Coyote to Watch: Jesse Weisbrod

21 Sep

I’m going to do something a little out-of-the-ordinary, here, and take the time to do a brief profile on one of the Badgers’ upcoming foes: South Dakota defensive end Jesse Weisbrod.

I’m doing this because, in someways this Saturday, Weisbrod will be coming home. You see, playing in Camp Randall will by no means be a new experience for Weisbrod.

Coyote Defensive End, Jesse Weisbrod

Weisbrod, a Waupaca, Wis. native, was the captain of his high school’s 2007 state championship team that captured its title playing on, well, you guessed it, the Badgers’ home playing field. Now, four years later, the 6-5, 275 lb red-shirt senior makes his way back to Madison to face his home-state team Wisconsin Badgers.

O yeah, and did I mention he was a high school classmate and football teammate of your RedZone contributing writers, Sam Oleson and Mitch Larson? Told you it was an interesting story…

We caught up with Weisbrod and asked him a few questions about what it’ll be like to return to Camp Randall.

***

What will it feel like stepping onto the field at Camp Randall for the first time since you won the state championship?

WEISBROD: Obviously I have some great memories associated with Camp Randall but I won’t really know how I’ll feel until I step onto the playing-field. I’m just looking forward to the opportunity to play in such a historic stadium in front of a crowd usually am cheering along with. This Saturday, obviously, I’ll be pulling for the Badgers’ opponent.

Do you think it gives you an advantage knowing that you’ve already played in Camp Randall?

WEISBROD: I don’t think it gives me any advantage just because it’s been so long since I’ve played there.

If you had to sum up the style your Coyote defense plays, in one sentence, what would it be?

WEISBROD: I’d say our defense is unrelenting in its pursuit of the ball. Simply put, we just try to get out there and get after it.

What do you expect from the Badgers, come Saturday?

WEISBROD: As far as expectations of the Badgers, I know they’re going to come right at us, like any other team. I know they have Nebraska the following week, but I don’t believe they’ll be taking us lightly.

Are you feeling anything different preparing to play the team you grew up cheering for opposed to a team in your conference?

WEISBROD: It’s obviously very different getting ready to face a team I’ve been watching since I was a kid. Watching them on film is almost surreal. At the end of the day, though, they’re just another team like every other one we prepare for; I have to treat it as such.

What does it mean to you to get to come back and play in front of your family and friends who maybe haven’t seen you play in four years?

WEISBROD: Playing in front of family and friends that haven’t seen me play in four years adds a bit of extra pressure. But not only do I personally want to play well in front of them, I want to show them that our entire team can play well, too. I have a group of 60 people from my hometown coming down to watch and cheer for me, so I’m hoping to make them proud.

***

Weisbrod, number 96, deflects a pass against Minnesota

I know as sports fans we sometimes get caught up cheering for our home team. Sometimes–and probably more often than not–we can even get down-right nasty to our opponents and opposing fan-bases. I’m here to say that we need to keep some perspective and realize that, even though they may be facing off against the team we bleed for, they’re still collegiate athletes fighting for their teammates and fan-bases. But more importantly, they’re good people. Such is the case with players like Jesse Weisbrod. And while I’ll surely be rooting for my Badgers on Saturday, I wish all the best to stand-up players like Weisbrod and his teammates.

On Wisconsin.

-Mitch Larson

Week 3 Highlights

20 Sep

I pity the fool. The fool that has to line up against this squad, that is.

Once again, great work by UW Athletics on an awesome highlight video. Keep it coming, boys.

Grading the Defense: Week 3

20 Sep

Yes, yes, I know, I’m a little late with this post. However, I have good reason: I’ve been extremely busy indulging myself in some great food dishes. What kind of food, you ask? Well, a hefty plate of steamy, delicious, Crow Pie. And I’ve had the pleasure of sharing it all to myself.

