Barring an injury, there’s not going to be a quarterback competition this season for the University of Wisconsin football team.
Graham Mertz is the starter, and UW coaches and players have been asked an array of questions regarding Mertz’s improvement. Those queries will continue to be answered throughout training camp, but if Tuesday’s practice — the first open to reporters from beginning to end — is any indication, the program’s backup quarterback made a big jump this offseason.
Redshirt junior Chase Wolf had a number of throws that turned heads at Camp Randall Stadium, including a pair of tosses toward the sideline where only his receiver had a chance on the ball. He was particularly sharp during a seven-on-seven red-zone drill, completing four passes into tight windows in the end zone.
“Chase has been every bit as hungry and putting in the time. It’s been kind of fun for me to see,” Chryst said. “I think he knows where everything, how everything, why everything kind of fits and comes together. I think that’s a strength of his, I think he’s got a natural good feel for the game.”
Wolf appeared in three games last season, with his highlight play being a throw to Jack Dunn against Minnesota for a go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter. He’s also more mobile than the other quarterbacks, though he hasn’t been able to show that skill much in games.
With the good things he does, there were some head-scratching mistakes. His ill-advised deep throw down the left sideline late in the Minnesota game was intercepted and gave the Gophers the ball back with 1 minute, 19 seconds left in a tie game. UW went on to win 20-17 in overtime.
Wolf also threw an interception in the final minute of the first half of the win over Wake Forest in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl.
Chryst said Wolf has done well this offseason recognizing when to be aggressive in trying to make plays.
“I think the guys did a nice job in the summer preparing for the season when you’re not doing skelly and team situations,” Chryst said. “So there’s still some getting back to playing that we’ve got to do, that Chase’s got to do, but hopefully we can shorten those that curve for him so we can progress.”
Other observations from UW’s fifth training camp practice:
‘DP’ flashes raw power
At 6-foot-1 and 247 pounds, Darryl Peterson is one of the bigger outside linebackers on the roster. He showed he knew how to use that size during 11-on-11 portions of practice, firing into linemen and knocking them off balance.
Peterson got some extra reps with his position group missing a handful of players, and the three-star recruit from Akron, Ohio, showed good quickness off the snap.
Chryst said Peterson’s a talented player and he’s come with an attitude of wanting to make an impact early.
“He looks to me like there’s a number of snaps where he’s playing,” Chryst said. “There’s a lot of times with young guys where they’re still ... you can see him kind of thinking through it, you can almost hear their wheels grinding a little bit. And that’s natural, that’s not a negative. But I think that he seems early that he’s shown ability to — Nick Herbig went through this last year — whether he was right or wrong, he didn’t worry about overthinking, he went.”
Outside linebackers coach Bobby April said last week no outside linebacker can feel comfortable in their role with the amount of talent the group has and the competition there will be at practice. If Peterson keeps it up, he’ll be in the mix for snaps earlier than expected.
Early kicking leader
Sophomore Jack Van Dyke took first-team reps with the field goal/PAT unit and took four kicks to senior Collin Larsh’s two during full-team sessions.
Van Dyke went 3-for-4, making a PAT, a 41-yard try from the left half and a 51-yarder from between the hashes. Larsh made both of his attempts, from 34 and 40 yards.
In the portion of Friday’s practice open to reporters, Van Dyke also was 3-for-4, with a long of 44 yards.
Special teams coordinator Chris Haering said during spring practices and again at media day last week that the placekicking spot was an open competition, but it appears Van Dyke, a Neenah product, is starting to edge his way to the top of the depth chart.
Tickets still available to fan event, opener
Schools officials say they’re still accepting reservations for the open football and volleyball practices on Saturday, Aug. 21. Fans will be able to watch the Badgers practice at 9 a.m. at Camp Randall, and then hear from athletic director Chris McIntosh and Chryst. Fans also are welcome at the volleyball team’s practice at noon.
Tickets, which are free, can be reserved on uwbadgers.com.
There are about 5,000 tickets still available for the season opener against Penn State on Sept. 4, the first UW game with fans in attendance since Nov. 23, 2019. Lower-bowl tickets are available for $130 each.
From the infirmary
Here’s a look at who didn’t practice for the Badgers. If no body part is listed, the player wasn’t included on the status report.
RB Braelon Allen (left leg)
S Travian Blaylock (left leg)
TE Jack Eschenbach (left arm)
OLB CJ Goetz
OL Tyler Beach (left leg)
OLB TJ Bollers
RB Loyal Crawford (head)
CB Deron Harrell (right leg)
TE Jack Pugh
OLB Aaron Witt (right leg)
Get to know the Wisconsin Badgers' 2022 football recruiting class
Myles Burkett became the Badgers’ first Class of 2022 recruit when he announced his decision in January.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder from Franklin is a three-star recruit per 247Sports and Rivals, and showed great mobility and arm strength in his junior season. He battled back from a knee injury as a sophomore to throw for 1,236 and 11 touchdowns and rush for 180 yards and a score in a pandemic-shortened season.
