UW Health Sports Medicine 

Badgers place six in ESPN's Top 25 Big Ten rankings

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Over the last month or so at ESPN.com, Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg has been counting down the top 25 players in the Big Ten. The countdown ended today with Iowa's Adrian Clayborn coming in at No. 1. But fear not Badger fans as UW was well represented. The Badgers had six players in Rittenberg's rankings, tying with Ohio State for the most of any school.

Rittenberg ranked each player based on "past performance and potential for the 2010 season." For each player, Rittenberg listed their 2009 numbers, their most recent ranking and then a brief synopsis on said player.

Junior defensive end J.J. Watt got things started coming in at No. 25. Watt was also the third-ranked defensive end on the list.

Rittenberg says, "There are several reasons Watt should be a star for Wisconsin this fall. After playing second fiddle to first-team All-Big Ten defensive end O'Brien Schofield last season, Watt will move into a featured pass-rushing role in 2010. He can play both defensive line positions but has the size, speed and strength to line up on the edge this season."

Like Watt, senior quarterback Scott Tolzien was also ranked third at his position. Overall, Tolzien was put No. 19.

Rittenberg says, "An afterthought in Wisconsin's quarterback competition last spring, Tolzien made his coaches look like geniuses with his play during the season. Aside from a two-week stretch where he threw five interceptions -- not surprisingly, in two of Wisconsin's three losses -- Tolzien was a model of efficiency for the Big Ten's top scoring offense."

Fresh off being named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, sophomore linebacker Chris Borland joins Watt and Tolzien in being the third-best player at his position. Borland also takes the No. 16 spot on the list.

Rittenberg says, "Few freshmen in the country helped their teams in as many ways as Borland did last season. After making a name in preseason camp, Borland became a huge playmaker for the Badgers on defense and special teams, winning Big Ten Player of the Week honors in both categories."

One spot ahead of Borland at No. 15 is senior offensive lineman John Moffitt, who is the fourth-ranked offensive lineman.

Rittenberg says, "The Big Ten will be very strong at the guard and center spots entering the 2010 season, and Moffitt certainly adds to the group ... Moffitt brings versatility, experience and leadership to a Badgers offensive line that should be one of the nation's best as it blocks for Heisman Trophy candidate John Clay this fall."

Also representing the offensive line is senior left tackle Gabe Carimi, who was placed 11th on the countdown.

Rittenberg says, "The Big Ten needs a premier left tackle after Bryan Bulaga's early departure to the NFL draft, and Carimi certainly is capable of filling the role. He has started 36 games for the Badgers; two stretches of 18 consecutive starts broken up by a three-game stretch on the sideline because of a knee injury in 2008."

Placing highest on the list for Wisconsin is junior running back and the 2009 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, John Clay. He takes the No. 4 spot on the list and is the highest-rated running back in the conference.

Rittenberg says, "You saw the potential in 2008, but Clay really blossomed last fall and became the dominant downhill runner Wisconsin expected when he signed in 2007. The redshirt sophomore was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and moved up Wisconsin's rushing list to 10th in career yards (2,401) and sixth in career rushing touchdowns (27)."

Click on each of the links to read more about what Rittenberg has to say on each player and click here to see the full list.

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