Badgers' depth looking strong after 1st week of camp
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
MADISON--Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst saw two goals accomplished during the first week of camp:
The team emerged relatively healthy as no player in the two-deep suffered a significant injury and the staff was able to install most of the offense and defense.
Although UW’s 2017 opener on Sept. 1 against Utah State is more than three weeks away, the first seven practices revealed the Badgers should field their most talented and deepest team since Chryst returned before the 2015 season.
That depth begins with the offensive line, which features three freshmen in the two-deep. They are: reserve right tackle Patrick Kasl, reserve left tackle Cole Van Lanen and center Tyler Biadasz, who is working with the No. 1 unit.
“I still think it is the most solid two-deep that we’ve had,” said offensive coordinator/line coach Joe Rudolph.
Biadasz worked at center, Jon Dietzen at left guard, Beau Benzschawel at right guard, David Edwards at right tackle and Michael Deiter at left tackle.
Depth isn’t an issue at center or the guard spots. But the move of Deiter from the inside to left tackle reminded that UW is thin on the outside.
Deiter’s transition from guard/center to a new position remains a work in progress and he is scheduled to get work on the inside this week. Rudolph plans to evaluate different combinations and wants to identify a legit third tackle. Nevertheless, Rudolph believes Deiter will be ready to start the season at tackle if that move puts the best five linemen on the field.
Quarterback Alex Hornibrook, who emerged as a leader in the locker room from the opening of winter workouts, appears more comfortable running the offense. Hornibrook, who started nine games last season, has added some zip to his fastball but hasn’t lost the touch required on certain routes.
The No. 2 job remains open with freshman Kare’ Lyles battling freshman Jack Coan.
Lyles and Coan, who enrolled at UW in January and participated in spring ball, both possess strong arms. However, it appears Coan has the edge in accuracy. Like Hornibrook, Coan can use touch to drop a ball into tight coverage and give his receiver a chance to make the catch.
In addition to a deeper line and a more experienced quarterback, UW should have four capable tailbacks and three playmaking tight ends.
Senior Jazz Peavy is the clear leader of the wide receivers, but young players such as Quintez Cephus, A.J. Taylor and Kendric Pryor could bolster the productivity of the unit.
UW averaged 26.8 points per game in 2015 and 28.4 points per game last season. The Badgers should push the number past the 30-point mark this season.
Jim Leonhard, entering his first season as defensive coordinator and second season as a college coach, appears to have playmakers on the line, at linebacker and in the secondary.
Cornerbacks Derrick Tindal and Nick Nelson have been outstanding in camp. Safety D’Cota Dixon appears as good as he was last season when he recorded 60 tackles and four interceptions. If Natrell Jamerson, making the transition to safety from cornerback, can adequately replace Leo Musso the unit should be outstanding.
What remains unclear is the level of play UW will get from its outside linebackers.
Seniors Garret Dooley and Leon Jacobs appear set as the starters, with junior-college transfer Andrew Van Ginkel on the No. 2 unit. Zak Baun has also worked with the No. 2 unit, but he missed the last two practices (knee) and battled nagging injuries last season. Will the coaches feel the need to move one of the inside linebackers to the outside? Stay tuned.