T.J. Watt drafted 30th to Steelers, Ryan Ramczyk 32nd to Saints

PHILADELPHIA — Former Wisconsin offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk waited longer than he thought, but was drafted 32nd overall by the New Orleans Saints to wrap up round one of the 2017 NFL Draft. Fellow Badger T.J. Watt went two picks earlier to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

An all-state selection as a high schooler in Stevens Point, Wis., Ramczyk passed up a scholarship offer from Paul Chryst when he was coaching at Pitt so that he could attend a local technical college. He was offered a chance to play for Division III Wisconsin | Stevens Point where he was a two-time all-conference selection.

Ramczyk made the jump to the Division I level at Wisconsin, sitting out the 2015 season due to transfer rules, before making his impact felt in his 2016 campaign. He earned Associated Press All-American honors while starting every game for the Badgers.

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.

Ryan Ramczyk to enter 2017 NFL Draft

MADISON, Wis. — Six days after Wisconsin teammate T.J. Watt announced his decision to enter the 2017 NFL Draft, left tackle Ryan Ramczyk will follow suit.

Monday night, Ramczyk told Scott Williams of the Stevens Point Journal that he plans on forfeiting his final year of eligibility as a Badger to enter the NFL where many analysts have him as a projected first round pick. Ramczyk told reporters in Madison prior to the Cotton Bowl that a lot of his decision depended on the result of hip surgery which was scheduled last week.

“This definitely was a huge decision in my life,” said Ramczyk told Williams in a phone interview. “I feel really confident about the decision. It’s something my parents and I have talked about for countless hours. We weighed the pros and cons and the opportunity was too hard to turn down.

Ramczyk sat out the 2015 season after transferring to Wisconsin from division III Wisconsin | Stevens Point.

“Taking that year off [after transferring] helped me adjust to the speed of the game at this level. I knew I had the potential to be a really good player. I took it week by week and focused on being the best I could be.”

Potential surgery would impact draft decision, says Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk

MADISON — Wisconsin left tackle Ryan Ramczyk will have surgery on one of his hips after the bowl game — or maybe he won’t. A few days after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the junior would undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum, Ramczyk told reporters on Wednesday that it’s not a certainty.

“That’s not set in stone,” Ramczyk said. “We’ve just got to see how it plays out after the game.”

The severity of Ramczyk’s injury is unknown, but the he called it more annoying than painful, and it’s something he’s been playing with for much of the season.

The decision on whether to have surgery or not is a significant one for Ramczyk. An All-American in his first year of playing FBS-level football, the Stevens Point native has an opportunity to bypass his senior season and declare for the NFL draft. Some have tabbed him as a first-round pick, but having surgery — and potentially being out up to four months — would completely take away his ability to work out for teams beforehand.

“There’s a lot of information to be gathered yet,” Ramczyk said of the draft decision. “I got to do that and then see what’s the pros (and) what’s the cons, and weigh all that. See what the surgery, if I have to have it, what that is all about. And how long I’ll be out.”

Asked if the surgery would impact his draft decision, Ramczyk said, “I think it would obviously have to be a factor, yeah.”

Ramczyk and the Badgers are preparing for the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2 against unbeaten Western Michigan.

Underclassmen have until Jan. 18 to declare for the draft.

Report: Ryan Ramczyk to miss four months due to hip surgery

MADISON, Wis. — University of Wisconsin left tackle Ryan Ramczyk will have a big decision to make after it was reported by Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Ramczyk would undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip.

The surgery will reportedly happen after Wisconsin’s Jan. 2 Cotton Bowl matchup with Western Michigan. The estimated recovery time for this type of surgery is four months, per Ginn.

Ramczyk was considered by many to be a first-round NFL draft pick, but with the draft schedule for Apr. 27-29 in Philadelphia, it’s unlikely Ramczyk would recover in time to prove himself at the NFL Scouting Combine. It would have been an opportunity for Ramczyk to build on his accomplishments this past season after making the jump from Division III UW Stevens Point.

The notion that his surgery will happen after the Cotton Bowl is an indication that he hasn’t ruled out playing in the season finale, but nothing has been confirmed or denied at this point in time.

Wisconsin tackle Ryan Ramczyk in no hurry to make a decision on his future

MADISON | Wisconsin left tackle Ryan Ramczyk has until Jan. 16 to decide whether to declare for the NFL draft or return for his senior season. And based on his mindset when he met with reporters on Thursday, fans shouldn’t expect to hear much on that front before then.

Speaking for the first time since the Big Ten title game loss to Penn State, Ramczyk sidestepped reporters’ questions about his future, not even admitting that they submitted his name to the NFL’s Draft Advisory Committee to determine where he might go in next April’s draft. Instead, his focus is on Western Michigan and the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2.

