Connect with us

Badgers football

5 priorities for Wisconsin Badgers bye week

Published

on

It’s here, the one weekend of the fall when it’s perfectly okay to ditch the Badgers and hang with the family. They just don’t need to know it’s also the bye week and there really is no Badgers game this weekend. 

Either that or the love of the Badgers has rubbed off on everyone else and they know better by now. 

But, for the Wisconsin Badgers this week is more than just a chance to recharge the batteries and enjoy a rest. It is also about reflection and figuring out how to get to the end of the season with all of its goals still intact. 

So, what should the five biggest priorities be for the Badgers over the next two weeks? Let’s take a look in no particular order. 

Get Healthy

I’m pretty sure this is number one on ever teams priority list heading in to their respective bye weeks. The good news here is that the Wisconsin Badgers aren’t suffering with a rash of injuries like some other teams across the college football landscape are. 

Andrew Van Ginkel and Zander Neuville were the big question marks for this past Saturday, and both played. What a better way to get them healthy than two full weeks of rehab work heading in to the game against Nebraska to open up the October slate? 

There are likely nagging issues to offensive and defensive lineman that can get worked on this week as well. Rest is always good and after four weeks of play, this is a perfect time to get the rest needed for the big conference games to come. 

Find a vertical pass game

So far this season the biggest miss in the Badgers offense has been the ability to stretch the field on opponents. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook has completed just eight passes for 25 or more yards this season, with a long of 44 yards. 

Over the past two seasons, Hornibrook has completed longs of 61 and 57 yards. He also hit 18 passes over 25 yards last season and 14 of them in a more limited role in 2016. 

With Quintez Cephus suspended and awaiting trail on two charges of sexual assault, the wide receiver group lost its best deep threat on the field. 

A.J. Taylor and Danny Davis are more of the slot type receiver and Kendric Pryor has become more of an intermediate route runner. It would be nice to see Davis open up the field a bit more like we saw in his freshman season, but he’s only had two games to go off of thanks a two-game suspension for his alleged role in the Cephus incident. 

The good news is that despite the numbers being down in the vertical passing game, the sample size is also small. UW has only thrown the ball 94 times this season, which trails only Nebraska and Maryland for fewest attempts in the Big Ten so far. 

I fully expect that the more Danny Davis we see, the more vertical the passing game is going to get over the next few weeks. If so, look for the entire offense to open up as teams can’t continue to stack the box and not get burned deep. 

Find some consistency at QB

But, all of that vertical pass game stuff also requires Hornibrook to become a consistent threat and that hasn’t happened yet either. At this point, it may never happen. One just needs to look at the last two weeks as the perfect example. 

With the run game in check, Hornibrook was just 18-of-28 passing for 190 yards and no touchdowns to one interception against BYU two weeks ago. 

He followed that up by going 17-of-22 for 205 yards and three touchdowns to zero interceptions against Iowa. That performance also included the game-winning drive in which Hornibrook was perfect and threw the touchdown pass.

For a third-year starter this type of inconsistency is troubling for an offense that needs the pass game to come alive. No one is asking Hornibrook to thrown for 300 yards and 4 touchdowns every Saturday. But, the problem has been his ability to shred bad defenses and then get shredded by good defenses. 

Will we see Hornibrook do more of what he did against Iowa going forward? Finding a way to get that type of game more consistently has to be a priority for the Badgers offense. 

Reflection on Secondary play

Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard hasn’t been afraid to mix and match with his youthful secondary through the first four games of the season. 

About the only sure bet has been cornerback Caesar Williams, who appears to be the best bet to be a lockdown corner against some of the better receivers to come. 

Leonhard has inserted the likes of Faion Hicks, Derron Harrel and Madison Cone at cornerback to start games already this season. The results have been mixed. 

Wisconsin is fourth in the Big Ten in pass defense, has given up just five passing touchdowns through four games and have four interceptions. All of those things are good news, but UW is also allowing a lot of plays that better teams will convert in to more points. 

There have been five passes over 25 yards and 14 plays of 15 yards or more. Luckily it’s been soft coverage and keeping people in front of them that has contributed to those numbers. 

Which players who have rotated in will be trusted to come up big as the games get bigger, the attention gets more intense and everything is under the microscope. 

