On the college football calendar, New Years' Eve should be pushed back until February. Classes are back, weight rooms are full and national signing day puts the fax machine back on the map. It is also a time where team identity begins to truly take shape. Strengths are celebrated, while coaches scramble to ensure weaknesses are addressed with either new recruits or up-and-coming current players.
Every team has holes to fill on its roster thanks to the natural life cycle of college athletics, namely graduation, professional opportunities and good ole' natural attrition. Wisconsin is no different, and new head coach Gary Andersen has two big problems on his hands: wide receivers and the secondary.
Badger fans are used to a loaded backfield, stacked offensive line, and a cadre of defensive line players. A luxury this year is the logjam at quarterback as Joel Stave, Curt Phillips, Danny O'Brien, Bart Houston and even new recruit Tanner McEvoy have a chance to start in 2013. That is a dramatic departure from 2012 when the coaching staff was probably not far from driving around campus and signing promising flag football signal callers.
This year, though, reliable receivers and disrupting secondary stars are needed for successful fall Saturdays.
You can't throw the ball to Jared Abbrederis every play, as tempting as it is to do so. The sure-handed Abbrederis provided the offense's lone receiving threat with 49 receptions for 837 yards.
Jordan Frederick snagged 17 pigskins, Kenzel Doe caught 16 balls, Jeff Duckworth grabbed nine and Chase Hammond totaled five. For those keeping score, Abbrederis registered two more catches than the rest of the entire receiving corps combined—and that's all when he missed time with injury.
For Wisconsin to hit that next gear at a team, they need to become a multi-dimensional offense. The Toon-Abbrederis-Tight End combination set records in 2011. The tight ends are there, Abbrederis is back and now it is time for a viable second option to emerge.
It may sound like deja-vu from the 2012 team weaknesses, but poor ball skills killed the Badgers in too many close games—including the Rose Bowl. With a new coach, and a carousel of quarterbacks to boot in 2013, a young set of players need to develop enough to keep defenses honest.
Recruit Who Can Help: Rob Wheelwright is a 6'3" pass catcher from the heart of Buckeye country in Ohio. The book on Wheelwright highlights his speed, and a frame reminiscent to Nick Toon.
Graduation hit the secondary hard. Senior cornerbacks Devin Smith and Marcus Cromartie will be moving on, as will stalwart safety Shelton Johnson. The cupboard is not completely bare as Dezmen Southward has the makings of a star free safety, but he will need some support to continue making an impact.
The youth movement is in full swing at this unit as well. Then-freshmen Michael Caputo and sophomore Michael Trotter both got playing time in 2012 and played well enough. Both were plagued by mental mistakes but provide a spark of hope.
Recruit Who Can Help: New coaches bring new recruiting strategies, and JUCO alumnus Gary Andersen did just that with the signing of JUCO defensive back Donnell Vercher. Vercher can press for playing time right away, and could be a factor in 2013.