Wisconsin Pro Day results and observations

MADISON, Wis. — 12 former University of Wisconsin football players took part in the annual pro day held at the McClain Center hoping to make one final impact ahead of the NFL Draft.

For the third year in a row, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson was in Madison scouting potential new talent for the roster. Of particular interest was linebacker T.J. Watt, who many draft analysts believe would be a legitimate option for Green Bay with the 29th overall selection. But there were plenty of other Wisconsin prospects, as well…

Biggest winners

RB Corey Clement: Clement took part in every drill but the bench press after a less-than-stellar NFL Scouting Combine performance. His biggest area of improvement was in the 40-yard dash, where Clement clocked in at 4.54 seconds — a significant improvement over his official 4.68 from Indianapolis. His vertical jump increased from 28.5 inches to 32, while his broad jump was five inches better at 120 inches.

“I came back from the combine and I was so down on myself,” Clement said. “I was like, ‘That’s not me, that’s not a reflection of who I am and what I can run.’ …If you’re in a groove and you’re having a positive day, I think everything is going to reflect [that].”

S Leo Musso: While he didn’t get a chance to compete at the combine, Musso proved that height is only a number. He posted impressive figures in the vertical jump (40.5 inches), broad jump (128 inches), three-cone drill (6.56 seconds) and several others, proving he should have gotten an invite to Indianapolis.

WR Rob Wheelwright: Perhaps Wheelwright falls into the same category. Like Musso, he would have ranked in the top five in multiple drills among receivers had he competed at the combine. Wheelwright’s best efforts were in the 40-yard dash (4.54 seconds), vertical jump (38 inches), and broad jump (128.5 inches).

“I showed I can run well, I can move, I can catch, and I can jump,” Wheelwright told reporters after his workout. “That’s what you need to be — athletic. But you also need to be able to know the game.”

Wheelwright noted that a handful of teams showed interest in him at the pro day, including the Packers, Raiders, and Chiefs.

Here’s a look at the official figures, courtesy of the Badgers:

Other notes and observations

Linebacker T.J. Watt mainly worked on position drills for team scouts, and as Jared Tokarz put it, the Packers were “very impressed” by what they saw from Watt during his pro day.

Left tackle Ryan Ramczyk didn’t take part in any of the on-field work and simply used his time to meet with prospective teams. At the conclusion of the workouts, all former Badgers were available for media interviews, except for Ramczyk who left for a private lunch with an unnamed NFL team representative.

Corey Clement announces he’s received an invite to NFL Scouting Combine

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin running back Corey Clement will get a chance to prove himself in front of hundreds of scouts after announcing he’d received an invite to the NFL combine in Indianapolis.

Clement made the announcement via Facebook, paving way for the Glassboro, N.J. native to prove himself on a national stage. CBS Sports ranks him as the No. 8 running back in the 2017 NFL Draft class.

Clement hoped to make the jump to the NFL last season, but a nagging sports hernia, along with an off-campus fight led to missed games and a season he’d like to put behind him.

Wisconsin rows past Western Michigan 24-16 to win the Cotton Bowl

ARLINGTON, TEXAS |  For the first time since Ron Dayne was in the backfield, the Wisconsin football team has won a premier bowl game. That’s after taking out previously unbeaten Western Michigan 24-16 in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl on Monday.

“It means a ton,” coach Paul Chryst said. “It’s the last time this team plays together. To be able to win against a good team, (I’m) really proud of them. It means a lot.”

The Badgers jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter in what looked like could be a blowout, but the Broncos made a game of it thanks to a 16-play drive — the longest against Wisconsin all year — and got a 3-yard touchdown run from quarterback Zach Terrell to make it 17-7 at the half.

After the break, Western Michigan went on another long drive, but had to settle for a field goal to make it 17-10. Following a Wisconsin drive that didn’t amount to anything, the Broncos had a chance to tie the game at the start of the fourth quarter. But backed up in their own end, Terrell threw a back-breaking interception to linebacker T.J. Edwards, who picked up defensive most valuable player honors for his day that included a team-leading 10 tackles.

