Uphill climb for Wisconsin’s undrafted free agents, where things stand along the O-line and more
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 Monday, May 1, and this is what’s for breakfast.
It was a quieter-than-expected weekend for former Badgers in the 2017 NFL Draft. After two of its players were taken in the first round Thursday — OLB T.J. Watt to the Pittsburgh Steelers and OT Ryan Ramczyk to the New Orleans Saints — Wisconsin saw just one other player taken the rest of the weekend. That was OLB Vince Biegel, the first pick of Day 3 by the Green Bay Packers.
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) April 29, 2017
That left the likes of RBs Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale, CB Sojourn Shelton, WR Rob Wheelwright and QB Bart Houston to find their first NFL team via a free-agent deal. And four of the five did, while Houston managed to get a tryout with the Oakland Raiders.
Here’s a look at where each is headed and the chances that any will be able to make the final roster.
RB Corey Clement, Philadelphia Eagles
Thankful for the opportunity to be back home and play , Fly eagles Fly ?!
— Corey Clement (@CoreyClement_6) April 30, 2017
Clement is heading back home, as he grew up about 20 miles outside of Philadelphia in Glassboro, N.J. But he’s also got an uphill climb to stick with the Eagles. They had five running backs on the roster before the draft, and then spent a fourth-round pick on San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey. With Pumphrey, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles looking like locks to make the team, and most teams keeping only three running backs, Clement is likely competing for a spot on the practice squad or auditioning for other teams.
RB Dare Ogunbowale, Houston Texans
Ogunbowale heads to Houston where good friend and former Badgers basketball star Sam Dekker plays for the Rockets. With the Texans adding third-round pick D’Onta Foreman the Texans’ two leading rushers from 2016 — Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue — both back, the push to make the final 53-man roster will be a tough one for Ogunbowale. Where he can help himself is on special teams, a role he’s comfortable in having played so much at Wisconsin. Add that to his receiving ability, and he’s got an outside shot to stick.
CB Sojourn Shelton, Arizona Cardinals
Genetics gave me 5'9 but I always been in the underdog role !!!! Y'all know I can play. AZ in a couple weeks ! LES WORK !
— Sojourn Shelton II (@_SDS8) April 29, 2017
Shelton heads to the desert to try to make the Cardinals, a team that doesn’t have a cornerback on its roster as short as Shelton. But that might work in his favor, especially as he likely makes the transition to play the inside cornerback spot in the slot. Teams told him leading up to the draft that they see him as someone who can match up with smallish-but-quick receivers such as the New England Patriots’ Julian Edelman. If Arizona sees him do that, then there’s a chance. He also has extensive special teams experience.
WR Rob Wheelwright, New York Giants
Wheelwright likely has the longest odds of the four Badgers to sign UFA deals to make a roster — especially considering the team he signed with. In addition to All-Pro Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants are loaded with talented young players and solid veterans, with the likes of Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard making up their depth chart. Wheelwright has the ability to stand out physically, but his inconsistency catching the ball has to become a thing of the past for him to have any shot.
QB Bart Houston, Oakland Raiders
It’s only a tryout for Houston, but maybe he’ll show something to the Raiders to get a free-agent deal. The chances aren’t great, though Houston was playing the best football of his career when he helped Wisconsin win the Cotton Bowl against Western Michigan in his last collegiate game. You never know.
Where things stand: Offensive line
With spring practice in the rear-view mirror, we’re taking a look back at where things stand for Wisconsin, including along the offensive line.
What happened: Wisconsin used the spring as somewhat of an experiment for the offensive line. Sophomore David Edwards moved from right tackle to left tackle, taking the spot of Ramczyk.
With #Badgers David Edwards out, Michael Deiter took reps at LT.
— Jeff Potrykus (@jaypo1961) April 20, 2017
Junior Michael Deiter, who has started games at guard and center, worked at both spots but also saw time at left tackle when Edwards went down in the final week with an ankle injury.
With part-time starters Jon Dietzen and Jake Maxwell out recovering from surgery, young players such as redshirt freshmen Patrick Kasl, Cole Van Lanen and Tyler Biadasz saw a ton of time, as did early enrollee Kayden Lyles.
Biggest takeaway: Biadasz could be special
Deiter is Wisconsin’s best center, but it’s telling that they are willing to move him to other spots just so they can get Biadasz on the field. The redshirt freshman nearly played last season and is looking more and more like a real option to get significant time in 2017.
Chryst said Tyler Biadasz had a really strong spring with his amount of 1st team reps: "Boy, he did a ton this spring".
— Benjamin Worgull (@TheBadgerNation) April 22, 2017
He’s a remarkable story considering he was recruited as a defensive lineman and never played center in high school, but it’s all about getting the best five offensive linemen on the field, according to coach Paul Chryst, and Biadasz could end up being among those this fall.
Biggest question: Who starts at the tackle spots?
Wisconsin is solid on the inside. If it’s Dietzen at left guard, Deiter at center and Beau Benzschawel at right guard, with junior Micah Kapoi and Biadasz as the main backups, they’ll be in good shape. But the tackle spots are bit different.
Edwards looked OK at left tackle, but it’s a significant transition and one that will continue into fall camp. If he can’t play the spot, or the Badgers think Deiter would be a better option, then perhaps Edwards moves back to the right tackle spot where he started nine games last season, though Maxwell and Kasl might also be in the fight there.
It should be noted that with a left-handed quarterback in Alex Hornibrook, the right tackle spot is the blindside protector, giving it more importance than normal.
Jim Leonhard getting paid
Jim Leonhard will earn about $250,000 less this year as Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator than he did in his final year in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns, according to numbers obtained by the Wisconsin State Journal’s Jason Galloway and published Sunday.
#Badgers release compensation agreement for new DC Jim Leonhard. He'll make $600,000 in 2017 and $625,000 in 2018.
— Jason Galloway (@Jason_Galloway) April 30, 2017
Leonhard’s average during the two years of the contract is more than $100,000 less than what former defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox made in 2016 ($500,000) and was due in 2017 ($950,000). The salary difference makes sense, seeing as Leonhard is entering just his second year as a coach and his first as a coordinator, while last year was Wilcox’s 11th in that role.
Though staffs and salaries have changed since USA Today released its assistant coach salaries for 2016, Leonhard’s salary this coming season would have ranked fourth among defensive coordinators in the Big Ten, topped only by those employed at Ohio State, Michigan and Iowa.
- From Tom Oates at the Wisconsin State Journal: The selection of Biegel does more than just make Wisconsin and Packers fans happy.
- Former Wisconsin star RB Ron Dayne was inducted into the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday, and was joined by a few special guests who helped him achieve some pretty special things in his career.
- The Badgers’ basketball team missed out on graduate transfer Casey Benson, as the former Oregon guard announced he was transferring to Grand Canyon for his final year instead of Wisconsin. Benson’s brother is an assistant coach for the Antelopes.