Five Wisconsin Badgers to Watch Not Named Russell Wilson

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Meaningful football has finally arrived as the #10/#11 Wisconsin Badgers face off with the UNLV Rebels in college football’s kick-off special. All the off-season hoopla surrounding the Badgers has centered around NC State transfer and quarterback Russell Wilson.

If it’s possible to look past Russell-Mania, there are some young and exciting players to watch on this Badgers squad. Wisconsin faces quite arguably the highest expectations in school history and these five players will be a huge part in getting this Badgers team to a BCS Bowl.
1.) RB Montee Ball (Jr.)

Followers of the Badgers know that their bread-and-butter is the running game. Last season, UW nearly became the first team in FBS history to have three RBs go over the 1,000 yard mark. Ball was the one who fell just short at 996 yards after really turning it up at the end of the season (777 yards in five games). Expect Ball to have a monster year and become the Badgers feature back after slimming down in the off-season.

2.) RB James White (So.)
From one half-back to another, White is the Big Ten’s reigning Freshman of the Year. His tremendous speed and shifty moves helped him lead Wisconsin with 1,052 yards in 2010. Along with teammate Ball, White was named to the Doak Walker Award Watch list and is projected to have nothing close to a sophomore slump.

3.) WR Nick Toon (Sr.)
Another offensive player? The defense is solid, but let’s face it, everyone wants to see the offense in Wilson’s debut. His primary target will be Toon who has 1,521 career yards. Something to watch this season is how he trails his father, Al, by only 24 catches for fourth place on Wisconsin’s career receptions list. Toon currently sits in tenth with 107 receptions.

4.) LB Chris Borland (So.)
Borland makes his return from a season-ending shoulder injury and is ready to take on a new position. The red-shirt sophomore will be moving from outside linebacker to middle linebacker. Shouldn’t be a tough transition for Borland who has an intensity for the game matched by no one. That intensity helped Borland win the 2009 Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

5.) DE Patrick Butrym (Sr.)
Everyone knows how valuable first-round draft pick J.J. Watt was to the Badgers defense last season. Don’t discount his replacement Butrym who has made a lot of progress this off-season and might just be one of those players to emerge in the Big Ten Conference. Butrym is one of four captains on this year’s Badgers squad.

Any other players that you’re really interested in watching? Let me know by commenting below!

Nick Grays is a senior writer at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers, Green Bay Packers, and Milwaukee Brewers. He also enjoys to share Fantasy Advice from time-to-time. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best.

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