Tight ends Clay Cundiff, Jack Eschenbach no longer with team as Badgers start camp in Platteville

PLATTEVILLE – Nate Letton is entering his first season as Wisconsin tight ends coach short-handed.
Clay Cundiff and Jack Eschenbach, two of UW’s more experienced tight ends, no longer are with the team. According to a UW spokesperson, they left the team voluntarily.
Their departures left UW with eight tight ends when camp opened Wednesday at UW-Platteville.
They were: Hayden Rucci, Riley Nowakowski, Jack Pugh, Cam Large, Cole Dakovich, JT Seagreaves and freshmen Angel Toombs and Tucker Ashcraft.
Rucci, a redshirt senior, is by far the most experienced member of the unit. He has played in 23 games and has six catches for 75 yards and a touchdown.
Nowakowski, a former walk-on from Marquette High School, worked at linebacker and fullback before switching to tight end.
“Riley was with the first team primarily because he's the most consistent guy in that room right now,” offensive coordinator Phil Longo said Tuesday during media day. “And I’m not telling you anything that I haven't told him or we haven't said, but he probably wouldn't blow you off the chart if he was testing with a 40 time or the height or the weight. But as far as being a great total package guy, he is.
“He did a good job running routes, did a great job catching the football, is physical and gives great effort in the box. He’s really sound mentally, and he just overall was a really good total package guy. And so the spot that he had at the end of the spring he earned.”
Pugh, a redshirt sophomore, has played in one game. Large, a redshirt senior has been limited to three games because of injuries. Dakovich, a redshirt junior, played in five games last season. Seagreaves, a redshirt freshman, played in one game last season. He had one catch for 3 yards in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl.
Cundiff, arguably UW’s best all-around tight end, saw 2021 and 2022 end prematurely because of season-ending injuries. He was limited to a total of nine games.
The redshirt junior, who had a combined 12 catches for 228 yards and three touchdowns in those seasons, spent most of the spring rehabbing. He did take part in individual drills near the end of spring ball. He also participated in summer workouts.
Eschenbach, a sixth-year senior, played in a total of 18 games over the last three seasons. He had 19 catches for 179 yards.
Cundiff was not available for interviews in the spring but seemed determined to return to the field.
Letton told reporters last spring he expected Cundiff to be full-go in camp.
“We’re hoping he has a really productive summer,” Letton said. “I think Clay has done a great job of balancing finding the time for his rehabilitation physically but also staying present with the guys. When you lose somebody like him, who has played a lot of meaningful football, almost as important as the physical rehabilitation is him being around our guys, learning the system. And he has been great at that.”
Eschenbach told reporters last spring he initially pondered moving on after the 2022 season but decided he had more to give.
"At first I wasn’t going to come back," he said. "Then I had a few days off…You get a little time to reflect and I just love this sport so much. And I saw what coach Longo was going to bring. That is kind of like what I ran in high school. That is what I love to do.
"And I feel like I have some unfinished business."
As expected, Tanor Bortolini at center on No. 1 line
With Jake Renfro working his way back from a foot injury that kept him out for most of the spring, Tanor Bortolini was the No. 1 center
Wednesday. Renfro, a transfer from Cincinnati, worked at center on the No. 2 line.
Joining Bortolini on the No. 1 line were: left tackle Jack Nelson, left guard Joe Huber, right guard Michael Furtney and right tackle Riley Mahlman.
The No. 2 line featured left tackle Nolan Rucci, left guard Joe Brunner, Renfro, right guard JP Benzschawel and right tackle Trey Wedig.
Wedig also got some work at left guard on the No. 1 line and Huber got work at center.
Bryson Green impressive in first full-team work
Still recovering from shoulder surgery last spring, wide receiver Bryson Green was held out of team drills after transferring from Oklahoma State.
Now fully recovered, Green was full-go Wednesday and showed why the staff was excited to land him last winter.
Green, 6-1 and 215 pounds, is big, moves well and appears to catch the ball easily.
Longo gave a brief scouting report when asked about Green during media day.
“The addition of Bryson in the fall will give us a guy that probably is as strong, if not our strongest receiver out there,” Longo said. “When you watch him play…he’s a little bit different than some of the other guys. That's not taking something away from them. That just happens to be Bryson's strength.
“It'll be good to have a guy out there that can handle the longer corners or the bigger safeties. And I'm excited to get him back into the groove.”
Defensive end Darian Varner still on the mend
Temple transfer Darian Varner, expected to help bolster UW’s defensive line, did little on-field work Wednesday. Varner missed spring ball because of a foot injury.
Outside linebacker Aaron Witt, who hasn’t practiced since the spring of 2021 because of a foot injury, continues to struggle in his comeback. Witt was limited to work on the side with the trainers Wednesday. The redshirt junior played in five games as a freshman in 2020.
Safety Travian Blaylock, who missed the 2022 season after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee and missed time last spring because of mono, worked with the No. 1 defense Wednesday. Kamo’i Latu, who started 12 of 13 games last season, was wearing a protective sleeve on his left leg and did not appear fully healthy.

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