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Wisconsin's Jack Coan is the clear-cut backup quarterback entering spring practice.

Wisconsin mailbag: QB Jack Coan’s progress, would Tony Bennett have coached Badgers, when will Barry Alvarez retire?

Jesse Temple

Have Wisconsin football, basketball or recruiting questions? We’ve got answers. Join us every Wednesday for the Land of 10 Wisconsin mailbag to talk all things Badgers. This week, we discuss whether anyone can catch Jack Coan for the backup quarterback spot, the chances Ethan Happ leaves school early, whether Virginia coach Tony Bennett would have considered switching jobs for Wisconsin, when athletics director Barry Alvarez might retire and more.


Question 1

Answer: This is a great question because, at some point in the next two seasons, Jack Coan is likely going to need to take a redshirt season. If we presume that Alex Hornibrook is the unquestioned starter during that stretch, then it doesn’t make sense to waste two full years of eligibility on Coan for him to play just a handful of snaps in mop-up duty of blowout games. Of course, Wisconsin also needs to be prepared in case something does happen to Hornibrook. In that case, Coan gives the Badgers the best chance to win games.

As it stands now, Coan is pretty clearly the second-best quarterback on the roster. He was better than Kare’ Lyles last year during spring practice and continued to pull ahead in fall camp. Danny Vanden Boom is the only other quarterback on the roster entering spring practice.

I do wonder whether incoming freshman Chase Wolf can make some quick progress and potentially position himself as a backup in 2019 to allow Coan a redshirt season. Wolf had an excellent senior season at St. Xavier in Ohio, where he was his district’s offensive player of the year after throwing for 2,532 yards and 27 touchdowns. He won’t be on campus until the summer, so it’s hard to believe he’ll learn everything by fall camp to earn the backup job as a true freshman. Coan had the benefit of 15 spring practices and all of summer workouts last year.

Or maybe Graham Mertz — assuming he signs with Wisconsin in December and then enrolls early in the 2019 class — can dazzle in spring practice next year to earn the backup job. I’m getting ahead of myself, but that’s only because I don’t see another quarterback on the spring practice roster better than Coan right now.

Question 2

Answer: Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ put together as good of a season individually as we all believed he would. He led Wisconsin in scoring, rebounding, assists, blocks and steals and became the first Big Ten player to achieve that feat since 1996. Yet despite all of that success, I still believe Happ will come back for his senior season.

Happ told reporters after Wisconsin’s Big Ten quarterfinal loss to Michigan State that he was focusing on two options: Staying in the NBA draft or returning to school. Becoming a graduate transfer at another college is not an option he is considering. I haven’t seen a mock draft yet that suggests Happ could be a first-round pick. CBSSports reporter Gary Parrish doesn’t have Happ going in the first round, nor does Jason McIntrye of The Big Lead. And NBADraft.net doesn’t even list Happ going in the first two rounds.

If Happ does not have assurances that he is a first-round pick, then it makes little sense to stay in the draft. Only first-round draft choices have guaranteed contracts. A second-round pick is more likely to wind up playing in the G-League, the NBA minor leagues. A player with remaining eligibility such as Happ would be better served honing his game in college and positioning himself to be drafted the following year.

Happ will have an opportunity to go down as one of the all-time great Wisconsin basketball players if he comes back for his senior season. He’ll rank in the top 3 in basically every major statistical category. Plus, he will be able to help lead the Badgers back to the NCAA Tournament. In the meantime, he can continue to work on his jumpers and free-throw shooting to become an even more complete player.

Question 3

Answer: BadgerBlitz.com’s Jon McNamara recently reported that Wisconsin assistant basketball coach Howard Moore reached out to Kamani Johnson, so there is at least some interest from the Badgers. Johnson is a 6-foot-8, 210-pound forward in the 2018 class from Holy Spirit Prep School in Atlanta. According to Rivals, he holds three scholarship offers, from Florida Gulf Coast, Memphis and UCF and is drawing interest from Dayton, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The Badgers obviously need front-court help, but I haven’t seen Johnson play and thus don’t have an opinion as to whether he is capable of immediately contributing. Wisconsin’s best bet to land another player in the 2018 class is by offering someone with few other scholarship offers such as Johnson. If Wisconsin loses someone to a transfer, the Badgers certainly will explore their options to add another scholarship player. But a graduate transfer or junior-college player could make more sense to help the team in 2018-19.

