Baseball at Wisconsin: Progress Report

MADISON, Wis. — I’ve started research for my next in-depth report and I wanted to take this opportunity to let our listeners/readers know where I’m at in the process. I’ll try to do these somewhat regularly as a way to inform the public, but also allow feedback on parts I may be getting wrong or new directions to consider.

Topic: Baseball at the University of Wisconsin and if it’s possible to revive the program

Interviews completed:
Terry Gawlik | Senior Associate Athletic Director for Sports Administration, University of Wisconsin

Interviews Requested:
Jeff Block | head coach of club baseball, University of Wisconsin
Pat Richter | former Athletic Director, University of Wisconsin
John Vodenlich | head baseball coach, University of Wisconsin | Whitewater
Bud Selig | former MLB commissioner and Milwaukee Brewers owner, University of Wisconsin alum
Herb Kohl | former Milwaukee Bucks owner, U.S. Senator, University of Wisconsin alum
Steve Schmitt | Owner of Big Top Baseball and Madison Mallards

Interviews declined:
Barry Alvarez | Athletic Director, University of Wisconsin

Summary of information gathered so far: In speaking with Terry Gawlik, it appears very unlikely Wisconsin will ever revive its baseball program unless there is a substantial surplus of revenue. Operating costs have run at or very near revenue generated in each fiscal budget report for at least the last 10 years. Barry Alvarez also appears to have no willingness to bring baseball back to Wisconsin at this time.

Suggestions? Eric.rogers@madcitysportszone.com

Ex-Badger Jordan Hill transferring to Seattle

SEATTLE — Former University of Wisconsin guard Jordan Hill has finalized plans to transfer to Seattle University, a Jesuit Catholic College in the Western Athletic Conference.

Hill announced on Apr. 12 that he would be leaving the Badgers upon completing his degree this spring, enrolling elsewhere as a graduate transfer. While no specific reason was listed, it can be assumed playing time was a factor in his decision. While he averaged 15.6 minutes per game under the interim year of coach Greg Gard, his 2016-17 campaign saw that playing time decrease to 10.2 minutes per game.

Hill will be the eldest guard on the Redhawks roster, with redshirt seniors Manroop Clair and Brendan Westendorf playing out their final years of eligibility this past season.

Wisconsin Spring Game: Defense 20, Offense 17

MADISON — In a spring game missing nearly every marquee player on Wisconsin’s roster, the defense prevailed over the offense 20-17 Friday night at Camp Randall Stadium.

Playing the game under the lights for the first time, a crowd of 8,095 were treated to a practice segment followed by an hour-long game with a running clock, played mostly by backups, including at quarterback where freshmen Jack Coan and Kare Lyles got all the snaps with sophomore Alex Hornibrook looking on.

The defense, which could rack up points through sacks, three-and-outs and forcing turnovers, held the offense out of the end zone until the final play from scrimmage, as Coan found tight end Zander Neuville for an 8-yard touchdown.

Though it was difficult to take much of anything from the game itself, it was the culmination of 15 practices, all of which were open to the media.

Here, then, are some of our thoughts on what we saw over the last month.

1) Backup quarterback is a concern

Wisconsin returns 15 starters from last year’s 11-3 squad that won the Big Ten West, and many are picking the Badgers to do it again. And while we’ll acknowledge it’s only April, the chances of them repeating would likely be derailed if there’s an injury at the quarterback spot.

Hornibrook had a solid spring and is the unquestioned leader of the offense. But not since Russell Wilson took every meaningful snap in 2011 has Wisconsin not needed their backup quarterback at some point.

Coan, who should still be a senior in high school right now, looked solid on Friday and generally outperformed Kare Lyles this spring, especially during the scrimmage portions. That bodes well for him, but it also came mostly against the second- and third-team defense. Both guys need to take a big jump this summer to be ready if Hornibrook were to go down.

2) Finding a left tackle

The offensive line has a chance to be as good as its been since 2014, but the Badgers need to solidify the left tackle spot vacated by All-American Ryan Ramczyk. Sophomore David Edwards, who started eight games at right tackle last year, moved to the left side this spring and was OK. An ankle injury sidelined him late, and it led the Badgers to move junior Michael Deiter into his spot. Deiter has started games at center and guard during his career, and coach Paul Chryst said it’s entirely possible he could add tackle to the list when the season starts.

