2010 Wisconsin Preview – Offense
Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien
Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien
Posted Jun 15, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Wisconsin Badger Offense

Wisconsin Badgers

Preview 2010 - Offense

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What You Need To Know: The offense dominated against the mediocre teams on the schedule and struggled against the great defenses (Ohio State, Iowa, and Miami), and now it might be phenomenal against everyone. Ten starters return to the Big Ten's No. 1 offense (finishing first in both yards and points), and as long as everyone stays healthy, look out. Heisman candidate John Clay leads a loaded stable of running backs, the receiving corps is experienced and talented, and the offensive line gets all five starters back and has just enough depth to be fine if injury problems strike like last year. The key will be keeping QB Scott Tolzien upright. The Big Ten's most efficient passer last year, he's now the type of leader who can carry the team to a BCS bowl, but with top backup Curt Phillips out with a torn ACL, the season goes in the tank if green redshirt freshman Jon Budmayr has to step in.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Scott Tolzien
211-328, 2,705 yds, 16 TD, 11 INT
Rushing: John Clay
287 carries, 1,517 yds, 18 TD
Receiving: Nick Toon
54 catches, 805 yds, 4 TD

Star of the offense: Junior RB John Clay
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior OT Josh Oglesby
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore C Peter Konz
Best pro prospect: Clay
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Clay, 2) OT Gabe Carimi, 3) WR Nick Toon
Strength of the offense: Running Game, Experience
Weakness of the offense: Backup Quarterback, Production Against Athletic Defenses


Projected Starter: Senior Scott Tolzien might have been the biggest surprise of the Big Ten season. Considered the No. 3 option throughout the 2009 offseason, he came on late, was consistent, and turned into one of the league's best players leading the way in pass efficiency while completing a Wisconsin-record 211 passes for 2,705 yards and 16 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. At 6-3 and 208 pounds, he has good size and just enough mobility to not be a total stick in the mud, but more than anything else he showed off a fearless ability to make key throws. While there were problems against the better teams, throwing two bad, costly picks against Ohio State and three the following week against Iowa, he turned in one of the best passing years in Badger history and proved to be good enough to force teams to respect the air attack and take some of the focus off the ground game.

Projected Top Reserves: Redshirt freshman Jon Budmayr isn't all that big at 6-0 and 201 pounds, he can't stay healthy suffering both a shoulder and a groin injury despite not seeing the field yet, and he missed his entire senior year of high school hurt, but he's a pure pro-style quarterback with a live arm and good passing touch. A great recruit for the program, he needs to start playing like as the No. 2 quarterback. Confidence isn't a problem and he has a good enough arm to push the ball down the field if he has to come in.

Sophomore Curt Phillips is a big, talented, mobile quarterback who was used from time to time as a running option finishing fourth on the team with 138 yards and completed 7-of-12 passes for 65 yards with an interception. At 6-3 and 224 pounds, he has the size, he has the passing skills, named the 2007 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. By far, he has the best combination of skills of any Badger quarterback prospect in a long, long time, but he suffered a torn ACL this offseason. On the plus side, he'll have a full year to be ready for next year and he should be able to hit the ground running as the starter.

Watch Out For … Tolzien to be the leader of the team. One of the team's hardest workers, he sets the example by always being in the film room and always showing what needs to be done. The pressure is on for him to carry the offense at times from a leadership standpoint, and he should come through.
Strength: Efficiency. Thanks to a great running game and a loaded receiving corps, the pieces are there for a big year from the passing game. Tolzien led the conference in passing efficiency and he should be among the league's best once again.
Weakness: Budmayr. This is a talented Wisconsin team that has the potential to win the Big Ten title, but it could all go kaput if Tolzien gets hurt. Budmayr has talent but he's not quite ready for primetime. Tolzien has to be very, very conservative whenever he takes off.
Outlook: For the first time in a long time, Wisconsin has absolutely, positively, no question marks about the starting quarterback situation going into the season. Tolzien is the main man, Budmayr is the No. 2, and Phillips is going to take a year to heal up to be the No. 1 going into next year. As long as he's healthy, Tolzien will be the steady leader the veteran offense needs, but Budmayr's a very, very shaky backup option.
Unit Rating: 7.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: As the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year, junior John Clay is on the list of legitimate Heisman candidates after running for 1,517 yards and 18 touchdowns hitting the 100-yard mark in each of the final six games including 121 yards against Miami in the bowl game and 151 against Michigan. Not just a big bruiser, he can fly when he gets into the open field with the speed to be a part of 4x100 in the Wisconsin state high school finals two years in a row. While he's not used as a receiver, he has the hands to have a few screens and delays come his way. The key will be staying healthy after undergoing surgery on both ankles this offseason.

He might have been able to get through the year without missing a game, he was banged up late and took his share of big shots. It's salary drive time as he has the talent and potential to be a first rounder with another big season, but he has to prove he can play through everything and he has to show he can be the main man against the top-shelf defenses. He might have been fine against Miami, but he ran 41 times for 144 yards in the losses to Ohio State and Iowa. Over the last two seasons, Wisconsin is 9-2 when the 6-1, 248 pounder gets 100 yards or more.

