Forward Andy Van Vliet is leaving Wisconsin

MADISON — Andy Van Vliet is moving on.

The junior tweeted Tuesday night that he had made the decision to leave the Wisconsin basketball team and transfer to another program.

“After meeting with the coaching staff last week, I have the made the decision to leave the University of Wisconsin and pursue my academic and athletic goals at another Division I school,” Van Vliet tweeted.

From Belgium, Van Vliet was a part of the Badgers’ 2015 recruiting class. But an NCAA rule forced him to sit his freshman year and he barely saw the floor as a sophomore. However, he did enough last offseason to earn a starting spot heading into 2017 and got off to a good start. He scored 18 points and had eight rebounds in the opener against South Carolina State, and followed that up with 13 points against Yale.

But Van Vliet would start just two more games and barely played from the middle of November until late February for a number of reasons, including the coaching staff not being comfortable with him on the floor defensively. It wasn’t until a matchup on Feb. 22 against Northwestern that he saw extended minutes, abusing the Wildcats’ zone defense to the tune of 14 points in 24 minutes. Those, it ends up, would be his final points as a member of the Badgers.

“We thank Andy for what he did for our program over the last three seasons and wish him the best moving forward,” coach Greg Gard said in a tweet posted by the Badgers. “We will help him in any way we can as he looks for a new school to continue his career.”

Van Vliet finished his career averaging 3.4 points and 1.4 rebounds per game.

“Wisconsin has taught me a lot of things and I have grown and matured because of the challenges and experiences I have had here,” Van Vliet said in the tweet. “My only regret is not being able to finish what I have started, but this school and community will always hold a special place in my heart.”

With Van Vliet moving on, it gives Wisconsin another scholarship to potentially add a graduate transfer for the 2018-19 season.

What we saw at the first Wisconsin spring practice

Wisconsin hit the field for practice Tuesday morning for the first time of spring ball.

New faces

Nose tackle Bryson Williams certainly passes the eye test (No. 91 in the video below). The early enrollee weighed in a 305 pounds and is more than strong enough to hold the point in the middle of Wisconsin’s defense. It was just the first day, but he was already running with the second-team defense behind starter Olive Sagapolu.

Meanwhile, wide receiver Aron Cruickshank (No. 11 in the video) looked extremely comfortable going in and out of his routes, and he caught the ball well. The kid can fly, too, though he’ll definitely benefit from a summer in the weight room as he looks exactly the 152 pounds he’s listed at.

The other early enrollee at wide receiver, Taj Mustapha, catches the ball with ease and can also get down the field in a hurry.

Cornerback Donte Burton worked with the second-team defense, while safety Reggie Pearson Jr. was with the third team.

Lighter, quicker?

Wisconsin is known for its size and ability to overpower other teams, but a majority of the players in the trenches have dropped weight. That includes Sagapolu, who dropped eight pounds to 338. It may not seem like much, but the senior appeared to be moving quicker in drills.

Defensive ends Garrett Rand and Isaiahh Loudermilk, along with offensive linemen Michael Deiter, Tyler Biadasz and Jon Dietzen, were all among those that were lighter than they were listed at last year.

Position battles

The Badgers have plenty of position battles that will play out over spring and into the summer, but here’s a few initial thoughts after one – ONE – practice.

Scott Nelson is definitely going to push for a starting job at safety. With his buddy D’Cota Dixon sidelined this spring, Nelson and sophomore Patrick Johnson were with the first-team. The two spots aren’t necessarily interchangeable, but a lot of the things you do at the strong safety spot are similar to what the free safety is asked to do. Nelson is big, can run and spent last season rarely leaving Dixon’s side.

With Patrick Kasl missing practice due to class, Cole Van Lanen was the first-team left tackle. Both of those guys are going to get their shot in the spring to prove they are good enough to allow Deiter to slide back inside.

