MADISON - In the grand scheme of things, especially when you consider the checkered injury past of several involved, the first officially released depth chart is about as useful as an empty roll of toilet paper.
There are some things you can use it for - - as a primer for quality play throughout fall camp in this case - - but in the long run it's just going to get tossed to the side or thrown away.
As much as it should, simply because it's the milestone first of many throughout a given season, the first depth chart doesn't have any sort of lasting power. Players get hurt. Some players perform better than others. Things pop up off the field and more times than not there are rotations at a given position that would make even the most solidified of pitching coaches' blush.
So, in the spirit of projecting and in the spirit of knocking the rust of my alter ego 'Nostra-Thomas,' I have singled out five non-starters, in accordance with the very first depth chart, that will make an impact at some point or another during the 2011 season. And for the sake of discussion I'm going to rank them in descending order. Why not?
Because in the end it's important to remember, a team is only as good as the guy waiting in the wings.
To be quite honest, I didn't ever anticipate such an effective camp out of the Madison Memorial alum. I thought he was coming into the program with hopes of finding his best fit and taking a redshirt season to do so. I never thought he'd walk in and make an impact within his first three weeks of practicing. But he's done just that and he's done it in an effective manner. He's not polished by any means, but he has shown glimpses of the same playmaking ability he had as a prep player that eventually got him to move just down the road to the UW campus. He's currently not listed on the two-deep, but before this thing is all said and done he's going to make some plays.
Just go down the checklist. 1. He's healthy. 2.) He's settled in at one position. 3.) He's healthy and 4.) He's settled in at one position.
He's going to make plays on special teams, he's going to continue to get better and he's going to get his chance to make something happen at some point this season. With Southward, knocking his athleticism would be like saying Justin Timberlake is socially awkward. He's just got all the tools necessary to be a successful football player. It's just a matter of finding consistency and earning the coaches trust.
Assuming Garner fully recovers from his hernia surgery and returns to game action sooner rather than later, he's going to be an absolute force for a wide receiver position that is lacking any sort of established depth. He's finally settled at one position so that will help him learn the intricacies of what it takes to become a legitimate weapon for an offense that likes to mix things up. Bret Bielema says there's a chance Garner could be ready to roll for game one, but the more realistic and probably smarter move, would be to let him recover a bit longer with hopes of him being ready by game two. Regardless, he's going to make an impact this season.
Based on the way he's performed throughout fall camp it's more than obvious that Cromartie will play a major role in the success of the Badger defense in 2011. There's still an outside chance he could beat out Devin Smith for the starting spot opposite Antonio Fenelus, but if not, UW will have a physical presence in its nickel and dime package that it hasn't really had in recent years. His ball skills and natural ability to make plays will also have fans impressed.
Imagine you weren't able to do what you loved more than anything else in this world for a full two years. Then, after enduring that brutal time frame, you finally get the chance to get back to it. You're going to be hungry, you're going to be determined and you're going to be eager to show what's been missing over the past couple of years. If Louis Nzegwu and David Gilbert slough off at all during the season, Kelly will be there waiting for his time in the limelight. Something tells me, though, that he's going to have plenty of chances to impress no matter if he's a starter or not this season.