The Wisconsin Badgers 2017 Spring Game probably didn’t grab any headlines this past weekend.
That doesn’t matter to Coach Paul Chryst though.
Chryst, entering his third season as the head coach at Wisconsin, had a relatively young group play in the annual spring game. First teamers like Alex Hornibrook, Jazz Peavy, Troy Fumagalli, Jack Cichy, and TJ Edwards all were on the sidelines. However, that doesn’t make the game any less important to Chryst and his staff. This meant that younger guys got the chance to show their in game abilities to coaches and staff alike.
Observations and analysis from the game.
1. The defense is going to be fantastic, again.
Even with most of the projected starting 11 sat out, the defense still ran the show all night. Depth was on display as linebacker Griffin Grady led the team in tackles, and early enrollee Madison Cone recorded an interception. Grady particularly was great all night, making plays all over the field. Garrett Rand showed flashes of his potential throughout the night, recording a TFL in the game. Look for him to get significantly more reps this season.
2. Jack Coan might be to good to redshirt.
While offense was for the most part limited, true freshman Jack Coan showed his ability to command the huddle. Don’t get me wrong he’s got a long way to go, but he’s been very impressive. Also, Kare Lyles is the only other scholarship QB on the roster behind Hornibrook. With Lyle’s injury history Coan may jump him come summer practices.
Coan is a highly touted recruit. Chryst has made it known he would prefer to redshirt him to save a year, but he might not have a choice to do so.
3. The kicking game is back in safe hands.(!!)
It’s no secret that last season was a tumultuous one for the Badgers field goal kicking. However, with senior Rafael Gaglianone returning from his back injury, Wisconsin is again in good hands. He nailed two 42 yarders, while hooking one kick to the left. He has shown he can be trusted in big game situations. With Gaglianone back, and sophomore punter Anthony Lotti returning, look for the Badgers kicking game to be performing at a high level.
4. Chris James and Bradrick Shaw will form a dynamic duo.
PJ Hill and John Clay. Montee Ball and James White. White and Melvin Gordon. Gordon and Corey Clement. The list of dynamic duos at the running back decision has a long and rich tradition at Wisconsin. Look for junior Chris James and rising sophomore Bradrick Shaw to carry the mantle. James has the shiftiness and the breakaway speed that he showed off in the spring game to make big plays in the running and passing game. Shaw runs with intent, and can slash through a hole and turn it into a big play at any time.
Those two appear to be on track for a very good season, behind an experienced offensive line.
The Badgers are losing a load of talent from a team that was considered to have “overachieved”. Don’t tell that to this group.
With new faces come similar expectations:
Expect a team that competes for the Big Ten West division title, as well as the conference championship as a whole. With this defense, and bright new faces throughout the team, look for this to be another wildly fun season of Wisconsin football.