Now that fall camp is in full swing and we are less than a month away from the start of the season, it’s a perfect time to also start looking ahead to what the Wisconsin Badgers opponents will look like.
We start our famous “Opposition Research” series with a look at the very first opponent on the Badgers schedule — the USF Bulls.
Don’t be fooled by the 0-6 finish to the 2018 season, this is a Bulls team that is very capable of playing at a very high level. After all, they did rip off a 7-0 start to the season before falling flat on their faces.
But, that was last season and what do we need to know about the 2019 USF Bulls? Let’s take a deeper look at them heading in to the season.
Biggest Storyline this Offseason: Coaching
Willie Taggart had the Bulls rocking as a program and then he took off for the Oregon Ducks job and is now back in Florida with Florida State. Can you blame him? Then USF had Charlie Strong fall right in to their lap as a great name to take what Taggart had built and at least maintain it.
That’s not exactly what has happened though, with recruiting taking a dip to the lowest marks of the last decade and an offense that fell apart with Blake Barnett dealing with injury issues.
So, this offseason, Strong decided to go a different direction with his offensive coordinator — hiring Kerwin Bell, who guided Valdosta State to the 2018 NCAA DII national championship. Gone will be the pass-happy spread attack and will be another innovative offense that likes to mix things up.
Bell’s offense at Valdosta State was a virtual 50-50 split between run and pass and that could be very interesting with the talent on the Bulls offense. The really good news if you’re a Bulls fan is that they have a lot of the same type of variety of skill players at both running back and wide receiver that the Blazers liked to take advantage of last season.
Does that mean instant success and change? Well, only time will tell, but there’s no question that as the offense goes, so too will the Bulls overall fortunes.
Biggest Strength: Secondary
With Charlie Strong as your head coach, defense will always be at the forefront of success. Yes, this team gave up a ton of yards and points last season, but it was on the field a ton more than it should have been thanks to the offense as well.
Despite the numbers, there is one area that is clearly the strength of this team and that’s the Bulls secondary. Three starters return, including safeties Nick Roberts and Mekhi LaPointe. Joining them as a returning starter is 6-1 cornerback Mike Hampton.
Roberts led the team with three interceptions, while Hampton and LaPointe combined for three more picks.
With Wisconsin’s biggest worry being the pass game, they are likely to get a test for a veteran secondary in Week 1.
Biggest Weakness: Linebacker
South Florida had just 29 sacks as a team last season and they just saw their leading pass rushers, Josh Black, graduate. He was just one ahead of most of the field though, with 5.0 sacks to his name and two more with 4.0.
However, only one of those three players return this season in defensive lineman Kirk Livingstone.
According to reports, former middle linebacker Greg Reaves is moving outside in the hopes to better use his athleticism in the pass rush. Reaves only had 0.5 of a sack last year, but did rank second on the team with 89 total tackles.
Outside of Reaves, this group is a lot of unknown quantities and the Badgers offensive line and dominant run game are going to be a severe first test.
Reason to Be Scared: Wide Receiver Variety
The Badgers biggest question mark on defense is just how much did the secondary grow last season. If it grew a lot from being thrown to the wolves, then it could be really good. If the growth is more slow, then it could be a very challenging year ahead.
But, one thing is for sure when looking at this matchup, USF’s wide receiver group provides a challenge for the Badgers secondary. Randall St. Felix is a shifty option, catching 33 passes for 679 yards and 4 touchdowns in his freshman season — all of which were tops on the team.
There is also senior Darnell Salomon, who was third amongst wide receivers with 25 receptions, but also caught 4 touchdowns. With Bell inserted as offensive coordinator, the versatility of this group could be a very interesting wrinkle in the mix too.
USF has speed, it has some size and it has some quality route runners back at wide receiver.
Let’s also throw in perhaps the second-best tight end in the country in Michael Wilcox too. All he did last season was catch a team-high 43 passes.
Point being, the Badgers won’t have it easy on the edges in Week 1 and whatever happens in that matchup could be a big time indicator of what will happen all season long for UW’s secondary.
Cephus says he wants to return to Badgers football
Earlier on Monday we got word from the University of Wisconsin-Madison on the status of Quintez Cephus, the student. He was to have his expulsion reversed after the evidence from his acquittal was brought forth to the university.
The only question left was if he would want to return to the university and the Wisconsin Badgers football team.
During a press conference on Monday afternoon, the speculation was put to an end. Quintez Cephus wants to return to the university and the football team.
During his press conference, Cephus mentioned how he wanted to stay at Wisconsin largely because of the support he got from his teammates and the entire staff of the UW football program.
He also mentioned that he had yet to speak with head coach Paul Chryst face-to-face after this decision was announced, but he would be doing so later in the day on Monday.
Many will also wonder if he’s ready physically and mentally to get back on the football field this season. Well, Cephus has been working out in Arizona for three months straight in anticipation of coming back on the field.
Judging by the video he’s put out, he’s certainly in some good physical condition.
Of course, only time will tell how quickly any and all of this will happen for Cephus and the Badgers. But, Cephus is very clearly focused on not wasting this opportunity and doing things at a very high level.
There are likely a few NCAA hurdles to officially jump through, but I’m also guessing the paperwork was just waiting to be put in motion once the university reinstated him and he gave the go-ahead.
Either way, he will be a welcome sight for an already strong group of wide receivers.
UW reinstates Quintez Cephus
A week after Quintez Cephus, his teammates and his attorneys went in front of the cameras to implore the University of Wisconsin-Madison to allow Cephus back in to school, we now have word on his status.
