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2008 Wisconsin Preview - Offense
Wisconsin RB P.J. Hill
CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Wisconsin Badger Offense
Preview 2008 - Offense
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What you need to know: The offense wasn't nearly as
efficient as it should've been with nine starters returning in
2007, but injuries to the line, the receiving corps, and to P.J.
Hill had something to do with that. Now the attack welcomes back
eight starters led by Hill and a phenomenal corps of running
backs with several good options to carry the load. The tight end
combination of Travis Beckum and Garrett Graham might be the
best in the nation, and the line returns four starters with the
one hole, center, all patched up. The question mark is at
quarterback where neither Allan Evridge nor Dustin Sherer stood
out in spring ball, while the receiving corps doesn't have any
sure-thing weapons. There's a whole slew of young, athletic
talent, but it would've been nice to have had more veterans to
help out the new passer. That, along with the problems the
Badger line has had in pass protection over the last few years,
will mean it'll be all about running the ball, running the ball,
and running it some more early on.
Passing: Allan Evridge
5-12 yds, 66 yds
Rushing: P.J. Hill
233 carries, 1,212 yds, 14 TD
Receiving: Travis Beckum
75 catches, 982 yds, 6 TD
Star of the offense: Senior TE Travis Beckum
Quarterback, pass protection
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior QB Allan Evridge
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR David Gilreath
Best pro prospect: Beckum
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Beckum, 2) RB P.J. Hill, 3) OG
Strength of the offense: Running back, tight end
Weakness of the offense:
Projected Starter: It was all supposed to
be so clear. Tyler Donovan won the starting job last year, he
did well, and then it was supposed to be Allan Evridge's
turn. Not quite. Evridge, a transfer from Kansas State, hasn't
been ecstatic to be the No. 2 man, but he waited it out and
should still end up as the No. 1 guy when the season starts
after completing five of 12 passes for 66 yards in a mop-up
role. However, he didn't separate himself this spring and he
didn't show definitively that he's the man; he could still be
beaten out. Even so, with his combination of 6-2, 216-pound
size, excellent mobility, and good passing skills, it's his job
to lose. He does have experience setting a Kansas State freshman
record with 1,365 passing yards with six touchdowns, led by a
357-yard day against Texas A&M.
Projected Top Reserve: Junior Dustin Sherer
doesn't have any of the mobility of Evridge, but he has 6-4,
214-pound size, a live arm, and experience on the team. A strong
practice player, he's been on the Badgers longer than any other
quarterback, but he hasn't seen much in the way of live action.
A tremendous recruit a few years ago out of Indiana, he's
neck-and-neck with Evridge for the starting job. If he can show
a spark that makes the passing game go, and if he can be a bit
more consistent, he could have the job.
On the way is true freshman Curt Phillips, the Tennessee
Player of the Year and an almost perfect fit for the Badger
offense. At 6-3 and 211 pounds, he's a big passer who threw for
5,418 yards, but he's also an extremely athletic runner having
torn off 3,788 yards and 64 scores for Sullivan South High in
Kingsport, Tennessee. There's an outside chance he could be in
the mix right away, but he'll likely redshirt.
Watch Out For ... Evridge to be the starting
quarterback. Wisconsin tends to have a little bit of drama when
it comes to settling on a starter, there was no way Evridge was
going to beat out Donovan last year but it was made out to seem
that way, but Sherer does still have a shot.
Strength: Experience in the system. Evridge has
been around the Badgers long enough to know what he's doing, and
he has enough experience from Kansas State to not come in cold.
Sherer seems like he's been part of the practice mix forever.
Weakness: Actual experience. Evridge's name has been in the mix
for years, but he hasn't done much in his Badger career and
Sherer hasn't been able to get on the field. There's also the
question of actual talent. Why hasn't either one stepped up and
taken the job by the horns?
Outlook: For the second straight season there's a
bit of a quarterback controversy with Evridge and Sherer each in
the hunt for the job this fall. While each offers a different
set of skills, there won't be a rotation; the No. 1 will be the
No. 1, and that'll likely be Evridge. The key will be
consistency. The perception is that Wisconsin is a running team,
but the passing game has done more over the past few years and
the new starter isn't going to be a caretaker; he'll have to
Projected Starters: Junior P.J. Hill
might be considered a Heisman candidate after following up a
1,569-yard, 15 touchdown freshman season (after missing all of
2005 with a broken leg) with a 1,212-yard, 14 touchdown
sophomore campaign, but with so much talent in the Badger
backfield, he has to fight to secure his starting spot. Message
received as he came in this spring a slimmed down and tight 228
pounds on his 5-11 frame and is now even quicker. Overused over
the last two years as a sledgehammer of a workhorse, he broke
down with a neck and shoulder problem as a freshman and missed
almost all of the final three games of the 2007 regular season.
When he's 100%, he's the type of back who can crush a team's
spirit be getting yard after hard yard on late drives, averaging
5.2 yards per crack last year, and he's tremendous around the
goal line. With good hands, he can be used as an outlet receiver
catching 32 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns over the
last two seasons.
