Wisconsin natives dominate 2020 Badgers football roster


One of the hallmarks of the Wisconsin Badgers' football program is that recruiting and retaining in-state talent has been a productive focus of its staff, and is evident when considering the vast number of Wisconsin natives on the 2020 roster. Regardless of the position, natives of the Badger state have found their way to Madison and the Badgers football depth chart.

Here's a look at the dozens of Wisconsin natives (49 in total) that are listed on the team's official, initial 2020 football roster for the upcoming college football season, which will kick off on October 24 against Illinois at Camp Randall Stadium.

Quarterback Danny Vanden Boom (Kimberly) is the lone Wisconsin product of the five signal-callers on the Badgers' roster. The positional depth chart is stacked; incumbent starter Jack Coan has developed into a reliable leader, while highly-touted Graham Mertz waits in the wings. Vanden Boom, Chase Wolf, and Daniel Wright comprise the rest of the quarterback room. Vanden Boom didn't play in 2019, but did play in 2018 in three games, and has been named Academic All-Big Ten the past two years.

Kent State v Wisconsin

Kent State v Wisconsin

Perhaps the most famous skill position at Wisconsin belongs to that of the running back, where the latest, greatest star to emerge from Wisconsin was Jonathan Taylor, now a starter for the Indianapolis Colts in his rookie season. Two Wisconsin natives are part of the group that will carry the position forward.

Senior Garrett Groshek (Amherst Junction; pictured above), a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, is a former walk-on who racked up 487 yards of offense from scrimmage playing behind the extremely productive Taylor. Groshek, who was named a team captain in 2019, has scored six touchdowns in his career.

Redshirt freshman Julius Davis (Menomonee Falls) joins a talented stable of runners on the depth chart for the 2020 season, which includes a pair of sophomores with a bit of playing experience in 2019, Nakia Watson and Isaac Guerendo, as well as incoming freshman Jalen Berger. Davis was an outstanding performer in high school, including his breakout junior season in which he made honorable mention all-state.

Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual - Oregon v Wisconsin

Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual - Oregon v Wisconsin

One of the handful of colleges still employing fullbacks in a high capacity, the Wisconsin Badgers have two in-state players at the position. Senior Mason Stokke (Menomonie; pictured) elevated to the position just two years ago, and scored a pair of touchdowns in 2019. Stokke was all-state as a linebacker and running back, and made the move from defense to offense mid-way through his Badgers career.

Junior John Chenal (Gransburg) is one of two Chenals on the Badgers' roster, along with his brother, Leo. John made three starts at fullback in 2019 and has appeared in 22 games for the Badgers, scoring one touchdown in 2019.

Rutgers v Wisconsin

Rutgers v Wisconsin

If you mention fullbacks, you have to mention tight ends at Wisconsin, another group that regularly sends players to the NFL. A trio of Wisconsin-raised players compete at the position.

Junior Jake Ferguson (Madison, pictured) was a standout in high school at Madison Memorial before enrolling at Wisconsin, where his grandfather, Barry Alvarez, is the athletic director. Ferguson was an honorable mention selection for the Big Ten after a 2019 season saw Ferguson haul in 33 passes for 407 yards and a pair of touchdowns, starting all 14 games for the Badgers. Ferguson is part of the 2020 John Mackey Award watch list.

Senior Gabe Lloyd (Green Bay) has played on special teams for most of his career, missing the 2019 season due to injury. Lloyd has appeared in 21 games for the Badgers in his career.

Joining the group this year is freshman Cole Dakovich (Waukesha), who played his high school football at powerhouse Catholic Memorial and was first-team all-state at linebacker.

Michigan State v Wisconsin

Michigan State v Wisconsin

Half of Wisconsin's 14 wide receivers plied their trade in the cheese state, making it the position on the team with the most Wisconsin-based players.

Perhaps the most experienced of these players is senior Jack Dunn (Madison), who has returned punts for the last two years for the Badgers, leading the Big Ten in punt return average at 8.3 yards per return on 24 attempts in 2019. Dunn, who competed at Edgewood and is a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, has also made six catches in his career, including a touchdown.

