Wisconsin mailbag: Jonathan Taylor and the depth chart, why Jack Coan won’t be redshirted, hoops recruiting

Wisconsin-Jonathan Taylor

Have Wisconsin football, basketball or recruiting questions? We’ve got answers. Join us every Wednesday for the Land of 10 Wisconsin mailbag to talk all things Badgers. This week, we’ll discuss whether Jonathan Taylor should be the backup running back, why Paul Chryst won’t redshirt quarterback Jack Coan this season, the improvement of receiver A.J. Taylor, which recruit will commit to the basketball program next, and more.

Question 1

Answer: One game does not define a season, of course, but Jonathan Taylor showed Friday night that he deserves more than 9 carries a game. He led the team with 87 rushing yards despite taking half as many carries as Bradrick Shaw. Chris James obviously did not have his best game. He carried 5 times for 15 yards and lost a fumble, which is the biggest no-no for running backs. And at a place with as much talent and depth as Wisconsin, it’s a quick way to find the bench.

Still, I’m not willing to write off James. I think we’ll have a better feel for things once the Big Ten portion of the schedule begins. Shaw is listed as questionable this week with a right leg injury, so that could temporarily impact the carry distribution. But all three should still help the team this season. Here was Paul Chryst’s evaluation of each tailback from the opener:

“I thought that each guy had their moments,” Chryst said Monday. “And I thought that one thing about Jonathan that typically a freshman first game, and I know he was excited, can sometimes speed up everything. And yet I thought he had a pretty good tempo to him. I was impressed with that.

“I think Brad, certainly one of the things that we like about him is when he takes it north and south. He can hit a hole. And I thought there was some times where he got little bit ahead of him. But both had some really good moments in it. Chris was in a little bit more on third down. Chris was kind of bouncy a little bit. We’ve got to settle him down.”

Question 2

Answer: It’s not a waste if Paul Chryst and his coaching staff believe Coan really is the second-best quarterback on the roster — which Coan is. Wisconsin obviously didn’t need Coan to play in a season-opening blowout of Utah State. But the last thing this team needs is for something to happen to starter Alex Hornibrook and then have no adequate recourse because the real backup hasn’t played.

Chryst said before the opener that he wasn’t worried about using a redshirt season on Coan.

“Never have I gone a year where you’re not using multiple players at different positions,” Chryst said last week. “I think if a guy’s ready to play, they need to be ready, and I think Jack is.”

In an ideal world, it would’ve been great for Wisconsin if Coan used his redshirt season and spent the entire year improving on the practice squad. Certainly, Kare Lyles could have been the mop-up duty specialist. But Chryst believes Coan can help the team. And if Coan needs to do so this season, it’s better to have him play.

He’ll still have an opportunity to redshirt another season if the Badgers add more depth at quarterback. And that could be the smart play so Coan can be the starting quarterback for two full seasons after Hornibrook leaves Wisconsin.

Here’s what Chryst said Monday about playing Coan against Utah State.

“I think it is important,” Chryst said. “We thought that we’d get a few more snaps and then the pick kind of changed the normal way of it. But the first one, we were supposed to have a motion, and he didn’t send the guy in motion. Those are all good things for him to have to go through.

“And why didn’t he? Probably there was a little bit of nerves. So I think getting those first snaps for so many kids was really important. They’re always going to remember them, and that means that they value them. Any time you can get through kind of a first, then it helps you.”

Question 3

Answer: The only player that has pledged his commitment is 2018 guard Tyler Herro. As for the player likely to commit to Wisconsin next, I’ll take Joe Hedstrom, a 6-foot-10 center from Hopkins, Minn.

I’m basing this on the fact that Wisconsin is Hedstrom’s only high-major scholarship offer. The Badgers offered a 5-for-4 scholarship, which means Hedstrom would walk on next season and then earn a full-ride scholarship beginning in 2019.

Hedstrom has an official visit slated for Boise State on Sept. 22. He’ll take an official visit to Wisconsin the weekend of Sept. 29, which coincides with the Badgers’ football game against Northwestern. That type of atmosphere could be enough to sway Hedstrom.

Hedstrom’s other offers have come from Boise State, Cleveland State, Columbia, Denver, Loyola Marymount, North Dakota, North Dakota State and South Dakota. There could be more offers from bigger programs coming, but Wisconsin recognized his talent early, and it’s a great opportunity for him.

Question 4

Answer: I went back and looked at the stats from Wisconsin’s five-game exhibition tour of New Zealand and Australia to get a better sense of how forward Andy Van Vliet performed. My biggest takeaways are that he’ll definitely be able to help the team this season, but he needs to become a more consistent presence on the court.

Van Vliet averaged 6.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, and he had some big-time moments. During Wisconsin’s 85-75 victory against the New Zealand Breakers in Game 2, Van Vliet buried 4 of 5 3-pointers and led the team with 14 points and 7 rebounds. He made all three of his 3-point tries in the first half.

Van Vliet was solid later in the trip when he scored 11 points and connected on 3 of 5 3-point attempts during Wisconsin’s 90-89 loss to Melbourne United. He showed he can be a solid rebounder. In the opener, Van Vliet tallied 9 rebounds, and he recorded 7 boards in two other games.

At the same time, there were games in which it appeared Van Vliet disappeared. He scored 1 point in the opener, 4 points in Game 3 and 2 points in Game 5. Based on the box scores, Van Vliet generally played the seventh-most minutes on the team. Greg Gard still has to figure out his playing rotation, but Van Vliet should be a key contributor off the bench. There is a glut of forwards on the team, and Van Vliet provides an ability to stretch the floor on offense. Plus, he has the length to be an effective rebounder.

Question 5

Answer: A.J. Taylor is going to play a major role in the offense this season. I wrote about the impact Taylor and fellow sophomore receiver Quintez Cephus can have on the team in a story on Tuesday. Those players combined for 6 receptions for 71 yards with 1 touchdown in the opener against Utah State. During all of last season, they combined for 7 catches for 147 yards.

As for Taylor, he is a speedy athlete who is learning the intricacies of the position. He was primarily a running back in high school, and he told me that he had a long way to go as a freshman last season trying to figure out all the concepts.

“I was really antsy and jittery and just my head was spinning,” Taylor said. “And this year, I’ve talked about it a lot. I just felt so much more comfortable out there, more like I belonged out there and I can compete with them and I can do well. That was probably the biggest thing from freshman year to now is that comfort and that poise I had.”

Taylor caught 3 passes for 33 yards in the opener, but he showed he still has some learning to do. He dropped two passes, including one that could have gone for a 45-yard gain. But Alex Hornibrook definitely trusts him. He targeted Taylor five times, second-most on the team behind tight end Troy Fumagalli’s eight targets.

Question 6

Answer: The offensive line play definitely was shaky in the first half, which I wrote about Monday. Alex Hornibrook was sacked twice on the opening drive, and Wisconsin seemed to have its most substantial trouble at left guard.

Micah Kapoi started at left guard in place of Jon Dietzen. Kapoi didn’t identify a blitz fast enough, which allowed Hornibrook to be sacked for the second time. Dietzen had offseason ankle surgery and missed time in fall camp while nursing the injury. He still is not 100 percent, although he did play against Utah State. Dietzen didn’t move around in time to prevent Hornibrook’s third sack later in the game.

Paul Chryst said that on the second offensive play of the game, two Wisconsin linemen ran the wrong way. Another element to consider is that the opener marked Michael Deiter’s first start at left tackle and center Tyler Biadasz’s first college game.

“They threw a lot of pressures at us,” Deiter said. “There were some looks that were new. So obviously there’s always going to be a little bit of a pain with that at first. But we throughout the season have to do a better job of adjusting faster. In my opinion, it took a little longer than we needed it to, which is something that’s got to be a point of emphasis.”

The communication issues should improve moving forward. But Wisconsin does need more consistency on the line, particularly at left guard.

Question 7

Answer: Alex Hornibrook put together a pretty darn good game for a season opener. He completed 15 of 23 passes for a career-high 244 yards with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. If not for several dropped passes, his completion percentage would have been higher.

Hornibrook is his own toughest critic, and here’s what he said about his performance:

“I think it’s good to have a game like that,” Hornibrook said Monday. “I don’t think I needed something to validate myself. Probably other people, I guess. But I still felt like there was a lot of things I could be doing better. It wasn’t the best game I could have had, and I’m still hoping to grow on that.”

When asked specifically what he could have improved, Hornibrook said: “There were just a couple throws, incompletions. Might have forced a ball to Troy [Fumagalli] or two instead of working through. Just a couple things like that.”

Question 8

Answer: I don’t know that Wisconsin’s coaching staff has cooled on forward Nate Laszewski. He did just take an unofficial visit to campus with his father on Aug. 9. Whether Laszewski has cooled on Wisconsin is another story.

