Friday, January 1, 2010

More post-Champs thoughts

After a few days of reflection, I've got some more thoughts on what the Badgers' win over Miami the other night means. It's mostly good. Here goes.

Speed vs. power
National media types oversimplified our matchup and boiled it down to this, and when we won credited power winning out. Perhaps, but I'll submit that while Miami had the speed advantage among perimeter/skill players, our defensive line's speed advantage over Miami's offensive line was the deciding factor.

Jason Fox's absence at left tackle for the Canes was absolutely fatal for them. O'Brien Schofield and J.J. Watt lived in Jacory Harris's face and never let him get going. If he had time, chances are their receivers would have been more open, or Harris would have hit them when they were open.

It reminded me of the national championship game where Ohio State came in as a big favorite against Florida, and Florida's D-line just killed Troy Smith by running right around the tackles. OSU had fast, skilled perimeter guys who just couldn't get the ball.

Tight End U
If you're from the Midwest, or from any other area Big Ten teams recruit, why would you not go to Wisconsin? Since Paul Chryst's arrival, we've had Owen Daniels, Travis Beckum, Garrett Graham, and now Lance Kendricks. What's interesting about those successful guys is that only Graham started out as a tight end, the others switching from quarterback, linebacker/defensive end, and wide receiver.

Next year we've got Warren Herring and now Sherard Cadogan coming in, two of the better prospects in our next recruiting class, and both true tight ends in the 6-3, 230-pound range. By all accounts they'll fit in nicely and maybe even get a chance to play right away. We've also got a kid named Manasseh Garner, who made his name in high school as a linebacker but appears headed toward an H-Back role in Madison; he's only weighing 205-210 right now, so you'd think he has to put on some weight first.

But we were also in the running for very highly-rated tight ends C.J. Fiedorowicz (who backed off his early commitment and went with Iowa) and Alex Smith (who went to North Carolina). How could either of those two possibly thought those schools were better fits for an aspiring professional tight end?

We have oranges here, too
As much as I'd like to see us play bowl games in states other than Florida, putting together a nice showing like we did the other night has to help our standing in the eyes of high school players in that state. Still, we need to be picking the right ones, not just taking anyone from Florida.

We had 11 Floridians on the roster this year. Two of them, Jae McFadden and Culmer Ste. Jean, were starters. Zach Brown, Antonio Fenelus and Aaron Henry are key contributors who've started at times. David Gilbert shows promise. The rest of the guys are freshmen or sophomores. So not a lot of Florida stars on the roster now, but not bad, either.

Finish them
Ask Jana, Graham's fumble in the fourth quarter when we were going in for the game-salting touchdown sent me through the roof. Time after time after time this year we had an opponent on the ropes but let them escape with new life: Northern Illinois, Michigan State, Minnesota, Indiana, and Miami were instances where it happened late; we were controlling Iowa in the first half of that loss, and we had chances to beat Northwestern. Next year we need to do better stepping on our opponents' necks when the opportunity presents itself.

From the glass-half-full vantage point, the cases presented above showed a remarkable improvement in the "stealing defeat from the jaws of victory" department, we showed resolve in not letting any of those first five result in losses. But with our offense, we should be putting teams away early and giving Badger fans' hearts a break.

(On this subject: How many times did Auburn let Northwestern back into the Outback Bowl? Fumbles, penalties, you name it, if that was Wisconsin I would have had a heart attack from all the miscues. Great game, by the way, I was totally wrong on that one.)


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