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Wisconsin Football News, Notes From First Day of Spring Practice



Wisconsin Badgers Football Stadium: Camp Randall
Sep 3, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; General view of Camp Randall Stadium prior to the game between the Illinois State Redbirds and Wisconsin Badgers. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Luke Fickell era is officially underway, and the Wisconsin football team was back on the field for the first day of spring practice. 

Madison, Wis. – University of Wisconsin football coaches and players took the field on Saturday afternoon and started laying the foundation for what’s to come under Luke Fickell and company. 

Here’s a quick recap, with a few buttoned-up observations UW media outlets reported from the first of 15 sessions available to reporters

First Look at Wisconsin Badgers QB Room  

All eyes will be on UW’s rebuilt quarterback room heading into 2023.

While everyone is understandably excited about Tanner Mordecai’s addition to the program, I’m most interested to see who gets the reps behind him this spring because it potentially foreshadows who has a leg up in the battle for the Badgers QB1 next season.

On day one, Zach Heilprin reported that Mordecai took all the first-team reps, as expected. However, Mississippi State transfer Braedyn Locke, a player known for accuracy, took the second-team reps for the Badgers offense.

Nick Evers, Myles Burkett, and walk-on Marshall Howe filled in behind them, with freshman signal caller Cole LaCrue held out due to a left arm injury.

Word on the street is Evers has been wildly impressive since stepping onto campus and will make for a fun position battle for QB2 this season because of his immense upside.

Wisconsin Football Maintain’s 2-4-5 Defensive Alignment 

One of the most intriguing storylines of Wisconsin football spring practice is how new DC Mike Tressel plans to blend two defensive schemes. 

Last season, the Cincinnati Bearcats played 66.3% of its snaps out of a 3-3-5 personnel grouping. Jim Leonhard primarily ran a 2-4-5 during his tenure with the Badgers.

While the blending might still be a work in progress, Zach Heilprin reported that the initial first-team defensive alignment was a 2-4-5 with the following players lining up as starters: 

  • DL Isaiah Mullens 
  • DL Rodas Johnson 
  • OLB CJ Goetz
  • ILB Maema Njongmeta 
  • ILB Jordan Turner 
  • OLB Daryl Peterson 
  • CB Alexander Smith 
  • S Hunter Wohler
  • S Travian Blaylock 
  • CB Ricardo Hallman 
  • Slot Jason Maitre

No real surprises here; my only thoughts on the first unit are: It’s great to see Travian Blaylock back with the starting safeties, and he could make a significant impact in the Badgers secondary if he can stay healthy.

The other thought I had was, will Wisconsin football keep this as their base defense to help mitigate the fact there is no proven nose tackle on the roster? Instead, UW might rotate its defensive ends and linebackers more to keep them fresh and get after the QB.

It’s only day one, but this is something to watch throughout the spring as the new coaching staff forms their opinions about roster holdovers.

Wisconsin Football Offensive Line Pecking Order

I recently wrote an article suggesting that the Wisconsin football offensive line could bounce back in 2023 because of the amount of returning talent they had with the additions UW made through the transfer portal

New offensive line coach Jack Bicknell is offering everyone on the Badgers O-line a clean slate this offseason. Which should help breed competition for a unit in transition.

But that won’t stop us from overreacting to Wisconsin’s day one alignment at the first spring football practice. 

First Team: 

  • LT Jack Nelson
  • LG Tanor Bortolini 
  • C Jake Renfro
  • RG Michael Furtney
  • RT Riley Mahlman 

Nothing too crazy here, but it’s definitely noteworthy that Michael Furtney, who UW’s coaching staff convinced to withdraw his name from the transfer portal, is getting the first crack with the starters. 

Furtney noted the new coaching staff was very honest about how he could improve, and, overall, he is a solid option with the starting group if he can take a step forward.

Second Team: 

  • LT Nolan Rucci 
  • LG Joe Brunner 
  • C Dylan Barrett 
  • RG Joe Huber 
  • RT Trey Wedig

My thoughts on the second unit are pretty simple: Trey Wedig is best suited to play tackle, and I won’t be surprised if he pushes for the starting right tackle spot this spring/fall. 

It was rumored that Joe Huber was coming to the Wisconsin football program to play guard, and now we have confirmation.  He’s an experienced option that could also push for a starting spot.

The overall depth of Wisconsin’s offensive line is better this season, and several players (I’m looking at you Joe Brunner) could find themselves at the top of the depth chart come week one. 

Other Wisconsin Football Notes

According to a report from Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the following players are either out for the spring or limited moving forward: 

  • TEs Clay Cundiff + Cole Dakovich + Cam Large
  • WR Bryson Green
  • DEs Darian Varner + Mike Jarvis
  • QB Cole LaCrue
  • CB Max Lofy
  • OLBs Aaron Witt + Ross Gengler
  • ILBs Aidan Vaughan + Luna Larson
  • OL Sean Timmis

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