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Storylines to watch as Badgers fall camp opens up

As the Wisconsin Badgers open up fall camp for the 2017 season, what are some of the biggest storylines we’ll be following?



Fall camp got underway on Saturday morning for the Wisconsin Badgers, and the now long slog to the season opener against Utah State begins.

Even with the camp underway, we’ve got four weeks to get to the season and extra days added on thanks to the NCAA eliminating two-a-day practices. It means one day isn’t going to make or break a fall camp. It also gives a good idea of where the Badgers are starting from.

With that said, what are the storylines we’ll be watching as UW’s fall camp? If you don’t have time to follow all the time, we’ve got the storylines you need to be paying attention to.

Offensive Line Shuffle

After a few years of less-than-competitive play from the Badgers offensive line, it appears Paul Chryst an Joe Rudolph have a lot of really good players fighting for just five starting spots. No headline going in to fall camp was bigger than the news that star center Michael Dieter was moving out to left tackle, with redshirt freshman Tyler Biadasz taking over at center.

It also means expected left tackle, David Edwards, is moving back to his original spot of right tackle for now.

But, that also means Jacob Maxwell and Patrick Kasl, who were in a heated battle out of spring ball, move further down the depth chart. It also means that left guard is likely a battle between Jon Dietzen and Micah Kapoi only.

For as much talent as is on the Badgers depth chart, there may be no bigger storyline to watch than how Rudolph and Co. sort out the competition and settle on a starting group. The sooner that happens, the better off this team will be heading in to the opener. Should we see a competition running deep in to camp, I’d become worried about continuity and ability to gel together.

I know it’s a good problem to have all this talent, but this is where coaching comes in. Can Rudolph get it figured out and stick with his guns?

Outside Linebacker

If you think the offensive line is loaded, let me introduce you to Wisconsin’s linebacking group. Whether it is inside or outside linebacker, the Badgers appear to be loaded with talent. However, outside linebacker is the bigger storyline to watch if you ask me.

That’s because the pair of starting positions are up for grabs and it appears Garrett Dooley and Leon Jacobs are first in line to get starting play time. Dooley proved he could be up to the task last season, but there are a lot of questions opposite of him and a rotation to figure out as well.

Jacobs moved back to outside linebacker late in the spring and apparently impressed enough to be named the starter after the spring. But, names like Zack Baun, Andrew Van Ginkel, Christian Bell and Izayah Green-May are certainly going to push for bigger roles.

There’s a ton of talent to sort out at this position group, but it may come down to actual production once the games get going. Can Jacobs continue his progression from the spring? Will Baun recover and take over? What about the size and athleticism of Green-May?

As you can see, this may be the best problem new defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard has on his hands heading in to 2017.

Secondary Depth

As much attention as the offensive line shuffle got heading in to camp, there has been little chatter of the changes happening in the secondary. No doubt, Derrick Tindal and D’Cota Dixon are good leaders and solid players at cornerback and safety respectively.

But, this team is very young and inexperienced overall in the secondary. The good news is that Hawaii transfer Nick Nelson appears to be ready to be a solid starter opposite of Tindal. But, what do we know about redshirt freshman Dontye Carriere-Williams, Caesar Williams and Faion Hicks? We know all three impressed at times in the spring, but there’s a big difference between spring standout and solid contributor in the fall.

Sophomore Titus Booker could be a good option at nickel back, but again, there’s a lot of inexperience to his game.

Depth at safety is also inexperienced, as Eric Burrell, Patrick Johnson II, Scott Nelson and Seth Currens have a lot to prove. Joe Ferguson appears to be the front-runner to start opposite of Dixon, and as a senior he should be ready to go. But, due to the depth at the position over the last few years, Ferguson doesn’t have the experience that a lot of seniors would have.

How Leonhard sorts out a talented group, but one that needs to show it can hold up to challenges, will be very interesting to watch.

Starting Running Back Situation

Once again, after a few down years and wonder over the true depth of the running back position, it appears things are back to normal. UW has at least three capable running backs with plenty of experience in Bradrick Shaw, Pitt transfer Chris James and Taiwan Deal.

Not a bad group of different looking players to throw at opponents in your backfield. Now add in incoming freshman and back-to-back New Jersey 100-meter dash champion, Jonathan Taylor, and you could have four guys capable of taking carries this season.

However, the biggest storyline appears to be who will be the one lining up behind the quarterback in 2017. The race was way closer than some thought heading in to camp between Shaw and James. It is going to be interesting to see if James’ versatility or Shaw’s rugged and tenacious running style win out.

Or, will UW really use them as 1a and 1b and who cares who is the “starter” on paper? I think the latter may be the case, because it is really hard to see James being just a “change of pace” or third down-only back. He’s just too talented than that, while Shaw appears to be a very special talent.

Both will get opportunities and once again, plenty of coaches in the country would love to be deciding on a starting running back because of the competition in the group and not because they aren’t sure if they have anyone they like.

I can’t wait to watch these two when the pads get put on and the team drills get going.

