Short on healthy running backs, the University of Wisconsin football team’s getting an expanded look at Isaac Guerendo this spring.
Redshirt freshman Nakia Waston sat out Tuesday’s practice, UW’s seventh this spring, with ice on his left shoulder, and senior Bradrick Shaw remains limited after tearing his ACL in November of 2017.
That left the Badgers with just four available running backs during team drills, leaving plenty of reps for Guerendo. The Clayton, Ind., native started his UW career at running back before switching to wide receiver about a week into his first fall camp last year.
“He is getting a lot of opportunities,” UW coach Paul Chryst said. “I think that whole group’s been purposeful in trying to study it and know it. I think Isaac specifically’s been doing a good job. There comes a point where you miss out on reps if you don’t know what you’re doing because everyone else is counting on that for that play, counting on you.
“But I’ve liked his approach, and I think he is each day picking up stuff. And I think he’s also retaining information that he can progress.”
The Badgers moved Stoughton walk-on Brady Schipper from wide receiver to running back this offseason as well. He already looks capable of handling passing-down work behind junior Garrett Groshek — an area where UW may be thin after the departure of Chris James.
No. 2 running back Taiwan Deal also left after a solid senior season, opening up a key spot in the rotation.
Schipper became one of 13 true freshmen to see the field for the Badgers last season. He played in two games on special teams but still redshirted.
Watson may return to the field soon, while Shaw and true freshman Julius Davis could fight for reps come fall, but Guerendo and Schipper have an opportunity in the coming practices to prove themselves at a new position.
“It kind of applies to the whole group in the sense that, there are spots or roles to be earned,” Chryst said. “The first thing you’ve got to do is show that you can do it, and then I think it’s doing it consistently. And that’s where, whether it’s Nakia or Isaac, Brady Schipper, not Brad necessarily this spring, but that’s the group. It’s going to come from that group.
“They’ve got to do it, and then they’ve got to do it consistently. That’s where spring’s a good time for them to get those reps, and the consistency probably won’t come until fall camp, truthfully.”
2nd-team QB reps remain equal
True freshman Graham Mertz took initial second-team reps in both team and 7-on-7 drills Tuesday, but the total rep count between Mertz, sophomore Danny Vanden Boom and redshirt freshman Chase Wolf remained practically equal.
Junior Jack Coan has dominated first-team reps throughout UW’s three practices open to the media.
The quarterbacks looked sharp for much of Tuesday’s practice, highlighted by Wolf’s impressive 70-yard touchdown throw to A.J. Taylor during 7-on-7 drills.
Coan and Mertz each threw an interception during team drills, though. True freshman outside linebacker Spencer Lytle jumped a Coan pass to the flat and returned it for a likely touchdown the other way, while Mertz thew a bad ball that cornerback Deron Harrell picked off.
From the infirmary
Wide receiver Kendric Pryor (hamstring) returned Tuesday without any apparent limitations after he sat out Saturday’s practice.
Defensive end Garrett Rand (Achilles), cornerback Madison Cone (right leg), wide receivers Danny Davis (right leg), Cade Green and Emmet Perry, tight end Luke Benzschawel, cornerback Travian Blaylock and offensive lineman Blake Smithback were out Tuesday.
Senior Jason Erdmann participated in team drills for the first time during an open practice this spring, taking Josh Seltzner’s place as the first-team left guard. Erdmann also switched spots with sophomore Kayden Lyles at center for some reps. … Aron Cruickshank, Faion Hicks, A.J. Abbott and Guerendo were fielding kickoffs during special teams drills.