About all we know is that Caesar Williams has been trusted along with Scott Nelson as youthful members in this secondary. They need to settle in to a rotation they can trust at the other cornerback spot. Seeing the film, talking to the players and reflecting on what has gone on is a great place to start in figuring out this mystery. 

Test out wrinkles to the offense

Normally the Badgers will line up, tell you the play that’s coming and still beat you silly with it. But, with upcoming games against tough defenses like Michigan, this is a perfect week to work behind the scenes on some wrinkles to the game plan. 

Why not throw in a few players who haven’t seen the field in very specific packages or why not work on throwing out of packages that have always been run plays before? 

Paul Chryst’s offense may seem simple, but talk to any opposing coach and they’ll tell you he’s one of the better play-calling minds in the game. Why not put that to good use in the bye week?

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Badgers football

Can Benton step up to big challenge against Michigan?

Published

on

Through two games, the Wisconsin Badgers defense has been the talk of the town. Pitching back-to-back shutouts and doing so with a lot of new players in the mix was equally impressive.

Maybe the competition wasn’t the best, but a young group of players stepped up and the result has been zero points on the board and a 2-0 record.

One name has played above the rest in the group of freshman and sophomores in the mix — true freshman nose guard Keeanu Benton.

He had no choice but to play last week, as regular starting nose guard Bryson Williams went down with an injury late in the week and there isn’t much depth at the position.

If you pay attention to the analytical side of the game, Benton took his opportunity and ran with it though.

You may not see it on the stat sheet (1 tackle, 1 tackle for loss), but Pro Football Focus named Benton the best of all the Badgers in the win over Central Michigan two weeks ago.

He was in the top 10 players in the win over USF in the opener as well. That’s about as good a start as you could have hoped for for the young man.

Benton played 19 of the 45 plays that the Chippewas had last week, accounting for just over 42 percent of all snaps. His grade of 89.1 edged out Jack Coan’s grade of 86.9 for the top spot in that game.

Most importantly, Benton graded out well against the run, with an 89.6 rating in that category alone.

Given that Michigan has tried hard to establish the run early on in the season, having Benton play so well with his limited snaps is going to be huge come game day against the No. 10 Wolverines.

The hope for the Badgers was that Benton could use that experience and build off of it as starter Bryson Williams returned from an injury sustained in the build up to the CMU game.

Unfortunately, as the Badgers get ready for the Wolverines we already know that Williams will be out. He was listed as such on UW’s first injury report for this week.

While we’ve seen great work overall from Benton in the first two weeks of the season, and the Badgers defense has produced great things on paper, this is going to be a much bigger challenge.

Michigan comes in to this game ranked 45th in the country in rushing, having gone for 341 yards in just two games. Admittedly, most of that work was done in the opener against Middle Tennessee, where they ate up 234 yards.

Against a much more stout Army defense, Michigan’s ground game stumbled to just 108 yards on the same 45 carries it had in the opener.

Michigan has punched the ball in to the end zone five times already, including the critical scoring in the 24-21 win over Army in Week 2.

On the other hand, Wisconsin’s run defense has been its bread and butter. UW leads the nation in rush defense, giving up just 41 total yards on 44 carries over the course of the first two games of action. There hasn’t been any touchdowns given up since the Minnesota game to end the regular season last year too.

Benton has been a big help in that effort over the course of his first two games in action and his fellow players are quick to take notice of his efforts early on in his career at Wisconsin.

“Coming in, Keeanu was raw. He still is kind of raw. But he’s a big body, he’s fast, he’s strong, but what we’ve seen from him so far in camp and in the first two games, he’s definitely a playmaker,” defensive end Isaaiah Loudermilk said Monday, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

Senior captain Chris Orr has also been impressed with what Benton brings to the game.

“He’s big. Big,” Orr said to the Wisconsin State Journal. “When I first saw him, I was like, ‘Oh yeah, put him right there in the middle in front of all of us. Let him eat up them blocks.’ But I think what I’m most impressed about is that he doesn’t just stay on blocks. When he gets double-teamed, he’ll eat the double then split it and go make a play.”

Doing that on Saturday against better overall competition will be a telling sign of where Benton is and where his potential lies.

If he can step up on the big stage against the biggest opponent to date, the sky may just be the limit for him and this Badgers defense.

