Offensive Rookie of the Year: Jake Ferguson
At the beginning of the year, Jake Ferguson is who every fan was hoping would come away with this award because it would have meant that he had an impact season catching the football. Well, that’s exactly what happened.
The redshirt freshman had two upperclassmen on the roster ahead of him but was the most physically gifted of the bunch. Eventually, his pass-catching abilities would be needed. When he played well in his limited snaps early in the season, and the tight end position experienced some injuries, Ferguson stepped up.
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He finished the season with 34 catches, 441 yards, and four touchdowns, all good for at least top three on the team in those categories. Perhaps the best part about Ferguson’s year is that we know the best is still yet to come. Wisconsin has a rich tradition in developing tight ends. Ferguson looks like he can become one of the best yet.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Scott Nelson
Scott Nelson launched onto the scene as a first-year starter on the defense next to D’Cota Dixon. His play in the early weeks had people flashing back to Jim Leonhard’s days as a safety in Madison. Of course, Leonhard is one of the greatest defensive backs to ever play college football. Nelson has quite a ways to go to live up to that standard.
The second half of Nelson’s season was full of bad luck. First, he missed the first half of the Michigan game because of a targeting call the week prior. Then when he finally was able to play in the game he injured himself. He only played against Penn State and Minnesota down the stretch and may not play in the bowl game against Miami.
What I saw from Nelson early on was enough for him to earn this award. He played all over the field on defense both deep in pass coverage and even getting behind the line of scrimmage in the run game. He’s very instinctive and there’s no doubt in my mind had he been healthy all year he would’ve been one of the top defenders on the team. He certainly will be next year.