At tight end, junior Kyle Penniston was with the first-team offense, while sophomore Luke Benzschawel came in when they went to 12 personnel. Probably should read a ton into that, though, as redshirt freshman Jake Ferguson figures to push for time as well.

With Dontye Carriere-Williams being held out, the Badgers starters at cornerback were sophomore Madison Cone and redshirt freshman Faion Hicks. Again, it’s early, but don’t be surprised if it’s those three guys lining up when they go into their nickel package this fall. Burton and sophomore Caesar Williams were working with the second-team defense.

Who is hurt?

OUT (practice)
CB Dontye Carriere-Williams
WR Danny Davis
WR Cade Green
RB Mark Saari

OUT (spring)

WR Quintez Cephus
OL Michael Deiter
OL Jon Dietzen
S D’Cota Dixon
RB Garrett Groshek
TE Zander Neuville
RB Bradrick Shaw
ILB Mason Stokke

It’s early, but…

First-team offense

QB Alex Hornibrook
RB Jonathan Taylor
FB Alec Ingold
WR A.J. Taylor
WR Kendric Pryor
TE Kyle Penniston
LT Cole Van Lanen
LG Jason Erdmann
C Tyler Biadasz
RG Beau Benzschawel
RT David Edwards

First-team defense

DE Garrett Rand
NT Olive Sagapolu
DE Isaiahh Loudermilk
OLB Zack Baun
ILB Ryan Connelly
ILB T.J. Edwards
OLB Andrew Van Ginkel
CB Madison Cone
CB Faion Hicks
S Scott Nelson
S Patrick Johnson

There was a lot of mixing and matching in the second groups, but a few observations:

Redshirt freshman Kayden Lyles is the No. 2 center, no question. Most believe he’s good enough to start, but he’s got a very good player ahead of him in Biadasz.

Junior Tyler Johnson and sophomore Noah Burks were the second-team outside linebackers, while the recently moved Arrington Farrar and sophomore Christian Bell were with the third group.

Junior David Pfaff, along with redshirt sophomore Keldric Preston and redshirt freshman Aaron Vopal, rotated with the second team at defensive end.

Paul Chryst post-practice availability

What’s next?

Wisconsin will be back on the field for practice on Thursday.

Players to watch as spring practice gets started for Wisconsin

The University of Wisconsin will open spring practice this week and do so with extremely high expectations coming off its first 13-win season.

The Badgers return 10 of their 11 starters on offense from their Orange Bowl-winning team, while multi-year starters T.J. Edwards, Olive Sagapolu and D’Cota Dixon return on the defensive side of the ball. There are certainly holes to fill, and coach Paul Chryst and his staff will continue their efforts to plug them when the team takes the field Tuesday morning for the first of 15 practices.

Here’s a look at some of the guys we’ll be keeping an eye on:

TE Jake Ferguson

With Troy Fumagalli working towards a career in the NFL, the Badgers must find a new go-to weapon at the position. And while senior Zander Neuville and junior Kyle Penniston have game experience, it’s redshirt freshman Jake Ferguson that everyone is anxious to see.

The 6-foot-5, 230-pound, Ferguson has been described as “really athletic” and extremely “fluid” by quarterback Alex Hornibrook, who said the Madison Memorial product made some crazy catches during practice last year. Fumagalli added that Ferguson, who was Wisconsin’s Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year, can be as good as he wants to be.

With as much as Chryst likes to use his tight ends, Ferguson could play a big role in 2018. Spring ball will be the first chance for us to see if he’ll be ready.

CB Madison Cone

As a true freshman, Cone played mostly on special teams, though he did get some time as Wisconsin’s fourth cornerback. Now, with Derrick Tindal and Nick Nelson gone, the Badgers will be looking at Cone to step up and join redshirt sophomore Dontye Carriere-Williams with the starting unit.

And they do think he’s more than capable. Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard raved about Cone’s approach last year and was impressed with his maturity in understanding the game. Though he’s on the smaller side at 5-foot-9, he’s more than athletic enough to make up for it, as evidenced by this dunk. A strong spring for him could go a long way in solidifying the secondary.

