4 observations from Wisconsin football's 14th spring practice |  College Sports

4 observations from Wisconsin football’s 14th spring practice | College Sports

The University of Wisconsin football team’s spring practices end Friday, but coach Paul Chryst made clear that progress achieved this month can’t stop.

Chryst said the way to judge the weeks of spring practice is by seeing what players took from it and applied to their work going forward. This summer is pivotal for players to continue making strides after a spring in which the defense had more splash plays, but the offense showed signs of growth and variety that it needed.

The Badgers will conclude the spring sessions with a Friday evening practice before attention turns toward weight-room work and final exams.

Here are four observations from Thursday’s practice.

1. ILB depth chart clearing up

Bill Sheridan used the first three weeks of spring practices to learn his players, splitting reps equally among the inside linebacker group. But reps were distributed based on performance the past two weeks, and redshirt junior Tatum Grass and redshirt sophomore Jordan Turner have been the top group.

People are also reading…

That duo possesses high football IQ and quick reaction time, and Turner’s shown more aggressiveness as a blitzer this spring. He tallied a would-be sack during a red-zone portion of practice Thursday, blasting through the block of tailback Grover Bortolotti.

Behind them has been redshirt junior Maema Njongmeta and sophomore Jake Chaney. They both have downhill power to be run-stuffers, but are still learning to use their speed in coverage.

2. Furtney missing one fundamental

Senior Michael Furtney has been the Badgers’ top right guard throughout the spring, and he has a lot of solid tools at the position. He moves his feet well, gives second and third efforts on pass blocks, and stays low in his stance. One issue that’s been plaguing him is a mistimed punch when he passes blocks.

The punch in a pass set is crucial to slowing and redirecting the momentum of the rusher, and an effective one gives the blocker the advantage. When Furtney gives up pressure, it’s usually because his punch is late, meaning the rusher is too far into his body when Furtney punches, so the rusher’s momentum isn’t slowed.

When Furtney delivers his punch at the correct time, he’s a solid blocker, so this is something he’ll need work on before the fall.

3. Hallman’s role

Competition has been stiff in UW’s cornerback group, a product of three senior transfers making an immediate impact and solid players already on the roster. One of those returners is redshirt freshman Ricardo Hallman.

He’s shown quickness and great reaction on receivers’ breaks, and he broke up a pass during Tuesday’s practice with a strong break on the ball. He didn’t have a highlight play Thursday, but that was in part because the ball wasn’t thrown his way much, a sign that a cornerback is doing his job well.

“I think he’s putting himself in a position where you can trust him,” Chryst said of Hallman. “When they have confidence in themselves, you’re going to play better, and you’re going to play at a consistent level, and that’s been showing up. Yeah, he’s got stuff he’s got to continue to work on, but I thought he’s had a really good spring.”

4. Rucci’s return

UW’s tight end group has been plagued by injury, and redshirt junior Hayden Rucci dealt with a hip injury earlier this month. But he’s been back on the field and had one of his best days of the spring on Thursday.

He caught a pair of passes on short crossing routes during a red-zone session and he showed his blocking progress on the edge, particularly on stretch run plays on which he must clear out an outside linebacker.

Rucci doesn’t have the speed to be the top receiving option as tight end, but he’s going to play a role in the rotation this fall. He’s sure-handed, has a strong relationship with quarterback Graham Mertz on and off the field and is probably the top blocker at his position.

From the infirmary

Here’s a look at the Badgers’ injury situation on Thursday. If a player has an injury designation, it has been confirmed by UW or the player:

Out

  • DT Keeanu Benton (right arm)
  • S Travian Blaylock (right leg)
  • WR Stephan Bracey
  • BY Tommy Brunner
  • TE Clay Cundiff (right leg)
  • WR Jordan DiBenedetto
  • TE Jack Eschenbach (right shoulder)
  • RB Isaac Guerendo (left foot)
  • TE Cam Large (right leg)
  • CB A’Khoury Lyde
  • ILB Spencer Lytle
  • RB Chez Mellusi (left leg)
  • BY Isaiah Mullens (right arm)
  • BY Gio Paez
  • TE Jack Pugh (right leg, was seen on crutches with brace on right leg)
  • ILB Bryan Sanborn
  • RB Brady Schipper
  • OLB Marty Strey
  • C Joe Tippmann
  • BY Isaac Townsend (abdominal)
  • OLB Aaron Witt (right leg)
  • S Preston Zachman

Limited

  • CB Semar Melvin
  • NT Curt Neal (knee)

.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.