MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin football coach Paul Chryst addressed the media Sunday afternoon for 15 minutes during his first game-week news conference of the season. In that time, he was asked a dozen questions, only one of which concerned Utah State, Wisconsin’s Week 1 opponent.
The majority of queries directed toward Chryst instead focused on the Badgers’ release of their first depth chart. Wisconsin’s preliminary injury report for the Utah State game also headlined the most newsworthy items.
The most significant injury update involved backup outside linebacker Zack Baun, who will miss the season with a left foot injury. Baun opened spring practice as a starting outside linebacker before being overtaken by Leon Jacobs. Sophomore Tyler Johnson will now serve as Jacobs’ backup after playing in seven games last season, but not recording any statistics. Junior college transfer Andrew Van Ginkel is the team’s other backup outside linebacker.
“It was unfortunate with Zack,” Chryst said. “It really wasn’t until a couple days ago when he got the final test and what he needs to do to fix that. So you feel bad for a guy that missed a lot of games last year, and I thought he was doing some really good things. But Tyler’s been impressive in the way that he’s grown. I think when he came here, he really hadn’t played a lot of defense, period. But he’s a guy that’s got a tremendous amount of respect from everyone on the team, coaches and players, because of the way that he works and approaches it.”
Other players out for the season are linebacker Jack Cichy (right knee), running back Sam Brodner (left knee) and linebacker Mason Stokke (right leg). Brodner tore the ACL in his left knee during the team’s spring game. Stokke did not participate in spring practice while battling his injury. Cichy tore the ACL in his right knee during practice this fall.
Four other players are listed as out on the Week 1 preliminary injury report, running back Taiwan Deal (right leg), wide receiver Kendric Pryor (facial injuries from a moped accident), wide receiver George Rushing (left leg) and fullback Jake Whalen (head).
Deal and Rushing opened fall camp in position to significantly contribute at their respective positions, but freshman tailback Jonathan Taylor has risen up the depth chart to surpass Deal. Freshman receiver Danny Davis and sophomore A.J. Taylor had impressive camps, and Rushing will have much work to do when he returns.
The most intriguing piece of information from the depth chart involved Wisconsin’s running backs. Bradrick Shaw, Chris James and Taylor are all separated by an “OR,” which means the staff does not want to list a defined starter. Shaw and James are still presumably the top two tailbacks, but Taylor’s tremendous fall camp has positioned him for a significant role.
“With freshmen in general, if they can handle it, that gives you a good indication,” Chryst said. “And certainly, he’s talented and we feel good about the number of guys at that position that will contribute, with Jonathan certainly being one of them.”
— Jesse Temple (@jessetemple) August 27, 2017
Other tidbits from Wisconsin’s depth chart release:
- Nick Nelson is listed as the starting punt returner, while A.J. Taylor is the starting kick returner. Jazz Peavy is Nelson’s punt return backup, and James is the kick-return backup. Peavy handled punt returns last season and averaged 5.8 yards per return on 17 attempts. Natrell Jamerson was the Badgers’ main kick return man last season, averaging 21.1 yards on 12 attempts. But Jamerson will instead focus this season on being one of the team’s starting safeties.
- Freshman Jack Coan is the No. 2 quarterback behind starter Alex Hornibrook. Chryst confirmed that Coan would be the backup during a local radio appearance last week. Coan beat out redshirt freshman Kare Lyles for the job.
- In total, 10 freshmen or redshirt freshmen fill out Wisconsin’s two-deep roster. In addition to Taylor, Davis and Coan, the list includes starting center Tyler Biadasz, starting long snapper Adam Bay, backup left tackle Cole Van Lanen, backup right tackle Patrick Kasl, backup defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk, backup cornerback Dontye Carrier-Williams and backup long snapper Josh Bernhagen.
- Connor Allen is listed as the backup punter instead of P.J. Rosowski. Rosowski punted 15 times last season and averaged 36.7 yards per attempt, but will only serve as the team’s kickoff specialist in 2017.
- Jon Dietzen and Micah Kapoi are separated by an “OR” at left guard and likely will continue to battle for playing time. “The No. 1 thing that you hope for is that they’re all available,” Chryst said. “But I think right now that’s what we need to prepare to do. I think it’s good for them.”
- Alec James and Chikwe Obasih are separated by an “OR” at defensive end. James recorded 23 tackles with 3.5 sacks last season, while Obasih registered 22 tackles with 1.5 sacks.
- Ryan Connelly is listed as a starting inside linebacker alongside T.J. Edwards. Chris Orr is one backup, and Arrington Farrar is the other backup. Orr started seven games as a freshman in 2015 and began last season as a starter before suffering a season-ending torn ACL in the opener against LSU. Connelly was a backup to open last season but started eight games and earned Big Ten defensive player of the week honors for his 11-tackle performance in an overtime victory against Nebraska. “I think Ryan’s played really well,” Chryst said. “And I think that he’s playing fast. He’s trusting himself. And I think he’s a really good football player. Certainly, we think Chris is a good football player, too, but Ryan looks comfortable. He’s played. So I think that experience of playing, having started, helped him in his preparation. He missed spring football, but I think he’s come back and hasn’t missed a beat. I’ve liked a lot of what Ryan’s been doing.”