2008 Wisconsin football preview
2007 Record: 9-4, 5-3
Head Coach: Bret Bielema
Wisconsin Players Drafted:
Jack Ikegwuonu - CB - Round 4 - Philadelphia
Taylor Mehlhaff - PK - Round 6 - New Orleans
Nick Hayden - DT - Round 6 - Carolina
Paul Hubbard - WR - Round 6 - Cleveland
Top Recruits for Wisconsin:
Curt Phillips - QB - 6’3” - 210 - Kingsport, TN
Tyler Westphal - DE - 6’6” - 235 - Menasha, WI
Daniel Moore - DT - 6’2” - 285 - Joliet, IL
Leonard Hubbard - LB - 6’1” - 225 - Springfield, IL
Bradley Nortman - K - 6’3” - 215 - Brookfield, WI
Peter Konz - OL - 6’6” - 300 - Neenah, WI
Key Players Returning for the Badgers:
PJ Hill – RB – Jr.
Travis Beckum – TE – Sr.
Andy Kemp – G – Sr.
Kraig Urbik – G – Sr.
Allen Langford – CB – Sr.
DeAndre Levy – LB – Sr.
Elijah Hodge - LB - Jr.
Jonathan Casillas – LB – Sr.
Matt Shaughnessy - DE - Sr.
Shane Carter - FS- Jr.
2008 Wisconsin Offensive Outlook
Junior P.J. Hill had a solid sophomore season last year rushing for over 1200 yards and scoring 14 touchdowns. Hill is a big load coming out of the backfield at 225 pounds and the Badgers have some complimentary backs to keep fresh legs pounding at opposing defenses. Zach Brown and Lance Smith are both capable of stepping in, but Hill will be relied upon to put the ball in the end zone.
The QB situation is still a question heading into the season. Tyler Donovan started all 13 games last season, but has graduated which leaves a battle between Allan Evridge and Dustin Sherer. Evridge appears to have the inside track at starting this season, but he does not come in with much experience. He only had 12 passing attempts last year with five completions for 66 yards. Sherer is still in the mix despite the fact the many thought Evridge would take the starting position from Donovan last season.
The receiving corps isn’t flashy, but TE Travis Beckum returns as the leading pass catcher from last year. Beckum snagged 75 receptions in 2007 for nearly 1000 yards (982). Beckum will no doubt be the top target again this season. Junior TE Garrett Graham ranked second on the team last year with 30 receptions and returns as a nice second option in the passing game. WR Kyle Jefferson enters as the top wideout, but the receivers are young. Four sophomores are expected to step in solidify the passing game to take focus off of the backfield.
The offensive line is loaded with experience which gives the unit the opportunity to keep the ball moving on the ground. Since the backfield and line is set coming into the season, Bielema will have a little time to determine which quarterback can handle the offense best. Senior Guards Kraig Urbik and Andy Kemp join senior tackle Eric Vanden Heuvel to anchor the line. Sophomores John Moffit (center) and Gabe Carimi (tackle) round out the offensive line which should be a strength for the Badgers this year.
2008 Wisconsin Defensive Outlook
The defense returns six starters this season from a unit that was decent last year. The biggest question on the defense comes in the trenches. DT Nick Hayden has moved on to the NFL, and injuries plague senior defensive tackles Mike Newkirk and Jason Chapman. Senior Matt Shaughnessy will be expected to provide pressure from his DE position after racking up five sacks last year. Kirk DeCremer made a nice showing last year and should help bring a little flair to the line.
Seniors DeAndre Levy and Jonathan Casillas did not quite meet expectations last year at their linebacker positions. Casillas led the team with 96 tackles last year, and Levy was second on the team with 70. Junior Elijah Hodge will start in the middle, but the success of the linebackers will depend largely on how well the defensive line plays.
CB Jack Ikegwuonu passed on his senior season to head to the NFL a year early. This is the biggest loss for the Wisconsin defense. Ikegwuonu was the top cover cornerback on the team, and now senior CB Allen Langford is expected to step in and fill the void. Sophomore Aaron Henry and freshman Mario Goins will battle for the second cornerback position. Junior FS Shane Carter led the team with seven interceptions last year. Junior Aubrey Pleasant started as SS last year, but sophomore Jay Valai has made a strong case to earn playing time.
2008 Wisconsin Special Teams
The Badgers lost two key components of their special teams in former kicker Taylor Mehlhaff and punter Ken DeBauche. After having two reliable seniors last year, the Badgers turn to two freshmen to handle the kicking duties in 2008. Freshman Phillip Welch will replace Mehlaff, and he has the power to hit from long range.
Brad Nortman comes onto the scene expected to win the punting duties. He is one of the top kicking recruits in the nation. He has nice size for a punter (6’3” - 215) and is athletic. His strength is placing kicks inside the 20.
Sophomore WR David Gilreath will handle the role as return specialist. Gilreath brought stability to the return game last season by averaging a conference best 14-yards per punt return last year.
2008 Wisconsin Badgers football prediction
Bret Bielema will have the Badgers back in another Bowl game this year. There is no doubt that the Badgers should match their win total from 2007, but a Big Ten Championship may be just out of reach. Bielema will need to get any kinks worked out during their non-conference games in the first three weeks to be ready when Big Ten action begins. The Badgers toughest games come early in the season when they go to Michigan to start their Big Ten schedule and then host Ohio State the following week.
The Badgers catch a little break this year as they play Ohio State, Penn State, and Illinois in Madison, WI were they are always tough to beat at Camp Randall Stadium.
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