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Cephus-returned to practice

Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver Quintez Cephus (87) catches a pass for a touchdown during the second quarter of a game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind., Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. M.P. KING, STATE JOURNAL

University of Wisconsin wide receiver Quintez Cephus practiced Friday for the first time since a right leg injury ended his sophomore season at Indiana on Nov. 4.

The Badgers limited Cephus to positional drills, where he caught passes and ran routes against no coverage. He did not participate in 7-on-7 drills, team drills or Friday's scrimmage.

"He's been chomping at the bit," UW coach Paul Chryst said. "It's been a long time. A big part of it is just being around the guys. Certainly, he's with them in the weight room, but it's different. I think Q's excited to get it out of the way and wants to do more. ... It's good for him and it's good for Alex (Hornibrook) and our offense."

Cephus found himself in the midst of a breakout season before his leg injury. He caught 30 passes for 501 yards and six touchdowns in just nine games as the Badgers' top target in the passing game.

Running back Taiwan Deal (left leg) missed practice after suffering what appeared to be a left hamstring injury Thursday, while wide receiver Jack Dunn suffered an injury during Friday's scrimmage and was helped off the field.

Outside linebacker Zack Baun (left leg), running back Chris James (left leg), wide receivers Adam Krumholz (right leg), Emmet Perry (right leg) and Cade Green (left leg) and inside linebacker Mike Maskalunas (left leg) were also out.

Cornerback Dontye Carriere-Williams (abdominal) and running back Garrett Groshek (right leg) remained limited Friday.

UW scrimmages indoors

UW canceled its spring game that was set for Friday night due to the threat of inclement weather, but the Badgers still held a full-contact scrimmage inside the McClain Center that was closed to the public. Many first-team players didn't participate.

The two most notable highlights came from running back Sam Brodner and early enrollee wide receiver Aron Cruickshank.

Brodner scored on a 25-yard run in which he severely juked out cornerback Donte Burton and shrugged off a tackle attempt from safety Ryan O'Connell. Brodner unofficially finished with 52 yards on eight carries.

Cruickshank took a jet sweep 22 yards after breaking multiple tackles. He also unofficially finished with three catches for 21 yards and drew two pass-interference penalties. One of the penalties came in the end zone and led to a 5-yard touchdown pass from Jack Coan to Kendric Pryor three plays later.

The Badgers' other early enrollee wide receiver, Taj Mustapha, caught a 22-yard pass from Danny Vanden Boom that moved the offense to the 5-yard line, eventually leading to one of Mark Saari's two touchdown runs.

"Our whole thought process going into spring ball is to give yourself a chance to get reps for fall camp," Chryst said. "I think the biggest thing that Aron and Taj are facing is, 'How can I learn this offense?' Both of them made some plays today. The biggest thing is knowing what to do, and then it's how (to do it). So the more they get the 'what' out of the way (the better)."

Defensive lineman Kraig Howe recorded a third-down strip-sack on Kare Lyles that the defense recovered inside the offense's 5-yard line. Safety Scott Nelson also sacked Coan one possession earlier.

The Badgers' reserve kickers went 4 for 4 on field goals, all of them from 40-plus yards. Collin Larsh connected on tries of 48 and 44 yards before Zach Hintze converted attempts from 43 and 54 yards.

"It's unfortunate we weren't able to play the game outside for fans and whatnot, but we got some good work done today," Chryst said. "I thought it was a good week. ... We just have to make sure we keep growing and finish next week strong."

NCAA approves new kickoff rule

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved a new rule Friday that will allow receiving teams to fair catch a kickoff inside the 25-yard line and have it result in a touchback.

Per an NCAA release, the Football Rules Committee made the proposal to continue efforts to increase the number of touchbacks during kickoffs and minimize injuries during those plays.

"I think it's a significant change," Chryst said. "It'll be interesting to think through it a little bit. We've had some early discussions about strategizing and all that. ... It'll be interesting to see how many times, going back and looking at how many times we've had a situation come up and making sure your guys on the return unit and on the coverage unit are identifying that."


Jason Galloway is the Wisconsin Badgers football beat writer for the Wisconsin State Journal.