Continue Reading

Badgers football

What the Badgers need to work on in the bye week

Published

on

Two games, two victories, two shutouts and two record-setting performance. It would be easy to think the 2-0 Wisconsin Badgers football team is riding high in to its early bye week.

But, with the challenge of the Michigan Wolverines just around the corner things are not exactly going to go as planned.

So, with a week off to prepare what are some of the areas of concentration and concern heading in to the matchup with the Wolverines?

Get Healthy

I feel like this is a mantra of any team on a bye week, but after only two games it shouldn’t be that bad. But, guess what, Wisconsin is two games in to the season and the injury gods have not been kind to this team.

On Sunday, we learned that starting safety Scott Nelson will miss the rest of the season with a leg injury.

Late last week we knew that five other players were going to miss the Central Michigan game, with two of those being starters on defense in Bryson Williams and Izayah Green-May.

Now luckily, the depth of this team showed up as true freshman Keeanu Benton (1 TFL) played well in place of Williams and Noah Burks (2 tackles, 1 TFL and 1 pass break up) made it seem like there was nothing missing at outside linebacker.

But, there’s no question that playing with a full group of players against Michigan will be advantageous. Let’s see if the Badgers can get Williams and Green-May healthy and my guess is that they will be able to do just that with nearly three weeks of treatment and testing.

Stay Hungry

One of the things that has been clear so far about this team is that they have been playing with a lot of emotion and edge to them. It’s almost as if they spent an entire offseason stewing over a less-than-stellar performance in 2018 and are bound and determined to not let that happen again.

Whatever was bottled up in the offseason was certainly unleashed in the first two weeks of the season. Can UW find a way to continue to play with that edge and fire now that they have no game this week?

Sometimes the bye week can mess with a team, especially one that is rolling like the Badgers are. But, I have a distinct feeling that motivation and focus are not going to waver at all with this coaching staff in place.

Wisconsin also has the advantage of being the underdog in the matchup with Michigan (at least on paper it will) and has a ton of hungry young players looking to make a name for themselves.

What better way to do that than against Michigan with the whole college football world watching you?

This idea of staying hungry doesn’t worry me in the least, but it would be something to watch coming out of the gate against Michigan. If the Badgers look flat or out of sorts, I’d be worried. If not, then look for Michigan to be in some serious trouble on Sept. 21.

New Wrinkles?

Early on this season, we’ve already seen a lot of Jonathan Taylor the running back, but we’ve also seen a lot of JT23 the receiving back and it has produced glorious results.

Even better is the fact that the Badgers coaching staff hasn’t had to get exotic with the play calling early on this season either. There’s been few sightings of Aron Cruickshank end arounds or double running back sets or anything crazy.

Wisconsin has lined up, punched the opposing defense in the mouth up front and done the basics needed to put points on the board.

It will be interesting to see what wrinkles will be added with the extra time and the opponent at hand. Will the Badgers break out a few things that Michigan won’t be ready for or will they stick to the tried and true and just see what happens?

Pass Protection

If there’s one thing we know about Michigan’s defense is that it is nearly the Badgers equal in aggressiveness. Through two games the Badgers have allowed four sacks on the quarterback.

It may not seem alarming, but last season, UW allowed a total of 24 through 13 games for an average of 1.85 per game and that was a bit of a problem in bigger games. Furthermore, 12 of the 24 sacks came in Wisconsin’s five losses last year.

The good news seems to be that UW is going to get some help for the quarterback spot in avoiding some of those sacks this year. Jack Coan may not be a world-record sprinter, but he has shown to be more comfortable stepping up in the pocket and taking off if needed.

But, the Badgers were not really tested so far in terms of overall talent and did give up three sacks against USF in the opener. On the flip side, the offensive line looked much better against CMU and only one sack happened on the day.

Does that indicate improvement or just how bad the Chippewas were? With an extra week to work on things, lets see how the Badgers offensive line works through any potential issues and any adjustments that may be needed.

Continue Reading

Badgers football

Sunday Morning Hangover: What to make of Coan’s confident start

Published

on

By now, Jack Coan isn’t a total newcomer to the starting quarterback role for the Wisconsin Badgers. But, on Saturday he was making his first career start inside Camp Randall Stadium.

All five of his previous starts would come on the road or in a bowl game.

So, how did Coan handle the home crowd and it being a season opener at Camp Randall nonetheless? Judging by his record-setting numbers it was safe to say it was home, sweet home for the junior quarterback.

