Friday, December 23, 2011

December 23, 2011
This unit did not surprise me that much. What did surprise me was the sheer lack of passing that the Badgers faced in the Big 10. Only ONE team that Wisconsin faced averaged more than 200 passing yards per game. Just one! That was Michigan State. In the two games with Michigan State, Wisconsin allowed Kirk Cousins to go 44-61 (72.1% completion rate) for 571 yards and 6 touchdowns. Outside of those Wisconsin games, Cousins is a 63.6% passer who threw for 18 touchdowns in 11 games. Darron Thomas, meanwhile, threw for 30 touchdowns (6 more than Cousins overall total) and completed 61.4% of his passes.

All that really means is that this match-up went pretty much how I expected...

Oregon: Defensive backs were considered a strength entering the 2011 football season for the Oregon Ducks. Oregon graduated just one player, Talmadge Jackson, from the unit that went to the BCS title game a year before. Returning All-American Cliff Harris was supposed to take a step forward and be the leader of this group. Unfortunately, due to off field issues, Harris played sparingly after being suspended for the first game.

In the absence of Harris, the Ducks turned to a trio of freshman to fill the void. Though they experienced the freshman mistakes that many young cornerbacks endure, Terrance Mitchell, Troy Hill and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu played very well and learned on the fly throughout the 2011 season. Mitchell got the start in the opener against LSU in Dallas. Though he showed promise, there were also signs of inexperience as he got beat by bigger stronger receivers on passes in the red-zone. Nonetheless, he proved a solid and reliable tackler and, despite being out-muscled for some balls, never seemed to be "burned" by receivers. Mitchell would continue...

Wisconsin: Like the Ducks, Wisconsin brought an experienced defensive backfield group into the 2011 season. Returning at cornerback is Antonio Fenelus (5-9, 190) a senior from Florida. Fenelus was coming off of an impressive junior campaign that saw him notch 56 tackles and 4 interceptions. Fenelus is the best tackler of the cornerbacks and played well early, but really made more of his mark in conference play. Through the first four non-conference games, Fenelus had 14 total tackles, but had yet to make an impact in pass defense. That would change in conference play where he would intercept 4 passes. For the season, Fenelus recorded 46 total tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 9 passes defended with 4 interceptions.

Starting opposite Fenelus is Marcus Cromartie (6-1, 180) a junior from the state of Texas. Cromartie saw the first start of his career against Oregon State. Early indications seemed to indicate that Cromartie, the fastest defensive back on the team, would provide an exceptional contribution. Through the first three games of the season, he would have 18 tackles. Cromartie struggled some, though, during Big 10 conference play. For the year, Cromartie finished with 41 total tackles with 3 passes defended.

The Badgers saw action in all 13 games from Peniel Jean (5-11, 190) a redshirt freshman from West Palm Beach, Florida. Jean had his best game against Michigan State...

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