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Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst figures to stick around Madison for years to come.

Wisconsin mailbag: How long will Paul Chryst stay, defensive player changes, basketball team’s ceiling

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 which young linebacker has the most upside for next season, whether coach Paul Chryst will remain at Wisconsin, the loss of outside linebackers coach Tim Tibesar, Wisconsin’s 2018 schedule, how the secondary will look and the ceiling for the basketball team this season.

Question 1

Answer: I don’t think Wisconsin’s athletics department has to spend the money on a Jonathan Taylor Heisman campaign next season because he’s going to be on everybody’s radar at the start of the season. I wrote about Taylor being a Heisman frontrunner in 2018 on Sunday following the Orange Bowl win. Taylor finished sixth in the Heisman voting and was one of three Doak Walker Award finalists as a freshman. He certainly won’t be sneaking up on anybody as a sophomore.

Sometimes, it just depends on the year and whether the school believes it’s necessary to promote a player. Wisconsin went all in on Montee Ball during his senior season in 2012 with a “This fall belongs to Ball” slogan. There was even a bus featuring Ball that rode around Madison, Wis. But in 2014, the school didn’t feel the need to promote Melvin Gordon because his statistics said enough. Gordon eventually finished second in the Heisman voting that season.

Question 2

Answer: I’m going to take outside linebacker Zack Baun for this question because he was in position to contribute in 2017 before he sustained a season-ending left foot injury. Baun played in 12 games as a redshirt freshman in 2016 and recorded 15 tackles. He opened spring practice as a starting outside linebacker opposite Garret Dooley. But then Leon Jacobs showed how good he was, knocking Baun down into a backup role.

Jacobs and Dooley are gone, and Wisconsin needs players to help fill those roles. Andrew Van Ginkel is an obvious starter, but the other starter on the outside remains to be seen. Baun and Tyler Johnson appear to be the players most likely to compete for that spot.

Question 3

Answer: I go back to what Paul Chryst said during his press conference when he was introduced as Wisconsin’s coach in December 2014. The Badgers had lost two head coaches in two seasons, and Chryst was asked if this was a destination job for him.

“When you’re talking about destination job, I think you’ve got to earn the right to stay that long where people qualify it,” Chryst said. “Certainly there are two great examples. Coach [Barry] Alvarez, and I think what Bo [Ryan] is doing right now with hoops. They’ve earned the right to make it a destination job. I sure hope to work to try to make it that. But, you’ve got to earn it, I believe.”

I think this is a job that Chryst wants to have for the foreseeable future. There’s something to be said for putting down roots, particularly in a place that has been so meaningful over the years to the Chryst family. Chryst has been all over the map in pursuit of his next coaching job: West Virginia, the San Antonio Riders, Wisconsin-Platteville, the Ottawa Rough Riders, Illinois State, the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Oregon State, the San Diego Chargers, Wisconsin, Oregon State again, Wisconsin again, Pittsburgh and Wisconsin a third time.

I don’t believe Chryst actively thinks about an end game in the NFL. If the opportunity presents itself down the road, he’d owe it to himself to learn as much information as possible. But he also recognizes how special of a place Wisconsin is to be a football coach. As long as he keeps winning, he’ll certainly be able to stay for as long as he wants.

Question 4

Answer: Losing Tim Tibesar is a big deal because he was both an excellent coach and recruiter. Tibesar helped Wisconsin land outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel, who had a huge season after transferring from junior college. Van Ginkel still is the only junior college player coach Paul Chryst has signed in one of his Badgers recruiting classes. In the 2018 class, Tibesar was in on the recruitment of inside linebacker Jack Sanborn and outside linebacker Mason Platter.

The work Tibesar did with Wisconsin’s outside linebacker group was stellar. He also had the opportunity to coach some unbelievable players, including Joe Schobert, T.J. Watt and Vince Biegel. There was no real drop-off this season with Leon Jacobs and Garret Dooley on the outside. Ultimately, leaving to become Oregon State’s defensive coordinator was a move Tibesar earned. He was passed over for Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator job twice, and I’m sure he’ll do a nice job in Corvallis.

I don’t have any information for you on a successor at this stage. I do know that Chryst has to make two coaching hires. The other will be the hiring of a 10th assistant coach, which goes into effect under NCAA rules on Jan. 9. Jon Budmayr makes a lot of sense in that role as a quarterbacks coach. We’ll see how it all shakes out.

Question 5

Answer: Anthony Lotti punted 6 times and averaged 37.5 yards per attempt. It wasn’t his finest performance by any stretch. But he did boom a nice 45-yard punt at the end of the first quarter to help flip the field with Wisconsin trailing 14-3. Two plays later, Badgers outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel intercepted Miami quarterback Malik Rosier, and Wisconsin was on its way to an eventual Orange Bowl victory.

The only other player who would have punted was Connor Allen, but he punted just 4 times this season, while Lotti handled 57 punts. Lotti actually improved nicely from his freshman to his sophomore season. He averaged 37.7 yards per punt last season and 40.0 yards per attempt this season.

As for field goal kickers, look for Zach Hintze to take over when Rafael Gaglianone leaves after the 2018 season. Hintze will be a redshirt senior by then, but he has some serious leg strength. Hintze kicked a Wisconsin high school state record 61-yard field goal in a 2014 playoff game for St. Mary’s Springs. He finished his prep career 21 of 30 on field-goal attempts and never missed from less than 40 yards.

Question 6

Answer: Wisconsin should compete for West Division titles every season for the foreseeable future. And until some other team can show the same level of consistency, I’d have a hard time picking anybody but the Badgers. The teams to watch will probably be Iowa, Nebraska and Northwestern, which wound up winning 10 games this season. First-year Nebraska coach Scott Frost has a lot of early momentum, but it could take a few seasons before he has the Cornhuskers near the top of the West.

Wisconsin’s nonconference schedule should be relatively uneventful, with home games against Western Kentucky, New Mexico and BYU. Wisconsin’s first three Big Ten games will say a lot about just how good the Badgers are. Wisconsin must play at Iowa to open league play, followed by a home game against Nebraska and a road contest against Michigan. The other two games to watch come on the road against Northwestern and Penn State.

The schedule won’t be quite as manageable as it was in 2017, particularly with those two road games against tough Big Ten East teams. But if Wisconsin wants to compete for Big Ten championships and more, those are exactly the types of games the Badgers will have to win.

Question 7

Answer: Wisconsin’s basketball team has 15 regular-season Big Ten games remaining. I’d say you’re not far off on the over/under for number of wins during that stretch, but this team certainly has the toughness to win a few more. Wisconsin’s 71-61 victory Tuesday night against an equally average Indiana team was important and impressive, considering the Badgers lost starting shooting guard Brevin Pritzl to a head injury before the game. Wisconsin is now 9-7 overall and 2-1 in Big Ten games.

At this stage, it would take a miraculous two months for Wisconsin to have any shot at the NCAA Tournament. I think Wisconsin would have to go at least 10-5 the rest of the regular season, which would put the Badgers at 19-12 entering the Big Ten tournament. Then, the Badgers would presumably have to win at least one more game. Wisconsin didn’t beat any quality opponents in nonconference play and ranks No. 69 in the KenPom ratings. It’s certainly been an atypical season.

The Big Ten seems to have a lot of teams capable of beating each other during the season. Only three teams won their first two conference games, so Wisconsin will have a chance to pick up some wins. In terms of the ceiling for this team, a good showing in the NIT seems reasonable at this stage. But winning the NIT is often about which team is motivated enough and hot at the right time.

