Best in the NFC (0:00)
Talking Badgers hockey with Barry Richter & associate head coach Mark Strobel (9:24)
Will Packers make a move? (26:48)
Annoying Wisconsin sports stuff (37:07)
More annoying (45:45)
Best in the NFC (0:00)
Talking Badgers hockey with Barry Richter & associate head coach Mark Strobel (9:24)
Will Packers make a move? (26:48)
Annoying Wisconsin sports stuff (37:07)
More annoying (45:45)
Packers Draft Best & Worst (0:00)
Terrible 80’s (16:17)
Justin Harrell (36:42)
Sports Director Zach Heilprin (52:48)
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…
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.
Musso's vertical jump, broad jump, 20-yard shuttle, 60-yard shuttle and 3-cone drill would have all ranked top 5 among safeties at Combine.
— Jason Galloway (@Jason_Galloway) March 15, 2017
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:
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) March 15, 2017
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.
MADISON, Wis. — “I’m solely focused on this game, 100 percent,” Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Watt said Thursday prior to the Cotton Bowl. “Everything that comes after this game, comes after this game. I’m not worried about the future at all right now.”
Watt didn’t need to wait long after a 24-16 win over Western Michigan to decide he’s ready to make an impact in the National Football League. He announced his decision to leave school early and test the waters in professional football.
The redshirt junior leaves Wisconsin with 15.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks on the season, leading the team in both categories. He added 63 total tackles, an interception, and two forced fumbles to his numbers. His performance led to a first-team All-Big Ten bid, as well as first-team All-American honors by Sports Illustrated second-team by The Associated Press.
“I’m excited about the opportunity of being able to sit down and take into serious consideration my options,” Watt said on Thursday.
Watt is the younger brother of both J.J. (Houston Texans) and Derek (San Diego Chargers) but hopes scouts notice him for his performance, not his last name. He’s considered a second or third round NFL talent by many analysts.
The Cotton Bowl on Monday could mark the end of an era for Wisconsin football.
Every year since 2008 there has been at least one player on the team with the last name of Watt. But in the wake of a breakout junior campaign, the youngest Watt, T.J., could opt to forgo his senior season and declare for the NFL draft.
“I’m solely focused on this game, a hundred percent,” Watt said when asked about his plans for 2017. “Everything that comes after this game will come after this game. I’m not worried about the future at all right now.”
If Watt does decide to leave and gets drafted, he’d be following in his two older brother’s footsteps.
J.J. was a standout defensive end after transferring in from Central Michigan prior to the 2008 season. He started for two years, and then passed up his senior year in favor of the draft, a smart move as he went No. 11 overall to the Houston Texans. In his five full years of playing, Watt has earned NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors three times.
The middle brother, Derek, was a four-year starter at fullback for the Badgers, and was drafted in the fifth round last April by the San Diego Chargers.
Now comes T.J., who in his first year starting at outside linebacker earned first-team All-Big Ten recognition by leading Wisconsin with 10.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. It was an effort that has ESPN’s draft guru, Mel Kiper Jr., listing him among the top-10 draft-eligible outside linebackers, while earlier in the season Sports Illustrated cited two scouts saying he’d receive a second-round grade at a minimum if he came out this year.
“I’m excited about the opportunity of being able to sit down and taking a serious consideration of my options,” Watt said. “At the same time…I don’t think you can look into the NFL and everything else when you’ve got such a big opponent in Western Michigan in a big-time game like this. All my chips are in one basket.”
A year ago, fellow outside linebacker Vince Biegel announced right after the Badgers’ Holiday Bowl win over USC that he would be returning for his senior season. Don’t expect something similar from Watt.
“I don’t think you can put a timetable on something like that, something so serious,” Watt said. “It’ll be a big moment for me whether I come back or whether I go. Definitely going to take some time.”
Players have until Jan. 18 to declare for the draft.
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.
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.
Offensive Player of the Year
Presented annually to the top player on offense, as selected by the coaching staff.
Defensive Player of the Year
Presented annually to the top player on defense, as selected by the coaching staff.
Special Teams Player of the Year
Presented annually to the most valuable player on special teams, as selected by the coaching staff.
Ivan Williamson Scholastic Award
Presented annually to a player who has been exemplary in the areas of scholarship and sportsmanship.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The teams: The No. 7 Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-0, 4-0) vs the No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers (5-2 2-2)
The time: 6 p.m. CDT, Saturday
The place: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis.
