The University of Wisconsin coaching staff always viewed Kayden Lyles’ switch to defensive end last year as a short-term deed to help out one of the Badgers’ thinnest and least experienced position groups.
Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Joe Rudolph even joked in December by calling it an “internship.”
While the 6-foot-3, 318-pound Lyles, a consensus four-star recruit out of Middleton High in 2017, entered this offseason as a projected starter on the interior of the offensive line, a second position change in a matter of months can’t go without an adjustment period.
"You appreciate what he did for the team, but that’s a full year — fall camp and the season — where he was playing defense,” UW coach Paul Chryst said earlier this month. “So there’s some ground to be made up.”
Lyles wasn’t short on reps this spring, though, giving the sophomore time to re-acclimate on offense.
With junior Tyler Biadasz (hip) out for all 15 practices, Lyles took nearly every first-team rep — along with some second-team work — at either center or guard during the eight open practices that were open to the media.
His biggest hurdle may come at center, a spot he hasn’t experienced much outside of his senior year at Middleton.
“That’s probably where he’s the rustiest,” Rudolph said. “He feels more comfortable being at guard right now.”
Biadasz expects to return this summer, bumping Lyles out to guard full-time. He could still face competition for a starting spot come fall camp, but he’ll likely enter July as the favorite to be UW’s No. 1 right guard.
Center won’t be something he can entirely put aside, however. If Biadasz suffers an injury, the Badgers will count on either Lyles or guard Jason Erdmann to slide over to that position. Chryst said he’d like three players with the ability to snap the ball whenever needed.
Playing both spots proved challenging this spring, but it could benefit Lyles come fall.
“I go back and forth if I’m being fair with him,” Rudolph said. “We need him to play some center this spring, and we need him to play guard. Going against our defense with a number of variations that we see, that’s not easy. … There’s so much going on you kind of forget about. You get to who I have and what my assignment is, but you forget a little bit with technique.
“But I have been really impressed with what he’s been able to handle at this point, and he’s competing his tail off for one of those spots.”
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A.J. Taylor stands out in final scrimmage
Wide receiver A.J. Taylor put together an outstanding showing in UW’s scrimmage Friday, which concluded the Badgers’ spring practices.
Taylor caught eight passes of 10-plus yards, six of which were thrown by quarterback Jack Coan. Four went for at least 20 yards.
Coan and Taylor connected three times on the same drive at one point — the final resulting in a 10-yard touchdown against tight coverage from cornerback Faion Hicks.
Coan looked sharp all day, also throwing two more touchdowns to running back Garrett Groshek from 8 and 17 yards out.
Coan, a junior, started four games for UW last season.
Danny Vanden Boom led the day’s only other touchdown drive. He completed six passes on that possession, including a 5-yard scoring toss to wide receiver Aron Cruickshank, but also threw an interception to early enrollee outside linebacker Spencer Lytle on the scrimmage’s final play.
Safety Scott Nelson grabbed an interception off true freshman Graham Mertz, while outside linebacker Noah Burks recovered a fumbled snap that Mertz couldn’t hold on to.
Nose tackle Gunnar Roberge recorded back-to-back sacks on Vanden Boom that ended another drive.
From the infirmary
Senior punter Anthony Lotti missed Friday’s practice with a left leg injury.
Those who remained out Friday were tight ends Jake Ferguson (right leg), Luke Benzschawel and Coy Wanner, wide receivers Kendric Pryor (right leg), Cade Green and Emmet Perry, fullback Mason Stokke (right leg), cornerbacks Madison Cone and Travian Blaylock, running back Brady Schipper (head), inside linebacker/running back Hunter Johnson and offensive lineman Blake Smithback.
Inside linebacker Mike Maskalunas wore a yellow, non-contact jersey, as he did during Tuesday’s practice.