This young 2011 season has seen me, maybe even a little unfairly, critical of the Badger’s defense. I was unimpressed with their play vs UNLV, unconvinced after dominating a dreadful Oregon State team, and down-right skeptical that they’d be effective against the so called “high-powered” Huskies. Well, so far they’ve proven me wrong. Very wrong. That being said, the Badgers were down-right nasty on Saturday as the Badgers stymied the Northern Illinois Huskies. Not much to say about the Badgers’ dominating performance. Here’s how they graded out:

Defensive Line: A-

The Badgers brought pressure all day getting steady production out of the defensive end position with Louis Nzegu recording three tackles and one a pass blocked. And while the line failed to record a sack, they constantly kept NIU quarterback Chandler Harnsih uncomfortable and on the move. Harnish never, save for a lone drive, seemed “in his groove.” Much of this credit goes to the Badger’s front four.

Line Backers: A+

If there were any questions about Chris Borland”s transition to middle linebacker, Saturday should have answered them. Borland was his old self, flowing to the ball and blowing up plays. Number 44 led the Badgers with 11 tackles with two of them going for loses. Also chipping in was Mike Taylor who looked extremely smooth in recording five tackles of his own. A lot of credit goes to the Badger defensive line, but any time you can limit a team to 64 rushing yards, a heap of praise goes to the line backing unit.

Secondary: A

This was a point of contention coming into the mach-up. Wisconsin’s “unproven” secondary against NIU’s fast-break passing attack was a scary match-up. The Badgers quelled some serious doubters (me being one of them) by straight up shutting down Harnish’ s passing game. Had I been a betting man, I would have never thought the Badgers would limit the Huskies to 173 yards through the air. Simply put, the Badger secondary came to play and shut the haters up. Here’s to hoping that domination continues.

Game Ball Goes To:

Marcus Cromartie. He was the biggest liability entering the game and ended up proving himself with flying colors. Doerin constantly tested the new corner back and Cromartie excelled under the pressure, finishing the game with eight tackles.

-On Wisconsin

Mitch Larson

Wisconsin vs. South Dakota: Scouting the Coyotes

20 Sep

The No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers (3-0) take on their one and only FCS opponent of the year on Saturday at 2:30 p.m., South Dakota (2-1). The Coyotes, though an FCS squad, are a formidable team within their conference, the Great West. Although not nearly as talented as Wisconsin, as any college football fan knows, no team can take their opponent lightly. We don’t need any repeats of Appalachian State…

Here’s a quick scouting report on the Coyotes.

Offense

Quarterback:

Although their two wins—Eastern Washington and Northwestern Oklahoma State—were against a fellow FCS opponent and an NAIA foe, South Dakota has put up some points this year. They’re ranked No. 20 in the latest FCS polls and can be explosive.

Their quarterback, Dante Warren, is a dual threat. This year, he’s 34-of-60 passing for 488 yards and five touchdowns. However, he has also thrown four interceptions. The Badgers could take advantage of his inconsistency.

However, he has made up for his erratic passing with his legs. On the ground, he’s gained 185 yards on 36 carries and has scored two touchdowns.

But, if Wisconsin can pressure him like they did Chandler Harnish last week, any hope of a Coyote upset will vanish.

Running Backs:

South Dakota uses two running backs pretty heavily. Their top running back, Chris Ganious, leads the team with 187 yards on 36 carries and a touchdown.

However, the Coyotes also employ another running back, Marcus Sims. Sims has 172 yards on just 21 carries. He’s averaging over eight yards a carry and could be South Dakota’s most dangerous threat.

Similar to what the Badgers did last weekend, if they can shut down the Coyote rushing attack, it will make it much more difficult for Warren to beat them through the air.
Wide Receivers:

Through three weeks, the Coyotes have showed a number of receivers capable of making big plays.

First and foremost is Will Powell. On the year, he’s got 12 catches for 178 yards and two touchdowns. He’s a threat downfield and can definitely make plays if given the chance.

Two other receivers, Jeremy Blount and Dustin Nowotny, both have eight receptions and could also hurt the Badgers. Along with Powell, Blount is another player Wisconsin will have to keep an eye on, as he is averaging over 21 yards a catch and leads the team with three touchdowns.

