A few Badgers true freshmen stood out in 2020 season



Defensive end Cade McDonald got into Saturday’s game for Wisconsin against Michigan, making him the 12th true freshman to play for the Badgers this season.

A few made a real impact and look to be key players for Wisconsin in the years to come.

Last season, just six true freshmen suited up for the Badgers – and that was in a full season. In 2018, the first year players could compete in four games without losing eligibility, 13 true freshmen played, with a handful appearing in 5+ games: fullback John Chenal, kick returner Aron Cruickshank, linebacker Jack Sanborn, nose tackle Bryson Williams and cornerback Rachad Wildgoose.

Of course this year, there are no parameters, as no player will lose eligibility. This allowed half of the 12 true freshmen who played to appear in three of Wisconsin’s six games (to this point, with a bowl game to go).

Running back Jalen Berger only played in three, missing the last two contests due to COVID-19, but quickly established himself as the No. 1 running back, gaining nearly six yards per carry. Chimere Dike only has 10 receptions but has been targeted 23 times (including one play in which he drew a pass interference). Both of these players will be a big part of Wisconsin’s offense the next couple of seasons.

Outside linebacker Nick Herbig stepped right in and started every game, showing his playmaking ability already and a lot of upside yet to come. Against the Gophers he had seven tackles – all solo – his season high. Herbig tied for the team lead (alongside sophomore Leo Chenal, who had a monster game vs. Minnesota) in tackles for loss with six.

Not every player is going to pan out, for various reasons. But Wisconsin looks like it has a few keepers already from its last recruiting class.

Here’s the complete rundown of the young Badgers after six games:

“TRUE” FRESHMEN
Jalen Berger, RB
Illinois: Did not play
Michigan: 15 rush, 87 yards, TD; 2 receptions, 13 yards
Northwestern: 15 rush, 93 yards
Indiana: 15 rush, 89 yards
Iowa: Did not play
Minnesota: Did not play
Season totals: 45 rush, 267 yards (5.9 average), TD; 2 receptions, 13 yards

Tanor Bortolini, OL
Illinois: Did not play
Michigan: Did not play
Northwestern: Did not play
Indiana: Played, did not record a statistic
Iowa: Started, did not record a statistic
Minnesota: Did not play
Season totals: n/a

Devin Chandler, WR
Illinois: Did not play
Michigan: Did not play
Northwestern: Did not play
Indiana: 2 kick returns, 37 yards
Iowa: 2 receptions, 28 yards; 1 kick return, 21 yards
Minnesota: 2 kick returns, 39 yards
Season totals: 2 receptions, 28 yards; 5 kick returns, 97 yards

Chimere Dike, WR
Illinois: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: Started, 2 receptions, 29 yards; 1 rush, 30 yards
Northwestern: Started, 2 receptions, 52 yards, TD
Indiana: Started, 3 receptions, 40 yards
Iowa: Started, 2 receptions, 28 yards; 3 rush, 21 yards
Minnesota: Started, 1 reception, 9 yards; 1 rush, -1 yard
Season totals: 10 receptions, 158 yards (15.8 average), TD; 4 rush, 50 yards

Nick Herbig, OLB
Illinois: Started, 1 tackle (solo), sack, TFL, PBU
Michigan: Started, 5 tackles (5 solo), 3 TFL
Northwestern: Started, 3 tackles (3 solo), TFL, 2 QBH
Indiana: Started: 2 tackles (2 solo), FR
Iowa: Started, 4 tackles (3 solo), TFL
Minnesota: Started, 7 tackles (7 solo)
Season totals: 25 tackles (21 solo), 6 TFL, sack, 2 QBH, PBU, FR

Kaden Johnson, OLB
Illinois: Did not play
Michigan: Did not play
Northwestern: Did not play
Indiana: Played, did not record a statistic
Iowa: Played, did not record a statistic
Minnesota: Did not play
Season totals: n/a

Cade McDonald, DE
Illinois: Did not play
Michigan: Did not play
Northwestern: Did not play
Indiana: Did not play
Iowa: Did not play
Minnesota: Played, did not record a statistic
Season totals: n/a

Jack Nelson, OL
Illinois: Did not play
Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Northwestern: Did not play
Indiana: Did not play
Iowa: Did not play
Minnesota: Did not play
Season totals: n/a

Riley Nowakowski, OLB
Illinois: 1 tackle (solo)
Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Northwestern: Played, did not record a statistic
Indiana: Did not play
Iowa: Played, did not record a statistic
Minnesota: Did not play
Season totals: 1 tackle (solo)

Jack Van Dyke, K
Illinois: 8 kickoffs, 1 touchback
Michigan: 8 kickoffs, 4 touchbacks; 1 tackle (solo)
Northwestern: 2 kickoffs, 0 touchbacks
Indiana: 3 kickoffs, 3 touchbacks
Iowa: 2 kickoffs, 1 touchback
Minnesota: 4 kickoffs, 2 touchbacks
Season totals: 27 kickoffs, 11 touchbacks; 1 tackle (solo)

Aaron Witt, OLB
Illinois: Did not play
Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Northwestern: Played, did not record a statistic
Indiana: Played, did not record a statistic
Iowa: Did not play
Minnesota: 1 tackle (solo)
Season totals: 1 tackle (solo)

