Spring football has officially come to a close for the Wisconsin Badgers, who wrapped up their spring evaluation period last Friday night.
Head coach Paul Chryst made a significant amount of changes along the coaching staff this offseason, so this initial installation period allowed those coaches their first real look at their respective position groups.
UW essentially has players competing for meaningful snaps at every position heading into fall camp. The offense lost six preferred starters from last season, while the nation’s top defensive unit needs to replace eight starters of their own in 2022.
Spring football is about trying new things, generating competition, and forcing players out of their comfort zones.
So, it’s important that fans understand no starting positions are going to be won in the spring. However, it can lead to additional opportunities once camp opens in the fall.
Today, we’re going to examine five players that boosted their stock during the Badgers 15 spring practices:
WR, Skyler Bell
Dec 30, 2021; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver Skyler Bell (11) makes a catch in front of Arizona State Sun Devils defensive back Timarcus Davis (7) during the 2021 Las Vegas Bowl at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
It’s hard to imagine a player that boosted his stock this spring more than Skyler Bell.
After playing just nine snaps as a true freshman, the second year wideout was expected to see the field – but was viewed as a third or fourth option at best entering the offseason.
Now, after consistently impressing throughout the spring, Bell just might have put himself in position to begin fall camp as the WR2.
This is an explosive athlete that could really open things up on offense if they’re able to find ways to get the ball in his hands.
Don’t be surprised to see the jet-sweep re-enter the playbook because of a guy like Bell.
ILB, Jordan Turner
Nov 6, 2021; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Wisconsin Badgers linebacker Jordan Turner (54) returns the ball during an interception during the second half against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at SHI Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
This is one that I expected, however, Jordan Turner began spring practice running with the Badgers second unit.
It didn’t take long for the cream to rise to the top because he was quickly elevated to a starting spot along side Tatum Grass – a spot I expect him to maintain.
The 6-foot-1, 228-pound linebacker moves really well, can play sideline to sideline, and will also get downhill in a hurry to deliver a punishing hit.
If I had to plant my flag on one defensive player breaking out in 2022, Jordan Turner is it. I believe there is star potential here in Jim Leonhard’s defense.
The entire OLB room
Oct 30, 2021; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers linebacker Nick Herbig (19) strips the ball away from Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Spencer Petras (7) during the second quarter at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
This one is a little bit of a cop out, but I feel pretty confident in saying that the Wisconsin Badgers pass rush is going to be incredibly disruptive in 2022.
Already returning star edge rusher Nick Herbig, it would also appear that C.J. Goetz, Darryl Peterson, T.J. Bollers, and Kaden Johnson are all ready to see the field and are pushing for meaningful snaps.
This position group has multiple players capable of starting opposite of Herbig, which is a terrific problem to have if you’re Bobby April.
We’re going to see healthy competition until from now until the home opener, so rest assured, the gold standard of outside linebacker play will continue.
CB, Alexander Smith
Credit – Kelli Steffes, UW Athletics
Wisconsin went out and acquired three defensive backs in the transfer portal this offseason in effort to patch up their depleted secondary.
Now, after 15 spring practices, it would appear that senior CB Alexander Smith will be at or near the top of the depth chart.
Cornerback saw a ton of mixing and matching this spring to experiment with different player combinations, but Smith was a staple among that top group throughout.
This is obviously an encouraging development given his familiarity with the system, and the 332 career snaps worth of experience he brings with him.
WR, Chimere Dike
Oct 2, 2021; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver Chimere Dike (13) tries to catch a pass under pressure from Michigan Wolverines defensive back Daxton Hill (30) during the third quarter at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Having two wide receivers on this list isn’t something I expected when spring ball began, but it would be a disservice to leave off Chimere Dike, who I believe is in for a big year for the Badgers.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound pass catcher brings 31 catches for 461 yards and two touchdowns worth of experience to an otherwise unproven receiver room.
Its been a while since UW’s had a true WR1, but I think the junior wideout will be exactly that for the Badgers and flourish in his new role.