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ESPN Wisconsin Blogs - Zach Heilprin

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Most Important Badgers: No. 2 Sojourn Shelton

Jul 24, 2014 -- 8:02am
Photo/Getty Images
 
MADISON - Sojourn Shelton had lofty expectations for himself heading into his first season as a college player. If you ask him, he didn’t meet them. Never mind that he led the University of Wisconsin in interceptions, and became the first true freshman cornerback since Scott Starks in 2001 to start a majority of the Badgers’ games.
 
“I didn’t meet a lot of my personal goals that I wanted to meet as far as me getting better,” Shelton said late last year. “Not to be too hard on myself. I am satisfied, as a freshman, it is kind of nice, but I just want to continue to improve. I want to have the same goals going into next season, and I want to accomplish those goals. They’re pretty big goals.”
 
 
They were and they are. His interception total of four was half of what he had set out for prior to the season, and despite earning All-Big Ten honorable mention from the media, he’s still motivated by something that he didn’t do right.
 
Against Ohio State the Badgers were trailing by three with less than a minute left in the first half. Buckeyes’ quarterback Braxton Miller tried going to the end zone from 40 yards out but underthrew the ball. Shelton was in position to make him pay but dropped the interception. On the next play, Miller once again went deep and found Philly Brown for a ‘punch-in-the-gut’ touchdown. Wisconsin would go on to lose the game 31-24, making the drop all the more relevant.
 
Shelton tweeted this summer that a day doesn’t go by that he doesn’t think about the drop. That he hasn’t forgotten his failures shows what type of player he is. One with a lot of confidence, but a guy that also knows there is plenty of room to grow.
 
“The opportunities were there (for more big plays),” he said. “I think it’s just a matter of growing. A lot of those plays, where I went for the pass breakup, they could have been picks. I think that’s just part of growing.”
 
He’s continuing to grow physically as well. When he arrived in Madison in January of 2013, Shelton was carrying 152 pounds on his 5-foot-9, frame. He played at 172 last year, and is now listed at 178. The increased weight should help in the press man-to-man coverage that UW wants to play.
 
The coaching staff is also counting on Shelton to grow as a leader. Despite being on campus for just a year, only fellow cornerback Darius Hillary and safety Michael Caputo have started more games on defense than the 11 Shelton did last season.
 
“It’s important for one of us to step up,” Shelton said. “Whether it’s me or (Darius Hilary) or Peniel Jean. Somebody in the secondary.”
 
 
 Most Important Badgers
 
1) July 25
2) CB Sojourn Shelton
 
About the 2014 Most Important Badgers:
 
This is not a list of the best players on this year’s squad. Instead, we asked a number of ESPN Wisconsin personalities to rank the 15 players that are most vital to the Badgers success in 2014. They were told their rankings should be based on what players hold the key to UW competing for a Big Ten title or more in Gary Andersen's second year as coach. Factors that came into play were past success, what was said about them by their coaches this offseason and what type of season could be expected from that particular player.
 
The list does not include any incoming freshmen, because we have yet to see them on the field as college players.

Most Important Badgers: No. 3 Tanner McEvoy

Jul 23, 2014 -- 8:03am
Photo/via uwbadgers.com
 
MADISON - We don’t know where Tanner McEvoy will lineup for the University of Wisconsin this season. It could be as their starting quarterback or one of their starting safeties. That remains to be seen. But what we do know is McEvoy will play a significant role in 2014 no matter where he lands.
 
 
The Hillsdale, New Jersey, product was seemingly everywhere for the Badgers a year ago. He battled for the starting quarterback job with Joel Stave and Curt Phillips after transferring in from Arizona Western College. He was never a true challenger due to a lack of knowledge of the offense and was moved to wide receiver. He played there in the opener against Massachusetts, but a hand injury forced another move – this time to safety. Playing defense for the first time since his junior year of high school, McEvoy adapted quickly and ended up starting three games. He finished with 27 tackles, one interception and five passes defended.
 
Some might think that McEvoy’s year playing safety impacted his development as a quarterback. UW coach Gary Andersen disagrees. 
 
“I would say it’s an invaluable experience,” the second-year coach said. “To get to play (on) those big stages and big moments and make plays. You watched him get better as the year went on. He became more of a leader. His comfort zone was there. It doesn’t matter what position you’re playing, the fact you’ve jogged out of the tunnel, and you’ve played (under) the bright lights, it helps you. So because of that, he’ll definitely be a better player.”
 
Despite spending the year at safety, McEvoy maintained throughout the season that he came to Wisconsin to play quarterback, and that’s where he wanted to play. Andersen and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig assured him he’d be given an opportunity at quarterback in the spring, and that materialized in March. McEvoy was back under center, and with Stave sidelined by an injury, ended the spring as the No. 1 quarterback.
 