Junior Bradie Ewing saw time in every game last year, but he wasn't ever fully healthy and he should be a physical thumper for the ground game again. At 6-0 and 230 pounds, the former walk-on has mostly been a special teamer and he'll never run the ball, but he's a jack-of-all-trades who'll do a variety of things for the attack.

Projected Top Reserves: The coaching staff couldn't stop raving about Montee Ball as a true freshman, and while there was a little bit of thought about redshirting him, there was too much upside to not get him on the field. 5-11 and 234 pounds, he's a lightning quick bowling ball who's always moving forward and always making something happen finishing second on the team with 391 yards and four touchdowns despite not seeing the field until the fifth game of the year. He stepped up when John Clay was dinged up against Indiana and ran for 115 yards and two scores on 27 carries, and he turned out to be a part of the workload more and more as the final stretch kicked in. The second back in the rotation with the hands to be used more as a receiver after catching nine passes for 92 yards.

There was a time when senior Zach Brown controlled the Badger offense. Needed lat in the 2007 season, he was terrific in wins over Michigan and Minnesota running for 198 scores and two scores against the Wolverines and 250 yards and two touchdowns against the Gophers. But he was limited in 2008 with just 305 yards and three scores and then struggled with concentration and fumbling issues last year running just 66 times for 279 yards and three scores with a mere ten carries over the final seven games. At 5-10 and 213 pounds, he has good size and decent power with excellent speed and shiftiness. Can he get the ball with John Clay and Montee Ball the main men? He'll have to fight to see time.

Watch Out For … Clay to be even better. As if running for 1,517 yards and 18 touchdowns wasn't good enough, he can do even more. He ran hurt throughout last year, and he worked hard all offseason to get his banged up ankles right. Relatively pain free, he might be a whole different runner.
Strength: Production. It's Wisconsin. The Badgers led the Big Ten in rushing and finished 15th in the nation, and now the top three backs return to form yet another great rotation. Clay, Ball, and Brown can all fly in the open field and should crank out yards in chunks.
Weakness: Fullback. The Badgers always seem to find a try-hard type who can blast away for the ground game and be a thumping rusher, but it was a bit of a problem last year and Ewing isn't a top talent. The offense will get by, but it would be nice if there was a Chris Pressley-like talent in the backfield.
Outlook: As long as everyone can hold on to the ball (a big problem at times throughout last year) and as long as Clay can stay healthy, Wisconsin can challenge Alabama and Virginia Tech for the honor of having the nation's best stable of backs. There are three runners able to crank out 100 yards at any time, and there should be a terrific rotation to keep everyone fresh. With all five starters returning up front, and with a good passing game to take the pressure off, anything less than 2,750 yards from this group would be disappointing.
Unit Rating: 10


Projected Starters: Junior Nick Toon lived up to his family name (he's the son of former UW great and New York Jet, Al Toon) leading the team with 54 catches for 805 yards and four touchdowns averaging 14.9 yards per grab. At 6-3 and 211 pounds, he has great size and good enough deep speed to be a dangerous home run hitter, and he's also consistent making three catches or more in every game but the bowl win over Miami (he made two catches for 26 yards). While he might not be the talent his dad was, he's the go-to playmaker who should be an all-star after getting honorable mention consideration.

5-10, 175-pound senior Isaac Anderson was the team's second-leading wide receiver (and third overall) finishing with 30 catches for 480 yards and two scores, but he disappeared at times and only caught one pass over the final three games. Injuries have been an issue for the speedster missing the entire 2007 hurt and being dinged up off and on, but he has the lightning wheels, setting the Minnesota state high school record with a 10.94 100 meter dash, to stretch the field. He's a nice complement to Nick Toon.

Next … Travis Beckum was an All-American, Garrett Graham was the underappreciated go-to, down the middle target over the last two years, and now 6-4, 239-pound senior Lance Kendricks will be the Badgers' star tight end. The team's fourth-leading receiver last year despite being the No. 2 tight end, he made 29 catches for 356 yards and three touchdowns and was fabulous against Miami with seven catches for 128 yards. He's a decent enough blocker to get by, but he's mostly a receiver-like playmaker who can stretch the field and create tremendous mismatches.

Projected Top Reserves: Senior David Gilreath is one of the Big Ten's best all-purpose playmaker with 44 career catches, 375 career rushing yards, and averaging just under ten yards per punt return and 22 yards per kickoff. Only 5-11 and 169 pounds, he's a wisp of a player who isn't going to be a game-in-and-game-out go-to guy, but he'll explode once in a while. His role was diminished with the emergence of Nick Toon and other targets, but he'll still be used in a variety of ways.

6-4, 181-pound senior Kyle Jefferson is one of the team's most talented receivers, but he has a bad habit of getting beaten up. The victim of two kill shots, he was blasted against Michigan State in 2007 and suffered a bad concussion. Nailed again in 2008 against Minnesota, he hasn't had a ton of success since catching just four passes for 35 yards last season while missing a bulk of time hurt. With his size and elite speed (he's a star in the 400 for the UW track team), all the tools are there, but he has to be able to stay on the field.