Question 4

Answer: Tony Bennett has obvious ties to Wisconsin’s basketball program. His father, Dick Bennett, coached the Badgers and led them to the Final Four in 2000, and Tony was an assistant coach there from 1999-2003. But I don’t think Tony Bennett would have left Virginia for Wisconsin, even if Bo Ryan had finished the 2015-16 season as he originally planned.

Before the 2015 season, Bennett agreed to a new contract that would pay him a starting salary of $2.1 million per year. But, as the Roanoke Times noted, the contract also contained a $3 million buyout if he resigned before March 15, 2018. That number increased from the $1.4 million buyout provision in his contract one year earlier.

Bennett also has bonus clauses set up that could pay him up to $1.45 million in a given year, which includes a $250,000 bonus for reaching the Final Four and an additional $400,000 for reaching the championship game. Additionally, Bennett’s contract set him up for a $1 million longevity bonus if he is still at Virginia on March 15, 2019.

According to USA Today, Bennett currently makes $3 million and is the 14th-highest paid college basketball coach in the country. In other words, he is well compensated and has built his own legacy at Virginia, which earned a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

Question 5

Answer: I think Natrell Jamerson and Leon Jacobs showed how ridiculously fast and strong they are at the NFL combine. Jamerson ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash and bench-pressed 225 pounds 25 times. Jacobs ran a 4.48-second 40 and did 26 bench press reps. If I had to pick one player I’d love to see in a foot race, it would be incoming freshman wide receiver Isaac Guerendo. He just ran the 60-meter dash at a high school meet in 6.88 seconds, which is the second-fastest time this year in the state of Indiana. Last year, he finished third in the 100-meter dash at state. I can only imagine how fast he’ll be as a college senior.

Question 6

Answer: Marlon Ruffin certainly has done his part this season to warrant a potential preferred walk-on offer at Wisconsin. As I wrote in the mailbag last week, I’m not sure what Wisconsin’s coaching staff is waiting on here or if the Badgers will even offer. The staff obviously is well aware of his skill set, given that he plays at nearby Sun Prairie High School with big-time Badgers target Jalen Johnson.

Ruffin earned Big Eight Conference Player of the Year honors this season and is averaging 17.4 points per game. He put on a show against Madison East on Saturday with 30 points to help Sun Prairie reach state for the first time. But Wisconsin already has added a walk-on in 2018 with point guard Carter Higginbottom out of Chicago, so I don’t know if the Badgers are looking to add another guard.

I watched Ruffin play twice this season in consecutive games against Madison Memorial and Madison West. He scored 13 points against Memorial and 17 points against West. He recently picked up a scholarship offer from Division II Minnesota-Crookston. It’s clear that Ruffin would bring the type of athleticism and hustle that would be appreciated on Wisconsin’s scout team, even if it got under the skin of the starters. But that’s what Wisconsin generally looks for in its scout team players.

Question 7

Answer: Lamont Paris did an excellent job in seven seasons as Wisconsin’s assistant coach before taking the head coaching job at Tennessee-Chattanooga. But I think hiring Dean Oliver as his replacement is a great fit for the Badgers. Oliver arrived with previous coaching experience at North Dakota (2012-14) and Illinois State (2015-17), and he’s an intelligent teacher of the game and good people person with a knack for making guards better. Plus, his playing background at Iowa doesn’t hurt.

Question 8

Answer: Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez, who is 71 years old, has a contract that runs through January 2021. Alvarez will be 74 years old when his contract expires. As a point of reference, Nebraska’s Tom Osborne retired as the Cornhuskers athletics director when he was 75 in 2013.

Whenever Alvarez does decide to retire, Chris McIntosh could be in a position to potentially replace him. McIntosh was promoted to deputy athletics director in July, which is essentially the No. 2 person in the department behind Alvarez. McIntosh has strong Badgers ties given that he was a four-year starter at left tackle and helped Wisconsin win back-to-back Rose Bowls in 1999 and 2000 when Alvarez was the coach.

Have a question about Wisconsin football, basketball or recruiting? Tweet us @Landof10Badgers and we’ll try to answer your question in a future mailbag. Check to see if your question already was answered by reading previous Wisconsin mailbags here.