MADISON - Due to the University of Wisconsin’s spring break, it had been 12 days between practices for the University of Wisconsin’s football team. In head coach Paul Chryst’s eyes, it certainly showed.
Going through periods that resembled a lack of focus and effort in a light rain insider Camp Randall, Chryst made his feelings clear at the end of practice by reminding the players the importance of the reps, encouraging players to get on one another if they saw a lack of effort and reminded them that there are only eight practices left to get better.
“We had some guys, really good, and then I thought we had some guys that have to keep growing,” Chryst said, “It’s the old adage you get better or you get worst. I think it’s real. You get a limited number of opportunities for us to work on the field, and I just want to make sure everyone takes advantage of that.”
While the practice inside Camp Randall wasn’t as crisp as Chryst had hoped for, it was clear that junior cornerback Sojourn Shelton was one of the players who was making the most out of his reps as he tries to bounce back from a disappointing sophomore season.
“I thought today he had a good day,” Chryst said. “I thought he came out and he had a purpose to what he was doing. The more I’m getting to know him, he takes practice serious, and he values the reps. He wants to be smart and understand the why. I like him.”
Shelton was able to register an interceptions off of Joel Stave during team drills and another off of Bart Houston in skelly work. While Shelton took advantage of a slip by George Rushing coming out of his break to pick off Houston, Shelton picked up Stave with an impressive catch at the football’s highest point. Stave overthrew his intended target of Rob Wheelwright and Shelton was able to read the football well.
Despite the interception, Stave was able to throw the deep ball with good touch through the evening. During skelly work, Stave went 9-for-13 with completions to a handful of his wide receivers and went 7-for-15 during team drills.
All of the quarterbacks for Wisconsin looked confident throwing the deep football by displaying nice touch and accuracy. When Wisconsin went into team drills, however, the group started to struggle at times completing passes over the middle, as they struggled to pinpoint the football or the receivers struggled to hang onto the wet football.“The wide receiver group has done some good things but I’d say it has been inconsistent,” Chryst said. “The thing we need to get is the consistency.”
Early enrollee Alex Hornibrook continues to have a good showing and receive more opportunities. With the way he has consistently been preparing, the true freshman has led him the right to earn more practice reps, as he went 4-for-6 in skelly and was 1-for-2 during team drills.
“I liked the way he approached the position,” Chryst said. “He’s a worker. He’s a bit of a gym rat, has a lot of things that I like and also when you watch him compete he has a pretty good balance. He competes but he plays within himself.”
Tanner McEvoy adjustment
It is rare to see college football players today playing on both sides of the football, but with McEvoy being such a tremendous athlete, spring is the right time to explore whether or not he could potentially play both safety and wide receiver next fall.
At the moment it appears that McEvoy will primarily see time at safety opposite redshirt senior Michael Caputo. Chryst is being diligent to make sure he has McEvoy lined up in a spot where he can succeed and help the program thanks to his natural ability.
“Tanner is heck of an athlete and football player,” Chryst said. “Anytime you’re putting together your team, you want to take advantage of guys’ abilities and play to their strengths. I think he’s really talented.”
Like he has throughout spring practices, McEvoy has run his receiving routes after practice with Stave throwing him the football. Chryst was watching the two after practice Wednesday and was giving pointers to both players to try and help speed up the learning curve.
“You obviously have to learn the person, and then another big component is you have to practice it,” said Chryst. “If you can do those things, probably the physical part of it is probably less and it depends on what the position is … I think it is different than if he was practicing at linebacker or tight end, where there is a little more banging.”
Natrell Jamerson making progress
Jamerson appeared at wide receiver in 10 games last year but didn’t make much of an impact in the receiving game. With a new staff in place, they’ve had a chance to look over the depth chart and see where they could possibly move players to try and make most of their talent.
For Jamerson, that meant him making a move to cornerback, a position that he had played at Vanguard High School in Ocala, Fla.
“With any position change, you’ll talk with him, he understood to why you’re trying to move him and it wasn’t something that he had done at wide receiver to say, ‘boy we don’t think you can do it here,’” said Chryst. “We wanted to look at it in the spring. If it wasn’t something he didn’t take too, he could make the transition back to wide receiver.”
Through seven spring practices, Chryst is happy where Jamerson sits and his attitude toward playing the new position.
“I think he’s grown at it and that’s not an easy position to flip to,” Chryst said. “He’s not new to it but he hasn’t done it in a while. There’s a lot of growth yet to be had but it’s the approach to, he went all in on it, which certainly helps.”