Wisconsin Scouting Report: Offense

Wisconsin has questions in the passing game, but the Badgers can rely heavily on an experienced offensive line and talented run game.

The 2014 college football season is nearly upon us. No. 13 LSU opens with another nationally ranked foe with No. 14 Wisconsin on a neutral field in Houston. The game’s set for an 8 p.m. kickoff on Saturday with an ESPN telecast from the Texans’ NRG Stadium.

To get you ready for the contest, we’re breaking down LSU’s opponent from both sides of the ball. Tomorrow, Ben Love will analyze the Badgers’ defense, and today I’ll take a look at what Wisconsin does offensively.


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PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP


QB: Tanner McEvoy (Jr., 6-6, 222) —OR— Joel Stave (R-Jr., 6-5, 220)
RB: Melvin Gordon (R-Jr., 6-1, 213)
FB: Derek Watt (R-Fr., 6-5, 247)
WR: Alex Erickson (R-So., 6-0, 196)
WR: Kenzel Doe (Sr., 5-8, 176)
WR: Reggie Love (R-So., 6-3, 214)
TE: Sam Arneson (Sr., 6-4, 244)
TE: Austin Traylor (R-Jr., 6-3, 248)
LT: Tyler Marz (R-Jr., 6-5, 321)
LG: Dallas Lewallen (Sr., 6-6, 321)
C: Dan Voltz (R-So., 6-3, 311)
RG: Kyle Costigan (Sr., 6-5, 319)
RT: Rob Havenstein (Sr., 6-8, 333)

Key Backups: RB Corey Clement (So., 5-11, 217)

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW


Just like LSU, Wisconsin has a bit of a quarterback battle on its hands. Though the coaching staff hasn’t officially named a starter, multiple local reports have Tanner McEvoy, the more athletic option, getting the nod. McEvoy played safety last year after transferring from a junior college, but returned to the position in the spring while Joel Stave was sidelined with a shoulder injury. Stave started all 13 games a year ago, but McEvoy supplanting him as a starter signifies the changes coming to Wisconsin’s offense.

Gary Anderson showed at Utah State what he can do with a mobile quarterback, and now he’s trying to bring that to Madison. McEvoy is still a throw-first passer, but has better ability to evade pressure and is more composed on the run than Stave. Though both are expected to play, McEvoy seems the choice to lead the Badgers moving forward.

Wisconsin may have one of the best two-headed rushing attacks in the country. Melvin Gordon’s the known commodity. A preseason Heisman candidate, Gordon ran for 1,609 yards a year ago on only 206 carries, good for a 7.8-yard average. He was the fastest Badger in program history to reach 1,000 career rushing yards, and he’s broken off more runs of 20-plus yards (24) than he has carries that lost yardage (19). He can make guys miss and his elite breakaway speed means that he if gets to the next level of the defense, he’s probably gone.

But as good as Gordon is, Corey Clement might be even better. Clement came out of high school as a four-star prospect and saw limited action as a true freshman. He racked up 547 rushing yards on 67 carries (8.2-yard average) and totaled seven touchdowns. The talent Wisconsin has in the run game should help McEvoy ease into his starting role.

The big question for Wisconsin will be who’s catching the passes. None of the Badgers’ three projected starters at wide receiver have caught a touchdown pass in their respective careers. Only Kenzel Doe, a senior, has caught more than double-digit passes and leads the group with 182 career receiving yards.

Wisconsin does have a significant red zone threat at the tight end position though. Sam Arneson has only 10 career receptions but he does have four touchdowns, and reports out of Madison indicate he’s made significant improvements in his pass-catching skills. Already a solid blocker, Wisconsin will hope that he can pick up some of the slack in the passing game.

The Badgers are loaded with experience along the offensive line with three seniors and a junior. Each one of the five players atop the depth chart have starting experience, including both tackles that started every game a season ago. Right guard Kyle Costigan also has 21 career starts, and the most inexperienced of the bunch, Dan Voltz (six career starts) came out of high school a four-star prospect.

Much like LSU, the Badgers will rely heavily on that veteran offensive line. It should help pave the way for Gordon and Clement while helping McEvoy get comfortable in his first major college start. But with that talent in the backfield and a powerful offensive line, look for the Badgers to do what they’ve always done best, and that’s pound the ball on the ground, right at the heart of the defense.

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