Wisconsin Football: 3 overlooked Badgers heading into the season

Wisconsin’s Noah Burks runs 68 yards for a touchdown after intercepting a pass in the fourth quarter.Mjs Fon Badgers Vs Northwestern 092819 Dcr0759
Wisconsin’s Noah Burks runs 68 yards for a touchdown after intercepting a pass in the fourth quarter.Mjs Fon Badgers Vs Northwestern 092819 Dcr0759 /

The Wisconsin football team enters the season ranked 12th in the AP Preseason Poll. By now, I’m sure we all know the Badgers’ top players heading into the season.

Eyes are on Graham Mertz to see if he can bounce back from a disappointing second half of his 2020 season, especially after his record-setting start against Illinois to kick off the season.

With Wisconsin football being RBU, Jalen Berger and Chez Mellusi are going to be names that people mention a lot this season as well.

On defense, you have the two inside linebackers that could be the best pair in the conference and up there in all of college football.

But what about some of the players that could make an impact this season that people aren’t thinking about or even if they are, don’t expect them to produce much? There’s always a handful of players that either make a big play in a game or contribute all season that no one really expected heading into the season.

Here are three players who may be getting overlooked heading into the 2021 season.

1. Noah Burks

Noah Burks is one of those guys that has seemingly been around forever. His name isn’t one that comes to mind when you think of the defense or even the linebacker position. But he always seems to be there.

He has a knack for being around the ball and is often in the right place at the right time, like his pick-six against Northwestern a couple of years ago. He also had an interception in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl last year. It wasn’t a pick-six, but he did return it quite a ways to put the offense into great field position.

He will be depended on this season to create some pressure in the backfield alongside Nick Herbig at the outside linebacker position. He may not be the flashiest of defenders on the team, but the sixth-year senior always seems to make plays.

2. John Chenal

If Wisconsin football is RBU, then it should also be FBU. The Badgers are one of the only teams left in the country that still use their fullbacks as a big part of their offense. Last year, they had a two-headed monster at the fullback position; Mason Stokke and John Chenal.

Last season, the duo combined for three rushing touchdowns and three receiving touchdowns. Six total touchdowns from the fullbacks on this offense. That’s almost unheard of in today’s game.

With Stokke graduating, that leaves Chenal on his own. Sure, he has a backup, but I’d expect Chenal to get a bulk of the snaps on offense. He may be the big red zone threat for this Wisconsin football team because neither Chez Mellusi nor Jalen Berger are big guys that will plow through the line into the end zone.

I wouldn’t be shocked if Chenal had a role in the running and passing game this season.

3. Devin Chandler

Devin Chandler played last year as a true freshman. He wasn’t a big part of the offense, mostly because he was and still is buried on the depth chart. He has Davis, Pryor, Dike, and Dunn all ahead of him on the initial depth chart that was just released.

Last season, he appeared in four games on offense after the Badgers lost both Davis and Pryor to injuries for the season. He caught two passes for 28 yards and had one carry that went for 18 yards.

He’s not on this list for his offensive impact. He’s on this list for what he brings to the return game.

After the Badgers lost Aron Cruickshank to the transfer portal the year before, there was a big hole at the returner spot. Chandler didn’t get too many chances to return last year, but when he did, he made it count. He returned just six kicks but averaged 26 yards per return.

I would expect Chandler to be more involved this season in both the offense and in special teams.