Connect with us

Badgers football

5 priorities for Wisconsin Badgers bye week

Published

on

It’s here, the one weekend of the fall when it’s perfectly okay to ditch the Badgers and hang with the family. They just don’t need to know it’s also the bye week and there really is no Badgers game this weekend. 

Either that or the love of the Badgers has rubbed off on everyone else and they know better by now. 

But, for the Wisconsin Badgers this week is more than just a chance to recharge the batteries and enjoy a rest. It is also about reflection and figuring out how to get to the end of the season with all of its goals still intact. 

So, what should the five biggest priorities be for the Badgers over the next two weeks? Let’s take a look in no particular order. 

Get Healthy

I’m pretty sure this is number one on ever teams priority list heading in to their respective bye weeks. The good news here is that the Wisconsin Badgers aren’t suffering with a rash of injuries like some other teams across the college football landscape are. 

Andrew Van Ginkel and Zander Neuville were the big question marks for this past Saturday, and both played. What a better way to get them healthy than two full weeks of rehab work heading in to the game against Nebraska to open up the October slate? 

There are likely nagging issues to offensive and defensive lineman that can get worked on this week as well. Rest is always good and after four weeks of play, this is a perfect time to get the rest needed for the big conference games to come. 

Find a vertical pass game

So far this season the biggest miss in the Badgers offense has been the ability to stretch the field on opponents. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook has completed just eight passes for 25 or more yards this season, with a long of 44 yards. 

Over the past two seasons, Hornibrook has completed longs of 61 and 57 yards. He also hit 18 passes over 25 yards last season and 14 of them in a more limited role in 2016. 

With Quintez Cephus suspended and awaiting trail on two charges of sexual assault, the wide receiver group lost its best deep threat on the field. 

A.J. Taylor and Danny Davis are more of the slot type receiver and Kendric Pryor has become more of an intermediate route runner. It would be nice to see Davis open up the field a bit more like we saw in his freshman season, but he’s only had two games to go off of thanks a two-game suspension for his alleged role in the Cephus incident. 

The good news is that despite the numbers being down in the vertical passing game, the sample size is also small. UW has only thrown the ball 94 times this season, which trails only Nebraska and Maryland for fewest attempts in the Big Ten so far. 

I fully expect that the more Danny Davis we see, the more vertical the passing game is going to get over the next few weeks. If so, look for the entire offense to open up as teams can’t continue to stack the box and not get burned deep. 

Find some consistency at QB

But, all of that vertical pass game stuff also requires Hornibrook to become a consistent threat and that hasn’t happened yet either. At this point, it may never happen. One just needs to look at the last two weeks as the perfect example. 

With the run game in check, Hornibrook was just 18-of-28 passing for 190 yards and no touchdowns to one interception against BYU two weeks ago. 

He followed that up by going 17-of-22 for 205 yards and three touchdowns to zero interceptions against Iowa. That performance also included the game-winning drive in which Hornibrook was perfect and threw the touchdown pass.

For a third-year starter this type of inconsistency is troubling for an offense that needs the pass game to come alive. No one is asking Hornibrook to thrown for 300 yards and 4 touchdowns every Saturday. But, the problem has been his ability to shred bad defenses and then get shredded by good defenses. 

Will we see Hornibrook do more of what he did against Iowa going forward? Finding a way to get that type of game more consistently has to be a priority for the Badgers offense. 

Reflection on Secondary play

Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard hasn’t been afraid to mix and match with his youthful secondary through the first four games of the season. 

About the only sure bet has been cornerback Caesar Williams, who appears to be the best bet to be a lockdown corner against some of the better receivers to come. 

Leonhard has inserted the likes of Faion Hicks, Derron Harrel and Madison Cone at cornerback to start games already this season. The results have been mixed. 

Wisconsin is fourth in the Big Ten in pass defense, has given up just five passing touchdowns through four games and have four interceptions. All of those things are good news, but UW is also allowing a lot of plays that better teams will convert in to more points. 

There have been five passes over 25 yards and 14 plays of 15 yards or more. Luckily it’s been soft coverage and keeping people in front of them that has contributed to those numbers. 

Which players who have rotated in will be trusted to come up big as the games get bigger, the attention gets more intense and everything is under the microscope. 

