Wisconsin Spring Practice Report: April 1, 2023

MADISON — Wisconsin was back on the field Saturday morning for the fourth practice of spring.

Play of the Day:

This is tough because there were a number of big pass plays to choose from, but we’ll go with the second of CJ Williams’ grabs because there’s video of it. The USC transfer toasted the Avyonne Jones at the line and then went diving to grab a deep ball from Braedyn Locke. It resulted in a 37-yard gain down to the 3-yard line.

The good: The passing game

After three practices with mixed success throwing the ball down the field, the Badgers offense came alive Saturday morning. Williams had the biggest day with grabs of 40 yards, 37 yards and 35 yards — all on go balls down the right sideline — before grabbing a deep post for about 20 yards. All four throws came from Locke.

Tanner Mordecai also hit on a number of deep passes, including finding Keontez Lewis for 30 yards near the left sideline before hitting tight end Jack Pugh down the seam for 25 yards on the next play.

The not so good: The snaps

It wasn’t a banner day for the shotgun snaps of centers Tanor Bortolini and Joe Huber. Mordecai and Locke were playing shortstop in addition to quarterback at times trying to corral errant balls.


Williams — The sophomore battled the young DBs all day and things got heated at one point after a catch, with Jace Arnold shoving Williams into a padded wall that is just steps from the sideline inside the McClain Center. It drew a flag from officials and you could tell Williams wasn’t happy. But instead of reacting to the push, Williams got his revenge on the next play, beating Arnold deep and wrestling the ball away from him for another big gain. He couldn’t let that be it, though, as he tossed the ball at Arnold as he got up, which drew another flag.

Returning WRs — While a lot of the focus has been on the newcomers at wide receiver, some of the returning players made plays Saturday. Chimere Dike had what would have been a touchdown if not for a false start, while Skyler Bell had a 35-yard catch and run. Lewis has been the most targeted of the three so far this spring and that continued, highlighted by the catch from Mordecai mentioned above.

Seen from the sideline

— We got our first look at the quick pace the Wisconsin offense can go at during one portion of team drills. Whether the play was a success or not, the offense got lined up immediately and snapped the ball with at least 30 seconds left on the play clock. It was essentially a 2-minute drill on steroids, and while it won’t necessarily be standard operating procedure, it showed the kind of stress pace has on a defense.

— The injuries are starting to pile up for Wisconsin, especially in the running back room. Braelon Allen (lower leg) did not take part in any full speed drills for a second straight practice, while Jackson Acker (shoulder) did not practice at all. Julius Davis left early with an apparent injury and then Chez Mellusi was a little gimpy after a run and did not return. It left Cade Yacamelli as the lone scholarship running back available, and he split time with Grover Bortoloti and Zach Gloudeman.

Others not taking part:

WR Chris Brooks Jr.
C Jake Renfro (boot on left foot)
LB Jake Chaney (foot)
LB Kaden Johnson
LB Jeff Pietrowski
QB Cole LaCrue
CB Max Lofy
LB Aaron Witt
TE Hayden Rucci
TE Clay Cundiff
TE Cam Large
DL Darien Varner
LB Aidan Vaughn

— Former Badgers Nick Herbig and John Torchio attended practice. Herbig stopped to greet several people on his arrival, including giving athletic director Chris McIntosh a hug.

— The sideline was packed with high school football coaches. They were in town for the annual Wisconsin Football Coaches Association spring clinic. Coach Luke Fickell and other members of the staff spoke at the clinic on Friday.

What’s next?

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