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Wisconsin Badgers 2010 college football preview

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Top 25 Athlon Team Previews: Wisconsin Badgers

2009 Record: 10-3 (6-3 in Big Ten)
Head Coach: Bret Bielema
John Clay :: David Stluka/Icon SMI
2010 Schedule
Sept. 4at UNLV
Sept. 11San Jose State
Sept. 18Arizona State
Sept. 25Austin Peay
Oct. 2at Michigan State
Oct. 9Minnesota
Oct. 16Ohio State
Oct. 23at Iowa
Nov. 6at Purdue
Nov. 13Indiana
Nov. 20at Michigan
Nov. 27Northwestern
Dec. 4Utah State
2009 Results
Sept. 5Northern IllinoisW28-20
Sept. 12Fresno StateW34-31
Sept. 19WoffordW44-14
Sept. 26Michigan StateW38-30
Oct. 3at MinnesotaW31-28
Oct. 10at Ohio StateL13-31
Oct. 17IowaL10-20
Oct. 31PurdueW37- 0
Nov. 7at IndianaW31-28
Nov. 14MichiganW45-24
Nov. 21at NorthwesternL31-33
Dec. 5at HawaiiW51-10
Dec. 29Miami (Champs Sports Bowl)W20-14
2009 Rankings
OFFENSEPER GAMEBig TenNAT'L
Scoring31.8 ppg125
Rushing203.9 ypg115
Passing213.1 ypg765
Total416.9 ypg130
DEFENSEPER GAMEBig TenNAT'L
Scoring21.8 ppg433
Rushing88.2 ypg15
Passing217.5 ypg555
Total305.7 ypg417
TO MARGINPER GAMEBig TenNAT'L
+3+0.23446
2010 Projected Rosters
OFFENSE
WRKyle Jefferson (Sr.)Isaac Anderson (Sr.)
WRNick Toon (Jr.)David Gilreath (Sr.)
LTGabe Carimi (Sr.)Ricky Wagner (So.)
LGJohn Moffitt (Sr.)Travis Frederick (So.)
CPeter Konz (So.)Travis Frederick (So.)
RGKevin Zeitler (Jr.)Bill Nagy (Sr.)
RTJosh Oglesby (Jr.)Robert Burge (So.)
TELance Kendricks (Sr.)Jake Byrne (Jr.)
QBScott Tolzien (Sr.)Jon Budmayr (Fr.)
FBBradie Ewing (Jr.)Rob Korslin (Jr.)
TBJohn Clay (Jr.)Montee Ball (So.)
DEFENSE
DELouis Nzegwu (Jr.)David Gilbert (So.)
DTPatrick Butrym (Jr.)Ethan Hemer (Fr.)
DTJordan Kohout (Fr.)Beau Allen (Fr.)
DEJ.J. Watt (Jr.)Brendan Kelly (So.)
OLBMike Taylor (So.)Blake Sorensen (Sr.)
MLBCulmer St. Jean (Sr.)Blake Sorensen (Sr.)
OLBChris Borland (So.)Kevin Rouse (Jr.)
CBDevin Smith (Jr.)Dezmen Southward (Fr.)
CBAntonio Fenelus (Jr.)Niles Brinkley (Sr.)
SSJay Valai (Sr.)Conor O'Neill (Fr.)
FSAaron Henry (Jr.)Shelton Johnson (So.)
SPECIAL TEAMS
1Philip Welch (Jr.)KRDavid Gilreath (Sr.)
1Brad Nortman (Jr.)PRDavid Gilreath (Sr.)
RETURNING LEADERS
Passing: Scott Tolzien (2,705 yards, 16 TDs, 11 INT)
Rushing: John Clay (287 car, 1,517 yds, 18 TDs)
Receiving: Nick Toon (54 rec, 805 yds, 4 TDs)
Tackles: Culmer St. Jean (63, 23 solo)
Sacks: Chris Borland (5)
Interceptions: Two players tied with 2
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PLAYERS TO WATCH

Scott Tolzien, QB: He still has plenty of room to improve after throwing 16 TD passes and 11 interceptions in 2009.

John Clay, RB: He posted nine games of at least 100 yards and one score in '09. Will ankle surgery slow him down?

Lance Kendricks, TE: He's shown signs of becoming the next great Wisconsin tight end.

IMPORTANT LOSSES

O'Brien Schofield, DE: He provided emarkable production and tremendous leadership.

Jeff Stehle, DT: He didn't post gaudy numbers, but he helped hold the point of attack.

Chris Maragos, FS: He provided smarts, toughness and playmaking ability.

NUMBERS GAME

6: Wisconsin was one of six teams in the nation to average over 200 yards rushing and 200 yards passing last year.

OFFENSE

When a team welcomes back its starting quarterback, top three tailbacks, top four wide receivers, seven linemen who have started a game and a pro prospect at tight end, its offense should be good.

Senior Scott Tolzien (64.3 percent completion rate, 2,705 passing yards) was the most efficient quarterback in the Big Ten last season; junior tailback John Clay (1,517 rushing yards, 18 TDs) was the league's Offensive Player of the Year; and junior wide receiver Nick Toon (54 catches, 14.9-yard average) and senior tight end Lance Kendricks (29 catches, 12.3-yard average) are premier receiving threats.

Tackles Gabe Carimi and Josh Oglesby headline a deep offensive line that could be the Big Ten's best. Because the line was struck by injuries last season, position coach Bob Bostad had to mix and match throughout the year. The result is that UW returns seven linemen with starting experience.

DEFENSE

UW rebuilt its front seven after a disappointing 7-6 finish in 2008 and improved its defensive numbers dramatically in '09. Opponents rushed for 88.2 yards per game last season (a drop of 45.1 yards) and eight touchdowns (a drop of 15).

For the second straight year, defensive coordinator Dave Doeren and line coach Charlie Partridge must plug several holes in the front four. Junior defensive end J.J. Watt has the potential to be a first-team all-conference pick. However, his talent won't mean much if junior Patrick Butrym and redshirt freshman Jordan Kohout can't provide solid play at tackle and if UW can't find a playmaking end (either Louis Nzegwu or David Gilbert) to complement Watt.

Linebackers Mike Taylor and Chris Borland could be dynamic if they return from offseason surgery, but the secondary remains a question mark. The cornerback play was inconsistent last season, and free safety Chris Maragos must be replaced. If the cornerbacks don't improve and no one steps to fill Maragos' shoes, the pass defense will again be the team's Achilles' heel.

SPECIALISTS

Junior punter Brad Nortman and junior kicker Philip Welch are two-year starters and could form the best tandem of specialists in the Big Ten this season -- if they continue to improve. The return games have been mediocre for the past two seasons and must be bolstered, either by changing schemes or adding more starters to the units.

FINAL ANALYSIS

Wisconsin capped a 10-3 finish last season by upsetting Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl, giving the team its first 10-win season since 2006. At least 36 players listed on the two-deep for the bowl game should be back. That group doesn't include center Peter Konz (blood clots) and linebacker Mike Taylor (knee), both of whom should return to the starting lineup if healthy.

UW's depth and experience on offense will rival that of most teams in the Big Ten. The Badgers led the league in scoring last season and could do so again in 2010. Now the defense needs to take another step to keep pace.

If the staff can find replacements at defensive tackle and free safety and the players can handle the pressure that will come from lofty preseason expectations, the Badgers should contend for the Big Ten title and perhaps more.

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