Every week during the year Herald Sports has assigned grades to the various position groups on the Wisconsin football team, but now with regular season over its time to hand out the season scores as UW preps for the bowl game. Here is rundown of the cumulative regular season grades on a scale from 0 to 5 for the 2010 Big Ten champions.
Quarterbacks – 5 out 5
The case could be made that Scott Tolzien is having the best season ever by a quarterback here at the University of Wisconsin. The senior captain has been resilient under center and has led the Badgers’ disciplined and balanced offensive attack. Tolzien has compiled 2,300 yards through the air, and he’s tossed 16 touchdowns while only throwing six interceptions. But the most impressive statistic on Tolzien’s resume is his nation-leading 74.3 completion percentage. He’s been extremely efficient all year, and UW really can’t ask for much more from the quarterback position.
Running backs – 5 out of 5
The Badgers’ three-headed monster in the backfield has been virtually unstoppable this season. John Clay, the 2009 Big Ten offensive player of the year, was slowed by injuries but still managed to put up 952 yards and 13 touchdowns. True freshman James White emerged as the team’s leading rusher with 1,029 yards to go along with 14 scores, but it’s Montee Ball who reached the end zone more than anyone this season. The sophomore tailback scored 17 touchdowns and has been a workhorse for UW down the stretch.
Wide Receivers – 3 out of 5
Nick Toon was poised to have a breakout year and become an elite Big Ten receiver this season, but injuries hindered the junior wideout. Toon caught two of his three touchdowns against Northwestern and struggled to create any big plays downfield. Redshirt freshman Jared Abbrederis filled in nicely and David Gilreath has been a reliable target, but it’s been a pretty average year for the receivers overall.
Tight ends – 5 out of 5
Lance Kendricks has been named one of the three finalists for the award given to the nation’s best tight end and for good reason. Kendricks has evolved into a prolific all-around tight end, running routes like a receiver and blocking like an offensive lineman. The senior captain has been nothing but productive, leading UW in receptions, yards and receiving touchdowns. Jake Byrne and Jacob Pedersen also showed promise throughout the year in backup roles.
Offensive line – 5 out of 5
If you are trying to find the identity of this Wisconsin squad look no further than the offensive line. UW’s success has been based on the tremendous work at the line of scrimmage by the likes of Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt, and the Badger offense has been dominant thanks to the elite blocking up front.
Defensive line – 4 out of 5
J.J. Watt alone makes a defensive line solid. The junior defensive end has filled up the stat sheet all season long, blocking kicks, making plays in the backfield and making quarterbacks’ lives miserable. Patrick Butrym, Jordan Kohout and Ethan Hemer have held their own inside as the Badgers are the fourth best Big Ten team against the run. A little more was expected of Louis Nzegwu and David Gilbert, but the two defensive ends haven’t been a liability opposite Watt.
Linebackers – 3.5 out of 5
Wisconsin’s linebackers have been consistent all season, but we just haven’t seen too many impact plays. Blake Sorensen and Mike Taylor have made the most of a couple arid passes and tipped balls turning them into interceptions and Culmer St. Jean has been stout against the run. Sorensen leads the team in tackles with 60 as the senior has played a big role in Chris Borland’s absence.
Secondary – 3.5 out of 5
The much-maligned UW secondary has been vastly improved under new secondary coach Chris Ash this season. Niles Brinkley and Antonio Fenelus have made huge strides at cornerback and Aaron Henry has made a smooth transition to the free safety position. The secondary has room for improvement, but this group is no longer holding this team back.
Specialists – 3.5 out of 5
Phillip Welch and Brad Nortman have had decent years for Wisconsin. Welch has only missed four field goal attempts, and all of those were from 40-plus yards out. Nortman has struggled with inconsistency at times, but he will always be known for his first down scamper on a fake punt against Iowa.