Waiting in the wings to be the team's next great tight end after Lance Kendricks is done is Brian Wozniak . The 6-4, 249-pound redshirt freshman had a terrific offseason and has grown into his frame and isn't just a tall wide receiver. A great target who moves well, he can be deadly in single coverage in two tight end sets.

Watch Out For … Kendricks. Garrett Graham carried the passing game at times with big plays up the middle, and now Kendricks will take on the new role at tight end. With defenses having to pay attention to all the other receivers, Kendricks will thrive in single coverage.
Strength: Experience. Graham was the team's second leading receiver last year, but he's the only target of note gone. Counting the running backs, eight of the top ten pass catchers from last year are back including all the wide receivers of note.
Weakness: The offense. The running game is so good that the talented veterans might be ignored a bit too often. The Badgers have done a better job of balancing things out over the last few years, but the offense still ran it 581 times and threw it 340. This is a running team and the receivers have to be ready to produce when it's their time.
Outlook: Ultra-efficient last year, the UW passing game should be even better and even more explosive with Jefferson back in the mix, a great athlete in Kendricks to take over at tight end, a fun toy in Gilreath to use in a variety of ways, and an all-star caliber duo in Toon and Anderson. The receiving corps is loaded.
Unit Rating: 8.5

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: Once again, the star of the front five will be senior Gabe Carimi , a 6-7, 315-pound senior who earned first-team All-Big 12 honors last season as the star at left tackle. While he's not the most consistent pass protector, he's a tough run blocker who's great on the move and buries defenders when he locks on. A great athlete for his size, the hope is that he'll be better after finally getting a bum knee healthy this offseason. He'll be on the short list for All-America honors.

Senior John Moffitt has grown into a top producer at left guard with tremendous strength and toughness for the ground game. About to be an all-star, the 6-5, 323-pounder is healthy after having a hernia and he'll once again be one of the team's steadiest run blockers. The first-team All-Big Ten performer is the definition of a road grader.

In one of the surprises of last year's line, sophomore Peter Konz took over at center and turned into a strong enough starter to keep the job going into this year. The 6-5, 312-pound rising star had an issue with his heart, but he's expected to be fine going into the season and he should be an all-star. Great in the classroom, he's more than smart enough to handle the line calls. A top recruit, the talent is there to be the main man in the middle for the next three seasons.

Josh Oglesby , it's time. One of the nation's top recruits four years ago, the junior has yet to show the can't-miss NFL talent he was supposed to have as, arguably, the highest-rated high school prospect to ever sign with the Badgers. The 6-7, 331-pound veteran hasn't been bad, but he hasn't been consistent and there's a sense that he can do much, much more at right tackle. It took him roughly two years to get over a high school knee injury, and he had knee problems late last year, but now he's 100% and has to use his size, quickness, and talent to be the special player he was supposed to become last year.

Going from a backup to a steady starter at right guard is junior Kevin Zeitler , a versatile blocker who'll start at right guard but can step in anywhere on the inside and could move to tackle if desperately needed. At 6-4 and 312 pounds, he has the typical size for a Badger lineman and he grew into the job. He could stand to be better in pass protection, but he's a good talent who once again should be a mauler.

Projected Top Reserves: Senior Bill Nagy was all set to step in and start at right guard last season, but got hurt after being hit by a car, and he saw a little bit of time in just three games. The 6-3, 318-pound veteran could see time at center if needed and knows what he's doing at guard. At the very least, he's a starting-caliber guard working as a reserve with good athleticism for the spot.

6-4, 323-pound sophomore Travis Frederick became the first true freshman in Wisconsin history to start the first game of the year on the line, but he suffered an ankle injury after two games and didn't get back on the field until the final two games of the year. While he wasn't a monster recruit, he turned out to be a perfect fit for the Badger line and now he'll be a big part of the rotation at center. Aggressive and extremely tough, he can be a strong guard if needed.

Watch Out For … the health of the front five. Between Moffitt's hernia problem, the knee of Carimi and Oglesby, Frederick's ankle, Nagy's foot, and Konz's scary chest issue, the line didn't exactly hold up last year. All the parts are expected to be back and healthy by the start of the season, and then it might be lights out time.
Strength: Size. You were expecting a bunch of 267-pound athletes? It's Wisconsin. Everyone is 6-5ish and around 315 pounds with good quickness. The line, if healthy, should be among the best in the country for the ground game.
Weakness: Pass protection. Besides health, the line's biggest concern is a lack of consistency against the more athletic defensive fronts. Ohio State's line ate UW's lunch, while Iowa and Miami more than just held their own. The line gave up 23 sacks; far too many for a line this good.
Outlook: If everyone is healthy, not a given, the UW line should be among the best in America. The starters are huge, experienced, and talented, and the backups are huge and talented. The pass protection could stand to be better (UW is ALWAYS overrated when it comes to protecting the passer), but this should be one of the team's strongest units and it should dominate at times. This could be the best Badger line in over a decade.
Unit Rating: 9

- 2010 Wisconsin Preview | 2010 Wisconsin Offense
- 2010 Wisconsin Defense | 2010 Wisconsin Depth Chart
- Wisconsin Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006