Covington plays just 15.1 minutes per game for the Badgers, but coaches and teammates know how valuable she is to UW’s success.[/media-credit]When a player has served as a captain in two of her three years of play, it becomes clear that the player is a respected team leader.Such is the case with Wisconsin women’s basketball forward Anya Covington, who has seen extra playing time recently in the absence of senior Tara Steinbauer. Although not usually the first name in the box score, Covington, who has acted as a captain during both her sophomore and junior years, is the epitome of a leader both on and off the hardwood.“She’s always been a leader, she’s a natural born leader,” head coach Lisa Stone said. “She is really living the life of a leader … confident, mature. You think about people that have grown into maturation, she’s had it. She’s coming into her own as a basketball player, but as a human being, she’s special.”Although Covington has certainly made an impact on the court, her achievements off the court are equally impressive. A member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, the Student-Athletes Equally Supporting others and a representative on the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Issues Committee, it comes as no surprise that the junior has been voted a captain by her teammates two of her first three years.It is difficult to find a better example of a well-rounded and active student-athlete than Covington, but the Edwardsville, Ill. native has always felt comfortable in the spotlight.“I just have a heart for student-athletes and our issues that we’re going through, and just furthering our opportunities,” Covington said. “I’ve been doing it since middle school, and all these committees and boards and stuff, so it’s just natural to do it now.”Covington manages to handle all these activities not as a player who rides the bench, but rather one who serves a key role for the Badgers. Appearing in every game this season, the forward has been the third and often used post option behind seniors Lin Zastrow and Steinbauer all year.However, since Steinbauer suffered a career-ending ACL tear in the closing weeks of the season, Covington has started Wisconsin’s last two games. Forced to fill Steinbauer’s tremendous presence on the court during the most important weeks of the season, Covington’s play in the Big Ten Tournament could play a crucial role in the team’s success. “Anya’s done a really good job stepping in, and we really need her to step in big time now,” Stone said. “We’re planning on playing four games in four days, and her ability to step in and help out and stay fresh and stay out of foul trouble is going to be huge for us.”A physical player who known for her strong presence in the paint, Covington’s ability to collect rebounds may be the most valuable aspect of her game. Co-leading the Badgers in rebounds in a tough loss of Ohio State Sunday, the junior averages just under four rebounds per game in only 15.1 minutes per contest.With three career double-doubles, including one this season, Covington has proved that she has the ability on both sides of the glass to be a reliable post player. Earning valuable experience in her first two years, coaches and players insist that there is no better player to step in for Steinbauer at this crucial point in the season.“She’s been here for the last three years ready to play,” senior guard Emily Neal said. “…It was really sad for Tara, but it’s a great opportunity for Anya to come in, and she was definitely ready for it.”The junior forward could probably serve a starting role for other Big Ten teams, but UW’s depth and talent at the forward positions have kept Covington coming off the bench. Averaging 4.1 points per game this season and 5.1 points per game last season, Covington’s scoring has been restrained by her playing time.Shooting nearly 50 percent from the field over her career, the junior doesn’t look at herself as a backup to Zastrow and Steinbauer. In a way that exudes the team-first approach of the Badgers, Covington sees herself as working together with the senior standouts rather than acting as a backup to them.“I was told my freshman year I had to come here and pay my dues, so I mean that’s basically what’s going on,” Covington said. “It’s [Zastrow and Steinbauer’s] senior year, one of them goes down, I just step in. I don’t look at it as playing under their shadow. We’ve been playing together for the past three years, and it’s been fun.”Wisconsin’s three leading scorers this year in Zastrow, Steinbauer and Alyssa Karel are all seniors, but there is no question who will primarily fill the void left by those players. Equipped with the character and confidence that every coach looks in their players, no word seems to better describe Covington than “leader.”“It’s going to be tough next year with Lin and Tara both gone, but at the same time [Covington] has shown that she’s ready to step up,” Neal said.
Jones leads the team in rushing yards this season at 314 while averaging 4.2 yards per carry, a healthy improvement from the abysmal 1.9 mark he had last year. Anything would be an improvement from Jones’ play in 2018, which could be attributed to a new approach. Leonard Williams Against the New England Patriots, Darnold could barely complete a pass, and his poor performance was further underscored by the fact that the TV crew picked him up saying he was “seeing ghosts” in the game. Darnold’s play was similarly poor Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He threw for just 218 yards and three interceptions, emerging from the game with a sprained thumb. Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster matches his big personality with his on-the-field play. A big-bodied receiver, Smith-Schuster uses his strength to bully defenders and come down with physical catches. Coming off a 1,400-yard receiving year and the departure of Antonio Brown, Smith-Schuster appeared to be poised for another productive year. The season has turned out to be a big question mark for Darnold thus far, as he has already suffered three injuries. Perhaps most unfortunate, Darnold suffered from strep throat and mononucleosis before his Week 2 contest against the Cleveland Browns and was out through Week 5 due to an enlarged spleen. Darnold came back strong for Week 6, leading the Jets to their first and only win of the season over the Dallas Cowboys while putting up over 300 yards and two touchdowns. The next two games were a different story, however. Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II has been a pleasant surprise this season. After failing to even crack the gameday 46-man roster, Jones was a healthy scratch in multiple games last season despite being a second round pick. It’s probably too early to grade Darnold’s performance this season given that he’s missed half of it, but if he can play like he did against the Cowboys, he’ll have a bright future. The former Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year was listed as a first-team alternate for the 2017 Pro Bowl but has not lived up to his draft hype since then. Williams has recorded just eight solo tackles through the first seven contests of 2019, but he’ll hope to experience better luck with the 2-6 Giants than he did with the 1-6 Jets in a new chapter of his football career. While it seemed as though Jones was just a quick-to-accelerate speed back who didn’t pan out, the terrible competition in the Buccaneers backfield finally allowed him to get touches. The Jets’ second-year quarterback Sam Darnold headlines a group of USC alumni that hoped to break out in their second season. Darnold entered the season with high expectations due to the improved core around him, namely star running back Le’Veon Bell and new offensive-minded head coach Adam Gase. Ronald Jones II Former Jets defensive end Leonard Williams will now play for MetLife Stadium’s other tenant, the New York Giants. Williams was traded to the Giants Monday in exchange for a 2020 third-round pick and a 2021 fifth-round pick. 2009 John McKay Award winner Devon Kennard has been a dominant presence for the Detroit Lions this season as the team looks to remain competitive within the NFC North. The former fifth-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft has three sacks this season and is tied for fourth among linebackers with two fumble recoveries, including one that was returned for a touchdown in the Lions’ last game. Although Detroit’s playoff hopes are slim in a competitive division, Kennard could be bound for a Pro Bowl if he continues his impressive play this season. Former USC wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster had a great 2018 season for the Pittsburgh Steelers but has not been as productive this year. (Daily Trojan file photo) Sam Darnold JuJu Smith-Schuster However, after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suffered a season-ending elbow injury in Week 1, Smith-Schuster’s production fell off a cliff. With just 443 yards and three touchdowns in seven starts, it’s been a bit of a down year for the typically-dominant USC product. Head coach Bruce Arians is an offensive mastermind who should allow Jones to further develop the talent he flashed during his time at USC. From former Rose Bowl MVP Sam Darnold to former Biletnikoff award candidate JuJu Smith-Schuster, there is no shortage of Trojan talent in the NFL this season. Not only are these USC alumni great players, but they are explosive, exciting athletes who genuinely make the game more entertaining. Here’s how these Trojan alumni have stacked up through the first eight weeks of NFL competition. Devon Kennard