A handful of Badger Bloggers got together to discuss the upcoming football season. Joining me are Scott Tappa of Badgercentric, Phil Mitten of Hoops Marinara (a Badger basketball blog -- nice alliteration on that one, no?), and Adam Hoge of Bucky's 5th Quarter. We started with the easier task, making sense of the offense:
What's your take on the WR's? Is Gilreath really the #1? Where does Jefferson fit in post multiple concussions?
Bucky’s Fifth Quarter: Gilreath is No. 1 right now, but I'm convinced Nick Toon will be a starter by the opener. Whether that means he takes Isaac Anderson's spot or Gilreath's, we shall see, but Toon has great size and he proved last year he could make some big catches. As for Jefferson, I think it is all up to him. I didn't really like his attitude last season after a pretty good freshman year and I think that had a lot to do with his sub-par season. Attitude plays a big part in getting over concussions as well. Jefferson has the tools to make the UW receivers a scary group, but that doesn't necessarily mean he will make it happen.
BadgerCentric: Don't think Gilreath is the #1, not strong enough. Think it's gotta be Toon. Jefferson is the deep threat, can't see sending him over the middle any more. I have faith in Gilreath and Anderson to find openings in coverage, Brandon Williams types.
Hoops Marinara: Gilreath may be our best, but he's certainly not a #1. Honestly, I wish the best for Jefferson to contribute, but at this point I am hoping for Toon and/or Anderson to pass him by, preferrably Toon so we can have a steady option on the outside to go with Graham on the inside. Gilreath is slightly overrated as a return man (still waiting for that first TD!), but he does have the ability to break a big play. Maybe Jefferson could develop into our jump ball specialist in the red zone. Work on those hands son!
On Wisconsin: I think Gilreath was #1 last season by default -- Anderson had been hurt and Toon and Jefferson were far less experienced. I think he starts this season #3, as the slot receiver. Toon probably has the most talent, although I sometimes think we all get distracted by his last name. Anderson is a better pure receiver than Gilreath. Maybe not as fast, but better hands and better size. Anderson and Toon are your starting two. Gilreath is dangerous in space, but I think he’s #3 based on his size and hands. Jefferson? He’s a good kid, but I worry a lot about his head. I can’t see him starting over any of those three, so he spells Toon and Anderson. I think this is the best group of receivers – especially when you factor in the tight ends – in more than five years (with the depth, better than Williams, Orr, and Daniels). I’m excited about our passing game . . . IF . . .
The Running Backs? Anyone else think Brown may take more than 1/3 of the snaps this season? Worried about depth?
Hoops Marinara: What me, worry? No, I think the depth is fine at RB. Wisconsin has always done well with the next man in philosophy, so the Badgers can handle a minor injury here and there and use a Ewing or an Erik Smith as needed. I am okay with Brown taking a full 3rd of the snaps if it means keeping JC the Messiah fresh.
Bucky’s Fifth Quarter: I don't think Brown gets a third of the snaps unless John Clay has to battle some injuries. Still, a fourth of the carries seems realistic because of Brown's talent. I'm not worried about depth because Montee Ball provides some emergency insurance much like Brown did during his freshman season. The difference is that UW needed Brown because Lance Smith couldn't play in road games, but if Wisconsin needs to use Ball this season because of injuries then they could pull the red-shirt early.
BadgerCentric: Hadn't thought of it, but I agree Brown might take more than a third of the snaps, a combination of his being pretty good, Clay being in his first season as the main guy, and probably more third downs than we'd like.
On Wisconsin: I’m still not sold on Clay as the every-down back. The position takes more than just running the ball hard and I think Chryst’s offense looks for more flexibility with the back (see, e.g., Calhoun, Brian). Brown provides a lot more of that. I think Brown could see as many as 40% of the snaps, though probably only about 1/4 of the carries. Regardless, if they stay healthy, I honestly think this is the best 1-2 combination in the Big Ten this year.
Tight Ends? So Graham is a beast, how dangerous is Kendricks? Will Turner really just be a fullback already at the line? Will we ever even see a true fullback with this offense?
On Wisconsin: Kendricks is dangerous enough to line up wide as a receiver every now and again, which makes sending in the right personnel tough for the defensive coordinator. I like that flexibility and with him and Graham out there you see a great 2-tight end set. That said, Mickey Turner played very well last season as a traditional tight end and several times proved he could make the catches we need that #2 tight end to make. Remember in 2006 when we went the whole season without a fullback? Worked out ok. I suspect Turner will play a fullback-ish role, but I think it will most often come after he lines up as a second tight end. I think we see very little of a traditional fullback this season. At least that’s my hope – our personnel are built for the 2-tight end set.