“Whatever we have to do to get the best five on the field,” Chryst said of their mindset. “The more guys can do, play different spots, whether it be right side, left side, center, guard or tackle, it’s helpful.”

Depending on how the summer goes, it would not be a surprise to see Deiter at left tackle, with sophomore Jon Dietzen at left guard, highly regarded redshirt freshman Tyler Biadasz at center, junior Beau Benzschawel at right guard and Edwards back at right tackle, and then having experienced backups in juniors Micah Kapoi and Jake Maxwell, and up-and-coming freshmen Cole Van Lanen and Patrick Kasl.

3) The defensive line is stacked

No position group on the team has more experience than the defensive line where they return their top six players from last season and are even deeper this time around.

Redshirt freshman Isaiahh Loudermilk spent most of the spring in the offensive backfield, and sophomore Garrett Rand got a ton of reps and found a home at defensive end. Both guys are going to push seniors Alec James, Conor Sheehy and Chikwe Obasih for playing time this fall and be the face of the defensive line once those guys exhaust their eligibility.

4) Expectations haven’t changed on defense

Despite losing All-Big Ten players like T.J. Watt, Vince Biegel and Sojourn Shelton, along with Team MVP Leo Musso, the Wisconsin defense isn’t expecting any kind of drop off from what it accomplished last year, or for that matter, the last four seasons when the Badgers have become one of the elite units in the country.

“None of us are going to have that diminish on our watch,” senior linebacker Jack Cichy said of the defense’s almost unparalleled success in Wisconsin history. “I guess if you want to say it would tarnish our legacy, it would. But we don’t really think about it like that. We’re better than that. This program can’t have any fall off just because how far it has come. I just don’t think we as a defense would allow (it).”

Wisconsin came into the spring needing to find four new starters and it appears they have. Hawaii transfer Nick Nelson has stepped into Shelton’s cornerback spot, while senior Natrell Jamerson made the move from cornerback to safety and worked with the No. 1 unit all spring in the place occupied by Musso a year ago. Instead of Watt and Biegel at outside linebacker, it’s seniors Garrett Dooley and Leon Jacobs, both of whom had very good springs, while sophomore Zack Baun and junior college transfer Andrew Van Ginkel will see time as well.

As for other key spots, a battle for the third cornerback job will play itself out in fall camp with the favorites being redshirt freshman Dontye Carriere-Williams and senior Lubern Figaro. The Badgers also need to figure out how to best use their ridiculous depth at inside linebacker where Cichy and sophomore Chris Orr return from injuries to battle two-year starter T.J. Edwards and superb fill-in Ryan Connelly.

When everything is said and done, it’s possible that the 2017 defense could match or even surpass what the 2016 group did.

5) Just fine at running back

Wisconsin lost a lot of production with Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale moving on to the next phase of their careers, but it appears they won’t hurt for options to fill the void.

Sophomore Bradrick Shaw isn’t overly flashy, but his one cut and go style is perfect for the offense. Then you’ve got junior Chris James, who is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, and will be big in the passing game and on third down. Add in what the Badgers hope is a healthy Taiwan Deal this fall, along with incoming freshman Jonathan Taylor, and things are looking just fine in the backfield.

A somewhat informed guess at Wisconsin’s depth chart:

  First-team Second-team
OFFENSE
QB Alex Hornibrook (RS SO) Jack Coan (FR) OR Kare Lyles (RS FR)
RB Bradrick Shaw (RS SO) OR Chris James (JR) Taiwan Deal (JR)
FB Alec Ingold (JR) Austin Ramesh (SR)
WR Jazz Peavy (SR) A.J. Taylor (SO)
WR Quintez Cephus (SO) Kendric Pryor (SO) OR George Rushing (SR)
TE Troy Fumagalli (SR) Zander Neuville (JR)
TE Kyle Penniston (RS SO) Luke Benzschawel (RS FR)
LT David Edwards (RS SO) Cole Van Lanen (RS FR)
LG Jon Dietzen (RS SO) Micah Kapoi (JR)
C Michael Deiter (JR) Tyler Biadasz (RS FR)
RG Beau Benzschawel (JR) Micah Kapoi (JR)
RT Patrick Kasl (RS FR) OR Jake Maxwell (JR) David Moorman (RS SO)
 
