The Wisconsin Badgers—like many teams in the Big Ten—are going to undergo an array of changes in 2011, including replacing half of their entire starting lineup. The Badgers lose key players on both sides of the ball, but most notably offensively where quarterback Scott Tolzien and offensive linemen John Moffitt and Gabe Carimi are all headed to the NFL along with eight other former Badgers.
The key for Bret Bielema’s program this year is going to be the running game, where the Badgers feature a potent duo in tailbacks James White and Montee Ball, who combined for over 2,000 yards rushing last season.
In addition to the running game, the Badgers also bring back wide receiver Nick Toon, a playmaker who will be the focal point of the passing game for young quarterback Jon Budmayr, a sophomore and former three-star prospect. Budmayr has very little playing experience, which is to be expected when you have a guy like Scott Tolzien playing in front of you. It could be an interesting year for the Badgers simply because of the turnover at the quarterback position. Budmayr has big shoes to fill.
On the defensive side of the ball, this is nothing short of a re-loading year for the Badgers who have serious questions at the linebacker position, and they lost J.J. Watt early to the draft as well, and he was a key player for them last year.
I think Wisconsin peaked a little bit last year, but Bret Bielema has proven that he is one of the best coaches and recruiters in the conference. He will keep his team competitive on a weekly basis, and I think his presence alone means Wisconsin is a threat to win eight games this year. A lot will depend on the quarterback position, and whether or not the Badgers can re-tool properly after losing so many key players.
I think with two All-Conference running backs and a good head coach, this team could surprise some people in 2011.