Whichever poll you are loyal to, it really doesn’t matter if you’re a Badgers fan.
After a heartbreaking Rose Bowl loss, Wisconsin finished last season ranked seventh in the AP and eighth in the USA Today/ Coaches’ poll.
Of course after losing many offensive linemen, a running back, tight end, and a great pass rusher to the NFL, many didn’t think the Badgers would even sniff the top 10 when the preseason polls were released.
That all changed when Russell Wilson came to town. The moment the transfer quarterback got here, he has been ingesting the playbook and meshing with teammates.
It’s pretty rare for a kid that just joined the team in late June to be named a team captain but that’s what coach Bret Bielema did. And he named him his starting quarterback a day later.
Wilson was 15th in the nation by throwing for over 270 yards a game last year. And that was for a mediocre team that went 9-4. Now he’s got Montee Ball, who looks like he spent every waking moment in the weight room this offseason, and the still speedy James White to carry the load.
Those guys will make life easier for Nick Toon, who needs just 25 catches and 583 yards from passing his dad Al for fourth on the Badgers’ all-time receiving list. If the nagging turf toe stays away, Toon will have a special season.
But lost in all the offense has been true freshman tailback Melvin Gordon. He’s had a great camp and he earned a spot on the No. 2 tailback line alongside redshirt freshman Jeff Lewis. The Kenosha Bradford product is turning heads with the speed that got him a second place finish in the long jump and fourth place as anchor of the 4×100 relay in the Division 1 state meet this past spring.
But what’s most interesting about this kid is he originally committed to Iowa after being courted by six other Big Ten schools and Alabama, Georgia Tech and Miami. After racking up over 12 yards per carry last year with 38 rushing scores, Bradford was named the Wisconsin Football Coaches Offensive Player of the Year and decommitted from Iowa three months later and chose to be a Badger.
Gordon will give Wisconsin a spark they haven’t seen with the more sluggish John Clay. Combine that with Gordon’s pass-catching hands and by the end of the season, Bielema may have tough time doling out carries between Ball, White and Gordon.
But depth is a great problem to have. With a revamped offensive line and Wilson throwing darts stretching the field, those three will carry the burden at Tailback U.