Wisconsin Football: How Montee Ball Plans to Step It Up a Notch for the Badgers
This discussion should start where a few have left off: hype vs. success.
A recent article discussing whether Montee Ball will live up to almost insurmountable expectations drew fire from all angles. The long and short of the issue rests with a very simple question: Can Ball improve on one of the best collegiate seasons ever?
The skeptics will doubt, the optimists will argue and the fans will hope that the Badger back can replicate his 2011 success. But ultimately, it will be up to Ball on whether those barriers are broken.
Getting more than 2,229 yards from scrimmage and 39 touchdowns would be a tall order for any player. Then again, Ball has shown the world he is not just "any player."
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
One of the biggest reasons Ball had such an explosive season boils down to a very simple formula. He had more opportunities.
Ball rushed 306 times last year, which far eclipses the 163 from the year before. Durability and a great rushing offensive line allowed the junior running back to keep the ground attack moving to the tune of an average of more than 21 times a game.
To see and then raise his numbers from last year, Ball will have to get a similar amount of touches but anything beyond 320 for the year will be counterproductive. That means, the Badger star will have to improve his already staggering 6.2 yards per carry.
Conditioning with an emphasis on speed may improve Ball's ability to stay in the game while tearing up more yardage when he is sprung free by the infamous Wisconsin linemen.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Ball is doubly blessed with great feet and great hands. The Wisconsin coaches will no doubt take advantage of those gifts to an even greater extent this year.
Six of Ball's touchdowns in 2011 came courtesy of the air attack. His ability to catch in a quick slant, as well as the confidence to grab one in traffic in a shuffle pass makes him a dangerous receiver.
Overall, Ball caught 24 passes for 306 yards in 2011.
Those attempts should increase to more than 40 at the least, which would be a windfall. Given an average of almost 13 yards per catch, those numbers could be a big catalyst as Ball pushes for greater heights in 2012.
Not many people know that Montee Ball has a 504 rating as a quarterback, with two tosses for 57 total yards.
This may be one area that Ball will have to shake his head and smile as no quarterback on the roster is likely to fill in as a receiver like Russell Wilson.
John Gress/Getty Images
Every year provides new leaders an opportunity to emerge on a football team. This year's Badgers squad will need Ball to lead the way in all phases of the term.
Wisconsin has a deep roster, but it also loses a healthy amount of starters from the last season. On-field production is only part of the void created. Locker room leadership will need new voices to keep the Badgers moving toward Pasadena again. That sentiment rings especially true as the coaching staff begins to fully assimilate into the team culture.
By all accounts, Ball has never been a shrinking violet but he will need to take the 2012 Wisconsin Badgers on his back as new faces settle into their roles.