Monday, June 20, 2011

Wisconsin Badgers 2010 Review

Wisconsin Badgers
2010 Record: 11-2 (7-1), 1st Big Ten
2010 Bowl Game: Rose Bowl, Lost to TCU 21-19

     The Wisconsin Badgers had one of the more dynamic attacks in the nation last season, and had arguably one of the best defenses in the country as well. The Badgers were able to strip Ohio State of dominating the league last fall, and made a name for themselves as the new kids to beat. Despite some personnel losses this season, the Badgers could still wind up being a force based on what they built under Bret Bielema last season.
     One of the hardest spots to fill in 2011 will be the QB position, as Scott Tolzien may have been the best Badger QB since Darrell Bevel. Tolzien completed an eye popping 72.9% of his passes in an offense that is designed to the higher percentages in the passing game. Tolzien passed for 2459 yards and 16 TDs, while only throwing 6 picks all season. You may not see anything special there, but when you look at the fact that Wisconsin concentrated their attack in the run game, you begin to understand how solid this work was by Tolzien. He was incredibly efficient.
     The Badgers came 4 yards short of finishing the season with three 1000 yard rushers last fall. Only one team has done that in recent history, and that was Nevada in 2009. The run game, like the passing game, was highly efficient, and incredibly balanced between three stellar backs, who all could have started anywhere else. They were led by a freshman in James White, who finished last season having rushed for 1052 and 14 TDs. He was a dynamo out the gate, and gave the Badgers incredible depth. John Clay was the star returning, but he got his work load in despite sharing so many carries. Clay missed two games to injury, but still managed to rush for 1012 yards, a mere 40 yards less than leading rusher White. Clay also managed to rush for 14 TDs, which is incredible that two backs would rush for so many scores. But wait...there's more. With this rushing game, you also get, free of charge, sophomore Montee Ball, who was the unfortunate guy who missed the 1000 yard mark by 4 lousy yards. Ball finished with 996 yards, but outgunned both Clay and White in the endzone, as he pushed his way into scoring land an incredible 18 times in 2010. That's right, the Badgers rushed for an amazing 46 TDs between their top three rushers. Top that one, people.
     Tolzien did a good job moving the ball around, as 5 different receivers caught 20 or more passes, and seven different receivers caught TD passes. Senior TE Lance Kendricks led the team in receiving, as he posted 43-663-5. His 5 scores also led the receivers. Nick Toon missed 4 games last fall, and is the top WR in the corps. In 9 games, Toon posted 36-459-3. He was followed by David Gilreath, who really shined at times, as Gilreath posted 23-370-1. Jared Abbrederis was next, with a line of 20-289-3, and he was followed by senior WR Isaac Anderson, who posted 24-233-0. Freshman Jacob Peterson and RB Bradie Ewing both caught 2 TD passes, while TE Jake Byrne added one TD of his own.
     Defensively, the Badgers were one of the stronger units in the conference and in the nation last fall. Wisconsin only allowed 191.8 yards passing per game, while allowing 131.7 yards rushing per game. My benchmark is keeping passing under 200 yards, while holding teams under 140 yards rushing per game. Wisconsin managed both.
     That being said, Wisconsin had a very long list of players who made tackles, but nobody was a standout. Only one Badger defender averaged more than five tackles per game last fall, and that was senior LB BLake Sorensen, who finished with a team leading 67 tackles, or 5.15 per game. Five other Badgers collected 50 or more tackles last fall, and Sorensen was followed by Culmer St. John (63), JJ Watt (61), Aaron Henry (57), Mike Taylor (57), and Antonio Fenelus (56).
     Up front, the Badgers had one of the more dominant players in the nation in DE JJ Watt, who wound up as a 1st round choice of the Houston Texans. Watt was the only Badger in double figure TFLs last season, but he was a one man show, finishing with 20.5 on the season. LB Mike Taylor came close to joining him, as he finished second on the team with 8. Watt also led the team with 7 sacks last season, but nobody else finished with more than 3. Wisconsin collected only 23 sacks last fall, but the offense only gave up 14 in 13 games, as the Gabe Carimi led offensive line completely dominated games.
     Four different defenders defended as many as 7 passes last season for Wisconsin. Senior Niles Brinkley led the club with 9, and he was followed by three defenders with 7 per player in Fenelus, Henry, and Watt up front. The Badgers defended 46 passes as a team last fall, and created 22 QB hurries. Fenelus led the team with 4 picks last fall, and the Badgers picked off 14 as a team.
     Phillip Welch had a solid season as PK, ending his junior season having hit on 17 of his 22 FG attempts on the year. The real success came on PATs, as Welch hit all 67 PATs that he tried last season. Alec Lerner came on as a freshman to attempt one PAT, and he nailed it. Brad Nortman was one of the better punters in the nation as a junior last fall, having averaged 43.41 yards per punt last fall. David Gilreath averaged 24.41 yards per kick return, and he returned one for a score in the 31-18 win over Ohio State.Gilreath also averaged 10.25 yards on punt returns, but only returned 8 punts all season. One more note on special teams...JJ Watt also managed to block 3 kicks last fall.
Final Notes
     The Badgers were s surprise champion in the Big Ten last season to many, who had automatically handed Ohio State the title before the season began, but the Badgers were the most balanced team in the conference, and they managed to steal everything away, until they got to Pasadena. It seemed at times that the Badgers had failed to properly measured up TCU before the game, and at times, seemed ill prepared to handle anything that the Frogs had thrown at them. One bad game aside, and the 2010 season goes down as one of their best in 20 years.

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