MADISON - First year head coach Paul Chryst treated his second-to-last spring practice as if it was the night before an actual game. Lasting slightly longer than an hour, Wisconsin had a short, concise practice to get in some good work as they prepare for the annual spring game at 3 p.m. tomorrow.
The hour practice consisted of primarily 7-on-7 work and team drills after the positional work was done. All four quarterbacks for Wisconsin had their moments, as Joel Stave, Bart Houston, D.J. Gillins, and Alex Hornibrook were able to hit a variety of wide receivers during the portion of practice.
Stave completed his first four passes in skelly with the first three completions going to Rob Wheelwright, Krenwick Sanders and Alex Erickson catching the last two passes. Overall Stave finished 6-for-11 in skelly work. Houston went 6-for-9, Gillins went 3-for-4 and Hornibrook went 3-for-4.
Gillins first pass in skelly work was intercepted by Ryan Connelly, a walk-on redshirt freshman outside linebacker who was able to step in front of the pass intended for Austin Traylor. Despite the interception on his first pass attempt, Gillins shook it off and completed three consecutive passes.
Connelly registered one of the two defensive turnovers, as junior cornerback Sojourn Shelton recorded the second off of Stave in team drills. Shelton was able to pick off the underthrown pass intended for Erickson on an out route.
“We have to keep cutting it loose as a defensive line,” said sophomore end Alec James. “It will help our confidence. It will also help us know what we can do and can’t do. Either way I think it will help us out a lot and the secondary, which possibly could create the turnovers.”
The defense could have had two other interceptions in team drills but both Michael Caputo and Lubern Figaro saw passes drop off their hands. Hornibrook escaped the two interceptions and finished team drills 2-for-5
Gillins was the lone quarterback to go perfect in team drills. He went 3-for-3, Stave was 2-for-4, and Houston was 1-for-3.
Early enrollee Kyle Penniston had a nice day of practice with two catches during team drills on passes from Hornibrook. The first catch came off of a sliding catch on an underthrow pass, as Penniston showed nice adjustment to the football. The second catch showed Penniston’s ability to keep his balance on an out route and turn up field to pick up five yards before he was pushed out of bounds. That catch also scared athletic director Barry Alvarez, who was a wary bystander on the sideline.
Prior to the team drills, Wisconsin continued to work on punt returns. Although there have been a number of Badgers who took their turns auditioning for the job vacated by departed Kenzel Doe, only Erickson and Corey Clement took turns returning punts.
Red Zone Work
Wisconsin ran only a total of three series. Stave couldn’t get the offense into the end zone on his first series. The first two plays were runs by Corey Clement up the middle for seven yards, but Stave saw a pass to Wheelwright go through the junior’s hands on third-and-3.
Chryst reset the offense with Houston, and he responded with a touchdown pass to Jazz Peavy after the sophomore beat Terrance Floyd on the play. Peavy made an impressive catch and received an awe from the crowd in attendance.
“I started attacking his leverage, he started to go more outside, I stuck him and then I went inside,” Peavy said. “Bart threw me high and I was able to go up and catch the football.”
The athleticism displayed by Peavy on the catch was impressive, as he was able to go up and catch the football at its highest point. That has been just one example of Peavy’s progression as spring practice wraps up.
“It allows me to feel better and gain more confidence with the quarterbacks,” Peavy said. “Hopefully they feel more confident with me and they start to throw more football towards my side.”
Chryst was clearly pleased with what Houston showed on his throw to Peavy as he got the third series of red zone work as well. Although Houston did not lead Wisconsin to another touchdown, he was able to complete his lone pass to Penniston for seven yards on a second-and-9.
First down was a one-yard run by Taiwan Deal and third down was a one-yard run by Derek Straus. With Straus failing to pick up a first down, Chryst called for the field goal unit. Andrew Endicott was able to make his field goal before Jack Russell came in and also was able to convert.
Chryst invited former players to attend Friday’s practice and by all accounts it can be deemed a successful one. It was hard to get an idea of how many former players showed up but it appeared that around 150 players showed up to take in practice.
At the conclusion of practice, Chryst invited former players to introduce himself to the current players. While Wisconsin was practicing, the former players were catching up, breaking down the current roster and sharing laughs among one another.
“I think it’s important to make sure they know that, it doesn’t matter what era they played in, doesn’t matter what their stats were, guys put a lot in to this program,” Chryst said Wednesday. “I’m excited for our players to have a chance to meet the ex-players and certainly for the ex-players to see each other. If we can use (the spring game) as an excuse for them to come back, that’d be great because this is there place. I want them to know that and feel that.”
Former players included Chris McIntosh, Aaron Gibson, Joe Armentrout, Darryl Sims, Jim Leonhard, Jonathan Clinckscale, Jeff Mack, Donnell Thompson, Sam Arneson, Kyle Wojta, Scott Benzschawel, Craig Fredrick, among many others were in attendance.
Extra Points: Tanner McEvoy worked primarily at safetybut did receive a couple of snaps at wide receiver. He did not get any passes thrown his way...Serge Trezy continued to receive some work at running back … 2015 commit Olive Sagapolu was in attendance...Current 2016 commit Kare Lyles and 2017 recruit Kayden Lyles were in attendance with their mom and dad a former Badger Kevin Lyles … Wisconsin players got their West Division championship rings following practice.