If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
It’s hard to argue that the formula that the Wisconsin Badgers have used for nearly 30 years has been highly successful. Play great defense, pound your opponent in to submission and catch them with a deep ball or two along the way.
UW has gone to six Rose Bowls, participated in two College Football Playoff bowl games and won six Big Ten titles in those nearly 30 years and with said formula.
But, that last part has been missing from the Badgers offense for awhile now…you know, since Russell Wilson stopped dazzling us with his rocket arm and escapability back in 2011.
From Joel Stave to Alex Hornibrook and other quarterbacks in between, the UW offense has struggled to find that guy who makes opponents respect his arm enough to stop stuffing the line of scrimmage.
With the news on Wednesday that Hornibrook would be transferring from the program for his final season, the competition is now wide open for the next Badgers starting quarterback.
The bar for success is admittedly low, after all, the Badgers finished 102nd in the country last season with 14 interceptions and 119th in passing offense (157.7 passing yards per game). Nearly anything would be better than what the quarterbacks of 2018 produced.
Losing Hornibrook does mean losing an experienced player, but does it matter much when that player had 33 interceptions in as many games played?
Sure, he was 26-6 as a starter over three years. But, was that because of or in spite of him? I’d argue having one of the best defenses and running back groups in the country has been the driver of that success, not Hornibrook.
Which brings me to the question at hand — is there a quarterback on the Badgers roster that can be someone other teams have to respect? Is there another player ala Russell Wilson, who is capable of taking this offense from ground and pound to three dimensional?
Let’s start with a look at the only quarterback on the roster to play a college game — Jack Coan.
Last season we got the biggest glimpse of Coan to date and what was shown wasn’t all that promising. He played in five games, starting four and completed 60.2 percent of his passes for 515 yards and 5 touchdowns to 3 interceptions.
There was plenty left to be desired, but I also wonder if it was because of too much protection from the coaching staff or just not being ready for the situation. Often the game plan called for Coan to dink and dunk the ball and he was never really given the opportunity to unleash the deep ball.
It seemed like the coaching staff was trying hard to get away with not having to put the game on the sophomore quarterback.
Coan now has those four starts under his belt and with Honribrook out of the way has the experience advantage over everyone else. But, is experience enough?
We’re about to find out, because the Badgers have one of the top quarterbacks in the 2019 class in the fold this spring in Graham Mertz.
Last we saw him, he was setting records at The All-American Bowl game en route to MVP honors. He was flinging the ball deep and accurately, something Badgers fans haven’t seen from a quarterback since Wilson came in to save this team in 2011.
But, there is bound to be a learning curve as Mertz transitions away from spread-based concepts to more under center work. How that transition goes this spring and how quickly he understands and executes the playbook will be telling.
The good news is that we’ve seen Mertz challenged against the best competition in the country at the quarterback position and he’s lived up to billing on every occasion. If ever there was a QB up to the challenge of playing early in a Badgers uniform, it is Mertz.
But, that doesn’t mean he has to be “the guy” either. There are other options to consider already on the Badgers roster.
Both Danny Vanden Boom and Chase Wolf flashed moments of potential all last offseason. In fact, Vanden Boom outplayed Coan throughout most of last spring before tailing off a bit in the competition in the fall.
Could Vande Boom pick it back up this spring and become a viable option? The former Kimberly star and walk-on at UW certainly has played at a level that makes giving him a legitimate chance this spring worthwhile.
On the other hand, Wolf was one of five quarterbacks in the mix last offseason and his reps have been limited. He’ll likely see many more this spring and it’s a chance to shine.
There’s no doubt he’s the dark horse in the race to replace Hornibrook, but with a full year of studying and learning the Badgers offense you never know what will happen when he gets his chance this spring.
All of this leads me to this conclusion — no one, not even the coaching staff has a real answer as to whom will lead the Badgers offense in 2019. If anyone tells you they do, it’s just an uneducated guess at best.
But, what I do know is that spring camp provides the coaches and players the best opportunity to fully understand what the quarterbacks could be capable of in 2019.
There’s little need to get work in in the run game save for the offensive line, but what is going to be important is pressure-testing the quarterbacks. Doing so in a controlled environment like spring ball is a great way to do so.
If the Badgers want to transform from a good team to a great one, they’ll need to find that transformational quarterback as soon as possible. It could also be that the coaching staff needs to find ways to transform the Badgers offense in small ways to take advantage of the quarterback’s strengths.
Hopefully there’s a positive answer that emerges following spring ball.
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.
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