CB Faion Hicks

Like Cone, Hicks is being looked at as a guy that could see significant snaps this fall, especially with as much nickel defense we see teams playing these days. A shoulder injury knocked him from spring ball last year and he didn’t hit the field again until mid-September. But, when healthy, Leonhard loved what he saw from the redshirt freshman. He described the 5-foot-10 Hicks as “extremely athletic” and “hungry.” And even though it was a small sample size, Leonhard believes Hicks has a chance to be “very good” in the program.

OLB Arrington Farrar

Last spring, after being moved around much of his career, Leon Jacobs went back to where he started and found a home at outside linebacker. He excelled last fall and is now fighting for a career in the NFL. Could Farrar follow in his footsteps?

As reported by Jason Galloway of the Wisconsin State Journal, Farrar has moved from inside linebacker to OLB. It means, like Jacobs, he’s come full circle. He played OLB for the first month he was on campus, moved to safety for two years and then to ILB last year. Now, back at OLB, the senior has a chance to push for time with Jacobs and Garret Dooley gone. How will the transition go? Spring ball should give us an idea.

QB Jack Coan

Though we saw him in mop-up duty — where he completed all five of the passes he threw — the last time most of the media saw Coan for an extended period came in mid-August during fall camp. At that point, there was a pretty significant gap between him and Hornibrook. Has that gap closed? Could Coan keep Wisconsin afloat if Hornibrook were to get hurt or struggle at some point this fall? He clearly wasn’t ready last year as a true freshman, but it seems reasonable that he’ll have taken a step forward and spring ball should show us if that’s the case.

Others:

OL: Cole Van Lanen and Patrick Kasl – Wisconsin wants to move senior Michael Deiter back inside, which can only happen if either of these guys show they are ready to step in at left tackle.

OL: Kayden Lyles – Expectations are high for the redshirt freshman, who some around the program believe could push one of the returning starters out of the lineup.

DL: Garrett Rand – Where will the junior play? He’s been at nose tackle the last two years, but figures to be a better option at defensive end this year.

DL: Bryson Williams – Early enrollee that could serve as a backup to Sagapolu at NT.

S: Scott Nelson – Potentially in the mix to replace Natrell Jamerson at safety, along with Eric Burrell and Patrick Johnson.

Early enrollees – In addition to Williams, we’ll get our first look at cornerback Donte Burton, wide receivers Aron Cruickshank and Taj Mustapha, and safety Reggie Pearson Jr.

NFL Scouting Combine participants asked interesting questions

Indianapolis – The NFL Scouting Combine is the marque event of the offseason before the draft in late April. Teams have the opportunity to watch players participate in on-field workouts, medical evaluations, and meet – both formally and informally – with teams.

The on-field workouts may draw the most enjoyment from fans watching on television, but the meetings that teams can take with prospects are vitally important. With that being said, there are some bizarre things that prospects are asked while in these meetings.

For the most part, the questions that players are asked make sense from either a life or football standpoint. Other times, that cannot be said. Over the past few years some prospects have talked about the crazier questions that they’ve been asked.

The range of interesting questions can move from being asked about a driver’s license to being tested about how long one can keep their eyes open without blinking, with some wild stuff in between.

Miami wide receiver Braxton Berrios was asked by a team to first explain what Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency, is. He was then asked by the same team to explain Isis. How those things determine whether or not Berrios is worth having on a team has yet to be explained.

The question about the driver’s license was asked to Wisconsin linebacker Leon Jacobs. He added most questions he got were relatively football centric.

One the six former teammates of Jacobs at Wisconsin, Garret Dooley, had a little bit of a different experience.

“I’ve been asked rather I’d be a cat or a dog,” Dooley said. “Personally, I’d like to be a dog. I feel like more people like them. Usually people don’t throw dogs out in the rain, sometimes people get mad at a cat and people just toss them outside.”

