Wisconsin vs. Western Kentucky: Three keys

The Wisconsin Badgers open up the 2018 season with a matchup against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at Camp Randall on Aug. 31. The Badgers enter the game as heavy favorites and should have no issue finding their way to a win over the mid-major opponent.

Here are three things to watch as the Badgers look to move to 1-0 on the season.

Depth at wide receiver

The wide receiver group looked like one of the strongest on the team during fall camp. Things certainly have changed since then as both Danny Davis and Quintez Cephus are currently suspended. Cephus is out indefinitely while Davis is sidelined for two games.

There’s still experience and talent that will be on the field, just not as much as there could have been.

A.J. Taylor and Kendric Pryor both have plenty of time on the field for the Badgers, although there isn’t much behind them in terms of experience. Jack Dunn and Adam Krumholz were listed as the third and fourth receivers behind Taylor and Pryor on Wisconsin’s two-deep that was released earlier this week. Those two both saw limited action in 2017, mostly on special teams for Wisconsin. Both are local products that came to Wisconsin as walk-ons in 2016.

After those two, the Badgers will likely be giving playing time to a pair of true freshmen in Aron Cruickshank and Taj Mustapha. Both Cruickshank and Mustapha were early enrollees that impressed in the spring, but limited knowledge of Wisconsin’s playbook could be as to why Dunn and Krumholz will see the field first.

New defensive starters standing out

It was no secret that Wisconsin had an elite defense last year. The Badgers finished among the top five in the country in several categories and were able to learn upon their defense in a couple of less than stellar offensive performances.

That may not be the case this season. Wisconsin is tasked with having to replace seven starters on the defensive side of the ball, including a majority of the secondary and defensive line. The Western Kentucky offense won’t be the most difficult challenge of the season for this group, but it won’t be a walk in the park for a group that hasn’t played much football yet, either.

The defensive line would have been in much better shape had Garrett Rand not suffered an offseason injury that has him out for the season. In addition to that Isaiahh Loudermilk will miss some time after undergoing an offseason surgery as well. Olive Sagapolu returns at the nose with freshman Bryson Williams backing him up.

The defensive end spot is where things can appear questionable for the Badgers. Walk-on Matt Henningsen is starting on one side, while Kayden Lyles, a converted offensive lineman, is starting on the other. That’s something that could prove worrisome for Wisconsin this year.

On the bright side, the depth at the inside linebacker position is sound. T.J. Edwards spurned the 2018 NFL Draft to come back to school, Ryan Connelly returns, as does Chris Orr. All three of those guys have quite a bit of experience to lead the way defensively.

In the defensive backfield the Badgers are tasked with replacing Derrick Tindal, Natrell Jamerson, and Nick Nelson. To make things a little bit tougher, Dontye Carriere-Williams announced that he had been granted his release on Wednesday night and is no longer with the program.

Carriere-Williams entered the spring as a starter at corner, and did make a handful of starts in 2017, but slipped to the second team due to lack of consistency. Caesar Williams and Faion Hicks are listed as the starters at corner as of now, with Madison Cone remaining on the two-deep. Deron Harrell will likely be the next man up at that spot. He had a strong camp after transitioning from the wide receiver position during the offseason and Donte Burton is a true freshman that will likely see the field as well.

The safety spots probably have the most clarity among the newcomers, as Scott Nelson is stepping into a starting role after a very strong camp and D’Cota Dixon returns for his final year of eligibility.

Protecting the football

The biggest flaw in quarterback Alex Hornibrook’s game last year was the fact that he tossed 15 interceptions, including at least one in every conference game. Wisconsin was able to overcome that with strong defense and an excellent running game. Good teams find ways to win no matter what the circumstances are, but Wisconsin may not have that type of luxury this season.

In the Orange Bowl Hornibrook was fantastic as he threw for 258 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions on his way to being named MVP. It’s unrealistic to expect Hornibrook to repeat that performance on a weekly basis. If he somehow did then he would be in New York raising the Heisman Trophy this coming December. But if he can consistently cut out the turnovers that plagued him last season then the Wisconsin offense will be in a much, much better place.