“It was a tough transition as a young quarterback coming here in the fall and getting moved into that,” Andersen said. “It’s a complicated offense that we run. We all know that. There is so much that goes into the run game and so on and so forth. He’s done a nice job continuing to work hard.
 
“As we go through the offseason him and Joel are competing. D.J. Gillins is excited to compete also. It’s great to have competition. At the end of the day, any good football team has competition.”
 
McEvoy holds a significant advantage over Stave when it comes to taking off and running when the play breaks down – something UW’s offensive staff desperately wants in their quarterback. But if McEvoy doesn’t win the job, and he ends up back on defense, there might still be times where he could help Wisconsin under center.
 
“There is an opportunity for an athletic quarterback to possibly walk into those scenarios, if he wasn’t the starter, to be able to play and do some things in a package,” Andersen said.  “It’s not a whole new offense. It’s a package, a set period of plays.
 
“(UW offensive coordinator) Andy (Ludwig) did that with Eric Weddle when we were at Utah. Eric was obviously a defensive player, but he came in and had a package at the quarterback spot that he did very well at. We’ll see who the starting quarterback (is) and then we’ll make those decisions as we go forward.”
 
Most Important Badgers
 
1) July 25
2) July 24
3) QB Tanner McEvoy
 
About the 2014 Most Important Badgers:
 
This is not a list of the best players on this year’s squad. Instead, we asked a number of ESPN Wisconsin personalities to rank the 15 players that are most vital to the Badgers success in 2014. They were told their rankings should be based on what players hold the key to UW competing for a Big Ten title or more in Gary Andersen's second year as coach. Factors that came into play were past success, what was said about them by their coaches this offseason and what type of season could be expected from that particular player.
 
The list does not include any incoming freshmen, because we have yet to see them on the field as college players.

Badgers football: An update to the updated roster

Jul 23, 2014 -- 2:28am
Photo/ESPN.com
Nose guard Jeremy Patterson is a freshman but he certainly doesn't look like one.
 
MADISON – The University of Wisconsin released an updated roster late last week that included new players coming in and removed the players with eligibility that wouldn’t be returning. What it didn’t have were all of the position changes, updated weights and what players had changed numbers. On Tuesday, UW made the 2014 Fact Book available, and it has those last three items up to date.
 
A couple notes after looking through it:
 
Jeremy Patterson is a big man and not just for a freshman. The nose guard weighed in at 326 pounds – 36 pounds more than the next heaviest defensive lineman. The coaching staff was extremely high on the Screven, Georgia, native and optimistic that he could help them this year. While his size does not gel with UW’s offseason of going smaller but quicker in the front seven, the 6-foot-3, Patterson could be valuable against teams, like LSU, that want to play power football.
 
While Patterson was up, senior Warren Herring was down. He was listed last year at 295 pounds, but was 12 pounds lighter this time around. If sophomore Arthur Goldberg (290) and Patterson can handle more playing time, it would allow Herring to move from his nose guard spot to end in certain packages.
 
A couple other notables that dropped weight were senior tight end Sam Arneson, who went from 254 to 244, and senior inside linebacker Marcus Trotter, who is now listed at 226 after playing at 233 a year ago.
 
Junior quarterback Joel Stave was also lighter, coming in at 220 pounds – 5 less than in 2013.
 
It was also an offseason full of adding weight for players, especially for guys in the front seven.
 
Redshirt freshman Chikwe Obasih, who is currently penciled in as the starter at one of the defensive end spots, put on 23 pounds, and is now listed at 268. His fellow Brookfield native, redshirt freshman Alec James, made the transition from outside linebacker to defensive end in the offseason and added 20 pounds to his frame, leaving him at 259.
 
Both of Wisconsin’s starting outside linebackers, sophomore Vince Biegel (244) and junior Joe Schobert (240), added more than 10 pounds.
 
While Marcus Trotter dropped weight, his brother Michael is up to 220 after putting on 15 pounds, as the senior made the move from safety to inside linebacker.
 
Sophomore Keelon Brookins, who moved from safety to outside linebacker, was up 16 pounds to 209.
 
On the offensive side of the ball, true freshman quarterback D.J. Gillins is now listed at 201, which makes him 16 pounds heavier than on the spring roster. UW’s offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig said on Signing Day that adding weight to Gillins' frame would be a priority.
 
Junior tight end Austin Maly put on 10 pounds and sits at 250, while redshirt freshman tight end Troy Fumagalli added 13 pounds to his 6-foot-5, frame and now tips the scales at 246.
 
Redshirt freshman tight end T.J. Watt, who missed most of spring practice with a leg injury, put on 12 pounds to get to 247.
 
