One of the reasons why I like college sports is because I have this theory. In college sports you can find someone who's a little off the radar, someone who's kind of unknown. But he's someone low key great. And he belongs to you and a select group. No one else truly knows about them. This is part of why MACtion is such a thing.
And if you don't have any sort of short term memory issue (and apologies if you do), but you know the most indie thrill the Badgers had last year was the emergence of Melvin Gordon from toolsy but undisciplined runner to the destroyer of worlds who just scored again on Nebraska. This year? He's known. People are going to game plan for him. But who's going to be the guy who comes out of nowhere and becomes ours?
I have five potential candidates.
I know what you're thinking. Isn't he likely going to be the starter? Shouldn't Tanner McEvoy fall into this spot when he enters fall camp? And I say to you no. Joel Stave hasn't broken into the mainstream just yet. He was potentially on his way when he broke his collarbone and November was a table-flipping, Canada-raging, struggle. But suffice it to say there's a lot to be excited about from a full Joel Stave season. There were only five qualifying quarterbacks who had a better yards per attempt average than Joel Stave's 9.2. Three are potential first round picks in next years draft. (Aaron Murray, A.J. McCarron, and David Fales).
Jean had a lost 2012. Injuries limited him to five games and he lost the traction he had as a Freshman, when he managed 24 tackles and a couple of pass breakups as the nickel corner. He showed himself to have good range and be a willing tackler. We don't know how well he's going to hold up through a full season of play? But he (and to a similar extent Darius Hillary or T.J. Reynard) have the sort of upside potential to be surprisingly good this year.
I know I'm the guy who bangs the drum for Kyle Costigan more than anyone else on this blog. But the guy has a motor and blows people off the ball when he's healthy. Injuries limited him, but Costigan has the toughness to play the rest of a tough night road game against Nebraska on literally one leg. If there's someone out there who could very well continue the streak of Badger linemen getting drafted? Well it would be Ryan Groy. But for 2015's Draft? Costigan has a shot to be somebody.
History has dictated that the Badgers need a pile-driver in the backfield to have some success running the ball. Gordon and White are in the more fluid, quick, see the hole and get through it sort of mold. Watt showed he had that thumper side, when injuries dictated that he would see a bunch of carries in the spring game. And even if Corey Clement gets that role in this years Badgers, Watt showed that he had soft hands and could make some things happen in the passing game. The #2 receiver role still hasn't been truly solved yet, but Watt could make some real noise as an H-Back in the "13" if he doesn't get so many of the carries.
The foot problems of David Gilbert open up an opportunity for a hyped recruit to step in and make plays. Biegel had a chance to be a true freshman on the two-deep before a foot injury reared its ugly head and forced a redshirt on him. But the crown-jewel of the 2012 recruiting class is going into the fall as a starter at Outside Linebacker. And in the 3-4 defense? The outside linebacker gets to be turned loose and attack the quarterback. If anyone's going to get 12 sacks? My money's on Biegel.
Of course, there are other candidates. You want to put in an unknown on the verge? Comments are there for you.