As we inch toward another year of Badger football, we are going to start previewing the season by ranking the top 25 players on this year's team.
In Badger Kickoff 2010, we introduced the player power rankings and we have updated those rankings in this year's edition. We'll slowly unveil those rankings on B5Q over the next few weeks but if you would like to see the entire list sooner you can order your copy of Badger Kickoff 2011 right now!
To get started, here are the players ranked No. 21-25 (last year's ranking in parentheses):
25. Brendan Kelly - Junior defensive end (NR)
Kelly was a highly regarded recruit and received playing time as a true freshman but his career has been plagued by injuries. The talented defensive end looked healthy and dominant in the spring, however, and he is my pick to surprise on defense this year. If the season started today, he wouldn't be starting, but I have a feeling you are going to hear his name a lot in fall camp and he will play a ton in the season opener against UNLV. The Badgers need a collective effort to replace J.J. Watt and Kelly is a huge piece of the puzzle.
24. Manasseh Garner - Sophomore wide receiver (NR)
Garner has already been tabbed as the next breakout player at Wisconsin despite very limited playing time as a true freshman. Garner took reps as both a defensive end and a tight end as a freshman and balancing both playbooks probably stunted his growth a little bit. He admitted after the spring game that he is happy to be fully committed to one side of the ball now and while the coaches had him listed as a tight end in the spring, he lined up as a wide receiver most of the time and that's really what he is.
23. David Gilbert - Junior defensive end (NR)
Gilbert is full of potential but has been waiting in the wings for a full-time role. That spot is his to lose now and the Badgers are still waiting for him to develop into an explosive pass rusher. Gilbert better put it together in a hurry because Kelly will apply some pressure behind him on the depth chart. Hopefully some competition will bring the best out of him.
22. Devin Smith - Senior cornerback (23)
After serving as the nickelback last season, Smith steps into the starting role opposite Antonio Fenelus and the coaches will be looking for more consistency out of him. Without J.J. Watt pressuring opposing quarterbacks, UW's defensive backs have to be sound and that will fall on Smith's shoulders this season.
21. Josh Oglesby - Senior right tackle (21)
Oglesby is still Bret Bielema's only five-star recruit and it's safe to say he hasn't lived up to expectations. But it's also fair to say Oglesby hasn't been bad by any means. As long as he is healthy, Oglesby should be more than reliable on the right side of the offensive line, answering the only question mark on the line as we head into the season.
We'll continue to reveal the top 20 over the next few weeks. And again, you can see the entire list sooner by ordering Badger Kickoff 2011.
For now, what do you think about our first five players?