This weekend marks the first on-field practices of the 2022 football season for the Green Bay Packers as they host their rookie minicamp on Friday and Saturday. Players in attendance include the team’s draft picks and undrafted free agent signings, along with a handful of returning eligible players on the 90-man roster who are signed to futures contracts.
The fourth and final group of players are participating in rookie camp on a tryout basis, and the Packers invited new fewer than 15 individuals to this year’s camp. Green Bay has had some success with these tryouts in the past — one recent example is offensive lineman Lucas Patrick, who participated in rookie camp in 2016 before signing with the team. Patrick spent his rookie year on the practice squad before becoming a valuable reserve player for several years and eventually starting 28 games in the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
Patrick left Green Bay this offseason as an unrestricted free agent, earning a two-year contract with the Chicago Bears worth $8 million with half of that guaranteed. That’s just one example of the possibilities ahead for the handful of players who will work out with the Packers this weekend.
This year’s tryout class has a handful of intriguing individuals, including a few with Wisconsin connections. Among that group are a pair of prospects from in-state Division-III schools and the son of a former Milwaukee Brewers infielder. The group also includes a handful of players who are trying out as NFL veterans as well as another small-school prospect who is putting his plans for medical school on hold to pursue a football career.
Here’s a look at each of the Packers’ tryout players in this year’s camp.
Ryder Anderson, EDGE, Indiana
Anderson transferred to Indiana from Ole Miss in 2021 after graduating and getting an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s a big athlete at around 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds, and he earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors in 2021 after posting 8.5 TFLs and 3.5 sacks, both career-highs. He did not complete the 40 at Indiana’s Pro Day, suffering a hamstring injury during drills, but he had an impressive-for-his-size 7.21-second time in the 3-cone drill.
Max Bortenschlager, QB, FIU
A 6th-year senior in 2021, Bortenschlager transferred from Maryland (where he started 8 games as a sophomore) to FIU after missing most of 2018 and all of 2019 due to injury. He started two games in 2020 for the Panthers, then was the full-time starter in 2021, amassing just under 3,000 passing yards with 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Keke Chism, WR, Missouri
A massive receiver at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Chism could draw some physical comparisons to second-round wideout Christian Watson. However, his athleticism is a different story, as he posted slower-than-ideal times for his position in the 40 (4.69 seconds) and 3-cone (7.27). Chism started out in junior college at Angelo State before transferring to Mizzou, where he posted 458 and 511 yards in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
Jack Coco, LS, Georgia Tech
Coco was a long snapper for three years in Atlanta but added backup tight end responsibilities midway through the 2020 season and moved to that position full-time in 2021. However, he will return to his snapping duties in camp this weekend as one of two long snappers invited on a tryout basis. Interestingly, he only snapped on place-kicks for the Yellow Jackets, not on punts.
Sean Dykes, FB, Memphis
A tight end in college, Dykes is formally listed as a fullback on the rookie camp roster, though he would likely play the “move” tight end position similar to Dominique Dafney’s role in Green Bay. Dykes played six seasons at Memphis, first starting out at receiver as a freshman but eventually starting the last two years at tight end. He caught a combined 95 passes over the last two years, gaining 1,238 yards and scoring 14 touchdowns on his way to first-team All-AAC honors. Dykes got a medical redshirt in 2019 then returned for a sixth season after getting extra eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kobe Jones, OLB, Mississippi State
Unlike several players on this list who took advantage of the chance to play another year of college football after 2020, Jones did not, leaving for the NFL in 2021 after his senior season. He signed with the Falcons as an undrafted free agent last May, and was released at final cut-downs, eventually spending a brief stint on the Dolphins’ practice squad and a few months with the Titans on a futures contract before being released earlier this week. Jones was a 3-4 end at Mississippi State and recorded 7 sacks in his career, but is likely to play on the edge with the Packers at around 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds.
Kendall Karcz, SAF, St. Norbert
It doesn’t get much more local than a player from St. Norbert College in De Pere, where the Packers typically stay during training camp. The 6-foot, 187-pound Karcz was just a one-year starter for the Division-III school in 2021, but he was an impressive ballhawk, intercepting seven passes and recording another two pass breakups. Four of those picks came in a single game against Wisconsin Lutheran, when he had pick-sixes of 53 and 71 yards on back-to-back drives. Karcz scored four total touchdowns in 2021, adding a third pick-six and scoring on a blocked punt return as well.
Cameron Kaye, LS, Troy
The Packers need a long-snapper in camp this weekend with Steven Wirtel ineligible, and Kaye is a good candidate after serving as the full-time snapper for Troy for five straight years following a redshirt year in 2016. Kaye was nominated for the Wuerffel Trophy, which honors players for their community service. If he snaps well in camp, he could turn that opportunity into a contract and a chance to compete with Wirtel in OTAs and training camp.
