There’s still so much out of Paul Chryst’s control.
There’s no guarantee the 2020 season will start on time — or at all — for the University of Wisconsin football team due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And, even if games are played, will the stadiums be partially filled or even empty?
“Certainly there’s a lot that we don’t know,” Chryst said.
Slowly but surely, however, Chryst is getting more answers. Most of his players are back on campus, and the NCAA earlier this week announced a model for an extended training camp that will begin next month.
Those two developments at least have given Chryst and his staff a chance to assess where UW is at and begin to formulate a plan for this summer.
“I’ve appreciated what our players and coaches have done in hopes of being able to play this season,” Chryst said Friday morning during a Zoom call with reporters.
Chryst’s team began voluntary strength and conditioning work earlier this week, with 100 of the 123 players reporting. Players had to be tested for the COVID-19 virus and UW is expected to periodically release results regarding positive tests, though it has yet to do so.
The Badgers’ spring practice session essentially was wiped out in March, when UW-Madison went to online classes in effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The NCAA Division I council on Wednesday approved a football model for summer activities and preseason practice that was designed by an oversight committee.
According to the model:
• Schools may conduct up to eight hours of weight training, conditioning and film review per week from July 13-23. The max for film review is two hours per week.
• From July 24 through Aug. 6, schools may conduct up to 20 hours of countable related activities per week: up to eight hours of weight training and conditioning; up to six hours per week for walk-throughs, which may include the use of a football; and up to six hours per week for meetings.
• During this 14-day stretch, student-athletes are required at least two off days.
While Chryst is pleased he’ll have an extended training camp with his team after an unusual offseason, he still anticipates some hurdles because of the loss of spring ball.
“I think that if you try to take the approach of, how do we make up for something that was lost, I think you’d really be frustrated and I don’t know if you’d gain anything,” Chryst said.
Two position groups that the UW coaching staff hoped to learn more about in the spring were wide receiver and outside linebacker.
At the latter, UW has a returning starter in Noah Burks surrounded by a lot of talented, inexperienced players. Replacing the production of Zack Baun at that spot is a major question mark.
At receiver, the Badgers have to replace Quintez Cephus and A.J. Taylor. UW has four returning seniors — Kendric Pryor, Danny Davis, Jack Dunn and Adam Krumholz — but needs to build depth beyond that group.
Complicating matters is wide receivers coach Alvis Whitted didn’t get much time with his players after being hired to replace Ted Gilmore, who left for Michigan State.
But Chryst said he’s been encouraged by how Whitted adapted to getting familiar with the program and the players he’d be coaching despite doing all of that from a distance.
In fact, Chryst seemed happy with the amount of “distance learning” UW did as a whole during the offseason. He said the Badgers may actually be ahead of where they’d normally be in terms of what they learn in the meeting room.
“We think they’re in a pretty good spot, and I think players feel like they’re in a good spot,” Chryst said. “Some feel like they’re ahead. But the doing is still a big part of the learning.”
Chryst said the staff remained busy during the offseason despite not having players around. There was extra time to watch video and making recruiting calls.
Notably, UW has been on a roll of late as it works to fill its 2021 class.
As for his current players, Chryst said he appreciated how some of them got creative while finding ways to stay in shape.
“It’s an opportunity that if you want to get better, you can,” he said. “And if you want to use it as an excuse, then you’ve got an excuse built in. But it was a time where you could use to separate yourself.
“I do think a lot of guys took advantage of what was a very different time and I think they appreciated being home.”
Concerned about COVID-19?
Sign up now to get the most recent coronavirus headlines and other important local and national news sent to your email inbox daily.