The Wisconsin Badgers ended the year on a high note, beating one of the blue blood college football programs, the USC Trojans, 23-21 in the Holiday Bowl. The 2015 season is over, but the draft season is upon us. This year's crop of Badgers lack any headliners, but should provide a solid group for the next level.
Each year it seems that there is another collegiate all-star game added to the mix. The more prospects given a chance to show their skills, the better. This year, there are six former Badgers with invites to post season showcases.
College Gridiron Showcase, January 13th, Bedford, Tex.
The only Badger in this game is Tanner McEvoy, although he may be the most intriguing player this offseason of the former Badgers. McEvoy, a bit of a tweener, will likely be tried at both receiver and safety throughout the draft process, but he is listed as a wide receiver for the game. While there is no "game" at the end of this all-star week, there is a scrimmage that is the main showcase for the players before scouts in attendance. McEvoy is truly a challenging evaluation, depending on what position NFL teams want him to play. This event could be huge for him to show that he can play receiver at the next level. At 6'6 and 230 pounds, he's truly an unique prospect with tons of upside.
NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, January 23rd, Carson, Calif.
There is only one Badger at this game, and I was even a bit surprised to see it. Not Tyler Marz, not Alex Erickson, not Austin Traylor, not even Darius Hillary. Jesse Hayes, a reserve outside linebacker and pass rusher was selected for this game. The fifth-year senior from the state of Ohio will represent Wisconsin at this all-star game. The son and nephew of Cincinnati Bengals coaches, Hayes will look to prove to NFL coaches and evaluators that he has what it takes to make it in the NFL, after sitting behind two studs at outside linebacker over the past two seasons. At 6'3 and 233 pounds, Hayes projects as a weakside outside linebacker in a 3-4, but likely as a special teamer and depth player in the NFL. After showing flashes in limited opportunities, these are huge reps for Hayes going forward for his exposure to pro scouts.
East-West Shrine Game, Jan. 23rd in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Quarterback Joel Stave will be among six quarterbacks in the game, and is arguably the most enticing prospect at the position for the East squad. Stave is joined by former Iowa and Michigan passer Jake Rudock, as well as UMass quarterback Blake Frohnapel. Stave could be in a good position to aid his draft stock, and he'll be under the tutelage of former NFL offensive coordinator and college head coach Charlie Weis for the East, Stave will be joined by two teammates in the game; however, they will be on the other team.
Derek Watt is arguably one of the top fullbacks in this year's class. While that may not carry nearly as much merit in today's game of football than in years past, Watt will look to perform well for the scouts. His name recognition factor certainly won't work against him, and Watt is as skilled out of the backfield as any fullback in the class. He'll get a look in training camp.
Safety Michael Caputo is the other Badger in this game. The captain will patrol the secondary for the West squad and will look to show scouts that he's competent in coverage. About the only knock against Caputo is a lack of elite athleticism, which translates to struggling in pass coverage. If Caputo can show that he's just as reliable in coverage as he is laying the wood on ball carriers, he'll solidify his spot on Day 3 of the NFL Draft.
Senior Bowl, January 30th, Mobile, Ala.
Joe Schobert will be the lone Badger in Mobile, and he'll have a hill to climb. Schobert played 3-4 outside linebacker in Dave Aranda's defense, however he's viewed by many to be a 4-3 outside linebacker at the next level due to a lack of elite athleticism to match his slightly limited size. He'll be involved in a lot of coverage drills during the week down at the Senior Bowl, where he'll look to show evaluators that he's able in that aspect of his game, which will bode well for him in a transition to a 4-3 base alignment in the NFL.
These games are huge opportunities for these former Badgers, and will have major ramifications looking forward to their futures in football.