Three Breakout Candidates for the 2023 Wisconsin Football Season
As the calendar has shifted to June, the Wisconsin football program is just over three months from kickoff vs. Buffalo.
With fall camp right around the corner, we are now entering the heart of the official visit season. These official campus visits feel like CPR for the doldrums of the offseason. This June is vital in finding those following stalwarts and foundational pieces of the Wisconsin Badgers football program going forward.
But before we look too far ahead, let’s look at three potential breakout candidates and see who’s primed to make a significant impact during the 2023 campaign.
Nose Tackle, Gio Paez
This defensive tackle is healthy and ready to make tremendous contributions on the defensive line tasked with replacing the production of 2nd round draft pick Keanu Benton.
Paez, a former 3-star recruit, played in 10 games in 2022 and registered 12 tackles and zero sacks. Armed with game experience and time in the program to develop, this screams impact player on the defensive line.
I believe that he will take this opportunity to make meaningful contributions this year. He has the experience and opportunity to lift that defensive line group led by one of the more underrated hires during this cycle – Greg Scruggs.
It’s not wise to project statistical output in June. However, I think it would be fair to say that the redshirt senior will accumulate more statistics output during this 2023 season than his previous three – combined.
Wisconsin Football ILB, Jake Chaney
While he may not grab the casual fans’ attention due to his current spot on the depth chart, don’t be surprised if Chaney pushes to get significant playing time in Wisconsin’s new-look defense.
New Wisconsin Defensive Coordinator Mike Tressel ran multiple defensive packages to great success at Cincinnati. Coach Tressels’ philosophy on defense is unpredictable and versatile, and Chaney fits the 3-3-5 scheme like the Kardashians’ fit TMZ.
Fortunately, for Coach Tressel, Chaney, and the rest of this new-look defense – the game isn’t discussed in the tabloids and remains predicated on stopping the run. Having depth at inside linebackers will be imperative to neutralize opposing rushing attacks – especially those that reside in the Big Ten West — even if for only one more year.
Last season, the junior from Florida played in 12 games and made two spot starts. He maximized that time on the field, registering 38 tackles, four tackles for loss, an interception, and a sack.
As a personal finance major, it’s clear that not only does he have the skills and ability to make an impact physically, but he also has the intelligence to diagnose and understand what the offense is trying to do and force them into errors.
Wisconsin Football RB, Cade Yacamelli
While he is transitioning from the defensive side of the ball and not expected to be an every-down back in Phil Longo’s “Dairy Raid,” Yacamelli should still see significant snaps.
Let’s not forget that depth is imperative at many positions in up-tempo, air-raid offenses, especially at the running back position. Fresh legs and speed will get this redshirt freshman on the field for plenty of game reps this season.
The former 3-star athlete out of Pennsylvania has been taking third-team reps at running back and has shown flashes. Most notably, during the winter workouts, this speed demon was regularly clocking in at over 20 MPH. Because of that, Yacamelli consistently topped the “Need for Speed” leaderboard implemented by Strength and Conditioning coordinator Brady Collins. These moments in spring practice and his ability to accelerate will elevate the Badgers’ running back room. Don’t be surprised when you see him slashing through opposing secondaries.
While there are plenty of returning players and transfer portal additions to the team, these homegrown young men feel like the surest best to have a significant impact this season.
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