DEFENSE
DE Chikwe Obasih (SR) OR Alec James (SR) Garrett Rand (SO)
NT Olive Sagapolu (JR) Billy Hirschfeld (JR)
DE Conor Sheehy (SR) Isaiahh Loudermilk (RS FR)
OLB Garrett Dooley (SR) Andrew Van Ginkel (JR)
ILB Jack Cichy (SR) Chris Orr (RS SO)
ILB T.J. Edwards (JR) Ryan Connelly (JR)
OLB Leon Jacobs (SR) Zack Baun (RS SO)
CB Derrick Tindal (SR) Lubern Figaro (SR)
S D’Cota Dixon (SR) Joe Ferguson (SR)
S Natrell Jamerson (SR) Patrick Johnson (SO)
CB Nick Nelson (JR) Dontye Carriere-Williams (RS FR)
     
Kicker Rafael Gaglianone (JR) Zach Hintze (RS SO)
Punter Anthony Lotti (SO) P.J. Rosowski (JR)

 

Final stats:

Clay Matthews wants T.J. Watt in a Packers uniform

GREEN BAY | It’s not often NFL veterans mention specific players they want their teams to draft. But Clay Matthews doesn’t mind letting everyone know that he wants to see former Wisconsin Badger T.J. Watt in a Packers uniform this season.

“I know mock draft boards have him potentially coming here which would be great!” said Matthews on Tuesday afternoon inside Lambeau Field.

The Packers started their offseason workout program in Green Bay on Tuesday. Matthews, who is beginning his 9th NFL season all with the Packers, said “it would be great if (T.J.) is even half the player his brother was.”  Matthews referring to NFL star and former Badger J.J. Watt.

Matthews knows a little something about following in the footsteps of former NFL greats. His father, Clay Matthews Jr., was a four-time Pro Bowler with the Cleveland Browns. Matthews admits it will be tough for T.J. to follow in his brother’s footsteps. “I’m sure there’s pressure on him but if he’s anything like his brother he’ll have a drive and work ethic that can’t be matched.”

The NFL Draft begins on Thursday April 27, 2017 in Philadelphia. Matthews was drafted in round one of the 2009 Draft by the Packers with the 26th overall pick. He says his mom didn’t know he was a Packer until an hour or so after he was selected. “My mom actually thought it was the Patriots who drafted me so for about an hour and a half she thought I was going to New England,” said Matthews. “She was disappointed to find out I was going to Green Bay. But I think she’s come around.”

New England originally had the 26th overall pick in 2009. The Packers made a trade with the Patriots to acquire Matthews.

 

Former Wisconsin RB Dare Ogunbowale Joins The Joe & Ebo Show

MADISON | It’s an exciting time for a handful of Wisconsin Football players as the NFL Draft nears.

Eyeing up a professional career and possibly being drafted in just a few weeks, former Badgers running back, Dare Ogunbowale, joined the Joe & Ebo Show to talk about his future in the NFL.

Take a listen below:

Best of luck, Dare!

Catch the Joe & Ebo Show weekdays from 8a-11a on 106.7FM/1670AM The Zone.

Jordan Hill leaving UW men’s basketball program

MADISON |  Badger guard Jordan Hill has decided to leave the Wisconsin men’s basketball program and will likely transfer to another school. Hill, a redshirt junior, has been granted his release to explore transfer options, head coach Greg Gard announced on Wednesday. Hill is scheduled to graduate from the University of Wisconsin in May.

According to a press released issued by the UW, Hill said “I am so grateful for the opportunity to spend four years studying and playing at Wisconsin. In May, I will be graduating with an incredible degree from a world class institution. Making the decision to leave the program was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in life, but I had to make the best decision for myself. Thank you to everyone who has shown me love, my teammates who became brothers, coaches who never let me get stagnant, and all of the people on campus who educated a young man from Pasadena. I can never say enough because coming here was life-changing. I will always hold a special place in my heart for you, Wisconsin. I will forever be a Badger. On Wisconsin!”

Hill played in 76 games at UW, with one start. He averaged 1.5 points, 1.1 rebounds and 9.9 minutes in 35 games last season.

The departure of four senior starters and Hill leaves UW with eight scholarship players on the current roster. Wisconsin signed three players in November – Kobe King, Nathan Reuvers and Brad Davison.

It is possible the Badgers will be adding another scholarship player before next season.