It’s far more likely that running back Jonathan Taylor finds himself at the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York in December, but one thing that could be a hindrance to not only that campaign, but the Wisconsin offense is his propensity to put the ball on the ground.

In 2017 Taylor fumbled eight times and lost six of them. Again, in more than one of those instances he was bailed out by the terrific defense, but that may not happen now.

For Taylor to further his game and reach his potential at Wisconsin it’s imperative that he hangs on to the football on a regular basis.

Hornibrook and Taylor are two of the most important players on what should be an incredibly explosive offense for Wisconsin. Limiting the turnovers will make them that much better.

The Joe & Ebo Experience: What to do with Randall Cobb?

0:00-14:22: Fight Card & Scott Takes

14:22-17:49: Gone in 60

17:49-28:16: College Football Happenings

28:16-31:00: Daily Action Zone

31:00-43:19: Danny Davis Suspension

43:19-48:06: News of the Weird

48:06-1:03:38: Rob Reischel Interview

1:03:38-1:13:20: Zach Heilprin

1:13:20-1:19:40: Final Thoughts

Wisconsin’s Cephus suspended, other receiver also named in complaint

MADISON — On Saturday evening, Wisconsin wide receiver Quintez Cephus announced he was taking a leave of absence from the football team amid the potential for criminal charges being filed against him.

On Monday afternoon, those charges were made public. Cephus has been charged with second-degree sexual assault of a intoxicated victim as well as third-degree sexual assault. Both are felonies and he’ll be in front of a judge for his initial appearance on Thursday at 10:30 a.m.

If he is found guilty, Cephus could face up to 25 years in prison and/or a $100,000 fine on the second-degree charge and up to five years in prison and a $25,000 fine on the third-degree charge.

The Madison Police Department issued a statement on the case after the charges were announced:

“Officers from the Midtown District were sent to a local hospital on April, 22, 2018, to meet with a woman who had come to the emergency room. Officers obtained statements and gathered forensic evidence from the woman who said she was the victim of a sexual assault.  

Detectives were next assigned to the case. The woman provided the name and address of the person she said assaulted her. She said the incident took place inside man’s apartment prior to her arrival at the hospital.  

The man, Quintez R. Cephus, age 20, Madison, was contacted.  Cephus was cooperative and provided a statement. During the early stages of the investigation, detectives learned the identity of a second woman, who had been present inside Cephus’ apartment on April 22nd. She told detectives she was also the victim of a sexual assault by Cephus.

Additional follow-up was done and the case was referred to the Dane County District Attorney for a charging decision.”

According to the criminal complaint obtained by the Wisconsin State Journal, Cephus admitted to having sex with both women. Fellow wide receiver Danny Davis was also named as being present and taking a photo of the two women, but he has not been charged with any crime.

Cephus was suspended for violating the UW Department of Athletics’ Student-Athlete Discipline Policy. According to a release, he’s suspended from competition and practice pending the availability of further information relating to his case.

This story will be updated as more details emerge.

With Cephus out, Wisconsin to begin season with both uncertainty and expectations

MADISON, Wis. – The wide receiving corps for the Wisconsin Badgers has been here before. The situation is certainly different, and murkier than in the past, but the result is the same.

On Saturday night when Quintez Cephus announced on Twitter that he would be taking a leave of absence due to an on-going legal battle over an incident that occurred in April of this year. Cephus is due in Dane County Court on Thursday, Aug. 23rd at 10:30 a.m. CT where he will be facing charges of 2nd Degree Sexual Assault-Intoxicated Victim and 3rd Degree Sexual Assault.

On Monday afternoon he was suspended from the football team for a violation of the UW Department of Athletics’ Student-Athlete Discipline Policy. The University announced that he will be suspended from competition and practice pending the availability of further information relating to his case.

In 2017 Cephus emerged as the top receiver for Wisconsin. He played in the team’s first nine games, starting eight of them, prior to a season-ending injury to his leg against Indiana in early November.

After that point A.J. Taylor, Danny Davis, and Kendric Pryor all emerged as viable options on the outside for quarterback Alex Hornibrook. They’ll need to be just as good, if not better, while the legal battle ensues for Cephus. There’s no doubting what Cephus has brought to the field when on it, but the drop off in overall talent at that position may not be as big as one may think.

