Wisconsin Badgers' Big Year? John Clay, Nick Toon Look To Step Up in 2010
Around Camp Randall, there's a buzz about the Wisconsin Badgers. There is every year, but this year, Bucky and the Badgers hope to put some stock in the faith of their fans.
Coming off of what was both an inconsistent and impressive year, the Badgers look to make consistency a pillar of their team in 2010.
Throughout training camp and spring ball, head coach Bret Bielema has instilled a swagger in this year's squad.
He's not the only coach for the Badgers demanding excellence and expecting big things from this veteran group. Offensive line and running game coach Bob Bostad has put a major emphasis in the offseason on increasing the push the line gets with its first down rushing plays.
Bostad wants four yards, every first down rush. Anything less, is unacceptable.
"That won't get it done," he said. "Not even in that drill. You've got to have that mentality, 'I don't care who they're going to put in the box (near the line of scrimmage).' If you've got to put your head down into the spine of an offensive lineman, to get that fourth yard, so be it."
For the Badgers, the leading rushing team in the Big Ten conference last year, improving their already potent rushing attack would be helpful in making the push to the top of the conference in the final standings.
How Will The Badgers' Season Finish?
The Badgers appear to have a "two-game schedule," meaning their season will be defined by just two games, a home game against Terrelle Pryor and No. 2 Ohio State, and a road game at Iowa against the preseason No. 9 Hawkeyes.
The Badgers' players have solo aspirations as well, but they're less talkative about those goals.
Junior running back John Clay, who rushed for 1,517 yards and 18 touchdowns last season, finds his name on a few prestigious lists entering this season.
He's a Heisman hopeful, along with the likes of Terrelle Pryor, Washington quarterback Jake Locker, Boise St.'s Kellen Moore, Alabama's 2009 Heisman winner, and fellow running back Mark Ingram.
While Clay is considered an outside shot for the Heisman, the success of his Badgers teammates would go a long way in his push for the award.
If quarterback Scott Tolzien can continue his growth into a top effective passer in the Big Ten, Clay will likely see less stacked-box defenses, and will be able to benefit from the openness of the offense.
Another player looking to garner some accolades this season is wide receiver Nick Toon.
While he has a cartoonish name, his skills and on-field performance are as real life as it gets.
Toon, the son of former Badgers wideout, Al Toon (who had a successful seven-year career with the New York Jets) is looking to make 2010 his breakout year on the national scene.
Toon's 54 catch, 805-yard, four-touchdown season was a solid year in a season where he was growing into his role as the true No. 1. He now enters 2010 as one of the best offensive weapons on the roster, aside from Clay and senior tight end Lance Kendricks, who is also improving.
The Badgers need both Clay and Toon to continue their development into elite-level skill players, to make a run at postseason glory. If the Badgers were to beat Ohio State, and lose away to Iowa, they'd likely win the tiebreaker with Iowa and find themselves playing in the Rose Bowl for the first time in 10 years, potentially for a National Championship.
Yes, I did write National Championship.
Entering the season at No. 12 in the nation, it's no far cry to think with some early losses by the top five teams, Wisconsin could rise into the top three after a win against Ohio State, assuming the veteran squad beats the teams it should.
All of this, though, rides on the shoulders of the Badgers veterans on offense, as well as the weekly gameplans of Bielema's staff.
If all goes according to plan, the Badgers' fans will "Jump Around" celebrating a very special 2010 season.
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