Wednesday, August 29, 2007

2007 Badger Football: A Rundown

Lets not Focus on Brian Calhourn here. Focus on the Chris Pressley block. For those who remember, this was the 2005 Illinois game and Pressley sent this guy about 7 yards down the field on the fly and spung Calhoun for a TD. For more insane Pressley feats of strength, go to You Tube and type in his name.

Well, after a college basketball season that quickly lost steam in the last 3 weeks of the season and a MLB season that is seeing a first class meltdown by our Brewers, the optimism of football season is upon us. Being that I think the Packers are going to win 4 games this year (up from my earlier prediction of 3), I am pinning my remaining sports hopes for 2007 square on the shoulders of the Wisconsin Badgers football team.

There is a lot of optimism coming in to this season. They are coming off of two solid seasons after the program stagnated in the post-Rose Bowl years. The Badgers are ranked 7th in both the major polls and I would say at least 75% of the predictions I have seen from mainstream media sources have the Badgers playing in a BCS game. There is even talk of a possible national title shot.

A national title shot? Is that possible? I remember being at games in the'80's when they lost to Hawaii and Northern Illinois at home. I remember the stadium being pretty happy that we were only losing to Iowa by 10 at halftime. I was at Alvarez's first game against Cal and it didn't look much different than a Morton game. My first game as a student, a year the Badgers were supposed to sustain their momentum of the previous two seasons, we were killed by Colorado and later that season was the dreadful 3-3 tie against the Illini where Bevel almost died on the field.

Back then, I never thought Wisconsin football would be mentioned as a serious national title contender. But here we are in 2007 and on the strength of a 12-1 season, a great, young head coach and a boat load of returning starters, it is a possibility.

However, there are a couple key areas for this Badger team that scare me and in reality, I think this will be a 10-2 or 9-3 regular season. These concerns consist of:

  • QB: I don't think Tyler Donovan is a very good QB. Allen Evridge was not able to overtake Donovan in fall practice. This does not bode well for the team. The hope was that one of the two guys would have a breakout camp and take the position. In reality, Donovan is the starting QB because they both were mediocre in camp and the coaches felt more comfortable with the guy who has been in the program for 5 years. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Donovan will need to play better than he has for this team to make a BCS game. Sure he can run, but he can't throw worth a lick and his decision making skills are questionable at best (by this, I mean, I am not sure if as a first-year starter he wil be great at changing plays at the line of scrimmage or reading the hot routes). Some people praise Donovan for his game against Iowa last season. For those who don't remember, Iowa won 2 Big Ten games last season. Donovan would have looked a lot worse if it wasn't for Luke Swan. As a running QB, Donovan is going to take some hits. My hope is once Evridge sees the field, he is out there for good.

  • RB Depth: P.J. Hill is a great back. It will be interesting to see what the 10 less pounds does for him this year. I am looking for another great year from P.J. However, if something happens to him, the Badgers are very thin at RB right now. For all the ability Lance Smith appears to have, he just doesn't seem to get "it". Every time he is brought up by the coaching staff, they say he needs to do the little things better, yet he never does. Right now, I don't feel good facing any Big Ten opponent with Donovan at QB and Smith as the #1 back. From the sounds of it Zach Brown will be decent, he just needs more time in the offense. Book is still out on Racine Johnny. If no one gets hurt, I could see a redshirt this season. We will be fine if P.J stays healthy, but if he goes down, it could get rough, fast.

  • D-line Depth: This position looked a lot better at the beginning of camp than it did at the end of camp. Cooper went down swinging on strike 3 as he challenged Bielema to a fight. Several of the 2nd and third string guys went down due to injury. Kurt Ware is coming off a knee surgery. This unit will still be good. Shaughnessy (Nessy = tree fiddy) should be a beast now that he is fully recovered from his knee injury suffered two seasons ago. However, an injury here and there, and this unit could get depleted quickly.

  • 2 New Safeties - Life and Times of Shane Carter and Aubrey Pleasant sound like they are two solid football players who are only going to get better. However, both missed all of last season with shoulder injuries and are getting their first extended taste of big time football this season. Things should be made easier on them with one outstanding corner in Ike and one very solid corner in Langford. However, they are going to have to step up and solidify the defensive backfield.

  • O-Line overrated? - I am not sold on the offensive line right now. Everybody is back but Joe Thomas. But Thomas being gone is like taking Sheets out of the Brewers rotation. Everyone else suffers a bit with him not there. This is an OK group, but it would not surprise me to see them struggle at the beginning of the year. Even with Thomas, they looked like crap against Arkansas last season.

So, the Negative Nancy in me just picked out a bunch of issues that could derail this potential magical season for the Badgers. But don't get me wrong, there are many things to like about this team. The Defense should be very good. With excellent corners, a dominant LB corps and a solid, but thin, D-line, I don't see this D giving up over 20 points more than once this season. Both the kicking and punting games are above average. However the return units need to step up. They were just awful last year. You would think that on a campus of 40,000 somebody would be able to catch a punt. It doesn't even have to be a BB in the dark. The receiving game should be solid as well. Beckum is awesome and Crooks can do some damage as well. I was impressed with Hubbard's improvement last season and Swan "just makes plays". A healthy Pressley should do wonders for Hill. Remember, Rentmeester was also injured last season, so Hill never really had a healthy FB in front of him. As long as he can stay healthy, I look for a 1,600 - 1,7000 yards season from Hill. He is good.

