The Wisconsin Badgers are set to compete against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl on Tuesday, where fans may get the first peek at younger talent to wrap up a tumultuous 2022 season.
With players transferring elsewhere or entering the draft, there are a couple of areas of uncertainty on both teams, leading to what could be a competitive and intriguing bowl game in Phoenix, Arizona.
Earlier this month, head coach Luke Fickell addressed the new norms of bowl games, acknowledging that the future for bowl games is evaluating how your team could look in the following season, rather than potentially fielding the most competitive game in the current time, due to circumstances.
“[Bowl games are going to be a] great vision of what your team will look like the following year,” Fickell said.
Now, with an eye towards 2023, here are three players to watch for the Badgers in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl on Tuesday.
QB Myles Burkett
The obvious choice is true freshman quarterback Myles Burkett, who was listed alongside redshirt senior Chase Wolf as the top signal-caller on the depth chart for the bowl game.
Burkett, a three-star recruit in the Class of 2022, completed 4/5 passes for 84 yards on the season, playing in just two games early in the year.
The 6’0, 205-pound quarterback is traditionally considered undersized, but has showcased a strong work ethic and flashed with his abilities, beating out Deacon Hill for the backup job behind Graham Mertz this year while Wolf nursed an injury.
Now, Burkett should get his chance to shine and is placed in a favorable spot, as he has top running backs Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi, as well as all four of his top receivers at his disposal.
The Badgers have recently pushed hard for quarterbacks, with head coach Luke Fickell securing commitments from Oklahoma four-star transfer Nick Evers and 2024 four-star Mabrey Mettauer to go along with 2023 three-star Cole LaCrue.
Burkett, a Wisconsin native, should be in the competition at quarterback in the spring, and can begin impressing with a solid performance in the bowl game on Tuesday.
DL Curt Neal
The Badgers lost some key pieces to their defensive line as defensive tackle Keeanu Benton and outside linebacker Nick Herbig both declared for the NFL Draft, leaving holes at their respective positions for the bowl game.
Insert in true freshman defensive tackle Curt Neal, who saw minimal snaps in two games this season, but is currently listed behind junior Gio Paez on the two-deep at nose tackle.
Similar to Burkett, Neal is somewhat undersized for his position, standing at just 6’0, 290-pounds, but has the opportunity to showcase his talent in the bowl game, where he’ll work alongside Rodas Johnson, Isaiah Mullens, and James Thompson Jr., who have all seen extensive playing time.
Currently, the Badgers don’t have any defensive line commits for 2023 after both Jamel Howard and Roderick Pierce de-committed following the coaching change.
With uncertainty at the position, Neal should be someone to monitor as a potential key rotational piece alongside the interior in 2023.
OLB Kaden Johnson
With Nick Herbig entering the draft, there is a huge void currently at outside linebacker, where Kaden Johnson is expected to start opposite of C.J. Goetz, according to the two-deep.
Johnson has seen playing time all season, earning snaps in nine games, but saw an increase in his role as the season progressed and the Badgers relied on their depth more.
Now, Johnson will be the main contributor at outside linebacker, where he’ll rotate with redshirt freshmen T.J. Bollers and Darryl Peterson in the bowl game.
Without an established pass-rushing presence on the outside now, Johnson, and frankly, the entire position group, will be a matchup to watch to see if they can gain any additional traction ahead of the 2023 season.