Spring superlatives: Wisconsin

The spring superlatives series, which examines the strongest and weakest positions for each Big Ten team this spring, continues with the Wisconsin Badgers.

Strongest position: Running back

  • Key returnees: Montee Ball (163 carries, 996 rush yards, 18 TDs, 16 receptions, 128 receiving yards); James White (156 carries, 1,052 rush yards, 14 TDs, 11 receptions, 88 receiving yards)

  • Key losses: John Clay (187 carries, 1,012 rush yards, 14 TDs)

  • The skinny: It's a close call between running back and offensive line, which will remain very good despite the losses of two All-Americans (Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt). But the Badgers have two running backs who would start for any Big Ten team, a luxury that should help as they go through a transition at quarterback in 2011. White provided a new element to Wisconsin's rushing attack and should only get better as he gets older and stronger. Few players in the country had a stronger second half in 2010 than Ball, who slimmed down in the offseason and should be dynamic this season. Clay's power will be missed at times, but Ball and White are more than capable of carrying the load in 2011.

Weakest position: Pass catcher (WR or TE)

  • Key returnees: WR Nick Toon (36 catches, 459 yards, 3 TDs); WR Jared Abbrederis (20 catches, 289 yards, 3 TDs); TE Jacob Pedersen (8 catches, 132 yards, 2 TDs)

  • Key losses: TE Lance Kendricks (43 catches, 663 yards, 5 TDs); WR Isaac Anderson (24 catches, 233 yards); WR David Gilreath (23 catches, 370 yards, 1 TD)

  • The skinny: Wisconsin really needs a big senior season from Toon, who had injury issues and saw his numbers drop in 2010. If Toon doesn't surge, the Badgers could have some problems in the passing game as a new starting quarterback takes over. Abbrederis is a nice player who should see his role increase, but the Badgers likely will need another receiver or two to emerge this spring or in the fall. They can't assume Pedersen will become the next Kendricks, a major threat to defenses as a pass-catching tight end. Unlike spread teams, Wisconsin doesn't need five or six options in the pass game, just two or three good ones. While there's potential here, this group has a lot to prove.