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Wisconsin LB Jack Cichy is sporting a pronounced scar, but also says he is back to 100 percent.

Jack Cichy happy with his scar, NCAA rule changes help Wisconsin and scouts on NFL-bound Badgers

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Today is Monday, April 17, and this is what’s for breakfast.

‘I like the scar’

The first thing you notice about Jack Cichy these days — perhaps outside of his facial hair resembling that of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine character in X-Men — is the roughly 2-inch scar that’s taken up residence near where his shoulder and chest meet.

It’s impossible not to see it when the Wisconsin linebacker removes his shoulder pads and is wearing a shirt with the sleeves cut off. And Cichy doesn’t want to hide it. Not from himself and not from others. It’s a crazy man’s version of a souvenir from the agonizing pain of tearing a pectoral muscle from the bone, the surgery to fix it and the long road back.

“I hope it’s (that prominent) for the rest of my life,” Cichy said after a recent spring practice. “I like the scar. I don’t have any tattoos. It’s a good reminder. It’s a solid size. I like it. I’m a big fan of the scar. I got something out of it at least.”

The senior got a lot more out of it than just a scar. In missing the final 7 games of Wisconsin’s 2016 season, Cichy gained an even greater appreciation of his love for football, while also at the same time being given a new beginning when it came to things he may have been neglecting in the past — namely when it came to what he put in his body.

“There were obviously a lot of things that were bad about (getting hurt and) the surgery, but it gave me a fresh (start),” Cichy said of injury sustained Oct 22 against Iowa. “I couldn’t run for 12 weeks. When that happened, I really started over with everything.”

It’s been an arduous journey for Cichy, but he claims he was feeling 100 percent in the middle of March (the 6-month mark for recovery time following the surgery was April 10). His bench press may not be back to where it was before the injury, but he believes his lower body is as strong as it has ever been. Initially expected not to take part in spring practice at all, Cichy has been out there almost every day, though still limited to non-contact portions. But even in his limited capacity, his presence is notable.

On the first day of practice, when coach Paul Chryst called for 7-on-7 drills, Cichy came sprinting down the field, bumping into and jawing at offensive players, before finally jumping on the back of starting QB Alex Hornibrook. Even with the knowledge that it was his first competitive work since getting injured, the optics were comical and telling.

Later, when forced to watch as his fellow linebackers went 1-on-1 against the running backs in tackling drills, Cichy’s congratulatory messages echoed throughout an empty Camp Randall Stadium when any of his guys made an impressive play.

None of this is new or out of character for the former walk-on. It’s who he is. And to be fair, it’s what Wisconsin needs. When the Badgers lost Cichy, he was not only their leading tackler but also one of the emotional and fiery leaders on one of the best defenses in the country. They remained that way because how well his replacement, Ryan Connelly, filled in.

But now, with the departure of OLBs Vince Biegel and T.J. Watt, along with S Leo Musso and CB Sojourn Shelton, this defense needs the feisty Cichy. His toughness and willingness to mix it up physically and verbally with the other team brings juice and an air of confidence to a unit that has major expectations on them after producing the best four-year stretch of defensive football Wisconsin has seen in the modern era.

“We’re all the type of guys that none of us are going to have that diminish on our watch,” Cichy said. “I guess if you want to say it would tarnish our legacy, it would, but we don’t even think about it like that. We’re better than that.

“This program can’t have any fall off just because of how far it’s come. I just don’t think, we as a defense, would allow ourselves to have a fall off like that. That’s (our) mindset.”

Impact of NCAA rule changes

On Friday, the NCAA Division I Council passed a proposal that dramatically overhauled the recruiting process in college football, including two significant changes that’ll most benefit Wisconsin — creating a December signing period and moving up official visits.

Early signing period

Coach Paul Chryst was in favor of early signing period. Heck, he actually wanted one in June as well as the one that was approved for December, but he’ll make do with what was passed.

Wisconsin has traditionally had most of its class in place by the time the season comes to an end. Take the Class of 2017 for instance. Sixteen of the 18 players in the class were already committed by late November. They knew where they wanted to go, yet Wisconsin still had to fend off other schools trying poach them until National Signing Day on Feb. 1.

By having this early period in place, it forces both the school and the player to put their cards on the table, something that would have been even more impactful with a signing period in June.

“(The player’s) commitment can be real,” Chryst said Friday. “And the offers on our part that we give out those have to be real because a kid could take it. If he’s committed and you’ve offered that should be signable. I like that it puts validity to the two terms — offer and commitment.”

Earlier official visits

Prior to this proposal, kids couldn’t take official visits until Sept. 1 of their senior year. Now, they’ll be able to start taking those beginning April 1 of their junior year.

For Wisconsin, this is significant. Though the talent in the state is underrated, it’s still not the recruiting hotbed that other places in the country are. And so while kids in the Midwest could drive up and take unofficial visits on their own dime, it’s difficult to get kids from Florida, Texas and California to do that.

With the change, Wisconsin will be able to pay to have players up during April, May and June, taking advantage of being able to show what they can offer just like the school down the street from the kid can.

“We think it’ll help us,” Chryst said. “Typically, we don’t use a lot our (official visits). There’s 56 official visits you can have and we don’t (use a lot) and never have here. I think we’ll use more visits, but I think it’s really good for the process.”

Scouting the Badgers

Every year, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Bob McGinn does a detailed look into NFL draft prospects with connections to the state of Wisconsin, including all the Badgers with a shot at a career in the league.

There were several interesting aspects that stood out, but a couple more so than others.

For one, RB Dare Ogunbowale’s Wonderlic score of 36. McGinn wrote that may have been the best among running backs, and while the worthiness of the test is debatable, it really only confirmed what we already knew about Ogunbowale. He’s an intellectual player that is going to pick up whatever system he’s put in and know where he’s supposed to be at all times. That makes him trustworthy and valuable.

Meanwhile, in the biggest revelation of the piece, one scout said he had a higher grade on Watt than he did for his brother, J.J. Watt, when the elder came out as a defensive end in 2011. Obviously, J.J. went on to be a 3-time Defensive Player of the Year, so it’s a lot to live up to. But praise such as that is why T.J. will likely be hearing his name before the first round is over on April 27.

Catching up