Grading out, the season to date

Wisconsin has shown its mettle in two season opening victories. Badger Nation assesses the team's performance following wins over West Virginia and Akron.

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 Offense

 

Quarterbacks

 

Jim Sorgi has had an impressive command of the offense and has looked exceptional on short and intermediate passes. In an odd juxtaposition of skills, though, Sorgi, who was known for throwing the deep ball heading into this season, has struggled to connect with receivers downfield, overthrowing 10 such attempts in two games. In almost all of these occurrences, the receiver was well open. However, Sorgi hit the biggest one, the 99-yard completion to Lee Evans against Akron and has been brilliant down the stretch in the first two games. The fumbled snaps need to stop, but he has thrown only one interception and has thrown for 496 yards. Though Wisconsin has not called a single designed running play for Sorgi this year, he has tucked it and run 11 times and has shown that he can beat people with his legs. Sorgi did a good job hitting his check downs against West Virginia, but missed Dwayne Smith wide open in the flats Saturday and took a sack in the process.

 

Grade: B

 

Running backs

 

Anthony Davis is deserving of Heisman front-runner status. He has played at an extremely high level, displaying an immense combination of speed, agility and strength. Matt Bernstein has been a devastating lead blocker and the team has flirted with using its backs more in the passing game, to some success against West Virginia. Dwayne Smith, the top reserve, has 10 carries for 53 yards, the bulk of which came on a 34-yard touchdown run late in the Akron game. If he steps up and becomes a consistent force, Wisconsin's running game will be as close to perfect as one can imagine.

 

Grade: A

 

Wide receivers

 

Lee Evans has been exceptional since the opening gun and the receivers have done a fantastic job getting open, especially after a bit of a slow start against West Virginia. Though Evans has almost half the team's receptions, the Badgers depth is apparent. Owen Daniels showed his potential against West Virginia and Ernest Mason picked up a first down on a reverse against Akron. It is amazing how little Jonathan Orr and Darrin Charles have been involved, and yet the receivers have thrived. This group has also done a remarkable job blocking downfield.

 

Grade: A

 

Tight ends

 

The tweener position on this team. Owen Daniels could be called a tight end, and freshman Joe Thomas has ostensibly played tight end, though truly as an extra lineman. The regular tight ends, Tony Paciotti and Jason Pociask, have yet to catch a pass but have done a solid job blocking.

 

Grade: B

 

Offensive line

 

The unit has played very well in the first two outings. Anthony Davis has had some gaping holes to work with and Sorgi has been given ample time to deliver the ball, especially considering that Akron and West Virginia relied heavily on blitz packages and stunts up front. The line, like the rest of the team, has had a couple of mediocre third quarters, but otherwise has been near dominant. Did allow three sacks Saturday.

 

Grade: AB

 

Offensive overall grade: A

 

Defense

 

Defensive line

 

The Badgers front four has provided a significantly better pass rush then in recent seasons. The group was very active against West Virginia and played well in the first half against Akron, but struggled in the second half, largely from exhaustion. The unit is depleted and desperately needs some of its younger players to contribute and gain experience before the Big Ten season starts. Anttaj Hawthorne, Jason Jefferson and Jonathan Welsh have played nearly every snap.

 

Grade: B

 

Linebackers

 

Jeff Mack and Alex Lewis have been extremely active, recording 36 tackles, six for loss and two sacks between them. As with the rest of the defense, they looked to tire a bit in the second half against Akron but have played well for the most part this season, particularly against West Virginia. Kareem Timbers and LaMarr Watkins have been very good on special teams but have not made many plays on defense thus far. The linebackers in general struggled in coverage in the second half against Akron but have provided a good physical presence up front.

 

Grade: B

 

Secondary

 

Jim Leonhard started picking off passes again Saturday and Ryan Aiello snagged his first. Brett Bell has played well at right corner in his first two starts but missed most of the second half against Akron with cramps. Scott Starks has been in position for the most part and has made a lot of tackles, but he was outmanned consistently against Akron. The reserves—Joe Stellmacher, Robert Brooks and Levonne Rowan have been adequate for the most part. This unit played very well overall against West Virginia, but there were gaping breakdowns versus Akron. Tribute must be given to Charlie Frye, the best quarterback Wisconsin will face this season. He played a near-perfect game Saturday. The secondary, though, needs to improve.

 

Grade: BC

 

Defensive overall grade: B

 

Special Teams

 

The team has given up three long kickoff returns, missed two field goals and fumbled a kickoff. This unit, though, has been a big strength overall. Scott Campbell has made three straight field goals and has been terrific on kickoffs. The coverage units have been above average overall and excelled on kick coverage on six out of seven returnable kickoffs Saturday.  Punter R.J. Morse has displayed significant improvement in two games this season and the return game appears healthy. The team received a huge boost from Alex Lewis's punt block to open the West Virginia game. Still, the special teams needs to cut down on the mistakes. Boom or bust could end up proving costly.

 

Grade: B

 


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