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Brady Schipper was one of the standouts of the spring practices, according to UW coach Paul Chryst, but he's become one of the many tailbacks to be injured this spring. 

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The grind of the spring practice season looked to be getting the best of the University of Wisconsin football team’s offense at points Saturday.

The 12th practice of the month saw a trio of interceptions and moments in which quarterbacks couldn’t find an open receiver. A lot of that credit goes to the defense, which was able to get pressure and has more experience than the offense as a whole, but the feel of the practice wasn’t as crisp as other open sessions. UW practiced without shoulder pads, which also had an affect on the tempo and intensity of practice. 

Badgers head football coach discusses what he and his staff are doing to evaluate running backs despite the injuries at the position

UW coach Paul Chryst acknowledged the difference and the departure from other years in which Saturday practices in the spring featured a scrimmage.

“Kind of where we’re at with it … we’ll kind of gauge it next week and see if we can get one (scrimmage) in,” Chryst said. “Thought we could still some work done today. I’m anxious to look at the film, I know we got some stuff done out of it.”

Depleted RBs affecting practice

It’s difficult for the offense or defense to get a gauge on how they stand in the run game right now. Injuries at tailback left UW without any true running backs on Saturday — only Isaac Guerendo was suited up after Brady Schipper was out with a left leg injury, but Guerendo didn’t participate in 11-on-11 drills.

“I thought ‘Schip’ was having a heck of a spring, and taking the coaching and applying it,” Chryst said.

Fullbacks John Chenal and Quan Easterling have taken tailback reps, and former walk-on linebacker Jacob Heyroth has joined the running back group. Chenal getting more tailback reps was part of the plan, Chryst said, but missing players such as Guerndo, Jalen Berger and Julius Davis has slowed the team’s ability to evaluate the position group.

“A lot of the guys that you were hoping to get those reps, and what a great time for them, were not able to take advantage of it,” Chryst said. “Can’t do anything about it. Obviously, we’ve got meeting time with them and we can do some field work with them … it’s unfortunate because spring is such a great opportunity for them.”

Zachman settling in at safety

Preston Zachman was one of the only players to make a position change this spring, moving from inside linebacker to safety. But he’s done some good things at his new position, having his best open practice of the spring on Saturday.

He had an interception off Graham Mertz during an early team session and had a pass break-up in a red-zone period toward the end of practice. Chryst said that when the Badgers recruited Zachman, they knew finding his position was going to be the first challenge because he played quarterback and all over the field defensively.

“I thought we could get a good number of reps for him at safety; certainly like the way that he started spring,” Chryst said. “As you go through spring and you keep adding differnet defenses and what not, I think he’s done a pretty good job of staying up with it.

“You’re just looking at a guy that’s, in our opinion, a good football player and trying to find what might be the best fit for him.”

Williams shows promise

Redshirt freshman Amaun Williams made a few plays this week that makes it appear he could push for a spot in the rotation if he continues to improve.

Last week, he intercepted a pass from Chase Wolf during an 11-on-11 session. On Saturday he showed solid fundamentals in press coverage against a number of receivers.

“Right now, what I like out of Amaun is he's a competitor,” cornerbacks coach Hank Poteat said. “Love his mindset. He takes it really serious, he comes up every day, he’s always asking me questions.”

He’s had his down moments as well, allowing a touchdown to Chimere Dike on a jump ball last week and then was beat deep on by senior Danny Davis on Saturday, though the ball wasn’t caught. Williams’ tenacity has earned the respect of senior cornerback Caesar Williams.

“I say his energy’s different,” Caesar Williams said. “He hates to lose and he refuses to lose. And no matter how many times he wins or loses, he's going to get back up and keep fighting with you. Amaun plays like he has nothing to lose, so therefore he leaves it on the field every day and even after practice, still wants to try and get better each and every day.”

More predictable Vujnovich

Last season, punter Andy Vujnovich proved he can be one of the top specialists in the Big Ten Conference when he’s performing his best. Problem was his best punts would be followed by a shank.

The former Division III player says he’s working hard to eliminate the bad boots from his game, and so far at open practices there haven’t been any glaring misfires from the senior.

“My first punt as Badger was pretty good (60 yards). And I know the next punt (36) after that, I kind of got in my own head as ... I felt like I needed to match that,” Vujnovich said. “So I’ve just got to remember to just relax and just enjoy the moment and just do the same thing and just not think about the past because the only thing that matters is the next kick.”

From the infirmary

Here’s a look at who didn’t participate or was in Saturday’s practice. If an injury is not listed, it has not been confirmed by UW.

OUT

  • CB Al Ashford
  • RB Jalen Berger (leg)
  • S Travian Blaylock
  • WR Stephan Bracey
  • RB Julius Davis (leg)
  • TE Jake Ferguson (right arm)
  • CB Deron Harrell
  • CB Max Lofy
  • DE Isaiah Mullens (left leg)
  • WR Cooper Nelson
  • OLB Riley Nowakowski (right leg)
  • OL Cormac Sampson
  • RB Brady Schipper (left leg)
  • DE James Thompson Jr. (right leg)
  • OLB Aaron Witt (right leg)

LIMITED

  • NT Keeanu Benton (left leg)
  • RB Isaac Guerendo (leg)

This article originally ran on madison.com.

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