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Wisconsin football: Fall practice recap (August 13)

An overview of all that happened at Wisconsin Badgers football practice on Saturday, August 13.
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Just three weeks before the home opener against Illinois State, Saturday's practice inside Camp Randall was the second full practice open to the media for Wisconsin Badgers football ahead of the 2022 season.

Working in shoulder pads and shorts in rainy conditions, the Badgers practiced for around an hour and a half, with a nice mixture of individual, special teams, skelly, and team time.

Here is a look at some of the major news and notes from practice. 

Status report

Out for camp:

  • OLB Aaron Witt (right leg)
  • ILB Spencer Lytle (still rehabbing from spring)
  • WR Cam Fane (broken finger in right hand)
  • OL Travis Alvin (head injury)
  • TE Cam Large (right knee)
  • S Travian Blaylock (right knee)
  • DE Mike Jarvis (leg injury) - was seen with crutches on the sideline

Not practicing today:

  • WR Jordan Dibenetto (right hand injury)
  • K Vito Calvaruso
  • RB Brady Schipper
  • DE Isaac Townsend
  • TE Jack Pugh
  • CB Max Lofy
  • CB Alexander Smith (hamstring)
  • CB A'Khoury Lyde
  • ILB Jake Ratzlaff
  • S Deven Magli
  • FB Zach Gloudeman

* Starting safety John Torchio was still in a yellow no-contact jersey today

*Freshman safety Cade Yacamelli has switched numbers, he now wears No. 16 after previously wearing No. 25 earlier in camp. 

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Top plays

  • Chase Wolf delivered a deep throw to Jack Eschenbach along the sideline for a 20+ yard gain with the second team.
  • Rodas Johnson brought down Braelon Allen for a loss in the backfield. Johnson was in the backfield extremely quick and wrestled Allen down during the first play of team drills.
  • Skyler Bell had a long gain on a wide receiver reverse, though Rodas Johnson stopped a similar play later during team time for a significant loss.
  • Graham Mertz connected on a deep fade route to Markus Allen, working one-on-one against Ricardo Hallman, who had tight coverage. It was a beautiful throw by Mertz and a tremendous over-the-shoulder catch by Allen running parallel to the sideline.
  • Graham Mertz found Chimere Dike on a fade route for a long gain working against the first team defense.
  • Mertz stepped into the pocket and delivered a check-down throw to Isaac Guerendo, who was able to outrace Titus Toler to the corner for a big gain. 

Standout performers

  • Defensive end Rodas Johnson had a would-be sack and snuffed out a wide receiver reverse for a significant loss. He was all over the field and brought a ton of energy to the defense.
  • Senior tight end Jack Eschenbach had several catches in skelly and team time, at least two of which would have gone for 15+ yards.
  • Cornerback Ricardo Hallman looked really good in coverage, including a pass break-up working 1-on-1 against Chimere Dike on a hitch route throw by Mertz. Even when the offense did complete a pass against him, Hallman made it incredibly difficult.
  • Isaac Guerendo ran the ball well today. He had two rushes that would have gone at least 10 yards and ran with balance through the hole. Later in the team portion of practice, Guerendo had a long reception from Mertz, with most of his yardage coming after the catch.
  • Kaden Johnson was in the backfield frequently on Saturday. He had one sack and a tackle for loss in team time.
  • Markus Allen had a couple of nice receptions in skelly and looked more comfortable than we saw on Monday. By my count, Allen took more first-team reps during the team portions of practice on Saturday than previously.
  • Graham Mertz threw the ball with great poise and accuracy. He delivered the ball on time and made sound decisions throughout practice.
  • Inside linebacker Aidan Vaughan made a couple of plays that caught my eye in team drills. He did a great job of finding a soft spot in the offensive line with the second-team defense and made a pretty tackle for loss on one occasion.   

Offensive notes

  • Redshirt freshman Riley Mahlman received the first team reps at right tackle today, which was different than earlier in the week when junior Logan Brown was the primary starter. The rest of the offensive line was the same as seen Monday, with Jack Nelson, Tyler Beach, Joe Tippmann, and Michael Furtney also starting along the line. Trey Wedig worked with the second team at right tackle, with Logan Brown limited to individual work.
  • Chimere Dike, Skyler Bell, and Markus Allen appeared to be the top-3 at wide receiver. Each player recorded a catch of 20+ yards and rotated with the first group. Keontez Lewis had two drops on the day.
  • As mentioned earlier, Graham Mertz looked good throwing the ball. Chase Wolf and Deacon Hill were the only other quarterbacks to receive reps in team drills. 
  • True freshmen Chris Brooks Jr. and Tommy McIntosh each had receptions with the reserves. Brooks' reception was a chunk play after he slipped the cornerback in close coverage.

Defensive notes

  • Maema Njongmeta and Tate Grass received the initial first-team reps at inside linebacker when the Badgers went to team time, but there were several other combinations that Mark D'Onofrio used at inside linebacker. The race for the starting spots seems wide open still with Grass, Njongmeta, Jordan Turner, and Jake Chaney the front-runners. After missing practice on Monday, Bryan Sanborn was back in action and also worked with the top group. Sanborn is now in contention for playing time it appears.
  • The Badgers rotated a multitude of cornerbacks. Ricardo Hallman and Jay Shaw were the top two cornerbacks with the first-team defense, while Cedrick Dort and Justin Clark spent a lot of time in the slot. The team is not rushing cornerback Alexander Smith back with a hamstring injury, though he is one of the team's top cornerbacks.
  • Hunter Wohler, Kamo'i Latu, and John Torchio rotated at safety with the first-team defense. Preston Zachman and Titus Toler also earned time with the second group. I thought that Kamo'i Latu played great in drills and looked incredibly fluid when closing on the football.
  • Nick Herbig and C.J. Goetz were once again the two starting outside linebackers, though Kaden Johnson and TJ Bollers also earned a lot of reps. Darryl Peterson left practice after being poked in the eye. 

Special teams notes

  • Dean Engram and Vinny Anthony once again handled the majority of punt return reps, though Chimere Dike fielded a punt at one point as well. Engram was the first player up on each occasion.
  • On a windy day, Nate Van Zelst made both of his first field goal attempts from 37 and 45 yards, while reserve kicker Gavin Lahm missed his only try wide right. Vito Calvaruso did not participate. 

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