Offensive Line:

Through three weeks, the Coyote offensive line’s performance has been a little mixed.

They’ve paved the way for over 209 rushing yards per game and five touchdowns on the ground. That is their strength.

On the other end—pass blocking—they’ve struggled. Opposing defenses have already recorded 10 sacks and Warren hasn’t had a ton of time in the pocket.

Wisconsin should look to take advantage of that.

Defense

Defensive Line:

Probably the strongest defensive unit for South Dakota, the defensive line may be the only facet of the Coyote defense that could challenge the Wisconsin offense.

Although opponents are averaging over 176 yards on the ground, the D-line has been getting great pressure on opposing QBs. They already have 10 sacks, led by defensive end Tyler Starr, who has five.

Linebackers:

This unit, though they’ll probably be successful for the rest of the season, may struggle against Wisconsin.

Along with the defensive line, they’ve contributed to the high rushing totals for opponents and also are partly responsible for some gaudy passing numbers as well.

Against an offense with running backs quicker, faster and stronger than them and tight ends with the same capabilities, they could be a unit Wisconsin picks on.

Defensive Backs:

Although this unit is giving up over 224 yards through the air and has already allowed four touchdowns, they’ve also recorded five interceptions.

Jim Thompson, their senior defensive back from Hayward, Wis., leads the team with two interceptions and may not be the best guy to pick on.

But, let’s be honest, Nick Toon and Jared Abbrederis should be able to find their share of open space on Saturday.

Special Teams

Kicker:

On the year, placekicker Kevin Robb has been stellar, making all five of his field goal attempts and averaging around 59 yards on his kickoffs.

Punter:

Cole Zwiefelhofer, from Chippewa Falls, Wis., has handled the punting duties for South Dakota this season and has been outstanding. He’s averaging 42.2 yards on 13 punts and has already pinned five inside the 20-yard line.

Kick Return:

The Coyotes have used three men on kick returns this year, though receiver Jeremy Blount has received the majority of them. On six returns, he’s averaging 20.8 yards and has a long of 39.

Punt Return:

Blount also handles the punt return duties and has actually been pretty dangerous so far. He’s averaging 15.6 yards on five returns and has a long of 24. Wisconsin cannot afford to let up when he has the ball.

-Sam Oleson


Badger Offensive Report Card: Week 3

17 Sep

Admittedly, the Wisconsin Badgers did not face the greatest defense on Saturday afternoon in Chicago. Prior to their game with the Badgers, Northern Illinois had given up 26 points to Army and 45 points to Kansas. We all expected Wisconsin would have their way with the Huskies. And well, they did. Here are offensive grades.

Quarterback:

Apart from his interception in the third quarter, Russell Wilson was once again extraordinary. He finished the day 23-of-32 passing for 347 yards and three touchdowns, while also making plays with his feet, tacking on 37 yards on the ground. Working primarily from the spread during the first half, Wilson absolutely picked apart an over-matched Husky defense, as he led Wisconsin to 42 points.

Even Wilson’s back-up, Joe Brennan, played well, scoring a rushing touchdown late in the game.

Not a whole lot to complain about here.

Grade: A-

Running Backs:

As expected, Wisconsin ran all over an undersized Husky defensive line. On the day, the Badgers rushed for 266 yards as team, with Montee Ball and James White each running for 91 yards apiece. Ball scored two touchdowns, while White notched his first of the year. Melvin Gordon and Jeffrey Lewis also got in the game, running for 28 and 21 yards, respectively. Just another solid day for the Wisconsin rushing attack.

Grade: A

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

As good as the running backs looked, Wisconsin’s receivers may have been even better. They seemed completely in sync with Wilson and tore up the Husky secondary. Jared Abbrederis led the team with six receptions for 83 yards, while Nick Toon had another good game, hauling in five passes for 75 yards and two touchdowns.

Jacob Pederson had only two catches, but he made them count. One went for 55 yards and the other was for a touchdown. He’s quietly emerging as one of the best tight ends in the country. Fullback Brady Ewing also caught four passes out of the backfield for 35 yards, while White and Ball also added a few receptions apiece.

Grade: A

Offensive Line:

It was pure domination. Plain and simple. The running lanes were huge, the pass protection was unyielding.

Grade: A

Overall: A

-Sam Oleson

 

Around the B1G: Big Ten Week 3 Predictions

16 Sep

Predicting each Big Ten match-up one sentence at a time.

Eastern Michigan vs Michigan

Shoelace, fresh off his new Twitter account,  shines as he wows new followers. Premature Heisman hash-tag mania ensues.

Final score: Michigan 31, Eastern Michigan 9

Penn State vs Temple

Post-Alabama hangover and Temple’s running game give Lions fits as Joe Pa’s farewell tour picks up momentum.

Final Score: Temple 28, Penn State 20

Pitt vs Iowa

Vengeance is on the mind as Pitt faces the Hawkeyes at the wrong time. Damn you, Iowa State…

Final Score: Iowa 37, Pitt 17

Continue reading

“What the Experts Say”

16 Sep

Lepay’s voice is silky smooth, his hair is awe-inspiring, and his insights those of a Sherpa. What more is there to say about the “Voice of the Badgers?” Check him out and see if you agree with the Man’s breakdown of the Badger/Huskies football game.

Credit goes out to Mike Lucas and UW Badger Athletics.

On Wisconsin

Players to Watch: Wisconsin vs Northern Illinois

15 Sep

All right, I bought a new Ethernet cord for Saturday afternoon. Here’s to hoping my computer doesn’t crash before then.

Ok, back to business. Here are your Badger players to keep a close eye on this Saturday:

Offensive Player to Watch: James White, RB

James White, simply put, is too good to stay under the radar for three weeks in a row, especially when his next opponent has as hard a time stopping the run as Northern Illinois does. Now you may be saying, “whoa, whoa, Larson, James White has not been ‘under-the-radar,’ Montee has just been that dominant.” I get that, but I also get that Nebraska comes a-knockin’ in two weeks. I doubt Bielema is going to want to lean too heavily on his TD machine, Montee Ball. I also know that, with a flashy, quick scoring offense like the Huskies have, part of Chryst’s game plan will feature a lot of time-eating, run-heavy drives. Now, it’s not rocket appliance that Wisconsin leaning on the run + Bielema using Ball more sparingly = (to the dismay of the Huskies) James getting plenty of touches come Saturday. And I expect James to fully take advantage of the opportunity. Expect big things from number 20 come Saturday.

Defensive Player to Watch: Marcus Cromartie, DB

Ummmm, could it have been anyone else? It’s been well-documented (initially through the awesome-ness of Twitter) that senior corner back Devin Smith has been forced to miss the remainder of the playing season. Here’s where the importance Continue reading

Trivia Question of the Day

15 Sep

The only thing saving this chump’s child’s-play-of-a-question is that he clearly understands that Wisconsin’s beloved mascot is “pretty much a hard-ass badger with a stylish sweater.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qj47IPCIMJQ

And yes, I am aware that you are all now, more than likely, dumber for having watched that. But keep in mind sports fans, there are apparently a lot of idiots out there who don’t know Wisconsin football and its awesome mascot. Let’s change that. Carry on, Badgers.

Prediction Time! Wisconsin vs. Northern Illinois

15 Sep

The Badgers will have their hands full with Northern Illinois QB Chandler Harnish on Saturday.

As the Wisconsin Badgers take on their neighbors to the south at Soldier Field (italics for added effect), they’ll face a very unique challenge. Former UW defensive coordinator Dave Doeren is Northern Illinois’ head coach. And he knows this team intimately. Like ‘first-name basis’ intimate. He knows the team’s strengths and weaknesses like the back of his hand. Yes, Bret Bielema changed the defensive and offensive signals, but Doeren still knows this team.

But, all that being said, the Badgers are still a much better team than the Huskies. Northern Illinois has struggled immensely on defense this year, giving up 45 points to projected Big 12 cellar-dweller Kansas last Saturday, and will be Continue reading