JEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photoFollowing UW?s 21-17 loss in the Outback Bowl, UW first team, all-Big Ten cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu said he would need to receive a fairly high grade from the NFL?s underclassman scouting services if he were to forego his senior season and enter the NFL draft.?I think I would be selling myself short if I didn?t come back, if I was graded anything less than the first couple rounds,? Ikegwuonu said. ?I think my coaches and my teammates and people around me that care about me told me I?d be selling myself short if I didn?t have confidence in my abilities.?Ikegwuonu must have liked what he heard from the NFL, because the junior decided to make himself eligible for the draft in early January.In a very brief statement issued by the UW Athletic Communications office, head coach Bret Bielema acknowledged the situation.?I can confirm that Jack Ikegwuonu, who just completed his fourth year with our program, has informed me that he will forgo his senior year and make himself available for the 2008 National Football League Draft,?Bielema said in the statement.Ikegwuonu?s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, did not return requests for comment.A Madison native, Ikegwuonu spent 2004 ? his first year on campus ? as a redshirt in the program. Ikegwuonu started his career off fast as a second-year freshman, earning first-team freshman All-American honors from The Sporting News, and tying for the team lead in interceptions with three.As a full-time starter the following season, Ikegwuonu was named first-team All-Big Ten by the conference coaches after intercepting two passes and registering 50 tackles.Ikegwuonu?s numbers fell sharply in 2007 (one interception, 24 tackles), in large part because opposing offenses tended to not even throw in his direction. Despite the statistical drop-off, Ikegwuonu was a consensus all-conference selection by both the coaches and media.Ikegwuonu?s early departure will leave the Wisconsin cornerback position almost completely up for grabs when spring practice opens in March. Both Allen Langford and Aaron Henry ? corners who started opposite Ikegwuonu for the regular season ? suffered serious knee injuries late in the year, and how much, if any, they will play next fall is still unknown. Sophomore Josh Nettles would seem to have the inside track on one of the starting spots, and redshirt freshmen Mario Goins and Niles Brinkley could both challenge for time as well.Based on his previous comments regarding where he would need to be drafted to leave school early and numerous draft analyses done by close talent evaluators, Ikegwuonu is likely a second or third-round draft prospect.Coaching staff loses twoIn addition to reshuffling his defensive backfield, Bielema will also have some shuffling to do with his coaching staff.Following the 21-17 defeat in the Outback Bowl, offensive line coach Bob Palcic left UW to take the same position under newly-hired UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel.Bielema didn?t wait long to fill Palcic?s position, promoting former tight ends coach Bob Bostad to the newly vacated post.Following a season in which the UW defense failed to live up to preseason expectations, Bielema relieved defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz of his duties and promoted co-defensive coordinator, linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator Dave Doeren. Hankwitz quickly landed on his feet, signing on for the same capacity at Northwestern.Returning eight starters from a defense ranked third in the nation both in points and yards allowed, the Badgers plummeted to 35th and 38th, respectively, in 2007. The defense also struggled mightily to defend spread offenses, an emerging tactic across the conference.“Dave Doeren and Bob Bostad have earned these promotions through hard work and their ability to handle additional responsibilities with our program,” Bielema said in an Athletic Communications release. “I hired them both originally with the thought that they could both eventually move into these new positions at some point, so I’m pleased that is happening.?Chryst staying putFor the second consecutive year, offensive coordinator Paul Chryst was rumored to be leaving Wisconsin.In the days following the Outback Bowl, there were whispers that Chryst would move to Purdue to become offensive coordinator and head coach in waiting.That move never came to fruition, and Chryst stayed put.Last winter, Chryst was pursued by the Dallas Cowboys to become their quarterbacks coach. Chryst eventually withdrew from consideration and signed a five-year, $1.75 million extension with UW.
They happened five months and more than 6,000 miles apart.First, there was the late March press conference at the Galen Center in Los Angeles where first-team All-Pac-10 center Nikola Vucevic declared he was skipping his senior season at USC to enter the NBA draft.Just last week, in a nondescript gymnasium outside Sao Paulo, star senior guard Jio Fontan landed awkwardly after being hit on a drive to the basket late in the first half of USC’s preseason game against a Brazilian professional team, tearing a ligament in his left knee and ending his season before it started.USC’s 2011-2012 basketball season doesn’t tip off until mid-November, yet its two defining moments have already taken place.The Trojans record is still unblemished at 0-0, but it feels like they’ve already lost so much.Now, let’s spare the doom and gloom and refrain from calling this a lost season for USC basketball.It is still only August and the Trojans have some intriguing young talent.USC’s group of freshmen and transfers could end up gelling very well together.A return trip to the NCAA tournament isn’t out of the question.The season that will be, however, is overshadowed by what could have been.With Vucevic and Fontan in the lineup alongside guard Maurice Jones, the Trojans would have returned their top three scorers from a season ago.Instead, USC now only boasts two players on its roster that scored in a game for the Trojans last year — Jones and sophomore forward Garrett Jackson.Newcomers Aaron Fuller and Dewayne Dedmon would have been expected to fill their roles solidly, not spectacularly.Now, they will be counted on to shoulder a good portion of the offensive load.The leftover effects of the O.J. Mayo scandal won’t help the team cope with the losses of Vucevic and Fontan, either.“Right now, this third year, especially with Jio getting hurt, that’s when you get hit with the remnant of these sanctions where we lost two recruiting classes,” USC coach Kevin O’Neill said. “We have a bunch of inexperienced guys that have never played. They’re going to get a lot of experience early and hopefully they respond well and turn themselves into a really good postseason team.”This could have been a banner season for recently rejuvenated USC basketball.After making only six NCAA tournament appearances from 1962 to 2000, the Trojans have qualified six times in the last 11 seasons.USC’s runs to the Elite Eight in 2001 and the Sweet 16 in 2007 marked the first time the program had made it past the second round of the Big Dance since 1954.“Our only goal is to make the NCAA tournament and try to win the Pac-12 title,” O’Neill said. “Those are our goals and I don’t think we should change those goals.”Fontan’s injury was an especially cruel blow to the Trojans, with his teammates forced to watch their leader stretchered off the floor.“In my career, I’ve never felt worse for a player than I feel for him,” O’Neill said. “The first two and a half games [of the Brazil trip], he was playing at a first-round-NBA-draft-pick level. I feel bad for him that way and bad for our team that he can’t be there to lead us and do all the things that a guy of his caliber would do.”Freshman Alexis Moore, from Long Beach Poly High, will be tasked with stepping into Fontan’s spot in the starting lineup.“He’s going to have to be a guy that doesn’t play like a freshman,” O’Neill said. “And even then, it’s going to be very difficult for a guy his age to step into his role that requires a ton of leadership, especially for what is a very young and inexperienced team now.”The schedule will do the Trojans no favors, either.With non-conference games against Kansas, San Diego State and Georgia, a potential tournament date with North Carolina in Las Vegas and a challenging Pac-12 slate, USC’s young players will be tested early and often.This season, however, will not make or break USC basketball.The gains the Trojans have made over the last decade have been substantial. The program weathered the storm of NCAA sanctions while enjoying its greatest run of success in recent history.The future remains bright for the Trojans — a talented and youthful roster, an experienced head coach and a recruiting foothold in the Southern California basketball market are all long-term assets.The short term gains of the 2011-2012 year, however, don’t look nearly as promising as how they were projected six months ago. “Sellin’ the Sizzle” runs Wednesdays. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or email Jonathan at [email protected]