SS Jay Valai looks to lead the Badger D. Will the unproven Huskie offense be able to step up? (via cdntn.madison.com)
The front seven is the weakness of the Wisconsin Badgers as a whole. They have only two out of the seven that are returning starters from last year: Schofield & McFadden. A lot of the talent that have been trying to fill in over the offseason has been underwhelming. One guy to watch is defensive end J.J. Watt, who could be a terror off the edge to go along with his size. Last year the Wisconsin rushing defense was ranked 44th in the nation giving up 133 ypg and that figure looks to drop as new bodies are being worked in to the scheme.
The Defensive Line
DE - O'Brien Schofield: Sr, 6'3" 248. Started all 13 games last year...40 tackles, 8.5 TFL and 5 sacks.
DT - Dan Moore: Sr, 6'2" 283. Played in all 13 games LY...19 tackles. JUCO transfer.
DT Patrick Butrym: So, 6'4" 291. Played in all 13 games LY...5 tackles
DT Jeff Stehle: Sr, 6'6" 310. Played in 25 games the past 2 years...21 tackles
DE J.J. Watt: So, 6'6" 287. Scout team defensive POY last year.
WLB Jaevery McFadden: Sr, 6'2" 230, 3rd Team Preseason All-Big 10. Started all 13 games at MLB LY...84 tackles...2.5 TFL.
MLB Culmer St. Jean: Jr, 6'0" 233. Started 1 game LY...23 tackles
SLB Mike Taylor, RS Fr, 6'2" 221. Redshirted LY
The Defensive Backs
This looks to be a strength for the Badgers this year as they placed among one of the top teams in the nation in defensive pass efficiency last year. 24th overall and 35th weighted. 3 starters return.
CB Aaron Henry: So, 6'0" 195. 2 starts his freshman year before a knee injury before bowl game that forced him to redshirt last year.
SS Jay Valai: Jr, 5'9" 201, Preseason 2nd Team All-Big 10. Started 12 games LY...2nd leading returning tackler with 56 LY.
FS Chris Maragos: Sr, 6'0" 198. Started 6 games LY with 45 tackles...transfer from WMU.
LT Trevor Olson & RT Panan Tense vs DEs O'Brien Schofield & J.J. Watt
Olson did a tremendous job last year as only a redshirt freshman on the left side. NIU finished 17th in the nation with only 1.23 sacks per game. Can he avoid a sophomore slump and be able to stop the pass-rush generated by the veteran in Schofield? On the right you have Tense making his first start ever at RT. In fact the redshirt junior will be making his first start ever and looks to stop the rush on the side that Harnish can actually see. The Huskie O-Line averages 293 lbs, not too shabby against a Wisconsin line that averages 283.
NIU's fullback's and tight ends vs Wisconsin's Linebackers
If Wisconsin wants to run double-tight all game, then we're prepared to give them a taste of their own medicine. Kill has been working on his tight end depth all off-season and our pool at fullback is deep with Kyle Skarb and Connor Flahive both potential starters. If the running game doesn't work right away, look to see a lot of short passes to try and change things up on offense.
NIU's Passing O vs Wisconsin's Pass D
As of right now, with all the talent that Wisconsin returns in the secondary they have the leg up in terms of the advantage. It will be up to Chandler Harnish in his second year and his group of unproven WRs around him to step up big. Look for rushes and short passes to set up the long bomb.