“You can’t look at everything. You’ll just shut down trying to take everything in and process everything that’s going around,” Ramczyk said of draft rumors. “It’s been good for me to just focus on the task at hand this week.”

If Ramczyk did look at all the stuff, he’d know that many consider him a first-round pick, a far cry from where he was just a few years ago, considering a career as a welder. Two seasons at UW-Stevens Point, a year on Wisconsin’s scout team and now one year starting has Ramczyk as the No. 2 tackle in the draft according to ESPN’s Mel Kiper.

Lucky for the 22-year-old, he doesn’t have to deal with the draft decision on his own. Wisconsin’s coaching staff, including offensive line coach Joe Rudolph, is helping him sift through all the noise out there.

“You try to get as much (information) as you can right from scouts, general managers, owners, offensive line coaches, so he can really get a feel for where he projects,” Rudolph said Thursday. “And then I think you try to explain the positives and negatives for a general person, maybe an o-lineman. Then you try to explain the positives and negatives maybe for him as an individual.”

Rudolph said he doesn’t know when Ramczyk will make his decision, but also said don’t expect one any time soon.

“He’s got a great head on his shoulders,” Rudolph said. “His mom and dad are right there with him working through things. (I) believe that he’ll make the best decision.”

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:

Badgers’ Ryan Ramczyk may have played himself into the first round of the NFL draft

MADISON | Ryan Ramczyk admits he’s not very good at talking about himself. Ask the junior a question about how quickly he’s adapted to the Division I level after spending two years at Division III UW-Stevens Point, and the soft-spoken giant will hem and haw trying to find the right words so he doesn’t come across as cocky. And that’s fine, because while the left tackle has no interest in recounting his successes, there are plenty of others willing to do so.

“Should this stellar redshirt junior campaign continue, Ramczyk may have to consider giving up his final year of college eligibility for one more transfer — this time directly to the NFL,” Rob Rang of CBSSports.com wrote earlier this fall.

Rang isn’t alone in that thinking. Ramczyk has skyrocketed up draft boards in the first two months of the season, and multiple mock drafts have him listed as a first-round pick. That includes SI.com, who has him headed to the Seattle Seahawks with the 28th selection, while Matt Miller of Bleacher Report called Ramczyk the best offensive tackle in the draft and had him going No. 23 to Cleveland.

The glowing praise is remarkable when you consider where Ramczyk was two years ago. Instead of getting ready for a game against FBS level competition, the 6-foot-5, 310-pound, Stevens Point native was preparing to face Division III powerhouse UW-Whitewater. He might still be there if former Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen hadn’t bolted for Oregon State and allowed Paul Chryst to leave Pittsburgh and come home to run the program at his alma mater. One of Chryst’s first priorities was getting Ramczyk, who he tried to recruit to Pittsburgh, to come to Madison.

No one quite knew what to expect when he made the transition to the highest level of college football, but they found out quickly as whispers from inside the program contained glowing reviews last fall. And those whispers became louder as he frustrated All-Big Ten linebackers Joe Schobert and Vince Biegel on a daily basis as part of the scout team. At the NFL draft combine in Indianapolis last winter, Schobert called Ramczyk the best tackle he faced all year.

“He’s got all the tools that you like,” Wisconsin linebackers coach Tim Tibesar said earlier this year. “Which is why last year when we had Schobert and Biegel, and this year with Vince and T.J. (Watt), they want to go against him and work against the best. And he’s one of the best we saw last year, and he’s still that way.”

When the Badgers finally hit the field in September against LSU, all the hype was proven accurate. He’s been stellar at almost every turn, earning plenty of midseason All-American honors while facing some of the best defenders the country has to offer.

“No, I really didn’t,” Ramczyk said when asked if he anticipated such a quick climb to his current status. “It’s been kind of chaotic.”

It’s going to get more so, as the end of the season is rapidly approaching, and a decision on his future will be needed. Most expect him to forego his senior season and declare for the draft. Understandably, Ramczyk had no interest in talking about it this week, saying his only concern is this season.

“I haven’t really thought too much about it,” Ramczyk said of leaving early. “It’ll be a conversation I have with my parents and the coaches here, and just feel it out and see what’s best for me.”

Offensive tackle is a premier position in the NFL, serving as one of the pillars of any successful team along with quarterback, cornerback and an edge rusher. If teams take any of those positions in the first round of the draft, they expect them to produce early in their careers. Some are ready and some are not. Ramczyk believe he’s the former.

“I think I’m ready for anything,” he said.

