Wisconsin’s Natrell Jamerson named B1G Defensive Player of the Week

BY: Danny Cunningham

MADISON – University of Wisconsin cornerback Natrell Jamerson was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in Wisconsin’s 33-24 win over Northwestern last weekend, the Big Ten announced Monday.

Jamerson, an Ocala, FL native, had two interceptions on the day, including a 36-yard touchdown return on his second one. He also totaled six tackles, a half sack, and a pass defended on the day.

Another big play made by Jamerson was when he downed a punt at Northwestern’s 2-yard line with 1:09 remaining in the game. That play set the stage for D’Cota Dixon’s game-clinching safety to make the score 33-24.

This was the senior’s first Defensive Player of the Week honor, and the first DPOW honor for the Badgers since Ryan Connelly in Week 9 of the 2016 season.

Wisconsin heads to Nebraska this Saturday to take on the Cornhuskers in Big Ten West play.

Wisconsin football: Predicting the depth chart

MADISON — The University of Wisconsin will unveil its first depth chart of the season on Sunday as the Badgers begin preparations for their opener against Utah State on Friday.

Before they do, though, we thought we’d take a shot at what it might look like.

Quarterback:

1) Alex Hornibrook (RS SO)
2) Jack Coan (FR)

Notes: The last practice the media saw was on Aug. 12, and to that point Hornibrook was having a very strong fall camp. After going 7-2 as a starter in 2016, the redshirt sophomore is now the clear leader of the offense and appears poised for big things this fall.

Coan, meanwhile, bested Kare Lyles to earn the backup job. The true freshman is still very raw, but he’s got the physical tools to be a very good quarterback at some point in his Wisconsin career.

Tailback

1) Bradrick Shaw (RS SO) OR Chris James (JR)
3) Jonathan Taylor (FR)

Fullback

1) Alec Ingold (JR)
2) Austin Ramesh (SR)

Notes: Shaw and James figure to each get the ball plenty this fall, though it’s unclear who will get the first snap of the season.

Behind them, things are a little murky. When healthy, junior Taiwan Deal is worthy of playing time. Unfortunately for him, he rarely has been and that was the case in fall camp. His absence allowed the most talked about player in the last 10 days — Taylor — to make big strides. The New Jersey product is in line for a much bigger role than anyone expected at the start of camp.

Wide receiver

1) Jazz Peavy (SR) and Quintez Cephus (SO)
2) A.J. Taylor (SO) and Danny Davis (FR)

Notes: Highlight catches were the norm at practice this fall for Wisconsin, and these four made a lot of them. Peavy is dynamic with the ball in his hands, Cephus is a big play waiting to happen, Taylor is a much more polished route runner than a year ago and Davis runs and moves better than the coaches thought he would.

Injuries hit the position in fall camp, and it’s unclear when senior George Rushing (leg) and redshirt freshman Kendric Pryor (moped accident) will return.

Tight end

1) Troy Fumagalli (SR)
2) Kyle Penniston (RS SO)
3) Zander Neuville (JR)

Notes: Fumagalli is one of the best tight ends in the country and that showed during fall camp. Penniston and Neuville will both get plenty of time, with the former a nice threat in the passing game. If injuries hit, redshirt freshman Luke Benzschawel could work his way into the rotation.

Offensive line

LT: Michael Deiter (JR) and Cole Van Lanen (RS FR)
LG: Jon Dietzen (RS SO) and Micah Kapoi (JR)
C: Tyler Biadasz (RS FR) and Brett Connors (JR)
RG: Beau Benzschawel (JR) and Jason Erdmann (RS SO)
RT: David Edwards (RS SO) and Patrick Kasl (RS FR)

Notes: If the starting five can stay healthy, it has a chance to be a dominant group. But recent history suggests everyone won’t stay healthy and that makes depth important. Wisconsin can manage an injury at guard or center, but if one of the tackles were to go down things could get dicey.

Defensive line

DE: Alec James (SR) or Chikwe Obasih (SR)
NG: Olive Sagapolu (JR) and Garrett Rand (SO)
DE: Conor Sheehy (SR) and Isaiahh Loudermilk (RS FR)

Notes: Wisconsin is loaded along the line, starting with the three seniors and Sagapolu, but the future is also very bright with Rand and Loudermilk.

Linebackers

OLB: Leon Jacobs (SR) and Zack Baun (RS SO)
ILB: T.J. Edwards (JR) and Arrington Farrar (JR)
ILB: Chris Orr (RS SO) and Ryan Connelly (JR)
OLB: Garrett Dooley (SR) and Andrew Van Ginkel (JR)

Notes: Even after losing senior Jack Cichy to a torn ACL in camp, the inside linebackers are stacked with Edwards, Orr and Connelly.