After passing for over 200 yards for the first time in his career last week against USF, Coan set personal records for passing attempts, completions, yards and touchdown passes in a single game.

It’s hard to get much better than that.

On the day, Coan would go 26 of 33 for 363 yards and 3 touchdowns. Those numbers were the catalyst to the Badgers 61-0 blanking of the visiting Central Michigan Chippewas.

His 363 yards were the fifth best in a single game by any Badgers quarterback. Coan also became just the 11th Badgers QB to throw for 300 or more yards in a game.

Additionally, his 276 yards in the first half were the most ever by any Badgers quarterback in a single half.

That’s some historic territory for anyone to reach.

However, after sleeping on it, I am still left wondering if this is a sign of things to come or a blip on the radar and we’ll never see this again.

Maybe it’s because I can still remember being there in person to witness Coan fumble and bumble his way to a loss at Northwestern last year.

Maybe that’s the Hornibrook affect in me too? After all, we got totally burned by thinking Hornibrook had turned a corner with his great performance in the bowl win over Miami two years ago.

Instead, Hornibrook reverted right back to the inconsistent and at times terrible version that his more extensive body of work told us was likely who he was.

But, here’s why I think we aren’t seeing a blip on the radar with Coan. It’s his confidence and the fact that we’ve seen him go out and do better each and every week he’s been a starter.

We are seeing progress, which we never really did with Hornibrook under center. If you can’t see that Coan is improving, then you aren’t paying attention.

Last week, despite the first ever 200-yard day for Coan, a lot of attention was paid to the missed wide open receivers on vertical routes. What did Coan do about it? He went out this week and showed he could confidently and accurately hit those deep balls.

“I think it’s important, and certainly we’ve got to be able to — we thought coming into the year we’ve got to do a better job of attacking the whole field, and so when you can do that, it’s good, but I think guys have had confidence in it,” said head coach Paul Chryst after the CMU win.

“I know last week we were 0-2 for those “chunk” plays, but he wouldn’t have cut ’em loose today if he didn’t have confidence in it. So I don’t know that doing it in a game makes you more confident, but it was good to see. It’s nice to be able to hit a couple of those, obviously.”

Additionally, Coan’s relationship early on this season with Quintez Cephus has been something special to watch. With virtually no playing time and no extensive practice time together, the duo has seemed totally in sync to start the season.

Cephus has nine receptions for 169 yards and two touchdowns through two games. He also is averaging 84.5 yards per game, good for fifth in the Big Ten in this early season.

Just to put the difference between Coan and Honribrook in to some perspective for you. Through two games last year, the Badgers had just 26 receptions as a team. This year, UW already has 50.

Wisconsin also has a total of 16 passes for 15 or more yards on the season. That is a quarter of what the Badgers had (64) all of last year and we’re only two games in to the season.

A.J. Taylor (8), Danny Davis (6), Kendric Pryor (6) and Jake Ferguson (6) have all had major impacts in the pass game too.

It means a diverse and talented group is producing quickly this season.

Of course, the challenge of Michigan’s defense awaits the Badgers offense and it certainly will be a step up in competition from the likes of USF and Central Michigan.

However, the Wolverines also won’t be seeing the same old Wisconsin offense they did for the past few years either.

What Coan has brought to the table through two weeks of play should make Michigan think twice about stacking the box against the run all game long.

Wisconsin finally has an outwardly confident quarterback and it feels so very good.

Continue Reading

Badgers football

WATCH: Recap of Badgers 61-0 victory over Central Michigan

Published

on

If you were to draw up a perfect game, well, it would be hard to top what the Wisconsin Badgers put on film on Saturday against the Central Michigan Chippewas.

UW ran, passed and dominated on defense en route to a 61-0 win. What should we take away from this game? What were the highlight moments?

Well of course, Jonathan Taylor scoring four touchdowns in back-to-back games was impressive. But, let our Publisher, Andrew Coppens, get in to the detail in this week’s talkinBadgers recap.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the YouTube page, so you don’t miss any of our video work as the season goes on!

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Trending

© 2019 Facere Media. This site is not affiliated with, endorsed or sponsored by the University of Wisconsin, it's athletic department or any other university entity. It is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only and is no way associated with the NCAA, the Big Ten or any member institutions.