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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
'Juice' the biggest threat to homecoming success

Juice Williams is arguably the best in the Big Ten: Juice Williams is arguably the best in the Big Ten

'Juice' the biggest threat to homecoming success

Badger fans cringe when they hear the names of qurterbacks Daryll Clark and Terrelle Pryor. Saturday morning's Homecoming game at Camp Randall will be a continuation of the nightmare unless the Badgers stop Illinois' junior quarterback Isaiah Juice"" Williams. 

Williams, who used to only be known for his athleticism and ability to run in the open field, has transformed his game into a dual threat. He has established himself as a dangerous passer, ranking first in the Big Ten with an efficiency rating of 158.75. 


The shift in the Big Ten to predominantly spread offense systems has left the Badgers in the minority; they are one of two teams in the conference that do not run the spread. Adjusting to a spread system is usually one of the humps that young quarterbacks must surpass to effectively run the offense. Williams, now in his third year starting for Illinois, has nearly mastered it. He has the ability to evade the blitz and create opportunities that strictly pocket passers could not. 


The ability to throw inside and outside of the pocket grants more time for Williams to convert on third and long situations. By moving in the pocket, he creates more time for his receivers to get open downfield. The Badger defense ranks second-to-last in the Big Ten when it comes to defending third downs. 

""We need to go out there and get off the field ... on third down and play well on first down,"" Badgers' senior cornerback Allen Langford said.  


Stopping the Fighting Illini on third downs will be crucial for Wisconsin to limit Williams' effectiveness. Every third down conversion for Illinois means two things: the Badgers' offense stays on the sideline and the defense continues to exhaust energy defending the persistent sideline-to-sideline attack led by Williams. 


Wisconsin's defensive ends, who were expected to be a bright spot this year, have had difficulties containing spread minded offenses. Junior O'Brien Schofield and senior Matt Shaughnessy are critical components of the Badgers defense when it comes to stopping Williams. Controlling Williams in the running facet of his game will be the primary objective of the defensive ends. If the ends can force Juice into being a one dimensional quarterback, the other players on defense will be able to focus on shutting down the aerial element of Williams' game. 


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The linebacking core of junior Jaevery McFadden and seniors DeAndre Levy and Jonathan Casillas has been one of the few strengths on the defensive side for Wisconsin this season. The speed and experience of the linebackers will certainly help stop the high-powered Fighting Illini offense. As evident against quarterbacks such as Penn State's Clark and Ohio State's Pryor, however, the defense has sometimes been baffled by the complexities the spread offense entails. 


As a freshman at Illinois, Williams' pass completion percentage was a mere 39.5, a massive differene from this year, during which he has completed 60 percent. He is also the Big Ten's leading rushing quarterback with 67.9 yards per game. The Badgers' defense will certainly have their hands full with Williams, arguably the conference's most prolific all-around quarterback. 


The Big Ten, known in the past for its smash mouth style of football, has experienced a complete 180 as we now see speed based spread offenses. The Wisconsin defense is undoubtedly experiencing growing pains when it comes to adapting to this new style of football. Wisconsin linebackers coach Randall McCray still remains confident. 

""I'd like to think we can stop them all [both spread and balanced styles of offense],"" McCray said. ""If we go out and execute the plan I'd feel good about stopping either one right now."" 


Saturday will be an enormous test for the struggling Badgers as they look for their first conference win. Stopping the highly respected and extremely dangerous Williams will undoubtedly be the key to victory.

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