2012 Wisconsin Badgers Football Preview – What to Expect from the Offense

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The 2012 Wisconsin offense will have to first prove that they can replace their one-year-wonder quarterback Russell Wilson. The recent third-round draft pick had a remarkable season during his only year playing for the Badgers, leading them to a Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl berth.

Fortunately, like Wilson, Wisconsin has another transfer on his way to play quarterback for the Badgers. Danny O’Brien left Maryland’s rushing quarterback tailored offense, implemented by new head coach Randy Edsall, for Wisconsin’s balanced attack suited for a solid pocket passer. The 6’3″ quarterback graduated from Maryland in three years and will have two years of immediate eligibility at Wisconsin. Evidently intelligent, O’Brien figures to be the starter this season in Madison. It will be interesting to see how he fits in after throwing for 22 touchdowns and 8 interceptions in his freshman year at Maryland.

During his sophomore season, O’Brien started at quarterback for the Terps and opened the season with 348 passing yards against Miami. However, after that eye-opening performance, O’Brien gradually regressed, while struggling with his accuracy for the second season in a row (57% completions), and was replaced by a more capable running threat in the Maryland backfield. O’Brien re-emerged later in the season, but could not do much of note, finishing with just seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions on the season, as Maryland finished with a horrid 2-10 record.

Thankfully for O’Brien, he will not necessarily be the focus of new offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s offense. Previously at Northern Illinois, Canada will undoubtedly aim to continue the grind-it-out ground attack that the Badgers have used so effectively over recent memory. A similar style attack to the one Canada used at NIU, where the Huskies ranked 12th in points per game and gained 235 yards on the ground per game last season. Canada will have to fill the void left by a trio of offensive lineman; guard Kevin Zeitler, tackle Josh Oglesby, and first-round pick Peter Konz, but junior Travis Frederick figures to be the next in a long line of successful Wisconsin offensive linemen.

With traditionally one of the most productive offensive line units year in and year out, Canada will be able to ease some of the pressure off O’Brien by having him hand the ball off to last year’s Heisman finalist Montee Ball. Fresh off a junior season that saw him rush for nearly 2,000 yards and rack up 39 total touchdowns, Ball elected to return to Madison for his senior season. The scoring machine running back will be the focus of the Badger offense, for good reason, and will be complemented by junior James White, who provides a change of pace to Ball. White’s breakout freshman season allowed opposing defensive coordinators to prepare for him a bit better during his sophomore season, but the shifty back was productive nonetheless. Badger fans should also expect to see sophomore back Melvin Gordon used more often in Canada’s system.

On the outside, Jared Abbrederis leads an inexperienced receiving corp. The do-it-all receiver will have to adapt to being the main target man after Nick Toon graduated and was drafted to the NFL. Abberederis should continue to be productive and will likely rely on tight end Jacob Pederson’s and fellow wide out Jeff Duckworth’s abilities to attract attention from opposing defenses. From there, Danny O’Brien will have to incorporate others and enable the Badgers to keep defenses honest, since Montee Ball and their running attack are not going to surprise any team, although it should prove to be too potent for most teams anyway.

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