Ball does damage rushing outside tackles

August, 20, 2012
8/20/12
9:49
AM ET

Michael Hickey/US PresswireMontee Ball accounted for 39 of Wisconsin’s 82 touchdowns in 2011.
The two-time defending Big Ten champion Wisconsin Badgers look to continue their successful ways in 2012 with Heisman Trophy candidate Montee Ball at the forefront of their offense.

Ball played a major role in last year’s Big Ten Championship run, recording at least one rush or reception on 113 of the Badgers 165 drives. In fact, the Badgers had 13 drives last season where Ball’s combined rushes and receptions accounted for at least 76 percent of Wisconsin’s plays.

On those 13 drives, the Badgers averaged 5.08 points per drive. In comparison, there were 70 drives when Ball’s combined rushes and receptions accounted for 25 percent or fewer of the plays. On these 70 drives, the Badgers averaged just 2.44 points per drive.

In 2011 Ball was a scoring machine accounting for 39 of Wisconsin’s 82 touchdowns (47.6 percent). Ball’s 39 total touchdowns tied the NCAA single-season record for most touchdowns in a season set by Barry Sanders in 1988. Additionally, Ball set the single-season record for most consecutive games scoring at least two touchdowns as he scored two or more touchdowns in his first 13 games of 2011.

How he scored the touchdowns is a testament to Wisconsin’s offensive line. Ball scored 24 of his 33 rushing touchdowns between the tackles last season, including 13 touchdowns where he was not touched by a defender before reaching the end zone.

Wisconsin returns just five offensive starters, including two offensive linemen. The Badgers must replace All-American linemen Peter Konz and Kevin Zeitler, as well as one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the history of college football, Russell Wilson.

These losses will leave a heavy burden on Ball’s shoulders, singling him out as Wisconsin’s main threat. In turn defenses will likely test Ball by placing extra defenders in the box. Last season Ball averaged 4.7 yards per rush with eight or more men in the box, and 23 of his 33 rushing touchdowns came against this many defenders.

In comparison to the loaded box, Ball rushed for 6.9 yards per rush with seven or fewer men in the box.

Furthermore, Ball’s ability to run inside and outside the tackles shows his elusiveness against opposing defenses. The majority of his rushes (71.7 percent) were inside the tackles where he averaged 5.5 yards per rush; but he averaged an astounding 8.2 yards per carry when rushing outside the tackles.

If Ball is able to lead the Badgers to success in 2012, he will certainly enhance his chances of a Heisman trophy victory as well.

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