Former Wisconsin DL Beau Allen’s trash talk hits the mark

Beau Allen’s trash talk is on point.

The former Wisconsin defensive lineman is in his fourth year with the Philadelphia Eagles, who will take on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII this Sunday in Minneapolis. A Minnesota native, it’s a homecoming for Allen, who spurned his home state Gophers to play for the Badgers. It was obviously a sound choice, as Wisconsin never lost to Minnesota during Allen’s time in Madison. In fact, it’s been 14 years since the Gophers beat the Badgers.

So when it was suggested that Allen bring the rivalry trophy the winning team  gets to keep — Paul Bunyan’s Axe — to Super Bowl media day on Monday, his response probably left Wisconsin fans with big smiles on their faces.

What the future holds: Inside linebacker

With the 2017 season in the books, it’s time to look ahead to 2018 for Wisconsin. Over the next few weeks 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.

Inside linebackers:

Returning: T.J. Edwards (SR), Ryan Connelly (SR), Chris Orr (JR), Arrington Farrar (SR), Griffin Grady (RS SO), Mike Maskalunas (RS SO), Nick Thomas (JR), Mason Stokke (RS SO)

Leaving: Jack Cichy

Arriving: Jack Sanborn (4-star)

Season grades

Biggest question: Can the unit be better than it was in 2017?

Wisconsin has an embarrassment of riches at inside linebacker whereT.J. Edwards returns for his fourth year as a starter after putting his NFL aspirations on hold. All he’s done so far is rack up 254 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, five sacks and seven interceptions. In 2017, the former high school quarterback was a first-team All-Big Ten selection and a finalist for the Butkus Award, which goes to the best linebacker in the country.

Next to Edwards for much of the season was Ryan Connelly. For a second straight year, the Badgers called on the senior help them overcome a rash of injuries. He would end up leading the team in tackles (88), finish second in tackles for loss (11), record three sacks and provided the final dagger in the Orange Bowl with a late interception. The former walk-on earned All-Big Ten honorable mention from the coaches and the media.

And then there is Chris Orr, who bounced back after a season-ending injury at the start of 2016. Playing in 12 games, he ended up with 36 tackles, three tackles for loss an a pair of sacks.

Those three helped Wisconsin’s defense be one of the best in the nation. That it came after losing Jack Cichy, who very well could have been the Badgers best defensive player if not for tearing his left ACL prior to the season, was remarkable. But how can they get better in 2018?

Let’s start with Edwards. His task is pretty simple. Improve on what the NFL told him to — his speed. Despite all his success, the NFL’s draft advisory committee still had concerns about his ability to run and it was the biggest factor in advising him to return to school.

As for Connelly and Orr, it’s about taking what they did in 2017 and making it more consistent, according to defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard.

“You need Chris Orr to continue to grow and develop,” Leonhard said in the days before the Orange Bowl last month. “He’s made big plays for us. He’s a communicator. He’s a leader for us. Just have to take the next step with him.

“Ryan Connelly, the same way. You saw from (2016) him having the ability to make plays and then (2017) just the consistency with which he’s made plays (was great). You hope he takes that to the next step and continues to gain confidence.”

Other notes:

It’s not a matter of if injuries hit the position but when. So it’ll be important for inside linebacker coach Bob Bostad and Leonhard to find a fourth and fifth guy they can count on.

The first option there is senior Arrington Farrar. He’s still learning the ropes to an extent after moving from safety to linebacker in the spring of 2017, but Leonhard liked what he saw in limited action.

The Badgers will get Griffin Grady back at full strength. After playing as a true freshman in 2016, Grady redshirted last year after an illness limited him in fall camp. He went on to be named the co-scout team player of the year on defense.

Redshirt sophomore Mike Maskalunas was a constant on special teams and will fight Farrar and Grady for playing time.

Incoming freshman Jack Sanborn is the highest rated recruit in Wisconsin’s 2018 class. There doesn’t appear to be a ton of playing time available, but he could always force his way onto the field like Grady did in his first year.

Predicted spring depth chart:

ILB: T.J. Edwards (SR), Chris Orr (JR)
ILB: Ryan Connelly (SR), Arrington Farrar (SR)

What the future holds:
Quarterback
Running back
Wide receiver
Tight end
Offensive line
Defensive line

Wisconsin picks up pair of commitments in 2019 class

The strong start for Wisconsin in its 2019 recruiting class continued this weekend.

Wide receiver Nolan Groulx announced Sunday morning on Twitter he had committed to the Badgers.

“First off, I would like to thank my family who has supported me through the whole process,” Groulx tweeted. “I would like to thank my coaches at Davidson Day and Hough High School for all the help over the years. I’m very thankful for the opportunities that have been given to me. I’m excited and blessed to say I am officially committed to the University of Wisconsin.”

A 3-star star recruit, the 6-foot, 185-pound, Groulx chose Wisconsin over the likes of North Carolina State, South Carolina and Texas A&M. The Cornelius, N.C., product is rated as the No. 69 wide receiver in the 2019 class and is the 19th-ranked player in the state of North Carolina, according to 247Sports.

