Each fall the Wisconsin Badgers football team has a handful of players without a full-ride scholarship in hand make significant inroads and become contributors for the football team. The Badgers have had supreme success with their walk-on tradition, with players like Jim Leonhard, J.J. Watt, Chris Maragos, Donnell Thompson, and Ryan Connelly — to simply name a few — going on to have a huge impact at Wisconsin.
With COVID-19 making the 2020 season even more unpredictable than before, walk-ons might be tasked with larger roles than previously assumed.
With fall camp opening up Monday, August 10 in anticipation of the home opener against the Indiana Hoosiers in early September, we at Bucky’s 5th Quarter wanted to take a detailed look at how some of the walk-ons on the 2020 roster might factor into the prospects of the team.
Potential starters (current and former walk-ons)
- Josh Seltzner: 6-foot-4, 327 pounds, redshirt junior, offensive guard
While he is now on scholarship, Josh Seltzner came to campus as a walk-on in the 2017 recruiting class. Last season he played in all 14 games, and made four starts as he split reps at left guard. He is a likely starter along the offensive line given his strength as a run blocker, and appears to be just the latest offensive lineman to find success after originally walking on at Wisconsin.
- Gabe Lloyd: 6-foot-4, 237 pounds, redshirt senior, tight end
Gabe Lloyd missed all of 2019 with a leg injury, and he would have probably been the second tight end had he been healthy. A solid run blocker, he is one of only two upperclassmen in the tight end room with Jake Ferguson. Lloyd’s return is a big lift to Mickey Turner and the tight ends, as he is the most likely candidate to assume the inline tight end spot. A great athlete who has seen playing time throughout his career, he will have to fend off some younger scholarship players for that open role, but regardless of if he wins the spot or not, he will see time in special teams.
- Jack Dunn: 5-foot-7, 174 pounds, redshirt senior, wide receiver/punt returner
Primarily a punt returner, Jack Dunn is now entering his senior season with the Badgers. Another former walk-on that has since been given a scholarship, Dunn should continue his special teams role, but also factor into the offense more frequently in 2020. Undersized, Dunn will do most of his work in the slot as an underneath safety blanket and run blocker, but he should be seen more often than a year ago.
- Collin Larsh: 5-foot-10, 184 pounds, redshirt junior, kicker
After an up and down sophomore campaign as the main placekicker, Collin Larsh is expected to resume his kicking duties in 2020. Larsh particularly struggled beyond 35 yards, something that he will need to improve upon. He always seemed to be consistent in practice, now it is time to prove it on Saturdays.
Extended playing time
- John Chenal: 6-foot-2, 252 pounds, junior, fullback
One of the main fullbacks on the roster, John Chenal has been on the field a lot his first two seasons on campus. He and Mason Stokke will carry the load as lead blockers, so he could easily be considered a starter in that sense.
- Mike Maskalunas: 6-foot-3, 231 pounds, redshirt senior, inside linebacker
Leo Chenal is projected to be the starter alongside Jack Sanborn at inside linebacker, but Mike Maskalunas should be a key member in the rotation. He saw a good amount of time on the field last season both as a reserve linebacker, but also on special teams. He is definitely a player that will have an impact on the 2020 season.
- Adam Krumholz: 6-foot-1, 193 pounds, redshirt senior, wide receiver
Any wide receiver that is a contributor wearing the No. 24 is a fan favorite of mine. Now entering his fifth year on campus, Adam Krumholz should be utilized more often in the Badger offense. The past few seasons he has been used most notably on special teams, but in his final hurrah he could see an uptick in playing time catching passes from Jack Coan and/or Graham Mertz.
- John Torchio: 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, redshirt sophomore, safety
While his opportunities for more playing time are notably lower than a year ago with Scott Nelson returning from injury, he demonstrated the ability to play well when he was on the field last season in eight games played with one start against Northwestern. He will be a key reserve for Jim Leonhard at safety, and he should also see the field in special teams.
- Jack Eschenbach: 6-foot-6, 235 pounds, redshirt sophomore, tight end
After adding considerable weight in the off-season, maybe Jack Eschenbach is ready to contribute in 2020. He played in some games last year, and should be one of a handful of candidates vying for playing time at tight end.
- Conor Schlichting: 6-foot-2, 222 pounds, redshirt junior, punter
There is some definite uncertainty about who will end up being the starting punter for the Badgers. A former soccer player in high school, he has skills as both a kickoff guy as well as a punter, making him a prime candidate for a special teams role as he enters his junior season.
Special teams contributors and late game action
- Tyler Mais: 6-foot-1, 196 pounds, redshirt junior, safety
Tyler Mais played in all 14 games last season, and that should continue in 2020. An upperclassman who has earned his stripes, Mais is a capable player that the team obviously trusts.