On the outside, Jacobs has the chance to be an absolute terror when rushing the passer.

Secondary:

CB: Nick Nelson (JR) and Dontye Carriere-Williams (RS FR)
S: D’Cota Dixon (JR) and Joe Ferguson (SR)
S: Natrell Jamerson (SR) and Patrick Johnson (SO)
CB: Derrick Tindal (SR) and Lubern Figaro (SR)

Notes: The hype around Nelson, a transfer from Hawaii, is real and deserved. With him and Tindal, the Badgers have one of the better tandems in the Big Ten.

Carriere-Williams and Figaro were still battling for the nickel spot when camp closed to the media.

Jamerson continued to look more and more comfortable at safety after moving from cornerback, while Dixon is ready to build on what was a pretty good first year as a starter.

Special teams:

Kicker: Rafael Gaglianone (JR) and Zach Hintze (RS SO)
Punter: Anthony Lotti (SO) and P.J. Rosowski (JR)
Kickoff: Rosowski

Kick return: A.J. Taylor (RS SO) and Chris James (JR)
Punt return: Nick Nelson (JR) and Jazz Peavy (SR)

Longsnapper:

Adam Bay (FR)

Notes: Gaglianone seemed to be hitting the ball well during camp and is now fully healthy after missing the final 11 games of 2016 with a back injury. Rosowski earned a scholarship this week in large part due to his work on kickoffs.

Nelson is extremely smooth as a punt returner, while Taylor and James are nice options as kick returners.

Vince Biegel making progress, several other Wisconsin starters on the injury report

MADISON | Vince Biegel is making progress in returning from foot surgery.

After already being ruled out for the Ohio State game at this time last week, the senior is listed as questionable for Saturday’s game at Iowa.

“As far as chances (he’ll play), we’ll see how the week goes,” coach Paul Chryst said when he met with the media early Monday afternoon.

Biegel has missed the last two games after undergoing surgery to fix a cracked bone in his right foot. The initial timeline from Wisconsin on his return was “several weeks,” and the three-week mark from the procedure will be this Thursday.

The outside linebacker went through a workout on the field prior to the Ohio State game, and looked surprisingly mobile for someone that had surgery so recently. Biegel, one of Wisconsin’s two captains, was a visible figure on the sideline during the game, and Chryst can tell how much it’s hurting him to not be out on the field.

“I do think Vince loves playing the game. He really, in all the right ways, cares about this team,” Chryst said. “Once you go through the procedure, and you’re making progress, to me, it’s less anxious, and it’s more looking forward to when he can go again. He’s been taking good steps forward, and we hope that continues.”

In Biegel’s absence, junior Garrett Dooley has filled in, collecting 11 tackles and one tackle for loss.

The only player that’s listed as out for the Iowa game is cornerback Natrell Jamerson. He suffered a leg injury late in Wisconsin’s win over Akron on Sept. 10 and was expected to miss four-to-six weeks. Saturday will be the fifth game he’s missed.

“No setbacks and not longer than we anticipated,” Chryst said when asked about the delay in Jamerson’s return.

Injury report:

QUESTIONABLE:
OLB Zack Baun (leg)
OLB Vince Biegel (foot)
S Keelon Brookins (leg)
RB Taiwan Deal (leg)
OL Jon Dietzen (leg)
NG Olive Sagapolu (arm)
WR Rob Wheelwright (leg)

OUT
CB Natrell Jamerson (leg)

OUT FOR SEASON
K Rafael Gaglianone (back)
ILB Chris Orr (knee)

Preview: Georgia State (0-2) vs No. 9 Wisconsin (2-0)

THE BASICS

The teams: The Georgia State Panthers (0-2) vs the No. 9 Wisconsin Badgers (2-0)

The time: 11:00 a.m. CDT, Saturday

The place: Camp Randall Stadium

The TV coverage: Big Ten Network with Brandon Gaudin and Chuck Long in the booth.

The last time: This is the first meeting between the two schools

The series: N/A

The line: Wisconsin -35

The Badgers injury report:
CB Natrell Jamerson (leg) — OUT
CB Caesar Williams (leg) — OUT
WR Reggie Love (infection) — OUT
LG Jon Dietzen (leg) — OUT
DE Billy Hirschfeld (leg) — OUT
LB Nick Thomas (leg) — OUT
RB Corey Clement (ankle) — QUESTIONABLE

THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

1) Trap game?