Corner Nick Nelson said a team asked him what the worst thing he every did that he didn’t get caught for was as the interview turned investigative.

“I said it was fighting with my cousin and my grandma didn’t find out. We were young.”

Safety Natrell Jamerson also had an interesting question asked of him. In an interview, Jamerson said a team stopped him mid-sentence and asked if he was afraid of clowns.

He wasn’t.

While Dooley, Jamerson, Nelson, and Jacobs each had something interesting, their teammate Jack Cichy couldn’t say the same.

“Honestly, I haven’t had too many crazy questions,” Cichy said. “I haven’t had any red flags throughout my college career off the field. That hasn’t really prompted any funky questions. Most of the questions have just been home life and also some of my thoughts on football schemes and what I think of myself as far as a football player goes. As far as that goes, it’s been pretty straight forward.”

Cichy was one of the few able to say that. Notre Dame wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown was the prospect asked by a team to keep his eyes open as long as possible.

“A team asked me how long I could keep my eyes open for. They timed me on it, I think I got like 15 seconds,” St. Brown said.
UCF’s Shaquem Griffin stole the show at the combine, and he also had one of the more interesting questions asked to him in an interview with a team.

“I think one question was something about a cat and a lion. How does a cat and a lion – not a cat – a dog and a lion relate?” Griffin said. “I said roar. That’s all I had. I had no idea, I was confused. I guess they both roar or bark, or however you want to put it. I think it’s the same thing to me.”

The dog and the lion question is interesting, undoubtedly. With that being said, UTSA defensive lineman Marcus Davenport may have had the most interesting question asked to him by a team.

“If I was a fruit, what fruit would I be?” Davenport said was the strangest thing he’s been asked.

“I said an apple. Hey, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. I have to be healthy.”

NFL Scouting Combine: Day 5 observations

Indianapolis – Sunday was the fifth and final day of media availability at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. The linebackers and defensive line took part in the on-field testing while the defensive backs met with the media and took part in the bench press.

Here are three takeaways from Day 5 of the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine.

Linebackers workout

Sunday was the chance for the linebackers to work out on the field at Lucas oil Stadium. Of the three Wisconsin linebackers invited to the combine, two of them took part in Leon Jacobs and Garret Dooley. Jack Cichy did not participate as he continues rehab from surgery after tearing the ACL in his right knee in August.

Jacobs continued to test well, as expected. His first 40-yard dash time was 4.48 seconds, officially. His second attempt was slightly slower than that at 4.55 seconds. Jacobs mentioned to me on Saturday afternoon that he expected to run a 4.5.

Dooley didn’t run as fast as Jacobs did, nor was he expected to. His first attempt at the 40-yard dash was 4.92 seconds. He was able to improve on his second attempt clocking in at 4.81 seconds.

The show was stolen by UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin for the second consecutive day. On Saturday, he bench pressed 225lbs 20 times despite only having one hand and having to use a prosthetic device in order to grasp the bar with his left arm. On Sunday, Griffin ran the fastest 40-yard dash for a linebacker in the past 15 years at the combine. He clocked a 4.38 in his first attempt, the third-fastest time of anyone at the combine so far, this year.

Defensive backs speak

The defensive backs were the final position group of the media to speak at the combine. This is an area where the Packers could potentially be interested. The top player in the group is Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick, although it is more likely he is drafted far before the Packers are slated to select at No. 14 overall.

A couple of prospects that could make sense for Green Bay are Florida State safety Derwin James and Iowa corner Josh Jackson.

James is a physical safety that could play both in the box and on the back end of the defense. Fitzpatrick, on the other hand, is a defensive back that is more versatile in the sense that he can play either safety position or corner.

James also said that he has met formally with the Packers already.

Jackson was one of the best corners in the Big Ten at Iowa. Fans might remember him having three interceptions against Ohio State and following it up with two interceptions returned for touchdowns against Wisconsin the very next week at Camp Randall.

