Wisconsin mailbag: Ethan Happ and NBA draft; why fans love backup QBs; looking to next football season
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 where Ethan Happ could go in the NBA draft, forward Drew Peterson’s basketball recruitment, whether Nobal Days or DJ Carton is the bigger 2019 prospect, fans’ love affair with backup quarterbacks, and look ahead to next football season.
Answer: I know that 2018 wide receiver Aron Cruickshank has said he intends to run track at Wisconsin, but the details of that arrangement remain to be seen. It certainly isn’t impossible, given the times in which football and track don’t overlap.
Wisconsin’s spring football game has typically been in late April. The Badgers’ outdoor track season for 2018 begins March 31, and the Big Ten Championships don’t begin until May 11.
Back in 2013, Badgers football players Kenzel Doe and Dezmen Southward participated in track after spring football because the track team needed extra runners. Football will always take priority over track, but there are some free weekends in there.
As for how it helps in recruiting, that’s a tough one to answer. Very few football players cross over into other sports. But the more players that run track, the more there is a precident for others who want to do the same.
Answer: I wrote about this Tuesday, and you can read the entire story here. Wisconsin appears to have another spot open in the 2018 class, and there are at least a couple of uncommitted prospects the Badgers are still targeting: wide receiver John Jackson (Gardena, Calif.) and cornerback Jairus Brents (Louisville, Ky.).
Jackson is a 6-foot-2, 200-pound senior who has multiple schools after him, including Oregon, Tennessee and BYU. Jackson tweeted Monday that Nebraska offered him a scholarship. He finished his senior season with 63 catches for 573 yards with 2 touchdowns. As a junior, he caught 32 passes for 411 yards with 6 touchdowns. He is expected to take an official visit to Wisconsin the weekend of Jan. 19. It could be tough to convince a California native to pick the Badgers in the dead of winter. Plus, he’s taking an official visit to UCLA the following weekend. But at least Wisconsin is in the running.
Brents is a 5-9, 160-pound senior who is the top uncommitted prospect in Kentucky. He released his top 10 list of schools on Aug. 22: Wisconsin, Michigan State, Oregon, Oklahoma, Alabama, Purdue, Kentucky, Pittsburgh, Indiana and USC. Brents visited Wisconsin for its game against Michigan on Nov. 18.
According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, he recorded 62 tackles, 2 sacks and 2 interceptions this season. But he was a dynamic threat on offense and played quarterback for Louisville Waggener. He passed for 972 yards with 13 touchdowns and ran for 481 yards. Brents scored 15 total touchdowns — 8 rushing, 2 receiving, 2 kickoff returns, 2 punt returns and 1 interception return. According to the Courier-Journal, he also scored on 13 2-point conversion runs.
In terms of need, Wisconsin could probably use Brents more considering how many wide receivers Wisconsin has on the roster and signed in the 2018 class. It will be interesting to see what the Badgers can do to try and fill out the class in the weeks leading up to National Signing Day on Feb. 7.
Answer: This will be one of the bigger questions surrounding Wisconsin’s basketball program as the season ends. Happ can impact the game in so many ways that he’ll add value in the pros, even though he has a unique skill set. Julianne Applebom of DraftExpress.com summed it up best:
“Happ doesn’t have the flashiest game and is far from a traditional prospect, but he has great fundamentals, footwork, and instincts on both ends of the floor,” he wrote. “His productivity at the highest levels of college basketball, along with his strong athleticism, basketball IQ and motor certainly give him a chance to carve out a long NBA career.”
If Happ knows he’s going to be a first-round pick, it would be difficult to turn down guaranteed money. On the other hand, Happ’s draft stock could rise with a strong senior season in which he’ll have a shot at national player of the year honors. He’ll have to decide what works best for him. Sam Dekker cashed in after his junior season when his draft stock was high. Frank Kaminsky came back for his senior season, won consensus national player of the year honors, and wound up becoming a first-round pick.
For what it’s worth, Sports Illustrated released its latest mock draft for 2018 on Dec. 11, and Happ is listed at No. 60 — the final pick in the second round — after dropping from No. 49.
“Happ has done nothing but produce at Wisconsin and excels as a finisher and rebounder,” SI’s Jeremy Woo wrote. “He operates mostly in the paint, where he’s always active despite a lack of ideal size at the five. He’s not a flashy player, but he’s a good rebounder, ball-handler and passer and plays bigger than his size. It hurts that he’s not much of a shooter [and poor from the free-throw line] but his track record is impressive.”
If there’s any doubt about Happ as a first-round pick after this season, he should come back.
Answer: Wisconsin definitely has interest in Peterson (Libertyville, Ill.), but it’s hard to tell whether an offer will be coming. Coaches watched Peterson play on Dec. 12. Badgers assistant basketball coach Howard Moore is expected to watch Peterson again in his team’s holiday tournament this week.
Peterson certainly is an intriguing prospect. I’ve watched some of his highlights, and it’s clear he has a quick release, can shoot from deep and is a solid ball handler, particularly for a player who stands 6-foot-7. Plus, he’s playing against good high school competition in the Chicago suburbs. Over his last five games, Peterson is averaging 26.2 points, which includes a 37-point effort, as well as a game in which he tallied 29 points and 15 rebounds.
So far, Peterson does not have any high-major offers. His offers come from Bowling Green, Illinois-Chicago, IUPUI, Kent State, Loyola of Chicago, Tulane and William & Mary. He is a 3-star prospect who is rated as the No. 7 player in Illinois and could be a late find for the Badgers.
We know Wisconsin needs help in the frontcourt, even with two committed players in the 2018 recruiting class already in forward Taylor Currie (Clarkston, Mich.) and center Joe Hedstrom (Hopkins, Minn.). Wisconsin is losing Charlie Thomas, Andy Van Vliet and Alex Illikainen after next season. Ethan Happ could leave for the NBA after this season.
Peterson seems to be a player who will need time to develop, and the Badgers may not want to wait that long. Perhaps going the graduate transfer route will be an option. That likely depends on whether Wisconsin offers Peterson, whose stock continues to rise.
Answer: In a perfect world, Wisconsin would secure commitments from point guard DJ Carton and forward Nobal Days. But I’d say Days is a bigger need than Carton right now just because the Badgers desperately require frontcourt help. I mentioned all the frontcourt players leaving in the previous question. Incoming forward Taylor Currie might need a couple of years to develop, particularly considering he is skipping a high school grade to become a 2018 college enrollee.
Days is long and athletic and is the No. 1 player in Wisconsin for the 2019 class. There’s something to be said for Wisconsin keeping the top-ranked player at home. The last player ranked No. 1 in the state who committed to the Badgers was Sam Dekker in 2012.
Carton would be a nice addition at Wisconsin. Brad Davison will be a junior in 2019, Kobe King will be a redshirt sophomore and D’Mitrik Trice will be either a junior or a redshirt sophomore, depending on whether he plays after recovering from injury this season.
Answer: Wisconsin is ranked No. 6 in the Associated Press and coaches polls. I can see the Badgers climbing to No. 3 with a victory and an Ohio State loss to USC in the Cotton Bowl. Two playoff teams are going to lose their semifinal games and have two losses, while Wisconsin would be 13-1. The last time Wisconsin finished in the top 3 of the AP poll came in 1962, when the Badgers were No. 2 following a thrilling 42-37 Rose Bowl loss to top-ranked USC. If Wisconsin loses to Miami, I’m guessing the Badgers would drop to around No. 10, depending on what happens in other bowl games. Miami is ranked No. 11 in the AP and coaches poll.
As for next season, I have no idea where Wisconsin will be in the preaseson poll, but it’s a good bet the Badgers will start in the Top 25 considering all the returning talent on offense. Preseason polls are estimates based on past success, potential and unknown future results.
Answer: In a word, yes. The backup quarterback is often the object of fans’ affection because he has yet to make a mistake, while the flaws of a starting quarterback are plainly obvious. Joel Stave certainly received his share of criticism, particularly in his final two seasons when his statistics didn’t reflect the numbers he put up as a sophomore. Alex Hornibrook’s interception total — 15 — has been a topic of conversation all season, even though he ranks third in the Big Ten in pass-efficiency rating and fifth with 21 touchdown passes.
If the backup quarterback were the best option, Paul Chryst would start him. No one is keeping someone from playing that deserves the opportunity.
Answer: I’ve heard this question quite a few times this season. As stated in the previous question, if Jack Coan proves to be the better quarterback, there’s no reason why he wouldn’t play. Having said that, I think it’s going to be difficult for Coan to beat out Hornibrook, given all of his experience. Hornibrook has thrown 465 passes, while Coan has thrown 5 passes.
It’s tough to determine just how good Coan is because we haven’t seen Wisconsin practice since the second week of August. Spring ball should provide a better opportunity to evaluate Coan’s development, but he did some positive things in his first season to earn the backup job as a freshman. He appears to be a good decision maker with decent mobility. Hornibrook’s game experience doesn’t guarantee him a starting spot for the next two seasons, but it does provide him with a leg up in the competition.
Answer: I believe Wisconsin should be in contention to win the Big Ten West every year for the foreseeable future. No other West Division program has had as much sustained success as the Badgers, and until another team comes along and dethrones them, they’re still the cream of the crop. We’ll know a lot more about this team after the first three conference games, which take place at Iowa, home against Nebraska and at Michigan.
If Wisconsin can beat Iowa and Nebraska, then the Badgers will be frontrunners to win the West for the third time in the last four seasons. It could be a 9-3 type of season given that there’s a road game at Penn State. But Wisconsin has surpassed expectations before. I thought the Badgers might be 7-5 or 8-4 in 2016 given the difficult schedule, and they wound up winning the West and finishing 11-3 with a Cotton Bowl victory.
The biggest loss offensively will be tight end Troy Fumagalli, but the Badgers return Zander Neuville and Kyle Penniston at the position. Jake Ferguson also is an up-and-coming player. We don’t know yet whether left tackle Michael Deiter or right guard Beau Benzschawel will leave school early for the NFL. Wisconsin has built up excellent depth on the line and would have players such as Cole Van Lanen, Patrick Kasl, Micah Kapoi and Jason Erdmann to step up. Fullback Austin Ramesh is gone after this season, but that just means more opportunity for Alec Ingold. It’s a really strong team on offense next season.
The more significant issues occur on defense. Wisconsin loses its top three defensive ends and its two starting outside linebackers. Cornerback Derrick Tindal and safety Natrell Jamerson are done, and cornerback Nick Nelson could declare for the NFL draft. The same goes for inside linebacker T.J. Edwards. Wisconsin will have a lot to replace on defense, but the Badgers have shown before they have players waiting in the wings. Cornberack Dontye Carriere-Williams, outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel and defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk are just a few players who should move into starting roles and thrive.
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