Football: Increased interceptions sign of improvement for already-impressive Wisconsin defense

first_imgThe University of Wisconsin football team’s defense entered the 2016 season as the top scoring defense a year ago. But with a new defensive coordinator in Justin Wilcox and Jim Leonhard taking over the secondary unit, along with the loss of three of four starters on the back end, most did not expect UW to achieve the same level of success on the defensive side of the ball.The Badgers’ (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten) defense has been just as good, if not better, as last year’s unit, entering Saturday’s Big Ten Championship Game against No. 7 Penn State (10-2, 8-1) with the third-ranked scoring defense in the country on the sixth-ranked team in the latest College Football Playoff rankings. Those rankings are thanks, in large part, to the defense and its penchant for turning opponents over this season.Football: Wisconsin remains at No. 6 in second-to-last College Football Playoff pollAfter the final results from rivalry weekend served the College Football Playoff Selection Committee its worst nightmare on a silver Read…The Wisconsin defense has racked up 21 interceptions this season, while the last two seasons combined saw just 18 passes fall into Badger defenders hands. Over the team’s last three games, although against lesser opponents in Purdue, Illinois and Minnesota, the Badgers have a massive 11 interceptions.For senior cornerback Sojourn Shelton, who has four interceptions this season, sometimes it’s as simple as just catching the ball. The last two seasons, Shelton said, he left a lot of interceptions on the stat sheet because of drops.“I dropped a lot of picks between my sophomore and junior year,” Shelton said following UW’s win over Minnesota last weekend.Fifth-year senior safety Leo Musso leads the Badgers with five interceptions, which is tied for eighth in the country. His fellow safety D’Cota Dixon has four. Musso said Leonhard’s arrival, along with the defense’s goal of taking the next step of not just forcing punts but giving the offense better field position, has led to the spike in picks.UW head coach Paul Chryst said the interceptions, ultimately, come down to players making plays. The fact that the Badgers work on it consistently makes those plays easier, he added, and that a consistent pass-rush, which UW possesses, also helps in creating poor decisions or errant throws that lead to interceptions.“The coaches do a good job of not just practicing and stressing takeaways, but kind of the approach to looking for the opportunities and seizing it,” Chryst said. “Whether it’s playing eyes or situations.”This season, UW has only recovered four fumbles, meaning more than 75 percent of Wisconsin’s turnovers forced have been interceptions. The Badgers’ turnover margin of +0.75 ranks 13th in the nation and second in the Big Ten.Football notes: Badgers look to avenge 2014 Big Ten Championship GameThe nightmare of Dec. 5, 2014 brings Sojourn Shelton back to a dark place. The 2014 Big Ten Championship Game Read…Derrick Tindal, a junior cornerback who plays opposite Shelton, has three interceptions on the year. Tindal said the trust the defensive players have in one another is another reason for the uptick in interceptions, citing Musso’s interception against Illinois when the ball kicked up from Shelton’s foot into his hands. It was Shelton’s trust in Musso that he would be providing over-the-top coverage that made the play possible, Tindal said.“You trust that everybody does their job,” Tindal said. “Once you trust that, you going to make plays because you’re going to be in the right spot because I know Sojourn doing his job, I know Leo is doing his job, I know D’Cota is doing his job.Badgers receive all-Big Ten honorsSeveral UW players earned all-Big Ten honors this week, and Chryst was named Big Ten Coach of the Year by his fellow coaches. Penn State’s James Franklin earned the honor from the conference’s media.First team: Ryan Ramczyk (unanimous), Corey Clement (coaches), T.J. Watt (unanimous), Sojourn Shelton (media)Second team: Corey Clement (media), Sojourn Shelton (coaches), Vince Biegel (coaches), Beau Benzschawel (coaches), Troy Fumagalli (coaches)Third team: Conor Sheehy (coaches), Vince Biegel (media), Beau Benzschawel (media), Leo Musso (media), D’Cota Dixon (media)Honorable mention (coaches): Jack Cichy, Michael Dieter, D’Cota Dixon, T.J. Edwards, Alec James, Leo Musso, Chikwe Obasih, Jazz Peavy, Derrick TindalHonorable mention (media): Jack Cichy, Michael Dieter, T.J. Edwards, Chikwe Obasih, Jazz Peavy, Conor Sheehy, Derrick TindalMusso was Wisconsin’s pick for the Sportsmanship Award.last_img read more

