So, the regular season is in the books. Some thoughts on next season's lineup (thoughts on outgoing Seniors to come later).
Starting on offense: In Chyrst's offense, the quarterback needs to be able to throw the ball accurately. Sherer is more accurate than Evridge ever was. It may not have looked that way against Iowa, but the staff made the right decision to pull the plug on Evridge. It must've been tough on Bielema. He was with Alan at K-State and brought him here to play, not to be a backup. But a backup is what he turned into, and reasonably so.
Sherer has solid upside. He throws a nice ball and has pretty good pocket presence. His problems are more technique than talent: he waits too long to throw and he needs to cut down on the throws into coverege. These are things he can learn. I'm encrouaged by his development this season and his ability to place passes, both short and long. His seven starts this season (assuming the bowl game) will pay dividends in the next. I think we're one more year from Phillips being the man.
Sticking with the passing game: our receivers have a lot of potential. Isaac Anderson looks like he'll lead this crew for a couple more years, but Toon is progressing, and Gilreath's speed is a nice advantage. With two more years for Anderson and Gilreath, three for Toon, add in one more year with Graham at TE (a clear winner), this could be a special group that might remind us of Jonathan Orr, Brandon Williams, and Owen Daniels. That's high praise, but I think the potential is there.
Running Back: with the three guys, John Clay looks like the every down back. He needs to develop his skills in the passing game. I like Hill. He's been good for the Badgers, but he doesn't have the talent or strength that Clay does. He should continue to get carries, but Clay should be featured. Zach Brown needs to get more touches. He's versatile, runs hard, actually reads his blocks, and provides an excellent option in the passing game as a check-down. Clay should start, but Brown should be the next option.
Fullback? Pressley and Rentmeester were there when we needed them and played hard. No one that quite looked like Matt Berstein, but they were solid. Who's next? There are no other fullbacks on the roster. Looks like the 2009 offense will resemble the '06 offense: no fullbacks. As you'll recall, Chryst's offense works just fine that way.
The linemen: The guys who are coming back are solid. Two more years with Carimi and Moffit make me smile. Moffit could be the best center in the Big Ten his senior year. He did a great job in his first year starting and the line is a position that most players get better with every start. Josh Ogeslby played pretty well when he was called on and may start next season. He needs to focus on technique (as he has since he arrived in Madison), as his size has been there from the beginning. But will he beat out Jake Bscherer, who has also played pretty well? Not clear. Does one of them move to guard, instead? Bill Nagy will be a two-year starter at guard, beginning next year. The question looks to be who the second guard is. However it works out, this looks like a pretty solid unit all with decent game experience following this year.
Barring significant injuries, the 2009 Badger offense has real potential.
The Defense? The picture isn't quite as pretty.
Starting with the defensive line, O'Brien Schofield seemed to get better as the year went on as the only non-senior starter on the line. Does Jeff Stehle have what it takes? He hasn't had his name called much. Everyone else on the line will be a youngster without much experience at all. This unit will be a big questionmark heading into next season.
Linebackers: after three years of Casillas and Levy roaming the outside, it's time for a change. Will McFadden stay in the middle? I see St. Jean on the strongside -- which I like, unless McFadden goes there. Sorensen has played a bit, but not enough to get a good feel from him. Like the d-line, the linebacking corps for '09 is a real questionmark. Not a great sign for our front seven. Some one will need to emerge as a leader for these guys.
The defensive backfield looks pretty good. Goins and Brinkley came along well, they were just thrown into the fire too early. Between Carter, Maragos (perhaps moved to corner), Valai, and Pleasant, we should be set up in the safety spots. Hopefully Aaron Henry will return healthy at corner, and this should be a solid group. Not eye-catching, but solid.
On special teams we're still waiting to see Gilreath really explode. He has the speed, but maybe not the moves. On the plus side, having Welch and Nortman kicking looks very good for the next three years.
Overall the offense looks pretty darned good, the defense a little scary. Look forward to seeing what the front 7 does during the spring.