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Wisconsin at BYU: Preview, players to watch and predictions

Wisconsin hits the road for the first time in 2017. Will this trip out West end better than the last? Here is our look at Wisconsin vs. BYU.



When: Sat. Sept. 16; 2:30pm CT
Where: Provo, Utah; LaVell Edwards Stadium (63,470)
All-Time Series: Tied 1-1
Last Meeting: Wisconsin win (27-17, Nov. 9, 2013)
Line: Wisconsin (-16.5)

For the first time in the 2017 season, Wisconsin will go on the road. After two weeks of comfort at Camp Randall, it will be interesting to see if the Badgers will be up to the challenge of travel this season.

BYU seemed like a great challenge after the 2013 matchup in Provo, but change has been afoot for the Cougars and they come in just 1-2 on the season after losses to Power 5 opponents LSU and Utah already.

Wisconsin travels West with plenty of questions to answer of its own. There could be a few offensive linemen missing, some shuffling at running back as well. Sophomore running back Bradrick Shaw has been listed as questionable all week long. That likely means an even greater opportunity for budding star, freshman Jonathan Taylor, after a breakout week last week against Florida Atlantic.

Let us take a look in to an important matchup for a Badgers team looking to maintain a perfect record and boost their standing on the national scale.

1 Burning Question: Can Wisconsin’s Offensive Line Protect Hornibrook?

While most has gone right for the Wisconsin Badgers so far in 2017, one area of concern has been the lack of time available to redshirt sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook. He’s been hit a lot and despite the offensive line giving up only 3 sacks so far this season there is a lot to be desired about Wisconsin’s pass protection.

Week 3 presents a unique challenge for the Badgers as both offensive guards could be out. Left guard Jon Dietzen is already out and that means Micah Kapoi slides in. He’s a veteran presence, but the worrisome part is if preseason All-American right guard Beau Benzschawel isn’t a go this weekend. He is listed as questionable, but wasn’t ruled out like Dietzen was on Thursday. Should he not go, look for the inexperienced sophomore, Jason Erdmann to get his first collegiate start. Yes, that means two-thirds of the starters on the interior of the line will be different and it could play a key role in the success of both the run and pass game for the Badgers.  

2 Key Stats:

1: That is the number of passing touchdowns the Badgers have given up this season on defense. That number is tied for the 2nd fewest in the country after Week 2 (and some teams with just one game ahead of the Badgers in this category). BYU’s offense comes in having put up just two passing touchdowns in three games.

The secondary, which was once seen as the unknown for UW’s defense has proven to be up to the task. Not only have they allowed just one passing touchdown, the Badgers have picked off three passes which puts them in 10th nationally and tied for the top spot in the Big Ten after two weeks of play.

23: No, we aren’t talking Michael Jordan here, but 23 does represent the percentage UW opponents are converting on 3rd downs this season.

Wisconsin opponents have converted on just 7 of 30 opportunities on third downs and it is that kind of production that has allowed just 12.0 points per game in two contests. BYU on the other hand hasn’t been very good on third downs offensively, converting on just 32 percent of third down opportunities in three games. That’s a major point of contention for BYU’s offense and a major strength for the Badgers. Let’s see if they can keep the Cougars from converting on Saturday.

3 Key Players:

Jonathan Taylor, RB (Wisconsin): J-Taylor burst on to the scene last weekend with 223 yards and three touchdowns in his first collegiate start. Yes, it was against Florida Atlantic and Lane Kifffin’s crew seem hellbent on giving up all the rushing yards possible this season, but Taylor impressed with patience, power, speed and vision. He’s got “it” if you will, to the tune of ranking 7th in the country in rushing yards per game (155) and tied for 5th in the country with 4 rushing touchdowns already. It will be interesting to see how UW’s offensive line issues help, or hurt the run game in Provo on Saturday afternoon. Don’t be surprised to see J-Taylor finding the will to get things done regardless.

Natrell Jamerson, S (Wisconsin): Last weekend the Badgers gave up a big play touchdown in the pass game to FAU and it was obvious that Natrell Jamerson and new starting cornerback Nick Nelson had a big time communication breakdown. It was strange to see from two veteran players, but the good news is that Jamerson rebounded (much like the rest of the defense) and put the clamps down on the Owls passing attack. You can bet BYU is going to try to test the Badgers secondary, Jamerson seems to hold the key to the physicality and the big play ability for UW’s defense.

Ty Detmer, OC (BYU): This should be a name very familiar to Packers fans out there, as he was a quality backup under Brett Favre back in the 1990’s. Oh…and something about winning a Heisman Trophy while playing at BYU too. That said, Detmer’s offenses haven’t gotten off the ground this season. That could be because of health issues at quarterback or because he has had to go up against Dave Aranda’s LSU defense and Utah’s quality D as well. Simply put, whoever comes out as the starter at QB on Saturday has to be able to find a rhythm or Detmer’s offense doesn’t work. That may be easier said than done for the third straight week, but his decisions as a coach are going to be huge in this game.


Wisconsin 44, BYU 10

This game would’ve been a lot closer last season, but Tanner Magnum is not the threat that Taysom Hill was and without Jamaal Williams also in the backfield, let’s just say there’s an identity crisis in Provo. There’s still plenty of question who will start at QB for the Cougars, and that’s also not a good sign of a competitive game for the hosts. Wisconsin’s stingy defense won’t help matters and I fully expect to see the Badgers pull out the victory here.

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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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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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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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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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