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ESPN Wisconsin Blogs - Zach Heilprin

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Badgers football: Linebacker decommits

Oct 29, 2014 -- 11:11pm
MADISON - The University of Wisconsin recruiting class of 2015 has one less member.
Multiple reports say 3-star linebacker Mohammad Barry (Loganville, Georgia) decommited from the Badgers on Wednesday. reported there were academic issues involved in his decision.
Barry committed to Wisconsin back in June, picking them over Syracuse, N.C. State and others. However, all indications point to Kansas State as a landing spot for the 6-foot-1, 200-pound, Barry. ranks him as the 90th best outside linebacker in the country.
Without Barry, UW’s class now sits at 22 verbal commitments.

Badgers football: Arneson a "special player"

Oct 28, 2014 -- 11:02pm
Photo/Getty Images
Wisconsin's Sam Arneson may not get the recognition but he's playing as well as any tight end in the Big Ten.
MADISON - When the midseason watch list for the John Mackey Award, which goes to the best tight end in the country, came out in the middle of this month, there were five players from the Big Ten on it but a name was missing that likely deserved to be there – Sam Arneson.
The University of Wisconsin tight end was the Badgers second leading receiver at the time and still is. Through seven games, he has 16 catches for 251 yards. His per catch average of 15.7 yards is tops on the team as is his three receiving touchdowns. Those numbers compare favorably, and in some cases, exceed the stats of his conference brethren that did find their names on the rundown.
Jeff Heuerman (eight catches, 101 yards, one touchdown) of Ohio State and Tyler Kroft (12 catches, 127 yards, zero touchdowns) of Rutgers made the list. So did Penn State’s Jesse James (22 catches, 225 yards, two touchdowns), Purdue’s Justin Sinz (24 catches, 196 yards, one touchdown) and Minnesota’s Maxx Williams (17 catches, 280 yards and four touchdowns).
“I’m aware of it,” Arneson said of his exclusion from the list. “I try not to pay too much attention to it, but you definitely see it. It just gives (me) a little extra motivation to prove (myself). I think I’m up there with those guys. I think my stats and my play have spoken to that.”
One of the things hurting Arneson is his lack of name recognition coming into the season. Stuck behind Jacob Pedersen for his first three years in Madison, the 6-foot-4, 245-pound, Arneson wasn’t thought of when people talked about the tight end play in the Big Ten. Before this year, he had 10 catches for 76 yards and four touchdowns.
Still, he’s become vital to a Wisconsin offense that is still looking for playmakers in the passing game, not to mention his ability as a blocker for the Badgers running game that ranks third in the country at 338 yards per game.
“I think he’s a special player,” quarterback Joel Stave said on Tuesday. “In talking to (quarterback) Tanner (McEvoy), we both kind of think of him as almost that safety blanket in that if it’s man coverage, if he gets a guy on his back, the guy’s not going to get around him.”
Stave cited an example of that in the Maryland game, where he was able to fit a pass into Arneson for a 15-yard gain on third down that kept a drive alive in the first half.
“If you just put it low and a place where he can catch it, he’s going to make that catch for you,” Stave said. “I think he’s playing at a very high level. I think he really does a lot for our passing game, and not necessarily even more, but equally as much in our run game as far as what he can do as a blocker.”
Winning the John Mackey Award isn’t a top priority for Arneson. He knows what he means to the Wisconsin offense as it currently stands. His ability in the short to intermediate passing game, along with sealing the edge on UW’s outside runs and fly sweeps, are what matter to him. But the fact that he’s aware of the slights isn’t a bad thing.
“The individual awards aren’t really what drives me, but it’s definitely something where you go out there with a little bit of a chip saying, ‘I’m a big-time tight end with these guys, too.’ It’s something I’m trying to do this year.”

Badgers football: Clement knows his role, Deal progressing and UW's graduation success rates