After all that (crapper material for you Matera), what is my final prediction for the season? Well, I am going to say 10-2 or 9-3 (regular season). I think this team looks great, but I just can't get over the QB situation. If Stocco were back, I would easily buy in to the national title talk. However, I just don't see Donovan, or Evridge at this point, leading the team to a BCS game. The D will keep the team in every game, but at some point, the QB is going to need to make a play. If this team does go all the way, it's going to look a lot like the Ohio State team of 2002. Hey, Craig Krenzel won a national title, maybe Donovan can as well.

Anyhow, it should be another exciting year of going to games in Madison as well as the Illinois and Minnesota game for me. Looking forward to kicking it off bright and early this Saturday in my Josh Hunt game worn jersey with the Senator and making our way to the prime spot that Rick Deez, Diver and the crew call home to pre-game festivities. Tone Loc should be there, maybe Matt as well. Anyone else in? 2:30 game so that gives you an extra 3.5 hours to enjoy your cheep beer of choice and take in the scenery on a warm Madison day. Good Times. I will not reject this season!


Anonymous said...

seriously how can you possibly know what kind of quarterback tyler donovan is yet?? i mean he won two games last year one of which was at iowa which isn't exactly a cake walk regardless of how the iowa team is. maybe you wanna wait a couple games before annointing him the next mike samuels. oh wait all mike samuels did was win games dumbass.

Goldy said...

Mike Samuel is my favorite Badger QB of all time. That guy was tough. After getting yanked against Boise State in '96 he came back in and came up with one of the best quarterback runs I have ever seen to win that game. He also delivered some hits when he ran the ball.
The '98 Rose Bowl Season was also Mike's 3rd season as a starter. He also had a better RB and a far superior offensive line than the Badgers have this year.
I think Donovan can lead the Badgers to a good season. As good as 10-2. BCS worthy? I don't see it at this point.
I would also like to take the time to welcome members of Tyler Donovan's family to Chuckie Hacks.

Goldy said...

By the way, if you are not watching Hard Knocks on HBO, you have to fire up the HBO In Demand and check that out. Might be more interesting to me because I had to folow the Chiefs for 4 years, but the Gunther Cunningham and Tim Krumrie (ex-Badger) segments alone are worth it. Also fun to see how low the neck line will be on the shirts of Brodie Croyle's wife. Good Times!

Mike Samuels said...

I think Tylers Donovans is good~ leave him alone.

Goldy said...

Mike Samuels - Excellent reply. I didn't catch that.


Trains said...

Tyler’s Mom- Your son is a decent QB- He throws a nice little ball into the flat. But I agree with the original post. His arm strength is questionable. His decision making is unproven (it’s been reported average at best from reports from camp). They went into the Iowa game with a copy of the 6th grade Warner Park team’s playbook. Luke Swan bailed him out twice on dead ducks. They could have inserted McFarland’s JV QB for the Buffalo game and they would have come out with a win (exaggerating). I have enough faith in Chryst’s offense to be optimistic. D wins championships. 10-2

matt said...

If Donovan can manage the offense and limit turnovers, he'll be fine. I like the running element - it makes Wisconsin harder to defend.

I'm cautiously optimistic about Donovan's chances, but I agree that Wisconsin is probably overrated going into the season. Losing your starting QB and your all-world left tackle is tough. The defense is going to have to carry them - just like a certain team in NE Wisconsin (except UW has a better RB).

Brads said...

Goldys hit on a good point...PJ Hill's health. Hasn't he been dinged up in the past? That could be trouble...who ever thought UW would be thin at RB?

What's with Cooper? Herd he called BB a honkey or something like that. Sounds like a loser who couldnt get into UW-Oshkosh if he didn't know how to play football.

Looks like TD's first big challenge will be...Iowa again. He should look good in the first 3 practice games (Wazzu could be decent), then it's the big national TV game vs Iowa.

Matt from IN said...

Don't worry about the O-Line. they will be fine. For two simple reasons 1) 5 man defensive lines are rare (most defenses cannot run a 5 man due to personnel), 2) one more year of experience. Arkansas ran a 5 man line that was very athletic and quick. The 5 man line was great at stunting into gaps and raising havoc in the running game, but they were not really that effective when pass rushing (except when Stocco held the ball too long). a 5 man line was difficult for line calls since they had not seen it all year. It is tough to block 5 down when you have not seen it. As a point of reference the Florida used the same 5 down against OSU and they struggled massively as well.
The part that is never effectively acknowledged is that three lineman were sophmores last year. That was one of the big reasons that the departed Calhoun was supposed to be such a drain. They performed like sophmores, very good at times and struggling on others. With one added year of experience and offseason conditioning they will be great. The best part is that nex year there are another 4 returning starters and a TON of talent in the two deep.

Brad said...

Good points Matt from IN. What do you think about the QB situation. As you said, there is a ton of talent next year, so wouldn't starting Evridge for this year and next make more sense? Just curious on your thoughts.

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