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Today is Thursday, Jan. 5, and this is your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.
With Wisconsin’s season in the books, it’s time to take a look ahead at what could be awaiting the Badgers in 2017. On Wednesday, we broke down what’s next for the Wisconsin defense. Now, it’s time to see how next fall might shape up with the quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers.
Key losses: Bart Houston
Key returnees: Alex Hornibrook
Young guys to watch: Kare Lyles, Jack Coan
Bart Houston was fantastic down the stretch this season, and it’s unfortunate it took until the last seven games of his career to be that guy. But he’s gone now, and the keys of the offense now belong to Hornibrook.
Or do they?
For a redshirt freshman, Hornibrook was impressive enough to start nine games, and lead Wisconsin to wins at Michigan State and against Nebraska. His long-ball accuracy continues to be his strength, but there is no doubt he still has hang-ups, namely his inability to scramble and a slow delivery that is exacerbated by his lack of arm strength. There’s very little you can do about the first, but the latter should improve as he gets stronger.
Unless Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire picks Wisconsin — he’s not a making a decision until mid-April — it seems unlikely that either of the young quarterbacks will challenge for the starting job. Lyles missed spring ball in 2016 due to surgery, but should see plenty of reps this time around, while Coan will arrive early and take part in workouts.
For those who think Coan, a highly thought of 4-star recruit out of New York, has a shot, consider this. There have been four early enrollees at quarterback in the last three recruiting classes and none have come close to pushing for the job.
Key losses: Corey Clement, Dare Ogunbowale
Key returnees: Bradrick Shaw, Austin Ramesh, Alec Ingold, Chris James
Young guys to watch: Jonathan Taylor
Wisconsin loses 66 percent of its production on the ground in Clement and Ogunbowale, so there will be plenty of carries there for the taking.
Shaw, who didn’t play in the bowl game because of an injury, seems like a guy that could carry the ball 15 to 20 times a game. He showed some explosion this year while running for 457 yards and five scores. Clement was the main reason the redshirt sophomore didn’t see more time, but his knowledge of the offense was also a concern midway through the year.
James is the intriguing prospect. Just watching him in bowl prep, it’s clear he’s got some juice. A transfer who played for Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst at Pitt, James catches the ball well out of the backfield, and could be a replacement for Ogunbowale in that respect, while also getting his touches on early downs.
The third running back spot may come down to junior Taiwan Deal and true freshman Jonathan Taylor. Deal has struggled with injuries and was a non-factor this season, while Taylor broke all of Clement’s prep rushing records in New Jersey.
Ingold and Ramesh will hold down the fullback spot for another year.
Key losses: Rob Wheelwright
Key returnees: Jazz Peavy, George Rushing, Quintez Cephus
Young guys to watch: A.J. Taylor, Kendric Pryor
Wheelwright was a valuable target this season, but Wisconsin really likes the guys who are coming back.
Peavy was a revelation as a junior, leading the team in targets, receptions, yards and touchdowns. He’s willing to go over the middle and carry the ball on jet sweeps. As a senior, he’ll be Wisconsin’s biggest weapon on the outside.
After disappearing for much of the year, Rushing had several catches in the Cotton Bowl, including a key third-down grab. He’ll have one more year to reach his potential.
Wisconsin is very excited about Cephus. As a true freshman, he was their main blocking wide receiver, which is almost unheard of in Madison. But he also flashed his athletic ability on several deep catches, and the jet sweeps he got in the Cotton Bowl. To say the Badgers have high expectations for him would be an understatement.
Taylor also saw time as a true freshman, though didn’t make the same impact as Cephus. He could be in line for more time with Wheelwright out of the picture.
Pryor will be a wait-and-see thing. He made some plays in fall camp that made you think he might be a player early on, but ended up redshirting. The Illinois product was a big-time playmaker in high school.
The art of the ‘blow-by’
Tom Crean is not a great loser. And that’s fine. People who like losing are probably the ones used to it. But many are much better at hiding it then the Indiana basketball coach.
So after his team lost its third straight game — this time falling to Wisconsin 75-68 on Tuesday night — the coach delivered another of what has become his trademarked way of reacting to a loss: The “blow-by.”
— Brad Kokesh (@brad_kokesh) January 4, 2017
This isn’t new. When the Badgers upset then No. 2 Indiana, Crean gave former coach Bo Ryan the same thing.
Now if this happened every time Indiana played — win or lose — it wouldn’t be a story. But that’s not the case. Look at Crean and Ohio State coach Thad Matta after a Buckeyes victory back in 2011.
It’s not as if Crean can’t be genuine with Wisconsin coaches. Following the Badgers’ win in the Big Ten tournament in 2013, he and Ryan had a great postgame chat.
This is basketball, not life or death. You’re disappointed you lost, and everyone understands that. But to show behavior that a 5-year-old would get scolded for afterward is ridiculous, and the former Marquette coach needs to be called on it more often.
It’s debatable how many Wisconsin players have a chance to get drafted into the NFL come April. There are the near guarantees like outside linebackers Vince Biegel and T.J. Watt, along with left tackle Ryan Ramczyk (if he declares), while running back Corey Clement would probably rank in the pretty sure category. But who else?
That had us wondering, so we took a dive into the murky waters of draft projections to see where the Badgers fell in the rankings a little less than four months before the big weekend.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper: No. 2 OT
SI’s Chris Burke: No. 2 OT
CBS Sports: No. 2 OT (1st round)
WalterFootball.com: No. 3 OT (1st to 3rd round)
ESPN’s Mel Kiper: No. 6 OLB
SI’s Chris Burke: No. 8 LB
CBS Sports: No. 12 OLB (4th round)
WalterFootball.com: No. 23 OLB (4th to 6th round)
ESPN’s Mel Kiper: No. 10 RB
CBS Sports: No. 8 RB (3rd round)
WalterFootball.com: No. 16 RB (3rd to 5th round)
ESPN’s Mel Kiper: No. 10 OLB
CBS Sports: No. 6 OLB (2nd round)
Walter Football: No. 4 OLB (1st to 2nd round)
CBS Sports: No. 30 CB (7th round)
WalterFootball.com: No. 25 CB (7th round or FA)
This isn’t a comprehensive list by any means, but it does give a good idea of where Wisconsin players sit before the NFL Combine, the Badgers’ pro day and then the draft at the end of April.
What’s clear is that despite going 11-3 and winning the Big Ten West, the talent on the team wasn’t overwhelming. There’s a good shot, if Ramczyk declares, that four players will be drafted, with an outside shot of Shelton sneaking into the later rounds. Whether you think that number is too low or not, it does speak to the job the team did as a whole in accomplishing what they were able to in 2016.
U.S. in World Juniors finals
In a back and forth affair, the U.S. men’s junior hockey team took care of Russia 4-3 in a shootout to punch its ticket to the World Junior Championship final against Canada, and a Wisconsin player was right in the middle of everything.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) January 4, 2017
Kunin, a sophomore at Wisconsin, is a captain on the U.S. team, the same role he plays with the Badgers. Over the six games of the tournament, the Missouri native has a pair of goals and two assists to help the Americans get to the final against the host country.
- The Associated Press released its All-Bowl team and at least one Wisconsin player was recognized.
- Former Wisconsin star J.J. Watt delivered a jersey to a fan who damaged his in a car accident.
- Wisconsin captain Vince Biegel took to Twitter on Wednesday to thank fans, coaches and fellow players for his time in Madison.