The other issue at hand is that Davis was named in the criminal complaint as well, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. That was uncovered after media availability on Monday. Davis has not been charged of any crime as of Tuesday morning.

“We lose a lot of Q’s juice, a lot of his energy,” Taylor said about Cephus’ leave of absence. “What we’re going to have to do as an offense is really just come together, play as a team, take it one play at a time and get back to Wisconsin football and be gritty.”

An injury is rarely, if ever, a good thing for a team to endure. There’s no doubting that Wisconsin would have been better in 2017 with Cephus on the field and they would have been more talented with him in the lineup at the present as well. The bright spot for the Badgers is that as a group they know how to handle an absence, whether it’s due to an injury or something else.

“It’s definitely a different mentality, different mindset that comes along with that [uncertainty], but at the same time we have done it before,” Taylor said. “We have worked, we know how to work. I mean, we’re going to put our heads down and grind but it’s definitely different. Definitely different.”

Taylor added in that the group as a whole has been in contact with Cephus since Saturday night’s announcement. However, neither Taylor nor Davis would divulge much more information about the situation past that.

A few things that may have made 2017’s situation easier was the fact that there was certainty that Cephus would not be coming back and the fact that Wisconsin was already nine games into the season. Now, the Badgers have a fresh start, and incredibly high expectations. The Associated Press released the preseason poll on Monday and had the Badgers tied for their highest preseason ranking ever, No. 4.

That ranking is good enough for the best in the Big Ten, edging out Ohio State by one spot. Many pundits have picked Wisconsin to win the conference and advance to the program’s first ever College Football Playoff.

Wisconsin is certainly deserving of a ranking that high, although many will partly attribute it to the uncertainty surrounding Ohio State and coach Urban Meyer as he is on administrative leave for the time being.

“I bet you none of these guys know anything about that and they probably won’t,” Davis said following practice on Monday afternoon.

He was right, considering the Badgers were already on the practice field once the poll was released.

“We stay off that social media, stuff like that. That’s what Wisconsin does a great job of. Coach Chryst implements it a lot. We don’t care about the outside noise, we don’t care about none of that. We come as a whole team and we grind. We do everything we’ve got to do to be a better team. We take it one game at a time. I could give a damn about the AP Poll. We just go out there and play as a team and have fun.”

The Badgers now enter a season filled with both uncertainty and expectations, but as always, they’re going to feel as if there is something to prove.

“We have to come in with the mindset that we’ve got to shock, we’ve got to shock everybody,” Taylor said. “That’s just our mindset, we want to be the best. If we don’t go in with that kind of mentality, then I don’t think we can get that accomplished.”

What the future holds: Wide receiver

With the 2017 season in the books, it’s time to look ahead to 2018 for Wisconsin. Over the next few days we’ll be going position-by-position to see what the future holds for the Badgers.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll refer to the players’ class in terms of what they’ll be in 2018. If someone was a sophomore in 2017, they will be called a junior here.

Wide receiver:

Returning: Quintez Cephus (JR), A.J. Taylor (JR), Danny Davis (SO), Kendric Pryor (RS FR), Adam Krumholz (RS SO), Jack Dunn (RS SO), Cade Green (RS FR), Emmet Perry (RS FR), Deron Harrell (RS FR)

Leaving: George Rushing

Arriving: A.J. Abbott, Taj Mustapha, Isaac Guerendo, Aron Cruickshank

Season grades

Biggest question: How will Wisconsin use its abundance of wide receivers?

This is definitely a good problem to have, especially with the Badgers feeling like a one-man bad at the position from 2012 to 2016. But it does present a challenge for wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore, who must mix and match a unit that is as deep as anything Wisconsin’s had in recent memory.

Before getting hurt at the beginning of November, Quintez Cephus was clearly quarterback Alex Hornibrook’s favorite weapon. He was on pace for 47 catches, 779 yards and nine touchdowns. He should be ready for summer workouts.

