The Front Seven - Minnesota

With 105 players on the roster, there are plenty of key components and players that will be important to Wisconsin's success? Who is going to be important this week? Badger Nation takes a look at the front seven.

MADISON — Value was difficult to find in the mess that was Michigan State. Besides the top two players on the list, every Badger had a "yeah, but…" type of day if it wasn't simply a downright miserable performance.

Offense, defense, special teams and coaching; It doesn't matter, Wisconsin was significantly outperformed in every aspect of the game.

As usual, the rankings are determined based on performance, expectations and need — a wonderfully vague definition of valuable to justify just about any selection.

Please vent debates and disagreements on the premium board.

Last week's rankings in parentheses

1. J.J. Watt, DE (1) — As of right now, Watt is the only playmaker the Badgers can rely on for defense. Louis Nzegwu, Mike Taylor even Antonio Fenelus, they have all flashed. But they have all disappeared for games at a time as well. Watt leads the team in tackles for a loss, is tied in pass breakups and total tackles and has the most QB hits. He is a beast. Now if the UW coaches can just find someone to play off him, they might be able to put something together.

2. James White, RB (7) — White scored two times in his first six carries of the game, creating something out of nothing on both occasions. He only carried the ball four times after that, despite nearly 25 minutes of game clock remaining. Questioning play calling is always a risky business, but it does seem peculiar that the only effective playmaker on offense hardly touched the ball the rest of the game. Given a week to review the film, Badger fans can only hope White sees more action against Minnesota.

3. Lance Kendricks, TE (3) — Kendricks sits at No. 3 not for what he achieved against Michigan State (3 catches, 17 yards), but for what he must do if Wisconsin is going to bounce back. He has proved he is ridiculously talented. Now he must prove it every single game. I know he was double covered, but a true game breaker can still find a way to make an impact against defense's geared to stop him. It would be one thing if the rest of the passing offense flourish with Kendricks has a decoy. It didn't. The senior tight end needs to reassert himself this week.

4. Aaron Henry, FS (4) — Two reasons for ranking Henry No. 4: One, he played reasonably well, notching six tackles and recovering a fumble, including one very big hit over the middle. For more personal reasons, however, his honesty after the game was breathtakingly refreshing. He said what needed to be said about the last drive of the game for MSU. He took responsibility for the trio of third-down conversions. It seemed sincere. Besides, who else deserves to go here? When in doubt, give it to the accountable player.

5. Gabe Carimi, LT (2) — The running game struggled, with both of White's touchdowns coming from him turning a broken play into something. The passing game allowed far too much pressure. Even the senior pair of Carimi and John Moffitt seemed flustered, letting Greg Jones slip in untouched to take a clean shot on the UW quarterback. It was not a pretty day to open the Big Ten for what was supposedly the conference's finest unit.

6. Scott Tolzien, QB (4) — A very tough game to judge the Badger's signal caller on. Far too many dropped balls (Nick Toon), pressure from all angles (Ricky Wagner, Carimi, Peter Konz and even White) and no chance to establish any rhythm. Tolzien did miss a wide open Toon on a corner route, throwing low and short. How Tolzien bounces back against a weak Minnesota defense will be most important.

7. John Clay, RB (6) — Remember when Clay was brought up in Heisman discussions? Yeah…

Clay's issue remain the same that they have always been. He has no game breaking ability. He is a valuable back, who can run hard inside. But averaging 19 carries a game, he isn't a workhorse. He is absolutely useless in the passing game. And he cannot do what White did, namely, make something out of nothing. Look for an interesting battle this week to decide how reps are split this Saturday. If Clay keeps playing like he has, White will end up the winner of that particular battle.


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