UW assistant Lamont Paris leaves for head coaching job at Chattanooga

MADISON, Wis. — Fresh off its second straight loss in the Sweet 16, the Wisconsin men’s basketball team will be losing a key piece to its program. Assistant coach Lamont Paris is leaving the Badgers to take over as the head coach at Chattanooga.

Reports indicate Paris’ deal with the Mocs is for six years. He replaces the departed Matt McCall. The Mocs finished fifth in the Southern Conference, finishing the 2016-17 campaign with a 19-12 record.

Paris spent the last seven seasons at Wisconsin, where he witnessed two Final Four appearances in 2014 and 2015. Prior to that, Paris had spent six years with the Akron program.

Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ earns AP All-American honors

MADISON — For just the sixth time in school history, the Wisconsin basketball team has produced an Associated Press All-American.

Sophomore forward Ethan Happ was named a third-team All-American by the AP after helping the Badgers to a fourth straight Sweet Sixteen.

“It is definitely an honor to receive such a prestigious award,” Happ said in a release by the school. “No individual award comes without the help of others though. I want to thank my teammates, coaches and all the support I’ve gotten that has helped me get to this point.”

Happ finish second on the team in scoring at 14.0 points per game, while leading Wisconsin in rebounds (9.0), assists (2.8), blocks (1.2) and steals (1.8) on his way to earning first-team All-Big Ten honors and a second straight year of being named to the conference’s all-defensive team.

The Illinois native joins Frank Kaminsky (2015), Jordan Taylor (2011), Alando Tucker (2007), Devin Harris (2004) and Don Rehfeldt (1950) as Wisconsin players that have earned some form of recognition from the Associated Press since they first started naming All-American teams in 1948.

Badger bummer in Big Apple as Wisconsin loses on last second shot in OT to Florida

New York City | They don’t get much more exciting than this. Unfortunately for Wisconsin they don’t get much more heartbreaking either.  The Badger men’s basketball team’s spectacular season came to an end Friday night (actually Saturday morning) at Madison Square Garden, losing to Florida 84-83 in overtime. It was the second straight season Wisconsin’s run ended in the Sweet 16.

The Badgers mounted an impressive late comeback. Down eight points with 1:45 remaining in regulation, Florida’s offense went cold.  UW senior Bronson Koenig hit a three-pointer. Ethan Happ made a layup. And Zak Showalter made a rediculous running three pointer to tie the game at 72. Immediately after hitting the shot, Showalter looked over to where Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sitting and did the Discount Double-Check belt move to celebrate.

Wisconsin had a five point lead with 1 minute 33 seconds remaining in OT. But Nigel Hayes missed four crutial free throws in OT that could have put the game away, and Florida reserve guard Chris Chiozza made the Badgers pay. Chiozza hit a running three pointer at the buzzer, almost exactly the same way Showalter did. This time it ended the game as the Gators beat the Badgers by one point.

“Obviously, a very gut-wrenching game,” said UW coach Greg Gard, whose team finished 27-10. “But as I told the team, the last 45 minutes are going to sting and hurt for quite awhile as we move forward and appreciate these seniors that have helped push us forward, this program forward, and it’s in good hands and a good position as they exit. This is a tough way for them to go out.”

Wisconsin finished just 20 of 30 from the free throw line. Hayes, who was spectacular much of March, was just 7 of 14 from the line.

“If I make one or two of those free throws in overtime,” Hayes said, “nothing else matters.”

Hayes finished with a team-high 22 points. Ethan Happ added 21. Zak Showalter scored 14 points. Bronson Koenig added 13.

UW senior Vitto Brown fouled out with 7:10 left in regulation and finished with 10 points.

Florida guard KeVaughn Allen, the Gators’ leading scorer at 13.4 points entering the game,  finished with a game-high 35 points. He hit 4 of 12 three-pointers and 11 of 24 shots overall.

Josh Gasser, Mike Bruesewitz and Charlie Wills discuss Wisconsin’s 4th straight trip to Sweet 16

Josh Gasser knows this Badger men’s basketball team extremely well having played with this group of seniors. Mike Bruesewitz and Charlie Wills have strong ties to the program and continue to stay in close contact with the team. All three former Badgers have great insight to what the current Badgers are going through. They also have stories about their time with the team that relate directly to what the current Badgers are experiencing.

Want to hear more? Listen here: