Wisconsin coaches look ahead to 2022

For the first time since fall camp in August, Wisconsin’s assistant coaches were made available to reporters Wednesday. While some of the conversations were about the commitments in the Badgers 2022 recruiting class, others were about what UW will have returning next season.

Here is a collection of quotes from Paul Chryst’s early signing period press conference and the nearly 40 minute availability with assistants.

HC Paul Chryst on the addition of three-star quarterback Myles Burkett:

“Pretty early you saw he had enough talent. The more you watched him the more you liked how he played, competed. Then the more you talked to him and you’re around him, just who he is, the competitive part of him, the leadership abilities that he has, I thought that was a really good fit. Every time I get a chance to be around him I get more excited about him.”

Chryst on whether they need to take a running back in the 2022 class:

“If it was the (NFL) draft, we wouldn’t say it was a need 100 percent. If you’ve got the right fit, then absolutely you would. We looked at a few kind of throughout this. Both Chez (Mellusi) and Isaac (Guerendo), we’re really excited about. Certainly, what Chez did and Isaac had fewer (chances). If they’re healthy, we like them a lot. We were thin at the end of the season. Like anything if we get the right fit. I think there will be enough (scholarships) – maybe at any position – if it’s the right fit. Certainly, there’s some guys we’re still actively recruiting, a couple where we knew the timetables were going to be different. But I still feel like they could be great fits.”

Wide receiver coach Alvis Whitted on freshmen WRs Markus Allen and Skyler Bell:

“Steady, incremental growth — I’ll say that. We had a practice yesterday and Markus is coming into his own. He’s starting to realize what he can do, use his abilities that God has blessed him with to his advantage and he’s embracing it. It’s good to see. I’m excited for him.

Skyler, a little slow start, had some injuries early on. But obviously, you can see the athleticism, you can see the things that he’s capable of doing. And for him, he missed fall camp, getting those reps during the year, so he’s a little bit behind Markus.

But I’m still excited about those guys, because they’re going to bring a different element to the group and just got to keep growing and progressing.”

Tight end coach Mickey Turner on who will be given the first chance to take departing senior Jake Ferguson’s reps:

“You got to look at the guys that have had experience so far, so (Jack) Eschenbach, (Clay) Cundiff, (Hayden) Rucci, (Jaylin) Franklin have all taken in-game, serious reps, multiple games in a row. Cam Large even got in there before he got hurt. He was a goal line guy for us. He started getting on special teams. Then you get a couple guys back that were injured like Cole Dakovich and Jack Pugh. And it’s like, here we go. But we’ve got to get healthy. You’ve got to keep on the playbook. It’s going to be a fall camp where every little play matters.

You knew Jake (Ferguson) was going to be Jake. But these other guys, it’s like, you can have an off day and all of a sudden that moves you down a slot — so don’t have an off day. But you know, the competition level will be there because they know what’s what’s coming up for them, the opportunities there are.”

OL coach Joe Rudolph on what he’s got coming back next season:

“I think you got a great group, man. I think you got great, great competition. And I think you’ve got a really good group that has experience playing. (Joe Tippmann), obviously, has a ton of experience. (Bortolini) has experience at three different positions. Michael Furtney started football games for us and done a great job. Jack Nelson battled his tail off. I thought that he did a really good job this year and really grew a ton. Logan Brown, it’s going to be exciting to see him in the spring and see his development. Then you’re talking about a whole host of young guys that have the chance to step in and be great. I know I’m forgetting a few guys, but I think it’s a really good position to be in.”

Rudolph on freshman OT Riley Mahlman:

“He made a couple (road) trips (this year). He came in as an early enrollee and I think that helped him a little bit. Our guys really liked him because he’s tough and he’s willing to stick his nose in there. He (needs) a little bit more strength and to keep training with the guys. I thought he made a lot of headway during the season and he knows that’s going to be where he needs to put the biggest investment. But he knows what to do and he fights. He’s got a lot of respect from the fellas with that.”

