cruickshank then hauled in the pass and celebrated with a backflip in the end zone.

* Redshirt sophomore Kendric Pryor continued his strong camp, teaming up with quarterback Alex Hornibrook for a 44-yard touchdown. Pryor had almost five yards of separation from the defender when he caught the ball. The wide receiver proceeded to dunk the ball over the goal post, drawing flags from multiple officials.

* We got our first extended look at Wisconsin’s nickel package, with senior Olive Sagapolu and redshirt freshman Matt Henningsen occupying the two defensive linemen spots, along with sophomore Madison Cone serving as the third cornerback and lining up in the slot.

Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard said Monday that they plan to rotate guys through that inside role, but acknowledged that Cone had the upper hand to grab the job.

“He didn’t necessarily get many reps in games, but he really worked there throughout the course of [last] season,” Leonhard said of Cone before telling reporters what he liked about him in that spot. “The way he moves is suited really well for the slot. [The] physicality he has, the twitch that he has [and] he’s willing to tackle. He showed that last year throughout the season. He’s willing to throw his body in there.

“The game looks a little different when you start getting closer to the ball. I think he’s got a good feel for that.”

* Jon Dietzen once again was with the first-team offense at left tackle, but the junior also saw time at right tackle. It’s part of a plan by the coaching staff to cross-train guys at multiple spots. For instance, junior Jason Erdmann has seen time at both guard spots and at center in camp. It’s really just mixing and matching to find the five best guys and then their backups.

* Outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel was up to his old tricks Tuesday. The senior, whose heroics kept Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game and helped jump start the team against Miami in the Orange Bowl, once again baited a quarterback into throwing a ball he probably shouldn’t have. Instead of a potential touchdown to Quintez Cephus in the back of the end zone, Van Ginkel jumped up and nearly pulled in the interception one handed.

* Opportunities are a bit scarce for wide receivers farther down the depth chart, but Taj Mustapha made the most of his. During a team portion of practice, the true freshman caught a fastball from quarterback Jack Coan over the middle and was immediately drilled by the safety. But Mustapha held on in impressive fashion.


Injury report

WR Jack Dunn (leg)
RB Garrett Groshek (leg)

LB TJ Edwards (leg)
CB Faion Hicks (leg)
FB Alec Ingold (leg)
DE Isaiahh Loudermilk (leg)
TE Zander Neuville (leg)
WR Emmet Perry (leg)
CB Cristian Volpentesta (leg)
CB Deron Harrell (leg)

OL Blake Smithback (leg)
Garrett Rand (achilles)

Chryst speaks after practice:

Badgers found on cover of Sports Illustrated

With football season right around the corner and fall camp underway many outlets have started previewing the season and making predictions.

Sports Illustrated is no stranger to both those things and they’ve given high honors to the Wisconsin Badgers. Not only did the magazine select Wisconsin as one of the four teams expected to make the College Football Playoffs at the end of the year, but they’re also one of four schools gracing a cover of the magazine.

Featured on the cover for Wisconsin are offensive linemen Michael Deiter, Beau Benzchawel, Tyler Biadasz, David Edwards, and Jon Dietzen. Those are the five returning starters from last season, although there may be shuffling amongst them this year with Deiter moving from tackle to guard.

The other covers for this edition of Sports Illustrated feature Clemson, Houston, and Arizona.

The magazine picked the Badgers to be the No. 3 seed in the College Football Playoffs with Clemson and Alabama finishing first and second while Washington was picked fourth.

Badgers fall camp: Practice No. 5

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.

Injury report:

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)

CB Deron Harrell (leg)
CB Cristian Volpentesta (leg)

Wisconsin lands 2019 linebacker commitment

The 2019 recruiting class for the Wisconsin Badgers grew to 13 members on Saturday afternoon as Spencer Lytle, a three-star linebacker, pledged to the Badgers.

Lytle had 41 offers from schools such as Arizona, Nebraska, Notre Dame and others. He ultimately picked the Badgers over Clemson after setting those as his top two schools.

The California native is on the Butkus Watch List as one of the top linebackers in the country. He becomes the first linebacker in the 2019 class as well as the first player from the state of California.

The earliest that members of the class of 2019 can sign a National Letter of Intent is on Dec. 19.