Spring Snapshot 2012: Wisconsin Badgers

Danny O'Brien! Danny O'Brien! Daaaaaaaanny Ooooooooo'Brien!!!!

As we wrap up out Spring Snapshot series, we're going into the bratwurst-packed minds of Mad-town. I give you, the 2012 Wisconsin Badgers.

Where they call home: Madison, Wisconsin

Endless running begins/ends: March 17 / April 28 Spring Game

If they suck, this guy gets fired: Brat Bielema

The lowdown...

Like him or not, Bielema has won 60 games in six seasons coaching the Badgers, including two straight trips (albeit, losses) to the Rose Bowl. Granted, the program was in pretty good shape when Barry Alvarez retired as head coach. But Bielema has not let things head off a cliff, as some predicted after some "meh" records in seasons two and three of the new regime. Wisconsin has run the ball with stud running backs, played efficiently at the quarterback spot--until last year, with Russell Wilson taking it to a whole new level--and done enough on defense most of the time to reach the double-digit win total. But what about 2012, with Wilson gone and a few question marks at key spots?

More specifics below the fold...

More 2012 Spring Snapshots
Ohio Bobcats - 3.12.12
Virginia Cavaliers - 3.13.12
Navy Midshipmen - 3.14.12
Temple Owls - 3.15.12
Illinois Fighting Illini - 3.19.12
Northwestern Wildcats - 3.20.12
Iowa Hawkeyes - 3.21.12
Ohio St. Buckeyes - 3.22.12
Purdue Boilermakers - 3.26.12
Nebraska Cornhuskers - 3.27.12
Indiana Hoosiers - 3.28.12
Wisconsin Badgers - 3.29.12

What they return...

Tailbacks Montee Ball and James White, taken individually, would be the envy of any BCS contender. But Wisconsin gets them both back in 2012, giving the Badgers something of an anchor on offense this spring if things go a little haywire along the offensive line or among the receivers. Ball ran for 1,923 yards and 33 touchdowns last year. White? Well, he simply added another 713 as the backup. They're both a year older, and ready for more.

The linebackers haven't been too stellar in recent seasons, but this year they could lead the way on defense. Junior Chris Borland and senior Mike Taylor both return, bringing 293 tackles and 28 tackles for losses with them from last season.

What they lost...

Wilson was "teh guy" last year. Replacing him would be difficult no matter what. But Wisconsin thinks they have another ACC-to-Big Ten star in O'Brien. The Maryland transfer was 2010 freshman of the year in the ACC, though regressed last season under conservative coach Randy Esdall. If O'Brien can be half of what Russell was for Wisconsin, the Badgers won't have to worry about this spot. However...

O'Brien won't have the offensive line Russell played behind. Kevin Zeitler, Josh Oglesby, and Peter Konz are all off to the NFL this spring, leaving a huge void to fill up front. This spring, as is the case with most teams suffering though a new offensive line rotation, will be key to keeping O'Brien upright and giving the backs room to run.

The defense doesn't lose huge stars, but the defensive line will need at least one guy to step up and shine this spring. Without a decent pass rush, or bodies to occupy opposing offensive linemen, the star linebackers for Wisconsin could be overwhelmed.

Badger Style, with a Hawkeye Tat...

It's all about running the ball, but with the emergence of quality quarterbacking, the Badgers have become a bit of an offensive juggernaut the past few seasons. We're not sure how things will turn out after the spring practice session wraps up, but you can be assured this team will be formidable for any opponent in 2012.

Thanks for following us though Spring Snapshot 2012. Stay tuned next week for even more spring football coverage.

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