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, Oct. 19, and this is your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.
After missing two games while he recovered from foot surgery, Wisconsin linebacker Vince Biegel returned to practice this week in advance of the Badgers’ trip to Iowa this Saturday.
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) October 19, 2016
Biegel’s return to the practice field is, obviously, a big step in his comeback. He’s listed as questionable on Wisconsin’s injury report and there is no guarantee he’ll be on turn at Kinnick Stadium for the Noon (ET) kickoff this week.
One would think that the same caution Biegel showed in having the surgery would also be present in making a decision to be back out on the field. If you’ll remember, Biegel had played, unknowingly, with the cracked bone in his foot for several weeks, and only underwent the surgery when told if the bone fully fractured he’d miss the rest of the season.
The doctors and Wisconsin’s medical staff will have the final word, but with the way the defense is playing in Biegel’s absence — more than holding its own against Michigan and Ohio State — the Badgers can afford to be a little prudent in putting perhaps its best defensive player back in harm’s way.
Juniors draw attention
Two are former walk-ons, while the other is a former tight end. Together the three make up the Wisconsin contingent of players on Sports Illustrated’s Midseason All-American team that was released on Tuesday.
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) October 18, 2016
Inside linebacker Jack Cichy and left tackle Ryan Ramczyk were on the first team, while outside linebacker T.J Watt made the second team.
With the success the Badgers have had through the first six games of the year, it’s not a surprise that the school got recognized. But it’s unlikely that too many outside of Madison, and to be fair a lot of folks inside the city, thought these would be the three names honored.
Cichy wasn’t even guaranteed a starting spot heading into fall camp, and all he’s done is earn LOTT Impact Player of the Week honors twice, while leading the Badgers in tackles and forced fumbles. Ramczyk had never started a Division I game before facing LSU in the opener, but he’s slid seamlessly into the most difficult spot on the offensive line and drawn rave reviews. And though Watt showed signs of his potential a year ago, he was still overshadowed by Biegel when the season started.
Now look at them. And look at them closely. Because they might not be wearing Wisconsin’s colors too much longer. Ramczyk has consistently rated among the better offensive linemen in the country, while in a recent Sports Illustrated article, a pair of scouts told Emily Kaplan that Watt would have a second-round grade if he came out in the 2017 NFL Draft. Cichy, following his 15-tackle performance against Ohio State, is drawing the attention of the NFL as well.
Wisconsin LB (48) Jack Cichy is so quick to key/read/flow/finish. Super instinctive LB. https://t.co/jb9FLcMJOc
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) October 17, 2016
It’s still very early in the draft process, and all three guys are in the first full years of starting at the college level. But it’s all about striking when your stock is the highest. And if the trio continues to play like they have through the season’s first half, they may have no choice but forgo their final year for the Badgers.
Putting in the work
While Wisconsin seniors Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig have been grabbing headlines for their efforts away from the court as they speak up on social issues, it’s the latter of the duo that has been turning heads on the court.
As Koenig unveiled in in a wide-ranging interview with Land of 10 and others during Wisconsin’s media day on Monday, he spent two different stints in Los Angeles working out this offseason with celebrity trainer Corey Calliet and basketball skills trainer Mike Lee. The transformation of his body and game jumped out right away for his teammates.
“Two practices ago, I’m like, ‘(Nigel), is it just me or is Bronson in high speed right now?’” senior Vitto Brown said Monday. “Because he’s killing everybody. He’s had some practices like that where anybody who guarded him he’s going right past him.
“He’s definitely worked harder this offseason than any other offseason before this. We’re definitely proud of that.”
For Koenig the decision to work out the way he did was two-fold. One, he knows this his is last go-around at Wisconsin and wants to finish it the right way. And two, it’s also his last opportunity to prove that he deserves a shot at the next level. Both of those are important, but for the Badgers, only the first part is.
— Clint Parks (@Brotherhood05) August 26, 2016
Already a money 3-point shooter (remember his game-winner against Xavier in the NCAA tournament), Koenig’s workouts were aimed at making him quicker, both with the ball and on the defensive end. Previously unable to break down opposing guards on a regular basis and finish inside, the 6-foot-4 Koenig should be a menace to slow.
You want to get up in his face on defense? Fine, he’ll go around you.
Afraid of him driving past you? No problem, he’ll pull up from beyond the arc.
After previous down periods spent back home in La Crosse, Wis., healing up or just relaxing, the decision by Koenig to go through what he called the toughest workouts he’s ever been a part of should pay significant dividends for him this year and in the future. He will be a big component in helping the Badgers reach and exceed everyone’s expectations this season.
The ‘Rusty Toolbox’
The trophy most people will see on Saturday is the Heartland Trophy that Iowa and Wisconsin play for. But there is another one on the line the night before as the managers for each school play for the ‘Rusty Toolbox’.
And here is the REAL trophy at stake this week. ? pic.twitter.com/pH3WrSGyRD
— Jeff Potrykus (@jaypo1961) October 18, 2016
Friday night will mark the 21st game of flag football between Iowa and Wisconsin’s managers, and ESPN.com’s Jesse Temple gave a detailed history of the event last year.
“The football game, a competition between the 15 student managers at Wisconsin and Iowa, is known as the battle for “The Rusty Toolbox” — yes, there is an actual toolbox presented to the winner, which once belonged to an Iowa equipment manager. It has been played almost every Friday night since 1991 before the Badgers and Hawkeyes football teams meet the following day in Big Ten play. It also is one of the most unique experiences in college athletics.”
The game adds just a little more to a rivalry that truly is important on both sides of the Iowa-Wisconsin border.