9.15.2009

Grading Bucky: Fresno State

Well, Better late than never I always say. It's been a hectic couple of weeks for me and after I move on Friday things should settle down, but in the meantime, we have a Badger football game to cover. And this time I'm going to give the coaches a grade, broken down by special teams, offense and defense.

So here is the report card for the Badgers double overtime 34-31 win over the awe-inspiring Fresno State Bulldogs (sarcasm intended).

Quarterbacks: B+

Scott Tolzien did his job perfectly. It's been a pleasant surprise to have a quarterback willing to stay in the pocket and make the throws rather than scramble as soon as he whiffs a blitz. Tolzien only completed 17 of 28 passes but he threw for over 200 and, most importantly, didn't turn the ball over. One comment though, we didn't see Curt Phillips in the game at all. That won't be the case next week against Wofford, but I was surprised he didn't even get into the game for a series.

Overall, Tolzien made some big throws when the team really needed it. With him at the helm, the offense stands to be very improved from a year ago.

Running Backs: A

Zach Brown began the year as the number one running back. He came into the Fresno State game as the starter. But after John Clay rattled off 143 yards on 21 carries on Saturday, Brown lost his starting job. I don't think anyone who has watched Badger football over the last couple seasons is surprise by this.

Brown will still get his carries, he had 40 yards and a TD on nine carries against Fresno. Clay is just too big, too fast and too powerful to not carry the ball 20-30 times a game.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B+

Another good showing for this group. Isaac Anderson finished with 70 yards on four catches, Garrett Graham had three catches for 49 yards and David Gilreath(below) got into the mix, scoring a touchdown on an end-around.

The player that continues to impress though, is Nick Toon. The Middleton native has become the go-to target for Tolzien and the more weapons this team has the better.
Offensive Line: C+

Depth has be a major concern for this group through the first two games. Freshman Travis Frederick, who is the second string Center, was hurt early in the game and another Freshman, Peter Konz had to finish the game. That said, Konz played well and the real trouble came from the tackle spots. Left Tackle Gabe Carimi and Right Tackle Josh Oglesby struggled mightily with the speed rush of Chris Carter.

With Bill Nagy and John Moffitt likely returning from injury this week, the O-Line should be in better shape once Big Ten play starts. Wofford will be a nice tune-up for some of the injured players.

Defensive Line: C+

O'Brien Schofield is an absolute beast. He has, far and away, been the best defensive player for Bucky this season. Schofield had 11 tackles Saturday, four for loss and one sack. So why the the low grade? It's a one man line so far. Nobody has stepped up to pressure the quarterback. If the Badgers can't get pressure on the QB, they will have a tough time when big ten play roles around.

Linebackers: B

Jaevery McFadden continues to cover the field well, he finished second on the team in tackles on Saturday. He also notched one of the two sacks Bucky had in the game. Aside from McFadden, Culmer St. Jean and Mike Taylor had solid games. Neither made any huge plays but they did a pretty good job of stuffing the run game.

The linebacker rotation looks pretty good through Wisconsin's first two weeks. McFadden can cover a lot of ground if he stays healthy, while St. Jean and Taylor have been predominantly mistake free.

Secondary: D+

Aside from the deep ball he got beat on early in the game, Devin Smith had the good performance among the corners. Aaron Henry struggled, Antonio Fenelus looked completely lost. Niles Brinkley stepped up in the second half but he struggled with taller receivers. If the corner play doesn't improve, spread teams like Purdue and Northwestern (not too mention teams like Penn State and Ohio State) will have a field day against the Badgers.

Safety play was solid, again, and that's really the saving grace for this bunch. Chris Maragos continues to play like a man on a mission, expect him to have a big year. Jay Valai has been quiet so far though, but you haven't heard his name for the bad either.

Kicker: B

Philip Welch missed his first field goal but settled down after that, hitting a pair. Most importantly he hit them when it really counted, nailing the game winner in the second overtime.

Offensive Coordinator: A+

Paul Chryst does it again. The Badgers play-caller continues to prove he's one of the brighter offensive minds in college football. He really showed his ability to work all of his playmakers into the game plan. Four different players scored touchdowns for Bucky in the game and Fresno State was never able to catch up with what Wisconsin was doing offensively.

Defensive Coordinator: D

And on the other end of the spectrum, there's Dave Doeren. Not only is his play calling suspect (as evidenced by the ten yard cushion corners gave wideouts in short yardage situations) but he continues to have trouble getting his play calls into the defense from the sideline.

Doeren needs to be in the booth, where he can see the play develop, not on the sideline misreading plays and failing to communicate defenses quickly. If these problems persist, something will have to change.

Special Teams: B

Bret Bielema has done a good job with the special teams thus far. Punt coverage in the Fresno game was strong. Dangerous return man Devon Wylie was held to 37 yards on four returns, 34 of which came on one return. Overall, the return game didn't hurt them and that's equally important.

Overall: C

Let's break this down short and sweet. Offense was good, both passing and rushing. Defense played better in the second half, but pass defense was horrendous. No consistent pass rush, and depth in the trenches continues to be a concern.

If the Badgers want to have a chance in the Big Ten they are going to have to get a whole lot better.



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