The fullback situation is tremendous with senior Chris
Pressley returning. The 6-1, 259-pound sledgehammer missed
all of 2006 hurt with a broken leg and then turned into the
starter last year getting the call nine times and serving as a
key special teamer. While he ran for 39 yards and a touchdown,
and caught two passes for eight yards and a score, he's a big,
physical lead blocker.
Projected Top Reserves: The Badger running game
needed help late last year when P.J. Hill was hurt, and
sophomore Zach Brown came through with
63 hard yards against Ohio State, 108 yards and two touchdowns
against Michigan, and 250 yards and two scores, on 29 carries,
against Minnesota. At 5-11 and 212 pounds, he's a strong runner
with tremendous breakaway speed, as the Gophers found out, and
now, after finishing second on the team with 568 yards with five touchdowns, the coaching staff can count on him.
6-2, 231-pound John Clay was the team's top recruit last
season but ended up redshirting. He ripped up the defense as a
scout teamer and will now be a big part of the rushing rotation.
Not only is he big, he's very, very fast; he was a star high
school sprinter good enough to be a part of the 4x100 state
finals two years in a row.
6-1, 248-pound senior fullback Bill Rentmeester
ran for 39 yards and a score but made his biggest impact on
special teams. More of a huge tailback than Pressley,
Rentmeester is also a good, veteran blocker who has been around
long enough to step in and start with the offense not missing a
Junior Lance Smith-Williams was a superstar recruit two
years ago and was expected to immediately be a speed back in the
mold of Brian Calhoun or Anthony Davis, but the 5-10,
200-pounder didn't have a breakout year as a freshman. Last year
is was suspended from all road games after issues stemming from
charges of robbery and battery involving his girlfriend, but he
still was able to produce in home games, and the bowl, finishing
with 429 yards with three touchdowns averaging six yards per
carry. Now he might be out for good after being suspended from
the team again and is out inefinitely.
Watch Out For ... the coaching staff to come up with
a devastating rotation. With four backs who could start almost
anywhere, there's no reason to let any one of them, primarily
Hill, to wear down.
Strength: Talent. Whether it's the thunder of
Hill, the speed of Brown, or the
combination of skills of Clay, the Badgers are beyond loaded.
Weakness: There's only one football. Can everyone be kept happy?
There are four star backs in place and everyone is going to want
work. Considering there are two juniors, a sophomore and a
redshirt freshman, this won't just be an issue for 2007.
Outlook: If it's done right, the Badgers should be
able destroy most teams on the ground. The key will be to blend
all the great backs to create a good rotation and to keep Hill
fresh for prime time. There's no reason to run No. 39 26 times
against Akron or Marshall; he'll be needed for the big boys.
There's no wrong answer among the four.
Projected Starters: In a bit of an upset,
6-4, 223-pound tight end Travis Beckum chose to come back
for his senior season. While he's not exactly a prototype NFL
end, he'll make a terrific H-Back with fantastic hands, great
route running ability, and too much speed for most linebackers.
Originally a defensive end, he quickly became one of America's
best tight ends catching 61 passes for 903 yards and five scores
in 2006 before grabbing 75 passes for 982 yards and six scores.
Now he has to get and stay healthy after having problems with a
shoulder injury. A decent blocker, but not an elite one, no one
notices what he does for the running game because he's such a
weapon for the passing attack.
Ready to turn into a star is
5-11, 154-pound sophomore David Gilreath, who was lost in
the shuffle finishing with just one catch for ten yards.
However, he was great this off-season showing off his phenomenal
quickness as one of the team's best young targets. While he
didn't do much for the passing game as a freshman, he was one of
the Big Ten's best punt returners averaging 14 yards a crack.
Also looking to make a bigger impact is sophomore Kyle
Jefferson, who was known mostly for making all the highlight
reels for being on the receiving end of a kill shot against
Michigan State. At 6-5 and 176 pounds he's a tall, tough target
who finished third on the team, and first among the wide
receivers, with 26 catches for 412 yards and two touchdowns
averaging 15.8 yards per catch. While his production tailed off
late in the year, he could be the team's No. 2 target behind
Projected Top Reserves: Travis Beckum might be the
best tight end in the nation and is the leading candidate for
the Mackey Award. His presence leaves junior Garrett Graham
out of the spotlight, but that doesn't mean there's much of
a drop off from the No. 1 man to the No. 2. The 6-4, 241-pound
Graham finished second on the team with 30 catches for 328 yards
and four touchdowns highlighted by a seven catch, 75-yard day
against Tennessee to close out the year. He's a big, talented
target who can block.
Sophomore Maurice Moore
was supposed to play a big role in
the rotation last season, but didn't as he saw his only real
action as a kickoff returner getting three attempts for 45
yards. A fantastic practice player, he has to show up when the
lights go on.
