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2008 Opponent Preview: Wisconsin

Wisconsin Offense:
QBs
For the second year in a row, the Badgers must replace their starting QB. Allan Evridge was the backup to Tyler Donovan last year, but got very little game experience. He was originally a Kansas State Wildcat who transferred to Wisconsin after his redshirt freshman year, in which he actually got some pretty significant playing time. Now Evridge is the man, and he will use his fifth year to lead Wisconsin. Backing him up is junior Dustin Shearer, who has gotten almost no playing time in his first two years. Incoming freshman Curt Phillips will add depth, along with a couple guys expected to ride pine.

Statistics:
Wisconsin Quarterbacks Passing 2007
Name
Comp
Att
%
Yds
TD
Int
Yds/Att
Tyler Donovan
193
333
57.96
2607
17
11
7.83
Allan Evridge
5
12
41.67
66
0
0
5.50
Wisconsin Quarterbacks Rushing 2007
Name
Att
Yds
TD
Yds/Att
Tyler Donovan
112
277
5
2.47
Allan Evridge
2
-3
0
-1.50

Analysis:
One of the reasons Donovan was favored to win the job over Evridge last year was his superior mobility. Evridge will not be expected to run the ball like Donovan (sometimes) did, nor will he be as elusive in the pocket. Evridge is essentially an unknown, as he hasn't played in three years, never in this system. He will likely be the standard Wisconsin caretaker-as-QB that is expected to do little other than throw on third down and not turn it over.

RBs
RS Junior PJ Hill is a fatty, who bulldozes rather than eluding tacklers. He was injured for much of last year, allowing other players to get a chance to shine. Sophomore Zach Brown finished second on the team in yardage, but expect several other players to be in the mix, including redshirt freshman John Clay (a faster bruiser, he was injured last year) and junior Lance Smith, who may be the most talented of the backups.

Statistics:
Wisconsin Running Backs Rushing 2007
Name
Att
Yds
TD
Yds/Att
PJ Hill
233
1212
14
5.20
Zach Brown
119
568
5
4.77
Lance Smith
71
429
3
6.04
Chris Pressley
8
56
1
7.00
Bill Rentmeester
9
39
1
4.33
Wisconsin Running Backs Receiving 2007
Name
Att
Yds
TD
Yds/Att
PJ Hill
14
89
1
6.36
Zach Brown
4
23
0
5.75
Chris Pressley
2
8
1
4.00
Lance Smith
1
6
0
6.00

Analysis:
Wisconsin's offense will always be based upon the run game (well, maybe I shouldn't say "always" since the same could be said of Minnesota until the past year), and they have a variety of options in the backfield. From the bowling ball PJ Hill, to a little speedster like Lance Smith, there are distinct styles that bring their own strengths. With a lot of experience (the Badgers didn't graduate a single RB after last year), this should be a strong group. If Hill can remain healthy, he should be near the top of the Big Ten in rushing yardage.

Receivers:
Official White Guy Luke Swan is gone, as is Paul Hubbard. The wideouts will be led by Kyle Jefferson, a true sophomore who was third on the team in receiving yards last year, and David Gilreath. As a true freshman last year, Gilreath was not particularly involved in the passing game, but he did lead the team in all-purpose returns. He is slightly undersized (especially when compared to the 6-5 Hubbard), but speedy. A host of sophomores will be backing them up, including Nick Toon (OK, he's actually a redshirt freshman, but seriously, look at this class of receivers), Isaac Anderson, and Daven Jones. Non-sophomores include slight junior Xavier Harris, who had 2 receptions last year. The tight end was featured prominently in the passing game last year, and with the #1 and #4 receivers for the Badgers in '07 both returning, it should be more of the same this year. Senior Travis Beckum should be 1st-team All-conference, and junior Garrett Graham is a good receiver as well.

