2009 Depth and Recruiting

News is we just landed a second Conor O'Neal from Florida (ok, the first is Conor "O'Neill"). O'Neal is a defensive tackle, O'Neill is a weakside linebacker. That's just weird.

I'm no recruiting guru, but I am interested in what our team will look like in 2009; that relates to the Badgers' biggest recruiting needs. Unfortunately, as I look at the 2009 class (as Scout and Rivals report it), I'm not filled with a sense of optimism. That isn't to say we aren't bringing in great kids -- I'm sure we are. The problem I see is what positions we aren't back filling.
Here are my projected depth charts, first the offense. The number corresponds to the year of eligibility the player is in (4 = senior, whether 4th or 5th year, 1 = freshman, which in this case would be redshirt, as all of these players were on the roster in 2008). An asterisk means the player was rated a 4-star recruit, and two means a 5-star (only Oglesby). After the first two players listed (except at TE down to Byrne, the WR position with Jones and halfback with Ewing), it's not even guesswork, it's more just putting the players somewhere on the list.

At quarterback I have Phillips or Scherer, and I'm handicapping Phillips to take the starting role. Jones was recruited as a linebacker, but listed as a running back last season. Given his size, and our lack of fullbacks, I'm projecting him as a fullback. That's pure guesswork. The dotted lines around the fullback position indicate that I expect to see more two tight end or three wide receiver sets based on our lack of fullbacks and our depth at TE and WR. Putting a healthy Kendricks out there with Graham has to be enticing to Chryst. Likewise, using Gilreath in the slot, with Anderson and Toon on the outside also looks pretty good (or one of the other guys, maybe a healthy Jefferson -- I have Toon as the starter over Jefferson because I wonder about Kyle's ability to play post-concussions). So, not much use of the fullback for 2009. And even with Hill leaving, tailback looks fine with Clay, then Brown, Ewing, and Smith. Preisler isn't likely to see the field in that role.

That's all well and good. But the hole is obvious: offensive guards. Who will be on the 2-deep? You see that OL RSF box? Offensive line, redshirt freshman. Only Garner was recruited, and at tackle. We have good tackles on the two-deep, but we aren't exactly stacked there. Garner will likely need to stay there and will probably make the 2-deep at some point in 2009 (if someone gets injured), or if not, in 2010. So, no players recruited who are in line to play guard. Current will be the go-to guy, assuming Moffitt stays healthy, but we still need another (and should have two or more). And who's on the recruiting chart for the 2009 class (in any case notoriously a difficult position to start as a true-freshman)? Ryan Croy, listed at 270. Does one of the tackle recruits switch over (both are listed a touch over 300)? One of the defensive tackles? Only the most recent O'Neal has the size and it doesn't look like he's projected anywhere but on defense. Burge and Cromwell, two players not "signed," tipped the scales just over 300 pounds last season (or so says the roster), so we should probably expect them to fill in those guard positions on the two-deep. Nonetheless, our line looks to be dangerously thin in 2009.

The less urgent concern is at wide receiver. We have a lot right now, but most are juniors and seniors, so we need to develop depth. Again, unfortunately, the 2009 recruiting class doesn't look great. We currently have one wide receiver in it (Jeff Duckworth). Next year we better bring in a bunch, or we'll be really thin in 2011.
What about the defense?

I'm surprised to see that tackle doesn't look bad at all. If Grimes, Hoey, or Konz prove worthy, we're in pretty good shape there. Likewise for defensive end (especially if Westphal lives up to his billing). After the injuries we suffered to our touted defensive line recruits over the last few years, it looks like we're finally healthy there again. We have an embarrassment of riches at corner (and a lot of those guys seem to have plenty of upside). Although I'd like to assume some of those guys might fill in at safety, they don't appear to have safety size -- at least not when they were listed on the '08 roster. Nonetheless, we're in pretty good shape at safety in the short run, with two solid players at each position, and two more previous recruits waiting in the wings (which is good, since we lose 3 or the 4 safeties on the present 2-deep for 2010). Middle linebacker looks fine, especially if Rouse turns out, but on the outside? Pretty thin. Not desperate like the offensive line, but thin.

In our present recruiting class we only have three players projected at linebacker, two on the outside. Fortunately one of them is the other Conor O'Neill, but he's pretty small to step right in and play. A.J. Fenton, one of our bigger name recruits, is closer to playing weight (but still not there). It used to be, under Alvarez, all the extra running back recruits we brought in would switch to linebacker (or at least that was the rumor, and what one of them who was my classmate told me). But we don't have a huge number of running backs around for that, and Dex Jones switched the other way last season. Everywhere else on the defense we seem to have pretty good depth spread out by class, but at linebacker, we're in need. If we don't get them this year, we need to get them in 2010.

We're still a few weeks from signing day, so we'll see . . .

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