There are a lot of reasons for Badger fans to get excited right now. We're returning a lot of talent and a lot of experience. Nonetheless, there are a handful of nagging questions about the 2008 Badger squad.
Coach Bielema gave a nice little chat to ESPN (courtesy of the Journal Sentinel) which told us what we already knew: Evridge hasn't been named the starting QB yet, but probably will be, and our running game is in good hands. With Hill, Brown, Smith, and Clay all vying for playing time, there's an embarrassment of riches at the tailback spot. We have two big senior fullbacks to lead for them and to help out in protection. Then there's the line.
"Big uglies," indeed, Coach. If you liked Barry-Ball, this line is for you: Carimi (6'8," 299 lb.) and Bscherer (6'7," 297) are both great options at Left Tackle, with Bscherer getting good experience last fall; Senior Andy Kemp (6'6," 316) is going into his third year as a full-time starter at left guard; likewise Senior Craig Urbik (6'6," 328) has been starting for what seems like forever; flanked by Senior returning starter Eric Vanden Heuvel (6'7," 321) with uber-recruit and now red-shirt Frosh Josh Oglesby (6'7," 338) backing him at right tackle. Sophomore John Moffitt (6'4," 317) at center is the biggest unknown on the line. So four returning starters, a bunch of large bodies, and some big, solid, practiced and highly touted recruits waiting in the wings. It's enough to make any 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust enthusiast drool. A devoted follower of King Barry, I need a slobber rag.
So, Bielema tells us the Badgers will run the ball. No doubt. It's going to be tough to stop. But that doesn't answer any of the pre-camp questions, which mostly focus on the defense:
(1) How are the back-ups for the defensive line coming along? Shaughnessy broke his fibula in the Spring (is expected for Fall camp, but how much is expected of him?), Chapman sat the Spring Game, and Newkirk has fought back injuries most of his career in Mad-town and underwent shoulder surgery last winter. A D-line that looks like a MASH unit isn't a great way to start a season. Without quality depth, we're going to have a hard time controlling the line when we're on D.
(2) How are our corners looking? Henry had an encouraging Freshman campaign, but both he and Langford are returning from blown ACLs and haven't practiced since last season. Langford never necessarily dazzled Badger fans to begin with. And who's our nickel back?
(3) How are our new kickers? Losing the older DeBauche hurts, losing Mehlhaff is agony. The importance of touch-backs and having a guy who you can confidently turn to for 3 pts from 50 yards are vastly underrated. Those are hidden yards and points the Badgers will likely miss.
oh, and . . .
(4) Who is our new Quarterback? Is there really any doubt that it's Evridge? With our running game, he's not going to need to be the second-coming of Ron Vanderkelen -- or even John Stocco -- but just moving the pile isn't going to cut it against the defenses Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State will throw at us in the first three weeks of the BigTen season. Can he get Gilreath and Jefferson the ball? Can he find Beckum on that little crossing pattern Chryst loves? Will he avoid making the big mistakes? Basically, can a first year starter (ok, so he had a few games nearly a decade ago at K-State) be Darrell Bevell incarnate?
Stay tuned, fall camp is just a few weeks away.