Lastly, Denzel Ward is regarded as the other top defensive back in the draft. The Ohio State product is a sure-fire first round pick that will be able to come in and make an impact from day one.

Any of them would make sense at No. 14 overall for the Packers.

More Badgers

While Saturday had a trio of Wisconsin linebackers speak to the media – Jacobs, Cichy, and Dooley – Sunday featured a pair of defensive backs from the Badgers.

First, Natrell Jamerson met with the media. Jamerson began his career at Wisconsin as a wide receiver before moving to corner and ultimately safety in his final year. He is at the combine as just that, but does believe that he could play anywhere in the defensive backfield in the NFL.

Jamerson tested on the bench press after meeting with the media where he posted 25 reps of 225lbs. He out-performed four of the five other Badgers there, trailing only Jacobs by a single rep. Jamerson tied with Arizona’s Dane Cruickshank to lead the defensive backs.

Later in the afternoon corner Nick Nelson met with the media and said that he expects to run his 40-yard dash faster than Jamerson, and hopes to be sub-4.4. Nelson was not quite as impressive as Jamerson in the bench press as he finished with 17 reps, tying him for 12th among defensive backs.

NFL Scouting Combine: Day 4 observations

Indianapolis – On Day 4 of the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine the media had the opportunity to meet with defensive linemen and linebackers. The wide receivers, tight ends, and quarterbacks all worked out as well on Saturday.

Here are three observations from Day 4 of the combine.

Trio of Badgers

Former Wisconsin linebackers Jack Cichy, Leon Jacobs, and Garret Dooley met with the media on Saturday in Indianapolis. All three were seated at the same table inside the convention center.

The trio also took part in the bench press prior to meeting with the media. Jacobs was the most impressive of the three with 26 reps. Dooley and Cichy trailed behind him with 21 and 18 reps, respectively.

All three are excited to be taking part in the combine, as everyone knows.

“Just being a part of it, I’m definitely blessed,” Dooley said. “To be able to come here and just kind of showcase my skills and my personality is definitely an honor.”

The combine is obviously a huge event for everyone involved, but it might mean the most for Cichy. He missed part of his redshirt junior season with a torn pectoral. Cichy then tore the ACL in his right knee during fall camp causing him to miss the entire 2017 season.

“Honestly, just being to get myself back out there and show what I know,” Cichy said was his favorite part of the combine. “Throughout these years with all the coordinators we’ve had [at Wisconsin] I’ve been able to accrue a lot of good football information and I think I’ve been able to be pretty football savvy. In those interviews, just kind of being able to express that and show teams how I’ve grown in that aspect has been awesome.”

Jacobs was expected to test the best of three. He put up the best number on the bench press and expects to run a 4.5-second 40-yard dash on Sunday.

Both Jacobs and Dooley did say that they have informally met with the Green Bay Packers, Cichy has not.

It is worth noting that Wisconsin tight end Troy Fumagalli did not take part in the on-field workout Saturday.

Wide receivers test on the field

When the wide receivers met with the media on Friday afternoon it seemed as if the Green Bay Packers had met with many of the top prospects in the class. On Saturday those prospects took part the on-field workout portion of the combine.

Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley is regarded as the best in the class. He posted one of the faster 40-yard dash times of the day at 4.43 seconds. Maryland wide receiver D.J. Moore was the fastest of the receivers that said he had met with the Packers. He clocked a 4.42 40-yard dash. Moore also had the second-highest vertical jump at 39.5”.

Notre Dame wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown may be the prospect that improved his stock the most with the on-field testing. After measuring nearly 6-foot-5 and 214lbs he ran a 4.48 40-yard dash. St. Brown also did well in the bench press on Friday, posting 20 reps.

With the Packers having visited with a number of receivers this week, today could certainly further their interest a few guys. With Moore and St. Brown testing well, it could encourage the Packers to give them a more serious look should Ridley be picked before Green Bay drafts at No. 14 overall.