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Badgers football

Best, worst case scenarios for Badgers ILB’s in 2019



We hope you enjoyed the Independence Day holiday, but it is time to get back to some business and that means continuing our series looking in to every position group for the 2019 Wisconsin Badgers.

Previous Positions: Running Back | Defensive Line | Wide Receiver | Outside Linebacker |

Since we went outside the last time around, today we will focus on a position that has long been a strength of the Badgers program — inside linebacker.

What could happen with this group in 2019? Let’s find out.

Best Case Scenario

Yes, the Badgers face life without an All-American and a steady veteran thanks to the graduations of T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly. But, the good news is that this group was one of the deepest and most productive overall last season.

Veteran Chris Orr will get one starting spot and former 4-star recruit Jack Sanborn will step in to the other starting role. So, the best case scenario for this group is that Orr, who started as a freshman, gets back to that kind of form, and we see quality play from a combination of younger players like Sanborn and freshman Leo Chenal.

No one had a bigger breakout this spring than Chenal did. He came in as an early enrollee, but well under the radar. By the end of spring ball, it looked very much like he won’t be redshirting and will be challenging for a lot of snaps in the fall.

It would be great to see that happen, because Orr has just one year left in the Cardinal and White.

Worst Case Scenario

What would really hurt this group is if Orr or Sanborn were to go down with an injury here. Yes, Chenal looked good in spring ball like I mentioned before and yes Mike Maskalunas has shown flashes of ability, but are they really ready to be thrust in to the majority of snaps at inside linebacker together?

Experience is an issue for this group and I could see an injury exposing that lack of experience in a big way. Even if the Badgers wanted to go with an older player, the only other option would be Seth Currens and he just converted from safety in the spring himself.

Other than that it would be Hunter Johnson or two walk-ons that were here in the spring.

The Badgers only inside linebacker recruit in the 2019 class was Chenal too, so there will be no more help coming in to fall camp.

Most Likely to Happen

The good news is that I don’t see the worst case scenario actually happening, at least not in a major way. Orr’s medical history suggests he could be prone to missing a game or two with a nagging injury, but don’t expect anything crazy to happen.

I also believe we will see the emergence of Sanborn and Chenal as the future of this position for the Badgers. In fact, Sanborn has looked so good in spring and in his limited playing time last season, that I suspect he could be a darkhorse for All-Big Ten honors at season’s end.

Look for this group to be a downhill, hard-hitting and more athletic group than we saw last season and that could make a major difference for those playing behind them.

Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard and his staff have a lot to figure out, but they should feel safe with the talent that is available to them at inside linebacker.

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Badgers football

Best, worst case scenarios for Badgers OLB’s in 2019



This time next month, the pads may be popping and the 2019 Wisconsin Badgers fall practices will be under way. It’s so close we all can almost taste it.

But, as we look forward to the 2019 season we’re going to try something a bit different. Gone are the usual ways of looking position groups and giving you a fall preview that last’s a week.

Well, that’s because this season is vital to the Paul Chryst era. There’s a changing of the guard going on. After a disappointing 2018 season that saw UW drop Paul Bunyan’s Axe for the first time in 15 years and not win the Big Ten West, the question is if that’s a sign of decline or a blip on the radar.

In order to best answer that question, we’re actually going to start with a look at what needs to happen, what the Badgers need to avoid and what is really likely at every position.

Previous Positions: Running Back | Defensive Line | Wide Receiver

Up today is a look at the outside linebacker position.

Best Case Scenario:

Last year, the outside linebackers contributed just 8 total sacks to a team total of 19. That’s a lot of contribution to the effort, but the effort was far below expectations set by previous groups. Additionally, the graduation of Andrew Van Ginkel means just 2.5 sacks return from the outside linebacker position in 2019.

Those sacks belong to Zack Baun, who got his feet wet as a starter last season and is looking for big things to happen in 2019. The good news is that Baun was one of Wisconsin’s best run-stoppers on the edge.

Ideally, Baun not only is a leader of this defensive group in 2019, but becomes much more disruptive behind the line of scrimmage too.

Wisconsin has a lot of potential that could start opposite of him. Former Alabama transfer Christian Bell, former 4-star recruit Noah Burks and former inside linebacker Griffin Grady all had their moments of shine in spring ball.

In a best case scenario, the Badgers have more than one of that group step up as contributors to an overall group of outside linebackers that don’t have a lot of in-game experience or depth.

Getting this group to contribute double-digit sacks as a whole would be a great step forward.

Worst Case Scenario:

Noah Burks or Christian Bell don’t live up to their enormous potential. It’s as plain and simple as that.

Wisconsin needs them to become pass-rushing specialists in a big way if this defense is going to be as aggressive as it is designed to be. Often times last season, the inability of the front seven to get pressure really hung an inexperienced secondary out to dry.

If UW experiences more of that, it could really be trouble in 2019. The Badgers need this defense to step up its game, and having both of the expected top contenders in replacing Van Ginkel flame out would be a disaster all the way around.

