Spring Preview: First look at Wisconsin

Wisconsin begins a new era after Gary Andersen was hired from Utah State as the Badgers program’s third coach since 1990. Andersen inherited a full cupboard after Bret Bielema bolted for Arkansas, so the new coach’s task is a bit easier as he pursues the program’s fourth Big Ten title in a row. But issues must be settled, beginning with the quarterback and secondary. Some work was accomplished this spring, but more remains.

BTN provides live coverage of Wisconsin’s spring game at 5 p.m. ET Saturday on BTN/BTN2Go only. I’ll be in Madison for this game and you can follow me on Twitter (@BTNTomDienhart) or send me your questions and comments to my mailbag. Remember, you can also watch previous spring football games on BTN2Go, too.

BACK IN 2012 …

Day Date Opponent Time TV Result
Sat. Sep. 1 vs. Northern Iowa 3:30 PM ET  BTN W 26 – 21
Sat. Sep. 8 at Oregon State 4:00 PM ET  FX L 7 – 10
Sat. Sep. 15 vs. Utah State 8:00 PM ET  BTN W 16 – 14
Sat. Sep. 22 vs. UTEP 12:00 PM ET  ESPN2 W 37 – 26
Sat. Sep. 29 at 22 Nebraska 8:00 PM ET  ABC L 27 – 30
Sat. Oct. 6 vs. Illinois 3:30 PM ET  ABC/ESPN2 W 31 – 14
Sat. Oct. 13 at Purdue 12:00 PM ET  BTN/BTN2 W 38 – 14
Sat. Oct. 20 vs. Minnesota 12:00 PM ET  ESPNU W 38 – 13
Sat. Oct. 27 vs. Michigan State 3:30 PM ET  ABC/ESPN2 L 13 – 16
Sat. Nov. 10 at Indiana 12:00 PM ET  ESPN2 W 62 – 14
Sat. Nov. 17 vs. 6 Ohio State 3:30 PM ET  ABC/ESPN2 L 14 – 21
Sat. Nov. 24 at Penn State 3:30 PM ET  ESPN2 L 21 – 24
Sat. Dec. 1 vs. 14 Nebraska* 8:00 PM ET  FOX W 70 – 31
Tue. Jan. 1 vs. 8 Stanford* 5:00 PM ET  ESPN L 14 – 20

KEY LOSSES

Offense: RB Montee Ball; C Travis Frederick; T Ricky Wagner

Defense: CB Marcus Cromartie; S Shelton Johnson; CB Devin Smith; LB Mike Taylor

OUTLOOK ON OFFENSE

2012 Offense (FBS Rank)
Yards: 5506 (43)
Passing Yards: 2197 (108)
Rushing Yards: 3309 (11)
Points per game: 29.6 (60)
Yards per game: 393.3 (66)
Touchdowns: 53 (32)
Field Goals: 10 (92)

The players must adapt to the new Gary Andersen regime. How steep will the learning curve be under the former Utah State boss? Remember, Bielema’s last staff underwent lots of change with six new assistants. So, this is the second season in a row the players will have myriad new coaches. Will the attack under offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig look different? Not much. But the staff knows the passing must improve.

That brings us to the quarterbacks. Curt Phillips, who was granted a sixth year, and Joel Stave, who is back after making six starts last season before a broken collarbone ended his year, have separated themselves from the pack. Danny O’Brien also returns after opening the season as the starter and then getting benched. And redshirt freshman Bart Houston also is in the mix. Stud JC transfer Tanner McEvoy arrives in the summer.

The receivers have room to impress, honestly. There just aren’t many big-play threats, meaning newcomers like Rob Wheelwright and Jazz Peavy could shape this position in the fall. Yes, Montee Ball and his truckload of touchdowns are gone. No worries with James White and Melvin Gordon back. Look for Gordon to get most of the work on Saturday with White out.

Keep an eye on the new center (Dan Voltz) with Travis Frederick gone and on the new left tackle (Ryan Groy) with Ricky Wagner gone. Groy won’t play on Saturday, with Tyler Marz playing the key spot.

OUTLOOK ON DEFENSE

2012 Defense (FBS Rank)
Yards: 4516 (29)
Passing Yards: 2711 (40)
Rushing Yards: 1805 (38)
Points per game: 19.1 (17)
Yards per game: 322.6 (15)
Touchdowns: 32 (25)
Field Goals: 13 (42)

This will be the side of the ball that is very interesting. New coordinator Dave Aranda has implemented a more aggressive 3-4 scheme that can morph into myriad different looks and come with many different pressures. It’s all about creating big plays—and turnovers. That’s a stark contrast to the previous more staid and conventional approach on defense.

The new defensive staff likes its front seven. LBs Chris Borland and Ethan Armstrong won’t play. But the secondary needs to develop. Players like CB Reggie Mitchell and S Darius Hillary needed to make a move this spring with the likes of CB Devin Smith, CB Marcus Cromartie and S Shelton Johnson gone.

2013 SCHEDULE

Day Date Opponent
Sat. Aug. 31 vs. Massachusetts
Sat. Sep. 7 vs. Tennessee Tech
Sat. Sep. 14 at Arizona State
Sat. Sep. 21 vs. Purdue
Sat. Sep. 28 at 3 Ohio State
Sat. Oct. 12 vs. 17 Northwestern
Sat. Oct. 19 at Illinois
Sat. Nov. 2 at Iowa
Sat. Nov. 9 vs. Brigham Young
Sat. Nov. 16 vs. Indiana
Sat. Nov. 23 at Minnesota
Sat. Nov. 30 vs. Penn State

***

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

And if you want to leave a comment on this post, use the box below. All comments need to be approved by a moderator.

Find out more about:

Show Comments (No Comments)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Have a question for BTN Customer Service? Please e-mail us here