A question in Bryan Bennett's ESPN mailbag (the first one, ranking the possibilities of certain outcomes in the B1G) got me thinking: of all the questions facing Wisconsin this year, what will the Badgers likely be able to answer, and what will they not be able to? Or better yet, what will likely hinder UW the most (and least) this fall on the gridiron?
Taken from Nick's Burning Questions segment, here's how I'd list the uncertainties facing the Badgers for how much I think each will negatively affect the team in 2013. This isn't me writing a Bleacher Report article; I'm merely writing this to see what you're guys' reactions might be and, dare I say it, #EmbraceDebate? /punches face in self loathing.
I've omitted the RB section from this post as how much they can/have to carry the offense is dependent on, well, the rest of the offense. Red Zone simply becomes "Special Teams". Ohio State depends on how well the team plays, so that's gone, too. List is from least to most problematic (potentially):
7. Pass Rush
Something probably unknown to most Badger fans is that Wisconsin tied for 2nd in sacks in the Big Ten. While a change in scheme might not be kind to the DE's switching to OLB, there is a LOT of bodies competing for time on the outside. I think at least 2 will be able to step and generate a good rush vs. the pass. Aranda might also get creative with using Borland, something I think we'd all have a lot of fun watching.
6. QB play
This probably comes down to Stave vs. McEvoy. Between how he was playing against Michigan State, his one perfect pass in the Rose Bowl (damnit, Abby), and a really solid spring game (hush now, Louis), Stave could be elite, and McEvoy was the number one dual threat JC commit in the country. If Phillips somehow wins the job, we've got a very solid game manager who can make a clutch throw (2 game-tying drives last year with 10 seconds or less). A lot more talented spread of QB's this year than last.
This is a unit with a lot of inexperience, but like the pass rush, it has something good going for it: bodies. At safety, there's Southward at one spot and Mitchell, Vercher, and Michael Trotter vying for the other. Andersen said that he thinks Mitchell will win the other safety spot, which is impressive considering that Vercher led the junior colleges in interceptions last season, and that all JC kids will get an opportunity to compete for a starting spot. At corner, there is a lot of inexperience, but again: bodies. Hilary, Jean, Shelton, and JC transfer Tekeim Reynard all have experience before going into fall camp (Shelton enrolled early), and I think if healthy the CB's have a solid year.
The real reason I'm not too worried about this unit: the scheme change. With the emphasis on getting to the quarterback and the switch to press-man coverage, It helps that there's such a stout front 7, but this unit shouldn't have to hang with receivers too long if Aranda is able to generate the pressure he wants on D.
I think with the scheme change, that some guys might be able to step up and make some plays. We know that Duckworth, Doe, and Frederick all have shown flashes of potential, and Andersen has also talked about utilizing the tight ends more. A big hunch that I have: Abbrederis, Pedersen, White, and Gordon are all on the for the majority of the snaps on offense. That means that really, just one more guy is needed, which can definitely vary depending on the situation.
Out of everything, this could be the one thing that really hurts the Badgers come fall. I just have a feeling it won't.
3. Coaching Adjustments
This might seem contradictory seeming that all of the coaching adjustments I've talked about in the previous sections have been perceived as positive. While I think it's probable that a lot (or even most) of the schematic changes have a positive effect, I worry about possible mental mistakes that could be costly in 2012. The Badgers' defense already had a problem with giving up the big play, which at times was so immensely frustrating for me given that the whole strategy of the defense was to NOT give up the big play. Play disciplined, keep everything in front of you, react to what the opposing O would do, and stop them short of the first down. And we still had big problems with it. Now we're going with an aggressive defense, to make pressure and generate turnovers. I worry there could be some mishaps.
While I don't think there will be any Markuson-like atrocities that happen on the offensive side of the ball, it's possible that some part of the new system doesn't gel super well. I'm less worried overall than about the defense, but it's still a big if.
I'm a fan of the new aggressive defense and adding some mobility to the QB spot on offense, but it might take a while before the team is super comfortable.
2. Special Teams
I think I was spoiled with Philip Welch, the only other kicker in my time as a student and Badger fan. Because last year was atrocious with the place kicking, and it cost us or should have cost us the Utah State, OSU and PSU games. They weren't too great in the spring, either. Here's to hoping we won't need it against ASU, OSU, or like, ever.
1. OL depth
The starting line could be one of the best in the B1G, but here's the thing: it's really hard for linemen to stay healthy. That's not just something that's happened to Badgers of recent (which it has, damn you injury plague). It's just a fact of the position. And if Groy, Havenstein, or Voltz goes down? Bad news. The guard positions have a little more depth, but still. This is a unit that NEEDS to stay healthy to run the ball effectively (which we saw last year). Unfortunately, I worry that won't be the case.
I wrote a little more than I should have, but the real purpose of this was to create some sort of ranking on what might hurt the team the most this season, and to hear the opinions you guys have.
So have at it in the comments, agree with me, or better yet, don't.