Oct 28, 2014 -- 10:22pm
Photo/Getty Images
Wisconsin running back Corey Clement knows his time will come.
MADISON - Corey Clement knows the deal. Melvin Gordon is the feature back for the University of Wisconsin this year.
“I’m just respecting my role,” Clement said Tuesday as the Badgers continued preparations for a trip to Rutgers. “I’m respecting his time. A lot of people work up to this time. I believe this is his time and moment just to actually be the feature back that he wants to be, because last year he had James (White) with him. So now this is his time to show that he can actually be in on third and fourth downs, and actually be the (feature) back that NFL scouts are looking for.”
Gordon has dominated the headlines in the Badgers backfield this year and rightfully so. The junior is averaging 166.9 yards per game and is on track to break College Football Hall of Famer, and former UW running back, Ron Dayne’s record (2,109) for yards in a season. His name is mentioned on everyone’s Heisman Trophy watch list, and he’ll battle Georgia’s Todd Gurley and others to be the first running back off the board in next April’s NFL Draft. Or at least that’s what Clement is hoping for.
“My role, as of right now, is second string,” Clement acknowledged. “I’m not mad at it. I know next year, (Gordon will) be gone, hopefully, hopefully he’ll be gone, so I can try to get my (time), but I’m not really too selfish as to how my carries are going to go for the remainder of this year.”
While most UW fans would disagree with Clement’s statement about Gordon hopefully being gone, and the fact the 5-foot-11, 217-pound, Clement made the comment while laughing, the New Jersey native came to Wisconsin, like most running backs, to be the main guy.
To this point, he’s averaging 13.1 carries and 80.9 yards per game but over his last two contests he’s gone for 254 yards on 30 carries for a per carry average of 8.5 yards. That’s after going for 62.4 yards and 5.0 yards per carry in the first five games of the season.
“He’s been a lot more patient,” running backs coach Thomas Hammock said. “I think he tried to press way too much. Tried to take every single carry he had and make it an 80-yard touchdown run, which is not going to happen that way. We’re playing against good competition. Those guys are on scholarship, too.
“I think he did a really nice job of trying to lock back in on the type of player that he is. (That being) a one cut, downhill runner and taking what the defense gives him.”
Deal progressing
The lasting image of Taiwan Deal to this point in his Badgers career is of the running back puking in between drills during fall camp, and then two minutes later, flattening his guy in a 1-on-1 leverage drill. Since then, though, he’s had some setbacks.
The true freshman suffered a hand injury in early September that kept him out of practice for several weeks. By the time he got healthy, the coaching staff had decided to go with redshirt sophomore, and former defensive back, Dare Ogunbowale as their third running back behind Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement. That led UW to say Deal would redshirt during his first season in Madison. While that may affect some guys negatively, running backs coach Thomas Brown has liked how Deal has responded.
“He’s been a quiet guy, as he always is, but he’s doing a much better job of showing up and working his butt off every single day,” the first-year coach said. “Learning what it takes to be successful at this level.
“Obviously he’s got some great examples in front of him watching Melvin and Corey. (Derek) Watt, (Austin) Ramesh and (Derek) Straus, all of those guys in my room, the way they go about their business and work but he’s definitely maturing,” Brown said. “He’s still got a ways to go, but I’m definitely pleased with the way he’s progressing.”
Graduation rates
The NCAA released their newest Graduation Succes Rates (GSR) study for student-athletes on Tuesday and Wisconsin saw a slight decrease in their score.
The college athletics governing board said that 84-percent of athletes that enrolled for the 2007-2008 school year graduated within six years, which was up 2 percent over the last report. And the Federal Graduation Rate (FGR) showed 65 percent of athletes got a degree in the same time frame.
The difference in the numbers is that the NCAA counts athletes that transfer schools while in good academic standing and end up graduating. The federal report does not.
At Wisconsin, the GSR for all of the teams was also at 84 percent, down from 85 percent for those that enrolled in 2006-2007 calendar. The federal numbers were also down a percentage point from 72.
On a sports specific basis, UW’s football team posted a GSR of 69 percent, which was the second highest number since 1998 but down 3 percent from the last report. And the federal number of 56 percent was down one point from the last document. The GSR was tied for last in the Big Ten, while the federal rate ranked ninth.
The basketball team’s GSR was at 40 percent, down 4 percent from 06-07 and last in the Big Ten. Their federal rate of 33 percent was good for ninth in the conference.

