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Today is Friday, Jan. 20, and this is your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.
2017 class prospects
National Signing Day may be Feb. 1, but Wisconsin’s 2017 class essentially is complete. In an effort to highlight players coach Paul Chryst hopes will become household names in the next few years, we are taking a look at some players each day.
We introduced quarterback Jack Coan and running back Jonathan Taylor on Thursday, and now it’s time for guard Kayden Lyles and cornerback Madison Cone.
6-foot-3, 320-pound guard
247Sports ranking: 4-star, No. 12 guard in the nation
Quick look: Lyles is the brother of redshirt freshman quarterback Kare Lyles and the son of former Wisconsin tight end Kevin Lyles. He spent his first three years of high school in Arizona before finishing in Middleton. Lyles, an unanimous AP all-state selection as a senior, is the top-rated recruit in Wisconsin’s 2017 class.
2017 impact: An early enrollee, Lyles appears physically ready to help right away, but he may not be needed. Wisconsin returns both starting guards, along with key reserve Micah Kapoi. Sans injuries, it seems likely Lyles will redshirt.
5-foot-9, 170-pound cornerback/safety
247Sports ranking: 3-stars, No. 131 cornerback in the nation
Quick look: An all-state selection in North Carolina, Cone was a four-year starter who shined as a senior, picking off seven passes. He finished his career as his school’s all-time leader in interceptions with 27.
2017 impact: With senior Sojourn Shelton the only cornerback not returning, Cone may be hard-pressed to find playing time next fall. However, like Shelton he is an early enrollee so he should have ample opportunities to show whether he belongs on the field during his first year.
Earlier this month, Ryan Ramczyk and T.J. Watt became the latest Wisconsin players to forego their final seasons of eligibility and enter the NFL draft. Those who preceded them have had varying levels of success. Some have emerged as All-Pros, others have fallen flat.
With that in mind, here’s a ranking of how the careers of those early entrants played out in the NFL:
1. J.J. Watt (2011 first-round pick, Houston Texans)
Watt missed a majority of 2016 with a back injury, but the defensive end’s first five years in the NFL were as good as any player in the league’s history. Watt is one of two players to be named NFL Defensive Player of the Year three times.
2. Travis Frederick (2013 first-round pick, Dallas Cowboys)
Frederick is widely considered the best center in the NFL, and he anchors an offensive line many believe to be the top unit in football. He hasn’t allowed a sack since 2014 and earned a six-year, $56 million contract extension last August.
3. Melvin Gordon (2015 first-round pick, San Diego Chargers)
Gordon had done almost everything he could at the collegiate level when he announced his decision to bypass his senior year, and he was rewarded by being taken No. 15 overall. Though he struggled as a rookie, Gordon finished four yards short of a 1,000-yard season in his second year, which was cut three games short by a knee injury.
4. Michael Bennett (2001 first-round pick, Minnesota Vikings)
Fresh off a 1,500-yard season as a junior, Bennett worked his way into the first round of the NFL Draft in large part to his blazing speed. The best season of his 10-year career came in 2002 when he rushed for 1,296 yards and earned his only Pro Bowl honor. Bennett never rushed for more than 473 yards in another season.
5. Jamar Fletcher (2001 first-round pick, Miami Dolphins)
Fletcher, the Thorpe Award winner as a junior, never lived up to his expectations as a first-round pick in Miami. He started just six games in three years, managing two interceptions. He spent five more seasons in the league, his best year coming in Detroit in 2006 when he had three picks and returned one for a touchdown.
Other early entrants: Lee DeRamus (1996), Brian Calhoun (2006), Jack Ikegwuonu (2008), P.J. Hill (2009) and John Clay (2011).
Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez is in favor of an early signing date in football. So, too, is Paul Chryst. Badgers fans should be as well.
The proposal this week from the Division I Council would set up two 72-hour signing periods along with the normal National Signing Day on the first Wednesday in February. The first period would happen in June and the second would come in December during the same time when junior college players are allowed to sign.
In a letter to fans posted on Thursday, Alvarez explained why he’s in favor of the early signing period, though it’s unclear if he’s interested in both dates or just the one in December.
“If you have someone who wants to sign in December, you sign him. You then know who’s in your boat and who’s still out there. If he doesn’t sign, you just keep recruiting him until February,” Alvarez said.
“Overall, you get a much better idea of where you stand with your recruiting class. It might address all the commitments and de-commitments that have become a part of our landscape.”
Chryst addressed the topic of the early signing periods during the season.
“I think it would be good for us,” the second-year coach said. “I think there’s some kids that you know enough about them, and they know enough about the university, to make that decision. Therefore, they should be able to sign like other sports. There’s some kids that you want to find out more. Maybe senior year, they’re not sure and haven’t narrowed (the schools) down. Or maybe academically they’ve got to do a little bit more. I’m in favor of the early opportunity to sign and keeping the signing date as well.”
While there are certainly drawbacks to the early dates, namely what happens if a coach gets fired or leaves for another job, overall it would be good for Wisconsin. Getting prospects to sign on the dotted line as soon as possible won’t allow more high-profile teams an opportunity to swoop in and take players at the last minute. It also gives schools a better idea where they stand with certain recruits.
When Wisconsin’s men’s basketball team heads to Minnesota on Saturday, it may be doing so without senior Vitto Brown.
#Badgers senior forward Vitto Brown (lower right leg) missed practice Thursday. Appeared he injured it 2nd half vs. Michigan. Day to day.
— Jim Polzin (@JimPolzinWSJ) January 20, 2017
If Brown can’t go, the Badgers likely would go with a smaller lineup like they did a year ago when he missed playing at Illinois. Guard Jordan Hill started that night, but it’s possible that it may be sophomore Khalil Iverson or freshman D’Mitrik Trice this time.
Meanwhile, on Thursday we wrote on the struggles Wisconsin was having at the free-throw line, where it ranks 270th in the country following a 14-of-24 performance against Michigan on Tuesday night. That included a 4-of-10 effort from Nigel Hayes, who has seen his free-throw percentage drop 13 points from last year to 60.4 percent. There might be a reason for his recent issues, though.
#Badgers Hayes has cut on right index finger. Was 14-17 from FT line in first 3 B1G games. Just 5-15 since injury.
— Jeff Potrykus (@jaypo1961) January 20, 2017
Wisconsin fans should hope it is the injury that’s led to his recent struggles, but considering he shot 60.8 percent in the non-conference schedule, the cause of his issues seems dubious at best.
- From Land of 10’s Sean Keeler: Why ESPN’s Mel Kiper loves Wisconsin draft prospects.
- Which of the Big Ten West powers will be impacted the most by Minnesota’s hiring of P.J. Fleck?
- The full story on Vitto Brown’s injury, from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Jeff Potrykus.
- A preview from the Wisconsin State Journal on the Badgers’ big hockey series against a top-10 Minnesota team.