With spring practices starting up on March 10, the Wisconsin Badgers football team will be back on the practice field in anticipation of the 2020 season.
Over his career, Paul Chryst has noted the importance of spring ball as a time for players to emerge and position themselves for a greater role come fall camp. Players such as Reggie Pearson and Noah Burks last year are shining examples of athletes using the spring to catapult them into a place for playing time.
The spring can also be a time to try new positions, or wrinkles in an effort to get the best players on the field at positions needing a lift.
With that in mind, let’s take a position by position snapshot of the football team heading into the spring period with a little twist. We at B5Q wanted to blend the passion of Badger football with everyone’s favorite pairing for gameday, Wisconsin craft beer.
Without further ado, here are some local craft beers that compare favorably to the current status of each position group entering spring ball:
Quarterback —> Chile Gordo Smoked Jalapeno Porter (Badger State Brewing)
This position brings by far the most heat of the off-season. Incumbent starter Jack Coan had a solid season last year with over 2700 yards on 69.62% passing with 18 touchdowns. He was very consistent all season long, and has the respect of his teammates. Coan flashed the ability to run the offense extremely well, but the Badgers sometimes were limited in their ability to push the ball down the field.
In the thick of things though is redshirt freshman Graham Mertz. A flashy, four-star recruit who possesses impressive arm talent and the ability to throw the ball to all three levels with zip makes this spring extra spicy.
Even at the NFL Combine media portion, Quintez Cephus noted that the two quarterbacks would duke it out this spring, so the intrigue level is extremely high for this key position. With so much smoke around campus the quarterback competition that should heat up this spring, a Smoked Jalapeno Porter hits the mark with a high 8% alcohol level.
Running back —> Oktillion Oktoberfest (Ale Asylum)
Jonathan Taylor drove the Big Ten crazy these past three seasons (waves politely to Nebraska and Purdue). However, he is now on to the NFL.
Nakia Watson earned the greatest amount of returning carries from last season, rushing for 331 yards, and averaging 4.5 yards per carry. He is expected to take on the role as the feature back, but Garrett Groshek will still command the third down role that he has thrived in the past three seasons.
A festival of young players will also hope to crack into the rotation and muddy the waters though. Isaac Guerendo has flashed the speed and dynamic running ability at times, and he is now healthy. Highly regarded as a recruit, Julius Davis redshirted last season, and will also look compete for carries.
This group has some serious shoes to fill without Jonathan Taylor, but the running game is still the bread and butter of the Wisconsin offense. The running back room may not be finally sorted out this spring, but best believe by September and Oktober it will be in business, every year it is a staple that fans can count on. An Oktoberfest is just as reliable and gets stronger after more than one.
Fullback —> Spotted Cow (New Glarus Brewing Company)
One of the most consistent positions on the Wisconsin over the past three decades, the fullbacks are the old stand-by. The Badgers have three viable options at the position in Mason Stokke, John Chenal, and Quan Easterling, and the group has very few questions heading into the spring.
Heading to any party in Wisconsin, and Spotted Cow is usually in attendance, and it is reliable. The fullback position won’t wow fans with highlight reel plays, but they are an unsung hero, and this group should be positioned nicely for a solid spring.
(Editor’s note: Jake is going to be soooo happy about this.)
Wide Receiver —> Lakefront Maibock (Lakefront Brewing)
This is a group that has some question marks, and some work to do this spring to figure out who will round out the pass catching candidates in the fall. Throw in a brand new wide receivers coach in Alvis Whitted, who was hired just this past week, and a freshly released spring seasonal makes sense.
The Maibock is a great spring sipping beer, and the wide receiver position should get plenty of work this spring as they try to find depth behind Danny Davis III and Kendric Pryor. The Badgers need some more production from their top two targets as well, could this be the year that the duo jumps out to up their play without the services of Quintez Cephus, and A.J. Taylor. The Maibock is a beer that you can drink copious amounts of on a sunny day, and there are plenty of options of young wide receivers that could jump up and get into the rotation.
Tight end —> Sproose Double IPA (Black Husky Brewing Company)
Injuries derailed a lot of the depth that the Badgers had at tight end in fall camp. Jake Ferguson could be in line for a bigger role in the passing game with Quintez Cephus off to the NFL, but there is some intrigue within the trees of talented youngsters behind him. Cormac Sampson, Nolan Rucci, Clay Cundiff, and Jack Eschenbach will all be duking it out for the in-line option to pair with Ferguson, and for a spot in the two-deep.
Sampson saw most of the time last year after moving back from the offensive line, but he didn’t provide much in the passing game. Could Rucci or Cundiff jump out and take the role from him with a big spring?
