#13 Wisconsin Football 2014 Preview

Wisconsin Badgers

Overall Rank: #13
#3 Big Ten

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Coach Gary Anderson accomplished about as much as one could expect during his first season with Wisconsin. The Badgers ended up 9-4, but that included a relatively unfair loss at Arizona State and a tough Capital One Bowl defeat at the hands of South Carolina. With a year in Coach Anderson’s system, this group of Badgers has the potential to win the Big Ten West. But they do need to replace a lot of talent on both sides of the ball.

2013 Record: 9-4, 6-2
2013 Bowl: Capital One Bowl vs. South Carolina (L 24-34)
Coach: Gary Anderson (9-4 at Wisconsin, 39-35 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Andy Ludwig
Defensive Coordinator: Dave Aranda

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Melvin Gordon, RB, 1,609 yards
Passing: Joel Stave, QB, 2,494 yards
Receiving: Alex Erickson, WR, 388 yards
Tackles: Michael Caputo, S, 63
Sacks: Warren Herring, DL, 4.0
Interceptions: Sojourn Shelton, CB, 4

Other Key Returnees: RB Corey Clement, WR Kenzel Doe, OL Rob Havenstein

Key Losses: RB James White, WR Jared Abbrederis, TE Jacob Pedersen, OL Ryan Groy, LB Chris Borland, LB Ethan Armstrong, LB Conor O’Neill, DE Pat Muldoon, LB Bredan Kelly

The traditional Wisconsin way is to have a great senior running back, with a talented younger secondary back who will take over that prime role in a year or two. Melvin Gordon sort of stole the stage from senior back James White. Gordon rushed for 1,609 yards. White still added 1,444 yards and 13 touchdowns, so it was not a bad year by any stretch of the imagination, but the expectations for Gordon as he heads into the leading role are immense. Corey Clement did not see much action in competitive games, but he still rushed for 547 yards and seven touchdowns and has proved to be an elusive back that is more than ready to play second fiddle to Gordon. Behind a strong and experienced offensive line and with a passing game lacking in playmakers, do not be surprised if Gordon and Clement break Gordon and White’s record 3,053 rushing tandem record. On the other side of the ball, the obvious strength is in the secondary where three starters are back. Michael Caputo will lead the unit from his strong safety spot where he recorded 63 tackles a year ago. Corners Sojourn Shelton and Darius Hillary are coming off strong seasons. Shelton picked off a team high four passes as a freshman.

But there are some serious concerns on defense in the front seven. Every starter needs to be replaced, including linebacker Chris Borland and his 112 tackles. Coach Anderson and company want to bring in a more athletic and quick unit, but the lack of experience is going to rear its ugly head on occasion. Redshirt freshman Chikwe Obasih figures to man one end spot, with upperclassmen Konrad Zagzebski and Jake Keefer battling for the other spot. Nose guard Warren Herring is not the typical big Wisconsin player in the middle of the line, but he will add more quickness to the line than we have seen in the past. All four linebackers are going to be even tougher to replace. The hope is Joe Schobert and Marcus Trotter can emerge as leaders and solid tacklers in the middle, while Vince Biegel and Derek Landisch will make plays on the outside. If the front seven can get some pressure on the opposing quarterback, the secondary does have the potential to create more turnovers than they did last year. The potential problem on offense is in the passing game. Joel Stave is back after throwing for 2,494 yards and 22 touchdowns, but his favorite target, Jared Abbrederis and his 78 receptions for 1,081 yards and seven touchdowns, is gone. Also gone are tight end Jacob Pedersen and Jeff Duckworth. In fact, the top returning receiver is Alex Erickson and his nine catches for 127 yards. There are some options though with Jordan Fredrick and Kenzel Doe. However, none of them were able to step up and compliment Abbrederis in the past. Stave is the first returning full-time starter at Wisconsin in years, but his job is not safe. Tanner McEvoy is a mobile quarterback and a better fit in this offense and will be breathing down Stave’s neck at every turn.

The Bottom Line:
One interesting, and perhaps important, position battle that is worth keeping an eye on is at kicker. Jack Russell has done relatively well over the last two years, but incoming freshman Rafael Gaglianone comes to Wisconsin with a lot of hype…for a kicker at least. Russell did well enough during the spring, but he will have to scratch and claw to stay atop the depth chart in the fall. The Badgers open the season against LSU, but there are not many other defenses on the schedule that can stop their ground game. The Big Ten West is weaker than the East right now and the Badgers were lucky enough to end up with Rutgers and Maryland as their crossover games. The toughest games after the opener come in November against Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota. By then, they will already be bowl eligible and looking to lock up a trip to the conference title game.

Projected Bowl: Outback Bowl

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 283.8 (8th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 197.1 (93, 9)
Total Offense: 480.8 (18, 3)
Scoring Offense: 34.8 (27, 3)
Rushing Defense: 102.5 (5, 2)
Pass Defense: 202.5 (17, 3)
Total Defense: 305.1 (7, 3)
Scoring Defense: 16.3 (6, 2)
Turnover Margin: 0.1 (56, 6)
Sacks: 2.00 (62, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 1.23 (17, 3)

Madness 2015 NFL Draft Rankings:
#19 Melvin Gordon
#63 Rob Havenstein


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