2004 Badger Football-Positional Preview

Punter Free Safety Strong Safety Cornerback
Inside Linebacker Will Linebacker Defensive Tackle Defensive End
Place-Kicker Offensive Center Offensive Guard Offensive Tackle
Wide Receiver Tight End Fullback Tailback


2004 Projected Starter: RJ Morse

Morse improved his consistency and boosted his gross average by over 3 yards per punt. He does not have as many blasts as he did as a freshman, but if he can continue to be consistent in that 40-42 yard range, he should be ok.

His pooch punts were terrible last year and he must either improve or we could see someone else handle these situations.

2004 Projected Depth:Ken DeBauche, Paul Standring

DeBauche pushed Morse during camp and would be next in line if Morse were to struggle.

PIE IN THE SKY:Morse adds a few yards to his average with added touch inside the 20.

DISASTER STRIKES IF: Morse returns to the punchless kicker we saw two years ago.


Free Safety

2004 Projected Starter:Jim Leonhard

Leonhard is a two-time All-Big Ten selection, in large part due to his big play ability. Last year, he also was much more consistent in his down to down performance. He is always going to have an uphill battle in terms of making every play due to his size, but he is still a standout performer.

2004 Projected Depth:Roderick Rogers, Robert Brooks, Zach Hampton

Rogers is slated as the #1 backup, though Brooks may get time here if need be if he doesn't win the strong safety position.

Rogers is a physical presence with some cover skills that simply needs time to develop his technique and his consistency.

Brooks is a guy who will give you effort and will be in the right place, but doesn't have the playmaking skills or the physical presence to be a standout.

PIE IN THE SKY:Leonard's tackling and coverage skills match his playmaking ability.

DISASTER STRIKES IF:Leonhard goes for the big play an excessive amount of the time and abandons all of his other responsibilities. Seriously, this is another case where injuries are the only real concern, but I didn't feel like writing that again...whoops...just did.


Strong Safety

2004 Projected Starter:Johnny White

This is a tricky one to project, since some reports out of camp have been conflicting. We'll pencil in White for now, though it could be a position in which a number of players play based on opponent and game situation.

White is the most physically impressive of the lot and is a bigger hitter/physical presence. His cover skills are probably a bit weaker. White will need to make a difference in run support to offset his developing coverage skills.

2004 Projected Depth:Robert Brooks, Joe Stellmacher, James Kamoku, Casey Hogan

Brooks is the veteran of the group. While he doesn't have the upside of White, I would imagine the coaching staff would be comfortable using him as a security blanket should the need warrant. His drop in the depth chart could be injury related, though it has been unreported.

Stellmacher is a Jason Doering type. He isn't the greatest physical specimen, but is simply a football player. He had worked his way into a starting role last year before breaking his leg, and I wouldn't rule out a similiar run.

Kamoku is a pretty explosive athlete who could see time on coverage teams.

PIE IN THE SKY:White gets a stranglehold on the position and proves dependable in coverage, giving the Badgers their best combo hitter/cover safety since Matt Vandenboom.

DISASTER STRIKES IF: Each player has strengths, but each has weaknesses that prove problematic in terms of finding a consistent presence.



2004 Projected Starters:Scott Starks and Brett Bell

Corner could be the deepest position on the team. Starks and Bell also have the potential to be very productive as well.

Starks played very well last year over the second part of the season, and seems poised for a season of honors.

Bell was playing good football before being injured last year. He is bigger than Starks and more of a prototype bigger corner, though he has not had the long term consistency to make that jump to proven performer.

Both Starks and Bell could make more big plays.

2004 Projected Depth:Chuckie Cowans, Levonne Rowan, Jack Ikegwounu, Allen Langford, Jameson Davis, Antonio Freeman

Rowan and Cowans have good experience and could be reasonable options if forced to play snaps in addition to nickel or dime packages. Cowans will always battle his size issues, while Rowan has had troubles being consistent. Still, as far as backup corners go, they look pretty good.

Langford and Ikegwounu have both impressed as true freshmen and should be good players down the road.