Rudolph on Mahlman, along with fellow freshmen Nolan Rucci and JP Benzschawel:

“I really liked the bowl practices we’ve had with those guys so far. JP does a lot of things really natural. I think he’s settling in at that guard position right now. The other two at tackle but that group works and they help each other along the way. I think all three of them got a great future.”

Defensive line coach Ross Kolodziej on only losing seniors Matt Henningsen and Bryson Williams:

“We’ll be missing those two guys, really. Bryson will probably be making more money than everybody on Wall Street or something. We’ll get everybody back, right. I mean, Keeanu (Benton), (Isaiah) Mullens, James (Thompson Jr.), Rodas (Johnson). It’ll be a great opportunity for that next wave of guys behind this spring and this winter to really grow. You’re talking about (Isaac) Townsend, Gio Paez. He’s flashed at times. Can he build on that consistency? And then it’s that younger wave of really developmental guys, can they get stronger and can that carry over to the field. Cade McDonald and Ben Barten, (Mike) Jarvis, (Tommy) Brunner.

Obviously getting Keeanu to come back is huge. Isaiah has got a lot of experience, and then it’s good that next wave of Rodas and James, I thought they took it took a step in the right direction this season, continue to get better in bowl prep. Same thing with Gio and Townsend and all those guys behind them. It should be very competitive winter and spring.”

Inside linebacker coach Bob Bostad on what his position room looks like with seniors Jack Sanborn and Mike Maskalunas gone, along with potentially junior Leo Chenal:

“I’m excited about the young group. We have Jordan Turner coming back, we have Tatum Grass coming back. Maema Njongmeta is coming back. We have some young guys like Jake Chaney, Jake Ratzlaff, who are super young guys. Brian Sanborn is another young guy. So I mean, those are all guys that we recruited and we like some of the things they do. I was just a little jammed up there. We were a little top heavy there (with Sanborn and Chenal), but I like what they’ve done.”

Bostad on if any of the young guys have stood out to him:

“I don’t know if that’s a fair question. I think you’ve got to get real time and get them out there to play. I mean, obviously, Jordan having two interceptions sticks out a little bit, right? I mean, it was a different circumstance during the game, but you still can’t take that away. I thought he did some good things.

You know, Maema had some opportunities. He should have two sacks on the season, having played limited reps, and he knows that. They’ve done some things that have stuck out, but there’s so much more to it, right? Playing an entire game and playing at the level that you need to play at, that’s what we’re working on right now.”

Cornerback coach Hank Poteat asked what his room would look like without senior Caesar Williams and if Faion Hicks decides not to return for a sixth year.

“A lot of young guys that don’t really have a lot of experience but a lot of guys that are hungry. I think they’ve grown over the past year but there’s a lot of unknown. They have to take advantage of these bowl practices moving into the winter when we have some time to spend with them. Also, and I was just talking to a player about this, but the transition into the spring, going into the summer and then you have camp. But each phase you have to get better and they have to continue to start to show the coaches that we can trust you.”

Poteat on what stands out about freshman Ricardo Hallman:

“He’s getting better. He has a lot of upside, very explosive, really twitchy, good feet but young. He’s still learning the game, can be inconsistent at times but loves football. He wants to prove that he can be a guy that is dependable. So, I’m expecting a good spring out of him.”

DC/safety coach Jim Leonhard on freshman safety Hunter Wohler:

“I think the sky’s the limit for Hunter. I think it clicked about halfway through the season where just understanding week in and week out game plans and just kind of seeing a lot of different offenses, really for the first time. I think about halfway through the season we had a conversation and he’s like, ‘I get it. It makes sense now.’ I think from that point on you just saw the play speed just continue to rise and the confidence in his ability and how he has to communicate and what we ask him to do. I think that second half of the season you just started to see that grow on a day to day basis. Not that he always had the defensive reps. He was pretty constant on our special teams and productive player for us but I’m excited for his future. I think he had a great season and got one more to finish it off but I’m excited where he’s heading.”