Bleach: Next men in

first_imgClich? as the words may read, Montee Ball’s response after the Rose Bowl loss rang with the authenticity of someone who already had a goal burned into his mind:“Today, tomorrow, the next day and every day. I am ready for next year, I am ready for it now,” Ball said. “We are going to all come back, and we are going to use this motivation to come out on fire.”And that is the question. When a team suffers a disappointment in a championship-type game, how do they bounce back?In the NFL, there is usually at least a one-year hangover after a Super Bowl loss. You have to go back to 1993 and the Buffalo Bills to find a losing team that made it back to the championship round.In college, the history of Rose Bowl losers is a bit more hopeful. Oregon lost in last year’s granddaddy of them all and bounced back alright. USC and Michigan both lost Rose Bowls this decade and immediately returned. Still, there have been washouts like Illinois and Washington State that ended up just being flashes in the pan.So, what will determine how Wisconsin rises from the ashes?For one, how they turnover and replace departed players.Wisconsin is losing talent to Sundays. Quite a lot of it. So here is a way-too-early-but-why-the-hell-not look at what the 2011 version of the Badgers need to replace to win the Leaders and Legends Conference, formerly known as the Big Ten; because discussing offensive coordinator Paul Chryst’s bizarre play calling just doesn’t seem as productive, not to mention depressing.J.J. Watt – The loss of Watt might hurt beyond comprehension. In watching the junior defensive end depart a season early, the Badgers lose their top leader on defense, their top playmaker and the only consistent pass rusher on the defensive line. Making matters worse for media concerns only, now Aaron Henry remains on defense as the only worthwhile quote. Bummer.The stats for Watt are something out of a video game with a created player. He is second on the team in tackles as a defensive end and someone every single offensive coordinator prepares for weekly. He has more than twice the sacks of any other Badger and TWENTY-ONE tackles for a loss. The next closest UW defender has eight. He blocked three kicks on the season, forced two fumbles and intercepted a pass.Oh yeah, and Watt was second on the team in pass break-ups, with nine.[Sounds of Bret Bielema muttering into his scotch]Making matters worse, there isn’t any obvious replacement on the defensive line like Watt was to O’Brien Schofield. The spot opposite Watt was a revolving door this season of Louis Nzegwu, David Gilbert and a little Tyler Dippel/Pat Muldoon action.New UW defensive coordinator Charles Partridge knows Watt cannot be replaced. It remains to be seen whether he can coax even half of Watt’s production and value from the returning ends.John Clay – And … big who cares. Clay was a good back, one who could always pick up the one-yard TD or first down and excelled behind the Badgers NFL offensive line. He somehow won Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in 2009 without anyone realizing how much he was a product of his environment.But his limitations were obvious and obnoxious. He weighed too much to ever have effective breakaway speed when it came to foot races down the sideline. He was so susceptible to shoe string tackles; no defensive back ever bothered trying any other way to bring him down – because he never once leapt over the lowered arms. Sometimes he forgot that as a “260” pound back he was supposed to punish tacklers and would dance instead of bludgeon. He was as useful as I am when it came to third down.His loss is least damaging, however, because Montee Ball and James White have proven they can carry the load better than Clay. Both had at least a half yard better per carry average and both accounted for more touchdowns. Plus, Jeff Lewis and Melvin Gordon are pretty highly regarded runners in their own right.Like Clay did to P.J. Hill, so Ball and White ousted Clay. He was ultimately expendable.Dave Doeren – Doeren grabbing a head coaching job at Northern Illinois will be a blessing in disguise.Coaching defense at UW should not be that hard (relatively speaking of course). The offense has been good for the past four years and absolutely drains the clock. Camp Randall provides one of the top home field advantages in all of college football. Chris Maragos, DeAndre Levy, O’Brien Schofield and J.J. Watt are all in (or going to be in) the NFL.Still, with all that going for him, Doeren’s defenses have settled with 20.5 points per game (2010), 21.8 ppg (2009), 26.5 ppg (2008) and 23.2 ppg (2007).Not horrible – except for everything about 2008 – but certainly not great. Those numbers also include three cupcake games every year to pad those totals each season. There were very few games, if any, that you would credit the UW defense with winning over his four years.Simply average to the extreme.Blake Sorensen – His loss leaves a giant hole on the team.I mean, who else can wear a porn star ‘stache with such grace and dirty shoulder length hair with such style? It is time for Jared Abbrederis to step up and grow the Fu Manchu.Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt – It hurts, obviously, losing the two most talented members of your offensive line. But with that caveat out of the way, UW’s O-line will once again be the best in the Big Ten. Just maybe not by such a big margin.Center Peter Konz is a top pro prospect – something Bielema was kind enough to reveal that Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson had expressed. Kevin Zeitler is a returning all-conference guard. Ricky Wagner should move nicely to left tackle after a year starting as right tackle and is someone that Bielema has described as the most talented offensive lineman in the program. For all the absurd expectations, Josh Oglesby is still an all-Big Ten offensive lineman. At left guard, Travis Frederick – the first-ever true freshman lineman to start a game for Wisconsin – will be a force again, fresh off a redshirt season.The saddest part, of course, is losing the grizzly bear Moffitt, my personal favorite player.Lance Kendricks – It is Wisconsin. They ALWAYS find a tight end. My money is on Sherard Cadogan putting on muscle and becoming the next pass-catching star.Scott Tolzien – He led the nation in completion percentage and won the Johnny Unitas Award. He will be the next Wisconsin heir to Clipboard King in the NFL after the Colts draft him.Thankfully, there is plenty of talent at the quarterback position for UW. It is all just raw and inconsistent. But with Chryst being a master at molding his signal callers and a dominant running game once again, the Badgers will find success whether it is Jon Budmayr, Curt Phillips or Joe Brennan lining up under Konz’s booty.Isaac Anderson, David Gilreath, Kyle Jefferson, Niles Brinkley, Jay Valai and Culmer St. Jean – Meh. There are suitable replacements for all of these players.The other part of the equation falls on Bret Bielema’s shoulders.Bielema struggled the first time after experiencing success, with his team lacking the leadership in the senior class to stay on top. It is doubtful that problem will repeat itself.The “1-0” maxim may make for amusing coach-speak jokes, but Bielema has done an excellent job branding the attitude on his program. Players do not look ahead, they don’t take any opponent lightly. Period.That attitude will be essential if Wisconsin is to make a return trip to Pasadena sometime before the next decade.The Badgers would seemingly have the talent and leadership to at least broach the consideration of back-to-back Rose Bowl trips.Whether they become a one-hit wonder or fixture in Wisconsin lore depends on the goal that supposedly consumed Montee Ball on the heels of the loss.He can’t be the only one who is left burning with desire.Michael Bleach ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in Journalism.last_img

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