With Cephus out, A.J. Taylor, Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor stepped up. Taylor had three of his five touchdowns in the final five games of the year, Davis capped his impressive freshman year with three scores in the Orange Bowl and Pryor, who was slowed early in the year after a moped accident in August, scored three vital touchdowns over a two week period against Iowa and Michigan.

The quartet gives Wisconsin one of the better units in the Big Ten. Now, the Badgers need to figure out a way to best utilize them.

Other notes:

If the future wasn’t bright enough for Wisconsin, there are several more incoming players that have people excited.

Isaac Guerendo and Aron Cruickshank further increase the athleticism at the position, with the latter likely having a chance to contribute in the return game and potentially in specialized offensive situations.

The other two incoming freshmen — A.J. Abbott and Taj Mustapha — were high school teammates in Michigan and will bring size and big-play potential to the table.

Cruickshank and Mustapha will both enroll early, allowing them to go through winter conditioning and spring practice.

Walk-on Adam Krumholz saw time when injuries hit in 2017, and the redshirt sophomore held his own.

Cade Green is another guy to keep an eye on. The redshirt freshman had a strong first few days of fall camp before getting injured. He suffered a foot injury during the year and was in a walking boot at the Orange Bowl. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get an opportunity as Wisconsin’s punt returner with cornerback Nick Nelson now off to the NFL.

Predicted depth chart:

1) Quintez Cephus (JR), Kendric Pryor (RS SO)
2) A.J. Taylor (JR), Aron Cruickshank (FR)
3) Danny Davis (SO), Taj Mustapha (FR)

What the future holds:
Running back

Grading the Badgers: Wide receivers

The wide receiver position at Wisconsin was one that came into the season with high expectations. Senior receivers Jazz Peavy and George Rushing were supposed to lead the group while Quintez Cephus would have been great to watch develop.

Things didn’t pan out that way on the outside for the Badgers. Rushing didn’t play a snap all season and by the end of the year wasn’t around the team, Peavy played in the first four games before an injury and personal issues ended his season. He was also not with the team by the end of the year.

Cephus, however, took great strides in developing his game. He was Wisconsin’s most explosive threat on the outside. Cephus had 30 grabs for 501 yards and six touchdowns on the season before he suffered a leg injury requiring surgery against Indiana.

The absence of Cephus meant that Wisconsin was missing three of their scholarship wide receivers and had to rely on much younger players at that position than previously anticipated.

Sophomore A.J. Taylor, redshirt freshman Kendric Pryor, and freshman Danny Davis became the go-to threats for Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook.

Taylor was the only one of the three to play in all 13 games for Wisconsin this season. Both Pryor and Davis missed time due to injury. Pryor was involved in a moped accident during the preseason that caused him to miss time and Davis suffered a leg injury keeping him out of a game.

Of the three, Taylor had the best season. He finished with 23 catches for 370 yards and four touchdowns. Davis was close behind him, finishing the year with 21 catches, 362 yards, and two touchdowns.

Davis and Taylor did more damage through the air than Pryor, although the redshirt freshman was still effective. Pryor had 11 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown through the air. He was also utilized in the team’s rushing attack, collecting 63 yards and two touchdowns on five carries this season.

The group grew quite a bit during the season, transforming from an experienced group with an explosive playmaker in Cephus to an inexperienced group of talented athletes. The future is really bright at this position, especially if Cephus can return to the level of play he was at during the season before he saw his season end prematurely.

GRADE: B+ — This group faced one of the more difficult transformations on the 2017 Badgers. They stepped up to the plate at the end of the season and have a very high ceiling, especially when Cephus returns. Davis might have the highest ceiling of the young trio playing at the end of the season, but Taylor and Pryor should certainly be significant contributors moving forward at the wide receiver position.

Tough test on tap for Wisconsin’s receivers

MADISON – The Wisconsin Badgers are coming off one of their better offensive performances of the season against Minnesota in their regular season finale. To say they were flawless would be a false testimony, but it was an effort that was certainly repeatable, and one they’ll likely need to attempt to improve upon this week against Ohio State.

