Wisconsin spring practice report: March 29, 2022

MADISON — Wisconsin hit the field for the fourth time of spring on Tuesday morning inside the McClain Center.

It was the first session open to the media and here is a glimpse of what we saw:

Play of the Day: Mertz to Lewis

Wisconsin’s passing game was up and down throughout the practice, but the best moment came in a team period when Graham Mertz hooked up with UCLA transfer Keontez Lewis.

Facing man coverage with no safety help over the top, Lewis sprinted past the corner and Mertz took his shot, uncorking a bomb down the right sideline. The ball dropped right on Lewis, who pulled it in for what would have been a nearly 50-yard touchdown.


Julius Davis: With so many running backs out this spring, Davis was the No. 2 back behind Braelon Allen and he took advantage. Though there were no live tackling periods — making it hard to tell how good a run actually is — Davis broke off what likely would have been several long gains. One led to Mertz running all the way down to the end zone to congratulate him.

Darryl Peterson and CJ Goetz: The two outside linebackers were in the backfield a bunch. Each had at least one sack, while Peterson showed some skill playing in space. That included reading the eyes of backup quarterback Deacon Hill and stepping in front of a pass over the middle, though he wasn’t able to hang on.

Transfers: In addition to Lewis’ big play, the three transfer cornerbacks – Cedrick Dort, Justin Clark, and Jay Shaw – each had a pass break up.

The good: Mertz to Chimere Dike

The junior wide receiver was Mertz’s favorite target throughout the day both in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. The quarterback put his first pass of the day between three guys down the middle where Dike hauled it in. Later in the same drill, Mertz found Dike down the right sideline in tight coverage, putting the ball over his outside shoulder for a nice grab.

We saw a lot of three wide receiver sets and Dike spent at lot of time working in the slot.

The not so good: Ball on the ground

There was a stretch of about five plays where two of the backup quarterbacks struggled to get the snap from center twice and fumbled a QB-RB exchange.

Seen from the sideline

— All-Big Ten linebacker Nick Herbig did not practice due to an arm injury. A UW official said he is out indefinitely. Herbig was at practice and did not appear to be wearing any kind of brace or cast.

Other guys not taking part:
CB Semar Melvin
RB Brady Schipper
RB Chez Mellusi (knee)
RB Isaac Guerendo (foot)
WR Stephan Bracey
WR Jordan DiBenedetto
TE Cam Large (knee)
TE Clay Cundiff (leg)
TE Jack Eschenbach (leg)
OL Joe Tippmann (At practice and snapped during 7-on-7 drills)
OLB Aaron Witt (On a scooter, right leg still in a cast)
S Preston Zachman (On crutches)

— Sophomore Riley Nowakowski was listed on the roster as a FB but was working with the tight ends during practice.

— Wisconsin athletic director Chris McIntosh and former athletic director Barry Alvarez watched a portion of practice.

— Dean Engram, Skyler Bell, Auman Williams, Markus Allen and Dike were among those getting work as returners.

— Offensive coordinator Bobby Engram, who is also the quarterbacks coach, was seen working with the tight ends for a few minutes before new tight ends coach Chris Haering came over to the group.

— Nate Van Zelst took the first reps as the field goal kicker. The redshirt freshman went 3-for-3 with a long of 45. Arkansas transfer Vito Calvaruso was the second guy in and went 2-for-3 with a miss from 45.

— It was only one play, but Riley Mahlman got some work as the jumbo tight end. That may have been a result of having so few tights to work with.

— Wisconsin’s first-team offense lined up like this:

QB Graham Mertz
RB Braelon Allen
FB Jackson Acker
WR Chimere Dike
WR Markus Allen
TE Hayden Rucci
RT Logan Brown
RG Michael Furtney
C Tanor Bortolini
LG Tyler Beach
LT Jack Nelson

Second-team offense
QB Chase Wolf
RB Julius Davis
WR Skyler Bell
WR Keontez Lewis
TE Jaylin Franklin
TE Jack Pugh
RT Nolan Rucci
RG Trey Wedig
C Cormac Sampson
LG Dylan Barrett
LT Riley Mahlman

The defense mixed and matched a lot, especially in the secondary and inside linebacker group, so it was not easy to get a grasp on who exactly would be the first-team unit if they played a game today.

First-team defense
DE Isaiah Mullens
NT Keeanu Benton
DE Rodas Johnson
OLB CJ Goetz
ILB Tate Grass
ILB Maema Njongmeta
OLB Kaden Johnson
CB Jay Shaw
S Travian Blaylock
S John Torchio
CB Ricardo Hallman

Second-team defense
DE James Thompson Jr.
NT Ben Barten
DE Isaac Townsend
OLB Darryl Peterson
ILB Jordan Turner/Jake Chaney
ILB Jake Ratzlaff/Spencer Lytle
CB Alexander Smith
S Hunter Wohler
S Owen Arnett
CB Justin Clark

Max Lofy and Ricardo Hallman saw time in the slot when they went to their nickel package. Alexander Smith saw a few snaps at safety.

What’s next?

Wisconsin will return to the field Thursday for fifth practice of spring.