He’s the first in-state quarterback to earn a scholarship out of high school since 2011.
As his recruiting stock started to rise, the Badgers were able to secure a commitment from Fall Rivers’ Barrett Nelson in late June.
The offensive tackle was 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds after his junior season, and his quickness off the ball has made him a load on both the offensive and defensive lines. Nelson is a three-star recruit per 247Sports and a two-star on Rivals.
He had offers from Iowa State, Northwestern, Nebraska, Purdue and others before choosing UW.
Nelson’s father, Todd, was a Badgers offensive lineman in the late 1980s, and his brother, Jack, is currently an offensive lineman for UW.
After wowing UW coaches at a pair of camps, Monroe tight end JT Seagreaves accepted a scholarship offer in late June.
Seagreaves is an intriguing prospect for the Badgers — at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, he has the physical frame to grow into an imposing tight end, and he possesses sprinter speeds. He’s averaged more than 21 yards per catch each of the past two seasons and was starting to gain more Power Five conference interested when he committed to UW.
Seagreaves is a three-star recruit per 247Sports and a two-star according to Rivals.
In multiple trips to UW’s campus in June, Cade Yacamelli was called “a football player” by UW coaches rather than locking him into a position. He earned a scholarship offer after an impressive camp workout and accepted it in late June.
The consensus three-star athlete was starting to earn more recruiting attention from Power Five schools when he accepted the Badgers’ offer. UW was the first Power Five offer for the 6-foot, 200-pounder. He’s played receiver, running back and defensive back in high school, but likely projects as a receiver or defensive back in college.
The Penn Trafford High School product has good quickness and change-of-direction that make him dangerous with the ball in his hands.
When A’Khoury Lyde accepted a UW scholarship offer in late June, he became the first player on the defensive side of the ball to commit in the 2022 class.
Lyde (5-foot-11, 170 pounds), a consensus three-star recruit, has strong ball skills and a willingness to hit that separates him from other cornerbacks.
The Wayne, New Jersey, native is the eighth-ranked player in his state, per Rivals.
The Badgers landed a tall, speedy receiver when Tommy McIntosh committed in late June.
The DeWitt, Michigan, native stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 200 pounds. He uses his body to shield off defenders at the point of the catch and does well catching the ball away from his body. His Hudl page lists a 4.47-second 40-yard dash time, and he has breakaway speed when he gets in the open field and can use his long strides.
A consensus three-star wide receiver chose the Badgers over offers from Cincinnati, Indiana, Iowa, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest.
UW beefed up its defensive front by landing defensive tackle Curtis Neal.
Neal — a 6-foot-2, 310-pounder — had more than 25 scholarship offers, and reportedly was deciding between UW and Ohio State at the end of his recruiting process. Neal is a product of William Amos Hough High School in Cornelius, North Carolina, where the Badgers found receiver Devin Chandler in last year’s cycle.
Neal, with his size and strength, likely fits best as a nose tackle in the Badgers’ 3-4 scheme.
Jim Leonhard may have found another rangy, smart cornerback to add to his secondary in Avyonne Jones, who committed in to UW in late June.
Jones — who hails from Southlake, Texas — was on campus the weekend of June 18 for an official visit and had narrowed an extensive offer list to UW and California. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound defensive back was previously committed to Oklahoma State, but retracted that commitment in late May.
With good recovery speed and a good feel for getting his hands between a receiver’s at the point of the catch, the consensus three-star prospect is a good fit for what UW cornerbacks coach Hank Poteat said he wants from his position group.
The Badgers landed the top-ranked player in Wisconsin for the sixth consecutive recruiting class when Joe Brunner committed the last week of June.
Brunner — a 6-foot-6, 300-pound prospect from Milwaukee who attends Whitefish Bay High School — is a consensus four-star recruit and a top-10 offensive tackle in the nation.
He held at least 16 Power Five scholarship offers, including ones from a majority of the Big Ten Conference, LSU, Notre Dame, Oregon and Tennessee.
VINNY ANTHONY II
Receiver Vinny Anthony II — a consensus three-star prospect from Louisville, Kentucky — joined UW's class on June 30.
Possessing a good burst of speed and long arms that extend his catch radius, the 6-foot-1, 170-pound Anthony has a chance to play across the formation as a receiver.
Anthony chose UW over Cincinnati and Duke.
Austin Brown — who hails from Johnston City, Illinois, a small town outside of Carbondale — was considering offers from Boston College, Illinois, Michigan and Northwestern before choosing UW. The consensus three-star prospect had 21 known scholarship offers.
Brown committed to UW on the Fourth of July.
At 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, he has a good frame already and his high school film shows a willingness to lay big hits and attack blockers. He also plays quarterback for Johnston City.