About all we know is that Caesar Williams has been trusted along with Scott Nelson as youthful members in this secondary. They need to settle in to a rotation they can trust at the other cornerback spot. Seeing the film, talking to the players and reflecting on what has gone on is a great place to start in figuring out this mystery. 

Test out wrinkles to the offense

Normally the Badgers will line up, tell you the play that’s coming and still beat you silly with it. But, with upcoming games against tough defenses like Michigan, this is a perfect week to work behind the scenes on some wrinkles to the game plan. 

Why not throw in a few players who haven’t seen the field in very specific packages or why not work on throwing out of packages that have always been run plays before? 

Paul Chryst’s offense may seem simple, but talk to any opposing coach and they’ll tell you he’s one of the better play-calling minds in the game. Why not put that to good use in the bye week?

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Badgers football

Best, worst case scenarios for Badgers quarterbacks in 2019

Published

on

Believe it or not, the start of the Wisconsin Badgers fall camp is right around the corner and we’re hitting the home stretch of our preview season as well.

Previous Positions:Running Back | Defensive Line | Wide Receiver | Outside Linebacker | Inside Linebacker |

No position has had more of the spotlight and taken up more of our conversation than what is happening at quarterback. After watching the QB play go from ok to disaster in 2018, it is back to the drawing board in many ways.

With Alex Hornibrook off to Florida State for his final season and the highest rated quarterback recruit in Badgers history on campus, this offseason has been full of intrigue.

But, what will the 2019 season look like for the most critical position on this offense? Let’s take a look at exactly that.

Best Case Scenario

The Badgers find out they hit the jackpot with Graham Mertz and he’s spent the time between spring and fall ball getting up to speed on the offense. Mertz immediately shows this is his job and the coaching staff sees it quickly as well.

Either that or Jack Coan comes in and commands the position and the offense with accuracy and an ability to hit the deep ball. The offense gels around him and heading in to the opener at South Florida, Coan is the man behind center by a wide margin.

Yes, there are two best-case scenarios at play. But, that’s because Wisconsin’s coaching staff would really love for someone to flat-out win the starting job early on in fall camp. Will that happen? That’s the million dollar question and don’t count out Chase Wolf from this competition either. He came on strong as spring went along and his abilities give the Badgers offense some different wrinkles that could be intriguing.

No matter whom wins the battle in fall camp, the best case scenario is that that person wins the battle early, the offense can focus on installing around that quarterback and said quarterback shows why he won the job with quality play during the season.

Worst Case Scenario

If we go in to week three of fall camp and there is no winner to the quarterback job, I’m not so confident in this group. Yes, it’s the job of everyone to compete at a high level, but the coaching staff not being able to separate between the bunch isn’t good news.

My worst-case scenario would be no winner coming out of fall camp, we see quarterbacks splitting time in the fall and this offense stalling out in the pass game once again.

Musical chairs at quarterback never seems to work at Wisconsin and that especially played out last season with Coan clearly thrown to the wolves before he was ready to make a full impact after Hornibrook’s injury.

As long as the Badgers can avoid having to play multiple quarterbacks because none of them have wrestled the position for themselves, UW’s offense should be in a better position in 2019 than it was in 2018.

Most Likely to Happen

As much as the fans want to see Graham Mertz come in and be this game-changing quarterback out of the gate, the most likely scenario is that Mertz gets some game action in the non-conference games and Jack Coan is your regular starter.

I can foresee the scenario playing out much like Coan’s true freshman season. The only difference being that Mertz won’t have to give up his redshirt to play in a single game.

It seems like the most likely to happen scenario is that Coan is your starter for the year with Mertz as the man getting the early season reps behind him and then Chase Wolf being the other option to get reps during conference play.

Let’s not forget that Coan is the only quarterback on this roster that has seen more than a complete mop-up duty. Danny Vanden Boom could be an option too, but it seems like Wolf and Mertz passed him up in the spring competition.

As much as Mertz is the future, coaches are paid to win games now and that likely means playing it safe with Coan.

Continue Reading

Badgers football

Best, worst case scenarios for Badgers ILB’s in 2019

Published

on

We hope you enjoyed the Independence Day holiday, but it is time to get back to some business and that means continuing our series looking in to every position group for the 2019 Wisconsin Badgers.

