Author: Wade Flavion
MADISON- I’m writing this article at 3 am after the tough loss to Ohio State in the Big 10 Championship game. This loss hurt pretty bad for players, coaches, and fans alike. A great first half from the Badgers gave us as fans hope that this team could really pull off the upset, but they ultimately fell short. I, like many others, am contemplating how the Badgers will fill the Heisman-sized hole in the backfield. After much contemplation, I decided it would be good for me to help others get over the anxiety for next season and beyond. I’m going to talk about four current players on the team who I think have the potential to shine.
Julius Davis, RB
This name may not be too familiar to Badger Fans, but take my word for it: he is an extremely talented running back. Davis is a local product, coming from Menominee Falls High School near Milwaukee, and could very well be the next bell-cow running back for the badgers. In High School, Davis was known for his insane speed, great reading of blocks, and a knack for escaping tacklers by any means possible. Honestly, he reminds a lot of Jonathon Taylor, because he has high-end speed and can still take the ball in between the tackles. Davis redshirted this season because of the Badgers’ depth at running back, but this gave him an entire year to put on muscle. His weight was the only thing that concerned scouts, as he came into UW at around 180 pounds. Once he puts on weight, I think he could be the next great Wisconsin running back. He definitely has the talent to do so.
Graham Mertz, QB
I’m not sure how much more I can say about Graham Mertz without beating a dead horse. He was a fantastic quarterback in Kansas and showed that to the entire world at the Army All-American game, where he threw for 5 touchdowns in just over a quarter. He is the quarterback of the future, and although he might sit for another year behind Jack Coan, it gives him more time to learn the college game and hone his craft. Mertz has looked very comfortable in the few games he’s played in his redshirt season. He has wasted no time in impressing Badger fans with his, for lack of better language, “rocket arm.” I also forgot to mention that Mertz is the highest recruit Wisconsin has ever had at quarterback. Badger fans should be excited for what he will do in the future, and know that having patience will pay off in the long term.
Spencer Lytle, OLB
Spencer Lytle flew a little bit under the radar this season as Graham Mertz highlighted this freshman class for Wisconsin, but he will be a great player at Wisconsin for years to come. Spencer Lytle played outside linebacker for the California powerhouse St. John Bosco Academy and had his choice of offers coming out of high school. Lytle has not seen the field this season because, like Davis, he is a “Devo” player. Lytle came into UW at 6’3” and 215 pounds and is using his redshirt season to fill out his prototypical frame. Lytle has great physicality off the line of scrimmage, uses his hands well to get off of blockers, and very well may be one of the fastest guys I have seen suit up at outside linebacker for Wisconsin. He could be really special, even TJ Watt special. Spencer Lytle is a really promising young man and is someone Badger fans should look out for in spring practices.
Conor Schlichting, P
After this season the Badgers will be losing their only two punters with game experience, in Anthony Lotti and Connor Allen. Although a punter is not someone you would think of as a star, the last two seasons have proved how important consistency is from special teams. Conor came out of Madison East High School as a soccer player and worked his way back from an ACL tear to walk on to Wisconsin his freshman year. Coming into Wisconsin it took time for Schlichting to be able to get consistency with his punts, but now going into his third year with the team, he has finally achieved that consistency. He is frequently able to hit 50 punts with 3-4 second hang times. He’s got a heck of a leg and will be someone the Badgers can rely on to flip the field next season. He may not have the game experience, but for him, like all of the guys I’ve talked about, I don’t think adjusting to the college game should be too difficult.
There is, of course, many other guys that deserve to be on this list, but it is now 4 am and I’m too tired to list them all. The Badgers have outstanding depth, and like in years past the next man up might be the next big star for your Wisconsin Badgers.