Badger fans were granted full access to the Wisconsin football team’s spring practice Saturday morning. The team was split up into position groups for roughly the first half of practice, but fans waited patiently for the scrimmage portion of the practice to catch of a glimpse of incoming freshman quarterback Graham Mertz.
Mertz performed well in the scrimmage portion while missing some receivers in earlier throwing drills. Mertz may have the greatest expectations on his shoulders of any Wisconsin football player in recent memory, but he seemed to pass the first test by pleasing the Badger faithful with a strong showcase Saturday.
Mertz was not the only freshman standout Saturday. Brady Schipper, a running back from Stoughton, Wisconsin, dazzled spectators with his nifty vision and ability to earn yards after contact. Schipper redshirted last season and was listed as a wide receiver. He has since returned to a running back role, in which he compiled 3,975 rushing yards and 40 touchdowns in his high school career. He was named the 2017-18 Boys’ Athlete of the Year by the Wisconsin State Journal.
Schipper could see some sporadic playing time with the departure of backup running back Taiwan Deal, but junior Garrett Groshek is expected to take the majority of carries when Heisman hopeful Jonathan Taylor needs a spell.
In the midst of a battle with senior Zach Hintze for the kicker role after the departure of Rafael Gaglianone, sophomore Collin Larsh nailed a 42-yard field goal during the scrimmage.
Neither Larsh nor Hintze have made a field goal at the college level, something that Athletic Director Barry Alvarez doesn’t like talking about. He made his stance on kickers quite clear in the town hall event that preceded Saturday’s practice.
“I really dislike kickers because I think it’s automatic you should just be able to make it and they don’t and I really get upset,” Alvarez said. “Kickers have a hard time pleasing me.”
Alvarez covered a bevy of topics in an open-ended Q&A forum. From the College Football Playoff possibly expanding, to watching his grandsons play at Wisconsin, Alvarez answered some questions directly while skirting around others — like those involving the quarterback situation and the addition of a UW lacrosse team.
Wisconsin has six spring practices remaining before the grind picks back up again in the fall. The Badgers open their season August 30 in Tampa, Florida against the University of South Florida Bulls, who finished 7–5 last season and fell to Marshall in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl.