Wisconsin is 3-0 following a 40-6 victory on the road to the BYU Cougars on Saturday. It’s the perfect start most believed would happen, but this week the Badgers have a bye.
It’s time for players and coaches to recharge the batteries, but it is also a great time for reflection and figuring out some of the kinks in the system after three games of film.
With that in mind, let us look at the three biggest priorities for the Badgers coaches and players during this week off from game play.
Hitting the Recruiting Trail
Nothing is as important to the success of a program long-term than what happens on the recruiting trail. The fruits of Wisconsin’s big wins on the 2017 trail are already paying off in a big way, showcasing how important recruiting and evaluating talent really can be.
Jonathan Taylor is starting and flourishing as a true freshman at running back, Jack Coan in the backup to Alex Honribrook and has seen action in all three games to date.
Sophomore wide receivers Quintez Cephus and A.J. Taylor have made the passing game dynamic and true freshman Danny Davis has shown the propensity to beat defenders deep with his speed. Meanwhile, other names like Issaiah Loudermilk, Tyler Biadsz, Donyte Carriere-Williams and Madison Cone are all making big time moves as redshirt freshman.
This is all happening on a team that is loaded with veteran talent as well, and on a team that seems ready to compete for a Big Ten championship once again.
So, with the results of young players making moves for Wisconsin, the Badgers coaching staff will hit the recruiting trail hard this week. But, it won’t be about the 2018 class, as that seems locked up aside from a potential late addition. Instead, Wisconsin’s coaches are building the 2019 class in a major way.
UW got a commitment last week from in-state 2019 athlete Leo Chenal out of Grantsburg, Wis. but it seems like the focus this week will be on recruiting the Eastern seaboard and the state of Ohio. Getting this kind of early start and laying the groundwork for the spring is going to be huge to watch during the bye week.
This one is pretty obvious for any team during the bye week, but that is especially the case for UW. Both starting guards were dinged up over the past few weeks and two weeks to concentrate on getting healthy before Big Ten play is going to be helpful.
Other players like Leon Jacobs, Olive Sagapolu and Bradrick Shaw all could use the extra week here to try to get as close to 100 percent as possible after some nagging injuries crept up in the last few weeks. It also comes at a good time for guys like Jonathan Taylor, who likely isn’t as used to the bruising nature of college football. Letting his body rebound from two straight starts before Big Ten play should be a helpful tool for the freshman.
Luckily, the Badgers aren’t too overly banged up heading in to the bye week. So, it is likely more maintenance and continued strengthening this week.
Building Off the Confidence Gained
After three weeks, the Badgers have shown some really good growth from Week 1 until now. It is hard to argue that the Badgers didn’t put together one of the most complete offensive performances it has had under Paul Chryst this past Saturday.
Now the challenge is to make that kind of a game the norm instead of the height of Badgers football. Of course, no one should expect sophomore quarterback Alex Honribrook to be a Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week candidate on a weekly basis. Nor should they expect him to complete over 90 percent of his passes either.
What the coaching staff and fans should be expecting is that that performance gives Hornibrook and the offense the confidence it needs to be the dangerous group everyone expects it to be. Get over 200 yards passing in addition to the three-headed monster at running back and opposing teams will be in some serious trouble.
Jonathan Taylor is scary on his own, but after last weekend, defensive coordinators also have to watch out for a pass game that is capable of beating any team when its on its game. Wisconsin’s pass game has proven it is more than just Honribrook to Fumagalli, but it needs to continue to evolve.
Add in a defense that has some minor holes to fill in, but has shown to be one of the most complete defenses in the Big Ten so far through three games and you have a full team that is difficult to stop on Saturday’s in the fall.
Let’s see if the coaches can take Saturday’s performance at BYU and build off the confidence everyone seemed to gain from it.