Laszewski, a 6-foot-10 forward from Northfield, Mass., has three official visits scheduled for this month, and none of them are at Wisconsin. He’ll visit Notre Dame on Sept. 9, Wake Forest on Sept. 16, and North Carolina on Sept. 23. Nine out of 10 experts in the 247Sports Crystal Ball Predictions believe he’ll ultimately pick Notre Dame.

If Laszewski doesn’t pick Wisconsin, it makes sense for the Badgers to bank the scholarship. They only have offers out to two other uncommitted players in the 2018 class: forward Isaiah Kelly and Joe Hedstrom. But Hedstrom’s inclusion comes with the caveat that he would walk on in his first season before earning a scholarship in 2019.

Question 9

Answer: There’s something to be said for overall quality of life and job stability. Paul Chryst can be the head coach at Wisconsin for as long as he wants, provided he continues to win football games. Given his track record — and 22-6 mark as Badgers coach — I see no reason to believe his job will ever be in jeopardy. And after spending his coaching life bouncing around 13 stops in 11 different cities, he has earned the opportunity to settle down.

Jim Leonhard’s situation could be trickier. Clearly, he is one of the bright young football minds in college coaching. In his second season as a coach, he’s already Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator. That type of ascension is astounding. But assistant coaches who experience success at Wisconsin are bound to attract interest from other college programs. Sooner or later, other teams will come calling for Leonhard to be a head coach. I don’t know if that’s what Leonhard wants, or if his 10-year NFL career means he’d rather be in the NFL.

Badgers fans would love for Chryst to hand the reins over to Leonhard down the line. But I think it’ll be tough for Leonhard to remain only a coordinator for more than a few years. He’s simply too good and has too much to offer. Only time will tell.

Question 10

Answer: I don’t have any issue with coaches using cornerback Derrick Tindal on one sweep in the season opener against Utah State. Tindal is a talented athlete who spent part of fall camp running routes at wide receiver. The play in question came in the third quarter with Wisconsin leading 31-10, so there was minimal risk.

On first-and-10 from Wisconsin’s 39-yard line, Tindal took a sweep 13 yards for a first down. An illegal block on running back Chris James negated the yardage, but Tindal did his job well. Could Jazz Peavy, A.J. Taylor or Quintez Cephus haven taken the sweep? Sure. But it’s OK to try something a little different now and then. Those three receivers will have plenty of opportunities to touch the ball this season.

Question 11

Answer: I don’t get the sense Wisconsin’s staff believes it absolutely must fill Trent Ingalls’ spot, but the coaches certainly will explore their options. Wisconsin still has a safety in the 2018 class with Reggie Pearson Jr. (River Rouge, Mich.), who was the first commitment in the class last August. The Badgers also have two cornerbacks with Alexander Smith (Culver City, Calif.) and Travian Blaylock (Humble, Texas).

If Wisconsin can land one of the uncommitted players on its list at this point, that would be quite a feat. The Badgers would gladly take offensive lineman Jackson Carman, the No. 1 tackle in the country, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. Carman is using one of his five official visits on Wisconsin, but most pundits believe the Ohio native will pick Ohio State.

There is still likely to be some movement before signing day, so you never know what can happen. For example, the Badgers didn’t land wide receiver Danny Davis in the 2017 class until he picked Wisconsin over Kentucky and West Virginia at his signing day ceremony.

Question 12

Answer: Micah Kapoi was listed on the Week 1 depth chart as a co-starter alongside Jon Dietzen. Neither player performed particularly well in the opener against Utah State, and Dietzen has been dealing with ankle issues. But the fact Kapoi started doesn’t mean the offensive line has no depth. Keep in mind that Kapoi has now played in 26 games with 13 starts at Wisconsin. That’s a pretty decent fallback option if Dietzen isn’t healthy enough to play.

Question 13

Answer: Get back to me after the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 2. But if you’re feeling confident, feel free to book a trip for yourself. Just make sure it’s not nonrefundable.

Have a question about Wisconsin football or basketball? Tweet us @Landof10Badgers and we’ll try to answer your question in a future mailbag. Check to see if your question already was answered by reading previous Wisconsin mailbags here.

The post Wisconsin mailbag: Jonathan Taylor and the depth chart, why Jack Coan won’t be redshirted, hoops recruiting appeared first on Land of 10.

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