The TV coverage: ESPN with Joe Tessitore and Todd Blackledge in the booth, and Holly Rowe on the sideline.
The last time: Kicker Rafael Gaglianone hit a 46-yard field goal with 4 seconds left to give Wisconsin a 23-21 win last year at Nebraska.
The series: Wisconsin 6-4
The line: Wisconsin -9.5
The Badgers injury report:
CB Natrell Jamerson (leg)
RT Jake Maxwell (shoulder)
LB Griffin Grady (shoulder)
NT Olive Sagapolu (arm)
THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
1) One more time
The toughest start to a Big Ten season in school history continues on Saturday night for Wisconsin, as they face their fifth top-10 opponent already this year with Nebraska in town. Asking kids to continually get up for big game after big game would seem like a difficult task but this team is a little different.
“Just taking it one game at a time in all honesty,” linebacker T.J. Watt told the Big Ten Network this week on how they are handling the schedule. “I know it sounds cliché, but you have to take it one practice at a time, one play at a time, and then once it’s game day, you just have to let loose.
“Have fun with this. Not everyone gets to play in big games like this week in and week out like we do. So we just have to have fun and showcase our talents each week.”
2) Next man in — again
The seemingly never ending rash of injuries continued last week for Wisconsin, as they lost leading tackler Jack Cichy for the rest of the season with a torn pectoral muscle. The junior inside linebacker was playing at such a high level that those around the program felt he was the MVP of the defense through the first seven games.
But just as they did when Chris Orr, Natrell Jamerson, Vince Biegel and Olive Sagapolu went down earlier this year, the Badgers will ask the next guy to step in and not have a drop-off. This time that responsibility falls to sophomore Ryan Connelly and junior Leon Jacobs.
A former walk-on, Connelly stepped in admirably against LSU in the opener, while Jacobs started the first three games at inside linebacker last year before an injury sidelined him.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing for a talented guy like Jack Cichy to go down,” Biegel said. “But it’s not going to take just Leon and Ryan to step in. It’s also going to take our whole defensive front seven to fill in for guys that go down.”
Connelly is expected to get the first crack at the starting gig, but as Wisconsin has done at outside linebacker, rotating the foursome of Biegel, Watt, Garrett Dooley and Zack Baun, don’t be surprised if Jacobs sees plenty of time next to T.J. Edwards.
3) Which Tommy Armstrong shows up
If Nebraska is to pull the upset, quarterback Tommy Armstrong will need to continue playing at the level he has so far this year. The senior’s quarterback rating of 142.3 is the highest of his career, and he’s averaging an interception just once every 37 throws, the lowest rate of his time in Lincoln.
But he’s done all of that against defenses that aren’t on Wisconsin’s level. And if history is any indication, the Badgers will give Armstrong fits. Two of his worst days as the starter at Nebraska came against UW’s 3-4 scheme. He completed just 16 of 47 throws in the 2014 and 2015 games combined — both Nebraska losses.
If the good Armstrong shows up, Nebraska should be in the game until the end, as he’s got plenty of weapons to get the ball to. But if the Tommy Armstrong of old got on the charter flight to Madison, it’s likely to be a long night for him and the Huskers offense.
4) Running game on track?
The Wisconsin running game has come alive in the past two weeks, piling up 403 yards on the ground, including 298 by running back Corey Clement. The senior’s back-to-back 100-yard games were his first since accomplishing that against Massachusetts and Tennessee Tech in his freshman season.
But it took a lot of carries to get it done. The Badgers called Clement’s number a combined 60 times in the games against Ohio State and Iowa, and if it were up to him, they’d keep giving him the ball even if taking all that contact isn’t ideal in the long term.
“I’m all for it, to be honest,” Clement said. “If they want to give me 35 carries, then so be it. (It’s) my senior season, so I’m ready to get as many carries as I can.”
It’s not just Clement, though. The offensive line is also starting to gel despite not having a clear starting lineup. They used eight guys against Iowa and six different combinations. Obviously, they’d like to find their best five guys, but until they do expect to see similar rotations.
5) The crowd
The buzz leading into the showdown with then-No. 2 Ohio State two weeks ago was at an all-time high, certainly helped by the fact ESPN’s College GameDay was in town, and it was the first Big Ten night game in Madison in five years. And even though the Badgers lost, the atmosphere surrounding the game didn’t disappoint.
