Don’t just blame the offensive line for the Badgers’ issues running the ball and protecting the quarterback. Those guys aren’t playing up to snuff, but there are other culprits too. On the whole, the Badgers’ offense just hasn’t been showing the physicality they’ve become known for, and that goes for everyone from the tackles to the guards to the tight ends to the fullback.
Bret Bielema brought this up during his Monday presser and I think it’s an important thing to remember. The Badgers are young. And young college players aren’t only inexperienced, they’re also not as physically developed. This has been a particular issue for the backs and tight ends. The guys filling those roles this year just aren’t as strong as the players who were in there for the run of dominance in 2011. Bielema laid it out to the media:
I think it’s fair to say that at all positions, offensive line, tight end, fullback, we haven’t been as effective in some of the same type of blocking. There’s some players that left the door. Jake Byrne was great at the point of attack, big body. Ped [Jacob Pedersen] and Woz [Brian Wozniak] are trying to do the same things.
But to say that they’ve been as consistent in execution, obviously not. I think Derek Watt is a guy, I think that he was about 220. So he dropped a little bit. He’s just not as powerful as Bradie [Ewing] right now but he’s a freshman.
As a head coach, I’ve always tried to – you always try to emphasize the positives. But I think on our roster, we have a roster around 115.
And we have 50 freshmen out of 115. Almost half our team are freshmen. I believe we have 28 juniors. 20 something sophomores and only nine seniors. So we’re a really young team. That’s not just age. That’s also physical development, the way we kind of do things here at Wisconsin.
I know I lost the same number of starters last year to this year. But last year I had a lot of seniors stepping into those roles. This year I’ve got a lot of sophomores and juniors and freshmen, and it’s just a different process.
Some might accuse Bielema of making excuses, but in this case I think he’s just raising a valid point that shouldn’t be lost. Not only have the Badgers drifted away from the schemes that made them dominating, they also just are not as physically capable of pushing people around. And there’s nothing anyone can do about that right now. It takes time for guys to mature.
Does this mean we should totally write off 2012? Not necessarily. I think the Badgers can still have a proficient offense, but they need to find a passing game first. That means getting Jared Abbrederis back on the field. It also means identifying some other guys who can make plays, whether that be Kenzel Doe or Reggie Love or A.J. Jordan or whomever. It also means finding ways to get Jacob Pedersen more involved.
And of course, Danny O’Brien must play better. A lot better. Without dominant blocking, more responsibility will naturally fall to the QB to make plays. And the skill position players. If those guys don’t step it up and help out what has thus far been a solid defense, then 2012 really will be a lost season in Madison.