Football season bust brings scrutiny to UW staff

first_imgBy now, it’s ancient history, and it’s been continuously rehashed and scrutinized across Badger nation for months.The 2008 Wisconsin football season (7-6, 3-5 Big Ten) was a bust. It started with a 19-point blown lead at Michigan’s Big House to open conference play and ended with a 29-point blowout to the Seminoles of Florida State in Orlando’s Champs Sports Bowl, with far more frustration than celebration in between.The Badgers started the Big Ten season 0-4. A last-minute defensive miscommunication led to a 20-17 evening home loss to Ohio State. Then they were embarrassed 48-7 under the same bright Camp Randall lights at the hands of conference champion Penn State. Then-senior quarterback Allan Evridge was benched, but neither Dustin Sherer nor Bret Bielema could stop the cardinal bleeding.Shonn Greene ran all over the UW defense in Iowa City. The Badgers blew a fourth-quarter, double-digit lead in East Lansing, Mich., aided by Bielema’s last-second timeout that led to the Spartans’ game-winning field goal. Wisconsin beat up on lowly Indiana before beating rival Minnesota in comeback fashion and squeaking by the FCS’s Cal Poly in the regular season finale at home, in overtime by a point, thanks to three Mustang missed PATs.It was an eventful season to say the least. Many Badger fans called for a midseason Bielema firing, as they have now seen their beloved team plummet from 12-1 in his first year to 9-4 in his second to 7-6 in his third.Barring any monumental surprises in the upcoming months, Bielema will get his chance to prove himself in his fourth campaign. But those residing in Badger country are still wondering: Now what?On Jan. 8, junior running back P.J. Hill declared himself for the NFL Draft. This immediately opens the door for John Clay to become the feature back most Badger fans had hoped to see in the near future. Clay averaged an impressive 5.7 yards per rush as a redshirt freshman, but without Hill — the 2006 National Freshman of the Year — will he and junior Zach Brown be able to carry the rushing load, the focal point of the Wisconsin offense? A backfield so full just months ago with Hill and former UW back Lance Smith — now with Memphis — has now dwindled to just two.Sherer will likely be the starter under center in ’09. It will be the fourth senior quarterback to lead the Badgers in the past four seasons. Redshirt freshman Curt Phillips is the favorite for the backup job, but after starting eight games in ’08, it’s hard to see anyone but Sherer as the starter to begin the season.The offensive line loses three starters, but 6-foot-7, 328-pound sophomore Josh Oglesby is ready to take over the right tackle position after seeing significant playing time in 2008.Tight end Garrett Graham will put off the NFL for a year and return to Madison for his senior season. He will surely be of help to a still young, but maturing wide receiver corps, led by the 2008 emergence of David Gilreath.Like the O-line, Wisconsin will lose three starters on its D-line in ’09. Highly touted recruit Tyler Westphal should help opposite O’Brien Schofield — the only returning starter — at the defensive end position, but it will be a young, inexperienced unit for UW’s front four.The Badgers will also say goodbye to a pair of starting linebackers as DeAndre Levy and Jonathan Casillas’ Wisconsin careers have come to an end. Junior Culmer St. Jean will likely take over the middle linebacker position, which will move Jaevery McFadden to the outside.The UW secondary will have to make up for a lack of experience in the front seven. The Badgers return three of four starters in the back from 2008. They will lose team MVP, cornerback Allen Langford, but the return of Aaron Henry from injury, plus the experience of freshmen Mario Goins and Niles Brinkley, should help.Unlike last year, the kicking game should be the least of Wisconsin’s concern. Brad Nortman and Philip Welch both overachieved as freshmen and are poised for long-term success at UW.The upcoming seven months should answer a lot of questions revolving around this team. But one question that cannot be answered until the season is in full force: Can Bielema revive this plunging program? His seat won’t get any colder until he proves he can.last_img

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