Zafir Kelly, CB, South Carolina State
A 5-foot-11, 178-pound corner, Kelly participated in 2022’s Legacy Bowl, a new college all-star game that is meant to highlight players from HBCUs. That and a 4.5-second 40 may have helped put him on the Packers’ radar this offseason. Beyond that, perhaps a 90-yard blocked field goal return in October did the job, as that play earned Kelly MEAC special teams player of the week. The Packers have brought in a few players from SC State over the years, most notably linebacker Joe Thomas.
Sam Renner, DT, Minnesota
Renner, like Jones, is not a rookie, instead having completed his college eligibility after the 2019 season. He signed with the Rams as a UDFA rookie in 2020, but was released that August and was out of football until last offseason, when he inked a futures contract with the Buccaneers. However, he was released on an injury settlement during last year’s training camp.
A three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, Renner earned rotational playing time as a junior before getting a starting job as a senior in 2019. He had a solid season that year, posting 43 tackles, 8.5 TFLs, 5.0 sacks, and four pass breakups.
Kyler Schott, G, Iowa
Schott was a second-team All-Big Ten guard in 2021 according to the conferences’ coaches and the AP, primarily playing on the left side as a senior after playing right guard. Schott started his career as a walk-on but ended up getting his scholarship in 2020 and starting 18 games in his career, ten this past season. Although he missed the first two games of 2021 due to a broken foot he suffered while baling hay in the summer, he also earned a coveted spot as a member of Iowa’s player leadership council.
Will Spiers, P, Clemson
Milwaukee Brewers fans of a certain age will remember Bill Spiers, an infielder for the team from 1989 to 1994. The elder Spiers was a shortstop for Clemson in the mid-80s, but spent one year as the Tigers’ punter back in 1986, then got a job on the Clemson football coaching staff in 2016, when Will enrolled as a walk-on.
Will, however, was the primary punter for the Tigers for five seasons, recording a 41.4-yard gross average for his career. Physically, he’s in the JK Scott mold at 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, but his family connection to Wisconsin would make him a great story if he were to earn a contract coming out of rookie camp and get a chance to either compete with Pat O’Donnell or to try for a spot on the practice squad.
Alex Spillum, SAF, Coastal Carolina
A taller, somewhat lanky safety at 6-foot-2 and 188 pounds, Spillum had a good workout at Coastal’s Pro Day with a 4.53 40 and a sub-7 3-cone (6.97). Spillum was a high school quarterback in Minnesota, and earned a starting safety job for 2019 while also contributing on special teams. In fact, Spillum was named the Chanticleers’ special teams MVP as a senior in 2021 despite starting every game at safety. His prime production on defense came in his junior year, however, when he intercepted four passes.
Carson Terrell, TE, Utah State
The Packers did not draft a tight end, nor did they add one as an undrafted free agent, so Terrell is the only potential addition for now at that position. He has decent size for a Y tight end at 6-foot-5 and 248 pounds, but he was not used heavily as a receiver, catching just 48 passes for 516 yards over five seasons. He is a former college teammate of quarterback Jordan Love, as the two were together from 2017 to 2019.
Anthony Turner, WR, Grand View
A 6-foot-3, 218-pound receiver, Turner is the only invite from an NAIA school in this year’s group of tryout players. He finished third on his team in receiving, totaling 562 yards and 7 touchdowns on 40 receptions in 2021 as Grand View lost in the NAIA championshi pgame. His Pro Day workout left plenty to be desired (he posted a 2.03 RAS despite having elite size), however, and he looks like a long shot to earn a 90-man roster spot.
Andrew Whitaker, CB, Washington University
It should be no surprise that a player from a Division-III school known much more for its academics than its athletics is an academic superstar himself. Whitaker, who led his team with four interceptions in 2021, has a master’s degree and a bachelor’s in medical bioengineering and he is reportedly putting off his plans to attend medical school for the time being to pursue a professional football career.
Whitaker earned an invite to the University of Missouri’s Pro Day, where he reportedly ran his 40-yard dash in the low 4.5s. He also participated in the College Gridiron Showcase, an all-star game for small-school prospects.
Xavior Williams, S, Iowa
A second Iowa player in this group, Williams is an Iowa lifer. He was a graduate transfer from Northern Iowa for the 2021 season, having missed 2020 due to the FCS moving to spring football. With Iowa returning its entire starting secondary from 2020, he played a rotational and special teams role for the Hawkeyes, but put up an impressive workout at their Pro day by running his 40 in 4.48 seconds and posting excellent jumps of 38” (vertical) and 10-foot-7 (broad).
Ryan Wisniewski, WR, Wisconsin-Whitewater
Another D-III prospect from a local powerhouse program, Wisniewski is a Wisconsin kid, growing up in Sparta, near La Crosse. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound receiver has the size that the Packers love in their receivers, and he racked up over 1,000 yards as a senior in 2021. He likely would have worked out at Wisconsin’s Pro Day in March, but was rehabbing a turf toe injury that forced him to have surgery late in 2021.