Shaquem Griffin

The story of Central Florida linebacker Shaquem Griffin has been told relatively frequently over the past few months. Griffin was both with a disorder called amniotic band syndrome that affected his left hand and caused his fingers to not develop fully.

At the age of four Griffin was caught by his mother in the kitchen with a knife trying to self-amputate his fingers. The family then scheduled an appointment and his hand was amputated the following day.

That didn’t stop Griffin from playing college football at a high level, earning the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 and being named a Second-team All-American in 2017.

He did enough to earn an invitation to the combine and has unquestionably the best story of anyone in Indianapolis.

Griffin put on a show Saturday afternoon with his performance of 20 reps on the bench press with the help of a prosthetic device that he is able to put on his left wrist in order to grasp the barbell.

“So many people are going to have doubt on things about what I can do,” Griffin said when talking with the media Saturday evening. “Obviously it started at the bench press. Some people didn’t think I could do three, some people didn’t think I could do five, some people didn’t even think I could do the bench press. I went and did the bench press and competed with everybody else and did 20 [reps]. That’s just one step closer to everything that I need to be able to accomplish.”

Despite the outstanding play on the field, there are plenty of questions about him due to his deformity. The fact that he’s competing at the highest level is inspirational to many as it should be.

“I hope I inspire a lot [of people]. I always told everybody, if I can inspire one [person] they can inspire one more and I can inspire a thousand later. If I keep doing what I’m doing now then I can change a lot of minds of a lot of people and be able to inspire more kids every day.”

Big Ten Tournament – (2) Michigan State 63, Wisconsin 60: Last word

NEW YORK CITY — For the second time in less than a week, Wisconsin gave No. 2 Michigan State all it could handle but came up short, this time in a 63-60 loss in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament on Friday at Madison Square Garden.

Player of the Game: Miles Bridges

The future NBA lottery pick was great for the Spartans, scoring 20 points and grabbing nine rebounds. Wisconsin’s Khalil Iverson and Aleem Ford each took turns on the sophomore and made him work for everything he got. But his offensive game is tough to deal with, and he proved difficult to slow down as he got into the paint and hit from deep against the Badgers.

The good: Ethan Happ

The junior admitted on Thursday after Wisconsin beat Maryland that he needed to be better against Michigan State than he was last Sunday in a 68-63 loss to the Spartans. He knew it wouldn’t be easy against a deep and talented front court like Michigan State’s, but he certainly delivered for much of the game. Happ put up a game-high 22 points despite being saddled with foul trouble that limited him to just 26 minutes. He added four assists, four rebounds, two blocks and just one turnover for the Badgers, who were double-digit underdogs coming in.

The not so good: Defensive rebounding

At halftime, Michigan State had just three offensive rebounds. By the time the game was over, the Spartans had 16. It was a huge difference in the game, as they turned those second-chance opportunities into 10 points. And even more than that, forced a tired team into spending even more time playing defense.

Stat of the game: 2 of 6

That was Wisconsin’s free throw shooting on Friday, a day after it went 20 of 24 from the line. Most of the misses came at key moments late in the game. Iverson had a chance for a 3-point play to cut the lead to one with 2:54 left, but missed the free throw. With another opportunity 9 seconds later, he missed the front end of a one-and-one. The deficit was still just two with 1:52 left, when Happ stepped to the line and missed the front of his own one-and-one. Wisconsin had its chances to put further pressure on Michigan State and couldn’t do it.

What they said:

“We know how good we are. We know we belong there. That’s what makes it sting more, because if you’re losing all your games and getting blown out you can kind of get the idea you don’t belong there. But we know we belong there. And Michigan State does, too. And everyone else in the league does. We just didn’t turn it around quick enough.”

— Davison on the team’s late-season surge.

