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July 25, 2011
Key Badgers: No. 2 Nick Toon
By Tom Lea
There are a number of things we already know about the Wisconsin offense. The running back duo of Montee Ball and James White is dynamic. The offensive line, with three returning starters, will be above average. Russell Wilson, UW's newest addition, will offer a different skill set at the quarterback position and someone at the tight end position will step up simply because it's such an important piece to UW's offensive mentality.
The wide receiver position, though it returns a couple of players (Nick Toon and Jared Abbrederis) with plenty of game experience, remains to be a bit of a question mark.
Is Toon going to be able to make it through the entire season without any issues arising from his surgically repaired foot? Will he be able to live up to the lofty expectations he has set for himself? Will Abbrederis be able to carry the load as the team's No. 2 receiver, a role unknown to him at this juncture during his career? Which of the young receivers on the roster will take the initiative to make himself a contributor?
It's understandable why fans, critics, members of the media and any other college football supporter would be worried about the Badger wide receivers, simply because there are so many question marks surrounding it. And there is a lot of potential there that has yet to be fully realized.
That's why Toon is such an integral piece to the 2011 Badger offense.
He's an explosive talent that has an ability to change games. During UW's bounce-back 2009 season, Bret Bielema often said the UW offense played at it's best when No. 32 (John Clay) and No. 1 (Toon) play to the best of their abilities. That same statement can be made now, but you'll just need to switch out No. 32 with No. 28 or No. 20.
But more than anything in 2011 -- especially considering the depth at the running back position -- UW will need Toon to be a playmaker. He's really the only wide receiver that has proven capable of being a game changer. If he's healthy this year, much like Chris Borland on the other side of the ball, you could probably expect for Toon to have a monster year. He's hungry and he wants to prove he's able to play up to the expectations he set for himself.
And quite frankly, especially since the running game will be a major part of the offense, Toon will need to be great this season. Otherwise teams are just going to key in on stopping the run because they won't necessarily be afraid of what the UW passing game has to offer. And the last thing UW needs to become is one-dimensional even with the talent that is lining up in the backfield. A lot of that prevention is on Toon -- as a senior member of a very young positional group -- to carry forward.
He has all the tools necessary. He can be one of the better red zone threats in the entire league. He can be one of the better possession receivers in the Big Ten. He's physical, he has the size and he seems to have the determination.
Now all he has to do is put it all together for a full season. Should he accomplish that, UW's offense would be aligned for another monster season.
UP NEXT: Our list concludes with the No. 1 most key returning Badger. And in this instance, the newest Badger is the most important.