Wisconsin capitalized on the only turnover of the game, with Alex Hornibrook hitting tight end Troy Fumagalli for an 8-yard touchdown.

Western Michigan wasn’t done, though. They marched down the field, and on fourth-and-4, Terrell chucked a ball up to wide receiver Corey Davis, who out-muscled Wisconsin’s defensive backs to grab it for a score. But when kicker Butch Hampton missed the extra point, and the Broncos were unable to recover the on-side kick, the Badgers were able to finish the game off.

Fumagalli was the star of the day, grabbing six passes for 83 yards and the one touchdown, picking up the game’s offensive most valuable player award. His first catch came with one hand, and it converted a third-down on a drive that would end with a 2-yard touchdown run by Corey Clement.

“(Fumagalli) was big,” Chryst said. “He was clutch.”

Playing in his final game, quarterback Bart Houston was fantastic, completing 11 of 12 passes for 159 yards, with his only incompletion coming on a drop. Hornibrook was 2 of 2 for 19 yards in a reserve role.

Defensively, the Badgers held Western Michigan 27 points below their scoring average, and the record-setting Davis had six catches but just 73 yards.

Wisconsin finishes the season 11-3 — its fourth 11-win season since 2010, and coach Paul Chryst moved to 21-6 — tied with Bret Bielema for the most wins in the first two years of a coaching career in Madison. The senior class also grabbed victory No. 41 — a new school record.

The win was the first in a BCS/New Year’s Six game since the Badgers took home the 2000 Rose Bowl trophy following a 17-9 win over Stanford, with Dayne being the Most Valuable Player.

Corey Clement excited for Cotton Bowl and future

DALLAS, TEXAS – On January 1st, 2015 Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon rushed for 251 yards and three touchdowns on a career-high 34 carries as the Badgers beat Auburn 34-31 in overtime at the Outback Bowl in Tampa. Corey Clement would like to end his Wisconsin career in similar fashion.

“Why can’t I go out like that?” Clement asked Saturday afternoon during Cotton Bowl media day inside AT&T Stadium. “I want to keep that tradition going. Going over 200 plus yards.”

The last time Wisconsin played in the home of the Dallas Cowboys, the Badgers lost to Alabama to kickoff the 2015 season. It was an extremely frustrating game for Clement who suffered a groin injury five days before the game. His reps were limited after the first quarter. Clement spent the next three weeks trying to rehab away the pain. He eventually underwent surgery for a sports hernia. The Badgers senior running back is happy that’s all in the past. He’s looking forward to getting another chance to prove himself inside AT&T Stadium on Monday.

“Now I’m in a positive place and mindset. I’m really looking to make a different impact for this game inside Dallas Cowboys stadium. That’s my favorite team. I just really want to put out the best game I can for my team and close out a victory for the senior class.”

After the game Clement will turn his attention toward preparing for the NFL. “When the time presents itself I can talk about it. I still have another opportunity to boost whatever characteristics, game plan, and production to give myself a better outlook for the next level.”

Clement is projected to go somewhere between rounds four and seven of the NFL Draft. He has nearly four months to prepare and try to boost his stock. The 2017 NFL Draft is April 27th through the 29th in Philadelphia.

Leo Musso, T.J. Watt among the award winners at Wisconsin’s team banquet

MADISON | From all-state running back to All-Big Ten safety.

That’s the road that Leo Musso traveled in the last five years, and on Friday night he received one of the bigger honors a Wisconsin player can get when he was named the Jimmy Demetral Most Valuable Player at the team’s annual banquet.

“We’ve been fortunate to have a bunch of guys step up into leadership roles for us,” head coach Paul Chryst said in a press release. “What you appreciate about Leo is that he’s someone who has always led by example but also hasn’t been afraid to speak up when he feels like his voice is needed. He has everyone’s respect. He’s been a great player for our defense and a great leader for our program.”

