What the future holds: Offensive line

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 each player in terms of their class for 2018. If someone was a sophomore in 2017, they will be called a junior here.

Offensive line:

Returning: Michael Deiter (SR), Beau Benzschawel (SR), David Edwards (JR), Jon Dietzen (JR), Tyler Biadasz (RS SO), Jason Erdmann (JR), Patrick Kasl (RS SO), Cole Van Lanen (RS SO), Brett Connors (SR), David Moorman (JR), Micah Kapoi (SR), Logan Bruss (RS FR), Kayden Lyles (RS FR), Tyler Beach (RS FR), Alex Fenton (RS FR)

Leaving: No one

Arriving: Michael Furtney (3-star)

Season grades

Biggest question: How will Wisconsin get its five best linemen on the field?

For the first time in nine years, Wisconsin will return all five starters and key backups along the offensive line. But it remains to be seen if the line makeup will hold to form or whether there will be some changes.

Let’s begin at right tackle, where junior David Edwards started all 14 games in 2017. Named a first-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association, the junior made big strides in just his second year as an offensive lineman and should continue that progression next season. Redshirt sophomore Patrick Kasl replaced an injured Edwards in the Orange Bowl and more than held his own.

Next to Edwards was Beau Benzschawel, who earned first-team All-American honors from Sports Illustrated and debated turning pro before deciding to come back for his final year. He’s started the last 30 games at right guard and should hold that spot again in 2018.

The other three spots is where the intrigue starts.

Michael Deiter was very good in his first year playing at left tackle, but it’s not his best position. And if the Badgers can get Kasl or redshirt sophomore Cole Van Lanen to step up and compete for the spot, it may allow Deiter to move back inside where he spent his first two years starting. If that happens, expect him to take over at left guard where juniors Jon Dietzen and Jason Erdmann split reps much of the year.

At center, redshirt sophomore Tyler Biadasz earned freshman All-American honors and looks like multi-year starter. However, Wisconsin is also said to be very high on redshirt freshman Kayden Lyles. A 4-star recruit and the highest-rated member of the 2017 recruiting class, Lyles was a load for the Badgers No. 1 defense to deal with as a part of the scout team. If Deiter remains at left tackle, it’s possible that in an effort to get their best five linemen on the field, Lyles or Biadasz could move to guard and slide in with the first-team offense while the other remains the starting center.

Other notes:

Wisconsin’s depth figures to be the best it has had since at least 2012. With Erdmann, along with seniors Brett Connors and Micah Kapoi, the Badgers have veteran backups with starting experience in multiple spot, while the position group also includes talented young players like Kasl and Van Lanen, along with redshirt freshmen such as Lyles, Tyler Beach, Logan Bruss and Alex Fenton.

It’s been a few years since Wisconsin was truly dominant along the line, but with good recruiting and the guidance of offensive line coach Joe Rudolph, the Badgers have a chance to reclaim their elite status in 2018 and beyond.

Predicted depth chart:

LT: Cole Van Lanen (RS SO), Patrick Kasl (RS SO)
LG: Michael Deiter (SR), Jon Dietzen (JR)
C: Tyler Biadasz (RS SO), Kayden Lyles (RS FR)
RG: Beau Benzschawel (SR), Jason Erdmann (JR)
RT: David Edwards (JR), Patrick Kasl (RS SO)

What the future holds:
Running back
Wide receiver
Tight end

Last shots: Wisconsin 75, Illinois 50

MADISON – The Wisconsin Badgers snapped their losing streak at three games on Friday night with a 75-50 victory over Illinois at the Kohl Center.

Thirteen last shots for Khalil Iverson’s 13 points against the Fighting Illini on Friday night.

1. The game started off extremely sloppy for everyone involved. The first possession for each team resulted in a turnover, the first made field goal of the game wasn’t until Illinois’ Leron Black knocked down a jumper at the 17:27 mark. The first half also saw multiple needs to adjust the clock and even an incidental buzzer causing a pause in play.

2. After the slow, sloppy start, the Badgers were able to put their foot on the gas pedal offensively mostly thanks to guard Brevin Pritzl. He finished the game with 16 points in 37 minutes on the court. Pritzl scored 13 of his points in the first half. He was in a great rhythm early on, knocking down both 3-pointers he attempted in the first half. He finished the first half 5-of-8 shooting while playing all 20 minutes.

3. In the second half Pritzl wasn’t in the same rhythm. He was just 1-of-7 from the floor, with the lone make a banked in 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock with 14:14 left in regulation to put Wisconsin up 56-38. That was their largest lead of the night at that point.

