2009 Wisconsin Preview - Offense
Wisconsin TE Garrett Graham
Wisconsin TE Garrett Graham
Posted May 5, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Wisconsin Badger Offense

Wisconsin Badgers

Preview 2009 - Offense

- 2009 CFN Wisconsin Preview | 2009 Wisconsin Offense
- 2009 Wisconsin Defense
| 2009 Wisconsin Depth Chart
- 2008 UW Preview | 2007 UW Preview
| 2006 CFN UW Preview 

What you need to know: As always, the Badgers will have one of the nation’s best running games thanks to John Clay and Zach Brown running behind the typical big, beefy line. Now there needs to be some semblance of consistency in a passing game that struggled through lousy quarterback play and little from the wide receivers last season. Dustin Sherer has the quarterback experience after starting throughout the second half of last year, but Curt Phillips has the mobility and the talent. The tight ends, led by Garrett Graham, will be the stars of the passing game, and now it’ll be up to wide receivers David Gilreath, Isaac Anderson and Nick Toon to do more. The starting five on the line will be fantastic, but it’ll be a disaster if the backups have to step in early on.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Dustin Sherer
104-191, 1,389 yds, 6 TD, 5 INT
Rushing: John Clay
155 carries, 884 yds, 9 TD
Receiving: Garrett Graham
40 catches, 540 yds, 5 TD

Star of the offense: Sophomore RB John Clay
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior QB Dustin Sherer
Unsung star on the rise: Junior TE/H-Back Lance Hendricks
Best pro prospect: Clay
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Clay, 2) TE Garrett Graham, 3) WR/RB/KR David Gilreath
Strength of the offense: Running Back, Tight End
Weakness of the offense:
Quarterback, O Line Depth


Projected Starter: Senior Dustin Sherer had been a good practice player who was this close to winning the starting job at the beginning of 2007. He was beaten out by Allan Evridge, but he took over midway through the season to finish with 1,389 yards and six touchdowns along with five interceptions. He completed 55% of his throws and was decent within the hashmarks, but he struggled any time he had to get on the move or if he had to drive a throw outside. At 6-4 and 217 pounds he has the size to go along with a decent arm, but the big recruit out of Indiana isn’t going to run too often and will have to work to get the starting job.

Projected Top Reserve: Redshirt freshman Curt Phillips was the Tennessee Player of the Year throwing for 5,418 passing yards along with 3,788 rushing yards and 64 scores in his high school career. Now the 6-3, 215-pounder is pushing hard for the starting job with the team’s best combination of size, athleticism, and talent. The only thing keeping him from being the unquestioned No. 1 is his consistency. Still a young player, he has to prove to the coaching staff that he can take care of the ball and not make plays to get beat.

Junior Scott Tolzien is technically in the hunt for the No. 2 job, but he’ll likely have to wait until next year unless there’s a major meltdown. The 6-3, 202-pounder hasn’t shown enough in practices to stand out, but he has a little bit of experience completing 5-of-8 passes for 107 yards with an interception, and running for 13 yards and a score in mop-up time.

True freshman Jake Budmayr is a 6-1, 200-pound passer who got to school early to be a part of the quarterback derby, but he suffered a groin injury and was limited. He missed his entire senior year of high school because he was hurt and will likely redshirt to get his timing back. He doesn’t have a big arm, but it’s good enough to get by and he has the upside to develop into a starter three years from now.

Watch Out For ... Curt Phillips to be the starting quarterback sooner than later. The coaching staff will go with Sherer early on because of his experience, but Phillips is the one who could make the offense sing. Any inconsistency or any big mistakes from Sherer will mean a quick hook.
Strength: Pro-style passers. There aren’t any lightweights in this group with tall passers with good arms and just enough mobility to get by. There might not be any huge arms in the bunch, but getting the ball down the field isn’t an issue.
Production. The quarterback play was a disaster last season with 11 touchdown and 11 interceptions, but the biggest problem was the lack of big plays. Sherer and Allan Evridge never stepped into the moment to come up with the key throw to turn the season around. Now that Evridge is out of the picture, Phillips has to show that he might be able to be the guy who can make things happen.
Outlook: Get ready for yet another Wisconsin song and dance about the starting quarterback job. For the third straight year there will be a controversy for the top spot with Dustin Sherer the safe choice and Curt Phillips the obvious one. Phillips brings more to the table because of his mobility, but the coaching staff doesn’t want to deal with the down moments a redshirt freshman would bring. However, it’s not like Sherer is Sam Bradford.
Rating: 6.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: It took about a half a season, and then John Clay showed why he was one of the nation’s top running back recruits two years ago. The 6-2, 247-pound sophomore has the look of the next great Badger back with size and stunning speed; he was a star high school sprinter who was good enough to be a part of the 4x100 Wisconsin state finals two years in a row. He had three 100-yard games in the final four in the regular season finishing second on the team with 884 yards and nine touchdowns with a 5.7-yard-per-carry average, highlighted by a 111-yard, one touchdown day on just 14 carries against Michigan State. Not used as a receiver, he only caught one pass for two yards, but that will change with his increased role in the offense. He hasn’t had to be a workhorse yet, carrying the ball more than 20 times just once, and he had a problem with an ankle injury this spring, but he’ll play through the little stuff and should be a lock for at least 1,200 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Fullback will be a problem early on unless walk-on Bradie Ewing is ready. The 6-1, 215-pound sophomore has mostly been a special teamer and ran four times for 15 yards with a touchdown. He’s a better runner than a blocker, and at his size he’ll have to be a jack-of-all trades.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Zach Brown might be one of the best No. 2 backs in America. He’s not a typical Wisconsin thumper, but he’s a physical 5-11 and 208 pounds with tremendous quickness and burst. After running for 568 yards and four touchdowns in a season-saving 2007 campaign he ran for 305 yards and three scores in a much limited role last year. That’ll all change now that P.J. Hill is gone with Brown able to use his breakaway speed and moves as a bit of a change of pace from John Clay. With two years of experience, he’s a smarter runner with more patience this spring.