The award is voted on by UW’s coaches and players, and it comes to Musso after a career that saw him arrive in Madison after a stellar prep career as a running back at Waunakee, move to the other side of the ball, fight for the starting job in 2013, 2014 and 2015 before grabbing ahold of it this season and not letting go. Musso finished the regular season with a team-high five interceptions — the second-most in the Big Ten — and was a part of a defense that ranked fourth in the country in points allowed per game.

Other awards:

In a season where no one stood head and shoulders above anyone else on offense, senior running back Corey Clement claimed the Offensive Player of the Year award by rushing for 1,304 yards and 14 touchdowns. The New Jersey native gained more than 100 yards in seven of Wisconsin’s final eight games, including 164 yards in the Big Ten Championship game against Penn State.

On the other side of the ball, junior T.J. Watt — a consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection at outside linebacker — was named Wisconsin’s Defensive Player of the Year. In his first year starting, Watt racked up a 10.5 sacks to lead the conference, while also collecting 14.5 tackles for loss.

Long snapper Connor Udelhoven, who has handled the snaps on field goals for the past four seasons, and all of Wisconsin’s snapping needs the last two, earned the Special Teams Player of the Year award.

Here is the full list of award winners:

Jimmy Demetral Team MVP

Presented annually to the player most instrumental to the success of the team, as selected by his teammates and coaches.

  • Leo Musso

Offensive Player of the Year

Presented annually to the top player on offense, as selected by the coaching staff.

  • Corey Clement

Defensive Player of the Year

Presented annually to the top player on defense, as selected by the coaching staff.

  • T.J. Watt

Special Teams Player of the Year

Presented annually to the most valuable player on special teams, as selected by the coaching staff.

  • Connor Udelhoven

Ivan Williamson Scholastic Award

Presented annually to a player who has been exemplary in the areas of scholarship and sportsmanship.

  • Eric Steffes, Serge Trezy

Most Improved Player

Presented to the players on offense, defense and special teams whose work ethic and dedication led to improvement on the field.

Scout Team Player of the Year | Offense

Presented annually to the offensive player who excelled on the scout team in preparing the defense for each week’s game.

  • Ricky Finco

Scout Team Player of the Year | Defense

Presented annually to the defensive player who excelled on the scout team in preparing the offense for each week’s game. 

  • Mike Maskalunas

Wayne Souza Coaches Appreciation

Presented annually to the offensive player who has contributed to the team’s success to the best of his abilities. It is based upon improvement, attitude and willingness to help the program in all areas. 

  • Bart Houston

Jay Seiler Coaches Appreciation

Presented annually to the defensive player who has contributed to the team’s success to the best of his abilities. It is based upon improvement, attitude and willingness to help the program in all areas. 

  • Vince Biegel

Tom Wiesner Award

Presented annually to a Wisconsin-born student-athlete whose loyalty, hard work, spirit and dedication are unselfishly directed to the success of the team. The award is given in memory of Wiesner, a Wisconsin football letterwinner (1958-60).

Badger Power Award

Presented annually to the player that consistently performs at a high level in all aspects of the strength and conditioning program. An individual who has a great work ethic coupled with a positive attitude that garners the respect of teammates, is dependable, buys into the program and shows constant improvement.

  • Conor Sheehy

Six offensive players for Wisconsin receive All-Big Ten recognition

MADISON | A day after the Big Ten announced its yearly honorees on the defensive side of the ball, the conference flipped over to the other side on Wednesday with several Badgers being recognized.

Following his first real year as the marquee running back and gaining 1,140 yards and scoring 13 touchdowns, senior Corey Clement was named first-team All-Big Ten by the coaches and second team by the media.

The only other first-team selection for the Badgers was left tackle Ryan Ramczyk, a consensus pick by the coaches and media in his first year of playing Division I football after two years at Division III UW-Stevens Point.

Meanwhile, tight end Troy Fumagalli was a second-team pick by the coaches and a third-team selection by the media, while guard Beau Benzschawel also received second-team honors from the coaches and third-team from the writers.

Garnering honorable mention from both block of voters was center Michael Deiter and wide receiver Jazz Peavy.