Fellow senior Adam Krumholz (Stoughton, pictured) has appeared in 31 games in his Badgers career, at both receiver and on special teams, and owns three career receptions.

A pair of sophomores look to make their debuts on the field in 2020. Jordan DiBenedetto (Stoughton) and Mike Gregoire (Green Bay) each did not play in 2019. Redshirt freshman Cooper Nelson (Sun Prairie) also returns for the Badgers after his redshirt season.

Two incoming freshman are also Wisconsin products, who were productive players in high school at their respective schools. Chimere Dike (Waukesha) was a standout at Waukesha North, and was named first-team all-state by the WFCA at receiver while receiving honorable mention all-state WFCA honors at defensive back. Haakon Anderson (Verona), who played H-back at Verona, was honorable mention all-state at TE/FB while also starting on defense as a senior as a defensive back.

Central Michigan v Wisconsin

Central Michigan v Wisconsin

14 offensive linemen on the initial Badgers roster for 2020 hail from Wisconsin, which is no surprise given that the program pumps out NFL talent seemingly year after year, and the state is considered a hotbed of offensive line prospects regardless of college division.

In the senior class, Cole Van Lanen (Green Bay) leads the way for Badgers linemen, named second-team All-American by CBS Sports, second-team All-Big Ten in 2019. Van Lanen, who is a three-time academic All-Big Ten honoree as well, is a preseason All-American and is also on the Outland Trophy Award watch list. Van Lanen, who competed in high school at Bay Port, has played in 40 games for the Badgers.

One of the surprise revelations of the 2020 Badgers roster was the return of Jon Dietzen (Black Creek), who owns 32 career starts at left guard and left tackle. Dietzen left football after the 2018 season due to injury, but made his appearance in uniform at the start of Wisconsin Badgers fall camp. Dietzen played high school football at Seymour.

A deep junior class, with plenty of Wisconsin flavor, rounds out the depth of the 2020 Badgers, including several starters. Logan Bruss (Appleton) is returning as the starter at right tackle, where he owns 15 of his 19 career starts. Bruss, who played at Kimberly, has played in 26 games in his career.

Another projected starter up front is Kayden Lyles (Madison), the former Middleton standout who filled in along the defensive line as a starter in 2018. Lyles started four games at left guard in 2019 and has played in 25 games in his career, and projects as the starter at left guard for 2020.

At the other guard position, Josh Seltzner (Columbus, pictured) settles in after playing in all 14 games in 2019, as well as 12 appearances in 2018. Seltzner is a former walk-on after an all-state selection his senior year in high school.

Backup right tackle Tyler Beach (Grafton) appeared in every game the past two seasons, earning two starts at right tackle. Beach was an all-state player at Port Washington. Another experienced reserve is Aaron Vopal (DePere), who has played in 18 games for the Badgers. Blake Smithback (Waunakee) saw some time at center in 2019, appearing in three games, and rounds out a deep and talented junior class for the Badgers up front in 2020.

The lone member of the sophomore class who plied his trade in Wisconsin is Cormac Sampson (Eau Claire), who played 13 games at tight end in 2019 and one game in 2018 during his redshirt season. Sampson, who played tight end at Eau Claire Memorial as well, moves to the offensive line for 2020.

A large group of incoming freshman from in-state rounds out the position group: Tanor Bortolini (Kewaunee), Sean Timmis (Shorewood/Marquette HS), Kerry Kodanko (Green Bay/West De Pere HS), Trey Wedig (Oconomowoc/Kettle Moraine HS), and Jack Nelson (Stoughton). Kodanko, Nelson, Bortolini, and Wedig were all first-team all-state selections by the WFCA in 2019 as seniors at offensive line, while Wedig and Bortolini also received an honorable mention all-state nod at defensive line.

Iowa v Wisconsin

Iowa v Wisconsin

Four defensive linemen, and one nose tackle, on the 2020 Badgers are from Wisconsin. Junior Matt Henningsen (Menomonee Falls, pictured, sort of) owns 15 career starts at defensive end, with five career sacks (including the one above) and 27 games played. Henningsen was a walk-on who started the season opener as a freshman in 2018, and has two academic All-Big Ten honors.

