New faces take control for Badgers, ready UW for Utah State
For the first time since 2013, the Wisconsin football team will open up its season at Camp Randall, as they’ll host the Utah State Aggies at 8 p.m. this Friday. More important than the scheduling differences, however, are the expected changes on the field, as certain players have been thrust into more significant roles and are now tasked with leading the team.
Following the departure of Robert Wheelwright, senior wide receiver Jazz Peavy looks poised to handle a larger responsibility in the Wisconsin offense. The Kenosha, Wis., native posted over 1,000 all-purpose yards last season, but will be hoping to elevate his play and lead by example as one of the elder statesman on No. 9 Wisconsin’s current roster.
“You can’t look at an older guy and have any type of doubt that maybe he didn’t bring it today, or he doesn’t know what he’s doing or anything like that,” Peavy said.
Another player seemingly tasked with more responsibility this season is offensive lineman Michael Dieter. The junior, who previously played center and guard for the Badgers, will slide over to the prized left tackle spot this season after the departure of his ex-teammate Ryan Ramczyk.
While Dieter will attempt to fill some pretty big shoes—Ramczyk was recently a first-round selection in the NFL Draft—he will also need to find his feet in his new position.
“I think it’s finally coming together at the right time,” Dieter said. “It’s starting to feel like that’s my true position for this season. And it’s been a lot of fun to get better at that position.”
On the other side of the ball, senior cornerback Derrick Tindal has also assumed a pivotal role on the team after the departure of Sojourn Shelton.
While Tindal and the rest of the Badgers’ defense was stout in 2016—only two Big Ten teams, Ohio State and Michigan, allowed less points throughout the season—the senior is hopeful and optimistic of improvement for this year’s unit.
“Until we become No. 1 in every category, until then, we still can grow,” Tindal said. “And I feel like this team we have this year, we have enough playmakers in the back end and up front to be one of the best defenses to ever come through Wisconsin.”
Tindal’s contributions for the Badgers this season may not be limited to just defense, though. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla. product was spotted wearing a special dark jersey during training camp, as he took reps at wide receiver in addition to cornerback.
While it’s unknown whether Tindal will have an offensive role against Utah State, it’s evident that he has the talent to help the Badgers in a variety of ways.
“I’m just ready to do whatever the coaches need me to do to help the team win,” he said. “If that’s running down on kickoffs, running a route, blocking on punt returns—it don’t matter.”
No one can predict exactly how Peavy, Dieter or Tindal will get on versus Utah State, or how Alex Hornibrook will perform as the team’s unquestioned starting quarterback in his redshirt sophomore season.
But something more certain is the thousands of fans that will fill Camp Randall on Friday night, expecting their Badgers to start the season with a win.
Throughout the week, Badgers players were complimentary of their upcoming opponent.
Tindal noted the rushing ability of the Aggies’ dual-threat quarterback, senior Kent Myers, while Peavy lauded the opposing cornerbacks as physical and experienced.
Nonetheless, this is a game that the Badgers are expected to handily win.
Utah State is coming off of a 3-9 season where they dropped the last five games, while the Badgers looked poised to play in the Rose Bowl before a second half meltdown in the Big Ten Championship.
There will surely be harder games this season, but none that can claim to be the season opener.
For seniors like Peavy, that distinction means something.
“I know it’s the last season,” he said. “I know it’s the last first game.”Subscribe to The Daily Cardinal Newsletter