Previous Positions: Running Back | Defensive Line | Wide Receiver | Outside Linebacker |

Since we went outside the last time around, today we will focus on a position that has long been a strength of the Badgers program — inside linebacker.

What could happen with this group in 2019? Let’s find out.

Best Case Scenario

Yes, the Badgers face life without an All-American and a steady veteran thanks to the graduations of T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly. But, the good news is that this group was one of the deepest and most productive overall last season.

Veteran Chris Orr will get one starting spot and former 4-star recruit Jack Sanborn will step in to the other starting role. So, the best case scenario for this group is that Orr, who started as a freshman, gets back to that kind of form, and we see quality play from a combination of younger players like Sanborn and freshman Leo Chenal.

No one had a bigger breakout this spring than Chenal did. He came in as an early enrollee, but well under the radar. By the end of spring ball, it looked very much like he won’t be redshirting and will be challenging for a lot of snaps in the fall.

It would be great to see that happen, because Orr has just one year left in the Cardinal and White.

Worst Case Scenario

What would really hurt this group is if Orr or Sanborn were to go down with an injury here. Yes, Chenal looked good in spring ball like I mentioned before and yes Mike Maskalunas has shown flashes of ability, but are they really ready to be thrust in to the majority of snaps at inside linebacker together?

Experience is an issue for this group and I could see an injury exposing that lack of experience in a big way. Even if the Badgers wanted to go with an older player, the only other option would be Seth Currens and he just converted from safety in the spring himself.

Other than that it would be Hunter Johnson or two walk-ons that were here in the spring.

The Badgers only inside linebacker recruit in the 2019 class was Chenal too, so there will be no more help coming in to fall camp.

Most Likely to Happen

The good news is that I don’t see the worst case scenario actually happening, at least not in a major way. Orr’s medical history suggests he could be prone to missing a game or two with a nagging injury, but don’t expect anything crazy to happen.

I also believe we will see the emergence of Sanborn and Chenal as the future of this position for the Badgers. In fact, Sanborn has looked so good in spring and in his limited playing time last season, that I suspect he could be a darkhorse for All-Big Ten honors at season’s end.

Look for this group to be a downhill, hard-hitting and more athletic group than we saw last season and that could make a major difference for those playing behind them.

Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard and his staff have a lot to figure out, but they should feel safe with the talent that is available to them at inside linebacker.

Continue Reading

Badgers football

Best, worst case scenarios for Badgers OLB’s in 2019

Published

on

This time next month, the pads may be popping and the 2019 Wisconsin Badgers fall practices will be under way. It’s so close we all can almost taste it.

But, as we look forward to the 2019 season we’re going to try something a bit different. Gone are the usual ways of looking position groups and giving you a fall preview that last’s a week.

Well, that’s because this season is vital to the Paul Chryst era. There’s a changing of the guard going on. After a disappointing 2018 season that saw UW drop Paul Bunyan’s Axe for the first time in 15 years and not win the Big Ten West, the question is if that’s a sign of decline or a blip on the radar.

In order to best answer that question, we’re actually going to start with a look at what needs to happen, what the Badgers need to avoid and what is really likely at every position.

Previous Positions: Running Back | Defensive Line | Wide Receiver

Up today is a look at the outside linebacker position.

Best Case Scenario:

Last year, the outside linebackers contributed just 8 total sacks to a team total of 19. That’s a lot of contribution to the effort, but the effort was far below expectations set by previous groups. Additionally, the graduation of Andrew Van Ginkel means just 2.5 sacks return from the outside linebacker position in 2019.

Those sacks belong to Zack Baun, who got his feet wet as a starter last season and is looking for big things to happen in 2019. The good news is that Baun was one of Wisconsin’s best run-stoppers on the edge.

Ideally, Baun not only is a leader of this defensive group in 2019, but becomes much more disruptive behind the line of scrimmage too.

Wisconsin has a lot of potential that could start opposite of him. Former Alabama transfer Christian Bell, former 4-star recruit Noah Burks and former inside linebacker Griffin Grady all had their moments of shine in spring ball.