On Monday morning, it was revealed that Cephus was reinstated to the university. UW sent out the following tweet regarding the matter:
In the statement announcing their decision, the university noted that they had received information that wasn’t available during their initial Title IX investigation.
“UW–Madison obtained information following the criminal proceeding that was not provided to the university during the student conduct process, ” said the statement. “Chancellor Rebecca Blank conducted a review of this information and the petition for Quintez Cephus’ reinstatement as quickly as possible and in a complete and impartial manner.
“As a result of this review, sanctions for Quintez Cephus have been reduced and his expulsion lifted. There were findings of responsibility of the student non-academic misconduct code that were upheld.”
Chancellor Rebecca Blank had the following to say about the situation.
“All three of the primary participants in this case are our students, and I know the past year has been painful for everyone involved,” said Blank. “My decision is based on the availability of substantial new information that wasn’t made available to us during the earlier process. I recognize that some will disagree with this decision.”
“To those in our community who have experienced sexual assault, I sincerely hope that there is nothing in this case that will deter you from coming forward for support,” she added. “Our university continues to be prepared to listen and respond.”
Cephus had his expulsion lifted, but did not have all sanctions removed from his record. According to the statement, the findings of responsibility of the student non-academic misconduct code that were upheld.
With this reinstatement, Cephus has a decision in front of him. He is free to return to the university and the football team has made it clear they will welcome him back with open arms.
But, does he want to return to UW at all? All indications are that he does want to come back to school, but getting his expulsion lifted would allow him to move on from the university if he so chose.
We will have to wait for more information from the program once everyone has had a chance to make their decisions known.
Joe Thomas makes CBS Sports All-time All-American list
College football celebrates is 150th season in 2019 and that necessitates a look back at the history of the sport. That’s exactly what CBS Sports decided to do and they came up with a long list of the best players in college football history.
Given the fact that the Wisconsin Badgers went through long stretches of horrific play and few years of good work prior to 1990, seeing a Badgers name on the list was a long shot.
But, one Badger did make the list and that was famed left tackle Joe Thomas.
He was named to the honorable mention All-Time All-American offensive line category. Center was broken out in to a different group all together as well.
While at Wisconsin, Thomas became the first Badger to win the Outland Trophy, which is given to the nation’s best interior lineman. He also was named to the 2006 first team All-American list and started 39 games in his four years in Madison.
He is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame after an 11-year career in which he made the Pro Bowl in 10 straight seasons.
Joining him on CBS Sports honorable mention offensive lineman list were Maurkice Pouncey (Florida), Lincoln Kennedy (Washington), John Hicks (Ohio State), Aaron Taylor (Nebraska) and Jake Long (Michigan).
Making the first team list were Orlando Pace (Ohio State), Jonathan Ogden (UCLA), John Hannah (Alabama) and Ron Yary (USC).
On the second team were Anthony Munoz (USC), Bryant McKinnie (Miami), Will Shields (Nebraska) and Tony Boselli (USC).
Those are all some amazing names and gives us all a great reminder of just how great college football has been over the years to be sure.
Thomas is the only Badgers player to make the list, yes including all-time greats like Ron Dayne and Alan Ameche, let alone perhaps the most famous player of the formative years of college football — Pat O’Dea.
Yes, he doesn’t fit neatly in to the mold of a modern college football player, but this was supposed to be a list of the best players to ever grace the field in the history of the game.
It’s very hard to argue that O’Dea wasn’t exactly that in his era. He was a two time All-American in 1898 and 1899 as a punter and a fullback.
If CBS Sports was serious about honoring the entirety of college football, having O’Dea on the list would be a good place to start.
Badgers unveil throwback unis for Northwestern game
College football is celebrating its 150th year in 2019 and the Wisconsin Badgers have been playing the game since the 1889 season.
In order to honor some of the history of the game and the program, the Badgers will put on throwback (and I use that term loosely) uniforms according to a video released by the football program on Tuesday afternoon.
It appears that UW is looking back to the days where a simple UW adorned the front of the sweaters, as they were called at the time, in that 1889 season.
Today, regulations say that all teams must include numbers on the front and back of the jersey and thus the conundrum the Badgers find themselves in here.
Interestingly, the helmets will feature a first-time logo with the ‘UW’ having never appeared together in any helmet in Badgers history. Given the fact that back in 1889 there was no such thing as a helmet in the game of football it was an interesting call.
The helmets will also feature just a thin Cardinal stripe down the center and gray face masks.
Personally, I have to say I’m not a fan of cramming the ‘UW’ on to the front of the jersey and it would’ve been interesting to see them go back to the Bucky Badger helmet or something else.
It just looks too congested on the front of the jersey, but I do like the idea of the black shoes, khaki colored pants and the red jersey overall. It does harken back to that era in as much as is possible in today’s modern game.
However, the players were certainly excited for a different-than-normal look to the Badgers uniforms.
The logo on the side of the khaki colored pants is also the one that the athletic department used from 1962 to 1965 according to research.
Wisconsin will take on Northwestern in the Sept. 28 game that will feature these jerseys inside Camp Randall. Northwestern will also have a similar look as part of what Under Armour is calling its Second Heritage line.
What do you think of this ‘throwback’ look? Hit up the comments below or follow on Twitter @talkingBadgers.
Badgers Basketball3 months ago
Badgers play final card in attempt to land 2020 G Johnny Davis
Badgers football2 months ago
Best, Worst case scenarios for Badgers RB’s in 2019
Badgers Basketball2 months ago
Badgers basketball land Davis twins
Badgers football2 months ago
Hill is Badgers QB in 2021 class