A week after pounding Akron, and just seven days away from opening the Big Ten season on the road at Michigan State, the Badgers must avoid getting caught looking ahead when they welcome Georgia State to town. Wisconsin’s players have said all the right things this week, but their actions will tell the true story. They are a much more talented team than the Panthers, but that gap can be lessened if the Badgers fail to bring the same energy and focus that they’ve shown in the first two weeks of the season.

2) Injury replacements

Wisconsin will go into the game shorthanded, especially in the defensive backfield, where they’ll be without cornerbacks Natrell Jamerson and Caesar Williams due to injury. Who replaces Jamerson in the nickel package remains to be seen, though the Badgers will likely go with junior Lubern Figaro, or play three safeties, with sophomore Arrington Farrar joining starters Leo Musso and D’Cota Dixon.

It’s unclear if running back Corey Clement will play. He’s dealing with ankle injury and was limited throughout the week in practice. If he can’t go, senior Dare Ogunbowale, sophomore Taiwan Deal and redshirt freshman Bradrick Shaw will share the workload.

With redshirt freshman Jon Dietzen out, sophomore Micah Kapoi will likely get his second start at left guard.

It also appears that freshman A.J. Taylor will serve as Wisconsin’s kick returner in place of Jamerson.

3) Avoiding mistakes

Quarterback Bart Houston has made his share of big plays in his first two starts, but he’s also been burned by some questionable decision making. He was intercepted twice in the opener against LSU, and Akron should have had a couple picks last week.

The biggest issue for Houston appears to be the confidence he has in his arm. Easily the hardest thrower on Wisconsin’s roster, the fifth-year senior will try to fit passes into tight areas that he probably shouldn’t. Sometimes it leads to big plays, like his 34-yard touchdown to Jazz Peavy last week, and sometimes it’s disastrous, like the pick-6 he threw against LSU.

“We have to live with some of his mistakes,” wide receiver Rob Wheelwright said this week. “But if he continues to throw more touchdowns than bad passes, we’re fine with that, and we’ll be happy.”

Still, if Wisconsin is going to capitalize on their hot start, they’ll need Houston to be better with ball security.

4) More playing time for young guys

If the game plays out the way many expect, with Wisconsin building a substantial lead and coasting to a win, there should be plenty of time for some of the younger players to get playing time just like they did a week ago.

While those reps will serve as building blocks for future seasons, there are several players that could put those snaps to good use this year. Guys like quarterback Alex Hornibrook and running back Bradrick Shaw, along with wide receivers Quintez Cephus and A.J. Taylor, all might be needed to play bigger roles at some point this season.

Hornibrook looked good in his first collegiate action, going 5 of 5 for 61 yards and a touchdown last week, while Shaw broke off a 31-yard touchdown and finished with 74 yards on the ground. Cephus and Taylor each saw time against LSU, but it wasn’t until last week that they each caught their first passes.

On defense, look for nose tackle Garrett Rand, linebacker Griffin Grady and safety Patrick Johnson all to see more snaps if Wisconsin gets out to a big lead.

5) Forcing turnovers

When former defensive coordinator Dave Aranda arrived in 2013, his stated goal was to force three turnovers per game. Though his defenses were among the best in the nation, they rarely accomplished that turnover goal. In fact, it happened just six times in his 40 games calling the defensive signals.

But so far under new coordinator Justin Wilcox, the Badgers have become ball hawks, forcing five turnovers in their first two games — the most by a Wisconsin defense to start a season since 2002.

Though Georgia State has generally been miserable on offense, they have only turned the ball over twice. Look for Wisconsin to increase that number.

NUMBERS TO CONSIDER

394.5 — That’s how many rushing yards on average the Georgia State defense is allowing through two games.

3-0 — That could be Wisconsin’s record if they win the game — something they haven’t had since 2011.

12-3 — That’s coach Paul Chryst’s record at Wisconsin — the second-best mark in school history for the first 15 games of a coach’s career. Bret Bielema started out 14-1.

11 — That’s the total number of plays LSU and Akron have run in the first quarter against Wisconsin. The Badgers, meanwhile, have run 52 offensive plays.

PREDICTIONS

Zach Heilprin’s prediction: Wisconsin 49, Georgia State 10 (1-1 on the season)
Ebo’s prediction: Wisconsin 52, Georgia State 3 (1-1 on the season)
Jake Zimmermann’s prediction: Wisconsin 52, Georgia State 3 (1-1 on the season)
Joe Miller’s prediction: Wisconsin 49, Georgia State 0 (1-1 on the season)
Eric Rogers’ prediction: Wisconsin 41, Georgia State 0 (1-1 on the season

Six players ruled out, Clement questionable for the Badgers

MADISON | The Wisconsin football team will be without at least six players when they take the field on Saturday against Georgia State.

