Grading Wisconsin's positional groups through four games

Jazz Peavy has gotten off to a slow start for the Badgers this season. 

Image By: Jessi Schoville

The Wisconsin Badgers are off to a hot start with a 4-0 record (1-0 Big Ten). They have been one of the most talented and well rounded teams in the country, reflected by their ranking of ninth in the Associated Press rankings. But how does each position group shape up by themselves?

Quarterback:

Wisconsin’s starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook has gotten off to a hot start this season. Through four games Hornibrook has completed 66.3 percent of his passes for 898 yards and nine touchdowns. As of now, Hornibrook is on pace to finish the season with 2,694 passing yards and 27 passing touchdowns. Efficiency has been the name of Hornibrook’s game so far this season, as he boasts an impressive 176.8 passer rating, which ranks fifth nationally among quarterbacks. Hornibrook has been exactly what the Badgers have needed this season, providing a respectable passing game to keep opposing defenses from stacking the box against the run.

Grade: A

Running Back

Wisconsin’s stable of running backs has had its fair share of success this season, leading the Badgers to rank 35th nationally in rushing yardage. Led by Jonathan Taylor, the Wisconsin running backs have averaged a solid 5.1 yards per carry and have reached the endzone ten times. Taylor has been the feature back so far this season with a team-high 72 carries through four games. It makes sense that he has the most carries as he averages 7.2 yards every time he is handed the football adding up to 518 yards so far this season. The Badgers have always been defined by the talent in their backfield, and this year is no different.

Grade: B+

Wide Receiver and Tight End:

Quarterback Alex Hornibrook’s hot start hasn’t really translated to the receivers so far this year. Only two reliable targets have emerged so far this season: Tight end Troy Fumagalli and wide receiver Quintez Cephus. Fumagalli has been a force for the Badgers so far this season. Even though he has played one less game than the rest of the receivers, he still leads in all receiving categories with 15 receptions for 236 yards and three touchdowns. Cephus has nearly matched Fumagalli’s production so far this year with 14 receptions for 233 yards and three touchdowns. As for the rest of Wisconsin’s receivers, their performance has been less than stellar. The remaining five receivers have combined for only 24 catches and 373 yards. This group has also only reached the endzone three times. The most disappointing player so far has been wide receiver Jazz Peavy. Peavy was thought to be Wisconsin’s number one target this year, but has only caught five passes for 55 yards. While Peavy has been a disappointment, the receiving corps hasn’t hampered the success of the Badgers’ offense enough to warrant a poor grade.

Grade: B-

Offensive Line

The Wisconsin offensive line has been the backbone of the Badgers’ offense this year. They have created plenty of open running lanes for UW’s running backs, and have held stoutly against opposing pass rushers giving Alex Hornibrook plenty of time to throw. It’s hard to say that they’ve been anything less than stellar. Their pass blocking has been its strong suit so far this season, only allowing opposing defenders to reach quarterback Alex Hornibrook six times so far this season. This lack of pressure on Hornibrook has helped the young quarterback get off to a very good start to his season. The Badgers’ domination doesn’t stop in pass blocking though, as their run blocking has allowed their runners to average 5.1 yards per carry for an average of 233 yards per game. The offensive line is the core to the Badgers’ offensive success so far this year, and has easily been their best unit.

Grade: A+

Defensive Line

The Wisconsin defensive line has been tasked this year with eating up blockers and stopping the run. So far, they’ve been incredible. The Badgers rank fourth in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game only giving 73.4 yards to opposing runners each game. Their success against the run can be mainly contributed to the Wisconsin defensive linemen. They have been incredible at creating a push, and taking up blockers allowing no holes for opposing backs to run through. The defensive line hasn’t been much of a force rushing the passer however. This unit only has two and a half sacks to its name.This doesn’t detract from the defensive lines’ success however, as they’ve been one of the more solid units on the team so far this year.

Grade: A-

Linebackers

The Badgers have always had consistently good linebackers, and this year it has been more of the same. They’ve helped the defensive line in stopping opposing runners, and have been solid rushing the passer so far this year. The linebackers have gotten to the opposing passer 11.5 times so far this year and have helped in holding the ranking of the fourth best rushing defense in the nation. They have been led so far by Chris Orr who has 24 total tackles so far this season. These linebackers have been exceptionally solid this year and have been the consistent performers this defense has needed.

Grade: B

Defensive Backs

The Badgers’ secondary has been surprisingly good this year. They ranked 23rd in passing yards allowed, and are tenth in interceptions. Usually the weakest link in an always strong Badgers defense, this year's secondary has been nothing short of incredible. They’ve only allowed 5.53 yards per attempt for 172.8 yards per game. This has opposing quarterbacks sustaining a paltry passer rating of only 105. A lot of the success can be attributed to cornerbacks Nick Nelson and Derrick Tindal and safeties Natrell Jamerson and D’Cota Dixon. They have led this Badgers’ secondary off to one of their best starts in years

Grade: A

Special Teams

The Badgers’ special teams have been pretty solid so far this year. Their kickers have been pretty great so far this year. Place kicker Rafael Gaglianone has hit all 21 of his extra point attempts and has only missed one field goal thus far. Punter Anthony Lotti has averaged 41.3 yards per punt and has pinned opposing teams inside the 20 yard line five times this year. Kickoff specialists Zach Hintze and P.J. Rosowski have combined for 12 touchbacks and an average of 64.5 yards per kick. The returners have been less successful however. Kick returner A.J. Taylor averages only 26.4 yards per return and punt returner Nick Nelson only averages four yards per return. These return numbers bring the grade down of an otherwise solid, but unspectacular Wisconsin special teams unit.

Grade: B-

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Cardinal.