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Former Wisconsin QB Bart Houston has signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Two more ex-Badgers sign UDFA deals in NFL, Nigel Hayes works out for Bucks, an Ohio DL commits

We hope you’ll start your day with us here at the as we work to prepare you for everything that you need to know — Monday through Friday — around the world of Wisconsin sports. Whether it’s football, basketball, hockey or just a wild story we hope you’ll find interesting, we’re here to share it all with you.

Today is Wednesday, May 17, and this is what’s for breakfast.

Getting their shot

Wisconsin football’s 2016 senior class was a small one, with just 12 members. But half of that group now resides on an NFL roster after QB Bart Houston and RB Dare Ogunbowale were officially added to teams on Tuesday. The former is headed to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the latter to the Houston Texans.

Houston is certainly the more improbable of the two. He threw just 192 passes in his career, didn’t start a game until his senior year and ended up losing that job to a redshirt freshman after three games. It’s a remarkable feat that a guy who threw only 9 touchdowns and 5 interceptions over four seasons is now on the roster of the defending AFC North champion.

Whether he makes it to training camp or not, his signing is a testament to NFL coaches believing they can turn talent — any kind of talent — into a worthwhile product. And Houston has plenty of talent. He’s got an NFL-type arm, showed he could be accurate with the ball down the stretch last year and is mobile enough. But he was never able to put it together at Wisconsin. Hopefully, Pittsburgh will give him the opportunity to do that.

Ogunbowale was thought to have signed with the Texans as a free agent right after the draft, but when the team announced their signees prior to rookie minicamp last weekend, he wasn’t on the list. Didn’t matter, though, as he impressed the team enough to get signed following the camp. It’s going to be a steep climb for him to make the final roster, but his versatility in catching the ball out of the backfield and vast special teams experience won’t hurt.

2016 Wisconsin players on NFL rosters:

Vince Biegel — Green Bay Packers (Fourth round)
Corey Clement — Philadelphia Eagles (UDFA)
Bart Houston — Pittsburgh Steelers (UDFA)
Dare Ogunbowale — Houston Texans (UDFA)
Ryan Ramczyk (Jr.) — New Orleans Saints (First round)
Sojourn Shelton — Arizona Cardinals (UDFA)
T.J. Watt (Jr.) — Pittsburgh Steelers (First round)
Robert Wheelwright — New York Giants (UDFA)

Nigel Hayes being Nigel Hayes

The Milwaukee Bucks have been holding predraft workouts the last few weeks, and on Tuesday that included a familiar face: former Wisconsin F Nigel Hayes. He was one of six guys who took part and was clearly the most sought-after for reporters once the workout was done. And like he did so many times during his Badgers career, Hayes dropped some notable quotes and ideas, the best probably being this, as relayed by Spectrum Sports reporter J.P. Cadorin.

Yes, it does feel like the NBA draft becomes more and more about potential than production as the years go on. Staying four years as Hayes did is viewed as some sort of weakness, while those that scouts have seen play far less are more valued. Hayes knows that and is OK with it. But he also isn’t conceding the fact that his experience should be positive. Everything he’s seen, everything he’s been through and everything he’s dealt with are commodities that should be included in his scouting report.

The play of former Virginia star Malcom Brogdon this year for the Bucks is proof of that. He was a four-year player for coach Tony Bennett, fell to the second round of the 2016 NBA Draft and is now in the running for the Rookie of the Year Award.

There’s value in experience, but only if the player himself is actually good enough to play at the NBA level. Brogdon has proven to everybody that he belongs. Hayes is just hoping for the chance to do the same.

Addition for 2018

Wisconsin’s newest recruit — DE Isaiah Mullens. (Isaiah Mullens/Twitter)

Wisconsin continued its recruiting push on Tuesday, getting a commitment from 3-star DE Isaiah Mullens (Columbus, Ohio). The 6-foot-5, 280-pound Mullens chose the Badgers among offers from 13 others schools, including Louisville and Rutgers. According to 247Sports, Mullens is the No. 23 strongside defensive end in the Class of 2018, and he joins 3-star prospect Boyd Dietzen (Kimberly, Wis.) as the Badgers’ two D-line commits.

Through the years, Ohio has been very good to Wisconsin in recruiting. Go back to WRs Chris Chambers and Lee Evans, both of whom the Badgers grabbed out of the state and turned into All-Big Ten players and early NFL draft picks. Just in the last seven years Ohio has given Wisconsin players such as Chris Borland, Darius Hillary, Austin Traylor, Bill Nagy, Rob Wheelwright and Michael Deiter.

The school added two players from Ohio in 2016, arguably their top recruit in 2017 — 4-star WR Danny Davis — is from there, and now the Badgers have two in 2018 with several more targets in Ohio.

Not everyone that Wisconsin has brought in from Ohio has worked out, but it’s not a bad place to target if you’re the Badgers and have had the success they’ve had.

Catching up

  • NBA Hall of Fame C Kareem Abdul-Jabbar praised the way Wisconsin runs its basketball program.
  • Could a Big Ten Basketball Tournament take place in Omaha or Minneapolis? Commissioner Jim Delany is ready to listen if people want to bring it there.
  • Big Ten officials did not expect the blowback they got for moving football games to Friday night.