But that same juice and electricity, at least in the lead up to the game, hasn’t been as evident this week. Perhaps it’s because the novelty factor of a night game has worn off or the fact Wisconsin is so heavily favored. No matter what the reason, it’s definitely different.
Now all of this isn’t to say it won’t be a great environment on Saturday night. It will be, and the crowd will definitely help Wisconsin. But expecting something like we saw when the Buckeyes came to town is probably not in the cards.
NUMBERS TO CONSIDER
Zach Heilprin’s prediction: Wisconsin 31, Nebraska 17 (3-4 on the season)
Ebo’s prediction: Wisconsin 27, Nebraska 13 (4-3 on the season)
Jake Zimmermann’s prediction: Wisconsin 24, Nebraska 13 (5-2 on the season)
Joe Miller’s prediction: Wisconsin 24, Nebraska 13 (4-3 on the season)
Eric Rogers’ prediction: Wisconsin 28, Nebraska 20 (5-2 on the season)
MADISON, Wis. — Coming off its first official road game of the season, Wisconsin’s football team moves up to No. 8 in both the Associated Press poll and the Amway Coaches poll.
Led by a defensive unit that allows an average of 11. 8 points per game (seventh among FBS schools nationally), Wisconsin upset then-eighth-ranked Michigan State on the road on Saturday. D’Cota Dixon led the Badgers with seven total tackles and a forced fumble. T.J. Watt was next with six, but he also had 2 ½ sacks and 3 ½ tackles for loss to earn honors as the Walter Camp Player of the Week.
The Spartans dropped all the way to No. 17 in the AP poll after the loss, being held without a touchdown at home for the first time since 2012.
Wisconsin is on the road again next Saturday taking on Michigan, which ranks fourth and fifth on the AP and Coaches polls, respectively.
University of Wisconsin press release:
MADISON, Wis. — For his part in a dominant defensive performance that keyed No. 11 Wisconsin’s 30-6 win over No. 8 Michigan State on Saturday, UW junior outside linebacker T.J. Watt has been named the Walter Camp Football Foundation National Defensive Player of the Week.
Watt recorded 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks – both career highs – as part of a six-tackle day for the Badgers, who won their eighth-consecutive road game. He also recorded a pair of quarterback hurries and broke up a pass.
Watt leads the Big Ten and ranks in a tie for seventh nationally with 4.5 sacks on the year.
Wisconsin’s defense held Michigan State without a touchdown – just the second time the Spartans have been kept out of the end zone at home since 2000 – thanks in large part to a pass rush that recorded four sacks and seven QB hurries while contributing to three MSU interceptions.
UW’s defense has surrendered just three offensive touchdowns through four games and ranks No. 7 in the FBS in scoring defense at 11.8 points allowed per game. The Badgers are giving up an average of just 277.0 total yards.
Watt is Wisconsin’s first Walter Camp weekly award winner since Scott Starks claimed the honor on Oct. 17, 2004 following a 20-17 victory at No. 5 Purdue. That was UW’s last road win over a team ranked in the top 10 of the Associated Press poll prior to Saturday’s triumph in East Lansing.
This season marks the 13th-consecutive year in which the Walter Camp Football Foundation is honoring one offensive and one defensive player each week during the regular season. Winners are selected by a panel of national media members.
The teams: The No. 5 LSU Tigers (0-0) vs the Wisconsin Badgers (0-0)
The time: 2:30 p.m. CDT, Saturday
The place: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis.
The TV coverage: ABC with Steve Levy and Brian Griese in the booth and Todd McShay on the sideline.
The last time: Wisconsin saw a 17-point second-half lead evaporate in what turned into a 28-24 loss in the opener for both teams back in 2014.
The series: LSU 3-0
The line: LSU -11
The Badgers injury report: Wisconsin will be without starting inside linebacker T.J. Edwards (foot) and backup offensive lineman Logan Schmidt (head). Though head coach Paul Chryst said on Thursday that everyone else would be available for the game, backup linebacker Nick Thomas was wearing a protective boot on his right foot when the team visited Lambeau Field on Friday.
The Tigers injury report: LSU will have running back Leonard Fournette, who battled an ankle injury in camp but returned to practice in full last week. The New Orleans Advocate reported that starting right guard Will Clapp was wearing a protective boot on his right foot but that it was merely precautionary. LSU will be without linebacker Corey Thompson (leg).
THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
1) Slowing Fournette
LSU’s offense revolves around junior Leonard Fournette, and Wisconsin’s focus will be to at least slow him down, something few teams have been able to do over the past two years. But when they do, it usually works out in their favor on the scoreboard. Of the eight games the Tigers have lost over the past two years, Fournette has been held to under 100 yards in six of them.
Team tackling will be the key to slowing the 6-foot-1, 235-pound, terror, who broke more tackles than any other tailback in the country last season.
“Really, no one has tackled him consistently one-on-one. Nobody has,” UW defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said. “We want to tackle as good as we possibly can but at the end of the day you’re going to have to have a lot of guys running to the football and get a lot of bodies around the ball to support each other.”
2) First start for Bart Houston
A number of players will be making their first start on Saturday, but none will be under the microscope more so than Houston. After four years of serving in a backup role, the redshirt senior will be under center to start a game for the first time since his senior year of high school in 2011. And he faces a LSU defense that considers its strength to be in the secondary, where three starters return.
Houston’s lone extended playing time came a year ago against Illinois, when he replaced an injured Joel Stave and helped Wisconsin to a 24-13 victory by throwing for 232 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Now it’s his show, and many feel he’s ready for it after beating out redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook for the job in fall camp.
“He’s grown a ton,” UW offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said of Houston. “Just in the way he approaches it, the way he works and his habits of studying. I like the way he’s progressed in his understanding. I think guys recognize that and see that in him.”
3) Dave Aranda to face his old team
The former UW defensive coordinator knew from the moment he left Madison to take the same position with LSU that a lot would be made of this game and his place in it. How much he’ll impact it remains to be seen.
There is certainly some advantage to knowing Wisconsin’s personnel on both sides of the ball like Aranda does, but there is a similar advantage for the Badgers in having practiced against Aranda’s top-ranked units the last three years. Linebacker Vince Biegel said he watched LSU’s spring game and knew every call that the defense ran.
But there will be adjustments and changes made on both sides, and it’s the belief of most around Wisconsin’s program that the coaching story has been slightly overblown.
“At the end of the day, Coach Aranda’s not going to play any snaps and Justin Wilcox isn’t going to play any snaps,” outside linebackers coach Tim Tibesar said. “The players have to go out and make plays.
“I don’t think that just because you know an opponent really well or their personnel that it’s going to give you a distinct advantage. It’s the players on the field, who’s going to out execute who, and who’s going to play well in the moment.”
4) Corey Clement’s time
No player is looking to put the 2015 season in his rearview mirror more so than the Wisconsin running back. He missed eight games due to a sports hernia and another for a fight he was involved in off the field. After loudly proclaiming his goals of 2,000 yards and a run at a Heisman Trophy prior to the season, he was limited him to just 221 yards and five touchdowns. Now, with that tumultuous year behind him, he appears to be focused much more so on the big picture.
“I don’t have any goals. Just going to go out and play,” Clement said this week. “Just not going to put stress on myself. Just go out and have fun. If records come, then so be it. But we’re more worried about wins and coming out of the first game 1-0.”
5) Playing at Lambeau Field
With the game being played at what many consider the shrine of football in America, it’ll be a pretty special day for all of those involved. 11 of the Badgers starters are from the state and a total of 55 players from Wisconsin are on the roster. And though LSU fans travel well wherever the team goes, it’s likely that the number expected at the game, 30,000 at last word, were energized even more so by the fact it’s taking place in Green Bay.
“It means a lot,” said outside linebacker T.J. Watt, who is from Pewaukee. “Growing up I’d probably go to a game once every few years. It’s going to be awesome.”
NUMBERS TO CONSIDER
8-0 — That’s the Badgers record when senior Corey Clement runs for at least 100 yards
13 — That’s the number of seniors Wisconsin has on their roster — tied for fourth-fewest in the nation
10-4 — That’s the record for Wisconsin quarterbacks making their first career start dating back to 1996. Bart Houston will make his first start on Saturday.
112 — That’s the number of games LSU has won since 2005, which is tied for fifth-best mark in the country. In that same time, Wisconsin has won 107 games — the eighth-best number in the nation.
Zach Heilprin’s prediction: LSU 28, Wisconsin 13
Ebo’s prediction: LSU 23, Wisconsin 17
Jake Zimmermann’s prediction: LSU 28, Wisconsin 13
Joe Miller’s prediction: LSU 21, Wisconsin 16
Eric Rogers’ prediction: LSU 20, Wisconsin 18