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August 26, 2010

Top 25 Countdown: #9 Wisconsin Badgers


2009 Record – 10-3, 5-3 Big Ten
Bowl Game – Champs Sports Bowl – Beat Miami (Fla.) 20-14
Letterman Returning: 46
Stadium – Camp Randall Stadium
College Location – Madison, WI
Coach – Bret Bielema, 38-14 (5th year)


Key Returnees – RB John Clay (below), QB Scott Tolzien, WR Nick Toon, T Gabe Carimi, TE Lance Kendricks, T Josh Oglesby

Key Losses – TE Garrett Graham, G/T Jake Bscherer

- The Wisconsin offense has never quite been one to marvel at. Sure the team has produced running backs like a factory and NFL ready offensive linemen seem to flow through the program as natural as Wisconsin rivers. Still, what you see is pretty much what you get, and what you see un-doubtingly, is a lot of large men. The Badger offense usually revolves around the running back position, which it has now for greater than the last decade. Staying true to its past, the Badgers may have one of its better rushers that has come through Madison in quite some time, in junior wreaking ball, John Clay. The Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year as a sophomore last season, the Racine Wisconsin native powered his way for 1,517 yards and 18 touchdowns. Clay helped the rush offense for the Badgers churn out more than 200 yards on the ground per game last season. Clay runs with a bulling style at 6’1’’ 248 pounds, and almost always requires more than one defender to bring him down. Not all of the credit can be given to the workhorse, however. The Badgers offensive line returns as one of the best in the conference, bringing back all five starters from last season. The stars along the line are future Sunday players in tackles Gabe Carimi and Josh Oglesby. Carimi may be the drafts top offensive tackle prospect heading into 2010 and helps anchors a line that averages 6’6’’ 320 pounds. At quarterback, the Badgers return senior Scott Tolzien. As a junior last season, Tolzien proved to be better than advertised completing 64 percent of his passes, with 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. A large amount of the Wisconsin offense, or whatever isn’t spent on running the ball, is concentrated towards the tight end position. The Badgers lose senior Garrett Graham, a reliable pass catcher, but bring back perhaps an even better receiver in senior Lance Kendricks. Kendricks caught 29 passes for 356 yards last season, breaking out in the teams bowl victory agianst Miami, catching seven passes for 128 yards. The team also returns top wideout Nick Toon, who led the team with 54 catches for 805 yards and four scores last season.


Key Returnees – OLB Chris Borland, DE JJ Watt (below), CB Devin Smith, S Jay Valai, MLB Culmer St. Jean

Key Losses – DE O’Brien Schofield, S Chris Maragos, OLB Jaevery McFadden

- What does it take to be a great defense without a lot of speed and first round talent? Answer - consistency. The poster child’s for consistency last season, the Badgers were focused on doing one thing, and that was stopping the run. Beyond week three of the 2009 season the Badgers defense never allowed a team to finish over 100 yards rushing, holding opponents to a conference low 88 yard average on the season. It may have been lower if the Badgers second string didn’t sacrifice 214 yards against Woffard. Four of the team’s top six tacklers, who were all over 50 tackles last season, return. The group starts along the defensive front where junior end JJ Watt anchors what will be a new unit. Watt brought in 15.5 tackles for loss last season and returns as the team’s leading sack man at 4.5. Junior end, Louis Nzegwu and junior tackle, Patrick Butrym, fill holes along the front. A pair of redshirt freshman in Jordan Kohout and Ethan Hemer will compete for the opposite tackle position. Hemer was the Badgers defensive scout team player of the year last season. Two starters at linebacker return in sophomore Chris Borland and senior Culmer St. Jean. Borland created an edge rush from his outside position last season, bringing in five sacks on the year. Sophomore Mike Taylor, who started seven games last season before an injury, returns to the other outside position. Taylor tallied 46 tackles to go with 6.5 for a loss in limited duty. The secondary returns three starters from an up and down unit from a year ago. The defensive backfield played stout last season in some games, holding Purdue to just 81 yards passing and Ohio State to 87, while in others played lost, allowing 396 yards against Michigan State and 323 yards to Indiana. The defenses top three corners return in starters Devin Smith and Niles Brinkley along with nickel man Antonio Fenelus. The junior Smith returns as the ‘backfields top man, bringing in 11 passes defended and two interceptions from last season. Senior safety, Jay Valai, brings a small presence to the defensive backfield at just 5’9’’ 200 pounds, but brings a big game and bone jarring hits to every game. Junior Aaron Henry is expected to grab hold of the other safety position.


- A heavy load of out of conference scheduling isn’t something that you may come by in the Wisconsin program, which may be why the Badgers have put together a 23-2 non-conference record the last five seasons – with the two losses coming in bowl games. The losses for the Badgers usually come from familiar faces, and usually away from the madness that is Camp Randall Stadium. A 25-15 record against the Big Ten the last five seasons, circles in a shady cloud over the head of Brett Bielema. This season a four week opening period rests on the shoulders of the Badgers in opening season matchups at UNLV, Sept. 4 and home visits from San Jose State, Arizona State and Austin Peay. The hardest of the four, ASU, should be nothing more than a push over for the Badgers. The Big Ten conference schedule nearly mimics last seasons with a road trip to Michigan State Oct. 2, to start things off. A homecoming meeting against Minnesota is followed by the toughest test of the season in a Camp Randall party against Ohio State and nightmare bus trip to Iowa, Oct. 23. Both games last season proved to be fatal for the Badgers. Following a bye week, a trip to Purdue lies in store Nov. 6. Indiana at home and an away trap late in the season to the Big House of Michigan looks like one that could be a trap game for the Badgers. Northwestern, Nov. 27, ends the season.

Schedule rating: C

Red = Toughest Game. Blue = Pivotal to conference.

Top Incoming Freshman:

1.) Beau Allen, *#26 DT, 6-3 290, Minnetonka, MN

Allen has tremendous strength for a tackle his age and uses his hands extremely well.

2.) Joe Brennan, #39 QB, 6-4 195, Cherry Hill, NJ

Brennan may take some time to develop his mechanics, but the young New Jersey native has a lot of upside at quarterback.

3.) James White (left), #70 RB, 5-10 200, Fort Lauderdale, FL

A member of one of Florida’s top prep programs in St. Thomas Aquinas, White is a powerful runner for a player his size.

4.) Cody Byers, #43 OLB, 6-3 215, Kettering, OH

A safety in high school, Byers could play at both linebacker or in the ‘backfield for the Badgers.

5.) Marquis Mason, #71 WR, 6-5 215, Madison, WI

Mason, a local product, has tremendous size and will most likely be moved to tight end to create mismatches.

*Rankings according to

White: Lou Novick
Clay: AP Photo/ Morry Gash

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All writing and views subject to © Drew P. Kochanny, All Rights Reserved. Photo's credited to rights owner.