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Friday, May 27, 2022

State of the 2012 Badger Football Team

Offense

Bright spot: The Badger’s bread-and-butter on offense has always been a powerful run game, and in 2012 they may have the deepest backfield in team history. Senior tailback Montee Ball is a top Heisman candidate who is coming off one of the best seasons in recent memory, while junior James White has already rushed for over 1,700 yards and 20 touchdowns in his young career.

Wisconsin also has good depth as redshirt sophomore Jeff Lewis and redshirt freshman Melvin Gordon have both impressed so far. Perhaps no team in the country is better equipped to run the ball this season than the Badgers.

Cause for concern: For the second straight year, Wisconsin enters the season with a transfer signal caller taking over as the starter. Junior quarterback Danny O’Brien has won the starting job, beating out redshirt senior Curt Phillips and redshirt freshman Joel Stave, but he struggled last season at Maryland and will have to digest a new offense and playbook.

Depth is also a concern for the Badgers—redshirt junior Jon Budmayr and freshman Bart Houston are already out for the season, and redshirt sophomore Joe Brennan transferred to Towson earlier this month. O’Brien has the talent to succeed in this offense, but at this point the position is still a question mark.

 X-factor: With the departure of Nick Toon, the Badgers are left with just one legitimate threat at wide receiver in redshirt junior Jared Abbrederis. Spring and fall camps brought much competition for the No. 2 spot, and on August 20th redshirt freshman wide receiver Jordan Fredrick was listed on the depth chart as the starter opposite Abbrederis.

A Madison native, Fredrick walked on at Wisconsin and redshirted his freshman year – much like Abbrederis, who only recently was put on scholarship. Fredrick takes longer strides and isn’t as shifty as Abbrederis, but he provides a bigger target for O’Brien at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds.

If Fredrick can step up and turn into another reliable target for Danny O’Brien, this year’s offense could have the potential to put up numbers similar to last year’s explosive squad.

—Matt Masterson

Defense

Bright spot: Led by redshirt senior Mike Taylor and redshirt junior Chris Borland, the Badgers boast one of the nation’s top linebacking corps.

Taylor and Borland were the top two tacklers in the Big Ten last season, and both return as favorites for all-conference selections this season. Throw in promising redshirt junior Ethan Armstrong, who impressed coaches enough this offseason to be put on scholarship, and this trio should provide fits for opposing offensive coordinators.

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Cause for concern: On the surface, Wisconsin’s secondary was solid in 2011. Their pass defense was fourth-best in the nation, surrendering just 163.6 yards per game. It was the last line of defense on a unit that ranked 13th in the nation in points allowed (19 per contest).

However, it was also largely responsible for two plays that defined both of the Badgers’ regular season losses. Coaches and players will always insist that one play can’t determine a game’s outcome, but Wisconsin lost to Michigan State on a last-second Hail Mary and fell to Ohio State following a go-ahead, 40-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds left to play.

The safeties—redshirt senior Shelton Johnson and redshirt junior Dezmen Southward—should be fine. After all, head coach Bret Bielema said in the spring that the two could be the best safety duo during his head coaching tenure at Wisconsin.

The concern instead comes from the defensive backs. Redshirt seniors Devin Smith and Marcus Cromartie will play a vital role in Wisconsin’s defensive success this season.

X-factor: Based on the above paragraph, Wisconsin’s defensive X-factor has to be one of its defensive backs. Between  redshirt senior defensive backs, Devin Smith and Marcus Cromartie, it’s more crucial that Smith plays at an elite level.

This summer, Bielema said he believes Wisconsin would’ve finished undefeated in the regular season if Smith hadn’t been out for the year after breaking his foot during week two.

Further, Bielema said the difference in play between Smith and Cromartie could’ve been the difference between a possible national championship berth and only a Big Ten title.

An injury-free comeback season from Smith will go a long way in solidifying Wisconsin’s secondary, as the Badgers are rather inexperienced at defensive back.

Redshirt sophomore Peniel Jean, next in line behind Smith and Cromartie, was just sidelined four to six weeks after suffering a foot fracture.

That leaves only six total career games played between the next two defensive backs on the depth chart in sophomore Devin Gaulden (six) and redshirt freshman Darius Hillary (zero).

If the Badgers are to win a third-straight Big Ten Championship, they will certainly need strong cornerback play. Smith is the guy to lead the way.

  —Vince Huth

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