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2017 Fierce 40 Previews: #10 Wisconsin

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 18, 2017

#10 Wisconsin Badgers

2016 Recap:
Wisconsin wound up playing Penn State for the Big Ten Championship and went 11-3 on the season after winning the Cotton Bowl over a pesky Western Michigan squad. The three losses came against conference foes Penn State, Michigan and Ohio State and all three games were lost by a touchdown.


Coaching:
Paul Chryst has exceeded all expectations. There were a lot of people worried after Brett Bielema bolted for the SEC and Arkansas. Chryst has delivered back-to-back double digit winning seasons and stands at 21-6 since taking over.

 

Offense

Predictable parts of the Wisconsin offense. Wisconsin will run the ball 60% of the time and at any time they will have at least two future NFL prospects alog the line making key blocks. The top two backs from last season are both gonwe so Bradrick Shaw will get the call as the starter. In a limited role a season ago Shaw contributed 457 yards and 5 TD's on the ground. The line is once again littered with what looks to be future NFL talent. Baeu Benzschawel at guard and center Michael Deiter are juniors who could both declare for the draft this season and be near the tops of their respective positions. Troy Fumagalli is more of an h-back than a true tight end but we are seeing smaller tight ends in the NFL that are hybrids that are successful, Fumagalli is in this mold.
 

Best Draft Prospects: Beau Benzschawel OG 1st Round 2018 (Early Declaration Candidate).

                                       Troy Fumagalli TE 2nd/3rd Round 2018.


Defense

The wisconsin defense was nasty a season ago ranking 7th in the country in totla defense and 4th in scoring defense at 15.6 PPG. While the defense was key to Badger success there were two other important factors to point out. The Badgers ranked 9th nationally with a +12 turnover ratio. Much of this came due to the defense creating turnovers. Wisconsin had less than 500 total penalty yards, or an average of just over 32 yards per game and this was one of the lowest levels in the nation. Chikwe Obisih and Conor Sheehy are back along the front of the 3-4 line. Both players exude a lot of talent and will now have the chance to prove it with some big numbers as they are ther leaders up front. T.J. Edwards is one of the best inside linebackers in the conference and back after leading the Badgers with 89 stops in 2016. The secondary returns a pair of starters after picking off 22 passes last season as compared to 10 for their opponents.

Best Draft Prospects:  T.J. Edwards LB 2nd Round 2019.               

                                       D'Cota Dixon S 4th Round 2018.


Special Teams:

Special teams is an area where Wisconsin thrives and a heaklthy season from kicker Rafael Gaglianone has made a Badger career out of hitting long field goals and 2017 should not be any different now that Gaglianone is fully recovered from the back injury that ended last season prematurely. The punting game with Anthony Lotti should be fine but kickoff and punt returns were a sore spot for the Badgers in 2016. Opponents averaged more yards per return in both areas and Wisconsin failed to score any return touchdowns on the season.


Schedule:

BYU on the road in week 3 looks to be the first big challenge as no large out of conference game looms like their 16-14 win over LSU to start last season. This year Ohio State is avoided on the schedule as is Penn State. Michigan will come at home ion the next to last weekend on the schedule just after an Iowa home contest. The schedule is one of the most favorable within the Big Ten.


Draft and Overall Outlook:

The outlook for a terrific 2018 campaign is there, especially if Alex Hornibrook puits together a solid and consistent sophomore campaign. The draft prospects are as strong as usual, maybe even stronger in 2018 if a few underclassmen declare as we expect or ones on the fence perform well.

 

DJ Boyer