Melvin Gordon: Redshirt freshman running back
It may seem unlikely for a running back to break out when he’s buried behind a former Big Ten Freshman of the Year and a 2012 Heisman finalist, but that’s just what redshirt freshman Melvin Gordon is poised to do.
With junior running back James White and senior running back Montee Ball held out of the Badgers’ annual spring game, Gordon took control and showcased his potential to be a future star, carrying the ball 30 times for 159 yards and a touchdown.
The Kenosha, Wis., native played in three games last season, rushing for 98 yards and one touchdown on 30 total carries. He was still able to redshirt, however, preserving his freshman status for the upcoming season.
Gordon’s skill set is a blend of both White and Ball—at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, he has the speed to break open a run like White as well as the bulk and strength to rip through tacklers like Ball.
With a new starting quarterback and No. 1 wide receiver this season, the Badgers will look for their ground game to carry them offensively in 2012, and Gordon figures to be a major contributor.
Brittany Ammerman: Junior forward
The Badgers come into the 2012-’13 season with the nation’s top player (senior forward Brianna Decker, the 2012 Patty Kazmaier Award winner) and arguably the nation’s top goaltender (junior Alex Rigsby, the nation’s top returning save percentage leader). Expect Ammerman to emerge as the team’s unquestioned third star.
The River Vale, N.J., native likely won’t lead Wisconsin in goals scored, because that’s not what her game is about. Ammerman is more of a speedster, a facilitator who doesn’t get all the glory but quietly sets up teammates. That’s evident from her 13-goal, 17-assist totals from last season—numbers that make Ammerman Wisconsin’s second-highest returning goal scorer and third-highest returning assister.
With the departure of forwards Hilary Knight, Brooke Ammerman (Brittany’s older sister) and Carolyne Prévost, Brittany Ammerman will certainly play a more prominent offensive role this season.
Sam Dekker: Freshman forward
The highest-rated recruit head coach Bo Ryan has brought in since McDonald’s All-American center Brian Butch in 2003, Dekker promises be a major contributor to Wisconsin next season.
The 6-foot-8-inch, 215-pound slasher out of Sheboygan, Wis., led his Sheboygan Lutheran team to a Division 5 high school state championship at the Kohl Center in March in the most dramatic of fashions.
Trailing by eight with 70 seconds to play, Dekker simply took over the game. Wisconsin’s Mr. Basketball scored Sheboygan Lutheran’s final 12 points, including a fading three-pointer from the sideline in the closing seconds to put Sheboygan Lutheran up 67-66.
As Racine Lutheran’s final heave missed long, Dekker turned to the crowd and put his arms in the air while his teammates smothered him with congratulatory chest bumps and hugs.
The game winning three-pointer gave Dekker 40 points in the game, which was slightly better than his season average of 35.2 points per game. That scoring ability will be welcome on a Badgers team whose top returning scorer is senior forward Ryan Evans (11).
On June 7 Dekker made the USA Basketball U18 National Team, which will play in the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship June 16-20 in Sao Sebastiáo do Paraiso, Brazil.
Jake McCabe: Sophomore defenseman
m has gained a reputation for producing elite offensive defensemen in recent years, a tradition they look to continue with sophomore defenseman Jake McCabe.
Despite playing in just 26 games last season, McCabe’s 12 points (three goals, nine assists) put him third on the team in scoring among defensemen and second among freshmen.
Now with a season under his belt, as well as the departure of defenseman Justin Schultz, McCabe will likely be a part of the Badgers’ top defensive pairing, giving him more ice time and more opportunities to score.
McCabe’s excellent speed and skating ability, paired with his first-class vision and passing, will help him not only to improve on last year’s numbers, but also to become one of the top scoring defensemen in college hockey.
Look for McCabe to be a top-50 pick in this month’s NHL draft before he helps lead the Badgers through their final season in the WCHA conference.
Marissa Mersch: Sophomore outfielder
Marissa Mersch’s freshman campaign would’ve caught the attention of many more people had it not been for Wisconsin’s amazing year offensively this past season. The 5-foot-3-inch outfielder saw plenty of action—along with the rest of the Badgers’ potent lineup—playing in 50 games and starting in 32.
The Downers Grove, Ill., native hit .239 and knocked in 16 runs this past season, but those accomplishments as a freshman were overshadowed by the record-breaking season the entire Wisconsin lineup put together.
The Wisconsin offensive firepower propelled itself into winning a school-record 12 Big Ten games and hitting .300 in the process. The team had five players hit over .300.
Expect Mersch’s sophomore season to be even more beneficial to the team. She proved to be the confident young player the Badgers needed late last season, as she found herself in the starting lineup in some of the team’s most important Big Ten games during the home stretch of the season.
With Mersch having an entire year under her belt and already proving she’s ready for the marquee games, don’t expect Mersch’s accomplishments to go as unnoticed as they did last season.