The school released an injury report Thursday afternoon that listed a half dozen players already ruled out for the game, including left guard Jon Dietzen (leg), defensive end Billy Hirschfeld (leg) and cornerbacks Natrell Jamerson (leg) and Caesar Williams (leg). They also listed running back Corey Clement as questionable as he deals with an ankle injury.

“He was able to do some stuff on Monday and hadn’t done a lot since,” Chryst said of Clement. “If guys can play, we’re going to play them. I think they need to play, and they worked too hard for these opportunities to not play, but if (Clement) can’t go, I feel good with the ones at that position. I think we’ve had a good week of practice at the running back spot with Taiwan (Deal) and Dare (Ogunbowale) and Bradrick (Shaw).”

Chryst was asked if a decision on Clement’s health would be treated differently if they were playing Ohio State or Michigan as opposed to an 0-2 Georgia State team.

“It’s not different at all. That’d be pretty arrogant,” Chryst said. “If a kid can play, he’s going to play. Pretty simple, pretty straightforward.”

Without Dietzen, sophomore Micah Kapoi will likely get the start at left guard, while Williams being out means he won’t be a part of the group looking to replace Jamerson as the nickel defensive back. Instead, it’ll be junior Lubern Figaro or redshirt freshman Titus Booker.

Meanwhile, freshman A.J. Taylor is expected to get Jamerson’s kick return duties.

Kickoff on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium is set for 11 a.m.

Natrell Jamerson out 4-to-6 weeks, Corey Clement could return kicks

MADISON | Wisconsin will be without a key member of their secondary and special teams for quite some time.

Coach Paul Chryst said Monday that cornerback Natrell Jamerson will miss 4-to-6 weeks with a leg injured suffered in Saturday’s win over Akron.

“I feel bad for (Natrell),” Chryst said. “Yesterday, (in) talking to him, he’s got the right approach (to coming back).”

Jamerson will not be easy to replace. He’s a member of four different units on special teams, including being the Badgers’ main kick returner, as well as the guy that comes in when Wisconsin goes to five defensive backs.

“He’s a four-phase special teamer, so you’ve got four different guys that’ll probably get an opportunity,” Chryst said. “And then in the nickel package, we’ll see how this week goes.”

At kick returner, it’s possible that running back Corey Clement could get a shot. The senior left the game on Saturday with an ankle injury, but Chryst believes he’ll be able to practice this week. And when asked if Clement would be a viable option to return kicks, Chryst said, “absolutely.”

As for Jamerson’s spot on defense, that remains to be seen. Wisconsin liked true freshman Caesar Williams during fall camp and he was listed as a backup, but has yet to play. Redshirt freshman Titus Booker and junior Lubern Figaro are also options.

No. 9 Wisconsin (2-0) closes out the non-conference portion of their schedule this Saturday against Georgia State (0-2) at 11 a.m. at Camp Randall Stadium.

Wisconsin football: Practice report 8/10

MADISON | The intensity of fall camp took at step up on Wednesday for the Wisconsin football team, as the players were sporting shoulder pads for the first time this year.

Forcing turnovers

In the spring, the Wisconsin defense forced a ton of turnovers, a lot of them coming via interceptions. That continued on Wednesday as there were at least four interceptions during team periods – two by senior Sojourn Shelton and and two more by junior Natrell Jamerson. Shelton took both of his interceptions back for would-be touchdowns.

Splitting reps

The quarterback competition really started on Wednesday as senior Bart Houston and redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook faced defenders for the first time in fall camp. They split first-team reps, with Houston usually going first. Hornibrook had the best throw of the day, finding freshman Quintez Cephus in tight coverage for a 40-yard gain.

In pads

It doesn’t really feel like football season until the pads go on, which happened on Wednesday. On the first play of full speed action this fall, junior defensive end Chikwe Obasih tossed a lineman aside, and gobbled up running back Corey Clement for what would have been a 3-yard loss.

Later in practice, tensions nearly boiled over when Cephus was blocking Derrick Tindal on a screen play and did so a little too long for Tindal’s liking. There was some pushing and shoving before the two got separated.

So far, Cephus has been the most impressive of the three true freshmen receivers.

“I can tell he wants it,” senior Rob Wheelwright said of Cephus. “Right after practice he was asking, ‘Man, we need to go look at this film. I want you to tell me what I did [right and wrong].’ He’s hungry. He’s ready to learn. And that’s really good seeing him compete.”