Statistics:
Wisconsin Receivers 2007
Name
Rec
Yds
TD
Yds/Rec
Travis Beckum (TE)
75
982
6
13.09
Luke Swan
25
451
2
18.04
Kyle Jefferson
26
412
2
15.85
Garrett Graham (TE)
30
328
4
10.93
Paul Hubbard
14
305
0
21.79
Xavier Harris
2
30
0
15.00
David Gilreath
1
10
0
10.00
Marcus Randle El
1
9
0
9.00
Daven Jones
1
9
0
9.00
Sean Lewis (TE)
1
7
0
7.00
Andy Crooks (TE)
1
4
0
4.00
Wisconsin Receivers Rushing 2007
Name
Att
Yds
TD
Yds/Att
David Gilreath
7
15
0
6.14
Kyle Jefferson
2
11
0
5.35
Travis Beckum (TE)
4
6
0
5.00

Analysis:
The tight ends are a HUGE part of this passing game. There are lots of TE screens and even a couple designed runs for Beckum on end-arounds. With few proven WRs returning, expect Beckum and Graham to be an even larger part of this offense than they were last year (When Beckum got three times as many catches as the top WR). Wisconsin may have trouble stretching the field unless some of the young receivers who didn't get a ton of catches last year are able to develop into legitimate threats. Still, the passing game here is definitely secondary to the run. If Beckum were to get injured, Wisconsin could be screwed as far as passing.

Line:
Wisconsin is known for its offensive lines, and their ability to push defenders out of the way. At left tackle, redshirt sophomore Gabe Carimi returns. He started every game last year as a redshirt freshman. Andy Kemp at left guard is a senior who has been starting for two year (though ast year he had to played both guard positions in different games). Center John Moffitt is new to the position, but he did start several games last year as a redshirt freshman at the left guard position. Senior right guard Craig Urbik has started for three years, at right tackle his redshirt freshman year, right guard in 2006, and both last year (though he played primarily at guard). Right tackle Eric VanderHeuvel has also been starting for 2 years at right tackle, though the senior was injured for three games last year. Like usual, Wisconsin manages to play an experienced offensive line.

Analysis:
With four and a half returning starters, three of them seniors, the Wisconsin offensive line is poised to be a strong point in the 2008 team. They will be accustomed to working together, and should be able to pave the way for the Badger run game. They should also do a god job protecting Allan Evridge, which is a plus for Wisconsin as he isn't as mobile as his predecessor.

Offensive Analysis:
Wisconsin will run the ball a lot and pass when necessary. This can be said for pretty much every year, but especially in 2008, when they have a very strong offensive line, several returning runners (not losing any from 2007), and question marks at quarterback and receiver. When they do pass the ball, the tight ends will be featured prominently. This should be a very good offense based solely on the returning talent.

Wisconsin Defense:

Defensive Line:
Matt Shaughnessy, who has been at Wisconsin since dinosaurs roamed the earth, returns for one last season at defensive end. The senior has been all-conference second team the past two years. Defensive tackles Jason Chapman and Mike Newkirk are both seniors who return as starters. They are both a little undersized, with Newkirk seeming more like a defensive end at 260 pounds. At the final position, the second defensive end is sophomore Kirk DeCremer. The pass-rusher was injured and missed spring practice. Despite not starting for most of last year, he led the team in sacks. The backups are moderately inexperienced, which makes sense when you consider how seasoned most of the starters are. Jason Stehl was the only one to accumulate stats last year, while O'Brien Schofield did start the Outback Bowl last year.

Statistics:
Wisconsin Defensive Line 2007
Name
Tackle
TFL
Sacks
Matt Shaughnessy
60
18
4
Nick Hayden
48
8.5
4.5
Mike Newkirk
41
10.5
1
Kirk DeCremer
30
9
5.5
Jason Chapman
26
2.5
2
Jeff Stehl
9
0
0
Brandon Kelly
5
0.5
0
Kurt Ware
12
0
0

Analysis:
A veteran unit, with not a ton proven behind it. Shaughnessy and DeCremer make a very strong DE tandem, while Newkirk and Chapman are adequate in the middle. Wisconsin should have a pretty good pass rush, and be above average against the run. I question how well they'll do with their starters out. Those slated for backup duty this year had 9 tackles between them last year, all coming from Jeff Stehl.

