Being named captains is special for former walk-ons Jack Cichy and Troy Fumagalli

CHICAGO — Wisconsin’s walk-on tradition has become a well known contributor to the Badgers success since former coach Barry Alvarez arrived in 1990. From Joe Panos early in Alvarez’s tenure to Donnell Thompson, Jim Leonhard, J.J. Watt, Jared Abbrederis and many more, the school has thrived at finding under the radar players, developing them and watching them become stars.

Many have gone on to be captains and leaders on a number of the more successful teams in program history. That will be the case again in 2017, as former walk-ons Jack Cichy and Troy Fumagalli were named team captains on Monday.

“It means a lot to me especially because it was voted on by our players,” Fumagalli said. “I always think about the responsibility that comes with it. It’s cool they named me that. It’s my chance to be the best player and teammate I can be.

LISTEN: Jack Cichy joins ‘The Camp’ at Big Ten media days.

Cichy and Fumagalli earned their scholarships prior to the 2015 season and have been key players in helping the Badgers win 21 games the last two years.

One of the top tight ends in the country, Fumagalli led Wisconsin with 47 catches in 2016, while Cichy burst onto the scene late in 2015, including back-to-back-to-back sacks in the Holiday Bowl. The senior was off to a big start last season before suffering a torn left pectoral muscle and missing the rest of the year.

LISTEN: Troy Fumagalli joins ‘The Camp’ to talk about his legacy at Wisconsin and more

“It means a lot,” Cichy said at Big Ten media days. “I’m super appreciative, and I know a huge responsibility comes with that. Being an instate kid, being a walk-on, to earn the respect of my peers and teammates, have them vote me into that, it’s a great honor. And I know it’s all for naught if I don’t take the responsibility and be up to the challenge.”

The pair will be joined as captains by safety D’Cota Dixon, center Michael Deiter and defensive lineman Conor Sheehy.

Wisconsin picked to win the B1G West

Writers that cover the Big Ten either really like Wisconsin or really have a low opinion of the Big Ten West. Either way, the Badgers are the overwhelming favorite to win their division for a third time in four years.

Cleveland.com polled 38 media members that cover the conference, and 31 picked Wisconsin to repeat in the West, while five had Northwestern and two chose Nebraska. In the East, Ohio State was also the pick of most, garnering 34 first-place votes, with defending Big Ten champion Penn State getting seven votes and Michigan getting one.

As for the title game, just four of the 31 writers that picked Wisconsin to make it there actually had them winning in Indianapolis. Three had the Badgers beating Ohio State and another had them over Penn State.

Overall, Ohio State was picked to win the Big Ten championship by 29 of the writers.

The poll also asked which teams would make the College Football Playoff, and Wisconsin got four votes as the only Big Ten team to make it, while one voter had Wisconsin and Ohio State both making it.

The writers also voted on offensive and defensive players of the year, with a first-place vote counting for three points, a second-place vote counting for two points and a third-place vote counting for one point.

Penn State running back Saquon Barkley was the runaway winner on offense, garnering 103 points and 30 first-place votes. Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook received two points and tight end Troy Fumagalli got one.

On defense, Ohio State defensive end Tyquan Lewis managed just beat out Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell – 61 points to 59 points. Wisconsin linebackers Jack Cichy (10 points, 1 first-place vote) and T.J. Edwards (7 points, 1 first-place vote) finished seventh and 10th respectively in the voting.

Full results via Cleveland.com:

BIG TEN EAST

1. Ohio State, 260 points (34 first-place votes)
2. Penn State, 231.5 (7)
3. Michigan, 192 (1)
4. Michigan State, 128
5. Indiana, 114
6. Maryland, 100.5
7. Rutgers, 38
(first-place votes equal more than 38 because of some ties for first)

BIG TEN WEST

1. Wisconsin, 259 points (31 first-place votes)
2. Northwestern, 219 (5)
3. Nebraska, 176.5 (2)
4. Iowa, 164.5
5. Minnesota, 131
6. Purdue, 57
6. Illinois, 57

Here were the predictions for the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis on Dec. 2.

Ohio State over Wisconsin (22)
Ohio State over Northwestern (5)
Ohio State over Nebraska (2)
Wisconsin over Ohio State (3)
Wisconsin over Penn State (1)
Penn State over Wisconsin (4)
Michigan over Wisconsin (1)

BIG TEN PRESEASON OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

1. Saquon Barkley, Penn State RB, 103 points (30 first-place votes)
2. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State QB, 59 points (5)
3. Trace McSorley, Penn State QB, 30 points (2)
4. Justin Jackson, Northwestern RB, 25 points (1)
5. Mike Weber, Ohio State RB, 2 points
5. L.J. Scott, Michigan State RB, 2 points
5. Alex Hornibrook, Wisconsin QB, 2 points
5. Rodney Smith, Minnesota RB, 2 points
9. Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin TE, 1 point
9. Simmie Cobbs, Indiana WR, 1 point
9. Jamarco Jones, Ohio State LT, 1 point

PRESEASON BIG TEN DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

1. Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State DE, 61 points (11 first-place votes)
2. Josey Jewell, Iowa LB, 59 points (12)
3. Rashan Gary, Michigan DE, 23 points (3)
4. Tegray Scales, Indiana LB, 19 points (4)
5. Jerome Baker, Ohio State LB, 12 points (2)
6. Sam Hubbard, Ohio State DE, 11 points (2)
7. Jack Cichy, Wisconsin LB, 10 points (1)
8. Maurice Hurst, Michigan DT, 9 points (1)
9. Marcus Allen, Penn State S, 9 points
10. T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin LB, 7 points (1)
11. Nick Bosa, Ohio State, DE 4 points (1)
12. Godwin Igwebuike, Northwestern S, 2 points
13. Steven Richardson, Minnesota DT, 1 point
13. Blessuan Austin, Rutgers CB, 1 point

Big Ten announces attendees for media days

MADISON — Wisconsin is bringing three familiar faces to Big Ten Media Days later this month.

On Tuesday, the conference announced the 42 attendees for the annual event, and the featured Badgers will be linebackers Jack Cichy and T.J. Edwards, along with tight end Troy Fumagalli.

Edwards has led the Badgers in tackles in his first two years as a starter, earning All-Big Ten honorable each season, while Cichy, before getting injured midway through 2016, was having one of the best years of any linebacker in the conference and was also All-Big Ten honorable mention.

Fumagalli, meanwhile, is considered among the best tight ends in the conference and the country, with many believing he could end up as a first-team All-American in his final year. He caught 47 passes for 580 yards and two touchdowns last season, and earned second-team All-Big ten honors from the coaches.

The two-day event will take place July 24 and 25 at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place and Convention Center in Chicago.

The three players, along with coach Paul Chryst, will go through interviews and photo shoots on Monday with six other teams. The other seven teams in the conference will do the same on Tuesday.

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:

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