3 Players to Watch for the Badgers in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl

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The Wisconsin Badgers are set to compete against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl on Tuesday, where fans can get a look at younger talent to cap off a tumultuous 2022 season.

With players moving elsewhere or entering the draft, there are some areas of uncertainty on both teams, leading to what could be an intriguing and competitive bowl game in Phoenix, Arizona.

Earlier this month, head coach Luke Fickell addressed new bowl game norms, acknowledging that the future of bowl games is evaluating what your team might look like next season, rather than potentially playing the most competitive game in the current time, due to circumstances.

🇧🇷[Bowl games are going to be a] great vision of what your team will look like next year,” said Fickell.

Now, with an eye on 2023, here are three players to watch for the Badgers in Tuesday’s Guaranteed Rate Bowl.

The obvious choice is true freshman quarterback Myles Burkett, who was listed alongside redshirt senior Chase Wolf as the best signalman on the depth chart for the bowl game.

Burkett, a three-star recruit in the Class of 2022, completed 4/5 passes for 84 yards on the season, playing in just two games earlier in the year.

The 6’0, 205-pound quarterback is traditionally considered undersized, but he showed a strong work ethic and shone with his skills, beating out Deacon Hill for backup work behind Graham Mertz this year while Wolf nursed from an injury.

Now, Burkett should get his chance to shine, and he’s in a favorable position as he has top running backs Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi, as well as all four of his top receivers at his disposal.

The Badgers have recently pushed hard for quarterbacks, with head coach Luke Fickell securing transfer commitments from Oklahoma four-star Nick Evers and 2024 four-star Mabrey Mettauer to go along with 2023 three-star Cole LaCrue.

Burkett, a Wisconsin native, should be in the running at quarterback in the spring and could start to impress with a solid performance in Tuesday’s bowl game.

The Badgers lost some key parts of their defensive line when defensive tackle Keeanu Benton and outside linebacker Nick Herbig declared for the NFL Draft, leaving holes in their respective positions for the bowl game.

Enter true rookie defensive tackle Curt Neal, who has seen the fewest snaps in two games this season but is currently listed behind junior Gio Paez at two-deep tackle.

Similar to Burkett, Neal is a little undersized for his position, measuring just 6’0 and 290 pounds, but he has the opportunity to showcase his talent in the bowl game, where he’ll work alongside Rodas Johnson, Isaiah Mullens and James Thompson Jr., who have had a long playing time.

The Badgers currently have no defensive lineup committed for 2023 after Jamel Howard and Roderick Pierce committed following the coaching change.

With the uncertainty in position, Neal should be someone to watch as a potential rotating piece next to the interior in 2023.

With Nick Herbig entering the draft, there’s a big void currently at outside linebacker, where Kaden Johnson is expected to start alongside CJ Goetz, according to the two-deep.

Johnson had playing time all season, winning snaps in nine games, but saw an increase in his role as the season progressed and the Badgers relied more on his depth.

Johnson will now be the main contributor at outside linebacker, where he will rotate with redshirt rookies TJ Bollers and Darryl Peterson in the bowl game.

Without an established pass-rush presence on the outside right now, Johnson, and frankly the entire positional group, will be a matchup to watch to see if they can gain some additional traction ahead of the 2023 season.