Redshirt freshman Erik Smith is the flash of lightning in the backfield. The 5-11, 200-pound redshirt freshman can be used as a receiver or a running back with nice hands and fantastic wheels. He might not power over too many defenders, but he’ll outrun almost everyone.

Watch Out For ... the combination of Clay and Brown to combine for over 2,000 yards. The two backs will break out now that P.J. Hill is gone, and the ground game should be more consistent. Hill was a punishing runner who dominated when everything was going well, but he was hurt too much to be reliable. Clay and Brown will dominate at times.
Strength: Speed. Hill might have been quick, but he didn’t have the wheels. Hill, Clay, and Smith could be the fastest trio of backs in the Big Ten.
Fullback. A major positive last year with Chris Pressley and Brent Rentmeester now becomes a big issue. Bradie Ewing will be fine, but he’s not the typical Badger destroyer the running game usually employs. Tight end Mickey Turner could end up in the backfield.
Outlook: It’s Wisconsin, so the running game was solid with a Big Ten-leading 211 yards per game, but it didn’t control games as much as it should have. With P.J. Hill’s ill-advised early jump to the NFL, the time is now for Zach Brown to be an even bigger part of the attack while John Clay will go from being a strong No. 2 to one of the nation’s leading rushers. A top-blocking fullback needs to emerge and the line has to undergo some changes, but Clay and Brown will be the stars of the show.
Rating: 9.5


Projected Starters: It was a bit of a shocker when Travis Beckum chose to return for his senior season, and while the top pro prospect (who was drafted by the New York Giants in the third round) was a disappointment because he was always hurt, his absence allowed Garrett Graham to shine through as a top tight end. Arguably a better pro prospect than Beckum, the 6-4, 258-pound Graham has soft hands, great route running ability, and unlike Beckum, he can block. Graham led the team with 40 catches for 540 yards and five touchdowns, but he was taken away by defenses late in the year when it became apparent that the receivers weren’t going to do much on the outside.

Junior David Gilreath is a tremendous return man who had a few big moments as a receiver. While he averaged 16.8 yards per catch and was second on the team with 31 grabs for 520 yards and three touchdowns, he wasn’t consistent coming up with just one 100-yard day, catching four passes for 125 yards against Cal Poly. More dangerous as a runner than a receiver, he averaged 11.4 yards per carry with 285 yards and two scores highlighted by a dominant 168-yard, two-touchdown performance against Indiana. He’s only 5-11 and 162 pounds, but he’s tremendously quick and tough for his size.

5-11, 180-pound junior Isaac Anderson came on late last year to finish with 21 catches for 286 yards with 12 of the grabs coming in the final three games and 114 yards coming against Minnesota. Injuries have been an issue, missing the entire 2007 season hurt, and he has yet to blow up into a top playmaker, but he has the speed to do it. He's a decent-sized speedster who set the Minnesota state record with a 10.94 100 meter dash.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Nick Toon, son of former UW great, Al Toon, was never quite right with a hamstring problem early on, but he came on late to catch 16 of his 17 passes in the final five games. He averaged 15.1 yards per grab with a touchdown catch against Cal Poly, and now he’s due for a huge year after a monster offseason. At 6-3 and 215 pounds with good speed he has the talent, and while he's not his father, he could be this year’s breakout star.

There’s no questioning the talent or the ability of junior Kyle Jefferson, but the 6-5, 180-pounder, who caught 14 passes for 189 yards, has been the victim of two kill shots over the last two seasons getting blasted in the 2007 Michigan State game and nailed in last year’s win over Minnesota. He’s a tall, tough target who hasn’t been afraid in the past to go across the middle, but after two major concussions he, understandably, might have problems being the same player.  

