We hope you’ll start your day with us here at the Landof10.com 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, Sept. 28, and this is your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.
So … about Dave Aranda’s shadow
Much was made of former Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s departure last January. In his short three years in Madison, he turned the Badgers defense into one of the best in the nation, and in his final season, helped the unit lead the country in fewest points allowed.
So when he bolted to LSU for the same position — with a hefty bump in pay — many wrote and talked about how the Wisconsin defense would almost certainly see a dropoff in production under new coordinator Justin Wilcox.
So far, those critics have been wrong.
Through four games, the Badgers have given up fewer points (11.8) and rushing yards (80.5) per game than a year ago, and are allowing just 10 more yards (277) overall per game.
So why hasn’t there been a decline in play?
Well, what’s become apparent is that Wisconsin’s success wasn’t simply a result of the 3-4 scheme or Aranda’s defensive brilliance. Yeah, he was pretty great, but so were the players that put his scheme to work. And many of those guys are still around, guys like outside linebacker Vince Biegel, cornerback Sojourn Shelton, defensive lineman Conor Sheehy and many more.
While Aranda got the big pay day, it was those guys’ backs that did the heavy lifting for it to happen. And that hasn’t changed under Wilcox. There are still eight games to be played in the regular season, but the defense has shown no signs of regression in the first year without Aranda. In fact, this year’s group may end up being better than any of the three that Aranda was responsible for.
Clement is ‘in-season healthy’
Corey Clement ran for a pair of touchdowns last week in the win over Michigan State, but the running back’s overall numbers — 54 yards on 23 carries — were less than ideal.
The effort came following a week off to heal from an ankle injury, and the talented senior had a bulky tape job against the Spartans to protect him. When he met with the media Tuesday, Clement claimed he was 100 percent despite still being heavily taped.
Corey Clement still has his ankle pretty heavily taped. Said he's in-season healthy and that means "I'm 100%." pic.twitter.com/L8RlxYR3OE
— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) September 27, 2016
“Don’t want anything stupid to happen in practice,” Clement said of the tape. “Coach always describes it as, ‘if you’re in-season healthy, then you’re alright with us.’ So I put myself as in-season healthy.
“You’re not going to play this game in the top-notch shape that you want to be in, but if you consider yourself in-season healthy, you’re 100 percent.”
Clement’s health is always a wild-card for the Badgers. When he’s right, he can be a difference-maker. When he’s not, he can still make plays but perhaps not be what wins or loses the game for Wisconsin. They’ll need the former this week against No. 4 Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Things ended up OK even without Bo and Bobby
As Wisconsin prepares to face Michigan this week, the first meeting between the two clubs since 2010, the story of how legendary Wolverines coach Bo Schembechler almost became the Badgers coach in the late 1960s has resurfaced.
In an excerpt of his book, “100 Things Wisconsin Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die,” ESPN.com’s Jesse Temple tells how Schembechler, along with eventual Indiana coach Bobby Knight, nearly ended up in Madison as the football coach and basketball coach, respectively.
It’s a heck of story and one that surely bothers those that grew up watching the disaster the two sports were for a majority of the ‘70s and ‘80s.
To be fair, Michigan was Michigan before Schembechler arrived, owning 10 national titles when he took the job. While it’s likely he would have had success at Wisconsin, it’s difficult to imagine him reaching similar heights at a program that didn’t boast the pedigree of Michigan.
As for Knight, you wonder if his personality and outbursts would have allowed him to stay around in Madison as long as he did at Indiana. Winning cures almost everything, and he probably would have won a lot of games, but the higher-ups at the university may not have looked the other way as much as those in Bloomington did.
In the end, it worked out for the Badgers. It took 20 plus years for it to happen, but the hiring of Pat Richter as athletic director in the late 80s, and his subsequent hiring of Barry Alvarez as football coach, and his three hires for the basketball program — Stu Jackson, Dick Bennett and Bo Ryan — brought the athletic department out of debt and put it on the solid footing it holds today, with successful programs and fans willing to pay millions to see them on a year-to-year basis.
We have no idea how things would have turned out if Schembechler wasn’t so turned off by his interview, or if someone hadn’t leaked the info of Knight’s hiring. But at this point, it’d be tough for anyone to say they’d take that unknown over what Wisconsin has become.
Keeping players home
Wisconsin has rarely lost the best high school players in the state to rival Big Ten teams, but it has happened. And the Badgers will see one of those guys this week for Michigan.
OL Ben Bredeson is a native of Wisconsin and grew up rooting for the Badgers. Should be an interesting week for the freshman.
— Kelly Hall (@KellyHall20) September 27, 2016
Ben Bredeson, the top-ranked player in the class of 2016 according to 247Sports, has earned playing time at left guard as a true freshman. A native of Hartland, Wis., Bredeson received an offer from former Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen in the spring of 2014, when he was a sophomore at Arrowhead High School, but couldn’t pass up the allure of playing at Michigan.
“I came here,” he said, motioning around him, Tuesday night inside Schembechler Hall. “I saw this. I just fell in love with Michigan during the recruiting process, and this is the place for me.”
Notes from The House: Michigan’s Ben Bredeson faces team he grew up watching https://t.co/CFeYKPG4Cy
— Land Of 10 (@landof10) September 28, 2016
It may be the place for Bredeson, but it’s also clear that those around the Wisconsin program believe that if the current coach, Paul Chryst, had been around during the early recruiting process that Bredeson would be in Madison. UW athletic director Barry Alvarez, at almost every opportunity, has taken shots at Andersen and his staff for ignoring and not valuing the high school players in the state — the same ones that Alvarez used to resurrect the football program in the early 1990s.
Whether Chryst’s presence could have kept Bredeson home is debatable. What’s not, though, is how he views the importance of the state in recruiting. Whether it’s putting a decal with an outline of the state on the team’s helmets or pushing the “our state, our team” mantra in a media campaign leading up to the season, it’s clear that the wall Alvarez put up around the state in his tenure as coach is a priority once again.