2013 Wisconsin Preview – Offense

Posted May 16, 2013

CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Wisconsin Badger Offense

Wisconsin Badgers

Preview 2013 - Offense

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What You Need To Know: No, Wisconsin isn't going to start running the Utah State read-option attack, and no, it's not going to go into five-wide formations are start winging the ball all over the yard. New offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig knows how to run a pro-style offense from his time at San Diego State, and he has a good base of players to do what Wisconsin normally does. It all starts up front with yet another massive line that should be fine in time, but was a disappointment last year despite pacing the way for over 3,300 yards of rushing offense. Montee Ball is gone, but the combination of James White and Melvin Gordon should pick up the rushing slack, while the return of Jared Abbrederis and tight end Jacob Pedersen provides two veteran targets for one of the five quarterback options to throw to. Joel Stave is the likely No. 1, but Curt Phillips and JUCO transfer Tanner McEvoy will be deep in the hunt for the starting gig.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Joel Stave
70-119, 1,104 yds, 6 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: James White
125 carries, 806 yds, 12 TD
Receiving: Jared Abbrederis
49 catches, 837 yds, 5 TD

Star of the offense: Senior RB James White
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore WR Jordan Fredrick
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman C Dan Voltz
Best pro prospect: Senior OT Ryan Groy
Top three all-star candidates: 1) White, 2) Groy, 3) WR Jared Abbrederis
Strength of the offense: Running Game, Quarterback Options
Weakness of the offense: No. 2 Wide Receiver, O Line Depth


Good luck figuring out the Badger quarterback situation. Sophomore Joel Stave surprised and turned out to be a very strong, very effective passer after stepping into the starting spot in the fourth game of the season, but just when it seemed like he was about to blossom into the gig, he suffered a broken collarbone against Michigan State – after going 9-of-11 for 127 yards and a score in the game – and was out for the year. At 6-5 and 219 pounds he has great size, a live arm, and just enough mobility to move around well in the pocket. The former walk-on has good poise, but he has to be more accurate after completing 59% of his passes for 1,104 yards and six scores and three picks.

If it's not Stave, it'll be 6-3, 214-pound senior Curt Phillips, a hard-luck veteran who came to Madison with a world of promise, but he hasn't had any luck whatsoever with knee injuries. The 2007 Tennessee Player of the Year threw for 5,418 yards in high school along with 3,788 rushing yards and 64 touchdowns, and last year he finally got a chance in the limelight, stepping in for an injured Stave and delivering a Big Ten championship and doing a decent job in the Rose Bowl up until a crippling late interception. On the year he complete 57% of his passes for 540 yards with five scores and two picks, and despite the knee problems, he's a surprisingly good runner taking off for 68 yards against Indiana and 64 against Stanford.

It just didn't work. 6-3, 223-pound senior Danny O'Brien was supposed to come in from Maryland and be a solid passer for the Badger attack, but he just couldn't provide a spark. His numbers weren't that bad, completing 61% of his throws for 523 yards and three touchdowns with a pick, but the offense didn't move when he was under center and he couldn't make big things happen. He's clearly out of the starting mix and won't be anything more than an emergency backup. Fighting with O'Brien for a backup role is redshirt freshman Bart Houston, a 6-4, 217-pound star recruit last year who'll be the future of the position with tremendous passing ability and great leadership skills.

Watch Out For … JUCO transfer Tanner McEvoy. As if the Badger quarterback situation wasn't screwed up enough, in comes McEvoy, who'll get every shot at the starting job once he hits campus. The 6-6, 215-pounder from Arizona Western College and 2010 New Jersey Offensive Player of the Year started out his career at South Carolina before transferring, and he can do it all. Not just a big bomber, he ran for close to 1,200 yards as a high school senior with tremendous speed and quickness. Just a sophomore, he'll be in the hunt for the next few seasons.
Strength: Options. Wisconsin has five legitimate Big Ten starting quarterbacks to play around with. The coaching staff has a good situation on its hands with so many good players to compete for the job.
Weakness: That one guy. Just when it seems like there's some separation between Stave and Phillips and the rest of the pack, McEvoy will enter the equation. In the first year of a new coaching staff it would be nice to have one sure-thing starter to settle everything down, but he hasn't emerged yet.
Outlook: The Badgers will be more than fine once the coaches decide on the definitive starter. Stave is the likely No. 1 with Phillips the backup, but McEvoy could go lights out this summer and grab the job. The others are clearly emergency options, but overall, it's a terrific situation.
Unit Rating: 7.5