Sophomore Isaac Anderson
missed all of last year hurt, and has a variety of injury issues
early in his career, but he showed this spring that he could
turn out to be one of the team's most dangerous targets. At 5-11
and 177 pounds, he's a decent-sized speedster who set the
Minnesota state record with a 10.94 100 meter dash. If he's
healthy, he could grow into a tremendous deep threat.
Speedy Daven Jones is a 6-1, 192-pound sophomore who
spent last year as a special teamer, but could emerge as a deep
target behind Gilreath. A star at Glenville High in Cleveland,
he averaged close to 17 yards per catch with 40 career
touchdowns while also running on the two-time state champion
4x100 relay team.
Redshirt freshman Nick Toon,
son of former UW great, Al Toon, was having a good off-season
until he had problems with a hamstring injury this spring. At
6-3 and 215 pounds with good speed, he has the talent, and while
he's not his father, he'll be good.
Watch Out For ... Gilreath. He doesn't quite fit the
UW mold of tall, big targets, but he's a quick speedster who
needs the ball in his hands on a regular basis.
Strength: Tight end. There are several great tight
end combinations around the country, but the Badgers might have
the best with Beckum and Graham. These two will combine for over
100 catches again.
Weakness: Proven wide receivers. Jefferson is solid, but the
rest of the receiving corps has done precisely jack squat.
That's not to say the potential isn't there to be good, but
there aren't many sure things to rely on.
Outlook: The tight end combination of Beckum and
Graham will be special when they're healthy, and the receiving
corps should be good once there's more on-field time. Jefferson
and Gilreath will be dangerous, while there's a slew of young
backup talent ready to make an impact. The hope is for one of
the several good athletes to emerge.
Projected Starters: Four starters return to
the line with the one opening, center, a glaring on with the loss of
all-star Marcus Coleman. Fortunately for the Badgers, the extremely
strong 6-4, 317-pound sophomore John Moffitt appears to be a
keeper after moving over from guard. A decent veteran who saw plenty of
time when injuries struck last year. Primarily a left guard, he should
grow into a solid producer for the next three years as the new
quarterback up front.
The rock of the line is 6-6, 328-pound senior Kraig Urbik, who
has started 39 straight games and has been one of the team's best run
blockers at right guard. The former tackle has grown into the position
and should be a sure-thing all-star after earning second-team All-Big
Ten honors last year.
Back at right tackle is 6-7, 321-pound senior Eric Vanden Heuvel
after a decent season that was cut short by a leg injury. He missed
almost all of November, but now he's healthy and ready to become an
all-star again after earning honorable mention honors as a sophomore.
He's a mauler with plenty of experience, but he has to be better in pass
Gabe Carimi stepped in and tried to fill the shoes of Joe Thomas
at left tackle and was decent in his freshman season, but his best is
yet to come. The 6-9, 299-pound sophomore started every game and was
good overall, and he has the athleticism to become a star, but he has to
be a bit more consistent. That will come in time. A big-time talent,
he'll end up being the star the line works around over the next year or
6-6, 316-pound senior Andy Kemp with plenty of starting
experience at left guard. He's a road grader who missed part of last
year with a hand injury, but he's a smart, tough blocker who is a
difference maker for the veteran line. He doesn't make mistakes.
Projected Top Reserves: While the line is full of
veterans, it's just a matter of time before redshirt freshman Josh
Oglesby becomes a factor. Arguably the nation's best tackle recruit
last season, the 6-7, 338-pounder will eventually take over at one of
the tackle spots and will play behind Vanden Heuvel on the right side
this year. He's 100% after suffering a knee injury in his senior year of
Junior Jake Bscherer was neck-and-neck with Carimi for the
starting left tackle job last off-season, but lost out and became a key
reserve. He stepped in on both sides when needed and could fill in
wherever he has to with the 6-7, 297-pound size and good athleticism.
He's a veteran backup who who came in with the prep résumé to be
special, but it hasn't happened yet.
While true freshman Jake Current wasn't an elite recruit, he was
a very good one who'll be expected to step in and be a key reserve
behind Kemp at left guard from day one. A bit undersized at 6-4 and 277
pounds, he's a good technician who's more polished than his freshman
Watch Out For ... the line to be better. It wasn't
bad last season, but it struggled when injuries struck and it wasn't
nearly as good as it should've been. Now the overall experience is
there, and most importantly for continuity, there's more developed
depth. There will be a better rotation.
Strength: Size. Wisconsin's lines are always big,
and this one follows suit with the projected starting five averaging
over 310 pounds per man. This group will simply steamroll over most
Weakness: Pass protection. This has been a big problem over the
last few seasons. The line gave up 67 in 2005 and 2006, and was way
overmatched at times last season giving up 33. This isn't a line built
for speed rushers, but it has to give the quarterbacks more time to
Outlook: The pass protection might be an issue,
but this will be one of the nation's best run blocking lines with a
massive group of veteran bulldozers and even more talent waiting in the
wings. Four starters return and the one opening, center, will be fine
once Moffitt gets his feet wet. Carimi will be an all-star at left
tackle and Urbik is a rock at right guard, but the big-upside player is
tackle Oglesby, and he's just a second teamer.