His commitment comes less than 24 hours after safety Bryson Shaw also verbally committed to Wisconsin. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Shaw had been committed to play lacrosse at Maryland since his freshman year of high school, but changed his mind and pledged to the Badgers on his visit this weekend.

“I am extremely blessed and very excited to announce that I have committed to the University of Wisconsin,” Shaw tweeted. “This is just the start of something special.”

Considered the 73rd best safety in the country, Shaw also held offers from Duke, Rutgers, Virginia and West Virginia among others. The Potomac, Md., native is from the same high school — The Bullis School — as current Wisconsin safety Patrick Johnson.

The two commitments put Wisconsin at seven for the 2019 class. According to 247Sports, the class currently ranks first in the Big Ten and No. 3 in the country.

Wisconsin Basketball Roundtable: Jan. 26, 2018

For the fourth time this season, Wisconsin lost by at least 18 points when it fell at Iowa 85-67 on Tuesday night. It was just the latest gut shot for a program that was playing for a national title three years ago. And it brought out some experts claiming the program was “in trouble” without acknowledging the injuries, inexperience and other adversity the Badgers have faced in the second full year of the Greg Gard era.

On this week’s Wisconsin Basketball Roundtable, we asked our former Badgers — Josh Gasser, Mike Bruesewitz and Zak Showalter — whether they think their alma mater is in trouble or if this is just a one-year dip for a program that has had nearly unparalleled success over the last 20 seasons.

Zach Heilprin & Danny Cunningham

Mike Bruesewitz

Josh Gasser

Zak Showalter

What the future holds: Defensive line

With the 2017 season in the books, it’s time to look ahead to 2018 for Wisconsin. Over the next few weeks 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.

Defensive line:

Returning: Olive Sagapolu (SR), Isaiahh Loudermilk (RS SO), Garrett Rand (JR), David Pfaff (JR), Keldric Preston (RS SO), Kraig Howe (JR), Aaron Vopal (RS FR)

Leaving: Alec James, Conor Sheehy, Chikwe Obasih

Arriving: Bryson Williams (3-star), Boyd Dietzen (3-star), Isaiah Mullens (3-star)

Season grades

Biggest question: How does Wisconsin fill the depth chart following the loss of three productive seniors?

Wisconsin loses 157 games played, including 90 starts, from the three seniors that played their final game against Miami in the Orange Bowl. Alec James, Conor Sheehy and Chikwe Obasih were near constants along the Badgers front the last four seasons and won’t be easy to replace, though Wisconsin does have a few options.

The known is nose tackle Olive Sagapolu. The senior has made 19 starts in his first three years and is the centerpiece of Wisconsin’s front, especially against power run teams. He did have a career-high three sacks in 2017.

Injuries plagued redshirt sophomore Isaiahh Loudermilk in 2017, but when healthy, he flashed some playmaking ability and should man one of the defensive end spots.

The other one, you would think, should be occupied by junior Garrett Rand. Thanks to all the experienced and talented players in front of him the last two years, he played out of position as Sagapolu’s backup at nose tackle as opposed to his more natural defensive end position. Now would be the time to move him back outside, something his father, somewhat surprisingly, took to Twitter to express earlier this month.

What’s up in the air is who will fill the depth chart behind those three.

Redshirt sophomore Keldric Preston is currently more known for a video of him eating an orange — peal and all — that went viral following the Orange Bowl. But like James, he’s a big, athletic body that should push for time this fall.

Redshirt freshman Aaron Vopal has the size and ability to hold up and is a guy to keep an eye on.

Juniors David Pfaff and Kraig Howe have been buried on the depth chart their first three years. If they are going to make an impact in their careers, the time is now.

As for incoming players, everyone is looking at Bryson Williams as a potential early contributor. Wisconsin managed to hold onto Williams despite a last minute push from his hometown Nebraska Cornhuskers and new coach Scott Frost. A 3-star recruit, Williams is already on campus as an early enrollee, going through winter conditioning and will take part in spring practice. It would be significant if the 6-foot-2, 295-pound Williams could win the backup nose tackle job.

Defensive end Boyd Dietzen — the top ranked player in Wisconsin in the Class of 2018 — finished with 20 tackles for loss and 10 sacks for Division 1 state champion Kimberly as a senior. A 3-star recruit, Dietzen and fellow true freshman Isaiah Mullens could force their way into the conversation for playing time with a good summer in the weight room and a strong fall camp.

Predicted depth chart:

DE: Isaiahh Loudermilk (RS SO), Keldric Preston (RS SO)
NT: Oliver Sagapolu (SR), Bryson Williams (FR)
DE: Garrett Rand (JR), Aaron Vopal (RS FR)

What the future holds:
Quarterback
Running back
Wide receiver
Tight end
Offensive line

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:
Quarterback
Running back
Wide receiver
Tight end

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

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:
Quarterback
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:
Quarterback
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