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South Florida vs. Wisconsin: Personnel breakdown shows multiple tight end sets dominant

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Wisconsin offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig loves his tight ends, and there are reasons why.

Tom Lynn

Despite only scoring three points in the first half with their slow start on Saturday, the Wisconsin Badgers scored on their first four drives in the second half en route to defeating the South Florida Bulls 27-10 at Camp Randall Stadium.

Looking at the personnel breakdowns from the victory, offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig continues to use many two tight end-plus sets, mostly to the Badgers' benefit.

Badgers in the 1st Half
Personnel (RB/TE) Run Pass TD
11 0 3
12 7 1
13 3 0
14
20
21 3 4
22 9 2
23
Total 1st Half: 22 10 0
Badgers in the 2nd Half
Personnel (RB/TE) Run Pass TD
10
11 1 1
12 9 4
13 4 1
14
20
21 10 2
22 9 2
23 1 1 1
Total 2nd Half: 34 9 3
TOTAL RUNS: 56
TOTAL PASS: 19
TOTAL PLAYS: 75
TOTAL TDs: 3
2 TE-PLUS SETS: 51
2 TE-PLUS & 2 RBs: 22

Side note: I count sacks as passing plays. Though the stats will show the QUARTERBACK with a negative rushing amount, I still regard these as passing plays. However, scrambles (which McEvoy does a lot) are noted here as runs -- especially if they gain massive yardage like some of them have. Also, I am not a football coach, so I'm only showing trends, and my "analysis" isn't what Ludwig or Andersen's would be. Obviously, they're where they are for a reason.

Wisconsin likes its tight ends

Wisconsin went up primarily against a 3-4 base defense from South Florida. Obviously, the Bulls' athleticism was on display first and foremost in the first half, holding Wisconsin to only 139 total yards on 32 plays. Wisconsin, in keeping with its normal trend the past two weeks, ran the ball on a majority of its plays. Only against Western Illinois did the Badgers get close to a "balanced" offense (38 runs, 30 passes), while the other games they've hovered between 60-to-80 percent runs.

Fifty-one of Wisconsin's 75 plays were in two tight end-plus sets this week, very similar in splits to the game against Bowling Green (59 out of 78 plays).

One thing to notice here is the heightened use of the two-running back personnel this week. Whether freshman Austin Ramesh lined up in the I-formation or Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement came out in the backfield at the same time, the Badgers used two running backs more than last week (a larger difference in the third and fourth quarters), though you didn't see the 31 formation against the Bulls where Ramesh, Gordon and Clement were on the field together. As Wisconsin utilized the 12/13 personnel 24 times in the second half against Bowling Green, the Badgers used 21/22/23 personnel (two running backs) at least 23 times in the second half against the Bulls.

Notes:

  • Six of the 19 passing plays were in the 21 personnel. Of those six, three were bubble screens with senior wide receiver Jordan Fredrick in motion to spring a block for junior wide receiver Alex Erickson. All three screens were targeted at Erickson.
  • Two of the Badgers' touchdowns came in the 22 personnel with Ramesh in as fullback in back-to-back plays. Gordon's 7-yard and 43-yard touchdowns came on a zone run and then a power right, respectively.
  • I know I didn't show charts from the past three games, but they've utilized a more of the 12 personnel rather than 11 personnel in recent weeks. Against LSU, they went with three wide receivers (11 personnel) 19 times. That's since decreased against Western Illinois (11 plays), Bowling Green (8) and South Florida (5). I'm guessing it's more for match-up problems against each respective opponent, but you've been seeing in recent weeks where a tight end like Troy Fumagalli might line up wide outside, then either Sam Arneson or Austin Traylor is more in the slot in shotgun passing situations. They've even run the read-option out of a spread look using two tight ends. The tight ends are a deep group, and Ludwig wants to use them to the best of their abilities.
  • Out of that 11 formation though, Wisconsin has run the option with McEvoy and Gordon a couple of times. Outside of scrambling, it's been the only running play I've seen out of that group.