And because the Badgers still have two weeks on their calendar before taking on the Crimson Tide in Arlington, Texas, Edwards was already to get his sore left shoulder fixed and ready to go.
“It was definitely a good week of rehab and recovery,” Edwards said following Friday’s practice. “It was great to be back out here with the guys, hooting, hollering and all that stuff.”
There’s plenty of reasons for the inside linebackers to celebrate. Although Edwards and fellow starter Leon Jacobs went down within minutes of each other in the same practice last week Wednesday, the Badgers have built some quality depth at the position over the last several weeks.
True freshmen like Ty DeForest, Alec Ingold, Chris Orr and Nick Thomas have all run with the first-team defense and delivered quality reps. Redshirt freshman walk-on Ryan Connelly has been a nice surprise, and graduate transfer Kellen Jones is starting to catch on. During team drills Friday, Jones made a number of nice plays, including chasing down tailback Bradshaw Shaw on the sidelines and delivering a thunderous hit.
“We’re all young to be honest with you, but the young guys behind us are totally stepping up,” said Edwards. “It’s awesome to see Chris Orr, Alec Ingold, Nick Thomas and everyone step up.”
Despite being out for a week, Edwards feels he has stayed caught up on the defense with the position meetings with defensive coordinator Dave Aranda and taking mental reps on the sidelines. With 10 of the 11 projected starters on the field Friday (Jacobs could be back any day), Edwards is seeing some great potential on his side of the ball.
“I think we’re all playing fast and we have great leaders, starting with those two guys on the outside (Vince Biegel and Joe Schobert),” said Edwards. “We have a lot of vets in the back and the defensive line has made big strides. It’s going to be really good.”
FROM THE INFIRMARY
The return of Edwards was the big note from the training room, but a couple of running backs took his spot on the sidelines. Taiwan Deal (mid back) sat out along with Serge Trezy (left hamstring). Those injuries allowed Shaw to get extensive reps in team drills for the first time this camp.
T.J. Watt and Eric Steffes were held out of the morning practice so they would be fresh for the Badgers’ evening practice (closed to the media). Jacobs was in full pads but worked on a limited basis in individual (non-contact) drills.
Still out: Zach Baun, Beau Benzschawel, Hayden Biegel, Jon Dietzen, David Edwards, Arrington Farrar, Alec James, Caleb Kinlaw, Jake Whalen and Rob Wheelwright. All the timetables are unknown, but James is expected to be out a week with a right ankle injury.
Wide receiver coach Ted Gilmore is still looking for young players to step into major roles, and offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph is looking for a backup quarterback to step up to the plate. Both assistant coaches saw a glimpse of that with sophomore Krenwick Sanders and freshman D.J. Gillins.
Gillins completed two touchdown passes to Sanders during team drills late in practice. The first catch was a go route down the sideline that Sanders out raced true freshman Titus Booker, a throw Gillins heaved to the perfect location. The practice ended with Sanders catching a nice back-shoulder pass from Gillins right inside the pylon. It’s been a quiet camp for both, especially Sanders, so it was a good statement from both of them.
Quarterback Joel Stave continued stringing together productive practices with some solid throws in teams drills, hitting Tanner McEvoy for 20 yards on third-and-15 and connecting with a diving Jordan Fredrick for 15 yards on third-and-8. That last throw even drew praise from Biegel, who hollered to Fredrick “that’s what we need.”
Throw another name in the mix at left guard, as Rudolph gave redshirt freshman Micah Kapoi reps with the first-team offense earlier in practice before senior Ray Ball worked the rest of practice. Kapoi also has taken snaps at right guard and center.
Many players had impressive pass breakups throughout the morning. Cornerbacks Sojourn Shelton and Derrick Tindal delivered in one-on-one coverage in consecutive plays in 7-on-7 (Shelton read a comeback/curl route and Tindal broke up a deep post). Lubren Figaro and Chris Orr (who stayed with the first-team defense) delivered in 11-on-11, but Jack Cichy had a pair, including breaking up a pass at the line of scrimmage on a Gillins’ bootleg.
Redshirt freshman Jeremy Patterson (coming off a leg injury) and true freshman Olive Sagapolu rotated at defensive tackle throughout practice with the second team. Both are competing to be sophomore Conor Sheehy’s backup.