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Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Position superlatives: Wisconsin

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The Wisconsin Badgers are up next on the superlatives rundown. Quarterback certainly hurt the Badgers more than any other spot last season, but the team should be better stocked under center this year.

Here's the good news and bad news for Wisconsin entering spring ball.

Strongest position -- Safety

Key returnees: Junior Jay Valai, senior Chris Maragos, senior Shane Carter, senior Aubrey Pleasant

Key departures: None

The skinny: The secondary as a whole should be stronger despite the loss of top cover corner Allen Langford, and the safeties are all back for 2009. Valai has established himself as one of the Big Ten's hardest hitters, and Maragos is a solid tackler with experience at free safety. If Carter improves his tackling to complement his ball-hawking skills, he'll be an asset this fall. The running backs would have earned this distinction if P.J. Hill had stayed, though the group still remains solid. Other strong positions include tight end and cornerback.

Weakest position -- Defensive line

Key returnees: Senior end O'Brien Schofield, senior end Dan Moore

Key departures: Tackle Mike Newkirk (59 tackles, 9 TFLs, 4 sacks), end Matt Shaughnessy (8 TFLs, 4 sacks, 10 QB hurries), tackle Jason Chapman (5 TFLs, 2 sacks)

The skinny: Several offensive position groups could fit in this category, especially quarterbacks and wide receivers. The linebackers also will be restocking after losing DeAndre Levy and Jonathan Casillas. But enough players are back at all of those spots, and the production hit along the defensive line might be a bigger problem for the Badgers. Newkirk was terrific last season, recording nine tackles for loss and four sacks, and Shaughnessy brought a pass-rushing presence to the edge. Schofield could be a star this fall after a productive junior year, but he'll need some help.