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Wisconsin football: eight redshirt freshmen who could make an impact in 2022

Breaking down eight players coming off of a redshirt season who could see the field for the Wisconsin Badgers next season.
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Each year, a handful of players use a redshirt season in the Wisconsin Badgers football program to help them make a leap and become significant contributors in year two. 

A redshirt season allows players to become acclimated to life in college, develop physically, and gain experience while maintaining four more years of eligibility. 

Entering the 2022 season, Wisconsin is seeking to replace several key starters on each side of the ball, which provides further opportunities for young players to step up. 

With that in mind, let's take a look at eight redshirt freshmen who are likely to make an impact in 2022. 

Wisconsin wide receiver Skyler Bell at the Las Vegas Bowl (Credit:

Skyler Bell ended spring practice as the most likely candidate to be the No. 2 wide receiver in 2022.

Skyler Bell

A New York native, Skyler Bell missed his entire senior season of high school because of the COVID-19 pandemic and battled through an injury in fall camp last year. As a result, Bell did not see the field during the 2021 regular season. However, the former three-star recruit flashed during preparation for the Las Vegas Bowl and earned playing time in the postseason contest against Arizona State. Bell only had one catch in the game, but it was an athletic diving grab. 

Following the season, the wide receiver position was one of the biggest question marks on the team entering spring ball. With four upperclassmen gone from the 2021 roster, wide receivers coach Alvis Whitted needed some of the young talent in his position group to step up. 

One player who made the most of increased opportunities was Bell, who stood out during the practices open to media members. His quickness and route-running ability made him an exciting threat in the passing game, and the Badgers also gave him the ball on jet sweeps at times in the spring. Bell's play earned him the majority of the No. 2 reps alongside Chimere Dike, and he is a likely starter next season. 

Wisconsin cornerback Ricardo Hallman breaking up a pass against Rutgers (Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

Cornerback Ricardo Hallman (No. 2) breaks up a pass against Rutgers on November 6, 2021. 

Ricardo Hallman

Ricardo Hallman saw game-action three times last season, most notably against Rutgers and Arizona State late in the year, recording a tackle and a pass breakup against the Scarlet Knights. 

With three graduate transfer additions in the off-season, the former three-star cornerback out of Florida came into spring ball looking to find a role in the defensive backfield, despite being one of the younger players in the position group. 

Hallman made several pass breakups that I noticed in the practices I attended, and his ability to break on the football was impressive. He had double-digit interceptions during his high school career, so he possesses excellent ball skills, and I think he has a strong chance of being in the two-deep when the season opens against Illinois State. 

Hallman finished the spring working with the top group of cornerbacks, and I expect that to carry over to the fall, assuming he stays healthy. 

Darryl Peterson

Darryl Peterson was one of the most disruptive players on Wisconsin's defense last spring. The 6-foot-1 pass-rusher saw limited action in the 2021 season, but in the spring, he was dominant. Peterson is quick off the edge, and his bull rush consistently knocked the opposing offensive tackles back. 

Based on his production in the spring, Peterson earned opportunities to learn both outside linebacker positions, and he finished the spring working with the first team defense frequently. Nick Herbig and CJ Goetz are still the likely starters for the opener, but Peterson's ability to stop the run and get after the quarterback makes him one of the more intriguing players to watch in fall camp. 

As things stand, I think he will be on Wisconsin's depth chart for the opener, and his versatility to play on either outside linebacker position should provide him more opportunities to see the field in 2022. 

Wisconsin fullback Jackson Acker (Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

Running back/fullback Jackson Acker should bring some versatility to the Wisconsin backfield. 

Jackson Acker

With John Chenal off to play professionally, Jackson Acker enters fall camp as the top contender to be the starting fullback next season. 

A former high school running back, Acker still has the speed to play tailback for the Badgers as a power-back, but most of his reps in the spring were at fullback. Acker appeared to hold his own as a blocker, and caught the ball well out of the backfield. 

It will be interesting to see where Acker's weight is entering the fall, but his abilities out of the backfield make him an interesting fullback option for the Badgers in 2022. 

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Acker played in two games last season, rushing for 34 yards and a touchdown in six carries.

Riley Mahlman

Questions still remain when it comes to the Wisconsin offensive line for next season, especially when it comes to right tackle. Logan Brown received most of the first team reps at the position, but the staff is also very high on former four-star tackle Riley Mahlman. 

The Minnesota product enrolled early last year, and he plays with an aggressiveness that makes him a tremendous fit for a Bob Bostad-led offensive line. Now entering his second year in the program and up to 312 pounds, Mahlman could push for playing time with a strong fall camp. 

A former high school tight end, Mahlman is very athletic for being 6-foot-8, and his size makes him one of the more exciting prospects in Wisconsin's offensive line room. The Badgers have a history of starting redshirt freshmen with high upside along the line, and I think Mahlman has a chance to be a very good player for Wisconsin. 

Even if Mahlman does not overthrow Logan Brown for the starting spot, he will have a chance to be a backup at either left or right tackle to open the season. 

Nolan Rucci

Wisconsin does not land many five-star commits. However, Nolan Rucci chose to become a Badger over offers from seemingly everyone as part of the 2021 recruiting class. With a year under his belt, Rucci's talent gives him a shot at contending for playing time along the offensive line in 2022. 

Like Mahlman, Rucci worked primarily with the second team offense in the spring, but the Badgers also used him on select occasions as an extra blocking tight end. He worked at right tackle frequently, making him another intriguing option in the battle for the starting right tackle spot. 

Rucci is a gifted athlete and has the frame at 6-foot-8 to be a dominant tackle in the Big Ten. It will be interesting to see how he has developed physically since the spring, because the talent is there.

T.J. Bollers

The outside linebacker position group has incredible depth entering the 2022 season. 

Already extremely athletic, Bollers shed some weight and improved his quickness during his redshirt campaign, putting himself in a position to be a factor in the fall. The former four-star out of Iowa put together a huge spring and was disruptive as an edge rusher with the second-team defense. 

With so many other talented options ahead of him, Bollers is unlikely to jump up and become a starter for the opener, but he should see playing time. He brings a different body type to the outside linebacker room, and if he can carry over his productivity from the spring, he is likely too good to not be in the rotation.  

Wisconsin wide receiver Markus Allen making a man miss against Rutgers.

Markus Allen running with the ball after a reception against Rutgers during the 2021 season. 

Markus Allen

Markus Allen entered spring ball with a lot of momentum after finishing the 2021 season with great games against Rutgers and Arizona State. 

The emergence of Skyler Bell and Keontez Lewis overshadowed Allen's play early in the spring, but he came on late with multiple touchdowns during the final week of camp. A bigger receiving target at 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, Allen could be a tremendous red zone threat for the Badgers, an area he thrived in with Chase Wolf throwing to him in the final practice of the spring. 

I still think Chimere Dike and Skyler Bell are the top two entering the fall, but Allen is another talented pass catcher that should see the field in 2022. Allen's size makes him a plus blocker and a deep threat, so it will be fun to see if he can become the No. 3 receiving option for the Badgers or push Bell for the No. 2 role. 

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