Running Backs

Who's next? Wisconsin's starting running back is among the premier jobs in college football, and senior James White is more than ready to be the Next Big Thing. The 5-10, 197-pound senior tore of 1,052 yards and 14 touchdowns as a freshman, and followed it up with a nice 713-yard, six touchdown sophomore campaign and an interesting 806-yard, 12 touchdown junior season being used as a Wildcat quarterback at times as well as a dangerous receiver. While he doesn't quite have Montee Ball's balance or cutting ability, he has better raw speed and athleticism, averaging 6.4 yards per carry and 16.5 yards per catch, making eight grabs for 132 yards and a score while proving to be close to unstoppable when lining up under center. He destroyed Nebraska in the Big Ten championship with 109 yards and four touchdowns, and ran for 175 yards and three scores against Minnesota. Expect more of the same now that he'll get a bulk of the carries.

6-1, 206-pound sophomore Melvin Gordon earned Wisconsin Gatorade Player of the Year honors in 2010, and had the former coaching staff giddy about the possibilities of a bigger back with a terrific combination of speed and power. He became a bigger part of the rotation last year rushing for 621 yards and two scores, highlighted by a 216-yard performance in the Big Ten championship, and now he needs to be ready to handle the ball at least 150 times after averaging a whopping ten yards per carry.

6-2, 210-pound junior Jeffrey Lewis hasn't gotten much work with just 13 yards on four carries last season, but he's a big, talented back with lots and lots of tread still left on the tires. He has the potential to bring more power to the ground attack.

Is Derek Watt going to work more as a linebacker or a fullback? The brother of J.J. Watt got in a couple of carries and made a few catches making 12 grabs for 150 yards, but mostly the 6-2, 227-pounder is a blaster of a hitter making 13 stops as a special teamer and part-time defender. He's not massive, but he can hit. If he spend more time on defense, sophomore Derek Straus is a decent rushing option who could eventually find a short-yardage role.

Watch Out For … Corey Clement, the star recruit of the 2013 class with 5-11, 210-pound size and an outstanding high school résumé with close to 5,000 rushing yards and 69 scores over the last two years for his New Jersey team. A workhorse with a nose for the goal line, he's a perfect fit for the Badger attack.
Strength: It's Wisconsin. The new coaching staff isn't going to tinker with the formula. The Badgers are going to run for more than 3,000 yards and be among the most effective rushing teams in college football. White and Gordon have the talent to be a devastating 1-2 combination.
Weakness: Montee Ball. Okay, fine, it's Wisconsin and there are always more Brian Calhoun/P.J. Hill/John Clay star backs ready to rise up, but Ball was different. Ron Dayne will always be the program's signature star, but Ball had a special, Hall of Fame-caliber career with 5.140 yards and 77 rushing scores. It's never a plus to lose a back who ran for close to 2,000 yards two years in a row.
Outlook: Don't expect any changes. Gary Andersen knows how to get a ground game working, but there could be more lightning than the usual thunder. White and Gordon will each run for 1,000 yards, and there's more talent waiting in the wings.
Unit Rating: 9


This isn't an exaggeration in any way – there might not be more valuable player in the Big Ten than senior Jared Abbrederis, mainly because the other targets might not be there. He might have only caught 49 passes for 837 yards and a score – averaging 17.1 yards per try – but when he was out, the passing game had absolutely nothing. He caught one pass for 26 yards against Oregon State, got knocked out of the game, and the Badger offense died with the Beavers loading up everyone to stop the run. If nothing else, Abbrederis is a deep threat who draws away safety attention, but he's also a big-play performer going on a stretch of three 100-yard games in a row after getting hurt and proving to be a steady producer the rest of the way. He's only 6-2 and 188 pounds, but he's tough, athletic and fast. The former walk-on was an all-star high school quarterback and track star setting the Wisconsin state record in the 110-meter high hurdles while winning the state title in the 300-meter hurdles.

Sophomore Jordan Fredrick has to step up and be more than just a No. 2 target. The 6-2, 215-pound Madison product only caught 17 passes for 196 yards on the season, but his first touchdown grab came in the Rose Bowl. Even though he didn't do much – good for around a catch a game – he was still the third-leading receiver. A good blocker, he's tough and physical, and he can also move.

Fredrick will work in a rotation with junior Kenzel Doe, a 5-8, 172-pound speedster who caught 16 passes for 121 yards and ran twice for 11 more. Extremely quick, he's a dangerous punt returner taking one for a key score against Utah State. Also in the hunt for time in the rotation is sophomore Reggie Love, a 6-3, 206-pound talent who only caught one pass for 19 yards in his true freshman season, but has the size and upside to grow into a No. 1 target when Abbrederis is done.

