Preview 2007 - Offense
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What you need to know: The offense wasn't always pretty, but
it produced. Now it welcomes back nine starters, led by power
runner P.J. Hill working behind a deep and talented offensive
line. The receiving corps is loaded with deep threats with Paul
Hubbard, Luke Swan, and top pass-catching tight end Travis
Beckum returning. It's all there to have a huge season as long
as the quarterback situation is settled. Tyler Donovan and Allan
Evridge are each good enough to start, but one has to break free
and take the job by the horns. While this is one of the deepest
Badger offenses in a long time, most of the top reserves are
untested. That isn't going to be an issue for the line or the
backfield, but it could be a problem if injuries hit the
Passing: Tyler Donovan
37-58, 564 yds, 4 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: P.J. Hill
311 carries, 1,569 yds, 15 TD
Receiving: Travis Beckum
31 catches, 178 yds
Star of the offense: Sophomore RB P.J. Hill
Backup receiver, pass protection
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior QB
Tyler Donovan or junior QB Allan Evridge
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman OT Gabe Carimi
Best pro prospect: Junior TE Travis Beckum
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Hill, 2) Beckum, 3) OG
Strength of the offense: Experience, offensive line
Weakness of the offense:
Projected Starter: While the quarterback
battle is still on, the starting job is likely to go to senior
Tyler Donovan on experience in the offense alone, but
he'll have to become sharper on his reads and has to prove he
can be a polished enough passer to make keep defenses off the
running game. He's only 6-1 and 187 pounds, but he's a gamer
with great mobility and a better arm than he gets credit for.
Thrown into a pressure situation late last year against Iowa, he
came through completing 17 of 254 passes for 228 yards and two
touchdowns while rushing for 61 yards.
Projected Top Reserve: The Badgers got a huge
boost to the quarterback situation when junior Allan Evridge
decided to transfer from Kansas State. With D-I experience,
mobility, smarts, and good passing skills, he has it all except
for playing time for the Badgers. He's a bigger, not as mobile
version of Donovan with the potential to take over the starting
job this fall if he becomes more consistent.
Watch Out For ... the quarterback situation to be an
ongoing debate throughout the season. Donovan and Evridge are so
dead even that there's sure to be plenty of second guessing no
matter who gets the job to start the year. However ...
Strength: They can both play. There's not
necessarily a wrong choice here considering how good both of
them are. Neither is All-Big Ten material, but the Badgers can
win with either one.
Weakness: Could this be a distraction throughout the year? What
will happen when the starter has a mediocre game of a slow
start? Will he be looking over his shoulder? The coaching staff
has to squash the issue right off the bat this fall.
Outlook: Wisconsin missed out on getting Brent
Schaeffer from Tennessee, who chose to transfer to Ole Miss last
year, but that turned out to be a positive considering Evridge
is better. Donovan will likely get the day one call because of
what he did late last year, but Evridge will be certain to see
plenty of time. Whichever one does the best job of limiting
mistakes and making the quick reads will get the job.
Projected Starters: The only question mark
with sophomore P.J. Hill will be whether or not he can
stay healthy. He missed all of 2005 with a broken leg, struggled
through neck injury last year, and missed all of spring ball
getting his shoulder right. While he's not gong to bust off many
huge runs, he'll use his 222 pounds to power over and through
everyone. He was a load last year rushing for 1,569 yards and 15
touchdowns, and he even was a decent receiver finishing fifth on
the team with 18 catches for 197 yards and a touchdown, but he
wasn't the same over the second half of the season after getting
dinged up, and he was effectively shut down by Michigan and
Looking to pave the way will be 250-pound junior
Bill Rentmeester, who didn't get any carries but did a good
job of blocking. He's a tough player who might have to carve out
a role for himself with Chris Pressley healthy again
after missing all of last year.
Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Lance Smith
was a superstar recruit last year and was expected to be a
speed back in the mold of Brian Calhoun and Anthony Davis, but
he was average when he got his chance to shine even though he
finished second on the team with 345 yards and five scores. Now
he won't be in the mix for a while, if at all, after being
suspended indefinitely from the team stemming from charges of
robbery and battery involving his girlfriend..
On the way to
potentially take over the number two spot is one of this year's
top recruits, John Clay. While he's like Hill at 6-2 and
220 pounds, he's faster. The star high school sprinter might see
time right away if Hill goes down.
5-11, 185-pound Zach Brown
is also expected to be in the hunt for time as a true
freshman. With excellent speed, he could be the back the
coaching staff is hoping Smith can become.
Looking for the
starting fullback job will be 6-1, 271-pound junior Chris
Pressley, who was all set to be the starter last year before
breaking his leg in fall practices. He's a sledgehammer of a
blocker and can even get a few short-yardage carries from time
Watch Out For ... the light to go on for Smith. He
has the talent and the measurables, but he needs to become
tougher, both mentally and physically. If he rises to the
challenge, he'll be one of the Big Ten's breakout stars.
Strength: A combination of talents. The potential
is there for something special to come out of the Badger
backfield. Hill is the Heisman candidate power back, while Smith
could be the speed rusher if he gets back on the team. If not, Clay and and Brown could
possibly turn into the thunder and lightning combo.
Weakness: A sure-thing second back behind Hill. If Smith doesn't
live up to the billing, that means it'll be up to a pair of true
freshmen to carry the workload. That's not a positive, even if
the backs are as talented as Clay and Brown.
Outlook: It's Wisconsin, so there will always be
production from the tailbacks, but there are question marks.
P.J. Hill won't have to be everything for the running game, but
the longer he can stay effective with 20+ carries a game, the
better. In a perfect world, Hill will carry the ground game with star recruits John Clay and/or Zach Brown able to redshirt.
Projected Starters: The Badgers have three
tremendous targets to count on led by All-Big Ten tight end
Travis Beckum. A former defensive end, the 6-4, 221-pound
junior made a quick transition to the offense as he led the team
with 61 catches for 903 yards and five touchdowns. A matchup
nightmare, he's fast, strong and athletic, but he's been more of
a large wide receiver than an actual tight end. Now he's looking
to become more of a blocker, but if he's making catches like he
did last year, no one will notice what he's doing for the
Seniors Luke Swan and Paul Hubbard are proven
receivers who could do even more now that they have a year of
starting experience. The 6-4, 215-pound Hubbard was second on
the team with 38 catches for 627 yards and five touchdowns, but
he wasn't used as much as he should've been. He has track star
speed and NFL athleticism, and now he has to be an even more
dangerous home-run hitter. Swan made 35 catches for 595 yards
and five touchdowns averaging a team-leading 17 yards per catch.
While he's a speed receiver, he can play inside or out.
Projected Top Reserves: A good corps will suddenly
become tremendous is junior Marcus Randle El returns from
a torn ACL suffered last year. While he doesn't have his brother
Antwaan's quickness, he can move and has the hands of a number
one target. First he has to prove he's 100% again this fall.
Sophomore Isaac Anderson has the speed and the talent to
become a dangerous to be a major playmaker behind Hubbard, but
he can't shake a variety of injury problems. If healthy, he has
the potential to become an elite deep threat.
Until Randle El is
ready, redshirt freshman Maurice Moore will play a key
role behind Swan. A great practice player, he has to show he can
play when the lights go on.
Behind Beckum will be senior Andy
Crooks, a true all-around tight end finishing fourth on the
team with 19 catches for 206 yards and four touchdowns. He has
to get over a shoulder problem and keep his weight to under 270
pounds, if possible.
Watch Out For ... Hubbard and Swan to quietly be
among the Big Ten's most dangerous receiving tandems. While it's
not the best twosome in the Big Ten, it could end up combining
to lead the league in yards per catch.
