An important piece will be returning to the Badgers this fall as tight end Zander Neuville was granted a sixth season by the NCAA, according to Wisconsin’s Brian Mason. Neuville received the sixth season after losing most of the 2018 season. He has been cleared for practice by the NCAA and will have to go through the five day acclimation period before participating in full practice.
Neuville played in just three games last fall, missing the final ten games due to a left leg injury. In 2017, Neuville made 11 starts at tight end and was poised to play a big role for the Badgers coming into last season. He hauled in 9 receptions for 81 yards and two touchdowns in 2017.
Neuville’s stats may not jump out at you but his role on the team has been a big one the past few years. Wisconsin is notorious for running the football behind a great offensive line, and Neuville is essentially an extension of that. When on the field he played a key role in opening holes and making the run game click. Wisconsin now has a key tight end back in the run game to pair with Jake Ferguson as the pass catcher at that position.
Neuville not only helps in the run game, but he gives the Badgers a bit more depth to a position that could really use some production and experience. Jake Ferguson will obviously be a huge contributor in the passing game, but the Badgers were looking for players to step up in the run game at that position. Now Wisconsin has both Neuville and Luke Benzschawel who played in ten games a season ago. That trio should take some of the pressure off young guys trying to develop like Hayden Rucci and Clay Cundiff.
Lastly, Neuville’s story and return to Wisconsin is one that just makes you happy. For a guy who has worked tremendously hard to come back from two major injuries, its nice to see the NCAA allow him to get football back. He’s a guy that clearly loves the game, and loves his team, so seeing no. 85 back on the field will be a tremendous story whatever the outcome is over the course of the season.