Must-listen audio: Brad Davison postgame

In Case You Missed It:

  • Happ said after the game he would declare for the 2018 NBA Draft but won’t hire an agent. It will allow him to attend the NBA combine, if invited, and get a better sense of how personnel executives view him. Happ told reporters he will likely return for his senior year if he’s not a first-round pick.

    The center also said there was no truth to a midseason rumor that said he was considering graduating in May and transferring to another school for his final season. He made it clear that the only two options in his mind are turning pro or returning to Wisconsin.

  • Davison has been playing with a shoulder injury since late November, one that causes it to pop out of place. He told the Big Ten Network it had been displaced a total of eight times between games and practices. He’ll undergo surgery soon after he gets back to Madison that will likely keep him out of action for much of the offseason, though he does expect to be ready for the 2018-19 season.
  • Sophomore D’Mitrik Trice, who missed the final 23 games of the season, said he’s feeling close to 100 percent following foot surgery in December. The point guard said he enjoyed watching the team grow the last few months, but can’t wait to be back out on the floor. He believes they can be among the best teams in the Big Ten, and in turn, the country next season. Trice is expected to get a medical hardship waiver for this season, meaning he’ll have three years of eligibility left.
  • With the loss, Wisconsin finishes under .500 (15-18) for the first time since 1998, which is also the last year the Badgers failed to make the NCAA Tournament.

NFL Scouting Combine: Day 3 observations

Indianapolis – The 2018 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis continued on Friday with the quarterbacks, wide receivers, tight ends, and specialists meeting with the media.

Here are three takeaways from the day:

Help in the wide receiver room

Friday is when all of the wide receivers met with the media. This class doesn’t have a sure-fire top receiver in it. Calvin Ridley, who played college at the University of Alabama, is expected to be the first receiver taken off of the board. With that being said, it would come as a surprise to no one if he stuck around until the middle of the first round.

The other receivers in this class that could find themselves in Green Bay include James Washington of Oklahoma State, Equanimeous St. Brown from Notre Dame, Christian Kirk from Texas A&M, or Maryland’s D.J. Moore.

Those four all said that they have met with the Green Bay Packers – either formally or informally – while in Indianapolis.

Indiana wide receiver Simmie Cobbs also said that he met with the Packers informally with no plans for a formal visit as of Friday afternoon.

It’s common for teams to take meetings with as many prospects as possible at the combine, but this position is certainly worth watching with the looming contract situations of current wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.

If one, or both, of Cobb and Nelson are gone next fall when the Packers hit the field, drafting one of these four receivers certainly could help to lessen the impact.

Wisconsin on the scene

After the first day of player availability, no players from the University of Wisconsin had spoken yet. That changed on Friday when tight end Troy Fumagalli met with the media.

Expectedly, the first few questions that Fumagalli fielded from members of the media were about the fact that he only has four fingers on his left hand. This was something that happened when Fumagalli was exposed to national media during his time at Wisconsin, but did not come up on a day-to-day basis.

“Woodshop class, I guess that was my best one,” Fumagalli joked when asked what his best fake story about losing his finger was. “No, I’m pretty serious about it. I just tell people how it happened at birth. At serious events like this I don’t mess around with that stuff.

“I know it’s part of the process. [Teams] invest a lot of money in people and they need to know everything so that doesn’t bother me,” he said when asked if the questions about his missing finger annoyed him.

Fumagalli also said that he did meet with the Packers while at the combine already.

“I love the Packers. I love what they do with the offense and things like that. Yeah, I’d love to stay at home in Wisconsin.”

Saquon Barkley impresses

The Packers won’t be drafting Saquon Barkley in the draft this year. That needs to be said before the rest of this is written.

Barkley, however, has been one of the stars of the combine to this point.

In the bench press on Thursday, Barkley benched 225lbs 29 times, tied for most among the running backs with Nick Chubb from Georgia. For a point of reference, Barkley beat all but five offensive linemen at the combine.