A few more:
 
- Junior running back Melvin Gordon is up 6 pounds to 213. His backfield mate, sophomore Corey Clement, came in at 217, which was up 7 pounds.
 
- Taiwan Deal, one of the two freshmen running backs UW signed in the class of 2014, was lighter than expected at 216 pounds.
 
- D’Cota Dixon, another true freshman, weighed in at 206 pounds, which makes him by far the biggest cornerback on the roster.
 
- Junior cornerback Darius Hillary came in at 188, just a pound more than last year. And sophomore Sojourn Shelton is now 178, up from 172 in his freshman season.
 
Position changes:
Note: The changes listed below are based on what the spring roster had the players labeled as. Most of the moves happened prior to spring practice starting.
 
Name
Old Pos.
New Pos.
Matt Austin (FR)
Inside linebacker
Outside linebacker
Keelon Brookins (RS FR)
Safety
Outside linebacker
Jack Cichy (SO)
Inside linebacker
Outside linebacker
Leon Jacobs (SO)
Outside linebacker
Inside linebacker
Peniel Jean (SR)
Cornerback
Safety
A.J. Jordan (JR)
Wide receiver/Safety
Safety
Carl Miller (RS FR)
Inside linebacker
Outside linebacker
Joe Schobert (JR)
Inside linebacker
Outside linebacker
Michael Trotter (SR)
Safety
Inside linebacker
 
Number changes:
 
Name
Old No.
New No.
Devin Gaulden (JR)
No. 10
No. 4
Rob Wheelwright (SO)
No. 4
No. 15
Austin Ramesh (RS FR)
No. 30
No. 20
T.J. Watt (RS FR)
No. 85
No. 42
Troy Fumagalli (RS FR)
No. 41
No. 48
Logan Schmidt (RS SO)
No. 79
No. 76

 

Most Important Badgers: No. 4 Joel Stave

Jul 22, 2014 -- 8:06am
Photo/USATSI
 
MADISON - Except for a few instances – the Green Bay Packers for example – the most popular player on any football team is the backup quarterback. It can be comical that many prefer the unknown to the known, but that is the case for a lot of college fans bases across the country, including the University of Wisconsin.
 
A year ago, Joel Stave started all 13 games for the Badgers, winning nine of them. He threw for 2,494 yards and 22 touchdowns – the most for a sophomore in Wisconsin history. The touchdown mark was also the second-most all-time, trailing only Russell Wilson’s 33 in 2011. His career passing efficiency of 140.8 is fourth in UW history, and a season similar to last year would vault him into the top three in career passing yards and touchdowns.
 
 
Put numbers like that in front a fan – without telling them it’s Stave – and they would likely take that quarterback in a second. But that’s not the case for the junior. The former walk-on will be in a competition for the starting job once again when fall camp opens up next month, this time battling junior Tanner McEvoy.
 
“At good positions you want everyone competing for that position all the time,” Stave said in the spring. “You want young guys pushing old guys. You want competition all around. The quarterback position is the same way. I’ve been there before, so I’m not really too concerned about it.”
 
The Greenfield native has won – or should have won – every quarterback competition he’s been in. He outplayed Danny O’Brien in 2012, but former coach Bret Bielema went with the high-profile transfer. Stave would go on to start six games, winning five of them, before a broken collarbone ended his season. A year ago, Stave earned the starting nod over Curt Phillips and McEvoy.
 
The big numbers he put up as a sophomore weren’t all positive. His 13 interceptions were the most by a Badgers’ quarterback since Mike Samuel threw the same amount in 1997. His accuracy was spotty, though he did still complete 61.9 percent of passes – the sixth-best mark in school history. If offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig had any complaint about Stave’s performance, it was the inconsistency in his throws.
 
“The repetitive accuracy,” Ludwig said earlier this year of where Stave needed to make his biggest improvement. “Just making those throws. If you look at it, we need two more completions a game out of Joel. If he does that, he’s throwing 69-percent completion on the year and that’s a whole other level.”
 
Much of that is connected to his footwork. It leads to throwing a dart on one play, only to one-hop the next pass. The coaching staff went about fixing the issue during pre-bowl workouts in December, and that continued when Stave was unable to throw for a few months following the shoulder injury that knocked him out of the Capital One Bowl loss to South Carolina.
 
The injury limited him in spring, but UW coach Gary Andersen said in early June that Stave was pain-free and ready to compete.
 
“I think patience right now is important for him,” he said. “He doesn’t need to go out and throw 200 balls a day. He needs to go out and be prepared when the moment comes to be ready for fall camp to compete. He’ll handle it well, but he’s in good shape right now.”
 
