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From walk-on to staple of Badger offense, can Troy Fumagalli make it at next level?

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first_imgWisconsin tight end Troy Fumagalli went from coming on as a walk-on to being the most reliable receiver on a top 10 football team in the country.  Now, the battle-tested player is making his case to scouts and fans as to why he is the best tight end in this year’s draft.Though Fumagalli’s story of perseverance and hard work is impressive, it is hardly unique at Wisconsin.  The program is known for bringing in less than stellar high school prospects and transforming them into stars for the university. JJ Watt, Joe Schobert, and Ryan Ramczyk are all notable Wisconsin walk ons that are currently playing at a high level in the NFL.Despite the program’s successful track record in this regard, doubts still loom for some scouts. Many pundits have questioned Fumagalli’s athleticism, allowing him to succeed at the professional level, putting him as a day three (fourth round or later) prospect. Fumagalli’s tight end coach Mickey Turner, has no doubt about how the former walk-on will respond to this criticism.Graham Mertz: The answer at quarterback?Playing quarterback for the University of Wisconsin Badgers is a good gig. Fans will treat any completed pass like they Read…“I think whatever they say he’ll work to prove them wrong.  He’s got the combine coming up and some pro days after that.  We look at our weight room numbers here he’s doing a great job for us.  Working out, training, just beating everything.  And I think he’s feeling good right now,” Turner said. “He’s going to be 100 percent healthy going in for some of that stuff.  It’ll be interesting.  He’s always been more than athletic enough to get the job done with what we asked him to do here at Wisconsin so I’m confident in him.”Fumagalli is the first major tight end prospect Turner has worked with since assuming the position in 2015.  However, as a player at Wisconsin from 2007 to 2009 Turner got firsthand experience with former NFL-drafted tight ends Garrett Graham, Travis Beckham and Lance Kendricks.While there are differences in terms of all these tight ends’ play styles, Turner wanted to stress what aligns them is how they all produced at high levels for the university.Football: Wisconsin ends 2017 regular season undefeated, brings axe home to MadisonPaul Bunyan’s axe is returning to Madison after the University of Wisconsin football team trounced the Minnesota Golden Gophers during Read…However, what makes Fumagalli unique as a tight end prospect is his ability to be a 3-down tight end.  The Wisconsin star’s ability to perform in the receiving game, especially as a route runner. Blocking could set Fumagalli up to have a prominent role in the modern NFL lineup.Today’s NFL tight end looks much different than even a decade ago.  NFL stars Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce lead their position because of their skills as receivers and blockers.  Turner said this could open up the draft for a complete tight end like Fumagalli as most teams in the NFL are now looking for more versatility at the position.Turner echoed these sentiments when asked what Fumagalli needed to show scouts ahead of April’s draft.“I think one of his best assets as a college player was that he could be an every down tight end.  I think that’s what he’s got to show them. Cause they’re always going to have their guys that are very specific like: this is our deep ball guy, this is our goal line blocking guy and Troy is somewhere in the middle where he does a lot of things well.  I think that’s going to have be the big thing for certain teams is if he can be an every down tight end for them,” Turner said.Football: Wisconsin dominates Michigan, remains undefeated and best in Big TenThe University of Wisconsin football team came out on top at Camp Randall after a grueling game against the Michigan Read…Another fact that, at first, left some scratching their heads at his ability to catch the ball and block was that Fumagalli is missing his left index finger.  While you’d think this would hamper a tight end’s abilities, because Fumagalli suffered the injury as a young child his muscle memory is constructed to play with only 9 fingers.  When asked if this condition would hurt Fumagalli in the NFL, Turner immediately responded.“No, not at all.  In fact it might even be an asset for him,” Turner said.Fumagalli’s departure from the Badgers will undoubtedly leave a hole in the Wisconsin offense. Turner said he didn’t know if it would necessarily be a tight end who would replace Fumagalli’s receiving presence, noting that receivers or running backs may take on a larger role going forward.  However, Turner said despite a lot of players vying for the position, Kyle Penniston and Zander Neuville are getting the most reps at tight end for the team early on.Currently though, Troy is working at a combine training location off campus in preparation for the NFL Scouting Combine, which goes from Feb. 27 to March 5 in Indianapolis.  After that, Fumagalli will likely host some pro days at UW Madison and await the NFL Draft that will last three days and begin April 26.last_img read more