The Badgers love to go with a two-tight end system, and while Lance Kendricks might not be Travis Beckum, he’s a deep threat who should have a big year. He only caught six passes for 141 yards, but he averaged 23.5 yards per catch with the speed to get deep and the wide receiver ability to adjust to the ball. The 6-4, 248-pound junior should be a big part of the offense at the H-Back.

Working along with Kendricks will be Mickey Turner, an H-Back who’ll spend time at fullback to use his blocking talents. The 6-4, 250-pound senior only caught four passes for 46 yards and a touchdown, used mostly as a blocker, and now he’ll see more time in a variety of areas.

Once he’s healthy, after missing time this off-season, speedy Daven Jones could start to add more of a deep threat to the equation. The 6-1, 177-pound junior spent most of his time on special teams last year but didn’t do anything on offense. Part of a two-time Ohio state high school champion 4.x100 relay team, wheels aren’t an issue.

Watch Out For ... Kendricks. The offense loves to throw the ball to the tight end, and with every defense focusing on stopping Graham, Kendricks should be one of the team’s leading receivers.
Strength: Tight end. It’s possible that the tight end situation won’t drop off a lick despite losing Beckum. Graham and Kendricks are that good and will be more than just safety valves.
Wide receivers. Gilreath is fine, but he’s better at running than he is as a receiver. Toon could be the one who finally gives the Badgers a wide receiver threat to make defenses worry, but with Jefferson struggling to get his game back, and with Anderson failing to break out, there’s not a lot to get excited about.
Outlook: The Badger passing game doesn’t have to be outstanding, but it has to be efficient and it has to keep the chains moving. The tight ends, Garrett Graham and Lance Kendricks, are fantastic, and there’s upside to the receiving corps. However, there has to be more production from the outside and more big plays. There’s speed with David Gilreath, Isaac Anderson and Nick Toon all athletic, and it has to be used.
Rating: 7

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters: The biggest question going into last year was at center, where all-star Marcus Coleman had to be replaced. Junior John Moffitt stepped in and was more than fine starting every game after working at left guard for six games in 2007. At 6-4 and 313 pounds, he’s a big blocker who is still improving and should be better with a year of experience at the position.

The star of the line is Gabe Carimi, a 6-8, 313-pound junior who has started 19 games over the last two years at left tackle after filling in for Joe Thomas. A great athlete for his size, he should be better in pass protection than he was and was starting to grow into the job before suffering a knee injury against Ohio State. After getting bigger over the last year he should be stronger against the run, and now he has to do more to keep the quarterbacks upright.

Needing to play up to his hype is Josh Oglesby, a 6-7, 329-pound sophomore who was considered to be one of the nation’s top recruits three years ago. It took him roughly two years to get 100% healthy after suffering a knee injury in high school, and he had a non-descript redshirt freshman campaign with three starts. He has the size, the talent, and the athleticism to become an all-star blocker. This has to be the year he breaks through.

Stepping in for Andy Kemp at left guard will be Jake Bscherer a former tackle who redshirted last year and now will move inside. The 6-7, 310-pound junior was neck-and-neck for a starting left tackle job before last year, but now he’ll be a tall, athletic guard who has the experience and the talent from a top prep résumé to be special in his new spot.

Junior Bill Nagy had a solid offseason and appears ready to be a steady cog up front at right guard. At 6-4 and 307 pounds, he has the requisite size for a Badger lineman and he got a start against Iowa when Eric Vanden Heuvel was hurt. Versatile, he could step in at center if needed.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Jake Current wasn’t a top recruit, but he was a good one who is one of the team’s better reserves. Versatile enough to play guard or center, the 6-4 and 290 pounder will back up John Moffitt in the middle after spending the last year adding weight.

Working as the understudy behind Gabe Carimi at left tackle is Ricky Wagner, a redshirt freshman who came to Madison as a tight end and bulked up to become an athletic tackle. While he needs a lot of work and needs a ton of polish, the 6-7, 308-pounder will get a lot of chances to show what he can do on the outside.

Watch Out For ... Oglesby. It’s impossible to overstate just how tremendous a recruit he was for the Badgers a few years ago. There’s no questioning his potential and his size, but now he has to be back to the same player he was before his high school knee injury.
Strength: Size. As always, Wisconsin has a monster line with more mega-sized players replacing other mega-sized players. Anyone hovering under 300 pounds need not apply.
Depth. The pass protection has been a disaster over the last three years, but the biggest problem going into this year is the backup situation with nothing to count on right away. There are good prospects and a lot of young players who should eventually be solid, but there’s a lot of developing to be done.
Outlook: The Wisconsin O line has been getting by more on reputation than on production over the last several years. Yeah it’s big and yeah it’ll steamroll over most mediocre defensive fronts, but it needs to be a lot better in pass protection, a lot better, it needs to be more consistent. Josh Oglesby needs to be a new star at right tackle and Gabe Carimi will need to be more consistent at left tackle, but the starting five will be more than fine. However, it’ll be disaster time if there are any injuries.
Rating: 7