Time is now for Badgers freshman NT Benton

Credit: Tom Lynn/Wisconsin Athletics.

The time is now for Keeanu Benton.

Wisconsin probably didn’t expect, or probably even want, the true freshman to be its starting nose tackle this season, but injuries have a way of changing things.

Sophomore Bryson Williams was the presumptive starter heading into 2019, but injuries cost him a few games early. Williams returned against Kent State and had four tackles against Illinois, but this past Saturday against Iowa he was injured again. Williams was spotted on the sideline on crutches – not good, obviously, and was declared out the next day for this week’s Nebraska contest.

Nose tackle wasn’t exactly a position of depth for the Badgers this year.

Besides Benton and Williams, there’s senior Gunnar Roberge, who has played in 11 games in two seasons, including six this year, and has yet to record a tackle, and redshirt freshman C.J. Goetz, who has played in every game this season and also has no tackles.

Good thing Benton has stepped up his game recently.

Against Ohio State, Benton had a season-high three tackles — two solo — and his first sack. This past week vs. Iowa, it was two solo tackles and a quarterback hurry.

The Badgers can use more defensive ends, but against running offense it sure does help to have a big nose tackle in there. Benton has gotten plenty of experience this year. Good thing for both him and Wisconsin.

One other quick note on the younger Wisconsin players — redshirt freshman running back Isaac Guerendo made his season debut against the Hawkeyes. It will be interesting to see if the Badgers try to get the speedy player involved in the final few games.

Here’s the complete rundown of the young Badgers after nine games:

“TRUE” FRESHMEN
Keeanu Benton, NT
South Florida: 2 tackles (solo), TFL
Central Michigan: Started, 1 tackle (solo), TFL
Michigan: Started, 1 tackle, QBH
Northwestern: Played, did not record a statistic
Kent State: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan State: Started, did not record a statistic
Illinois: Did not play
Ohio State: Started, 3 tackles (2 solo), sack, TFL
Iowa: Started. 2 tackles (2 solo), QBH
Season totals: 9 tackles (6 solo), sack, 3 TFL, 2 QBH

 

Clay Cundiff, TE
South Florida: Did not play
Central Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: Did not play
Northwestern: Did not play
Kent State: Did not play
Michigan State: Did not play
Illinois: Did not play
Ohio State: Did not play
Iowa: Did not play
Season totals: n/a

 

Leo Chenal, LB
South Florida: 5 tackles (3 solo)
Central Michigan: 4 tackles (4 solo)
Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Northwestern: Did not play
Kent State: 3 tackles (3 solo), sack, TFL, FR
Michigan State: Did not play
Illinois: Did not play
Ohio State: 1 tackle (solo)
Iowa: 1 tackle (solo), TFL, QBH
Season totals: 14 tackles (12 solo), sack, 2 TFL, FR

 

Quan Easterling, FB
South Florida: Did not play
Central Michigan: Did not play
Michigan: Did not play
Northwestern: Did not play
Kent State: Did not play
Michigan State: Did not play
Illinois: Played, did not record a statistic
Ohio State: Did not play
Iowa: Did not play
Season totals: n/a

 

Semar Melvin, CB
South Florida: 1 tackle (solo)
Central Michigan: Did not play
Michigan: Did not play
Northwestern: Did not play
Kent State: Did not play
Michigan State: Did not play
Illinois: Did not play
Ohio State: 1 tackle
Iowa: Did not play
Season totals: 2 tackles (solo)

 

Graham Mertz, QB
South Florida: Did not play
Central Michigan: 4-of-5 passing, 35 yards
Michigan: Did not play
Northwestern: Did not play
Kent State: 5-of-5 passing, 38 yards; 2 rush, 6 yards
Michigan State: Did not play
Illinois: Did not play
Ohio State: Did not play
Iowa: Did not play
Season totals: 9-of-10 passing, 73 yards; 2 rush, 6 yards

 

Have not played
Peter Bowden, LS; Stephan Bracey, WR; Logan Brown, OL; Dante Caputo, S; Julius Davis, RB; Jordan DiBenedetto, WR; Dean Engram, CB; Tatum Grass, LB; Rodas Johnson, DE; Jackson Kollath, LB; Spencer Lytle, LB; Cooper Nelson, QR; Maema Njongmeta, LB; Logan O’Brien, OL; Gio Paez, NT; Cam Phillips, WR; Hayden Rucci, TE; Joe Tippmann, OL; Titus Toler, LB; Blake Wilcox, K; James Williams, CB.