Hoops Marinara: I anticipate the Graham/Kendricks combo to surpass the Beckum/Graham combo ... of last season. That means accumulating more than 2008's 60+ catches, 800+ yards and 5 TDs. Very doable as long as they are both healthy.
Bucky’s Fifth Quarter: Lance Kendricks is very dangerous and we've seen in past years how much better UW's offense is when they have two tight ends that can catch the ball. As far as Turner goes, I think he gets a good amount of snaps at the traditional fullback position. The fullback has been pretty important in recent years and if they need to use him there they will.
BadgerCentric: I can see fullbacks still playing a part of this offense, seems like we're still recruiting that type of kid. Turner's a blocker, not much more. With Graham and a solid group of wide receivers, I don't see Kendricks catching more than 35 or 40 passes, max, even if he's a lot better.
And the biggie . . . who's it going to be? Who should it be? And why?
BadgerCentric: It's going to be Sherer, at least at the start. It should be ... Budmayr if he's even close to being ready. A reach? Maybe. But my sense is he's the best passer of this group, he probably wouldn't be much worse than the other guys this year, and we could have him start for four years.
On Wisconsin: I guess I just don’t trust inexperienced players and I think Sherer got a bad rap. He played very well after his first start (Iowa; that can hardly be blamed on him). He also got the ball to his WRs more than either Evridge or Donovan did, which is a positive. Did he look bad against FSU? In the second half, but he had little time to throw the ball and the offense was predictable at that point. I think we’ll see pretty solid (not spectacular) play from Dustin this year and the real battle will be redshirt Freshman Budmayr vs. Sophomore Phillips in 2010.
Hoops Marinara: Scherer to start. But it should be Phillips from Day 1. He's put a year in on the scout team already. Phillips has the running instincts that has brought Wisconsin success in the past (ie: Samuels, Bollinger) but a better arm.
Bucky’s Fifth Quarter: As of today it is going to be Dustin Sherer and should be Dustin Sherer because Curt Phillips and Jon Budmayr haven't shown enough yet to be considered a starter. Still, I find it slightly peculiar that Sherer isn't one of the three players representing the Badgers at Big Ten Media Days this year. We know -- and I think the coaches know -- that this is still Dustin Sherer we are talking about. He has never shown us anything spectacular and if Curt Phillips comes on strong during camp then it wouldn't surprise me at all if Sherer didn't start the season at quarterback. At the very least, I doubt Sherer starts all 12 regular season games.
I guess on offense all that leaves is the line: How will it be with three new starters? Was Bielema serious that Konz could push Oglesby out of the starter's spot, or was he just making a point to Josh? How will Bscherer be at guard? Anyone else worried about a lack of depth at guard? Will anything stop the rash of false starts and holding penalties?
Bucky’s Fifth Quarter: I think the Peter Konz chatter was a motivational ploy to get Oglesby going. We are getting close to that point where if Oglesby isn't starting now then he might never be starting. Bscherer will be fine at guard, but probably not spectacular. Fans should be worried about the depth right now, but I think guys like Travis Frederick and Jake Current will ease those worries by the end of the season. If the false starts and holding penalties don't stop then that reflects back on the coaching staff. I think that is one of a handful of improvements that we have to see this season or the hot seat will start scorching Bielema's rear end.
On Wisconsin: Oglesby was a 5-star because of his size, but Konz wasn’t a legit threat to his position; Josh will start. The fact that they moved Bscherer to guard, rather than demoting Oglesby, tells me Josh is doing ok, if maybe not living up to all the (probably unfair) hype. I see injuries at the guard position as a real concern. Freshman lineman aren’t something you like to see, and that’s where we are if Bscherer or Nagy goes down. Bielema and Chryst need to end the penalties. I’ve never coached football, so I don’t know how to do it, but it needs to happen. If it does, I think we’re looking at a solid line, maybe as good as last year (especially considering how many games Oglesby and Nagy played significant minutes in).
BadgerCentric: The line won't be as good as last year, but I'm not worried about it. Carimi is a stud, Moffitt's solid, and the other three starters have starting experience. I could see Konz beating out Oglesby, he struggled mightily at times last year. Bscherer I see being a Matt Lawrence type, someone who's not going to be a huge plus but isn't going to be a liability.
Hoops Marinara: I am looking for a hungrier group of lineman this year that could surprise some people. Bielema is not afraid to call guys out (remember P.J. Hill's "toughen-up pills"?), so Oglesby needs to get it together quickly. Everything looks if he finally gets it, even the depth. Unfortunately, I think as long as Bielema is the head coach some undisciplined play will be the norm. We know he's less of a cool collected guy than Barry, plus he's spread himself too thin.