On Friday, April 21st, the Wisconsin football team will head back out onto the turf of Camp Randall Stadium for the annual red and white scrimmage. With some notable players from last season leaving, including projected first round draft pick Ryan Ramczyk and draft probables such as Vince Biegel and T.J. Watt, the football program has some holes to fill. The spring game is always an opportunity for the team to get some experience and the fans at home to get excited about the football season in the fall. Below are five players to keep an eye out for in the spring game.
5. Nick Nelson
An interesting cornerback transfer prospect out of Hawaii, Nick Nelson is not a name to sleep on when the Badgers take the field on Friday, as well as opening day against Utah State on September 1. The Maryland native sat out last season, but started all 13 games at corner back for Hawaii during the 2015 football season. That season, he logged 53 total tackles and 15 pass breakups, just to name a few of his impressive stats. Interestingly, Nelson recorded nine tackles, including a half tackle for loss and a broken up pass, in Hawaii’s opener against Wisconsin in 2015. Nelson will look to fill the gap left by departing senior Sojourn Shelton, and will likely pair up with Derrick Tindal in the secondary.
4. Karé Lyles and Jack Coan
Okay, so maybe it’s cheating to put two players in the #4 slot, but these two have a lot to prove to achieve the backup title. Coach Paul Chryst has already announced that Alex Hornibrook is his go-to-guy for next year, but the two other quarterbacks on the roster have yet to register a single minute on the field. With Lyles redshirting last season and Coan being the new guy in town, the backup position will be a big battle come spring time. It’s probably unlikely that Coan will redshirt due to the uncertainty at the backup position, so keep an eye out on how they are being rotated throughout the spring game. Prediction: Coan gets the nod over Lyles.
3. Lubern Figaro
Lubern Figaro is one of the favorites to win the position battle for the third cornerback slot for the badgers in the upcoming season. Although he struggled against larger wide receivers at the end of 2016 season, it is reported that Figaro has been performing well during spring practices and may be able to turn the page this season to be a real standout. Figaro will compete with freshman Dontye Carriere-Williams for the job.
2. Quintez Cephus
Sophomore Quintez Cephus was having a phenomenal spring with the football program until tragedy struck with the passing of his father. Cephus will be playing with a heavy heart, but is expected to strive while he receives a lot more touches this season with senior Robert Wheelwright graduating. The three-star prospect out of Macon, Georgia will be crucial in diverting attention away from fellow wide receiver Jazz Peavy. Cephus should slot in to the number two wide receiver come opening day in September. Check out this athletic play made by Cephus from high school below!
1. Chris James
Wisconsin’s biggest position battle for the upcoming season is hands down at the running back spot. With the departures of Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale, it is obvious Wisconsin has a huge void to fill. Bradrick Shaw is the frontrunner to be named the starter, but Pittsburgh transfer Chris James will want to have something to say about that. After following Paul Chryst over from Pitt and having to sit out a year due to the NCAA regulations on transfer students, James is ready to compete on the field. James has been receiving praise from the Wisconsin football staff all spring, and the position battle at running back is heating up. Wisconsin fans should keep their eyes peeled on this during the game and when the stat sheet comes out after the game as it could be an early indication of who is leading the race towards being named the starter.