Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Wisconsin spring wrap
By ESPN.com staff
2010 overall record: 11-2
2010 conference record: 7-1 (T-1st)
Offense: 5; defense: 6; kicker/punter: 2
RB James White, RB Montee Ball, C Peter Konz, RG Ricky Wagner, WR Nick Toon, DT Patrick Butrym, LB Mike Taylor, CB Antonio Fenelus, FS Aaron Henry
QB Scott Tolzien, LT Gabe Carimi, LG John Moffitt, RB John Clay, TE Lance Kendricks, DE J.J. Watt, LB Blake Sorensen, S Jay Valai
2010 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: James White* (1,052 yards)
Passing: Scott Tolzien (2,459 yards)
Receiving: Lance Kendricks (663 yards)
Tackles: Blake Sorensen (66)
Sacks: J.J. Watt (7)
Interceptions: Antonio Fenelus* (4)
1. Defensive leadership: Wisconsin hasn't lowered expectations on the defensive side despite the loss of All-American J.J. Watt, and one area the team addressed this spring was leadership. Defensive tackle Patrick Butrym and safety Aaron Henry answered the call and will share the duties in the fall. Butrym, who leads a deep group of defensive tackles, feels it's his time to lead as a senior, while the naturally vocal Henry has settled into the safety spot after switching from corner.
2. Men on the run: The run game once again will drive Wisconsin's offense, and backs Montee Ball and James White both elevated their play this spring. Both backs changed their bodies during the winter and showed no signs of letting up during practice. White hasn't been fazed by the accolades he received as a freshman, and Ball looks to pick up where he left off after racking up 777 rush yards in Wisconsin's final five games last fall.
3. Insurance at linebacker: The Badgers expect Chris Borland to return at top form after missing most of last season with shoulder problems, but they have some insurance at linebacker. Redshirt freshman Marcus Trotter stood out this spring, practicing alongside projected starters Mike Taylor and Kevin Claxton and holding his own. Trotter likely earned himself a chunk of playing time this fall even with Borland and Ethan Armstrong back in the mix.
1. Quarterback: There's little doubt Jon Budmayr will start the season for Wisconsin, but the team wants to see more out of the redshirt sophomore after an inconsistent spring. All of Wisconsin's quarterbacks struggled in the spring game, but Budmayr's problems stood out because he'll soon be taking snaps when it counts. To be fair, Wisconsin was thin at receiver this spring, so Budmayr should have a better chance to build confidence in fall camp. It didn't help when Curt Phillips was ruled out for the season after another knee setback.
2. Nick Toon: The senior wide receiver missed spring ball following foot surgery, but he'll be in the spotlight when the team resumes practice in August. Toon had a bit of a disappointing season in 2010, but he's undoubtedly the team's top option at receiver. Although Wisconsin should once again be strong at the tight end spot, it could really use a star receiver for its new starting quarterback. Toon should be that guy.
3. Defensive playmaking: Watt helped the defense in so many ways last season, and his presence will be missed. The coaches like their top three defensive ends -- Louis Nzegwu, David Gilbert and Brendan Kelly, who came on strong this spring -- but they're looking for playmakers throughout the defense. Borland certainly can be one when he's healthy, and cornerback Devin Smith made big plays at times this spring. Wisconsin wasn't a lock-down defense in 2010, but its playmaking ability stood out. Who will step up this fall?