Wisconsin Outlook: The Offense

GoBlueWolverine's Josh Turel takes a look at Michigan's first Big Ten opponent (Sept. 24, away), the Wisconsin Badgers, BEFORE the preseason magazines hit the shelves! The Badgers are back on the Wolverine schedule after a two year hiatus, so Turel gives them LOTS of attention in this detailed preview.

Offensive MVP: RB- Brian Calhoun
Player who needs to step up: QB- John Stocco
Breakout players: TE- Owen Daniels, WR- Brandon White
Strengths: Starting backfield, Receivers, Tight End
Weaknesses: Running back depth, Offensive line depth and experience
Key losses:
RB-Anthony Davis SR 5-8/194
WR-Darrin Charles SR 6-6.5/220
OG-Dan Buenning SR 6-4/313
OG-Jonathan Clinkscale SR 6-3/304
OT-Morgan Davis SR 6-5/319
OT-Mike Lorenz SR 6-5/315



One of the few positions that returns practically the same lineup it did last year. John Stocco (6-2, 197, Jr.) had a solid spring and his role will be key for the offense to maintain balance. Stocco still has plenty of room to improve, last season his accuracy was inconsistent at times, his deep ball as well and turnovers hurt the team's ability to consistently move the football at some points. One thing Stocco does have that is overlooked in many instances is leadership. This trait alone can do wonders for an offense, a strong signal caller can motivate an offense to reach it's full potential on the field and it keeps the team in the game. Stocco does have some skill as a passer, he just needs to focus on performing more consistently.
Stocco's backup will be Tyler Donovan (6-1, 187, So.). Donovan had an excellent spring and could even push Stocco for the starters role should he faltered. Donovan is a pretty talented kid, very athletic, strong arm and improving accuracy. The key for Donovan was comfort, as talented as he is he struggled initially to be fluid but now has relaxed and is improving rapidly. His throwing targets are on and he's using his mobility well in the pocket and throwing on the move. Donovan may need a year to sit back and learn from Stocco who oversees the offense well and has experience reading coverages and going through progressions. Bryan Savage (6-4, 211, RS Fr.) is another talented youngster in the mold of Donovan but an injury set him back in the spring.

The quarterback spot isn't set in stone, Donovan is the obvious future of the team and will see the field this year, but knocking off a leader like Stocco won't be easy.

Running Backs:

Even though the Badgers lose Anthony Davis, Colorado transfer Brian Calhoun (5-10, 194, Jr.) should pick up the slack pretty well. I'm a big fan of Calhoun's game, he is a very fast back who can catch extremely well and work the edges of a defense. He had a stellar spring and in my opinion he should hit the 1,000+ rushing yard mark this year. The original plan was to have a one-two punch with Booker Stanley, but Stanley was suspended from the team indefinitely after being charged with four misdemeanors stemming from an alleged assault at a block party on April 30th. Stanley's future with the team is very much up in the air at this point.

The loss of Stanley is a deep cut to an offense that could not afford to lose a tailback at an already thin position. The backup role will now fall into the hands of Jamil Walker (6-2, 215, So.) and former walk on Dywon Rowan (5-9, 239, Jr.). Walker nursed a shoulder injury in the spring and did not practice. The good news is Rowan had a strong spring, he is a big back who will likely see time in short yardage situations but he also has respectable speed. True freshman Dion Foster and Jerry Butler could see the field and the Badgers are hoping one of them is able to contribute early.

Fullback is an obvious position of strength with Matt Bernstein (6-2, 266, Sr.) and Bill Rentmeester (6-0, 249, RS Fr.). Bernstein is a dual threat as a runner and blocker and is one of the top fullbacks in the country. Bernstein could again see time at running back with the depth there being a major issue. Rentmeester is next in line to the classics at fullback Wisconsin seems to churn out. Rentmeester will see time at fullback but also has good enough athletic ability to get reps at running back. Needless to says he's a versatile threat. Rentmeester is a very good receiver out of the backfield as well a tenacious blocker. Rentmeester combined with Calhoun in the backfield gives the team the option of deploying four plus receivers in the passing game.

Wide Receivers:

Senior to be Brandon Williams (5-11, 175, Sr.), who led the team in receiving last season with 42 catches and 517 receiving yards, suffered a fractured shin and missed most of the spring. Williams having a smooth return is crucial as he is the weapon of choice in the passing game. Williams doesn't have great size but he stretches the field well with his great speed and he's very dangerous in the open field.