On Friday, Barkley took part in on-field drills at Lucas Oil Stadium. He tested extremely well in both the 40-yard dash and vertical leap. The Penn State product had the second fastest time in the 40-yard dash at 4.41, two hundredths of a second slower than Nyheim Hines from NC State.

Barkley was the leader at the running back positon in the vertical jump with 41 inches.

Whether or not these things will translate on to the field in the NFL remains to be seen, but his athleticism is certainly undeniable.

B1G Tournament — Wisconsin 59, Maryland 54: Last word

NEW YORK CITY — Wisconsin moved into the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals Thursday with a 59-54 victory over Maryland at Madison Square Garden.

Player of the Game: The team

No one player stood out for Wisconsin and that was just fine. The Badgers got contributions from up and down their lineup in the win. Four players scored in double figures, but none had more than Ethan Happ’s 14. The junior center also led the way with seven rebounds, but juniors Khalil Iverson and Brevin Pritzl each had six. It was a group effort on both ends of the floor for Wisconsin, which won for a fifth time in its last seven games.

The good: The defense

Wisconsin wouldn’t have won a game like this a month ago. Actually, when you think about it, the Badgers didn’t. Back on Feb. 4 against this same Maryland team, the shots weren’t falling and they weren’t good enough on the other end to overcome it. On Thursday, they were. They had a stretch in the first half where they didn’t make a shot for 9:21, yet still led by two at the half. They had smaller stretches in the second half where they couldn’t make anything but never lost the lead. And then, needing one stop to get the win in the final seconds, Iverson stepped in front of a lazy pass for a game-clinching steal.

“That definitely is the difference between the team early in the season and the team now,” Happ said.

The not so good: 3-point shooting

Neither team could find much luck from beyond the arc going a combined 5 of 32 from deep. That included the Badgers going 3 of 18. It was their worst performance since going 1 for 14 against Illinois on Jan. 19.

Stat of the game: 20 of 24

That’s what Wisconsin shot from the free throw line on Thursday. The 83.3-percent effort was the second-best of the season, and it was obviously vital considering the shooting struggles from the field. Even Happ, who shot 53.9-percent this season, was on the mark, going 6 of 7.

What they said:

“Oh, yeah. Not just Michigan State. I think you always want to play against the top teams. They are arguably one of the top teams in the country. We wouldn’t want it any other way.”

— Davison on getting to see Michigan State in the quarterfinals after losing to the Spartans last Sunday.

“Yeah, for sure. I’m ready to rock. Pretty sure all of us are. It’s fresh in our memories…Just have to go out and get it now.”

— Pritzl on being excited to see Michigan State again.

In Case You Missed It:

  • Wisconsin had just seven turnovers and have had 10 or fewer in six of the last seven games.
  • The Badgers moved to 3-2 all-time at Madison Square Garden.
  • Wisconsin football coach Paul Chryst attended the game, as did athletic director Barry Alvarez.

What’s Next

Wisconsin (15-17, 7-11) will take on Michigan State (28-3, 16-2) in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament on Friday with tip coming at 11 a.m. (CT).

Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ named first-team All-Big Ten for a second time

Wisconsin is having a down year, but that didn’t stop anyone from recognizing Ethan Happ as one of the best players in the Big Ten.

For a second straight season, the Badgers center was a first-team All-Big Ten selection, though he was not a consensus pick. Happ was chosen as part of the first team by the media, while the coaches opted for James Palmer Jr. of Nebraska.

According to UW, Happ is the only player in the country that leads his team in points (17.9 per game), rebounds (8.2 per game), assists (1.5 per game), blocks (1.0 per game) and steals (1.5 per game). If he maintains those numbers, he’ll likely become the first Big Ten player to lead in all five categories since former Wisconsin forward Sam Okey did it in 1995-96.

Happ joins Frank Kaminsky, Jordan Taylor, Alando Tucker, Kirk Penney and Michael Finley as the only Wisconsin players since 1990 to earn first-team honors twice.