4. Despite Pritzl and forward Ethan Happ both scoring 16 points, neither one actually led Wisconsin in the scoring column. Guard Brad Davison had a relatively quiet 18 points on the night. The quietness of his scoring can be attributed to the fact that he finished the night with only six field goal attempts. He did the majority of his scoring from the free throw line, where he knocked down all 10 of his attempts.

5. The 18 points for Davison was a Big Ten season-high. He’s the Big Ten freshman leader in scoring currently, averaging 12.1 points per game. Davison also became the first player for Wisconsin to be perfect from the free throw line with at least 10 attempts since Nigel Hayes did so in 2016, per UW.

6. Speaking of Happ, he finished the night with his eighth double-double of the season. He had 10 rebounds and five assists in addition to his 16 points. This is the fifth double-double in the last seven games for Happ.

7. Happ once again did a terrific job passing out of double-team situations, as he has all season long. That’s one of the more dangerous parts of his game offensively, especially considering his outside game isn’t operational at a very high level at the moment.

8. The fourth and final player to reach double-figures in scoring was forward Khalil Iverson. He finished the night with 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Iverson has been inconsistent on that end of the floor throughout the season. He’s had nights where the Badgers have relied on his scoring to get by and he’s had nights where he hasn’t attempted a single shot. Wisconsin doesn’t know what they’re going to get out of him on a regular basis offensively.

9. Iverson is a solid defender and definitely more consistent on that end of the floor. He’s only had five games this season where he has failed to record either a block of a steal. The Badgers are 2-3 in those games, including losses by 25 and 28 points to Ohio State and Purdue, respectively. The two victories came against South Carolina State and UW-Milwaukee with the third loss being against Baylor. Iverson matched a career high with three blocks against Illinois. He also had a pair of steals.

10. While Iverson blocked three shots, he was outshined in that area by freshman forward Nate Reuvers who finished with five blocks on the night. Reuvers leads Wisconsin with 21 blocks on the season despite sitting out the first five games of the season due to an uncertainty over redshirting.

11. As a team Wisconsin tallied 10 blocks. That mark is their highest in a single game since they denied the Indiana Hoosiers 10 times on March 16, 2013.

12. The Badgers have now knocked off Illinois in 12 straight matchups. The last win for Illinois over Wisconsin came on January 2, 2011 when the then 23rd ranked Fighting Illini defeated the Badgers 69-61 at Assembly Hall.

13. Wisconsin will be back in action Tuesday night on the road against Iowa. Tip-off is set for 6PM CST.

Wisconsin Basketball Roundtable: Jan. 19, 2018

Wisconsin had just one game in the last week and it was not pretty. The Badgers went on the road last Tuesday and got rolled by 28 points at Purdue. It dropped them below .500 overall on the year, the latest in a season they’ve been under that mark since 1998, which is also the last time the Badgers missed the NCAA tournament.

On this week’s Wisconsin Basketball Roundtable we asked our former Badgers — Josh Gasser, Mike Bruesewitz and Zak Showalter — about rebounding from big losses, what’s a realistic goal for the team the rest of the year and also get some of their favorite Kohl Center memories as the building turns 20 years old.

Zach Heilprin & Danny Cunningham

Mike Bruesewitz

Josh Gasser

Zak Showalter

Badgers fall to Purdue 78-50

The Wisconsin Badgers suffered their worst defeat of the 2017-18 season on Tuesday night 78-50 at the hands of the Purdue Boilermakers.

Purdue (18-2, 7-0 Big Ten) started out the game strong, scoring the first 12 points of the evening by connecting on 3-pointers on four consecutive possessions. The Badgers ultimately trailed 18-2 before they made their first field goal of the game, an Ethan Happ layup with 12:27 remaining in the first half.

Happ was the only Badger to reach double-figures in scoring. He finished with 15 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Freshman Nate Reuvers was the second-highest scorer, he finished with eight points.

Purdue’s lead grew to as large as 21 points after guard Carsen Edwards made a layup with 3:50 left in the half. Edwards was the leading scorer for the Boilermakers with 21 points. Purdue had four players score double-figures including Vincent Edwards with 20 points.

Turnovers plagued Wisconsin (9-10, 2-4) on Tuesday night. They finished the first half with 15, which tied a season-high, and had 20 in total for the game.

The 28-point loss by Wisconsin was the largest margin of defeat for the Badgers since March 6, 2011 when they fell to Ohio State 93-65.

The Badgers will return to action on Friday night against the University of Illinois at the Kohl Center. Tip off is at 8PM.

