MADISON – Wide receiver coach Ted Gilmore praised his group of receivers for never quitting during Wisconsin’s 16-14 victory over then-No.5 LSU Saturday, a good building block for a unit filled with players stepping into new roles.
But once he got the pleasantries out of the way, it was time to go to work.
“Guys played hard, but we didn’t play hard with good technique all the time,” Gilmore said Tuesday as Wisconsin begins its preparation for Akron (1-0) at Camp Randall Saturday. “The one thing we’re doing is coaching the truth with what we saw on the field. There’s not a single guy on this team or in that room that doesn’t feel like we could have done so much better.”
“We had a few plays, I don’t care where the ball is, we’ve got to make those plays,” he added. “That’s the expectation, guys know that and they want to do that.”
Nobody more so than senior Rob Wheelwright, who put it on his shoulders to be the main contributor to pick up the slack for the departed Alex Erickson. Wheelwright led the receivers with four catches for 60 yards but was bemoaning a missed opportunity in the end zone and a third-down drop in the third quarter that would have given UW a first down in field goal range.
It’s a consistently problem that was present in camp and one that continues to be addressed.
“We’ve got to make him right,” Gilmore said. “There was another one where the young man knocked it down along the sideline. He’s got to use all of that 6-3 body to create a little bit more throwing lane and angle for ourselves. He’s not satisfied and he’ll be the first point those out.”
His teaching moment with George Rushing was simple: ball security. Rushing made a critical gaffe in the third quarter when LSU’s Donte Jackson poked the ball out of the junior’s hand after passing the first down marker. The Tigers would score two plays later to take the lead.
“We talk about it every day,” Gilmore said, describing tucking the football immediately after making the catch. “That’s day one stuff and that was the life lesson, the teachable moment. You can’t forget about your fundamentals. That’s all I told him.”
The Badgers ran 23 more plays than the Tigers did in the opener but averaged 0.5 yards per play less (5.1 to 4.6). UW also went 3 of 15 on third downs, stats Gilmore points to drops or not staying on blocks in the run game.
“They had some very physical safeties and at times got the best of us,” he said. “The next step in that area is being a little bit more aggressive and taking better angels so we can get better leverage with our hands. Technique wise, we can fix that.”
Gilmore also said getting true freshmen Quintez Cephus and A.J. Taylor some reps was “a good project that we’re going to build on.”
Jacobs to Play Both Ways
Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst said during Tuesday's Big Ten teleconference that redshirt junior Leon Jacobs will play both fullback and inside linebacker for the rest of the season after sophomore Chris Orr suffered a season-ending right knee injury.
"He's a guy on the roster who's played and started for us in games," Chryst said. "I like what he did at fullback, and yet right now that was the one guy that we could move there. Leon was great. Whatever he could do for the team. So he'll get reps at both."
Jacobs was projected to be the team's starting inside linebacker last year until a toe injury forced him to miss time in fall camp and eventually shut him down for the final nine games of the season. It was also during the early parts of that season when Orr started to emerge on the depth chart. Jacobs received a medical hardship waiver because of the injury.
Jacobs has played at both insider and outside linebacker with 45 tackles, five tackles for loss and two sacks.
The move is likely designed to help Wisconsin get by without T.J. Edwards, who is listed as questionable while still recovering from a broken left foot, and keep the redshirt on Griffin Grady, who is listed as a backup ILB for this weekend.
“He’s smart enough to handle (both jobs),” running back coach John Settle said of Jacobs. “He’s proven throughout the time with me that he’s going to do whatever it takes to hone his craft … He’s a team player. When he found out Chris would be lost for the season, you kind of look around to see who’s the next best guy that we can move in and give us a physical presence at linebacker? Everybody looked at Leon. He’s done it before, so it’s easy to move him back to a position he’s played before.”
Settle said Jacobs is meeting with the defense during the day and talk with him after practice to pick up his offensive game plan.
Jump in the Rankings
Both the coaches and AP polls came out Tuesday (they will be on Sunday for the rest of the year) and Wisconsin sits at No.16 in the coaches poll and No.10 in the Associated Press poll following their week one upset.
Wisconsin is ranked in the top 10 for the first time since the final poll of the 2011 season. That team started 6-0 behind quarterback Russell Wilson, won the inaugural Big Ten championship game and finished 11-3.
Wisconsin's jump from unranked week 1 to No.10 in week two is largest week 1 to week 2 jump in school history. Previous was in 1953 going from NR to No.16 after shutting out unranked Penn State 20-0 at home. Curiously, UW went backed to being unranked after beating Marquette, 13-11, the follow the week.
Extra Points: Wisconsin junior inside linebacker Jack Cichy has been named Lott IMPACT Player of the Week for his team-high eight tackles in the win over then-No. 5 LSU. In recognition of Cichy’s performance, the Pacific Club IMPACT Foundation, sponsor of the Lott IMPACT Trophy, will make a $1,000 donation to UW’s general scholarship fund … In addition to be named Big Ten special teams player of the week, kicker Rafael Gaglianone was named the Rose Bowl Big Ten player of the week and named a Lou Groza Award Star of the Week … Gilmore said senior Reggie Love has “been working hard” but the team went the receivers they felt gave them the best chance to win … Offensive coordinator/line coach Joe Rudolph believes he’ll have Micah Kapoi (left leg) on Saturday but didn’t offer many details.