The other starter will likely be Jonathan Orr (6-3, 190, Sr.). The big, speedy receiver will get his last chance as a senior to convert his talent into major production. His spring practice performance certainly showed that he's improved in several key areas including catching the ball more consistently and working the intermediate passing game better. If Orr plays with a high level of intensity he could reach his full potential this season.

The guy to watch for is Brandon White (6-3, 190, Sr.) who had a very strong spring. White fits the new timing offense very well because he works so well in the short passing game. White runs very crisp routes, has excellent hands and can gain yards after the catch. White is also a very strong blocker and will be a key part of the rotation at receiver. Expect White to see the field early and often.

Further down the depth chart are several young stars in the making in Jarvis Minton (6-1, 202, So.), Marcus Randle El (5-10, 186, So.) and Jeff Holzbauer (5-11, 190, Jr.) . Minton and Randle El gained valuable experience and both are very athletic options who present match up problems along with the junior Holzbauer. Also watch for Paul Hubbard (6-4, 216, So.) at wide receiver, he is extremely raw but could be the best pure athlete in the Big Ten behind Ohio State's Ted Ginn and Michigan's Steve Breaston.

Tight Ends:

A deep and talented group here. Owen Daniels (6-3, 247, Sr.) could soon be the premier tight end in the Big Ten, and he should get the opportunity to prove it this year. Daniels is a very athletic option, even enough so to split out as a receiver at times but he has progressively added bulk and strength. He's not a great blocker yet but it's no longer a major weakness. Daniels is a difficult match up for most linebackers and he's a good enough route runner to strike the seams of zone coverage.

As the backup/second tight end in some formations is senior Jason Pociask (6-3, 258, Sr.) is probably the best blocker of the ends and will likely be put in as an H-back when Daniels is in the game. Pociask has shown inconsistent hands in the passing game but he does have ability in this facet of the game. The third tight end is Joel Nellis (6-4, 239, Sr.) who seems to be a "jack of all trades, master of none." Nellis is a solid blocker and can contribute as a receiver is called upon. He will also be used in formations as an H-back and should see decent playing time this season.

Offensive Line:

The Badgers lost a good amount of talent up front as four starters (Lorenz and Morgan Davis rotated at right tackle) along with a couple of key backups exhausted their eligibility last season. The good news is the team returns soon-to-be three year starter Donovan Raiola (6-3, 294, Sr.) at center along with junior left tackle Joe Thomas (6-9, 298, Jr.). Thomas was impressive in his first season in the starting role last year and could be the team's top lineman.

The real issue is filling in the starting roles vacated by Jonathan Clinkscale and Dan Buenning at guard. The likely starters will be seniors Matt Lawrence (6-5, 288, Sr.) at left guard and Jason Palermo (6-3, 307, Sr.) at right guard. This tandem is certainly a downgrade from the departing seniors of last season but they can provide ample play. High school prep star lineman Andy Kemp (6-6, 316, Fr.) graduated early to join the Badgers in the spring and he could very well mix it up with the starters. One thing is for sure, he will see the field this season as a true freshman.
v There is once again a heated battle for the right tackle spot, this time between Danny Kaye (6-9, 319, So.) and Kraig Urbik (6-6, 317, RS Fr.). Both are very inexperienced, in fact only Urbik has seen playing time. With no clear leader, expect these two to rotate in at tackle on the right side. The primary backups will be Marcus Coleman (6-6, 309, So.) and Mike Van Someren (6-7, 305, So.).
v Overall:

Paul Chryst was brought in as a co-offensive coordinator and brings along with him a new timing and rhythm passing system to the fold. The new offense has certainly faced it's growing pains with the new style but should improve in time. The key will be John Stocco and his talented receiving corp developing a consistent passing game, which will balance with a solid running attack. Owen Daniels is a guy to really watch out for, it wouldn't surprise me if he's on many All Big Ten ballots at the end of the season. Calhoun is a very talented running back, the lack of a big time offensive line will limit his potential but with Stanley seemingly out of the fold with his suspension, Calhoun's work load will be bigger as a result. There isn't a proven backup for Calhoun, which could present a problem down the line. This offense in general does have it's questions but it has several strong areas including Calhoun, depth and versatility at tight end and fullback, and a deep receiving corp. The offense should be an improvement over last year's team but they must stay balanced and healthy given the lack of depth along the offensive line and at running back.


For Josh Turel's other Spring Previews so far (of the two conference teams off the U-M schedule this year), click below:
Josh's Wisconsin Preview - Defense
Josh's Illinois Preview
Josh's Purdue Preview

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