Familiar names added to Pro Bowl roster

A couple of familiar names for fans of the Badgers and Packers were added to the Pro Bowl on Tuesday.

Former Wisconsin linebacker Joe Schobert earned his first career trip for the Cleveland Browns after piling up 144 tackles, tied for the most in the NFL, while Green Bay wide receiver Davante Adams was selected for his first Pro Bowl following a season in which he finished second in the league with 10 touchdowns.

Schobert, named a first alternate last month, replaces Pittsburgh linebacker Ryan Shazier, who was lost for the season after a scary spine injury. A fourth-round pick in 2016, Schobert is the first former Wisconsin linebacker to make the Pro Bowl since Deral Teteak went in 1952.

Adams, meanwhile, managed to make his first Pro Bowl despite playing most of the season with a backup quarterback. The former second-round pick accounted for 74 catches, 885 yards and the 10 touchdowns. He earned a massive 4-year, $58 million contract extension in late December for his efforts. Adams takes the spot of Atlanta’s Julio Jones, who dropped out due to injury.

The game will be played Jan. 28 in Orlando.

What the future holds: Tight end

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 each player in terms of their class for 2018. If someone was a sophomore in 2017, they will be called a junior here.

Tight end:

Returning: Kyle Penniston (JR), Zander Neuville (SR), Jake Ferguson (RS FR), Luke Benzschawel (RS SO)

Leaving: Troy Fumagalli

Arriving: Jaylan Franklin (3-star), Cormac Sampson (3-star)

Season grades

Biggest question: Who fills the production void left by Troy Fumagalli’s departure?

Wisconsin only loses one starter from the group that started in the Orange Bowl, but it’s a big loss. Troy Fumagalli left Madison as the most accomplished tight end in school history not named Travis Beckum, and you could make an argument he was the most well-rounded of any of the guys that have gone on to get drafted in the NFL over the last 10 or so years. Fumagalli finished his career with the second-most catches (135) and yards (1,627) by a tight end, so filling his shoes won’t be easy.

But Wisconsin does have options. Senior Zander Neuville had nine catches and a pair of touchdowns before going down with a knee injury in the season finale at Minnesota, while junior Kyle Penniston had seven catches and a score of his own. Both will see plenty of playing time in 2018 and should help lessen the blow of losing Fumagalli.

Still, the most intriguing name vying for a place in Wisconsin’s offense is Jake Ferguson. The brother of now-former Badgers’ safety Joe Ferguson and — tell me if you’ve heard this before — the grandson of athletic director Barry Alvarez, the redshirt freshman was named UW’s Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year for 2017. He was also among a group of true freshmen that traveled for the game against the Gophers, an act that has — in the past — been an indicator of how the coaching staff views a player and his potential of having a big impact the following year.

“From what I’ve seen, he makes some crazy catches,” quarterback Alex Hornibrook said as the Badgers prepared for the Orange Bowl last month. “He’s really athletic when he’s catching the football. Sometimes people will be stiff, but he just looks really fluid.”

The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Ferguson has a similar build to T.J. Watt, who began his career at tight end before injuries forced him to the defensive side of the ball. That obviously worked out quite well for him, as the outside linebacker was a first-round pick last April and just finished up his rookie year with the Pittsburgh Steelers. But in the very limited snaps the media saw of him on offense, Watt had the potential to be special there, too. Can Ferguson do what Watt never got an opportunity to?

“He’s got a chance to be really good,” Fumagalli said of Ferguson. “He’s got all the intangibles. He’s big, he can move well. It’s just going to come down to how much he wants it and [how much he] works. That’s really [always] the story here [at Wisconsin].”

Other notes:

Injuries slowed the progress of redshirt sophomore Luke Benzschawel, but he showed glimpses of being a reliable pass catcher last spring and has the size to be a good run blocker.

It seems unlikely that the newcomers — Jaylan Franklin and Cormac Sampson — will have an impact in their first years on campus.

Predicted depth chart:

First team Second team
Zander Neuville (SR) Kyle Penniston (JR)
Jake Ferguson (RS FR) Luke Benzschawel (RS SO)

What the future holds:
Running back
Wide receiver

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

Wisconsin Basketball Roundtable: Jan. 12, 2018

It looked as if the Wisconsin basketball team was making strides during a five-game winning streak. The Badgers scored at least 81 points in four of the five games and seemed to have found some potential answers to the absence of D’Mitrik Trice and Kobe King. Now, after back-to-back losses at Rutgers and Nebraska, the uncertainty around the team has returned.

