The two most prominent football leagues in the country welcomed a pair of freshman classes this month. The NCAA and NFL began their respective regular seasons over the past two weeks, as did the Wisconsin Badgers and a number of their alumni who are now pros. Nearly 20 individual players debuted in the leagues with ties to the school during the first weeks of the 2013 season.
First-year head coach Gary Anderson introduced 16 true and red-shirt freshman against UMass and Tennessee Tech. Another 29 have yet to see the field, including J.J. Watt's younger brother T.J. Watt. Running-back Corey Clement was the standout of the class during the two meetings, earning a combined 29 carries for 250 yards and three touchdowns. A run of 75 yards was Clement's highlight in Wisconsin's dominating win over the Golden Eagles.
Cornerback Sojourn Shelton also impressed in his inaugural performances with the Badgers. Against UMass, the true freshman recorded an interception, a batted pass, a quarterback hurry, and three solo tackles. He managed another tackle a week later, though sophomore T.J. Reynard took over most of the position duties against Tennessee Tech. Reynard, a transfer from Independence Community College in Kansas put-up a batted pass and four solo tackles that Saturday.
Red-shirt quarterback Bart Houston threw for one completion on one attempt in his debut for the Badgers against UMass. Just two former Badgers made their first appearances in the NFL last week. Montee Ball and center Travis Frederick represented the Denver Broncos and the Dallas Cowboys, respectively, in their team's 2013 opener.
Ball Has Slow Start At Denver
NCAA record holder for most career touchdowns, Ball dominated state headlines going into his much anticipated rookie season in the pros. In was an anticlimactic start, however, as the running-back took just eight carries for 24 yards against the Ravens. He traded duties with fellow running-backs Lance Ball, Knowshon Moreno, and Ronnie Hillman, though quarterback Peyton Manning did most of the work, tying an NFL record with 7 touchdown passes. 5-year veteran Moreno is expected to secure the starting-role in week two, though Broncos head coach John Fox told reporters all four running-backs would play.
Frederick's first night snapping to Tony Romo was a mixed-bag. The first-half saw a poorly-timed exchange and a lackluster effort in blocking sometimes two opposing lineman. He regained his composer in the locker-room at half, greatly improving his stance and effectiveness. 2008 pick Nick Hayden joined Frederick in debuting for Dallas in team's win against the Giants. Hayden will play in the starting tackle spot in-lieu of the injured Jay Ratliff until at least week six, though with three tackles and a forced fumble on Sunday, that playing-time could be extended.
Russell Wilson, J.J. Watt, and Nick Toon all started their sophomore seasons in the NFL over the weekend. All three recorded wins with the Seahawks, Texans, and Saints, with Watt leading a nail-biting defensive charge against the Chargers to allow come-from-behind win.