Most Important Badgers
 
1) July 25
2) July 24
3) July 23
4) QB Joel Stave
 
About the 2014 Most Important Badgers:
 
This is not a list of the best players on this year’s squad. Instead, we asked a number of ESPN Wisconsin personalities to rank the 15 players that are most vital to the Badgers success in 2014. They were told their rankings should be based on what players hold the key to UW competing for a Big Ten title or more in Gary Andersen's second year as coach. Factors that came into play were past success, what was said about them by their coaches this offseason and what type of season could be expected from that particular player.
 
The list does not include any incoming freshmen, because we have yet to see them on the field as college players.

Badgers football: Texas running back commits

Jul 21, 2014 -- 10:39am
Photo/Alan Warren, yourhoustonnews.com
 
MADISON - The University of Wisconsin has picked up their first commitment in more than a month for the class of 2015.
 
Running back Davon Crookshank from Missouri City (Fort Bend Marshall), Texas gave his verbal pledge to the Badgers on Monday.
 
 
The 5-foot-9, 190-pound, Crookshank is rated as a 3-star player by ESPN, and the No. 56 running back in the country. 
 
He ran for 1,095 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2013, and for his career he’s put up 2,065 yards and 27 scores.
 
Crookshank chose the Badgers over Baylor, Colorado, Kansas and others.
 
He is the first running back for UW in the class of 2015 and 16th recruit overall.
 
Here is a portion of ESPN's scouting report on Crookshank:
 
STRENGTHS: Crookshank displays the ability to get to the hole and quickly make a cut. Will exploit cutback lanes and burst into the second level. Possesses a second gear to run away from defenders. Shows good quickness to make defenders miss in the hole or the open field. ... AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT: Lacks the bulk at present to be an every down type back. We question his ability to take multiple hits and retain production at a high level. ... BOTTOM LINE: Crookshank has the tools and skills to further develop into a quality running back. Shows the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield to get yards after catch. Most likely a BCS level back.
 
 

Most Important Badgers: No. 5 Tyler Marz

Jul 21, 2014 -- 8:04am
Photo/via uwbadgers.com
 
MADISON - Tyler Marz didn’t shutdown Jadeveon Clowney completely. The South Carolina defensive end knocked a pair of passes down and had a tackle for loss in the Capital One Bowl on New Year’s Day. But the eventual No. 1 pick in May’s NFL Draft wasn’t the disruptive player he had been for most of career. That was largely due to Marz, the Badgers’ left tackle that day. Now, as Wisconsin prepares to open fall camp early next month, the coaching staff is looking for more from the junior.
 
“I think for Tyler, the big key for him this year is to challenge himself to be more consistent. And to play like he played in the bowl game,” offensive line coach T.J. Woods said this summer. “I thought he went up against the best player in the country in Jadeveon Clowney, and I thought that really gave him a ton of momentum coming into spring ball and now through summer. I think his confidence is there, and I look for big things out of Tyler. He’s a tremendous player.”
 
That’s not something Woods would have been able to say in the spring of 2013. Marz struggled during the early part of spring practice, forcing Woods to move Ryan Groy from left guard to left tackle. But in fall practice an injury to center Dan Voltz led to another reshuffling of the line, with Dallas Lewallen moving from left guard to center, Groy going back to left guard and Marz taking over at left tackle. It was an opportunity that Marz took full advantage of, impressing Woods and starting all 13 games, while also dealing with injuries that left him at less than 100-percent.
 
This spring, Marz surveyed how much his outlook had changed over the past year.
 
“Last year, it was almost a three-man rotation between me, (Ryan) Groy and (Dallas) Lewallen at the time. Everything was up in the air,” Marz said. “You’re trying to learn a new system and how Coach Woods wants things done. This time it’s a lot easier. You know everything. I’ve got a year under my belt. Now I just really focus in on the technique and getting better each day.”
 
Woods said Marz had his ups and downs in his first year, which is the case for most young players. But he’s also a firm believer in the only way for a player to get better is to throw them into the action. Now that Marz has that experience, Woods is anticipating a more consistent performance from the Springfield, Minnesota native.
 
“I think focusing on the details of the game,” Woods said of how Marz can accomplish that. “The technique details. The more you play the more the game slows down so you should have the ability to start thinking about more and start processing more information in the time that’s allotted for you to do so. And I think that’s why veteran guys have a little bit more success.”
 
1) July 25
2) July 24
3) July 23
4) July 22
5) LT Tyler Marz
 
About the 2014 Most Important Badgers:
 
This is not a list of the best players on this year’s squad. Instead, we asked a number of ESPN Wisconsin personalities to rank the 15 players that are most vital to the Badgers success in 2014. They were told their rankings should be based on what players hold the key to UW competing for a Big Ten title or more in Gary Andersen's second year as coach. Factors that came into play were past success, what was said about them by their coaches this offseason and what type of season could be expected from that particular player.
 
The list does not include any incoming freshmen, because we have yet to see them on the field as college players.
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