Most Likely to Happen:

Given all the unknowns surrounding the outside linebacker position, this is a difficult position to predict. However, I will say this — Zack Baun will end up as an All-Big Ten performer.

I believe he just scratched the surface of his potential last year, especially since he was just coming off an awful injury history prior to it. If he stays healthy in 2019, I predict he becomes a surprise player to many outside observers in the Big Ten.

That said, I also believe we will see Christian Bell and Noah Burks become a handful for opposing offensive coordinators to deal with. Both have been patient with the talent that was in front of them, but they are bursting with potential when they have seen the field.

So, to answer the question most want to know…I believe this all signals a position group ready to be a major force once again after that down year in 2018.

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Badgers football

Best, Worst case scenarios for Badgers Wide Receivers in 2019



The heat of summer is upon us and the recruiting trail has been even hotter for the Wisconsin Badgers. However, that heat also indicates that the long offseason nightmare is about to be over.

With that in mind, we’re taking a summer-long look at each position group heading in to the 2019 season.

Previous Positions: Running Back | Defensive Line |

Today, we flip back to the offensive side of the ball and look at a second skill position — wide receiver.

After what was supposed to be a breakout year for the group in 2018, what will this group have in store for 2019? Let’s look at the best and worst case scenarios at play.

Best Case Scenario

If the Badgers want to get going in the pass game, the wide receiver group needs to step up the deep game in a big way. While A.J. Taylor, Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor have proven to be reliable assets, 2018 felt much like they all barely scratched the surface of their potential.

The trio combined for 95 receptions (which was 53 percent of all receptions as a team), 1,212 yards and 11 of 19 touchdown receptions on the year.

For this season, the best case scenario actually involves the quarterback position almost more-so than anything this group can do. The receivers could benefit from a consistently good passer at quarterback and a more open playbook as well.

Whether it is Jack Coan or wonderkid recruit, Graham Mertz, the consistency and trust to open up the playbook needs to be there.

Additionally, an increased role for speedster Aaron Cruickshank would be the best case scenario.

Worst Case Scenario

Danny Davis emerged as the most targeted receiver last season, catching 40 passes to lead all wide receivers on the team. He will enter his junior season with an increase in expectations and no off-field distractions like he had to deal with last season thanks to his stupid decision-making.

That aside, Davis is the most well-rounded receiver in this group and the one that could wind up be the deep threat that has been missing for awhile now. So, any injury to Davis would be bad news.

In fact, any sustained injuries to the likes of Davis, Pryor and Taylor would not be good. UW is very inexperienced behind this trio, and inexperience at QB and WR may not be a fun combination.

Dare I say, it would lead to UW not being back on top of the West division mountain?

Most Likely to Happen

I fully believe that the coaching staff will go in to the season knowing which quarterback they’ll go with and stick with. Confidence is key to helping this wide receiver group and I expect the Badgers offense to be much more balanced in 2019 than it was over the past two seasons.

Look for Davis, Pryor and Taylor to all increase their overall numbers and likely go over the 15 touchdown mark as a group. More importantly, I expect much more play-action and much more from the deep passing game too. That should be music to a talented, but under used group’s ears.

Don’t be surprised to see one of the Badgers wide receivers make a run at All-Big Ten honors as a result of that shift back to balance.

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Badgers football

Hill is Badgers QB in 2021 class



With all the flurry of activity around the 2020 class, apparently someone wanted to bring the 2021 class some attention on Tuesday as well.

Following back-to-back linebacker commitments in the 2020 class, Wisconsin picked up a verbal commitment from 2021 quarterback Deacon Hill.

The 3-star player out of Santa Barbara, Calif. went with his gut despite the potential to earn offers from the likes of USC, Oregon and Oregon State — all much closer to home.

Instead, Hill chose the Badgers over official offers from Kansas State and Nevada to date.

The 6-3, 225-pound quarterback was first offered by Wisconsin quarterback coach Jon Budmayr in May. It was the first overall offer Hill received in the 2021 class.

Wisconsin was able to get out in front of the 2021 quarterback class after a pair of big targets in 2020 passed on offers from the Badgers. Once that happened, the focus turned to the next class and it paid off in building a quick and solid relationship with Hill.

It may not be a big home run get like Graham Mertz was, but then again the Badgers were hip to Mertz before most of the country was and that paid off as he developed.

Hill is much more physically imposing than most quarterbacks entering their junior season would be, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have mobility either.

Nevada’s more spread-orientated offense and Kansas State’s quarterbacks are certainly going to be mobile ones in the new offense that is being installed.

As for Hill, the 247Sports composite rankings have him as the No. 30 ranked pro-style quarterback in the 2021 class. But, given the small amount of attention paid to that class so far we’ll see where that ends up should Hill hit the QB camp circuit in the coming months and year.

UW will only be taking one quarterback in this class, so they certainly trusted their early evaluation of the tool set that Hill possesses and could posses by the time he is finished at Wisconsin.

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