Strength: Deep plays. The Badgers averaged 14.1
yards per catch. This isn't exactly a corps of possession
receivers. They'll wear out secondaries on deep balls.
Weakness: Backup receivers. Randle El is a potential number one
receiver if he's healthy, but he's still a question mark and he
hasn't done it yet in game action. Moore is an average number
three, and Anderson can't be counted on to last the season.
Outlook: Beckum, Hubbard and Swan are dangerous
and will shine with all the attention on the running game, but
it would be nice if backups could quickly emerge, even if it's
from Nick Toon (son of former UW star, Al) and the incoming
freshmen. While this might not be a receiving corps that can
carry an offense, it's fantastic for what the Badger offense
Projected Starters: The line will be a rock
with one glaring question mark: left tackle. Even a factory for
offensive linemen like Wisconsin has a hard time replacing a top NFL
draft pick like Joe Thomas, but sophomore Jake Bscherer will give
it a shot after seeing a little bit of time in every game last year.
He's a typical massive Badger tackle at 6-7 and 297 pounds, and he has
the prep résumé to suggest he might be the type of talent who can
eventually be an All-Big Ten star, but he's not Thomas. He doesn't have
to be, but he does have to be consistent in pass protection. Next to him
on the left side will be junior Andy Kemp, a 6-6, 322-pound road
grader who'll pick up the slack until the new tackle gets his feet wet.
6-6, 302-pound senior Marcus Coleman is about to blossom into an
all-star. Quick enough to play tackle, strong enough to play guard, he's
a big, tough anchor in the middle. He earned a little bit of post-season
recognition, and now he should take his game to another level as the
steady, tough quarterback of the line.
Back at right guard is junior
Kraig Urbik, a 6-6, 330-pound former tackle who had a terrific year
at guard. He's been a major contributor from day one starting 26
straight games, and now he should be an all-star on his run blocking
At tackle, junior Eric Vanden Heuvel grew into the
starting role earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors last year.
While he's not Joe Thomas, he's an imposing 6-7, 323-pound mauler who
needs to get better in pass protection.
Projected Top Reserves: While the Badgers are
loaded with depth, the overall pecking order among the reserves could
quickly change once star recruit Josh Oglesby
comes in. Considered by many to be the best offensive lineman prospect
in America, or at least in the top five, he's 6-7, 320 pounds and almost
certain to be the next Badger All-America blocker.
For now, all eyes
will be on 6-8, 292-pound Gabe Carimi as he pushes Basherer at
left tackle. Carimi moves better and should be a better pass protector.
If doesn't win the job, he'll be a vital reserve.
talent along the rest of the line, but other top prospects are untested redshirt freshmen. 6-4, 310-pound John Moffitt will back
up Kemp at left guard, 6-4, 300-pound Bill Nagy will be a
backup at right guard, and 6-4, 295-pound Brad Thorson will be
behind Coleman at center. They can all play.
Watch Out For ... the line to be better, even without
Thomas. Of course the Badgers will miss the Cleveland Brown on the left
side, but the overall experience, and the strong reserves, will mean an
even better year up front. Overall, this was a young line last year
that'll jell going into this season.
Strength: Size and depth. Yeah, all the top
reserves haven't seen any action, but they're all good. As always, the
Badgers are massive on the front wall averaging close to 320 pounds per
Weakness: Pass protection. Thomas gave up one sack all year, in
the opener against Bowling Green, but the line gave up 30 after giving
up 37 in 2005. The rest of the line struggled against quick, talented
lines, and while the sacks-allowed total will slow down with a more
mobile quarterback than John Stocco, it's still a concern.
Outlook: The left tackle situation will be more
than fine with the combination of Bscherer and Carimi getting the job
done. Overrated throughout last year, the line will live up to its
billing going into this year. Loaded with all-star candidates, and good
backups ready to breakthrough, this is the strongest Badger line in several