2009 Wisconsin Badgers Football Preview
2008 Record: (7-6, 3-5)
2008 Bowl: Champs Sports Bowl vs. Florida State (L 13-42)
Coach: Bret Bielema (28-11 at Wisconsin, 28-11 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Paul Chryst
Defensive Coordinator: Dave Doeren
Other Key Returnees: WR Issac Anderson, RB Zach Brown, OT Gabe Carimi, WR David Gilreath, TE Garrett Graham, S Chris Maragos, C John Moffitt, S Jay Valai
Key Losses: LB Jonathan Casillas, DT Jason Chapman, RB P.J. Hill, G Andy Kemp, CB Allen Langford, LB DeAndre Levy, DT Mike Newkirk, DE Matt Shaughnessy, G Kraig Urbik, OT Eric Vanden Heuvel
Few teams had a more tumultuous 2008 season than Wisconsin. The Badgers went on an epic losing streak, at least epic by Wisconsin standards, but still managed to recover and end the regular season with a 7-5 record. Getting outgunned by a depleted Florida State squad in the Champs Sports Bowl will not get the momentum heading in the right direction, but this was a good team that just had a bad year.
Part of the problem was the inconsistent play of quarterback Dustin Sherer. Sherer ended up splitting time with the now departed Allan Evridge, but neither of them performed very well. Sherer will likely be the starter again this season and every year of experience should help with his decision making. The other option is redshirt freshman Curt Phillips, a dual-threat signal caller, who was very impressive in the fall. But this is Wisconsin football we are talking about. The quarterback does not have to make plays. The quarterback has to get the ball to a running back; in this case John Clay. The Badgers lost P.J. Hill, who tallied 1,161 yards last season, but Clay rushed for 884 yards and is ready to take over the lead role. When he needs a break, Zach Brown is more than capable of carrying the ball 100 or more times this season. The Badgers lose three starters on the line, but there were plenty of underclassmen who saw some playing time last year who will be ready to step up and fill in the gaps and create space for the running game.
The Wisconsin defense was also disappointing last season and now they have to survive without most of their front line. Tackles Jason Chapman and Mike Newkirk are gone and so is end Matt Shaughnessy. For a team that ranked tenth in the conference in sacks per game, finding a pass rush might be very difficult. The situation is no better for the linebackers. Jaevery McFadden is the only returning starter. McFadden led the team with 84 tackles last year, but he needs help from some fresh faces to replace second and third leading tacklers and fellow linebackers DeAndre Levy and Jonathan Casillas. Considering the lack of a pass rush, the secondary was pretty strong last year, only giving up 196 yards per game through the air. Cornerback Allen Langford is a big loss, but getting Niles Brinkley and safeties Chris Maragos and Jay Valai back should make the secondary the best unit on defense.
The Bottom Line for the Badgers:
And if the front four can get pressure on the opposing backfield, the secondary will be great. End O’Brien Schofield led the teams in sacks during the 2008 campaign and could be in for a big senior season. Now the Badgers just need linemen like Dan Moore, Jeff Stehle and Patrick Butrym to step up and turn the front line into a consistent force. If they do, the Badgers can win games with their defense and should have little trouble getting back to a bowl game.
By Joel Welser
Check out all of the 2009 college football previews online through College Sports Fans.
Copyright 2005-2009, CollegeSports-fans.com and the Dash Fans Network of Independent College Sports Fan Sites.