2004 Wisconsin Badgers Football Season Preview

<b>Head Coach:</b> <A HREF=[PlayerNode:1239340]>Barry Alvarez</A> (99-67-4, 14 years)<br><br><b>Last Season's Record:</b> 7-6 (4-4, T-7th place in Big Ten)<br><br><b>Last Bowl Appearance:</b> 2003 Music City Bowl (28-14 loss to Auburn)<br><br><b>Key matchup(s):</b> Oct. 9 @<A HREF=http://ohiostate.TheInsiders.com>Ohio St.</A>, Oct. 16 @<A HREF=http://purdue.TheInsiders.com>Purdue</A>, Nov. 6 <A HREF=http://minnesota.TheInsiders.com>Minnesota</A>, Nov. 20 @Iowa.

Star Power: Anthony Davis, TB, Sr., 5-8, 194; Jim Leonhard, FS, 5-8, 183; Anttaj Hawthorne, DT, 6-3, 312

Notable Additions: Andy Crooks, LB, Wausau Wis. (East HS), 6-3, 234; Marcus Randle El, QB, Harvey Ill. (Thornton Township HS), 5-10, 172; Mike Newkirk, DE, Ladysmith, Wis. (Ladysmith HS), 6-3, 235; Bryan Savage, QB, Haverford, Pa. (The Haverford School), 6-3, 210; Sean Lewis, QB, Oak Lawn, Ill. (H L Richards HS), 6-7, 220; Taylor Mehlhaff, K-P, Aberdeen, S.D. (Central HS), 5-11, 180; Jammar Crane, LB, Garland, Texas (Garland HS), 6-1, 195; Gino Cruse, DT, Phoenix, Ariz. (Desert Vista HS), 6-4, 300

Notable Subtractions: Lee Evans, WR, completed eligibility (Buffalo Bills first-round draft pick); Jim Sorgi, QB, completed eligibility (Indianapolis Colts' sixth-round pick); Alex Lewis, LB, completed eligibility (Detroit Lions fifth-round pick); Jeff Mack, LB, completed eligibility; Darius Jones, DE, left team; Ernest Mason, WR-KR, suspended indefinitely, will transfer; Matt Schabert, QB, transferred to Eastern Illinois; Kareem Timbers, LB, not cleared to play medically.

Notable Returnees: Brandon Williams, WR, Jr., 5-11, 175; Scott Starks, CB, Sr., 5-10, 176; Dan Buenning, Sr., OG, 6-4, 313; Morgan Davis, Sr., OT, 6-5, 319; Donovan Raiola, C, 6-3, 280; Jonathan Welsh, DE, Sr., 6-4, 231; Erasmus James, DE, Sr., 6-4, 263; Jason Jefferson, DT, Sr., 6-3, 308 - 17 starters in all.

09/25/04Penn State
10/09/04@Ohio State
11/13/04@Michigan State
Offensive Overview: Wisconsin's offense was alternately extraordinarily potent and impotent last season, the result of talent abashed by injuries and inconsistency. The Badgers, though, still had plenty of high spots and should bring a high-powered attack to the table in 2004.

Wisconsin returns nine starters offensively, but the two departures are huge: wide receiver Lee Evans, quite possibly the most electrifying player in Badger history, and quarterback Jim Sorgi, who played well when healthy last season.

All eyes will be on sophomore quarterback John Stocco, who confidently assumed the No. 1 role during winter workouts. Stocco has the arm strength and savvy to succeed and he has decent athleticism to boot. With just 17 pass attempts under his belt, though, experience is an obvious question mark. His backups are a redshirt freshman and three true freshmen.

The Badgers should have a diverse offense, but the focal point will be senior tailback Anthony Davis, who ran for more than 3,000 yards his first two seasons combined, then suffered through an injury plagued season last year. Replacing Evans is impossible, but Brandon Williams could be a 1,000-yard receiver and Jonathan Orr, Darrin Charles, Brandon White and tight end/receiver Owen Daniels are talented options.

Defensive Overview: Wisconsin also struggled with consistency and injuries defensively in 2003, but with eight starters returning there are high expectations for the group.

Wisconsin's defensive coordinator for the past 10 seasons, Kevin Cosgrove, left for Nebraska in January and has been replaced by former Kansas State and Iowa assistant Bret Bielema, who will also assume Cosgrove's role as linebackers coach.

Bielema adopts a defense with two All-America candidates in free safety Jim Leonhard and defensive tackle Anttaj Hawthorne, plus five additional potential senior starters. Despite the departure of 2003 starter Darius Jones in the offseason, the defensive line has plenty of depth and talent and should be the strength of the defense. Corner Scott Starks deserved All-Big Ten recognition last season. If the Badgers can win a few more games, he will get it this year.

The big question is linebacker, where Wisconsin must replace two starters and the only returning starter, LaMarr Watkins, is switching from the strong side to the weak side.

Special Teams Overview: Leonhard is one of the best punt returners in college football and Brandon Williams can be a dynamic player at kick returner. Senior kicker Mike Allen was yet another player who was never quite healthy last season. He still went 9-for-12 on field goals, but his range was severely limited. Freshman Taylor Mehlhaff should take on the kickoff duties and could become the long-range place kicker. Incumbent punter senior R.J. Morse was much improved in 2003, but redshirt freshman Kenneth DeBauche may take his spot this fall.

The Badgers can call their season a success if… they finish in the top three in the Big Ten. Wisconsin has enough talent to challenge for a BCS Bowl berth, but has made a habit of falling on its face against seemingly overmatched opponents. Inconsistent play has been a calling card in recent years.

TheInsiders.com 2004 College Football Preview
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