 

REDSHIRT FRESHMEN
A.J. Abbott, WR
South Florida: Did not play
Central Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Northwestern: Played, did not record a statistic
Kent State: 1 tackle (solo)
Michigan State: Played, did not record a statistic
Illinois: Played, did not record a statistic
Ohio State: Played, did not record a statistic
Iowa: Did not play
Season totals: 1 tackle (solo)

 

Donte Burton, CB
South Florida: Played, did not record a statistic
Central Michigan: 1 tackle (solo)
Michigan: PBU
Northwestern: Played, did not record a statistic
Kent State: 1 tackle (solo)
Michigan State: Started, did not record a statistic
Illinois: Started, PBU
Ohio State: Played, did not record a statistic
Iowa: Did not play
Season totals: 2 tackles (2 solo), 2 PBU

 

Boyd Dietzen, DE
South Florida: Played, did not record a statistic
Central Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Northwestern: Played, did not record a statistic
Kent State: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan State: Played, did not record a statistic
Illinois: Played, did not record a statistic
Ohio State: Played, did not record a statistic
Iowa: Did not play
Season totals: n/a

 

Jack Eschenbach, TE
South Florida: Played, did not record a statistic
Central Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: Did not play
Northwestern: Did not play
Kent State: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan State: Played, did not record a statistic
Illinois: Did not play
Ohio State: Did not play
Iowa: Did not play
Season totals: n/a

 

Jaylan Franklin, OLB
South Florida: 1 tackle (solo), sack, TFL
Central Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Northwestern: Played, did not record a statistic
Kent State: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan State: Played, did not record a statistic
Illinois: Played, did not record a statistic
Ohio State: Played, did not record a statistic
Iowa: Played, did not record a statistic
Season totals: 1 tackle (solo), sack, TFL

 

Michael Furtney, OL
South Florida: Played, did not record a statistic
Central Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Northwestern: Played, did not record a statistic
Kent State: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan State: Played, did not record a statistic
Illinois: Played, did not record a statistic
Ohio State: Played, did not record a statistic
Iowa: Played, did not record a statistic
Season totals: n/a

 

C.J. Goetz, DE
South Florida: Played, did not record a statistic
Central Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Northwestern: Played, did not record a statistic
Kent State: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan State: Played, did not record a statistic
Illinois: Played, did not record a statistic
Ohio State: Played, did not record a statistic
Iowa: Played, did not record a statistic
Season totals: n/a

 

Isaac Guerendo, RB
South Florida: Did not play
Central Michigan: Did not play
Michigan: Did not play
Northwestern: Did not play
Kent State: Played, Did not play
Michigan State: Did not play
Illinois: Did not play
Ohio State: Did not play
Iowa: Played, did not record a statistic
Season totals: n/a

 

Andrew Lyons, OL
South Florida: Did not play
Central Michigan: Did not play
Michigan: Did not play
Northwestern: Did not play
Kent State: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan State: Did not play
Illinois: Did not play
Ohio State: Did not play
Iowa: Did not play
Season totals: n/a

 

Isaiah Mullens, DE
South Florida: Played, did not record a statistic
Central Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Northwestern: Played, did not record a statistic
Kent State: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan State: Played, did not record a statistic
Illinois: Played, did not record a statistic
Ohio State: Did not play
Iowa: Played, did not record a statistic
Season totals: n/a

 

Taj Mustapha, WR
South Florida: Did not play
Central Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: Did not play
Northwestern: Did not play
Kent State: Did not play
Michigan State: Did not play
Illinois: Did not play
Ohio State: Did not play
Iowa: Did not play
Season totals: n/a

 

Reggie Pearson, S
South Florida: Started, 1 tackle (solo), FF
Central Michigan: Started, did not record a statistic
Michigan: Started, 3 tackles (2 solo), .5 TFL, FF
Northwestern: 1 tackle (solo), PBU
Kent State: Started, 3 tackles (3 solo)
Michigan State: Started, 4 tackles (3 solo)
Illinois: Started, 5 tackles (4 solo), 2 TFL, 3 PBU
Ohio State: Started, 5 tackles (3 solo)
Iowa: Started, 2 tackles (1 solo)
Season stats: 24 tackles (18 solo), 2 FF, 4 PBU, 2.5 TFL

 

Cormac Sampson, OL/TE
South Florida: Did not play
Central Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Northwestern: Played, did not record a statistic
Kent State: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan State: Played, did not record a statistic
Illinois: Did not play
Ohio State: Played, did not record a statistic
Iowa: Played, did not record a statistic
Season totals: n/a

 

Brady Schipper, RB
South Florida: Did not play
Central Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Northwestern: Played, did not record a statistic
Kent State: 6 rush, 21 yards
Michigan State: Did not play
Illinois: Did not play
Ohio State: Played, did not record a statistic
Iowa: Played, did not record a statistic
Season totals: 6 rush, 21 yards

 

Alexander Smith, CB
South Florida: Played, did not record a statistic
Central Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Northwestern: 1 tackle (solo), PBU
Kent State: 2 tackles (2 solo)
Michigan State: 1 tackle (solo)
Illinois: Played, did not record a statistic
Ohio State: Blocked punt
Iowa: Played, did not record a statistic
Season stats: 4 tackles (4 solo), PBU, Blk

 

Marty Strey, OLB
South Florida: Did not play
Central Michigan: Did not play
Michigan: Did not play
Northwestern: Did not play
Kent State: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan State: Did not play
Illinois: Did not play
Ohio State: Did not play
Iowa: Did not play
Season totals: n/a

