Wisconsin Football: Pass Rush Is Priority for Badgers' Success

Peter RaischContributor IIIAugust 28, 2012

MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 26: O'Brien Schofield #50 of the Wisconsin Badgers celebrates with Chris Borland #44 against the Michigan State Spartans on September 26, 2009 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

"Home run" plays have been named as public enemy No. 1 in many football facilities around the country. All schools live in fear of the one monster run, unlikely throw or punt return that changes the game, or the course of the season.

Consider Wisconsin on the "home run" hunt as well. In fact, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Jeff Potrykus, the "big play" was one of the three top concentrations in fall camp.

Step 3: Avoid the occasional lapses that resulted in big plays, an issue that contributed to all three of UW's losses last season.

When the replays ran during the summer, many people scratched their heads and wondered why the Badgers were not playing LSU for the title. All the ingredients were seemingly in place. The offense was humming, the linebackers were swirling and the punter was booming.

How could the Badgers lose a game? It must be the pass rush. It has to be. 

It wasn't. 

While Wisconsin faithful hissed and lamented the loss of J.J. Watt, they only have to look at one stat line to realize the 2011 squad outpaced the 2010 team by two sacks. Last year it was a true team effort while the year before saw Watt more than double the sack total of the next guy on the list.

Eyeball test not withstanding, Wisconsin still needs to create more confusion on the line and find ways to disrupt the passing game. Some returning personnel, new players and shifty schemes should help get the team up to the 2009 total of 36 sacks. If anyone should be missed, it's O'Brien Schofield and his 12 QB takedowns that year.

David Gilbert's return, coupled with the Tasmanian-devil like energy of Chris Borland, should throw in a new wrinkle for opposing offenses. Gilbert was sidelined with a broken foot last season, but not before registering three sacks in four games, which forecasts to nearly double-digits if he would have remained healthy. Gilbert's measurements strike a strong resemblance to Schofield at 6'4" and 250 pounds, which should make him a factor on the edge. 

Chris Borland notched 2.5 sacks last year—half of his 2009 total—but Gilbert's presence on the field could open up lanes. Other than those two players, a proven sack man will have to emerge this season, which will make coaching changes a high priority as high-powered offenses begin to emerge. 

Batter up!