The Buckeyes present a much more talented defense than the Gophers did, and there isn’t an argument on that front. It’s no secret that Wisconsin has struggled to take care of the ball at times. That’s something they can ill-afford to do when they square off with Ohio State. The Buckeye defense is filled with big named playmakers more than any other unit the Badgers have gone against this season.

“They’re a good defense, man,” offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph told the media on Tuesday. “Their defensive line, they’re so deep and there are so many guys to study and watch. Their backers can fly around and run, they can step up and play press on you all day. They’re just really good and they’re really well coached within their scheme. I said this about Michigan’s defense, was a defense that was similar, but every guy can make the play. You know what I mean? They’re a field full of playmakers, which is difficult. You’ve got to be on, and every guy has to be on. They’ll be quite a challenge.”

The Buckeyes have the eighth best total defense in the FBS this season. They only give up 291.8 yards per game while holding opponents to slightly under 20 points per game. The Buckeyes have also been stout in the passing game, keeping opponents to an average of only 179 yards per game though the air. They’re also fifth in yards allowed per play at a miniscule 4.4. On the other end, Wisconsin’s defense actually ranks first in both yards per game and per play, at 236.9 and 4.0, respectively.

On offense, Wisconsin has relied on freshman running back Jonathan Taylor to be one of the best players in the country, but recently new playmakers have started to establish themselves. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook has played better over the past two games and wide receivers Danny Davis, Kendric Pryor, and A.J. Taylor have done a remarkable job filling in for the injured Quintez Cephus.

Against Minnesota, Hornibrook had his first interception-free game in the Big Ten this year and those three receivers combined for 11 catches for 131 yards and a touchdown. That group will be facing a huge test when lining up against Ohio State corner Denzel Ward.

“Playmaker,” Rudolph said as soon as Ward’s name was mentioned in a question about Ohio State’s defense. “We saw that against us [with Iowa’s Josh Jackson]. I think you’ve got great talent on the edges there. You give them an opportunity to make a play and they can make it.”

Ward was named a first-team All-Big Ten defensive back on Tuesday by the media as well. He’s been a regular in the first round of many mock draft experts and one of the best corners the Badgers have seen all season, only Iowa’s Jackson compares.

“He’s got good feet, he’s athletic, he’s quick,” Taylor said about Ward. “It’s going to be a competition, it’s going to be a fight. He’s a good corner. It’ll be a fun matchup.”

“I feel like he may be a little more faster and quicker with his feet,” Pryor said comparing Ward to Jackson.

If the Wisconsin offense was faced with this challenge shortly after Cephus went down for the year with a right leg injury it may be too tall of a task. Even though Cephus has only been out for three weeks, they’re more seasoned on the outside at this point than they were right after his injury.

“We keep saying each game we get better and better but I really think we’re a lot more comfortable,” Taylor said. We are a lot more comfortable as a group going out there and just doing our thing. Nobody is really nervous to go out there and maybe run a route or catch a ball in a big-time moment. We’re all more comfortable and we can think now, we feel like the game is starting to slow down. I’d say that’s how we’ve gotten it. The game is slowing down to us and it’s not as fast and intense as it would be.”

The young group will be facing a tough test on a stage larger than one they’ve previously been on, but it’s a challenge they’re ready for.

Wisconsin WR Quintez Cephus to miss the rest of the year

The expectation became reality today for the Wisconsin football team.

On Thursday’s injury report, wide receiver Quintez Cephus had gone from out for Saturday’s game against No. 20 Iowa to out for the season. It comes five days after he suffered a leg injury against Indiana that required surgery.

“You feel bad for him, certainly,” coach Paul Chryst told reporters. “[Quintez] will bounce back.”

Wisconsin is losing its No. 1 receiver in Cephus, who is tied with Troy Fumagalli with the most catches (30) on the team and leads the Badgers in receiving yards (501) and touchdowns (6). In fact, with Cephus out, along with seniors Jazz Peavy and George Rushing likely not playing again, Wisconsin must finish the year without three guys that have amassed 120 catches, 1,761 yards and 11 touchdowns in their careers.

That said, the Badgers have become accustomed to dealing with injuries and other guys filling in. In this case, that means sophomore A.J. Taylor, freshman Danny Davis and redshirt freshman Kendric Pryor. That trio has combined for 31 catches, 534 yards and three scores in their careers, most of which has come this season.

