Tuesday marked the end of reporters access to practice for the Wisconsin Badgersâ€™ 2015 fall camp. It means preparations for Alabama on Sept. 5 are hitting their stride and the chances to impress coaches and gain snaps are winding down as well.
With the shift in focus, its time to look back on the open part of Paul Chrystâ€™s first fall camp in charge of the UW program and see where things stand. Who looked the best? How about the players that surprised the most? Maybe even a few freshman that stepped up to the plate?
Letâ€™s take a look at the awards for fall camp, shall we.
Offensive MVP â€” Michael Deiter, Fr. (OG)Â
It could be tempting to go with skill position players like running back Corey Clement or quarterback Joel Stave here, as both had really good starts to fall camp. However, there wasnâ€™t a player more impressive this camp than redshirt freshman offensive lineman Michael Deiter.
Wisconsinâ€™s offensive line was like a walking M-A-S-H unit most of the last two weeks and that made Deiter a valuable commodity to have around. He can play all three inside positions, but it wasnâ€™t just the versatility that impressed. Deiter can flat out play as well, and that showed last year in camp where the unheralded freshman nearly forced his way in to a starting role during spring practice.
According to those weâ€™ve talked with, Deiter not only improved on that performance from last season but may have vaulted himself in to the conversation as the best offensive lineman the Badgers have heading in to the season.
Defensive MVP â€” Darius Hillary, Sr. (CB)
Thereâ€™s one position where the stat sheet can often times lie about a players ability, and that position is cornerback. One only needs to look as far as senior cornerback Darius Hillary for proof of that, as most teams stopped throwing his way almost all together last season.
So, as the pads came on and quarterbacks were forced in to throwing his way in fall camp, Hillary showed why most wonâ€™t be looking his way again this season. He flat out dominated in one-on-one drills and team work as well. This fall camp, Hillary only looked to be the same (if not a slight bit better) than he did a season ago, and opposing teams canâ€™t be happy to hear that.
Biggest Surprise (Offense) â€” Tanner McEvoy, Sr. (WR)
Going in to fall camp many expected Tanner McEvoy to be a safety and dabble a bit at wide receiver. However, after a few practices it became clear that McEvoyâ€™s senior season in Madison would be spent the exact opposite way.
As the open to media portion of fall camp closed on Tuesday it was very clear that McEvoy is going to primarily be a wide receiver and dabble a bit at safety in certain packages. He went from an experiment at wide receiver to the likely starter opposite of Alex Erickson. If he shows that same ability in live game action, the Badgers may have a hugely improved passing attack this fall.
Biggest Surprise (Defense) â€” Ryan Connelly, RS Fr. (LB)Â
When you go from unknown walk-on to full scholarship in less than two weeks something is going right for you. Thatâ€™s the case for Connelly, who was put on full scholarship after Saturdayâ€™s scrimmage. He earned it the hard way, but also with a bit of help from a depleted inside linebacker group and a transfer still trying to get up to speed.
However, give Connelly all the credit because he saw the opportunity in front of him and took it. Wisconsin went in to fall camp not knowing what it really had at inside linebacker, but thanks to players like Connelly, UW heads in to the Alabama game a lot more confident that it has the playmakers to get the job done this season. Credit Connelly for working hard and becoming a threat for this defense.
Top Freshman (Offense) â€” Jon Dietzen, OL
Many stories were written this fall camp about the inconsistencies, question marks and injuries along the offensive line. For some those were negatives, but for a guy like Dietzen, those things all added up to a player who got more snaps than he could ever imagine.
We all knew he was going to be a potential starter down the road, but heâ€™s had such a good fall camp that it will be tough to keep him off the field this season. Look for Dietzen to be the main backup at tackle and for him to become a starter by next season at the latest.
Top Freshman (Defense) â€” Chris Orr, LB
Those that have listened to our podcast or have read up on our analysis of the 2015 Badgers recruiting class know I love me some Chris Orr. It took just one game that was televised by ESPN last season to see that he could be a future star for Dave Arandaâ€™s defense.
Orr was aggressive, but most importantly had great vision for the game and an ability to feel out the play and be in the right position to make plays. That same version of Orr showed up on the UW campus this fall and itâ€™s a damn good thing, as starting inside linebackers Leon Jacobs and T.J. Edwards have spent significant time out with injuries.
It appears Orr is the likely backup to Jacobs and will see extensive snaps from the word go, such is what happens when you know your role and make big plays when given the opportunity.