Wisconsin football post-spring stock report: Which Badgers are on the rise?

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin’s spring football practices are over, and while the Badgers still have work to do in preparation for next season, a lot has been learned over the past five weeks.

Several individuals produced strong performances and put themselves in a much better position to contribute. Let’s take a look at some of the Badgers whose stock is up after spring training.

Halfway through spring practice, it was difficult to understand Wisconsin’s quarterback battle between Van Dyke and Braedyn Locke. Neither had really taken control with notable performances, and coach Luke Fickell repeatedly said that Miami-traded Van Dyke needed to “continue to come out of his shell” in as a leader. But Van Dyke appeared to make significant progress in the second half of the spring, even though no starter was decided. He looked much more comfortable on offense and led three touchdown drives during the spring scrimmage, completing all 11 passes in that series for over 135 yards. He also showed great intelligence on when to hold the ball and run, which could be a strength for the offense next season.

“No. One thing is consistency,” Fickell said after the team’s final spring practice Thursday. “I think the unique thing we’re starting to see with him is the ability to let him play a little bit. more and even run a little bit Because he’s a big physical kid And if you really look at his first year in Miami, he ran a lot more. And he made some plays, he did some things with his feet. By nature, it immerses you, I think, in the flow of the game. We did that a little bit more in the second half of the spring and I think that all goes hand in hand with the comfort level of what he’s doing. do.

There were occasions this spring with Kekahuna on the field where I found myself thinking, “Just give him the ball in space so we can see what happens.” » That’s how entertaining and effective Kekahuna was with his opportunities. Wisconsin fans got a glimpse of his potential when he caught four passes for 64 yards in the ReliaQuest Bowl against LSU.

He certainly continued that in the spring, using his speed and cutting ability to frequently make defenders miss – including one of the spring plays when he caught a ball in the left flat and then hit two defensive backs for a big gain. Kekahuna and Will Pauling plan to form a dynamic combination of slot receivers that could even be used at the same time.

Tawee Walker impressed in the spring and has a chance to make meaningful runs in 2024. (Denny Medley/USA Today)

Walker’s addition through Oklahoma’s transfer portal in December gave the Badgers eight scholarships for next season and raised questions about what his role could be. Was it just an insurance policy in case Chez Mellusi was injured? Or could it be something more? The answer in the spring is clear because Walker was extremely impressive.

Not only does he run hard, but he possesses more speed than one would expect from a 222-pound tailback. Wisconsin still has two four-star freshmen this summer — Dilin Jones and Darrion Dupree — but there’s reason to be optimistic about Mellusi and Walker as a potential 1-2 combination to help carry the offense next season.

Burroughs played more snaps toward the end of last season and finished with four catches for 30 yards. Wisconsin has several options at outside receiver for next season, including Vinny Anthony and CJ Williams to complement Bryson Green. But Burroughs stepped firmly into the fray with a series of solid practices. He closed out the spring Thursday with a stellar 34-yard touchdown run from Locke with a defensive back all over him in the end zone.

“I thought last year it was really more about confidence,” Fickell said. “I think the connection with him and Coach (Kenny) Guiton is really a good thing, and I think it’s helped him in a lot of ways to do his best and grow.”

Brunner probably should have earned more snaps last season, but was lost in the shakeup under then-offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. Current O-line coach AJ Blazek , said Brunner, who has played just 45 career snaps, looks like a veteran because of how fast and fundamentally well he plays.

What stands out when watching Brunner is his physicality and versatility. He’s not afraid to mix in with the defense to support his quarterback. He could also be the first option at tackle, as he was at scrimmage when he slid to left tackle to replace Jack Nelson.

McGohan may have gotten off to a slow start this spring, but he has emerged as a legitimate potential pass-catching weapon at the position. He had two nice catches in the spring scrimmage: one that went about 30 yards down the left sideline and another when he caught a pass thrown behind him over the middle and still made it.

McGohan, an LSU transfer, was a four-star tight end coming out of high school. Offensive coordinator Phil Longo said he could see McGohan being used in a three-man tight end group that also includes returning players Riley Nowakowski and Tucker Ashcraft.

Defensive coordinator Mike Tressel said he knew “nothing” about Lofy before spring practice began, as Lofy missed all of last season with an ankle injury in year one of a new coaching team. But a healthy Lofy has given Wisconsin a viable starting option in the slot, depending on what the Badgers do with safety Austin Brown. Lofy earned the bulk of first-team reps this spring after Brown returned from safety following an injury to Kamo’i Latu. Lofy, who played 126 snaps in the slot in 2022, showed good instincts, playmaking skills and physicality.

“He’s a strong guy,” Tressel said. “It was one of those things I didn’t know about until we saw it. He’s significantly bigger than Jason Maitre last year, for example, and has shown a willingness to be physical. We’re excited for him because it was definitely a question mark, it’s not his fault.

Fickell said Fourqurean was the team’s most improved player last season. Fourqurean had surgery last May to treat thoracic outlet syndrome — which required the removal of a rib to prevent blood clots — and he couldn’t get out of bed all offseason. Fourqurean, who started five of the last six games last season, is playing much harder and faster and is expected to team up with Ricardo Hallman on the outside next season.

We can’t mention one of these guys without talking about the other two. It appears Wisconsin will pressure much better next season, as all three players were a consistent presence in the backfield this spring. Pius transferred from an FCS program, William & Mary and Lowery arrived from Syracuse. Both players brought a little juice that was missing last season with fast and powerful builds.

Peterson, who led the team with 4 1/2 sacks last season, was outstanding in the spring scrimmage, and Tressel said he embraced the added competition at the position. Peterson can also be used as a defensive tackle with his hand in the ground in a package that includes five linebackers. Wisconsin’s outside linebackers totaled 8 1/2 sacks last season. I will take over next season.

Alliegro moved from outside linebacker to inside last season and played 53 total defensive snaps. With Wisconsin adding three inside linebacker transfers this offseason – Jaheim Thomas (Arkansas), Tackett Curtis (USC) and Sebastian Cheeks (North Carolina) – it was fair to wonder where Alliegro might fit. But he won the bulk of his snaps with the first-team defense, often paired with Jake Chaney. Curtis was out for most of the spring due to injury, so his return could impact the rotation. Still, Alliegro’s combination of length and athleticism will be a factor for the defense next season.

“The tough thing for Christian was we knew his skill set, so we expected him to step in and be a five-year veteran, All-Big Ten type player from day one,” Tressel said. “And that’s the responsibility we’re putting on him, and I know it’s not realistic.” But this is how we treat him, and these are the standards we try to set for him and see him progress. Certainly, its comfort level increases. He doesn’t have to be an all-out guy. So we’re still making progress in this area, but we’re holding it to the highest standards.

(Top photo by Quincy Burroughs: Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA Today Network)

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