Former walk-on guard Braedon Bayer to transfer from Syracuse

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Been a crazy ride. Officially transferring for my 5th year of eligibility but I’ll never forget the memories with this team. Thankful to the coaches, my teammates and the fans #cuse4L #michiganwho #gradyearA post shared by Braedon Bayer (@bbayer21) on Mar 27, 2018 at 5:57pm PDT Published on March 27, 2018 at 9:35 pm Contact Matthew: mguti100@syr.edu | @MatthewGut21 Syracuse guard Braedon Bayer will transfer from the program for his fifth and final year of eligibility, he announced Tuesday night on Instagram. He is the second SU player to transfer in as many days, joining former forward Matthew Moyer, who announced on Monday that he will transfer.www.instagram.com/p/Bg2PutZhGaL/” data-instgrm-version=”8″> Bayer, a 6-foot-4 native of Lagrangeville, New York, played in nine games and tallied 17 minutes on the floor during the 2017-18 season. He went from little-known reserve to key role player in Syracuse’s Round of 32 win over Michigan State. When guard Frank Howard fouled out with 6:29 left, the 11th-seeded Orange trailed third-seeded MSU by four points. But Bayer recorded a key block on MSU star and likely NBA lottery selection Miles Bridges in the 55-53 victory.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“To be put in that position, to stay focused and keep this team going, that was phenomenal,” Syracuse associate head coach Adrian Autry said after the game.Bayer was playing Division III hoops in Iowa just more than two years ago, but he had a steal and forced two jump balls during the final six minutes of the last win of SU’s season. He preserved the Sweet 16 run and set up a matchup with No. 2 Duke.For much of the season, Bayer played the opponent’s high-post man in SU practices. He mimicked what the opposition’s post players may do, giving SU starters an idea of what they might see in the upcoming game. Once former graduate transfer Geno Thorpe left the program in December and Howard Washington sustained a season-ending injury, Bayer became the first guard off the bench.“Braedon’s pretty good,” Boeheim said in January.In a brief phone conversation Tuesday night, Bayer’s father, Greg, said that Braedon transferred because he knew his scholarship would last for only the 2017-18 season.Throughout the season, Greg said, Bayer knew in the back of his mind that he would probably explore a graduate year for the 2018-19 season. Braedon was aware that he would probably not play much next season, and his goal is to “get some playing time either at a high-Division I school or at a mid-major program.”On Sunday, Bayer texted Boeheim and asked to meet with him in his office. They met on Monday afternoon at around 3 p.m., before a 4 p.m. team meeting. Boeheim told Bayer during the 15-minute conversation that he would “do everything he possibly can do to help” him find a new school for which to play. As Bayer was walking out of Boeheim’s office, Boeheim smiled and told him that he had played a nice game against Michigan State.“He wanted the opportunity to play and show his talents,” Greg said. “I think the Michigan State game opened some doors for him.”Bayer had already spoken with five coaches on Tuesday at the “pretty good D-I level,” Greg said. At least one school is in the Atlantic 10 conference. They are all in the Northeast, Greg said.Bayer will complete the spring semester at SU and graduate in May.Two years ago, Bayer watched Syracuse’s Final Four run from his bed in his South Campus apartment. Before that, he worked out every day at 6 a.m. for six weeks with former SU star and NBA draft pick Tyler Lydon and Autry. He wanted to play at Syracuse after a season and a half at D-III Grinnell College.By summer 2016, Lydon told former Syracuse assistant coach Mike Hopkins that Bayer “wasn’t just going to be a typical walk-on,” Bayer recalled. He earned a walk-on spot, then became a scholarship player after Thorpe left.Other possible next destinations for Bayer could include Binghamton and Fordham, both schools that showed interest in him as a high school player. Commentslast_img read more