MADISON - Death, taxes and some kind of a Rob Wheelwright injury.
No matter the camp, it’s been a common sight that the former four-star receiver has suffered some ailment that has caused him to miss a handful of critical practices, causing him to get buried on the depth chart during his absence.
But while he has missed time in both the spring and the fall, Wheelwright is no longer letting an opportunity pass him by.
Returning Monday to practice after missing a couple days with a sore knee, the junior didn’t miss a beat when working with the offense during Tuesday’s practice, even catching a touchdown pass from roughly 20 yards out that showed off some of his athleticism.
“With my body, I go so hard, push it to the limit each and every day, that (injuries) are bound to happen,” said Wheelwright. “For me, if I do get banged up or injured, I have to take all the precautions and get back as soon as possible.”
Wheelwright was one of the stars of Wisconsin’s spring game in April, catching six passes for 67 yards and two touchdowns. He was at the center of a big media hoard after the game, but he said simply that the performance doesn’t mean anything if he couldn’t parlay that momentum into the fall.
He’s lived up to the billing for the most part by pushing his body in conditioning over the summer.
“I ran every day, did a lot of drills and used my size to get stronger on and off the field,” said Wheelwright. “Since I was little I wanted to play on the big stage, especially against a great team. Going out there against Alabama is going to be a great feeling.”
Likely starting the season as the team’s third or fourth receiver, Wheelwright’s main competition in camp has been senior Tanner McEvoy, who will likely see plenty of snaps on offense in addition to his role at safety this season.
“It’s been great using him as motivation to keep going,” said Wheelwright. “He is a playmaker and has been able to make plays on offense and defense. Just having him in our room is an inspiration to get better.”
Ones vs Twos
Bringing both units together near the end of practice, Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst pitted the starters against the No.2 units. As expected, the starters had the upper hand.
The starting defense came away successful without allowing any points on the board, including one series that junior safety Leo Musso ended with an interception. The reserves did have their chance, however. Tight end Eric Steffes snuck through the defense on a corner route and was wide open for true freshman Alex Hornibrook, who had done an admirable job avoiding pressure.
Steffes had two guys trailing him and reached over his head to catch the pass but dropped it as he brought the ball into his chest. UW went three-and-out from there.
Houston replaced Hornibrook with the twos against the starting defense. Moving the chains with a pass to Dare Ogunbowale on third-and-5, Houston and Wheelwright weren’t on the same page on an end zone route, resulting in an easy interception for Musso.
FROM THE INFIRMARY
Junior tailback Serge Trezy was back in pads, Zack Baun works his way back and worked in a yellow “no-contact” jersey and Leon Jacobs worked with the starters on his second day back from his dislocated right big toe.
“It’s good to get guys back,” said defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. “Leon was back (Monday) and felt good. It’s good to have his leadership and his savvy back.”
With Jacobs and redshirt freshman T.J. Edwards back with the starters, true freshman Chris Orr and redshirt freshman Ryan Connelly worked with the reserves. It sounds like Orr will play this season as a true freshman, as he continues to complete with graduate transfer Kellen Jones.
“I am thankful for it now,” said Aranda of the improved depth. “There was some growing pains and some learning curves early on. Now that that’s behind us, you feel good about the depth. The special teams has improved that way because you’ve got guys played some early out of necessity that can now contribute now on teams. Overall it was a positive thing.”
Player who remain out: Hayden Biegel (concussion), Arrington Farrar (mono), Troy Fumagalli (ankle), Alec James (ankle), Jake Keefer (right ankle/foot), Reggie Love (head), Walker Williams (head) and Jake Whalen (knee).
Extra Points: David Edwards (left ankle) has been taken off the 105 fall camp roster and been replaced with redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Ben Hemer. Edwards was injured in the first practice and has yet to be spotted without crutches … Bradrick Shaw made a number of nice plays from the tailback position, both off runs and dump off passes, with the No.2 unit. He unofficially had three plays over 20 yards … While the rest of the unit worked on 11-on-11, kickers Andrew Endicott and Jack Russell and punter P.J. Rosowski worked on onside kicks on the Camp Randall turf … Jazz Peavy had a trio of catches during team drills, including a 10-yard touchdown pass … There are no more open practices for the media this fall.