Preston Zachman, ILB
Illinois: Did not play
Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Northwestern: Did not play
Indiana: Did not play
Iowa: Did not play
Minnesota: Did not play

Have not played
Haakon Anderson, WR; Dylan Barrett, OL; Ben Barten, OL; Cole Dakovich, TE; Ross Gengler, ILB; Kerry Kodanko, OL; Cam Large, TE; Max Lofy, CB; Gavin Meyers, K/P; Malik Reed, ILB; Isaac Smith, WR; Sean Timmis, OL; Jordan Turner, ILB; Trey Wedig, OL; Amaun Williams, CB; Daniel Wright, QB

Out for season
James Thompson Jr., DE (1 game, no stats)

 

REDSHIRT FRESHMEN
Stephan Bracy, WR
Illinois: 2 kick returns for 28 yards
Michigan: 1 kick return for 33 yards; 1 rush, 3 yards
Northwestern: 3 kick returns, 53 yards; 1 reception, 11 yards
Indiana: Did not play
Iowa: Did not play
Minnesota: Did not play
Season totals: 6 kick returns, 114 yards; 1 reception, 11 yards; 1 rush, 3 yards

Logan Brown, OL
Illinois: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Northwestern: Played, did not record a statistic
Indiana: Played, did not record a statistic
Iowa: Played, did not record a statistic
Minnesota: Played, did not record a statistic
Season totals: n/a

Julius Davis, RB
Illinois: Did not play
Michigan: Did not play
Northwestern: Did not play
Indiana: Did not play
Iowa: Did not play
Minnesota: 1 rush, 1 yard
Season totals: 1 rush, 1 yard

Dean Engram, WR
Illinois: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: 2 punt returns for 0 yards
Northwestern: 3 punt returns, 7 yards
Indiana: Played, did not record a statistic
Iowa: Played, did not record a statistic
Minnesota: 2 punt returns, 7 yards
Season totals: 7 punt returns, 14 yards

Tatum Grass, ILB
Illinois: 1 tackle (solo)
Michigan: 2 tackles (1 solo)
Northwestern: Played, did not record a statistic
Indiana: Played, did not record a statistic
Iowa: 1 tackle
Minnesota: Played, did not record a statistic
Season totals: 4 tackles (2 solo)

Spencer Lytle, OLB
Illinois: Did not play
Michigan: 1 tackle
Northwestern: FR
Indiana: Did not play
Iowa: Played, did not record a statistic
Minnesota: Played, did not record a statistic
Season totals: 1 tackle, FR

Semar Melvin, CB
Illinois: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: 1 tackle (solo)
Northwestern: 1 tackle
Indiana: Did not play
Iowa: Did not play
Minnesota: Did not play
Season totals: 2 tackles (1 solo)

Graham Mertz, QB
Illinois: Started, 20-of-21 passing, 248 yards, 5 TD; 5 rush, 2 yards
Michigan: Started, 12-of-22 passing, 127 yards, 2 TD; 3 rush, 8 yards
Northwestern: Started, 23-of-41 passing, 230 yards, TD, 3 INT; 7 rush, 13 yards
Indiana: Started, 20-of-34 passing, 202 yards, INT; 8 rush, 15 yards
Iowa: Started, 20-of-38 passing, 169 yards, INT; 5 rush, -17 yards
Minnesota: Started, 12-of-20 passing, 132 yards; 3 rush, 9 yards
Season totals: 107-of-176 passing (60.8%), 1,108 yards, 8 TD, 5 INT; 31 rush, 26 yards

Hayden Rucci, TE
Illinois: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Northwestern: 1 tackle (solo)
Indiana: Played, did not record a statistic
Iowa: Played, did not record a statistic
Minnesota: Started, did not record a statistic
Season totals: n/a

Out for season
Joe Tippmann, OL (2 games, no stats)
Titus Toler, S (2 games. INT)

Have not played
Peter Bowden, LS; Dante Caputo, S; Clay Cundiff, TE; Quan Easterling, FB; Rodas Johnson, DE; Cooper Nelson, WR; Maema Njongmeta, ILB; Gio Paez, DE.

 

“TRUE” SOPHOMORES
Keeanu Benton, NT
Illinois: Started, 3 tackles (2 solo)
Michigan: Started, 1 tackle
Northwestern: Started, 1 tackle (solo), FF
Indiana: 1 tackle (solo)
Iowa: Started, QBH
Minnesota: 1 tackle
Season totals: 8 tackles (3 solo), FF, QBH

Leo Chenal, ILB
Illinois: Started, 4 tackles (1 solo)
Michigan: Started, 3 tackles (3 solo), sack, TFL, INT, QBH
Northwestern: Started, 6 tackles (3 solo), 5 QBH
Indiana: Started, 9 tackles (9 solo), QBH
Iowa: Started, 6 tackles (4 solo)
Minnesota: Started, 13 tackles (10 solo), 2 sacks, 5 TFL, FF, PBU
Season totals: 41 tackles (30 solo), 3 sacks, 6 TFL, INT, FF, PBU, 7 QBH

Jordan DiBenedetto, WR
Illinois: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Northwestern: Played, did not record a statistic
Indiana: Did not play
Iowa: Did not play
Minnesota: Did not play
Season totals: n/a

 





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