All seemed relatively ordinary at the University of Wisconsin’s first full-pad practice of fall camp Thursday, until coach Paul Chryst’s daily addressing of his team ended in loud, colorful language that grabbed the attention of everyone on the field.
The message? Outside chatter surrounding the Badgers’ program doesn’t matter, and it’s up to those on the team to take advantage of opportunities the upcoming season presents.
“He’s one of those coaches that would never let us settle,” UW running back Chris James said afterward. "He’s never going to let us be complacent, and if he sees us getting too relaxed, too comfortable, he’s going to get off on us, and that’s exactly what he did today.
"One of the quotes that we have, I think (inside linebacker) T.J. Edwards said today, was in order to do something that we’ve never done, we have to do something that we’ve never done. And that’s getting out of doing something comfortable. We have to do something that’s going to challenge us every day. If we go out here every day and you’re extremely comfortable, that means you’re in too much of a routine. You’re not grinding. Those are just words, but it’s our choice to really bring those words to life."
The Badgers enter this season, which kicks off against Western Kentucky on Aug. 31 at Camp Randall Stadium, with more hype than they’ve amassed in some time.
Following last season’s record-breaking, 13-win season, UW ranks seventh in the preseason Amway Coaches poll, while one Associated Press poll voter already wrote about his reasons for voting the Badgers as the No. 1 team in the country. A Cleveland.com survey in July saw 14 of 28 Big Ten writers predict UW to end its season in the College Football Playoff.
"Coach is one of those guys where, he never wants us to see that we’re anywhere near that ceiling,” James said. "He’s always, 'OK, you guys had a good day, but you guys have to keep going.' And I love about him the most because he never lets us settle for mediocrity or anything like that. That’s what he was getting us on, telling us, today was a good practice, but tomorrow’s got to be a better practice."
The Badgers return plenty of talent from a special 2017 season but also continue to work in a handful of young, inexperienced players during camp — particularly on defense, where they must replace seven starters.
With just more than three weeks until the Badgers’ opening game, Chryst and company know it takes much more than preseason acknowledgments and past performance to meet lofty internal and external expectations.
“We do have potential, but there’s still room for improvement,” James said. "There’s a reason why we’re out here getting better every day. There’s a reason why we’re out here practicing. We’re not perfect."
From the infirmary
Kicker Rafael Gaglianone was added to UW’s injury report with a right leg injury Thursday, although he’s now missed three straight practices.
There’s currently no return timetable for Gaglianone, who missed all but three games in 2016 due to a back injury.
The Badgers’ first day in full pads grew the injury list further. Offensive lineman Jason Erdmann (right leg), cornerback Madison Cone (left leg) and inside linebacker Griffin Grady (right arm) all exited early, while safety Patrick Johnson (illness) and outside linebacker Christian Bell (dehydration) also couldn’t finish.
Cornerbacks Faion Hicks (right leg) and Deron Harrell (right leg) both returned Thursday, although Caesar Williams continued to take most first-team reps alongside projected starter Dontye Carriere-Williams. Running back Garrett Groshek shed the limited tag and was no longer listed on the injury report.
Edwards (right leg), defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk (left leg), tight end Zander Neuville (right leg), cornerback Christian Volpentesta (right leg) and wide receiver Emmet Perry (left leg) all remained out, while wide receiver Jack Dunn (left arm) and fullback Alec Ingold (right leg) were limited.
UW removed Perry from the 110-man fall camp roster while he recovers from his injury and added running back Mark Saari in his place.
Defensive end Kayden Lyles missed practice for a school exam. Matt Henningsen and Aaron Vopal took first-team reps at the position in Lyles’ absence.