MADISON - Head coach Paul Chryst seemed much more pleased with his University of Wisconsin football team following their 10th practice of the spring. There was no yelling at the end of the session, just a quick huddle before sending the players on their way.
“I liked the kid’s energy. Still a lot of things we have to clean up but I see some guys getting better, too. That’s always good,” said Chryst, who noted they have just four practices and the spring game left. “We’ve got to really push it and take advantage of the time we’ve got.”
It was an up and down day for the offense. Early in practice the team did what’s called an inside drill, which is essentially 7-on-7 in the trenches with no wide receivers or defensive backs. On four of the first five plays, UW’s running backs popped loose for what would have been 15-yard touchdowns, including two by junior Corey Clement.
They also had some success running during the team portion of practice in move the ball situations. Clement had seven carries for 38 yards, while junior Dare Ogunbowale added 45 yards on 12 carries with one touchdown.
But the defense largely held UW’s passing game in check during 11-on-11 work. In six possessions, senior Joel Stave was 7 of 16 for 96 yards and was sacked three times. He was also victimized by three drops from his receivers. The other three quarterbacks – Bart Houston, D.J. Gillins and Alex Hornibrook – got a combined five drives and together completed 3 of 8 passes.
On the defensive side of the ball, junior Vince Biegel spent plenty of time in the backfield, including a sack of Stave on fourth-and-1 in team drills. Inside linebacker T.J. Edwards and defensive end Alec James also had sacks for UW. Safety Tanner McEvoy had an interception for a second straight practice and fellow safety Joe Ferguson recovered a fumble.
New face in a new place
There was a new player going through running back drills on Wednesday night. Junior college transfer Serge Trezy, who had spent the first eight practices playing cornerback, was on the offensive side of the ball in practice No. 9.
“We wanted to take a look at what Serge could do,” Chryst said. “You watch his high school tape. Just want to see if it’s a place that suits him.”
It’s a place that definitely suited him in high school. He rushed for 4,164 yards and 54 touchdowns as a three-year starter at Agape Christian Academy in Orlando, Florida. He ended up at Eastern Arizona Junior College where in 2013 he ran for 814 yards and scored six touchdowns.
But the previous staff recruited Trezy with the idea of putting him and his speed – he reportedly ran a 4.31 40-yard dash – on defense, specifically at cornerback. Despite that, Trezy said when he committed that he felt he would end up playing running back and it appears that’s where he will stay for now.
On Wednesday, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound, Trezy got thrown into the fire in team drills, carrying the ball six times for 26 yards. While he showed some really nice burst, he also allowed the ball to be ripped out of his hands twice, one of which was recovered by the defense.
“He did some (good things),” Chryst said. “Didn’t take care of the ball very well but for his first snaps he did all right. Really early in it.”
The damage for cornerback Derrick Tindal appears to be limited to a concussion. The sophomore was taken off the field on Sunday in an ambulance after trying to make a tackle on running back Taiwan Deal. UW officials said he was released from the hospital that night and Chryst said he ran into Tindal earlier in the day on Wednesday.
“He’s in good spirits,” Chryst said. “All those guys, you never quite know (how guys will handle it). Each guy is a little bit different. We’ve got a good protocol. We’ll follow that and we’ll see.”
There was no timetable for his return.
Meanwhile, center Dan Voltz, who left Sunday’s scrimmage on crutches, had his left foot in a walking boot and didn’t take part in practice.
Junior wide receiver Rob Wheelwright remained out for UW as he recovers from a lower body injury. Offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said Sunday he expected Wheelwright back soon and Chryst reiterated that feeling.
“I would hope he comes back. Every day you hope he comes back,” Chryst said. “I think it’s important for him. Spring is a great time for guys to improve. When you don’t go on the field you miss some of those key opportunities to get better. That’s Rob and all the injured players.”
In addition to Tindal, Voltz and Wheelwright, the Badgers were also without wide receivers A.J. Jordan, Jordan Fredrick and Connor Senger, outside linebacker Garret Dooley, kicker Rafael Gaglianone and cornerback Devin Gaulden among others.
“I don’t think there is one kid that wants to be injured,” Chryst said. “But you want them to take advantage of the opportunities. You get to this point in spring and say unfortunately we only get 15 of these. It’s important enough to have them. You want guys to be at them.”
OL vs DL
UW’s offensive and defensive lines do a 1-on-1 pass rushing drill every practice.
Here are some of the matchups and winners – at least according to the untrained eye of this reporter:
LT Tyler Marz > DE Jake Keefer
DE Chikwe Obasih > LG Ray Ball
NG Arthur Goldberg > C Michael Deiter
NG Conor Sheehy > RG Micah Kapoi
RG Walker Williams > DE Alec James
DE James Adeyanju > RT Hayden Biegel
James > RT Beau Benzschawel
Keefer > C George Panos
Marz > Obasih
Ball > Adeyanju
NG Jeremy Patterson > G Ben Hemer
Deiter > Keefer
Sheehy > Kapoi
Panos > Keefer
Williams > Goldberg
Marz > Adeyanju
Goldberg > Williams
Junior Andrew Endicott was 4 of 5 on the night. He was good from 33, 33, 33 and 48 but missed from 32.
Wisconsin will hold their 10th practice of spring on Friday.