Wisconsin’s opponent in Saturday night’s Big Ten title game, Penn State, had several players honored, including running back Saquon Barkley, who was named the Big Ten offensive player of the year.

You can find a full list of the award winners here:

Preview: Minnesota at No. 6 Wisconsin

THE BASICS

The teams: The Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-3, 5-3) vs the No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers (9-2, 6-2)

The time: 2:30 p.m. CDT, Saturday

The place: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis.

The TV coverage: Big Ten Network with Kevin Kugler and Matt Millen in the booth, and Lisa Byington on the sideline.

The last time: Running back Dare Ogunbowale ran for a career-high 155 yards as Wisconsin beat Minnesota 31-21 last November.

The series: Minnesota 59-58-8

The line: Wisconsin -14

The Badgers injury report:

QUESTIONABLE

OLB Zack Baun (leg)

FB Austin Ramesh (shoulder)

NT Olive Sagapolu (hand)

OUT

OL Jacob Maxwell (shoulder)

THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

1) More than the ‘Axe’

Wisconsin and Minnesota play for one of the best trophies in all of college football — Paul Bunyan’s Axe. And while it’s paramount for the Badgers to hold onto it, the reward for it remaining in their hands is bigger than in most years. A win would give Wisconsin the Big Ten West for a second time in three years, and put them into the conference title game for a fourth time in six years. Win that, and the college football playoff remains a possibility.

2) Slow Rodney Smith, slow Minnesota?

The Badgers biggest focus on defense will be to slow running back Rodney Smith. The sophomore went over the 1,000-yard mark last week against Northwestern, and leads the Gophers with 15 touchdowns. Paired with Shannon Brooks, the Gophers duo gives Minnesota the fifth-best rushing attack in the Big Ten at 191 yards per game.

And the run game has been a key to their success this season. Outside of the Penn State loss where they ran for 228 yards, the Gophers two worst outings came in their other losses, managing just 102 yards against Iowa and 85 against Nebraska. That’s not good news against a Wisconsin defense that is allowing just 98 yards per game — tops in the Big Ten.

If the Gophers have any shot of pulling the upset, they must be able to run the ball and try to match the Badgers in time of possession.

3) First-round pick?

Prior to the season, ESPN’s draft expert Todd McShay said he thought Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner had a chance to be a first-round draft pick next April. The thought was widely criticized, and Leidner has done nothing to shut people up this year.  The senior is completing just 58.6 percent of his passes and has thrown more interceptions (8) than touchdowns (6). In fact, he’s thrown just one touchdown in the last six games.

Now he faces a Wisconsin defense that has owned him the last two years. Leidner threw three interceptions a year ago in a 31-21 loss, while in 2014 he managed to hit on just 5 of 18 passes in a 34-24 defeat.

A repeat performance from Leidner is not something the Gophers can afford.

4) Dave Aranda’s impact

Former Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda won’t be in Madison on Saturday, but his impact will be felt on both sidelines.

Aranda spent three years turning the Badgers defense into one of the better units in the country, before leaving in January for the same job at LSU.

Meanwhile, as he’s known to do, Aranda spent time with other coaching staffs in the offseason, but his first stop — Minnesota — raised some eyebrows. Aranda spent two days in the Twin Cities in February, and it appears to have paid off as the Gophers have used more 3-4 looks and boast one of the better pass rushes in the country, while also being stout against the run, giving up just 116 yards per game.

Wisconsin running game has experienced a resurgence in recent weeks, but Minnesota could be the best front seven they’ve faced since Ohio State more than a month ago.

5) Senior Day

13 seniors will play their final game at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday. That group includes a three-year starter at outside linebacker in Vince Biegel, a four-year starter at cornerback in Sojourn Shelton and a number of other guys, like safety Leo Musso, that have been forced to wait until later in their career to make an impact on a play-to-play basis.

Not everyone has stayed. There have been career-ending injuries, guys transferring and others that simply couldn’t make it. The ones that have stayed around, though, boast a 39-12 record and have the opportunity to put an exclamation point on a remarkable regular season with a win over the Gophers.