There is plenty of interesting pieces to monitor here for a position that is vital to the entire offense. For a position group in need of some sprucing up, a double-IPA makes sense here, especially given the aggressive nature that the battle behind Ferguson could be.
Offensive line —> Bourbon Barrel Belgian Style Quad (Central Waters Brewing Company)
The Wisconsin offensive line loses a trio of veteran players that played a lot of games with the departure of Tyler Biadasz, David Moorman, Jason Erdmann from the trenches. Luckily, the Badgers have done a nice job on the recruiting front to restock the shelves behind them, but that brings intrigue at this position as to who will step up and take on bigger roles.
There are a quartet of players that could be fighting for the three interior spots along the line. Kayden Lyles and Josh Seltzner saw some playing time, including multiple starts last year, and are the most likely candidates to earn a starting job. There is also the chance for Tyler Beach to crack the top-five and push Logan Bruss inside. Lastly, could Joe Tippmann emerge after a redshirt season at center or at one of the guard positions.
Given the robust number of questions and possibilities, a Belgian quad makes sense. Packing a punch at over 11% alcohol, this rich and heavy beer pairs perfectly with the stellar combination of size and athleticism that the Badgers offensive line has.
Defensive line —> Down N’ Dirty Oatmeal Stout (Tyranena Brewing Company)
The defensive line made a huge jump last season after the return of a healthy Garrett Rand and Isaiahh Loudermilk. Add in improved play by Matt Henningsen, and the emergence of freshman Keannu Benton, and the Wisconsin defensive line is set up to be very stout next season.
With everyone returning outside of David Pfaff, this spring the defensive line should be able to flex its muscle and also work in some of the young talent that is waiting in line to join the rotation. There is very little intrigue at this position given how strong it should be next year, so a rich chocolaty oatmeal stout compares favorably.
A young group of players compares nicely to a great newish brewery in Madison. The outlook of the position is a bit hazy given the loss of Chris Orr and Zack Baun, but there are plenty of talented options in the wings.
Noah Burks and Jack Sanborn return as the only two starters, but Izayah Green-May, Leo Chenal, Jaylan Franklin, and a host of freshman will all be battling for reps behind them. The linebacker position has been a beacon of strength for the Wisconsin defense, and I anticipate that will continue with a new batch of play-makers. At 8% alcohol by volume, this packs some punch, something Leo Chenal and Jack Sanborn do on the daily.
Cornerback —> Little Sister Witbier (Door County Brewing Company)
With a conglomerate of options at the cornerback position, Jim Leonhard can continue to rotate his young group, with Faion Hicks and Caesar Williams holding down likely the top two spots. Rachad Wildgoose, Semar Melvin, Alexander Smith, Donte Burton, and Deron Harrell all saw time last season, and should make figuring out the two-deep a chore.
With that in place, the Little Sister Witbier is a day drinker that you can take down about 30 of them, partnering nicely with the myriad options at Leonhard’s disposal. Not to mention, Caesar Williams and the rest of this group did a phenomenal job of shutting down the wide receivers from the little sisters of the Twin Cities last season.
Safety —> Wisconsin Amber (Capital Brewery)
The only real question about this group is how can they get all of the experienced talent on the field?
Eric Burrell and Reggie Pearson both started the majority of the season last year, and did a great job as the last line of defense. The duo is strong in run support, and in pass coverage. Former starter Scott Nelson will be returning at some point after missing most of the season due to injury, while senior Collin Wilder has also shown the ability to be a tremendous asset.
With little intrigue, and a steady understanding for what this group can bring to the table, a classic year round staple such as the Wisconsin Amber makes a lot of sense here.
Special teams —> Disco King (O’so Brewing Company)
A phase of the game that rarely gets talked about as a key piece to watch, meets a corner of the craft beer market that is less explored, sours.
The Wisconsin special teams was very similar to the hit or miss nature of fruit infused sours. This spring, the Badgers will be working in a new punter, kickoff specialist, and also attempting to land on a new kickoff returner. While those battles will most likely roll into the fall, the spring is a time for many of the player dancing for a coveted spot to throw their hat in the ring.
Collin Larsh will be the odds on favorite for the place kicking duties, but redshirt freshman Blake Wilcox has a big leg and should push him for both that role, the kickoff specialist, and potentially the punting role as well. Senior Adam Bay has the long snapping job all locked up, so don’t expect any surprises there, but the questions at punter will be the piece to watch. Players such as Conor Schlichting and incoming transfer Andy Vujnovich from Dubuque (DIII) could make this position clash interesting.
With a hint of ginger, this could help calm the stomachs of Badger fans after some struggles for this unit at times last year.