Jack Ikegwuonu, CB – the 6'1", 193-pound junior comes into this game with some impressive credentials. He was a first-team All-Big Ten pick a year ago after ranking third in the Big Ten with 13 passes broken up to go along with 41 tackles and two interceptions. Thanks to those numbers, Ikegwuonu entered the 2007 season tabbed as a first-team All-Big Ten choice and a potential All-American. But Ikegwuonu also enters the game with some legal issues hanging over his head. A Jan. 14 trial date has been set after he pleaded not guilty to a residential burglary and criminal trespass charges stemming from an incident in Nov. 2006 when he and his twin brother, Bill, allegedly broke into a DeKalb, Ill., apartment and stole an X-box game system.
Whether it's due to the distraction of those legal issues or not, Ikegwuonu hasn't been the same kind of shutdown corner that he was a year ago, totaling just 17 tackles and no interceptions this season. He'll likely be matched up with IU's James Hardy, who had 14 catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns last week. But Ikegwuonu did a great job on Hardy in last season's 52-17 Wisconsin win, limiting him to one catch for eight yards.
Travis Beckum, TE – It's not wide receivers Paul Hubbard or Kyle Jefferson that figure to give the IU defense the most fits in the passing game. Instead, it's 6-4, 224-pound junior tight end Travis Beckum. Beckum has caught 50 passes (ranked third in the Big Ten) for 580 yards and three scores. His reception total is more than double anyone on the team, and the squad's second-leading receiver – Luke Swan – is out with a torn hamstring. He's also had a couple of huge games in league play, catching 10 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown against Michigan State, followed by an 11-catch, 160-yard performance against Illinois.
Beckum was Scout.com's top-ranked defensive end in the nation coming out of high school, and started his college career at outside linebacker before moving to tight end last season. He responded with 61 catches for 903 yards, both school records for a tight end. It's a similar move to the one Bielema successfully made with Dallas Clark when he was an assistant coach at Iowa, and Clark developed into a first-round NFL draft pick, and the ultra-athletic Beckum appears destined to do the same. He's a gifted athlete who proves to be a mismatch against just about any linebacker, and IU will likely need to utilize a safety if it hopes to keep Beckum from having another huge day.
Aaron Henry, CB – Henry's name will make you do a double take – flip it around and it's the same as one of major league baseball's all-time great hitters – but he's been making a name for himself as a true freshman. While the 6-0, 169-pounder hasn't cracked the starting lineup yet, many in Madison are clamoring for him to do so after a series of big plays this fall. While he's still listed at No. 2 behind starter Allen Langford, Henry is on the field in the Badgers' nickel and dime packages, which should be used a great deal against IU's spread formation.
While the Immokalee, Fla., product has had limited opportunities this fall, he's made the most of them. He's played in all eight games and has totaled 21 tackles, two passes broken up and has one of UW's five interceptions. He also leads the team with 3 ½ sacks, so Kellen Lewis can plan on seeing Henry blitzing a time or two this weekend. Henry might be the most diminutive player on the field when he's out there, but he's got tremendous speed and the sort of big-play abilities that make the UW coaching staff think he's going to be an All-Big Ten caliber player down the road.
Nick Hayden, DT –Indiana's offensive coaching staff likes to try to keep opposing teams honest with some runs up the middle, but to have much success with that they'll need to find a way to keep the 6-5, 290-pound Hayden from getting into the backfield and blowing up those plans.
Now a senior, Hayden had a huge sophomore season when he ranked fourth on the team in tackles (56) and led the squad with 5 ½ sacks. His productivity fell off a year ago, as he finished with just 27 tackles, zero sacks, and was generally subbed out in obvious passing situations. But Hayden lost 10-15 pounds in the off-season, and has re-established himself as a dominant force up front. He's already eclipsed last season's total for tackles (28) and he ranks second on the team in sacks (3) and fourth in tackles for loss (5 ½).
Hayden also has a couple of blocked kicks during his career, so he's more than capable of making his presence felt on special teams as well.
What's coming up:
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday - Four Players to Know
On Wednesday – Three Big Concerns
On Thursday – Two Key Match-Ups
On Friday – One Bold Prediction
WISCONSIN: Four Days and Counting
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