The Wisconsin Badgers are ranked 7th in the NCAA Coaches preseason poll and set to have a huge season. The Badgers lose some key contributors from last year’s team, but are still expected to be one of the best teams in the nation and are the favorite to come out of the Big Ten’s West Division. Last season brought a handful of breakouts from Badger players headlined by Jonathan Taylor. Who will be this season’s breakout stars?
Danny Davis, SO, WR
Davis is the 3rd highest ranked wide receiver recruit the Badgers have brought in all-time and the highest since 2009. The Badgers have struggled to get dynamic wide receivers in the fold, despite putting them into the NFL at a decent rate (Nick Toon, Jared Abbrederis, and Alex Erickson). Davis looked dynamic during his freshman campaign totaling 26 catches for 418 yards, averaging a touch over 16 yards a catch. With his size and athleticism he should give the Badgers a talented deep ball threat and represent another weapon for Paul Chryst’s offense.
Kayden Lyles, RS-FR, D-Line
Lyles is a Madison native and the son of a former Badger (Kevin Lyles), was considered a 4-star O-Lineman before making the flip to defense this offseason. Lyles was a victim of the Badgers riches on the offensive line, with a couple of injuries depleting the depth on the defensive line, the path to playing time cleared up. A player like Lyles does not switch positions lightly, if he switches positions, a certain level of expectations come along with that change. Lyles will have a real opportunity to make an impact this season.
Taiwan Deal, RS-SR, RB
Injuries often rob us of seasons from good players, Deal was stuck behind Corey Clement his first two seasons, before being injured all of the 2017 season. After rushing for 500 yards as a redshirt freshman, Deal could be poised for a breakout campaign as a redshirt senior. Last year’s primary backup Bradrick Shaw is still recovering from an ACL injury, so the carries behind Jonathan Taylor look to be an open contest. As a change of pace back behind Taylor he could be the next UW backup to tally multiple 100 yard games.
Alex Hornibrook, RS-JR, QB
It might be odd to say that a junior who has started two almost two full seasons and set a university record for passing yards as a sophomore is going to “breakout”, but I believe Hornibrook will be a markedly better player this season. This offense is loaded with talent, with a backfield full of studs, weapons galore to pass to, and an offensive line filled with future Sunday starters. All reports coming out of camp seem to be glowing and he appears to be poised to put it all together this season. There were moments last season where he appeared to be figuring it out, only to have an untimely interception. Interceptions plagued him last season, cutting down on those will be key for him to lead the Badgers to their ultimate goal this season.