Senior tight end Jacob Pedersen is in a salary drive. The next Badger at the position to go off to the NFL, he's not massive at 6-4 and 237 pounds, but he can block and he's great at finding his way down the seam catching 27 passes for 355 yards and four scores. He has the athleticism and the hands to make the tough catch, and he's a solid route runner who works his way open on third downs. He'll be backed up once again by 6-4, 256-pound senior Brian Wozniak, a big blocker who caught nine passes for 94 yards, but does most of his work for the ground game and on special teams.

Watch Out For … Rob Wheelwright, who might be too good to keep off the field early on. The Columbus native was snagged away from Ohio State and he could become the answer the offense needs. He's not huge at just 6-1 and 179 pounds, but he's smart, tough and is great at working his way open.
Strength: The running game. It's not like the Badger receivers have to be responsible for ten catches a game. It would be nice, but that's not their role. They have to make the third down catch, block, and occasionally catch defenses napping by making the big play. The ground attack will take care of the rest.
Weakness: The No. 2 wide receiver. Abbrederis is an All-Big Ten talent and Pedersen will be earning an NFL paycheck next year at this time, but the Badgers need someone else to help the cause. When Abbrederis was banged up or was taken away, no one else was able to make defenses pay. Fredrick, Doe and Love have to take advantage of the lack of attention.
Outlook: Abbrederis and Pedersen toyed with the idea of leaving early, which would've been an utter disaster for the Badger attack, but their return gives the passing game a few nice veterans to rely on. How good the offense is depends on the emergence of other options. The opportunities are there for the taking.
Unit Rating: 6.5

Offensive Line

The line needs to undergo some rebuilding and retooling, but there are some good veterans to work around starting with senior Ryan Groy, who spent most of last year at left guard but started against Minnesota and Michigan State at left tackle. The 6-5, 318-pounder is a big, versatile blocker who looked like a possible center to start out his career after showing up in Madison as a massive fullback. He bulked up in a huge way but he still has the athleticism to be a nice pass protector on the outside. With Groy's move one slot over, junior Dallas Lewallen will move in at left guard after seeing a little bit of time over the last few years. A decent recruit, the 6-6, 309-pounder was originally considered a tackle, but he's needed more at guard.

6-8, 342-pound junior Rob Havenstein went coast-to-coast as the starting right tackle, joining first-round draft pick Travis Frederick as the only Badger linemen to start all 14 games in the same spot. Extremely big and tough to get around, he's not lightning fast and can be beaten by the craftier speed rushers, but he's imposing and strong in all phases. He'll be joined again on the right side by junior guard Kyle Costigan, a former defensive lineman who grew into the starting spot early on last season after suffering a foot injury at the end of 2011. While he was a bit raw, he grew into the job and turned into a blaster of a run blocker. One of the team's strongest players, the 6-4, 313-pounder won't have any problems generating a push.

Trying to replace the new Dallas Cowboy, Travis Frederick, in the middle is redshirt freshman Dan Voltz, and he's going to be another good on. The 6-4, 301-pounder was originally considered a top guard, but the big-time recruit hit the weights a bit over his redshirt season and showed off all-star potential this offseason at center. Big, quick and athletic, he has all the tools to be fantastic.

Watch Out For … Jackson Keeler, a tackle prospect who'll come to school at 6-7 and 290 pounds and quickly grow into a 315-pound blaster. Coming from the same Barrrington, Illinois high school as Dan Voltz, Keeler isn't the same talent, but he's a huge athlete who fits the Badger mold.
Strength: Massive size. As always, the Wisconsin offensive line can blot out the sun. Everyone is 6-4 or taller and anyone under 310 pounds is a lightweight. As always, there will be times when the raw bulk takes over and dominates.
Weakness: The reputation. The Badgers couldn't get by on reputation early on last year up front, and the results were disastrous. The running game ended up being fine, but there were big problems in key moments in pass protection. This year's line doesn't have the big name stars of the previous seasons, and there appears to be a talent drop.
Outlook: The line will be fine. Voltz is a budding star, Groy will play at the next level and the guard should be steadier. The depth is a big problem and it'll be a disaster if injuries strike early on, but at worst, the next man up is probably around 6-5 and 320.
Unit Rating: 8

- 2013 Wisconsin Preview | 2013 Wisconsin Offense
- 2013 Wisconsin Defense | 2013 Wisconsin Depth Chart