In a best case scenario, the Badgers have more than one of that group step up as contributors to an overall group of outside linebackers that don’t have a lot of in-game experience or depth.

Getting this group to contribute double-digit sacks as a whole would be a great step forward.

Worst Case Scenario:

Noah Burks or Christian Bell don’t live up to their enormous potential. It’s as plain and simple as that.

Wisconsin needs them to become pass-rushing specialists in a big way if this defense is going to be as aggressive as it is designed to be. Often times last season, the inability of the front seven to get pressure really hung an inexperienced secondary out to dry.

If UW experiences more of that, it could really be trouble in 2019. The Badgers need this defense to step up its game, and having both of the expected top contenders in replacing Van Ginkel flame out would be a disaster all the way around.

Most Likely to Happen:

Given all the unknowns surrounding the outside linebacker position, this is a difficult position to predict. However, I will say this — Zack Baun will end up as an All-Big Ten performer.

I believe he just scratched the surface of his potential last year, especially since he was just coming off an awful injury history prior to it. If he stays healthy in 2019, I predict he becomes a surprise player to many outside observers in the Big Ten.

That said, I also believe we will see Christian Bell and Noah Burks become a handful for opposing offensive coordinators to deal with. Both have been patient with the talent that was in front of them, but they are bursting with potential when they have seen the field.

So, to answer the question most want to know…I believe this all signals a position group ready to be a major force once again after that down year in 2018.

Continue Reading

Badgers football

Best, Worst case scenarios for Badgers Wide Receivers in 2019

Published

on

The heat of summer is upon us and the recruiting trail has been even hotter for the Wisconsin Badgers. However, that heat also indicates that the long offseason nightmare is about to be over.

With that in mind, we’re taking a summer-long look at each position group heading in to the 2019 season.

Previous Positions: Running Back | Defensive Line |

Today, we flip back to the offensive side of the ball and look at a second skill position — wide receiver.

After what was supposed to be a breakout year for the group in 2018, what will this group have in store for 2019? Let’s look at the best and worst case scenarios at play.

Best Case Scenario

If the Badgers want to get going in the pass game, the wide receiver group needs to step up the deep game in a big way. While A.J. Taylor, Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor have proven to be reliable assets, 2018 felt much like they all barely scratched the surface of their potential.

The trio combined for 95 receptions (which was 53 percent of all receptions as a team), 1,212 yards and 11 of 19 touchdown receptions on the year.

For this season, the best case scenario actually involves the quarterback position almost more-so than anything this group can do. The receivers could benefit from a consistently good passer at quarterback and a more open playbook as well.

Whether it is Jack Coan or wonderkid recruit, Graham Mertz, the consistency and trust to open up the playbook needs to be there.

Additionally, an increased role for speedster Aaron Cruickshank would be the best case scenario.

Worst Case Scenario

Danny Davis emerged as the most targeted receiver last season, catching 40 passes to lead all wide receivers on the team. He will enter his junior season with an increase in expectations and no off-field distractions like he had to deal with last season thanks to his stupid decision-making.

That aside, Davis is the most well-rounded receiver in this group and the one that could wind up be the deep threat that has been missing for awhile now. So, any injury to Davis would be bad news.

In fact, any sustained injuries to the likes of Davis, Pryor and Taylor would not be good. UW is very inexperienced behind this trio, and inexperience at QB and WR may not be a fun combination.

Dare I say, it would lead to UW not being back on top of the West division mountain?

Most Likely to Happen

I fully believe that the coaching staff will go in to the season knowing which quarterback they’ll go with and stick with. Confidence is key to helping this wide receiver group and I expect the Badgers offense to be much more balanced in 2019 than it was over the past two seasons.

Look for Davis, Pryor and Taylor to all increase their overall numbers and likely go over the 15 touchdown mark as a group. More importantly, I expect much more play-action and much more from the deep passing game too. That should be music to a talented, but under used group’s ears.

Don’t be surprised to see one of the Badgers wide receivers make a run at All-Big Ten honors as a result of that shift back to balance.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Trending

© 2019 Facere Media. This site is not affiliated with, endorsed or sponsored by the University of Wisconsin, it's athletic department or any other university entity. It is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only and is no way associated with the NCAA, the Big Ten or any member institutions.