Wisconsin football preview: Offensive line, tight ends

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 it’s the tight ends and offensive line:

Offensive line

Perhaps no positional group was more impacted by the Gary Andersen era at Wisconsin than the offensive line. When Chryst and several other assistants left for Pittsburgh after the 2011 season, the line was the strength of the team, constantly among the best units in the country. By the time Chryst returned to Madison in January of 2015 he barely recognized the group that for so long had been the driving force behind Wisconsin’s power run game. It was a contributing factor to the Badgers struggling to move the ball on the ground a year ago, averaging just 150.3 yards per game – their lowest since 1995.

Now there was some bad luck that led to what took place, namely career-ending injuries to several highly-rated recruits over the last three years. It forced young guys to play earlier than they were ready. Still, rebuilding the group, especially in the weight room, has been among the top priorities for the Badgers. And though the nucleus that makes up this year’s line is still relatively young, it’s hoped the trials and tribulations they overcame a season ago will bear fruit this fall.

What we know for sure as camp opens is that redshirt sophomore Michael Deiter (13 starts: seven at left guard, six at center in 2015) will man the center spot. He was so impressive last year after replacing an injured Dan Voltz, that even Voltz – an All-Big Ten player — told the coaching staff that Deiter was better than him and should remain the starter.

It’s also believed that junior Ryan Ramczyk will get the start at left tackle after transferring in from Division III UW-Stevens Point. Though forced to sit out last year due to NCAA transfer rules, Ramczyk earned high praise for his work on the scout team. Former linebacker Joe Schobert called him the best offensive tackle he faced last year.

Meanwhile, it seems likely that sophomore Beau Benzschawel, who added 15 pounds to his frame after starting eight games a year ago, will get the nod at right guard.

Redshirt sophomore Jacob Maxwell, who started three games a year ago at right tackle, is the favorite to win that spot, though a leg injury suffered at the end of spring impacted his summer workouts. If he struggles, Benzschawel could be bumped out there.

The one spot that appears a bit uncertain is left guard. When spring practice ended, redshirt freshman Jon Dietzen was with the first-team offense, while redshirt sophomore Micah Kapoi worked with the second-team at both left and right guard.

Where the uncertainty comes in is what to do with Voltz. The senior has dealt with injuries throughout his career, and suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in late October of last year. He missed all of spring practice and was also noticeably lighter than the 303 pounds he was listed at last season. With Deiter entrenched at center, Voltz volunteered to move to guard – a position he’s never played in college. It remains to be seen if he can make the transition.

Two-deep projection:
LT: Ryan Ramczyk, David Moorman
LG: Jon Dietzen, Dan Voltz
C: Michael Deiter, Dan Voltz
RG: Beau Benzschawel, Micah Kapoi
RT: Jake Maxwell, Brett Connors

Many have pegged Voltz as the starter at left guard. While I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if it happens, I struggle with the idea that it’ll be an easy move. He’s supposed to play a new position after missing most of the offseason and do so at less than 300 pounds? Wisconsin will play its best five linemen, but it’s not a foregone conclusion that Voltz will be among them.

Though not in the two-deep, it’s possible that true freshman Cole Van Lanen – the top recruit in UW’s 2016 recruiting class – could end up there by the end of camp. He’ll start his career at left tackle, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

Tight ends

Entering his junior season, Troy Fumagalli is poised to become one of the better tight ends in the Big Ten. At 6-foot-6, 248 pounds, the Illinois native is the perfect target for an inexperienced quarterback and should serve as a nice security blanket. Last year, he had 28 catches for 313 yards despite being limited early in the year with an ankle injury. With Austin Traylor now trying to earn a job with the Dallas Cowboys, Fumagalli is far and away the top target at the position.

That said, redshirt freshman Kyle Penniston could steal some of his action. A four-star recruit out of California, Penniston is a talented receiver that can be a mismatch for a linebacker. He averaged nearly 14 yards per catch as a senior in high school and should be a nice option for whoever wins the quarterback battle.

Eric Steffes returns for his senior season. Battered by injuries throughout his time, Steffes is a solid run blocker and will be effective when Wisconsin goes to the two and three tight end sets that Chryst likes.

Behind those three is a lot of intrigue. With redshirt freshman David Edwards moving to offensive tackle, it leaves room for one of the young guys to perhaps earn some time. The most likely candidate is Mitchell Herl, who has put on 40-plus pounds since arriving last summer. He showed glimpses of being able to get open during fall camp last year, and if he can still do that while having gained the necessary weight to play the position, he could be a contributor in the near future.

Two-deep projection

TE1 – Troy Fumagalli, Kyle Penniston
TE2 – Eric Steffes, Mitchell Herl

Monday: Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers
Tuesday: Offensive line, tight ends
Tomorrow: Defensive line