The University of Wisconsin’s two major position changes this spring could produce a key starter on each side of the ball for the Badgers come September.
David Edwards, the former tight end who started seven games at right tackle as a redshirt freshman last year, was already named the No. 1 left tackle Monday. Natrell Jamerson, who moved from cornerback to safety, took first-team reps with D’Cota Dixon during UW’s first spring practice Tuesday and looks to be the favorite to replace former team MVP Leo Musso.
For Badgers coach Paul Chryst, this is partly the purpose of spring ball — tweaking your roster to see what works when the season remains months away.
“(An) advantage of spring ball is you get a lot of reps, so you can really find out players,” Chryst said. "You’ve got (practice) every other day, so you’ve got time. During practice, you can meet, you can clean up, you can teach it. So just trying to figure out, what’s the best use of our talent? Position changes or shuffling or moving them one side to the other, I think that’s part of spring ball, so then you know going into fall camp, what’s the best place for that kid and how he fits with the team?"
Edwards’ transition appears as if it will give redshirt freshman Patrick Kasl many more reps over the next month or so. With right tackle Jacob Maxwell out this spring, Kasl took all first-team reps at that position Tuesday with Edwards on the left side.
In the interior, where the Badgers are also missing left guard Jon Dietzen for the spring, starting center Michael Deiter played left guard, Beau Benschawel took his usual spot at right guard and redshirt freshman Tyler Biadasz took a number of first-team reps at center. Micah Kapoi also saw first-team reps at both guard spots.
It appears some of UW’s linemen are getting stronger as well. Edwards, Kasl, Biadasz and Cole Van Lanen, who took second-team reps at left tackle, have all gained more than 15 pounds since August of last year.
Battle at OLB begins
The battle at outside linebacker will be one of the most interesting to watch this offseason. UW must replace both T.J. Watt and Vince Biegel, who will likely be selected in April’s NFL Draft.
Garrett Dooley and Zack Baun took most first-team reps at the position Tuesday, while junior college transfer Andrew Van Ginkel and redshirt freshman Christian Bell also saw work with the first team.
“We lost a lot of production (at outside linebacker),” Chryst said. “… (Dooley) was able to play a lot, but certainly that’s a spot that, we’re excited about what Zack Baun was doing on special teams last year, then he got hurt. So we’ve got an idea. He needs to play a lot of football. It’s his second spring. I think every position you get excited about, but certainly there’s a little bit more (intrigue at outside linebacker). What’s Andrew Van Ginkel? That’s a guy that had his first practice here today, and how does he adjust to it?"
Cichy, Orr participate
Inside linebackers Jack Cichy and Chris Orr participated in non-contact drills Tuesday after being ruled out for spring practice Monday.
Chryst said after practice Tuesday that Cichy and Orr will not take much contact this spring but will continue to get some work. Orr is just more than six months removed from tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, while Cichy is still recovering from a torn pectoral muscle suffered against Iowa in October.
Ryan Connelly and T.J. Edwards, the other half of the Badgers’ top four at inside linebacker, did not practice. Edwards had a boot on his left foot and was not walking on it.
Pro Day set for Wednesday
Former Badgers players will work out for NFL scouts at UW’s Pro Day in the McClain Center on Wednesday. Participants include Biegel, Watt, Corey Clement, Bart Houston, Leo Musso, Dare Ogunbowale, Ryan Ramczyk, Sojourn Shelton, Eric Steffes, Serge Trezy, Connor Udelhoven, Rob Wheelwright, Dan Arnold (UW-Platteville) and Kezlow Smith (Lakeland).
Biegel, Clement, Ogunbowale, Ramczyk, Shelton and Watt attended the NFL Combine earlier this month and may not participate in all drills Wednesday.
Watt will only do positional work, according to agent R.J. Gonser. The outside linebacker excelled at the Combine and likely wouldn’t benefit from redoing any timed drills or athletic measurements.
According to players’ agents, Biegel will participate in everything except the 40-yard dash and the bench press, while Ogunbowale will only run the 40-yard dash and 20-yard shuttle, along with positional work.
Orr changed his number from 50 to 54 in order to honor his brother, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Zach Orr, who recently retired from the NFL at age 24 due to a spinal condition. … Other notable number changes include nose tackle Olive Sagapolu (99), safety Arrington Farrar (18) and cornerbacks Titus Booker (19) and Caesar Williams (21). … In his first practice for UW, early enrollee quarterback Jack Coan threw a pick six to inside linebacker Mike Maskalunas during 7-on-7 drills.