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19. Wisconsin
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The traditionally ground-bound Badgers are ready to add some pizzazz by airing the ball out on offense

By Mark Bechtel

Fast Facts
2002 Record: 8-6 (2-6, T8 in Big Ten)
Final AP Rank: NR
Returning Starters: 18
Telling Number
Years in a row that Badgers have had 1,000-yard rusher, two short of NCAA record set by North Carolina from 1973 to '84.
Smart Move
After Lee Evans tore his ACL in 2002's Red and White game, coach Barry Alvarez took no chances this year. Evans was held out of the April game, and the rest of the first-string skill guys played only the first quarter, during which tackling was out. Says Alvarez, "I don't think what happened to Lee will ever leave my mind."
Sports IllustratedAlthough this will be his first season as the Badgers' starting quarterback, fifth-year senior Jim Sorgi is hardly an unknown to the Camp Randall faithful. In three years as Brooks Bollinger's backup, Sorgi appeared in 27 games, throwing for 16 touchdowns and 2,247 yards, which places him 14th on the school's alltime passing list. "I'm the new guy, but I'm the new guy who's been around awhile," he says. "This is my shot."

Though Sorgi will be able to hand off to speedy 5'8" junior tailback Anthony Davis, the Badgers' attack will rely more on the pass than in previous seasons. The return of senior wideout Lee Evans, a Biletnikoff Award finalist in 2001 who missed last year after tearing his left ACL in the spring, will help, as will the experience gained by sophomores Jonathan Orr and Brandon Williams in Evans's absence. "Jim's probably the most natural thrower we've ever had," says Alvarez. "We've got enough weapons to take some pressure off him, but we have to make sure he makes it through the year."

The Badgers allowed a conference-worst 46 sacks last year, and this season's line features three new starters. "Avoiding sacks is our main focus," says the 6'5", 190-pound Sorgi. Alvarez and offensive coordinator Brian White plan to spread the offense with more four-receiver sets, preventing defenses from teeing off on Sorgi with eight-in-the-box formations. Sorgi has also been working with Davis on new screen plays, a radical concept at Wisconsin, where running backs usually just run.

One man who's sure Sorgi can get the job done is Evans, who in 2000 caught Sorgi's first touchdown pass, a 45-yarder to beat Michigan State with 0:29 left. Since then the two have hooked up for eight more scores, including five for 30 yards or more. "Some of the things Jim can do are very exciting from a receiver's standpoint," says Evans. "I get goose bumps thinking about it. He just has to believe he can do it."

Issue date: August 11, 2003