The Wisconsin Badgers are preparing to take on the Illinois Fighting Illini on Saturday, with kickoff slated for 2:30 P.M. CT at Memorial Stadium.
In the game, the Badgers will be looking to avenge their 34-10 loss from last season that resulted in the firing of then-head coach Paul Chryst.
However, they'll be doing so under a new coaching staff and with a new quarterback in redshirt freshman Braedyn Locke, who will be making his first career start.
When it comes to inexperienced quarterbacks, issues like timing and accuracy can pop up as they get acclimated to their skill position players.
Ahead of Week 8, the Badgers receivers noted the importance of those issues and how it takes time to find that chemistry, but felt that it wouldn't be as big of a concern with their new quarterback.
Why? Because the wideouts, especially transfers who worked their way in from the first to the second time, got to work alongside Locke for portions of practice.
“Generally speaking, yeah, it takes a bit of time to find that chemistry,” wideout Will Pauling said. “But I feel like me and [Braedyn], for most of spring ball we were in there together, so I feel like B-Locke’s lot’s got a certain feel for what I’m going to do, when I’m gonna do it.”
“I feel like that’s an advantage that me and Braedyn might have in that aspect. But I feel like Braedyn’s got really good chemistry with most of the [receivers]. We all get to throw with both quarterbacks in practice.”
Transfer wideout Bryson Green, who missed the majority of spring ball as he recovered from an offseason shoulder surgery, didn't have many concerns with Locke either, pointing out how Wisconsin rotates their top skill position groups so that there's enough experience with the starter and the backup.
“I think [the chemistry] has been good. I think with all receivers, it’s pretty good, to be honest,” Green said. “I think we rotate a lot. So a lot of the guys did get twos [reps]. If you’re a one, you still get twos reps. If you’re a two, you still get ones reps, like things like that.”
“So it’s like we know how he throws the ball. He’s thrown the ball to every single one of our receivers. He does a great job. And I don’t think that chemistry is going to be lost switching quarterbacks.”
Coming into the game, there are expected nerves for Locke, who is learning the ropes quickly in hopes of securing the win for Wisconsin.
But, the quarterback has a high level of confidence going into Week 8, and attributed it to the strong connection with his receivers, which started way back at the beginning of the offseason.
“I feel very confident, very comfortable with those guys,” Locke said ahead of his first start. “We have really good players. I can’t wait to be out there with them.”
“And that’s something that we built way before the season started. It all started when we got here in January through spring ball, the summer. We worked all summer with those guys. So I have no doubt in my mind that we’re going to go out there and play well on Saturday.”
Still, his receivers are going to look to uplift their quarterback, and their message to Locke was simple: you’ve put the work in, and now it’s time for that to pay off.
“We’ve been working with you all spring, all fall. We see what you can do and we’re going to put your name in the news,” Green said about the group’s message to Locke ahead of his first career start.
The Badgers have a lot on the line against a hungry Illinois time on Saturday, and they'll be counting on their new quarterback to do his job in the hopes of a victory on the road.