Really, Badgers fans should simply be hoping to see improvement from a young roster. It’s imperative to set up success for future seasons. Considering how few pieces Wisconsin loses after this season, the team should be a strong Big Ten foe again soon. If Ethan Happ returns for his senior season in 2018-19, the Badgers could be a lot of fun to watch.

Question 8

Answer: I’d say the starting cornerbacks would be Dontye Carriere-Williams and Madison Cone. Carriere-Williams finished his redshirt freshman season with 30 tackles, 6 pass breakups and 1 interception and saw a lot of action as the team’s third corner. Cone appeared in 9 games and was in the game at the end of the Orange Bowl, recording a pass breakup. Faion Hicks and Ceaser Williams are the likely backups.

At safety, D’Cota Dixon is an obvious starter, and Patrick Johnson could be the other starter. Johnson missed most of the season with a right arm injury but did play early. Eric Burrell and Scott Nelson are probable backups.

At tight end, Wisconsin still has Kyle Penniston and Zander Neuville coming back. Neuville caught 9 passes for 81 yards with 2 touchdowns. Penniston snagged 7 catches for 56 yards with 1 touchdown. Plus, Jake Ferguson earned rave reviews during bowl prep, so the tight end group should be set.

With the wide receivers, I can’t imagine there’s a more talented group returning than the one Wisconsin will have. Quintez Cephus, Danny Davis, A.J. Taylor and Kendric Pryor should form a combination that is tough for any team on Wisconsin’s schedule to stop. Wisconsin also has four receivers coming in with the 2018 recruiting class. Receivers coach Ted Gilmore deserves a ton of credit for what he’s been able to build. Rarely, if ever, have fans had this much reason to be excited about Wisconsin’s wide receivers.

Question 9

Answer: I’m more confident in the offense given all the returning personnel, but this defense has continued to excel despite constant turnover. On offense, Wisconsin returns three talented running backs with Jonathan Taylor, Bradrick Shaw and Chris James. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook comes back for his junior season, and at least four starters on the offensive line will be back. Left tackle Michael Deiter has yet to announce whether he’ll declare for the NFL draft, but Wisconsin has quality tackles ready to play now with Patrick Kasl and Cole Van Lanen.

As mentioned in the previous answer, Wisconsin’s wide receiver depth is ridiculous, and the tight end group will be strong again. This offense has a chance to be really dynamic and special next season.

Question 10

Answer: The secondary and the defensive line are the two position groups that will experience the most change next season. Wisconsin be just fine in both areas, but players will have plenty to prove. Wisconsin returns Olive Sagapolu at nose guard, and Isaiahh Loudermilk is an obvious choice as one of the starting defensive ends. Perhaps the Badgers opt to move Garrett Rand to defensive end rather than have him as the backup nose guard. That scenario might allow incoming freshman Bryson Williams a chance to earn some backup nose guard reps.

In the secondary, safety D’Cota Dixon is the clear-cut leader of the group. Cornerback Dontye Carriere-Williams will ascend into a starting role. I believe Madison Cone will be the other starting cornerback, and Patrick Johnson will be a starting safety. Both players will have huge shoes to fill. All the backups in the secondary are unproven, and it’s quite likely opposing quarterbacks will test Wisconsin downfield next season.

Question 11

Answer: This was injury related. Edwards left the game in the third quarter with a left leg issue and was replaced by Patrick Kasl, who did a nice job and showed he’s ready to contribute even more next season.

Question 12

Answer: The venues for bowl games are set before any season begins, and some of those stadiums happen to serve as home bases for various programs. It’s happened before, and it will happen again. Florida Atlantic played in its home stadium in the Boca Raton Bowl this season and crushed Akron 50-3. Navy played at home in the Military Bowl and defeated Virginia 49-7. And Memphis played at home in the Liberty Bowl and lost 21-20 to Iowa State.

It’s the nature of bowl season, where games are played in warm weather destinations. That’s why you’ll never see a Big Ten team playing a home bowl game.

Have a question about Wisconsin football or basketball? 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.