 

Jack Torchio, S
South Florida: Played, did not record a statistic
Central Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: INT, PBU
Northwestern: Started, 1 tackle (solo)
Kent State: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan State: 1 tackle (solo)
Illinois: Did not play
Ohio State: Did not play
Iowa: Did not play
Season stats: 2 tackles (2 solo), INT, PBU

 

Nakia Watson, RB
South Florida: 14 rush, 80 yards, TD
Central Michigan: 8 rush, 29 yards, TD; 1 catch, 0 yards
Michigan: 13 rush, 31 yards
Northwestern: 1 rush, 1 yard; 1 tackle
Kent State: 12 rush, 63 yards; 1 catch, 6 yards
Michigan State: 5 rush, 34 yards
Illinois: 2 rush, 9 yards
Ohio State: Played, did not record a statistic
Iowa: 6 rush, 32 yards
Season stats: 61 rush, 279 yards (4.57 average), 2 TD; 2 catches, 6 yards

 

Chase Wolf, QB
South Florida: Played, did not record a statistic
Central Michigan: 1-for-1 passing, 2 yards
Michigan: Did not play
Northwestern: Did not play
Kent State: Did not play
Michigan State: Played, did not record a statistic
Illinois: Did not play
Ohio State: Did not play
Iowa: Did not play
Season stats: 1-for-1 passing, 2 yards


Have not played
Travian Blaylock, CB; Mike Gregoire, WR; Jacob Heyroth, ILB; Conor Schlichting, P.

 

“TRUE” SOPHOMORES

John Chenal, FB
South Florida: 1 rush, 2 yards; 1 catch, 12 yards; 1 tackle (solo), FF
Central Michigan: 3 rush, 11 yards; 1 catch, 2 yards
Michigan: 2 rush, 5 yards, TD
Northwestern: Played, did not record a statistic
Kent State: 4 rush, 24 yards
Michigan State: Started, 4 rush, 17 yards; 1 catch, 1 yard
Illinois: 3 rush, 3 yards
Ohio State: Started, did not record a statistic
Iowa: Played, did not record a statistic
Season totals: 17 rush, 62 yards (3.6 average), 2 TD; 2 catches, 3 yards, 1 tackle (solo), FF

 

Aron Cruickshank, WR
South Florida: 1 kick return, 23 yards
Central Michigan: 1 catch, 19 yards; 2 punt returns, 14 yards
Michigan: 1 kick return, 11 yards
Northwestern: 2 kick returns, 69 yards
Kent State: 2 rush, 6 yards; 2 catches, 10 yards
Michigan State: 2 rush, 28 yards; 1 kick return, 38 yards
Illinois: Played, did not record a statistic
Ohio State: 2 rush, 28 yards; 4 kick returns, 83 yards
Iowa: 3 kick returns, 69 yards
Season totals: 6 rush, 62 yards; 2 catches, 10 yards; 12 kick returns, 293 yards (24.42 average); 2 punt returns, 14 yards

 

Jack Sanborn, LB
South Florida: Started, 5 tackles (2 solo)
Central Michigan: Started, 1 tackle, INT, QBH
Michigan: Started, 7 tackles (5 solo), 2 TFL, sack, FF
Northwestern: Started, 13 tackles (7 solo), TFL, PBU
Kent State: Started, 2 tackles (2 solo), 2 sacks, 2 TFL
Michigan State: Started, 5 tackles (3 solo), TFL
Illinois: Started, 7 tackles (4 solo). .5 TFL. QBH
Ohio State: Started, 6 tackles (4 solo)
Iowa: Started, 6 tackles (6 solo)
Season totals: 52 tackles (33 solo), 3 sacks, 6.5 TFL, INT, 2 QBH, PBU, FF

 

Rachad Wildgoose, CB
South Florida: 2 tackles (solo)
Central Michigan: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan: PBU
Northwestern: 3 tackles (3 solo), 2 TFL
Kent State: Started, 3 tackles (2 solo)
Michigan State: Started, INT
Illinois: Started, 2 tackles (2 solo)
Ohio State: 2 tackles (1 solo)
Iowa: 2 PBU
Season totals:11 tackles (9 solo), 2 TFL, 3 PBU, INT

 

Bryson Williams, NT
South Florida: 1 tackle (solo)
Central Michigan: Did not play
Michigan: Did not play
Northwestern: Did not play
Kent State: Played, did not record a statistic
Michigan State: Played, did not record a statistic
Illinois: 4 tackles (1 solo)
Ohio State: 1 tackle
Iowa: Played, did not record a statistic
Season totals: 6 tackles (2 solo)

 

Dave Heller is the author of Ken Williams: A Slugger in Ruth’s Shadow (a Larry Ritter Book Award nominee), Facing Ted Williams – Players From the Golden Age of Baseball Recall the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived and As Good As It Got: The 1944 St. Louis Browns