January 2, 2009

Badger football New Year's resolutions

MADISON, Wis. - With the 2008 Wisconsin football season in the books and the calendar turning over a new year, it gives the Badgers an opportunity to forget about its disappointing season and start fresh. Before spring ball begins and as many others do at the beginning of a new year, the Badgers need to make some resolutions as well.

The following are new years resolutions for UW before the beginning of spring ball and the 2009 season.

1. Find the right quarterback:

Midway through the season, Dustin Sherer took over as the starting quarterback for Allan Evridge. While the junior got off to a shaky start, it seemed he was improving as each week passed by, and actually helped UW win four of its final five games to earn a birth in the Champs Sports Bowl.

It was there however, that Sherer seemed to regress. He finished the game 9-for-16 with 132 yards and a touchdown, but never got into the flow of the game, and was constantly harassed throughout. Granted, some blame needs to be placed on an underperforming offensive line and some credit needs to be given to one of the better defensive line's in the nation, but still, the Badger quarterbacking has got to improve.

Now, as winter conditioning is set to begin and with spring ball only a few short months away, UW needs to focus on finding the right quarterback, not just for the upcoming season, but one that will benefit the team most down the line. If Sherer holds his starting spot going into fall camp, it would not be the end of the world as long as he improves both his mechanics and pocket presence.

By doing so, he would allow the young Curt Phillips an opportunity to utilize another season of preparation before he would likely have a chance to take the reigns as starting quarterback. If Sherer does not improve, UW should take a long, hard look at Phillips and possibly give him a chance to develop the on field skills necessary to lead this team in the future.

2. Filling in the defensive line:

With three of the four starters at this position exhausting their eligibility, the UW coaching staff will have their hands full at replacing the experience of the unit. Matt Shaughnessy, Mike Newkirk and Jason Chapman were the anchors of a relatively shallow position, and all three will be viewers next time the Badgers take the field.

Knowing that, head coach Bret Bielema and defensive line coach Charlie Partridge have the task of finding the replacements for those departing. One would figure J.J. Watt, a transfer from Central Michigan, will fill one of the defensive tackle spots, as well as senior-to-be Jeff Stehle. Meanwhile, Patrick Butrym, Dan Moore and potentially some of the incoming freshman could play a role in the rotation at the tackle position.

At the end spots, O'Brien Schofield, who had a solid first season as a starter, will return, but the rush end spot will be vacant. Sophomore-to-be Brendan Kelly saw time this season before an injury hampered his development so he would be a viable candidate. Otherwise, an opportunity for some other young players and potentially true freshman will present themselves as spring and fall camps progress.

3. Develop stronger leadership:

This needs to occur at all levels, starting with Bielema. Earlier in the season, he cost his team a 15-yard penalty at a critical moment in the game at Michigan State. The penalty seemed to give MSU some momentum as it was the beginning to their fourth quarter comeback that ended with a last second Brett Swenson field goal.

On the field, the players named captains have to show more leadership qualities as well. Looking back at 2006 when the Badgers went 12-1, the leadership on that team, particularly from middle linebacker Mark Zalewski, has been unmatched in the two years since.

UW needs to appoint players that not only show leadership on the field, but ones that have the ability to get players to elevate their level of play. That is something UW has been missing, especially in critical moments of games, over the past two seasons.

4. Finishing this recruiting class with a bang

With signing day only a matter of weeks away, it seems the UW coaching staff has the potential of rounding out one of the better recruiting classes the Badgers have seen for quite some time. By landing verbal commitments from Pat Muldoon, Chris Borland, Jeff Duckworth and Brian Wozniak, and the potential of pulling in Chris Freeman the Badgers have made their presence felt in the talent rich state of Ohio.

Otherwise, while the saga that is Kraig Appleton continues to take multiple turns, he would be a huge get for UW at a position that could use some explosiveness. While David Gilreath, Nick Toon and Isaac Anderson have progressed throughout the season, one thing the receiving core lacks is size. Both Gilreath and Anderson are under six-feet, so by landing Appleton, who stands 6-foot-3, UW would add another sizable playmaker that could see plenty of playing time his first year on campus.

And as per usual, give credit to Bielema for locking up all the suitable in-state players as well.

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