NUMBERS TO CONSIDER

  • For the first time in 110 years, Wisconsin can even the all-time series with a win over Minnesota. It currently stands at 58-59-8. The Badgers have never led in the series.
  • Wisconsin is No. 5 in the AP Top 25 this week, the ninth week this year where its been in the top 10 — the second-most weeks in a single season in school history.
  • The senior class is 9-1 in trophy games, including 3-0 against Minnesota. Their lone loss came against Iowa to open the Big Ten season in 2015.
  • Corey Clement went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season against Purdue, becoming the 17th Wisconsin running back to top that mark. As it stands, the senior’s 4.2 yards per carry is the lowest by any of the previous 16 runners to get to 1,000 yards.

PREDICTIONS

Zach Heilprin’s prediction: Wisconsin 28, Minnesota 13 (7-4 on the season)
Ebo’s prediction: Wisconsin 33, Minnesota 17 (8-3 on the season)
Jake Zimmermann’s prediction: Wisconsin 28, Minnesota  13 (9-2 on the season)
Joe Miller’s prediction: Wisconsin 35 , Minnesota 14 (8-3 on the season)
Eric Rogers’ prediction: Wisconsin 38, Minnesota 10 (9-2 on the season)

 

Wisconsin owns the day, dominates Illinois 48-3

MADISON | Corey Clement scored three touchdowns, and the Wisconsin defense forced four turnovers in a dominating 48-3 win over Illinois on Saturday.

The seventh-ranked Badgers (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) owned the game almost from the opening kickoff, put up 21 points in the first quarter — tied for the most in a single quarter this year. Two of those belonged to Clement, who scored from 2 yards out on his first and 4 yards on the second.

Illinois was able to get on the board with a field goal, but the Badgers answered with a 6-play, 78-yard drive of their own, highlighted by a 48-yard run from Dare Ogunbowale. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook hit Jazz Peavy for an 8-yard touchdown to cap the scoring in the opening stanza.

The offense was buoyed by an opportunistic defense that had a more than willing participant in Illini quarterback Jeff George Jr. The sophomore was harassed early and never settled in. He had nearly as many completions (5) as interceptions (4) before being replaced by senior Wes Lunt to start the second half.

Wisconsin’s four interceptions — two by Leo Musso, and one each from D’Cota Dixon and Ryan Connelly — were the most by a Badgers defense since posting that same number against Northwestern in 2010. And by holding the Illini to just 3 points, they are now giving up just 12.7 points per game.

The Badgers rushing attack, which had come to life over the last four games, was the story of the day on that side of the ball. Clement (123) and Ogunbowale (107) each topped the 100-yard mark, the first time a pair of Wisconsin backs had done that since Clement and Melvin Gordon accomplished that in the 2015 Outback Bowl. In total, the Badgers ran for a season-high 363 yards.

The win keeps the Badgers on-track to win the Big Ten West. Tied with Nebraska and Minnesota coming into the day at 4-2 in conference play, if Wisconsin beats Purdue next and then the Gophers on the final Saturday of the regular season, they’ll play in the Big Ten title game for a fourth time in six seasons.

Wisconsin student-athletes call for changes in addressing racism on campus

MADISON | In a show of solidarity, at least 25 Wisconsin athletes, including high-profile stars like Nigel Hayes and Corey Clement, sent out a similarly worded tweet Monday night that included an essay calling on the school’s administration to seriously address the racism they’ve encountered on campus.

The four paragraph statement, whose author is currently unknown, was scathing in its criticism of campus leaders, including Chancellor Rebecca Blank, and the handling of racial matters.

“These issues are in no way localized to UW. This is a national issue, and many universities across the nation need to start addressing how students of color are treated, and here at Wisconsin it starts at Bascom (Hall). Wisconsin can no only rely on statements, cultural competency emails and a few surveys to mediate this problem.

“We love the UW and are proud to be STUDENT-athletes her, and truthfully our positive experiences far outweigh the negatives, but no student should have to live through this negative climate.

