The Badgers should be able to grow and learn from their mistakes against Massachusetts as they prepare for Tennessee Tech. Once again the Badgers should rely on the run to help jump out to an early lead, which in turn should open up the passing game.
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 be important in helping the Badgers to a victory on Saturday.
Last Week's Rankings in Parentheses
1, Joel Stave QB (1): Stave had a poor first half (going 4-11 for 36 yards and an interception), underthrowing intended receivers and putting some of his throws in precarious situations. Despite the issues, Stave was able to turn it around in the second half by getting the offense moving. Stave needs to come out and play with confidence from the first snap. Stave had two nice deep passes in the second half and the Badgers will try to continue building the success of the play-action game. Stave, at times against UMass, wouldn't look off of Jared Abbrederis, appearing to only trust the senior to make the big play. If Stave doesn't improve in this area defenses will pick up on it and can create possible turnovers.
2, Dallas Lewallen C (NR): Lewallen struggled in his first career start with two fumble exchanges. Lewallen was playing well and he was doing a good job with his calls prior to his first fumble, helping the Badgers offensive line keep Stave upright and create huge holes for the running backs. As head coach Gary Andersen said in his post game press conference, the exchange issues need to be fixed because it will cost the Badgers a game if it continues to linger. Lewallen finished fall camp strong at the center position. If he doesn't put the football on the ground during practice this week he should be the starter. If not, I would expect Dan Voltz to be inserted into the game at center.
3, Sojourn Shelton CB (NR): Shelton had a great first game - recording four tackles and an interception - but he could be challenged a little more this week against Tennessee Tech. The Golden Eagles receivers have a little more speed then UMass did. Shelton has good speed and should be able to keep up. With one game under his belt, Shelton should take a step forward and have himself another good game.
4, Chris Borland ILB (NR): As expected, Borland had an impressive opening game with a team-high nine tackles. Borland flew around the field and should have a similar impact against Tennessee Tech. The Badgers defense didn't have any sacks or tackles for loss in the game but that should change against Tennessee Tech, and you can expect Borland to be in on most of those plays. If the offense comes out to another slow start, it will be important for the Badgers defense to do their jobs and shut down another opposing defense.
5, Jacob Pedersen TE (NR): Pedersen needs to rebound from his two-catch, 15-yard performance against UMass. It's still early in the season but many thought Pedersen would take some pressure off of Abbrederis in the passing game. Pedersen dropped one pass, which would have moved the chains for the offense. Not concerned quite yet with Pedersen but he has to play better to help out Stave. He's too big a piece of the offense to not be involved.
6, Michael Caputo S (3): Caputo played a solid game opposite of Dezmen Southward. Caputo looked confident and he followed his instincts to allow him make plays on the field. His performance should give him more confidence in his ability and it will be interesting to see how he improves this coming week. Caputo finished the game with four tackles and should continue to play at a high level with improving competition for the Badgers.
7, Ryan Groy LG (NR): It's not surprising that Groy played well considering the opponent but the senior did a great job of helping open up huge holes for the run game. Once again the Badgers will look to run early and often against the Golden Eagles and Groy again will have to be able to do a good job of pull blocking and getting to the next level. Groy could end up the starter at left tackle if Andersen decides to name Voltz the starter at center. Even if Groy does switch to left tackle, as he did last game, he still played well protecting the blind side of Stave.
Others to Note
RB James White: White should expect a similar workload as last week against UMass and should make the most out of his carries. White didn't look rusty and ran the ball very effectively, averaging 13 yards on 11 carries. He could see some more passes in the aerial game, as he was able to pick up 11 yards on his one reception.
K Kyle French: French went 1-2 on field goals on Saturday but the one he made was essentially an extra point. The one he missed was from 40 yards. Andersen said he was disappointed with how the special teams played during his Monday press conference. French needs to find more consistency. He does have a good leg but definitely needs to work on his accuracy.
WR Jared Abbrederis: Abbrederis hauled in two touchdowns against UMass but was still disappointed with his performance because he said he left catches out on the field. Abbrederis normally doesn't drop passes, so it won't be a lingering issue. Stave targeted Abbrederis early and that probably won't change until someone else steps up at the receiver position.
CB Darius Hillary: Hillary put together a solid game against UMass but Tennessee Tech receivers are a little quicker. Hillary isn't the fastest but he'll have to try and be physical with them so they don't beat him with their speed. If Hillary does get beat he has two reliable safeties back there to help him out.