Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Five great players

When Barry first rolled out his Five Great Players theory a decade ago I really liked it. Everyone's always looking for a formula for sporting success, and the fact that he could point to Gibby, Dayne, Burke, Davenport, and Stemke and a cast of pretty good guys as the reason the '98 Badgers won the Rose Bowl.

So what about the 2008 edition? Does it have five great players? I would argue it has one.

Travis Beckum. That's it.

P.J. Hill? Could get there, but injury prone. Kraig Urbik? An above-average lineman, but not great. Matt Shaughnessy? Still waiting for him to advance beyond second team All-Big Ten performances. Shane Carter? Great ball skills, subpar tackler.

Jonathan Casillas has the ability to perform at a great level, but I wouldn't put him in that category yet. David Gilreath could be a great returner, but I'm still thinking his success last year was more the result of ample opportunity than flat-out excellence.

So, here it is in the second week of July, and Badgercentric is already forecasting a less-than-special year for our boys. Prove me wrong, guys.


Jim Polzin said...

Plus, the other part of Barry's theory was that you couldn't have any major holes elsewhere. In other words, five great players wouldn't do you much good if you had, say, a really crappy quarterback.

So even if you were generous and you considered Beckum, Hill, Urbik, Shaughnessy and Casillas ``great'' players, there's still the matter of a defensive line that has major depth issues because of injury, an inconsistent secondary, an unproven QB and newbies at kicker and punter.

This makes it sound like I'm predicting a 6-6 season; I'm not, just saying that I, unlike some of the national folks, don't see this team going to Pasadena.

Mr.Man said...

I agree with Jim that this team has too many question marks, especially on defense, to be considered a likely BCS team. I like the change at SS a lot, but the injuries at CB and DL, two hugely important positions, have to give you serious pause.

As far as the "five great players" theory goes, I think Scott's analysis of the '98-'99 team is a little off. While specialists are certainly important, I don't think you can count Stemke or Davenport (who didn't even handle kickoffs) as "great" players. I think Rabach and Fletcher were better players at more important positions.

And I agree that applying the theory to this year's team makes you worry, though I think it may always be hard to apply it prospectively. For example, Jack I. would have been tabbed as a "great player" for last year's squad, as would have Hill and Casillas, and maybe Hubbard after his strong finish in '06-07. But none of those guys performed up to our hopes or expectations, for various reasons.

This year, I hope that Casillas can regain his '06 form. I hope that Levy can become an elite linebacker; he certainly has the talent. I hope that Jefferson can more consistently display the game-breaking ability he showed at times last season. I think that one of the runners, or the running back group as a whole, can be special. I think Carimi should have an excellent season at LT. If Gilreath can get a little stronger, and add a little more endurance, there were several returns last season that he could have taken all the way. If Carter can just be a solid, not even great, tackler, there's no reason he couldn't be a special safety.

I'd also say that Shaughnessey and Henry had the potential to be burgeoning stars this season, if they hadn't suffered serious injuries.

Scott Tappa said...

A couple points here:

-I didn't anoint Dav and Stemke great players in '99, Barry did. But I agree with him. Stemke's punting gave the Badgers a huge field position advantage, and with a defense like that, it was tough for opponents to overcome. Dave hit 33 field goals that year - that's a lot for an NFL kicker, let alone a college kicker - and made 87% of his kicks. Being almost absolutely sure you're coming away with points in the Red Zone is important psychologically.

-A post on this is going to appear here later today, but I went back 15 years to look at who the great players have been on every team since. And while the 2001-03 teams had some great players, the serious holes and lack of depth contributed to those teams losing 19 games in three years. I'll be interested to see what you guys think of that list.

ajs said...

I'll play the game- 5 guys we HOPE are on the list- many already mentioned (if not could be a long year)


other mentions

A healthy Henry
Hodge? Isn't he supposed to be 100% finally

Not having a kicker on the 5 kind of scares me. I don't even have to go out of limb to predict our kicking game will cost us a game this year. at Fresno perhaps??

ajs said...

Replace my Gilreath with Jefferson...

not that it really matters.

Jim Polzin said...

I actually think you can keep Gilreath on the ``other mentions'' list. A good return guy can make a huge impact.

I'd include Kemp and Levy on the ``other mentions'' list.

I guess when you look at it, UW has a lot of guys who, while not great, have the potential to be really good. You have enough of those types and you could have a championship team ... if, again, you don't have any major holes, which I think this team does until proven otherwise.

ajs said...

I agree on Gilreath. My thinking was that one of these young recievers needs to setup and be the guy. Jefferson, Toon, Harris, Jones, Anderson....plenty to choose from.

This is setting up to be an interesting season...Chryst will be a savior if he's able to get this offense rolling with all this young WR talent.

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