Freeman is a raw athlete who may not wind up at corner, but he has the physical tools.

PIE IN THE SKY:Bell and/or Starks maintain good basic coverage skills, but also add a Leonhard-esque big play ability to the secondary.

DISASTER STRIKES IF:Consitency continues to be a problem and players juggle among the positions.


Inside Linebackers

2004 Projected Starters:Mark Zalewski and Reggie Cribbs

Zalewski in particular has shown some promise in his appearances, though his ability to remain healthy is the big question mark as the dropoff behind him is large. Zalewski should be the biggest linebacker on the field and will be counted on to be a strong anchor on the strong side. His performance will be vital to shutting down the power running teams.

Cribbs has not played from scrimmage and must be considered a huge question mark. He is undersized but has demonstrated some ability to get to the ball. If the DL can stay healthy, he should have some freedom to do so. If the DL does not perform has hoped, he could have a tough time if he is forced to get off blocks.

2004 Projected Depth:Andy Crooks, Elliot Goode, John Gillen, Paul Joran, Joshua Neal

The depth here is a major major question mark. Goode looked to be in line for a starting role but will miss at least 3 games as he recovers from his knee surgery. It is unclear how much he will be able to give after that, but he may be forced into playing at less than 100%.

Crooks is a solid talent, but as a true frosh, may be a bit overwhelmed at times if forced to play heavy snaps. He is stouter than Cribbs and may be an asset against certain matchups.

Players like Gillen and Joran have not seen the field yet and have not proven to have Big Ten starting talent and as such, have to be considered huge question marks.

PIE IN THE SKY: The starters stay healthy and provide enough stability to let strengths at other positions on the defense make plays.

DISASTER STRIKES IF:Undersized, inexperienced linebackers make key errors which offset those other strengths.

CONCERN:HIGH, arguably the highest on the team.

Will Linebacker

2004 Projected Starter:Dontez Sanders

Sanders is an extremely aggressive player who will probably make a lot of big plays both for and against the Badgers. He has beaten out Watkins for the starting role and if he can maintain the mental demands of the position, he could be a playmaker for the Badgers.

2004 Projected Depth:LaMar Watkins, Jammar Crane, Nick Sutton, Joe Walker

Watkins is still young enough to develop, but it should be considered a mild disappointment that he failed to capitalize on his opportunity this year. Still, he will be an experienced fallback should Sanders struggle.

Crane and Sutton are redshirt candidates and would not have the size to compete at the moment. Walker is a versatile player that is at WR right now, though I think he could wind up here eventually.

PIE IN THE SKY:Sanders adds a new exciting element to the defense, creating havoc by being allowed to run around and make plays behind the excellent defensive line.

DISASTER STRIKES IF:A single injury puts a true frosh or a misplaced player in line for playing time.

CONCERN:HIGH-not only is the performance at this position a question mark, but the depth is weak with ready to play alternatives.

Defensive Tackle

2004 Projected Starters:Anttaj Hawthorne and Jason Jefferson

This could be the strongest position on the team in terms of quality and consistency. Hawthorne has proven to be a durable impact player and is poised to have a super year. His run technique is sound and he will look to be a more consistent threat with the rush.

Jefferson is a quiet force on the defense. You don't hear his name often, but he is assignment sound and is your classic stay at home run plugger.

2004 Projected Depth:Kalvin Barrett, Justin Ostrowski, Lyle Maiava, Mark Gorman, Nick Hayden, Gino Cruse

Barrett has proven to be a stout, albeit limited, defender capable of giving the team a limited number of quality snaps (which is probably good due to possible conditioning issues).

Ostrowski is highly thought of and could see time at both tackle and end depending on the needs of the team.

Hayden is also well thought of. If all are healthy, he could redshirt, but he appears to be physically ready to contribute if need be.

Cruse is the last of the young tackles. He has Big Ten size and like Hayden, is an unknown due to youth.

Gorman and Maiava are both looking like program players at this point.