Another returning junior is Michael Balisteri (Grafton/University School), who has yet to play for the Badgers, but did earn academic All-Big Ten honors in 2018. Sophomore Boyd Dietzen (Combined Locks) was a force for Kimberly in high school, and after redshirting in 2018, played in all 14 games in 2019.

Incoming freshman Cade McDonald (Houlton) was an all-state selection at defensive end in 2019 after an outstanding career at Hudson.

At nose tackle, a big impact was made by now-sophomore Keeanu Benton (Janesville), who started six games and played in 13 contests. Benton recorded a pair of sacks and four tackles for a loss in his true freshman season. Benton was a standout at Janesville Craig in football and wrestling.

Kent State v Wisconsin

Kent State v Wisconsin

A youth movement is underway at inside linebacker at Wisconsin, and three state products are a part of it. Sophomore Leo Chenal (Grantsburg, pictured) played in 11 games in 2019, notching 20 tackles and a sack in his work for the Badgers last season. Leo's brother, John, started a handful of games at fullback for the Badgers last year. Redshirt freshman Tatum Grass (Holmen) was honorable mention all-state at defensive end and tight end in 2018, while incoming freshman Ross Gengler (Delavan) was honorable mention all-state at outside linebacker for Delavan-Darien in 2019.

At outside linebacker, there are similarly several younger players, including another trio from Wisconsin. Sophomore C.J. Goetz (Muskego), a four-sport star in high school with trips to state in football and track at Catholic Memorial, appeared in all 14 games for the Badgers on special teams in 2019 after redshirting in 2018. Fellow sophomore Marty Strey (Sun Prairie) appeared in one game in 2019 after redshirting in 2018 after being selected all-state in 2019 and honorable mention in 2018 for his work as an edge rusher in high school. Joining the group is incoming freshman Riley Nowakowski (Milwaukee), who was a 2019 WFCA All-State selection at outside linebacker.

Two Badger state natives are on the roster at cornerback. Kobe Knaak (Franklin) has appeared in two games in his career for the Badgers after an all-state career for the Sabers in high school. Amaun Williams (Milwaukee) is a true freshman entering the University of Wisconsin after earning all-state honors for Milwaukee Riverside in 2019.

At safety, junior Tyler Mais (Waunakee) returns after playing in all 14 games last year, recording five tackles. Mais is a two-time academic All-Big Ten honoree. Sophomore Brady Schipper (Stoughton) has bounced around positions a bit; Schipper was a standout at running back in high school and was listed at receiver earlier in his Badgers career. Schipper has appeared in eight games for Wisconsin.

Wisconsin v Nebraska

Wisconsin v Nebraska

All five of the kicking and punting specialists on the Badgers' roster are Wisconsin natives. That includes returning starter Collin Larsh (Marshall, pictured), who after putting together an impressive career at Monona Grove. Larsh made 12 field goals and went 53-for-54 on extra point attempts in 2019, his first season of action for the Badgers. Incoming freshman Jack Van Dyke (Neenah) was an all-state selection in 2019 by the WFCA, and is also in the mix to handle punting duties.

A trio of punters are competing for the primary gig this fall camp. Transfer Andy Vujnovich (Columbus) arrives in Madison as a junior after two years punting and kicking for the University of Dubuque, averaging 36.7 yards per boot in 2019. Junior Conor Schlichting (Madison), a two-time academic All-Big Ten award winner, is also in the mix. Schlichting, who attended high school at Madison East where he played four years of soccer, has yet to appear in a game for the Badgers. Incoming freshman Gavin Meyers (Oshkosh) was an honorable mention all-state selection out of Lourdes Academy in 2019.

The final Wisconsin product on the 2020 roster is senior Josh Berhagen (Madison), who is listed at long snapper for the Badgers. After an all-state career as an offensive lineman for Madison La Follette, Berhagen has yet to appear in a Badgers contest, but serves as the primary back-up to three-year starter Adam Bay.

With 49 state of Wisconsin products on the 2020 Badgers roster, there will be plenty for fans of Wisconsin high school football in the state to follow in 2020.

All Photos: Getty Images