At 9-9 overall, and 2-3 in Big Ten play, the Badgers are very much in danger of missing the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998, especially with a tough stretch ahead that includes a game at No. 5 Purdue on Tuesday.

We were joined on this week’s Wisconsin Basketball Roundtable by former Badgers Josh Gasser, Mike Bruesewitz and Zak Showalter to get their take on this year’s team, including what’s holding them back, whether Trice should return this year and more.

Zach Heilprin & Danny Cunningham

Mike Bruesewitz

Josh Gasser

Zak Showalter

What the future holds: Running back

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.

Running back:

Returning: Jonathan Taylor (SO), Chris James (SR), Bradrick Shaw (JR), Garrett Groshek (RS SO), Alec Ingold (SR), Sam Brodner (RS SO), Hunter Johnson (RS FR).

Leaving: Rachid Ibrahim

Arriving: Nakia Watson

Season grades

Biggest question: What can Jonathan Taylor do for an encore?

Jonathan Taylor was as impressive of a true freshman as Wisconsin has ever seen. He ran for an FBS freshman record 1,977 yards and added 13 touchdowns. He earned All-American honors, was a consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection and was finalist for the Doak Walker Award, which goes to the best running back in the country. The only thing more stunning than his move up the depth chart from fifth-string to first-string in fall camp was the astonishing array of broken tackles and breakaway runs that dominated the first half of Wisconsin’s season.

But this year is now behind him and everyone is wondering what he’ll do next. Historically, at least at Wisconsin, besting what a player has done in his first year hasn’t been easy. In fact, only one running back that rushed for at least 1,000 yards as a freshman ended up running for more in their second year — Anthony Davis in 2002. But it’s unrealistic to expect Taylor to one-up himself in 2018. Not only is the 1,977 yards the most by a freshman in FBS history, it’s the 10th-best mark in Big Ten history.

So, what is realistic to hope for? Well, one, watching Taylor become a three-down back. Most young players struggle in pass protection and he was no different. The good part is that the willingness is there. Now, it’s just a matter of technique. If he’s able to stay on the field for all three downs, he becomes an even bigger threat.

However, his biggest focus should be on ball security. Taylor lost six fumbles in 2017, the most of any running back in the country. That can’t continue if he’s going to reach the lofty heights that so many think he’s capable of.

Other notes:

No one quite knew what to expect when Wisconsin added Rachid Ibrahim as a graduate transfer last summer, but he proved to be very valuable. His ability as a third-down back covered for the injury to Chris James, and he contributed more than anyone thought he would. With him gone, James steps back into that role for his final year, along with spelling Taylor on early downs.

Junior Bradrick Shaw and redshirt sophomore Garrett Groshek provide depth.

At fullback, Alec Ingold steps into a starting role in place of the graduate Austin Ramesh. Wisconsin will need to identify a backup to the senior.

Depth chart:
1) Jonathan Taylor (SO)
2) Chris James (SR)
3) Bradrick Shaw (JR)
4) Garrett Groshek (RS SO)

1) Alec Ingold (SR)

What the future holds:

Badgers will get entire OL back for 2018

Wisconsin will return its entire starting offensive line for 2018.

The Badgers twitter account sent a tweet Wednesday afternoon with a picture of the starting line and the message, “Gonna be good to have all five of these guys back next season.”

The picture included left tackle Michael Deiter, who was debating whether to turn pro or return for his senior year. He got a return-to-school grade from the draft advisory committee and has taken their advice.

After starting at guard and center his first two seasons, Deiter moved to left tackle out of necessity this season and more than held his own, earning All-Big Ten honors and even a third-team All-American nod. But his best spot is probably at his previous positions, and offensive line coach Joe Rudolph said during bowl prep that he would like for someone to step up at left tackle, allowing for Deiter to move back inside.

No matter what, though, this is the first time in recent memory that Wisconsin has returned its entire starting offensive line from the previous season. In addition to Deiter, a three-year starter, the Badgers also bring back a three-year starter in All-American right guard Beau Benzschawel (36 starts), All-American right tackle David Edwards (21 starts), freshman All-American center Tyler Biadasz (14 starts) and left guard Jon Dietzen (19 starts). Add in talented backups in the form of Jason Erdmann (26 games played), Cole Van Lanen (13 games played), Patrick Karl (13 games played) and a promising true freshman in Kayden Lyles, and the Badgers appear to be finally back at full strength along the offensive line.

Oh, and Deiter isn’t just an offensive lineman. He showed off his pass catching skills this year as well.