“I’m excited for them and their opportunity,” Chryst said. “Every time you say that it’s not like you’re not going to miss [the guy you lost]. You miss all the people. But, absolutely, I feel confident about the guys in that room stepping up and those around stepping up.”

Here’s a look at the full injury report in advance of Wisconsin’s game with No. 20 Iowa.

A pair of Wisconsin freshmen star in their Big Ten debuts

By: Danny Cunningham

MADISON — With a roster littered with upperclassmen all across the two-deep, Wisconsin was propelled to a 33-24 win Saturday in its Big Ten opener over Northwestern by two freshmen, as Jonathan Taylor and Danny Davis both came up big for the Badgers in their conference debuts.

Taylor had been a workhorse for the team in the first three games of the season, entering the day averaging 146 yards per game, which was tops in the Big Ten. Against Northwestern he was unable to break free for any long runs, but did set the tone early. He gave Wisconsin its first touchdown in the first quarter on a 7-yard scamper up the middle to cap off a 7-play, 47-yard drive on which he accounted for 26 yards on five carries.

The New Jersey-native didn’t put up the same kind of numbers on Saturday that Badgers fans had seen in the first few weeks, finishing with 80 yards on 19 carries, but finding the end zone twice was crucial.

“Definitely expected to come out with a win. We’re a great team when we come out and rally around each other.” Taylor said following the game. “The guys said [playing a Big Ten game] was going to be fun and it definitely was.”

Wisconsin trailed at halftime, but both Taylor and Davis were keys to helping get the Badgers back on top early in the third quarter. Following a 61-yard reception by wide receiver Quintez Cephus, Taylor scored from 11 yards out, his seventh touchdown on the year.

The Badgers took a 14-10 lead on that drive, and Davis was pivotal in expanding it to 21-10 on the very next possession. He had a 32-yard catch and run to put Wisconsin in scoring position before hauling in a 6-yard touchdown from quarterback Alex Hornibrook two plays later.

“We have a bunch of guys that can score.” Davis told reporters after the game. “This week it just happened it was me and [Jonathan Taylor].”

Wisconsin opening up Big Ten play with a win is something that was expected this season, the method in which it was done, however, was not.

When asked about the performance of himself and Davis, Taylor offered this:

“Just a true testimony to how hard we work. It’s about trusting the man next to you and making sure that we all do our job together.”

A look at Danny Davis, Jack Coan and more headline makers on National Signing Day

MADISON — Wisconsin rarely makes big splashes on National Signing Day. And until 1:30 Wednesday afternoon, it was business as usual, with all 17 of the Badgers commitments in the class of 2017 already having sent in their national letters of intent. But just as coach Paul Chryst was stepping down from the podium after meeting with the media to talk about his third recruiting class, the Badgers got one of the biggest gifts they ever have, as 4-star wide receiver Danny Davis picked up the Wisconsin helmet from a table inside the Springfield (Ohio) High School gym, signifying he would be the 18th scholarship member of the class, even signing it as if to make it official.

“I feel great,” Davis told the Springfield News-Sun. “I had a fun time with the recruiting process but it’s stressful. I’m glad it came to the end, and I picked the right school.”

Long thought to be headed to Kentucky, the Badgers ramped up their recruiting of the No. 2 wide receiver in the state of Ohio, beating out the Wildcats and West Virginia for his services.

“We had a pretty good feeling, yet you don’t know for sure,” coach Paul Chryst told the Big Ten Network on their level of confidence that Davis would choose Wisconsin.

“(We) really spent (most of our time in) January on Danny. It was exciting to get the news that he chose Wisconsin.”

Davis is the highest-rated wide receiver the Badgers have signed since Kraig Appleton in 2009, and he becomes the second-highest rated recruit in Wisconsin’s 2017 class. He garnered that lofty status by rushing for 1,195 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior, while also grabbing 22 passes for 559 yards and six touchdowns.

Coan the future?