Syracuse’s behind-the-cage offense jolts 4-game winning streak

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first_img Published on April 24, 2019 at 10:31 pm Contact Andrew: aegraham@syr.edu | @A_E_Graham Nate Solomon toed the yellow line on the back side of the crease, scanned the defense through the twine of the net and stepped forward to his right. Coming across the goal line, Navy’s defense didn’t pick Solomon up as he turned to goalie Ryan Kern and dropped a shot into the back of the net. By initiating offense from behind the crease, Solomon gave Syracuse the lead and unlocked a new offensive style. “He’s a threat to dodge and he’s got his head up and he’s finding open people now,” SU head coach John Desko said of Solomon. “So I think it’s nice to have the attack clicking this time of year.”Though Solomon took the chance himself to open things up against Navy, No. 4 seeded Syracuse’s (9-3, 2-2 Atlantic Coast) attacks have changed the Orange’s offense in recent weeks by initiating more offense — both scoring and assisting — from behind the net. Since losing to Notre Dame, the Orange closed the season on a four-game win streak in which they’re averaging 2.9 more goals per game than in the first eight. The new scoring element has balanced a previously one-dimensional offense days before SU travels to face No. 5 seed North Carolina (7-6, 1-3) for Thursday’s ACC Tournament play-in game in Chapel Hill.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textEva Suppa | Contributing Digital DesignerFor the first eight weeks of Syracuse’s season, its offense relied heavily on midfielders dodging and creating open looks from the top of the offensive zone. The Orange’s most common look was Brendan Curry or Jamie Trimboli dodging down outside of the alley and looking to shoot or pass to an attack waiting near the crease. And more often than not, opposing defenders stayed with the dodging midfielders.The lack of space, though, ultimately hurt the Orange’s offense. With Bradley Voigt posted in front of cage and SU’s other two attacks — Solomon and Stephen Rehfuss — typically hugging the post, close defenders filled the space around them while easily sliding to dodging midfielders up top. When the Orange’s offense truly stalled, Solomon came to the midfield and played with the ball from there, so Syracuse could have an attack in control. Desko noticed the offensive stagnation and tweaked the team’s approach. SU’s new offensive impetus puts the ball in the care of Solomon and Rehfuss most of the time. The Orange trust their upperclassmen attacks to read the whole field from behind the cage, dodge out to one side and look to pass or shoot. “So now if you leave the inside, (Voigt)’s open,” Desko said. “And if you don’t, then you don’t slide to those guys behind. It just opens the whole offense up.”Solomon did some of this earlier in the season, to moderate success, but was largely shut off when he tried to dodge and score for himself. Now, Desko said, Solomon is seeing the field better and looking to pass more. Through the first eight games, Solomon had six assists. He’s tallied seven more in the final four games of the regular season.Eva Suppa | Contributing Digital DesignerRehfuss, the preseason All-ACC selection, also struggled early. Through three games, he had one assist. After the loss to Notre Dame, he’d tallied 14 points to date. He’s scored 18 more during the Orange’s four-game win streak.Rehfuss’ reemergence coincides with SU’s shift to a play style that suits him better because he’s free to use his vision to find cutting midfielders and Voigt inside. He’s also gotten healthier after catching the flu at the beginning of the season and playing through the illness a handful of undisclosed injuries. With less than a minute left in the first half against Navy, Rehfuss dodged left from behind the cage, turned to his right and left and got cut off. He picked his head up saw Voigt by the crease. As defenders hacked, Rehfuss flipped a pass to Voigt, who cradled and bounced a shot in with one second left on the shot clock, tallying one of Rehfuss’ seven points (two goals, five assists). “I’m sure he’s feeling better about himself,” Desko said of Rehfuss. “It’s obviously showing in his performance. I think we’re getting some dodges off him, getting some good assists off him.”Syracuse’s offense has taken off since emphasizing play behind the cage. Not only has the Orange scored more goals in its four wins to end the season, but done so more efficiently. SU’s shooting at a higher percentage, scoring on 7.725 percent more of its shots amid the four-game win streak. Solomon and Rehfuss have shown they can score from behind the cage. If they’re covered well, they can dodge from behind and feed Voigt inside or skip a pass to a cutting midfielder. And, SU’s deep midfield can initiate if the right matchup arises. “We were almost one-dimensional to start the season, dodging from up top,” Voigt said. “And as soon as Stephen and Nate started dodging from behind, it’s helped us out tremendously and it gives a whole new threat.” Commentscenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more