PIE IN THE SKY: Hawthorne adds a Wendell Bryant-ish pass rush, while the young tackles excell in their part time roles, paving the way for a successful transition next year.

DISASTER STRIKES IF: The young players prove they aren't quite ready, relegating JJ and Anttaj to excessive snaps and a potential wear-down later in the year.


Defensive End

2004 Projected Starters:Jonathan Welsh and Erasmus James

The big question at end is obviously the health of Erasmus James, who missed the entire 2003 season with a hip injury. Early reports in camp are that James has been fine and rearing to go, though his durability questions will not be answered until well into the season. If healthy, he is stout enough to hold up against the run and quick enough to offer outside pressure.

Welsh mans the other end position and is also a solid pass rusher. He would benefit by the presence of James, as I believe he wore down some last year with all of the offensive attention. He is a pretty good technician who is a solid steady player.

2004 Projected Depth:Joe Monty, Jamal Cooper, Brandon Kelly, Jason Chapman, Matt Katula, Derek Yentz

Monty will be the primary backup at end and should see substantial snaps. He isn't overly skilled but is a blue-collar hard worker in the mold of John Favret. If forced to play heavy snaps, he could be a liability, but if he is used to spell James and Welsh, I believe he can be effective.

Cooper will be used in some nickel and dime situations. He has outstanding burst off the corner but does not have the base to be an every-down player.

Chapman and Kelly are young players who have promise, but will probably not be counted on to play this season. If a few snaps are needed, tackles such as Hawthorne or Ostrowski could play power end as well.

PIE IN THE SKY: James and Welsh make it a tough choice for the offense, both putting big time pressure on opposing QBs and proving to be the best 1-2 combo pass rushers in recent history.

DISASTER STRIKES IF: James' injury resurfaces, forcing the remaining players to play heavy snaps, thereby reducing their effectiveness.

CONCERN:MEDIUM-front line talent looks good, but depth could be a question mark.


2004 Projected Starter: Mike Allen

Allen has proven to be very dependable from inside of 40 yards, but very ineffective on kickoffs or beyond 40 yards. If he can extend his consistency to say, 45 yards, leaving the long range kicks for someone else, he could be a very good kicker.

2004 Projected Depth:Taylor Mehlhaff, Adam Schober, Paul Standring

Mehlhaff will be the kick-off specialist and will give the defense a big boost. If he can be fairly consistent (50%?), he could also handle the long range field goal attempts.

Schober is a roster filler while Standring is an embergency kicker.

PIE IN THE SKY: Allen stays healthy and improves his range slightly and making a run at All-Big Ten.

DISASTER STRIKES IF: Allen's injury problems continue and the kicking reverts to it recent inconsistent past.


Offensive Center

2004 Projected Starter:Donovan Raiola

Raiola is entrenched as the starter and seems poised to have a solid season. Raiola showed signs of being very good last year, but was inconsistent. His mobility was a strength, but he needs to anchor better against the big bulls. Aside from Eslinger, he is one of the better centers in the Big Ten and his leadership seems to be important to the OL.

2004 Projected Depth:Jason Palermo, Luke Knauf, Marcus Coleman, Jon Clinkscale

Palermo is a program guy who has seen limited time but most believe he would be fine if he were to see time.

After that, it is pretty much a grab-bag of young interior linemen who have seen time at center as well as guard (Knauf and Coleman) and Clinkscale, who could play center in a pinch.

PIE IN THE SKY: Railoa makes steps to handle the bull rush types and follows in the footsteps of Raymer, Rabach, and Johnson.

DISASTER STRIKES IF: Raiola is hurt, forcing line-juggling that detracts from the OL effectiveness, much like the injuries to the 2000 line.


Offensive Guard

2004 Projected Starters:Dan Buenning and Jonathan Clinkscale

A total of 69 starts returns in the duo of Buenning and Clinkscale. Like much of the OL, there was some inconsistency at the guard position, but enough succes that they should have a strong senior season.

Buenning garnered some All-Big Ten mention last year and is a classic tough interior player in the mold of Joe Rudolph and Bill Ferrario.