Jack Coan always wanted to play college football, but when recruiters stayed away from Long Island, he was forced to consider other options. It’s why, when he was a freshman at Sayville (N.Y.) High School, he committed to play lacrosse at Notre Dame. But even then, his goal, and that of his coach, Rob Hoss, was to keep the focus on finding a home where he could play quarterback.

“Right when I committed to Notre Dame for lacrosse, Coach Hoss was like, ‘Alright, that’s great. You’re going to play football, though. Don’t worry about it,’” Coan said on Wednesday inside the McClain Center. “I did have some doubts. You don’t see anyone coming off (Long) Island to play football, so I didn’t think I was really going to get recruited. But I was always hoping for it and it was always my dream.”

An offer from Miami jump-started the 6-foot-3, 200-pound, Coan’s recruitment, including an offer from Wisconsin last January. Admitting he knew little about the program, Coan visited Madison during spring practice in March and fell in love.

“Within the first 15 minutes I knew I wanted to come here,” Coan said. “Everyone was talking when I was visiting schools like, ‘You’re going to get to a place and you’re going to know right away.’ And I got here and right away saw the atmosphere of this place. I walked into a room full of all the coaches and right away I just felt welcome. I felt like this place was home.”

Coan comes to Madison after being named the Gatorade Player of the Year in New York as a senior, finishing his career with a Long Island-record 9,787 yards passing and 128 touchdowns. He also ran for 2,551 yards and 33 scores. Asked if he considered himself a dual-threat quarterback, Coan had no interest in labeling himself one thing or another.

“I feel like I’m just a football player,” Coan said. “I can make the plays that need to be made. If I have to run, I’m going to run. If I got to pass, I’m going to pass. If they want me to punt the ball, I’ll do that. I don’t really care.”

Redshirt sophomore Alex Hornibrook started nine games last year and offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph made it clear on Wednesday that they liked what he did. But they need depth at the position, and with Coan arriving in January, he’ll likely get plenty of reps in spring practice to make his case for early playing time.

“The opportunity is really up to me,” Coan said. “Everyone’s got an equal opportunity to play. Doesn’t matter if you started last year or not. I’m just going to try to work my hardest and we’ll see.”

Stocking up

When you look at the position rundown of Wisconsin’s class of 2017, it’s pretty clear what the Badgers tried to do in this recruiting cycle. Of the 18 scholarship players, eight of them are either offensive linemen or wide receivers. But this wasn’t done with the idea of bringing in as many as possible just to give them a better chance of hitting on one or two of them. Chryst genuinely thinks all of them are players.

“They had to be the right guys,” Chryst said. “We were able to accomplish balancing out some of the position group numbers, and yet, I do think (we got) a really good group that fits this place.”

In addition to Danny Davis, the wide receivers Wisconsin brought in were 3-star recruits in Cade Green (Austin, Texas), Emmet Perry (Grand Prairie, Texas) and grayshirt Deron Harrell (Denver, Colo.).

Meanwhile, 2017 proved to be a really good year for offensive linemen in Wisconsin. All four of the kids that signed are from the state and all of them are highly thought of, especially Kayden Lyles out of Middleton.

The son of former Wisconsin tight end Kevin Lyles, and the brother of redshirt freshman quarterback Kare Lyles, Kayden is the highest-rated recruit in the class and had scholarship offers from some of the best programs in the country.

“He’s big,” offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said with a laugh when asked what he liked about the 6-foot-3, 320-pound, Lyles. “He’s strong and really is a fluid athlete for being such a large and powerful man. I think that gives him a pretty good shot.”

And that shot could come early, as an injury to starting guard Jon Dietzen will keep him out of spring practice.

“He’ll get meaningful reps,” Rudolph said. “He’s probably physically mature enough to truly compete. We’ll see where he’s at. There’s a big learning curve. Our guys will do a great job and take care of him and help him along the way. It’ll be a great spring for him.”


— Wisconsin needs to replace Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale at running back next season, and while redshirt sophomore Bradrick Shaw and junior transfer Chris James appear to be the front runners to get the carries, running back coach John Settle had high praise for 4-star running back Jonathan Taylor out of New Jersey and thinks he might be able to play early.