“We ask that the university not continue to sweep the collective experiences of the students of color under a rug. So in solidarity with other students on campus, we implore Chancellor Blank and her cabinet to take action, be visible, leave your ivory tower and speak to the student.”

Though issues on campus have been surfacing more and more in the last year or so, including anti-Semitic and white supremacist graffiti being found at a dorm last February and the interruption of a Native American ceremony outside another dorm in March, the tipping point may have come when the Wisconsin football team played Nebraska on Oct. 29.

A picture of two fans, including one wearing a President Barack Obama mask with a noose around his neck, went viral, and many criticized the university’s handling of it. In response, community leaders came together with school administrators last week to discuss new guidelines for fan behavior at Camp Randall Stadium that are expected to be in place when the Badgers host Illinois this week. The school also announced on Monday, just a few hours before the essay was tweeted out, that the two fans involved with the costume had their season tickets revoked.

“I am personally very sorry for the hurt that this incident and our response to it has caused,” Blank said in a statement. “I have heard from students, faculty and community members who are dissatisfied with our response, and I understand why.

“We will learn from this incident and do better next time.”

In the essay, the student-athletes mention the incident at the stadium, but they contend that type of prejudice is far from a one-time thing, and they laid out other examples that people of color face as students and athletes in the classroom and on the street. Chief among them, other students questioning whether they’d be there at all if they didn’t play sports, racial slurs being flung at them in different environments and people clutching their bags and crossing the street to avoid them.

“We shouldn’t be commodified for mere entertainment, but respected as individuals with ideas and the ability to contribute to society,” the statement reads.

Blank said that they have taken strides in the past year to battle obvious forms of racism and attack it with various programs.

“This is a work in progress, and we are a long way from where we want to be,” Blank said. “But with your advice and input of governance, we have invested time, energy and effort into things like the Our Wisconsin program aimed at incoming freshmen, a bias reporting system, a review of our ethnic studies curriculum, and a black cultural center.”

Still, it appears more than a few student-athletes of color believe more is need.

“Please create real programs, initiate meaningful change and understand that students of color deserve to thrive in this institution just like our peers. We want to be a part of the amazing legacy this university has held for years and years…On Wisconsin.”

Wisconsin takes down Northwestern 21-7, wins in Evanston for the first time since 1999

EVANSTON, Ill. — Wisconsin’s defense played up to its standard and the offense did enough in a 21-7 victory — their first at Northwestern since 1999.

A first half largely dominated by Wisconsin ended with the Badgers leading just 10-7 thanks to a late Northwestern scoring drive.

The Wildcats had 91 yards of offense when they took the field at their own 13-yard line with 1:35 left. It took them just a minute to move 87 yards in eight plays, with quarterback Clayton Thorson finding Austin Carr for a 13-yard touchdown.

Following a 40-yard field goal in the third quarter by Andrew Endicott gave Wisconsin a 13-7 lead, Northwestern was driving once again as the fourth quarter began, making it all the way to Wisconsin’s 19-yard line. But the Wildcats were called for a hold on first down, and then on third-and-21 Thorson fumbled on a hit buy Conor Sheehy and the Badgers recovered.

That set up a 9-play, 45-yard touchdown drive by Wisconsin, finished off by Corey Clement with a 3-yard run. They converted the 2-point conversion to get a 14-point lead that proved insurmountable.

A year after being held to -26 yards rushing, the Badgers running game was productive on Saturday, rolling up 190 yards, led by Clement’s 106. Sophomore Bradrick Shaw added 54.

The game served as release of frustration for wide receiver Jazz Peavy. The junior thought he had the game-winning touchdown a year ago against Northwestern but it was overturned on replay. This time around he was a huge weapon, leading Wisconsin in receiving with four catches for 73 yards and added a beautiful 46-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. He ended up with 110 total yards.

The Wisconsin defense forced the one turnover and also had three fourth down stops, limiting Northwestern to 316 yards and just 5 of 18 on third down.

The win was Wisconsin’s third straight and leaves them 4-2 in Big Ten play with games against Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota still left on the schedule.