- Cristian Volpentesta: 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, redshirt senior, cornerback
Last season Volpentesta saw playing time in special teams. I would anticipate that to continue, especially now that he is in his fifth season in the program.
- Brady Schipper: 5-foot-11, 206 pounds, redshirt sophomore, running back
Schipper drew rave reviews last spring, and saw playing time in late game situations last year. He has a similar game to Garrett Groshek, which is obviously a good thing.
- Jordan DiBenedetto: 6-foot, 190 pounds, redshirt freshman, wide receiver
Like Krumholz and Schipper, Jordan also hails from nearby Stoughton High School. He took a different path to UW after a leg injury his senior season, and taking a year off from football after enrolling at Wisconsin. Now back to full health, Krumholz praised the young wide receiver as a player to watch moving forward.
- Blake Smithback: 6-foot-2, 305 pounds, redshirt junior, offensive guard
- Hunter Johnson: 6-foot, 220 pounds, redshirt junior, running back
Johnson has not played a ton the past two seasons, but has garnered late game carries. He also has some great size for special teams versatility.
- Kobe Knaak: 5-foot-9, 189 pounds, redshirt senior, cornerback
Knaak saw some playing time last year in special teams, and one would expect that to carry over now that he is a redshirt senior.
Late game action/a year or two away
- Cam Phillips: 6-foot, 176 pounds, redshirt freshman, wide receiver
A highly regarded high school prospect, Phillips missed his entire senior season due to a knee injury. He was able to practice last year, and he could be a player to keep an eye on in the coming years given his nature abilities.
- Mike Gregoire: 5-foot-10, 171 pounds, redshirt sophomore, wide receiver
- Cooper Nelson: 6-foot-4, 187 pounds, redshirt freshman, wide receiver
- Jacob Heyroth: 6-foot, 218 pounds, redshirt sophomore, inside linebacker
- Jackson Kollath: 6-foot-1, 252 pounds, redshirt freshman, inside linebacker
- Coy Wanner: 6-foot-3, 236 pounds, redshirt junior, tight end/fullback
- Marty Strey: 6-foot-2, 219 pounds, redshirt sophomore, inside linebacker
- Dante Caputo: 5-foot-11, 181 pounds, redshirt freshman, safety
- Tatum Grass: 6-foot-2, 222 pounds, redshirt freshman, inside linebacker
- Josh Bernhagen: 6-foot-2, 242 pounds, redshirt senior, long snapper
- Michael Balistreri: 6-foot-4, 288 pounds, redshirt junior, defensive end
- Andrew Lyons: 6-foot-5, 311 pounds, redshirt sophomore, offensive guard
- Logan O’Brien: 6-foot-4, 265 pounds, redshirt freshman, offensive guard
- Peter Bowden: 6-foot-2, 217 pounds, redshirt freshman, long snapper
- Andy Vujnovich: 6-foot-3, 226 pounds, junior, punter
Andy Vujnovich has the best chance to shake things up in the punter room. A walk-on transfer from the DIII level, he is still awaiting clearance for immediate eligibility, but if that comes through he will have a good chance at snagging the punting job.
- Jack Van Dyke: 6-foot-5, 185 pounds, freshman, kicker/punter
One of two true freshman walk-ons that has the best chance for early playing time in Jack Van Dyke. A taller specialist with solid tape, Van Dyke has a strong leg and could make an immediate impact as a kickoff specialist or punter depending on how well he adjusts early.
- Gavin Meyers: 6-foot-2, 170 pounds, freshman, punter
A late addition for the Badgers, Gavin Myers is expected to compete for the punter duties this fall. With Blake Wilcox leaving the program earlier in the year, the competition is wide open, and Myers is the newest member to throw his hat into the ring.
- Joe Stoll: 6-foot, 189, redshirt freshman, kicker
Like Jack Van Dyke, Stoll will also be working to grab ahold of the kickoff specialist job. He has the upper leg (pun intended) in terms of eligibility, but has yet to see game action.
- Daniel Wright: 6-foot-7, 2015 pounds, freshman, quarterback
- Sean Timmis: 6-foot-5, 255 pounds, freshman, offensive lineman
- Duncan McKinley: 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, freshman, long snapper
- Kerry Kodanko: 6-foot-3, 275 pounds, freshman, offensive lineman
- Ross Gengler: 6-foot-3, 206 pounds, freshman, inside/outside linebacker
- Amaun Williams: 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, freshman, cornerback
- Riley Nowakowski: 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, freshman, linebacker/fullback
- Jeb Frey: 6-foot, 200 pounds, freshman, inside linebacker