“We had a young man (Corey Clement) that just left here, (Taylor) broke all his (high school rushing) records (in New Jersey). I wouldn’t put anything past him.”

— The lone tight end Wisconsin signed in the class is from football royalty. Jake Ferguson is the grandson of former coach and current athletic director Barry Alvarez, and his brother, Joe, will be a senior this year for the Badgers.

At 6-foot-5, 220-pounds, Ferguson stands out physically for tight ends coach Mickey Turner, but it was something else about the Madison Memorial product that really has him excited.

“He’s competitive. He’s got a demeanor about him. He’s not just happy go lucky, like, ‘cool, I’ll go play college football.’ He likes playing football. He likes hitting people. He likes catching the ball and making plays in the moment. He wants to be that guy.”

— The Badgers rarely go to the junior college ranks to fill their roster, but felt it was worth it this cycle to bring in outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel.

From Iowa, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Van Ginkel started his career at South Dakota where he was named the Missouri Valley Football Conference Freshman of the Year in 2015. With a desire of playing in the FBS, he transferred to Iowa Western Community College last season and caught the eye of Wisconsin, who must replace starters Vince Biegel and T.J. Watt.

The coaching staff, including outside linebackers coach Tim Tibesar, expects him to compete for playing time this fall.

“(We) saw him doing on tape all the things that we want our outside linebackers to do, and he was doing it at a high level against college competition. That’s the thing that jumped out at us. That’s why we go and recruit a guy like that, who’s really a two-for-two kind of guy that we think can come in and contribute for us right away.”

As for the rest of the class, Wisconsin had seven early enrollees for the 2017 recruiting class. Wisconsin finished with the 7th ranked class in the Big Ten and the 40th ranked group in the country, according to the 247Sports Composite.

Stars below indicate the number of stars given to each player by most national publications.

Early enrollees:
*** Jack Coan | QB | Sayville (West Sayville, N.Y.)
*** Madison Cone | CB | East Forsyth (Kernersville, N.C.)
*** Izayah Green-May | DE | Bolingbrook (Bollingbrook, Ill.)
*** Deron Harrell | WR | Denver East (Denver, Colo.)
*** Faion Hicks | CB | Charles W. Flanagan (Hollywood, Fla.)
**** Kayden Lyles | OG | Middleton (Middleton, Wis.)
*** Andrew Van Ginkel | DE | Iowa Western Community College (Council Bluffs, Iowa)

Signing Day Commits:
** Adam Bay | LS | Desert Ridge (Mesa, Ariz.)
*** Tyler Beach | OT | Port Washington (Port Washington, Wis.)
*** Logan Bruss | OG | Kimberly (Appleton, Wis.)
*** Alex Fenton | OG | Menomonie (Menomonie, Wis.)
*** Jake Ferguson | TE | Madison Memorial (Madison, Wis.)
*** Cade Green | WR | Lake Travis (Austin, Tex.)
*** Scott Nelson | S | University of Detroit Jesuit (Detroit, Mich.)
*** Emmet Perry | WR | DeSoto (Grand Prairie, Tex.)
*** Jonathan Taylor | RB | Salem (Salem, N.J.)
**  Danny Vanden Boom | QB | Kimberly (Kimberly, Wis.)
*** Aaron Vopal | DE | De Pere (De Pere, Wis.)
PWO Michael Balistreri | DE | Univ. School of Milw. (Grafton, Wis.)
PWO Ethan Cesarz | ILB | Delavan-Darien (Delevan, Wis.)
PWO Jake Collinsworth | ILB | Merrill (Merrill, Wis.)
PWO Sam DeLany | WR | Kettle Moraine (Delafield, Wis.)
PWO Matt Henningsen | DE | Monomonee Falls (Menomonee Falls, Wis.)
PWO Hunter Johnson | RB | Darlington (Darlington, Wis.)
PWO Collin Larsh | K | Monona Grove (Marshall, Wis.)
PWO Josh Seltzner | OT | Columbus (Columbus, Wis.)
PWO Blake Smithback | OG | Waunakee (Waunakee, Wis.)
PWO Coy Wanner | ATH | Preble (Green Bay. Wis.)

PWO = Preferred Walk-On