Wisconsin Football Recruiting: Badgers' Most Pressing Positional Needs for 2011
While many Wisconsin fans are undoubtedly still reeling from the Badgers' disappointing 21-19 Rose Bowl loss to TCU, UW coaches have already moved on and are preparing for next season.
Although the 2011 version of the Badgers won't be the same as the 11-2 2010 squad, there is still reason to believe that Wisconsin could make a return to Pasadena.
No, they won't have offensive leaders Scott Tolzien or John Clay. No, they won't have defensive stars J.J. Watt or Jay Valai.
But, they do have a lot of returning talent.
Nonetheless, there are some weak spots that need to be addressed through recruiting. No, most of these recruits won't see a whole lot of playing time in 2011, but they will be essential for the future of the program.
Plus, one or two of them could actually play a huge role for the 2011 team. James White, anyone?
Here are the 2011 Wisconsin Badgers' most pressing positional needs.
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Any time a team loses its starting quarterback of two years, you have to expect a drop-off the following season. Scott Tolzien was one of the most efficient quarterbacks in Big Ten history. There's simply no way around losing that type of productivity.
But luckily, Wisconsin does have a group of talented quarterbacks that could produce a star...or at least an effective leader.
Currently, freshman Jon Budmayr is first on the depth chart, but once sophomore Curt Phillips fully recovers from his knee surgery, expect an intense battle come spring.
No, quarterback may not be the most pressing need for Wisconsin in 2011, but there's still a great deal of uncertainty. Landing a few recruits definitely wouldn't hurt.
But, unfortunately none have yet committed to the Badgers.
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Although the Badgers do lose one of the best tight ends in the country with the graduation of Lance Kendricks, they do have two part-timers coming back: Jacob Pederson and Jake Byrne.
No, neither of those players really has that "star" quality. But, they will be serviceable.
That said, the tight end in Wisconsin's offense does play a huge role in the passing game, so getting a star tight end is desirable. Just look at the list of past Badger tight ends. Owen Daniels. Travis Beckum. Garrett Graham.
Luckily, there are already three tight end commitments for 2011. Highlighted by four-star recruit Austin Traylor (of Columbus, OH), Wisconsin should once again be in good shape when it comes to tight ends.
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Wisconsin doesn't rebuild on the offensive line, it reloads. That said, losing two All-Americans in Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt does sting a little bit.
Center Peter Konz, guard Kevin Zeitler and tackle Ricky Wagner will all be back, but there is a degree of uncertainty at the other two line slots.
But, Wisconsin has picked up two absolutely massive recruits that could fill the shoes of Carimi and Moffitt in the coming years.
Ray Ball and Tyler Marz both stand about 6'7" and weigh around 300 pounds. If they put on a little muscle, the Badgers could be looking at another couple All-Americans.
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Although the Badgers do return the up-and-coming Mike Taylor, there is still a lot of questions surrounding the linebacking corps for 2011.
Will 2009 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Chris Borland return to his star form after undergoing multiple shoulder surgeries?
Who will replace defensive leaders Culmer St. Jean and Blake Sorensen?
Fortunately for the Badgers, their linebacking future is looking pretty bright. Not only will Borland return in 2011, but they've also picked up three recruits this off-season, highlighted by four-star recruit and U.S. Army All-American Bowl participant Jake Keefer.
As of right now, junior Kevin Claxton and freshman Ethan Armstrong are slated to take St. Jean and Sorensen's spots, but a lot could change before September.
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To be blunt, the Badgers are losing a ton of talent from a team that lost by only a two-point conversion in the Rose Bowl.
They lose their starting quarterback, star running back, top two offensive linemen, No. 2 and No. 3 wide receivers, All-American defensive end, two starting linebackers, starting strong safety and one of the best returners in school history.
That said, the Badgers do have a ton of talent returning as well.
They have a couple of quarterbacks just waiting for their chance while Tolzien was under center. They have two running backs capable of both going over 1,000 yards and three returning offensive linemen to help them get there.
Their top receiver is back and they have two tight ends who have proven they can get the job done.
Three of four starters return for both the defensive line and secondary and both the starting kicker and punter are back as well.
Not to mention Wisconsin is bringing in the No. 35 recruiting class according to Rivals.com.
No, the Badgers won't have quite the expectations as they did in 2010. But, with consistent play, good coaching and some good fortune, don't be surprised if Wisconsin ends up at the top of the Big Ten once again.