Front Seven - Western Illinois

Badger Nation's popular feature - the Front Seven - is back, ranking the top seven players based on performance, expectations and need for this week's game against Western Illinois.

After completing one of its biggest nonconference games in program history against LSU last week, Wisconsin returns home to face a familiar foe an FCS opponent.

Wisconsin played well through three quarters against LSU but need to be able to show they can put together a complete four-quarter game. Considering how Wisconsin let a win slip away, it would be disappointing to see if there’s any hangover effect by the Badgers.

The rankings for the Front Seven are determined based on performance from last week, expectations this coming week and need. It was not easy determining who would play an important role in helping the Badgers to their first win over Western Illinois..

Last Week’s Rankings in Parentheses

1, Melvin Gordon RB (1): After being limited in the second half due to a hip flexor, Gordon says he is good to go against Western Illinois. Gordon, who was having success running the football against LSU, should be able to come out even hungrier considering how last week ended. Gordon shouldn’t get too many carries, assuming the game is out of reach, but it will be important in helping set the tempo on offense. Gordon was able to bust a couple of long runs against a quick LSU defense and it should be expected that Gordon would be able to do the same against the Leathernecks.

2, Michael Caputo S (6): Caputo was all over the field for Wisconsin in the opener, registering 15 tackles, one pass break up and recovering a fumble. Caputo once again will be counted on trying to keep containment of Western Illinois’ skill players. Although Western Illinois has a balanced offense, quarterback Trenton Norvell - a transfer from Cincinnati - threw for four touchdowns and 320 yards in its season-opening win. Despite Norvell’s strong numbers, he has shown that he can be erratic. If Caputo can consistently help apply the pressure or once again being solid in pass protection, he’ll help make sure Norvell doesn’t have a repeat performance of last week.

3, Marcus Trotter MLB (NR): If Caputo was the defensive player of the game against LSU, Trotter wasn’t far behind in his performance. Tailback J.C. Baker is one of the Leathernecks’ best players and rushed for 137 yards in the opener. The Badgers’ defense did well through three quarters in stopping the LSU rushing attack and need to do the same against Baker. Trotter appeared to be the most active of the linebackers and seems like he is becoming the leader of the group. In order for Trotter and the rest of the linebackers to slow down Baker, the defensive line will have to be able to create holes to allow for constant pressure into the backfield.

4, Tanner McEvoy QB (2): McEvoy needs to show improvement from week one to week two, as it seemed like he was still developing his chemistry with his receivers, overthrowing his intended target a couple of times. Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen stated he was unhappy with the play of the offensive line play but I thought the line played well from what I saw. One thing McEvoy has said a couple times now is that he needs to do a better job of staying in the pocket opposed to taking off and running right away, which I think was the case against LSU. If McEvoy had stayed in the pocket more consistently I don’t think he would have had as many overthrows. If he does decide to scramble, he needs to do a better job of getting his feet set before he throws. If he doesn’t, he’ll continue to get in trouble.

5, Alex Erickson WR (7): Erickson led Wisconsin in receptions with three and is likely UW’s top receiving target. With Western Illinois holding teams to 156.3 yards a season ago, Erickson will need to help continue to move the chains. Look for Erickson to run some intermediate routes, which should allow McEvoy to get in a rhythm. Erickson will also be counted on to do a good job of blocking downfield to allow the tailbacks to bust a big run or two.

6, Chikwe Obasih DE (NR): With Warren Herring and Konrad Zagzebski going down against LSU, the defensive line became a lot younger. It also means that Obasih will be counted on a lot more to get after Norvell. Although Obasih numbers don’t show it (only recording a half of a sack and half a tackle for loss), he was able to consistently to find himself in the backfield in the opener. Obasih will need to be able to do the same against a solid size offensive line. Obasih should be able to use his power to create more production then what he had against LSU.

7, Corey Clement RB (NR): When Gordon is on the sideline it will be expected that Clement will be able to step in and make sure the running game doesn’t miss a beat. Clement only averaged three yards per carry in the season opener and needs to find more success against Western Illinois. With Gordon being able to out run the Leathernecks’ defense, Clement should be able to use his physical running style to help wear them down. If Gordon and Clement can wear down Western Illinois, it should allow McEvoy more time in the pocket and allow him to get into a rhythm.

Others to Note

Kicker Rafael Gaglianone: Gaglianone had an impressive debut by making his first career field goal (51 yards) and making all three of his extra points. The offense should find success against Western Illinois so he may not have to kick many field goals. But if McEvoy struggles again against Western Illinois, Gaglianone will be called upon to make sure the Badgers don’t leave the field without any points.

Left Tackle Tyler Marz: Marz is going to have to help pave the way for Gordon and Clement and make sure McEvoy has time to throw. Although Marz and the rest of the offensive line didn’t give up a sack against LSU, he and his teammates have to try and put together a complete game.

Outside Linebacker Joe Schobert: Schobert will be expected to try and help supply the pressure after putting together a nice game against LSU. If Schobert can consistently apply the pressure he could force another miscue like he did against the Tigers offense. If Schobert can force a fumble or assist in an interception he can help put the game out of reach for Wisconsin.

Nose Guard Arthur Goldberg: With Herring questionable for Saturday’s game, Goldberg’s role will expand even farther in the defense. In order for the linebackers to have success, Goldberg is going to have to occupy blockers to allow them to shoot through the gaps so they can make plays.

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