Badgers football: Rutgers QB decision, East Coast recruiting and other notes

Oct 27, 2014 -- 9:13pm
Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova's injury has put the status of the position up in the air for their matchup with Wisconsin.
MADISON - The University of Wisconsin isn’t quite sure what quarterback they’ll see against Rutgers on Saturday.
Normal starter Gary Nova was knocked out of the Scarlet Knights 42-24 loss to Nebraska with a knee injury. Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said Monday morning that a decision on the senior’s status could be made at any time, and he anticipated meeting with the team’s medical staff later on Monday to see where Nova’s injury status stood.
If he can’t go, it would then fall to redshirt freshman Chris Laviano. He came off the bench against Nebraska and threw for 49 yards and rushed for another 54 yards on five carries.
“I think what we saw last week was that Chris will be prepared,” Flood said. “I don't have any doubt in my mind that he'll be prepared to play if called upon.”
On the season, Nova has thrown for 1,949 yards, 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions, while completing 59.9-percent of his passes. Though there is a considerable difference in experience between the two – Nova has played in 41 games while his backup has appeared in just three -- UW coach Gary Andersen said the offense doesn’t change much with one or the other.
“Ton of respect for (Nova),” the second-year coach said. “I know there is a possibility of him not playing but I did watch (Laviano) come in and play last week and he moved the football team down the field pretty well. I think they will be in good hands in that position wherever they go.”
Exposure opportunity
Much of the talk about the expansion of the Big Ten into the East Coast with Rutgers and Maryland was about the money gained by the number of homes the Big Ten Network would be in. But it also opened up more recruiting avenues for teams from the Midwest and that includes Wisconsin.
“It's been good to us,” UW coach Gary Andersen said. “In the last couple of years we've been able to get into some homes there and we haven't won every battle there, it's an intense recruiting area, but we've got our share fair of kids from out there.”
There are currently three players from New Jersey on the team. Quarterback Tanner McEvoy (Hillsdale), running back Corey Clement (Glassboro) and outside linebacker Sherard Cadogan (Washington Township). And so far they have two players – offensive tackle Sam Madden (Barnegat) and defensive end Jake Pickard (Millburn) – committed for the class of 2015.
It’s been an area that’s been very good to the Badgers in the past. Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne (Pine Hill), linebacker Jonathan Casillas (Jersey City) and running back Anthony Davis (Plainfield) are guys former coach Barry Alvarez was able to grab out of the state.
“I know back a few years ago, it was a big recruiting area,” said Andersen, who talked with former wide receivers coach and current Director of Player Personnel Henry Mason about their success in New Jersey. “They had a lot of kids from that area and we're up there recruiting and it will be great for the kids to know, they will be back home to play every other year if they're from that area so it's a positive.”
When most use the term East Coast they are talking about the Northeast part of the country. But when Gary Andersen talks about it, he’s referring to the area from New England to South Beach.
“I would say the East Coast in general, not necessarily just New Jersey, is an area of importance and, with Maryland and Rutgers coming into the league, it upped that a little bit,” Andersen said. “I think we've carried a good name there in the past and the kids have stated earlier the young men that have come from there have had great success so we will go in there.”
Only one quarterback?
During Saturday’s telecast of the Wisconsin-Maryland game, former Minnesota coach Glen Mason, who called the game for the Big Ten Network, implied that the Badgers planned to decide following the game on one quarterback and stick with him the rest of the way. When asked on Monday about the comment, UW coach Gary Andersen shrugged it off.
“No, I don't know where that would have come from,” he said. “That's never been the plan and I don't expect it at present to be the plan, so we will move forward as planned, like we talked about after the game.”
That means the timeshare between Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy will continue. Stave got the start and played nine possessions against Maryland, throwing for 155 yards and two scores. McEvoy came in for four series, and led three touchdown drives, including his own score on a 60-yard run.

Badgers football: Another DT commit

Oct 27, 2014 -- 3:22pm
Photo/via Twitter
New Wisconsin commit Elu Aydon during his official visit this past weekend.
MADISON - Make it two defensive tackles for the University of Wisconsin. After getting a commitment from California native Olive Sagapolu in the morning, the Badgers added Elu Aydon in the afternoon.


The 6-foot-2, 315-pound, Aydon is rated as the No. 52 defensive tackle in the country according to He chose the Badgers over offers from Colorado, Hawaii and Nevada.
He becomes the 23 commitment in the class of 2015.

Badgers football: California DT commits

Oct 27, 2014 -- 11:13am
New Wisconsin commit Olive Sagapolu (right) with his current and future teammate Kyle Penniston.
MADISON - The University of Wisconsin picked up their third commitment in as many days on Monday.
Three-star defensive tackle Olive Sagapolu joined linebacker Florida (Armwood) Jordan Griffin and Brown Deer athlete Zack Baun in bringing the Badgers total commitments to 22 in the class of 2015.
The Santa Ana (Mater Dei), California product chose Wisconsin over offers from Washington State, Kansas State and Sacramento State.
The 6-foot-3, 295-pound, Sagapolu is the teammate of another 2015 commit, tight end Kyle Penniston. ranks Sagapolu as the No. 70 defensive tackle in the country.
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