With the recent news that the Big Ten Conference would be allowed to resume practice in preparation for an October 24 start date, fans and players alike were overjoyed.
While a large number of Wisconsin Badgers rejoiced via social media, the decision by the conference to backtrack on their earlier postponement was especially significant for specific groups of players on the 2020 roster that the season was crucial.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the players that the move by the B1G benefits the most.
Seniors with NFL aspirations
The first group that the latest decision helps are a large group of upperclassmen that look to improve their stock in hopes of an NFL future.
Players like Eric Burrell and Cole Van Lanen were probably in line to be selected in the 2021 NFL Draft regardless, but could enhance their standing with additional tape for scouts to look through. Cole Van Lanen specifically could benefit from a year of film with full health.
The season could potentially be more impactful though for players such as Isaiahh Loudermilk, Garrett Rand, Caesar Williams, Garrett Groshek, Jack Coan, Danny Davis III, and Kendric Pryor who have even more room to elevate their status.
Loudermilk and Rand were each able to put together healthy seasons as starters for the first time in their careers last season, so another season could really be helpful for them in particular. Both players are expected to be key cogs in a deep and talented defensive line.
Wide receivers Davis and Pryor were forced to take a backseat last year after the return of Quintez Cephus, could one of them breakout and enter consideration for a run at the NFL?
Postseason all-star games offer a unique setting for players to display their talent against different competition, all of the included seniors above now have an opportunity to boost their chance to follow their dreams in the NFL.
The Badgers have had a stellar track record with walk-ons, with some of the best players in program history joining the team originally without a scholarship in hand.
Walk-ons must obviously pay for their own tuition and living arrangements, which can add up quickly over the course of a college career. For many walk-ons they are paying for not only their education, but also a chance to see the field in some capacity. Players such as Mike Maskalunas, Adam Krumholz, Cristian Volpentesta, and Gabe Lloyd are all entering their final year of eligibility, and are expected to see the field with expanded roles.
The prospect of no season could have put many walk-ons in a tough spot with the want to play but financial considerations to weigh on the flipside.
The quarterback room
The quarterback position is unlike many other positions on the team, because traditionally there is only one player who plays the vast majority of the time. The Badgers have done a phenomenal job on the recruiting trail recently at the position, creating a logjam of players vying for that starting role.
Interesting Coan quote in that article:— Dave Heller (@dave_heller) September 17, 2020
"The year doesn’t count towards my eligibility, so I have two years of eligibility left and that’s really big. I’m treating every year like it’s my last one. And one of my dreams is to play in the NFL."#Badgers
Competition is great, because it has the ability to spur growth for all those involved, but it can also create frustration for those who do not win out. Heading into this year, the Badgers have their room set up nicely, with Jack Coan entering his senior season, and a pair of young, talented players behind him ready for when their time comes.
Four-star redshirt freshman Graham Mertz is probably not wanting to wait too long before seeing the field, making the presumption of him taking the reins in 2021 ideal. He earned rave reviews by his teammates and coaches as the season wore on last year, so he has the talent and hype to possibly be a difference maker.
The new fall schedule realigns that vision by the coaching staff, allowing Coan to complete his senior season and get more film for his hopes of the NFL while leading the team, all the while also keeping Mertz on his path as QB1 of the future.
Mertz could very well out duel Coan at some point this season and take over the starting spot, but regardless, the semi-regular season should give Coan plenty of games to show what he has before likely moving on.