For the vast majority of Wisconsin Badgers faithful this was a strange spring camp. No spring game meant limited news and no way to see the team for themselves.
But, this camp was pretty wide open to the media and that means reporting could be more accurate to what was really happening inside the Dave McClain Center. With that knowledge we still have a good idea of what took place, despite not being able to see it for ourselves.
So, as fans get restless between now and the start of fall camp, what names should you — the fan — get excited about heading in to the summer?
Here’s a list of five players that helped themselves the most in spring camp.
Aron Cruickshank, WR (Fr.)
Wisconsin is as deep at wide receiver as it has ever been, so Cruickshank shouldn’t be needed come the fall. At least that was the thought heading in to the early enrollee’s first spring camp. Instead, players got hurt and Cruickshank got plenty of playing time. He also happened to take full advantage of it and may have earned himself the right to get playing time in the fall. His combination of speed and route running really intrigued the coaching staff and he was seen buzzing past plenty of UW defensive backs all spring camp. Will he be used as a wide receiver this year or be a special teams ace? That question likely won’t be answered until fall camp starts and everyone comes in healthy (we hope).
Andrew Van Ginkel, OLB (Sr.)
Sure, Van Ginkel was a known name and a penciled-in starter coming in to camp, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t help himself a lot either. If there was any doubt that Van Ginkel would handle the competition at outside linebacker, he put that to bed early and often. Most observers noted his ability to be a dynamic run-stuffer on the outside, while adding some good moves to his pass rushing side. With the Badgers once again looking to fill in both starting outside linebackers, Van Ginkel could be a name to watch for All-Big Ten honors if his production this spring turns in to production in the fall. That’s how good of a camp he had.
Cole Van Lanen, OT (So.)
Let’s just say the Badgers have a really nice problem on their hands at offensive line. In the short four years of the Paul Chryst era the O-Line has been rebuilt to the point where there are multiple stars fighting for starting position. One name that has garnered the most attention this spring is that of redshirt sophomore Cole Van Lanen. His play at left tackle has been so good that offensive line coach Joe Rudolph has some serious thinking to do about who will start at left tackle. Michael Dieter being out for the spring didn’t help his cause, but it showcased Van Lanen’s talent and it will be hard to keep him off the field. Van Lanen’s gain could be an interior offensive lineman’s loss this fall.
Madison Cone, CB (So.)
No position this spring was going to be more scrutinized than cornerback. Wisconsin had literally one player with legit playing experience back in Donyte Carriere-Williams. He didn’t get much action due to nagging injuries this spring, but the player who stepped up to take advantage of the snaps the most was fellow sophomore Madison Cone. He displayed some good cover skills and a willingness to forget mistakes quickly and recover from them. UW’s secondary is going to get tested a lot early on, but Cone appears locked in as the starter opposite of Carriere-Williams and having that happen in spring ball is a huge win for Jim Leonhard and Co.
Jake Ferguson, TE (Fr.)
As a recruit, Ferguson came to the Badgers as their highest rated tight end ever. But, he redshirted last season with a ton of depth in front of him. Apparently that redshirt season paid off, because Ferguson was showing off most of camp. In fact, he may be the name on this list that helped himself the most. Don’t be surprised to see his playing time grow throughout the 2018 season, as he is the most dynamic playmaker at tight end. As long as his blocking continues to make the strides it did in spring during fall camp, Ferguson could be the breakout player of 2018 for the Badgers.