Making a change

Redshirt freshman David Edwards is making the move from tight end to right tackle this fall. Many schools recruited the former high school quarterback to be an offensive lineman, but Wisconsin said they’d give him a shot at tight end first. However, once the weight started going up – he’s put on 50 pounds since coming to Madison last summer – it was almost a foregone conclusion.

“I knew it was coming,” Edwards said of the move. “Everybody kind of joked about it since the day I got here.

“When I got here I was pretty skinny. I was about 240 [pounds]. By the end of [this past] spring I was about 260. Got back from [summer] break at 270. So it was just a natural progression.”

Edwards is working as the No. 2 right tackle behind redshirt sophomore Jake Maxwell. He’s looked solid in the first few practices, and even got some reps with the first-team line as the training staff tries to limit Maxwell’s workload coming off a leg injury in the spring.

Looking good

It’s not clear how much Taiwan Deal will be used this season, but the redshirt sophomore looks much quicker this fall than a year ago. On several plays, the 220-pound Deal made defenders miss in the hole and accelerated into the second level.

Transfer Chris James also look very much the part of future big-time weapon for the Badgers. He’ll have to sit this season due to NCAA rules, but James showed off his big-play potential on an outside run where he got the edge and took off for what would have been at least a 20-yard gain.

Held out

Wheelwright hasn’t made it through a single fall or spring practice without getting injured. So when the senior didn’t take part on Wednesday some eyebrows were raised. But he said there’s nothing to worry about, and they are just trying to give his body a chance to recover and be healthy for the season. Still, having to watch from the sideline is a bit frustrating for the Ohio native.

“Me having to watch these guys, first day of pads on, going against the defensive backs, and the DBs are hollering. You want to be out there to be like, ‘OK, lets quiet ya’ll up.’ But it’s all good for the long run.” Wheelwright said.

Wheelwright said he feels like he’ll practice on Thursday and Friday, and that sitting out will be just a “here and there” thing.

You can listen to the full post-practice interview with Rob Wheelwright below:

 

Injuries:

Still out:
ILB T.J. Edwards (foot)
OL George Panos (shoulder)

Limited:
Keelon Brookins (groin)

Wisconsin football preview: Defensive backs

MADISON | The Wisconsin football team will open fall camp on Aug. 8, so over the next few days we’ll be going position-by-position to preview head coach Paul Chryst’s second team in Madison.

Today we take a look at the secondary.

Defensive backs

The secondary, or more accurately the safety position, is the biggest question mark on the defense. Wisconsin is trying to replace Michael Caputo and Tanner McEvoy — one of the best safety combinations the program has ever had. And if spring was any indication, the process is far from over.

The biggest issue was the lack of bodies. Junior D’Cota Dixon, who learned under Caputo last season, was penciled in as his replacement. But then a hamstring injury sidelined him for the last nine practices of spring. Senior Leo Musso, who’s been battling for a starting spot since his redshirt freshman season, missed large portions of spring practice because of classes. That left sophomore Arrington Farrar and junior Joe Ferguson as the No. 1 safeties for long stretches, with redshirt junior Keelon Brookins and junior Lubern Figaro behind them.

Wisconsin isn’t panicking, and if healthy, likely would feel good about a combination of Dixon and Farrar, with Musso being the third guy in. And if not, a pair of incoming freshmen — Eric Burrell and Patrick Johnson — might also be an option to look at.

On the outside, senor Sojourn Shelton and junior Derrick Tindal seemed to always be getting their hands on the ball during the spring, and the former appears ready to ascend to the role of UW’s shutdown cornerback.

Junior Natrell Jamerson, who is replacing Darius Hillary as the Badgers slot cornerback, got beat a couple times on deep balls in the spring game. Overall, though, it was a solid spring for the third-year player.

Redshirt freshman Titus Booker has all the talent in the world, but he was still in the process of refining it during the spring, according to new secondary coach Jim Leonhard. Still, he showed significant growth over the 15 practices and is primed for playing time this year.

Depth chart projection
Cornerback: 1) Sojourn Shelton, Senior 2) Titus Booker, RS freshman
Safety: 1) Arrington Farrar, Sophomore 2) Joe Ferguson, RS junior
Safety: 1) D’Cota Dixon, Junior 2) Leo Musso, Senior
Cornerback: 1) Derrick Tindal, Junior 2) Natrell Jamerson, Junior

Monday: Quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers
Tuesday: Offensive line, tight ends
Wednesday: Defensive line
Thursday: Linebackers
Today: Defensive backs