Wisconsin Football: Best Quotes and Key Takeaways from Big Ten Media Days
While a conference's media day—or days, in some cases—will occasionally provide a sound bite worth talking about, the Big Ten's provided nary a morsel for hungry journalists to chomp on. No more was this true than with the cohort from Madison, Wisconsin.
With that being said, I was able to parse through the mountains of "coach speak" that littered podiums across Chicago to find four of the tastiest nuggets for your reading pleasure.
From the recruiting front to scheduling and, of course, the quarterback competition, I used the highly refined scale of what I figured you, the reader, would care about in determining how important each of the things head coach Gary Andersen said were.
So as to not drone on too long, let's get to the main course of this and dig into the best of what Andersen and the rest of the Badgers contingent had to say in Chicago at the Big Ten's media days.
No. 4: Dareian Watkins Is Still on Scholarship
One of the strangest stories of the summer was when the rosters were released for this upcoming season and two names of note were left off. The two, Chris Jones and Dareian Watkins, both receivers, came shrouded in mystery. It was later found out that Jones didn't qualify academically.
But the story of Watkins is a far more perplexing one. Watkins, a 4-star recruit, according to 247Sports, from Ohio, was homesick and never quite made it through a full practice over the summer. The full story can be found here, per Jesse Temple of Fox Sports Wisconsin.
While that saga was incredibly strange and there seems to be more to the story than simple homesickness, it appears as if he has yet to be released from his scholarship.
When Temple asked Andersen about Watkins' status, he replied that he was not released from his scholarship. Whether Watkins ever plays for the Badgers seems unlikely, though the Badgers could certainly use all hands on deck at receiver, a position where they lose both Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Duckworth along with the loss of Jones in their freshman class.
No. 3: What Easy Schedule?
While many have penciled the Badgers in for a trip to Indianapolis on account of their "easy" schedule, Gary Andersen begs to differ.
When asked about the difficulty of their schedule, Andersen made sure to use his best "coach speak" to mitigate concerns about their cupcake schedule.
"First of all, I think the schedule is challenging," Andersen said. "People can say whatever they want about this or that, but we have a great schedule that's highly competitive, and we're playing very good teams out of our schedule."
Furthermore, Andersen said, "So there is no easy Big Ten games. Anybody who thinks there is is sadly mistaken, and I'll debate that with you as much as you want to debate it because you better strap it on and be ready every week in the Big Ten."
And he's correct on all accounts. While no coach will ever admit to overlooking an opponent—yes, we are looking at you, Michigan—Andersen does have valid points.
Bowling Green is coming off a great season and returns many key pieces, and since January 2, their next game up has been against a perennial powerhouse in LSU. Beyond that, while the Badgers have been able to dispatch most Big Ten foes not named Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State with relative ease, there really is no such thing as an easy game in the Big Ten.
Looking through their Big Ten schedule, while they avoid the three aforementioned foes, they still have to face a tough Nebraska team, a Minnesota team that is looking forward to getting their turn at chopping down the goal posts, a consistently tough out in Iowa at Kinnick Stadium and Northwestern at Ryan Field, where the Badgers have had a litany of problems in the past.
No. 2: LSU and Alabama Are Scared of Camp Randall
To open up their season, the Badgers play a not-so-neutral site game against LSU at NRG Stadium in Houston. In 2016, the Tigers return the favor by playing at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Furthermore, in 2015, the Badgers face off against Alabama in Arlington, Texas, at AT&T Stadium.
While these neutral site games are exciting, bringing the Badgers to Death Valley and having the Tigers come up to Camp Randall seems like a fantastic opportunity for fans of both teams, as a marquee game on both schedules would not only sell tickets but bring a buzz to both campuses that a four-hour drive just can't.
Alas, according to athletic director Barry Alvarez, bringing these games to Madison or Baton Rouge was never in the cards.
In an interview with Andy Baggot of the Wisconsin State Journal, Alvarez said, "They weren't interested. They wouldn't tell you why, they just weren't interested."
Either way, with strength of schedule playing a larger and larger role in the wake of the new playoff system, expect to see a marquee opponent of SEC-caliber year in and year out. In fact, Baggot reported that Alvarez is in talks with an SEC school to bring these games on-campus.
Unfortunately for Badgers fans looking to play their former coach, Bret Bielema, who now coaches at Arkansas, it's not the Razorbacks who Alvarez is in contact with. No more details came to light on that subject, leaving fans to speculate wildly on who the Badgers may be playing in 2020 or whenever this game finally comes to fruition.
No. 1: The Quarterback Competition Is Still Open
No interview would be complete without a question or seven about the quarterback competition. While Andersen neglected to give us any real answers, he did clear up some things in regard to the depth chart while also giving some insight into how the first practices are going to work.
When asked about how the quarterback competition is going to work, Andersen responded, "Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy will come in and split the reps. Those first four practices when we're split, obviously one's going to be a 1 in the morning and one will be a 1 in the afternoon."
Furthermore, it is D.J. Gillins, the talented, early enrolling freshman out of Florida, who will be the No. 3 behind Stave and McEvoy, not Bart Houston.
"D.J. Gillins will be in the middle of that argument also as he comes in as a freshman, but he will not get as many reps as the first—those first two young men," Andersen said.
Furthermore, when asked about a timeline, Andersen gave the "coach speak" response.
"As far as a timeline, I really have no timeline," Andersen said. "I've been through this a few times in my career, and it will all settle out just like every position battle does.
"The kids on the team will understand it, the coaches will understand it, and at that time, we'll make a statement and have a starting quarterback. It may not be until we jog off the sidelines for the first snap at the LSU game, though."
This stands in contrast to offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, who said he would like to have someone in place at least 10 days out, if not before then, in an interview with BTN.com's Tom Dienhart.