Clinkscale's level of play hasn't been quite as high, and conditioning has been a problem in the past. With more consistency, he could also see some Big Ten accolades.

2004 Projected Depth:Jake Wood, Marcus Coleman, Matt Lawrence, Randy Gyllin, Kraig Urbik

There isn't much experience in the depth, but Wood has been in the program and should be adequate if forced to play provided he is healthy, which has always been his bugaboo.

Morgan Davis has also seen some time at guard in practice and Raiola could move over if need be, so I would doubt that you would see any of the young guards other than in mop up time.

PIE IN THE SKY:Buenning and Clinscale combine with Raiola to form an elite interior line.

DISASTER STRIKES IF: As with many positions on the roster, the front line talent looks good, but there are quite a few young players that are total unknowns in the depth. The front line talent has to stay on the field.


Offensive Tackle

2004 Projected Starters:Joe Thomas and Morgan Davis

Thomas is the prototype left tackle in terms of physical tools. He still is somewhat lean for a tackle, though he is very very strong and has great footwork and should fare well against key pass rushers.

Davis and Lorenz will share time at RT, but Davis has a slight lead at the moment. Davis didn't play that bad at left tackle last year, but is clearly more suited for the right side. Davis could also see some time at guard if need be.

2004 Projected Depth: Mike Lorenz, Jake Wood, Danny Kaye, Andrew Weininger, Mike Van Someren

Lorenz is a returning starter so you won't find many backups with more experience. Look for Lorenz at TE at times in the jumbo package. He would also be a suitable option in case of injury.

Wood has pushed up the depth chart at times, only to be stunted by injuries. Until he can prove that he can stay healthy, he can't be counted on to contribute.

Kaye and Weininger are young players that could be in the mix next year.

PIE IN THE SKY:Thomas proves to be steady at the very key left tackle spot, while Davis/Lorenz provide some physical punch in the run game at the right side.

DISASTER STRIKES IF:Thomas proves to be forced into action too soon and Wisconsin continues to have troubles with speed rushers on the outside.


Wide Receiver

2004 Projected Starters:Brandon Williams and Jonathan Orr

Williams is the classic playmaker type receiver while Orr is the classic deep threat. Both of them have some liabilities that probably prevent them from being considered great all-around receivers, but they both have great strengths which make them dangerous weapons.

Look for Williams to get the ball in space in an attempt to use his elusiveness. Hitch patterns, screens, short crosses, etc. should be key elements in his game.

Orr needs to continue to improve his consistency, but is the one receiver that can get behind the defense and make a big play. He will never be polished, but a Tony Simmons role is possible.

2004 Projected Depth:Darrin Charles, Brandon White, Jeff Holzbauer, Marcus Randle-El, Brandon Tobias, Jarvis Minton, Paul Hubbard, Zach Hampton

Charles could have a big year as a possession receiver (along with Owen Daniels). With Stocco at the helm, I would suspect that you will see a lot of controlled passing. Charles is a big target who has more polish that someone like Orr, but does not have the raw explosion to be a true deep threat.

White has drawn some raves in practice at times, but the staff has never displayed much confidence in him. Moving from a blocking-only receiver to an occasional target would be a step up for White. Tobias has the big frame that Charles has, but like Randle-El, will probably need to wait before being given a shot.

Minton has impressed during practice, and Hubbard is a dynamic athlete that is still learning the game.

PIE IN THE SKY:All the receivers fill their roles well and become playmakers in their own way WITH the necessary consistency.

DISASTER STRIKES IF:The old bugaboos continue to haunt the frontline receivers, costing the team in what could be limited chances due to a new QB.


Tight End

2004 Projected Starter:Tony Paciotti

This is really a committee position. Paciotti is the best blocker of the tight ends, though he may even give way to the jumbo lineup with Lorenz playing TE.

Paciotti will probably never be much of a receiver, but if he gains more consistency in his blocking, he could still be an asset.