Linebackers:
The outside linebackers, Jonathan Casillas (weakside) and DeAndre Levy (strongside) are both seniors who have started every game for the past two years. Casillas is speedy, and he also has good size. Levy is a strong, stout player, with decent height, but not the speed of Casillas. In the middle, redshirt junior Elijah Hodge returns after starting last year (though he missed a couple games with an injury). The backups are generally fairly young, except for junior Jaevery McFadden. Culmer St. Jean and Blake Sorensen got some PT last year.

Statistics:
Wisconsin Linebackers 2007
Name
Tackle
TFL
Sack
Jonathan Casillas
96
9
1
Deandre Levy
70
10
3
Elijah Hodge
67
7.5
0
Culmer St. Jean
17
0.5
0
Blake Sorensen
14
0
0
Jaevery McFadden
13
0.5
0
O'Brien Schofield
8
0
0
Ryan Flasch
7
0
0
Casey Hogan
7
0
0
Steven Johnson
2
0
0
Erik Prather
1
0
0

Analysis:
Behind the starters, there is very little proven depth for Wisconsin. The starters are pretty good, though, and with three seniors returning, they should be a very formidable unit. Casillas has the speed to track running plays sideline-to-sideline, and that could be a damper on Michigan's run game.

Defensive Backs:
Allen Langford is the lone senior in the defensive backfield, and he will be a 4 year starter who took over during his redshirt freshman season, and missed a couple games last year with injury. He will now be the #1 corner with Jack Ikegwuonu leaving a year early for the NFL draft. Starting opposite Langford will be true sophomore Aaron Henry. The backups are Niles Brinkley, Mario Goins, and Josh Nettles. At safety, both Aubrey Pleasant and Shane Carter started every game last year as sophomores. Carter was a big playmaker, leading the conference in picks.

Statistics:
Wisconsin Defensive Backs 2007
Name
Tackle
TFL
Sack
Int
Shane Carter
56
0
0
7
Aubrey Pleasant
47
3
2
0
Aaron Henry
38
3.5
0
1
Ben Strickland
35
0
0
1
Allen Langford
33
1
0
1
Jack Ikegwuonu
24
0
0
1
Kim Royston
14
0
0
0
Josh Nettles
9
0
0
1
Jay Valai
4
1
0
0
William Hartmann
1
0
0
0

Analysis:
Again, the Badgers are experienced at a position. Ikegwuonu, had he returned, would have made this a very strong secondary, After a great 2006, he went pro after a subpar '07. The Badgers shouldn't be severely deficient in any facet. This looks to be another strong group. The one worry I have about this secondary is last year's performance. Though they were stellar in 2006, it was a poor year (by Bret Bielema standards) in 2007. Minus 1 NFL player, how much can they improve.

Defensive Analysis:
Wisconsin has a very very strong defense. They have returning starters at all but one position in each of the three units, and will be starting 6 seniors. They have quickness, but I wonder whether they will be that strong against a power run game.

Special Teams:

Wisconsin has a new kicker in redshirt freshman Phillip Welch. If he doesn't pan out, Matt Fischer will handle the duties. At punter, the Badgers are going to count on a kid named Brad. Ken DeBauche's brother is a redshirt freshman, or incoming freshman Nortman could take the duties.

Analysis:
Wisconsin's return game should be good in the hands of David Gilreath, but the kicking game will be a huge questino mark going into the season. This may be a key weakness for Wisconsin.

Overall Analysis:
As long as Allan Evridge doesn't suck to Anthony Morellian proportions, the Badgers should be a damn good team next year. they have strong lines, a ton of returning starters on defense, and a stable of experienced (but young) running backs. Looking at this, I don't see how they could be considered anything less than second best in the conference - though the three game stretch at Michigan, home to Ohio State and Penn State may have something to do with it.

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“2008 Opponent Preview: Wisconsin”