Every time University of Wisconsin sophomore wide receiver Chase Hammond came off the field on Saturday during the spring game, he would try and say something to junior Jared Abbrederis.
Abbrederis is the Badgers’ top returning wide receiver who has been out all spring with a foot injury from last season.
UW coaches have spent the first 14 practices of spring looking for a complement to Abbrederis with little luck.
Finally, on the final day of spring practices, Hammond emerged from the pack with four receptions for 48 yards and a touchdown. Three of his catches came in the first half when it seemed he was the only receiver who could hold onto the ball.
“I just showed that when it’s time to play, I can make plays,” Hammond said. “I really think that’s been big for me. I may not always have the best practices, but that’s what practice is for, to get better.
“When the media is there, your family is there and everybody’s there, it counts. That’s when it’s time to make plays and show what we’ve learned this spring.”
The first half pretty much summed up the way the spring has gone for the receivers. The worst offender was sophomore Isaiah Williams, who dropped what would have been two touchdown passes.
“I feel like I should have had two touchdowns,” Williams said. “Those are things that win and lose games. I didn’t make the plays.”
At halftime, UW coach Bret Bielema pulled Williams off the Cardinal team, which was made up of the starters, and put him with the White squad. Williams ended up with game highs of five receptions for 53 yards.
“I got after Isaiah pretty good, moved him from first string down to second string, then he caught every ball thrown his way,” Bielema said.
No such motivation was needed for Hammond, who has had three surgeries on his right ankle and been told by doctors on more than one occasion he might not be able to play football anymore. The
6-foot-5 Hammond admitted the spring was “do or die” for him.
Redshirt freshman linebacker Jacob Keefer is playing out of position as the weakside linebacker. His more natural position is probably at middle linebacker, but the coaches just wanted to find a way to get him on the field.
Keefer showed up more in the scrimmage than he had all spring, making at least three nice plays. He finished with six tackles, including one for loss.
“I saw him flash,” Bielema said. “He’s a guy I’ve been intrigued with just because I think he’s playing at an unrealistic position ... but we just want to get him on the field.”
Keefer is listed at 232 pounds and has the frame to put on more weight. That has led to speculation he could eventually wind up in the defensive line, but Bielema isn’t ready to give up on him as a linebacker.
Bielema reported only two new injuries in the scrimmage.
Backup free safety Michael Trotter suffered a strained medial collateral knee ligament, while backup cornerback Darius Hillary displayed “concussion symptoms.” Bielema said it was not determined yet if Hillary actually suffered a concussion.
5,000 or so?
The announced crowd was 10,479, but it looked like only half of that. UW was likely helped by advanced sales, with proceeds from the $5 tickets going to the UW Center for Nonprofits.
Bielema said it was the coldest day of the spring the team went outside.
“Coming out in rainy, low 40s (temperatures), I didn’t expect that many people to be out there, honestly,” senior safety Shelton Johnson said.