2004 Projected Depth:Jason Pociask, Owen Daniels, Joel Nellis, Kurt Ware, Dave Peck

Daniels is listed as a TE, though he is more of an H-back type who will play all over the place. He will be the primary receiving threat from the TE types and could have a big year as a 3rd down receiver.

Pociask could surprise as he is a decent athlete and is a hard worker. He has not shown enough consistency to move into the starting lineup, but could be the best combo receiver/blocker of the TEs if he were to develop.

Nellis is a program kid, while Ware and Peck are young players who will redshirt.

PIE IN THE SKY:Each member of the committee expands his game in a small way to make the position a little less predictable.

DISASTER STRIKES IF:All of the TEs continue to struggle in one major element of the game, making the offense more predictable than it otherwise could be.

CONCERN:MEDIUM-lots of candidates, but no great ones.


2004 Projected Starter: Matt Bernstein

Bernstein enters his junior year as one of the top returning fullbacks in the conference. He has proven to be an effective change of pace back and should continue to be the primary short yardage back.

What remains to be seen is whether his role will be diversified or not. We have heard rumblings in the past about using him in a one back set, but that has not come to fruition. With the current stable of tailbacks, I would be surprised to see him get substantial carries, but we may see a return to the waggle to the FB with Stocco at the helm, which would give Matt a more prominent role in the offense.

2004 Projected Depth: Greg Root, Josh Balts, Bill Rentmeester

None of the three backup fullbacks have seen the field enough to assess their abilities, so until that happens, depth will remain a question mark.

Root has been in the program the longest so he would probably be the most steady if Bernstein were to go down, though it bears noting that Dwayne Smith could play FB in a pinch as well.

PIE IN THE SKY: Bernstein continues to broaden his offensive contributions and becomes a multi-dimensional terror.

DISASTER STRIKES IF: Bernstein is injured, leaving the key position (for the Badgers) in the hands of unknowns.

CONCERN: MEDIUM-front line talent is terrifc, but question marks after that.


2004 Projected Starter:Anthony Davis

Davis is poised for a big year provided his ankles can stay healthy. He remains a strong slashing runner, but has also become a much more physical runner throughout the years. He is a difference maker on offense and brings the entire offense to a different level when he is on the field.

Davis has also reportedly improved his pass catching ability, though his blitz pickup remains a question mark, especially with a young QB who needs to stay on the field.

2004 Projected Depth:Booker Stanley, Chris Pressley, Jamil Walker

The loss of Dwayne Smith could be costly. Stanley is a tough Moss-like runner, but has not proven to be a big playmaker to this point. He played well at times as a freshman, but the offense was not as productive as it was with Davis in the lineup.

Pressley and Walker are talented, but like all true freshman, untested until the bullets start flying. At least one if not both will be forced to play due to Smith's condition.

PIE IN THE SKY:Davis' ankles hold up and he becomes a devastating big play tailback.

DISASTER STRIKES IF:Davis struggles to stay on the field and defenses can put excessive pressure on Stocco due to a more limited run game.



2004 Projected Starter:John Stocco

Stocco is the unquestioned starter and had a great spring camp, though his play was inconsistent during the fall camp. Stocco does not need to be a star, but needs to manage the game in such a way that he does not lose games. He cannot be bothered by poor line play, drops, or mistakes and must make the routine throws.

2004 Projected Depth:Tyler Donovan, Bryan Savage, Sean Lewis

As inexperienced as Stocco is, the backups are not ready to play. Donovan is next in line after Stocco, but has been very shaky at times. He has reportedly distanced himself some from Savage, though he has to be considered a major question mark.

Savage is probably the most talented of the UW quarterbacks and has looked outstanding in limited drills, though there is obviously a lot more to playing QB at this level.

Don't expect Lewis to stay at QB down the road.

PIE IN THE SKY:Stocco plays much like Bollinger during his freshman year, not dazzling anybody but making good decisions and letting his weapons work for him.

DISASTER STRIKES IF: Stocco's inexperience leads to drastic swings in his level of play.


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