This weekend seemed like a busy sports one, particularly for this type of year with NFL injuries and training camps and baseball stuff and more. Of course, college football news was relatively limited outside of Johnny Manziel's Greek life adventures in Austin, Texas.
Honestly, I'm OK with that. Four weeks from this Monday, we'll begin our first game week of 2013. That Saturday, Aug. 31, UMass will come to town and we'll get our first crack at answering the question everyone's asking: Will Gary Andersen's Wisconsin teams still drop 80 on non-confernece foes?
More pressing: Wisconsin's own media day is this Friday, as that's also the day the Badgers open fall camp. Jake Kocorowski will be there for B5Q -- are there any storylines in particular you'd like him to look out for?
Is any Wisconsin position more at a crossroads than the offensive line? Considering the unit's sterling reputation, that sounds like heresy at this point -- but none of us have forgotten last year, particularly the early-season struggles. Plus Travis Frederick and Ricky Wagner are gone, and this year's line is widely considered thin and perhaps the greatest weakness or question mark within the offense.
As Jeff Potrykus lays out, the departures of Frederick and Wagner also held additional significance: they were the sixth and seventh players -- the last -- drafted from the group of UW linemen who were full-time starters between 2009 and 2011. Overall, Wisconsin will bring 18 linemen into fall camp after having just 13 in the spring -- not to mention, a new line coach in T.J. Woods.
"We're going to play the best five guys," Woods said. "If that is five guards, that's what we're going to play with. If that is five tackles, that's what we're going to play with.
"We're going to play the best people. The toughest five guys we've got are going to go out there and play Wisconsin football."
After beginning his preview series with the wide receivers on Sunday, Tom Mulhern returns today with the quarterbacks. We've discussed the quarterbacks ad nauseum, necessarily so, this spring, but the greatest takeaway from Mulhern's preview is the remarkable depth UW has at the position now and into the neat future.
"It's a big advantage for Wisconsin, something we haven't traditionally had in the past," Phillips said. "There's a lot of competition. One thing we kind of joke about, we'll have a heck of an aerial football team this summer."
If Wisconsin does indeed have "a heck of an aerial football team" this year, we'll all of course be thrilled. But until the regular season kicks off, we're left pondering the depth chart and what might be best for this offense undergoing such a dramatic makeover. In a live chat with readers on Friday, Mulhern shared some interesting thoughts on the QB battle that might fly in the face of some current, common perception.
I can't make a prediction until I watch McEvoy in practice. I tried to get some players to talk about how he's looked in summer workouts, but most were tight-lipped. As of this point, I'd be surprised if it's McEvoy. Don't forget, he's got three years of eligibility. It's not like they brought him in and he's got to play right away. His background is limited, only two years of playing the position. So, I don't think you can compare him to last two transfers who came in. I thought Stave had the best spring. As of now, I'd put it like this: 1, Stave; 2, Phillips, 3, McEvoy. By no means do I feel confident about that prediction. We're going to have to see how it plays out in camp.
McEvoy's remaining eligibility's has probably been overlooked in the debate over his likeliness to start this fall, with many asserting some variant of, "Well, he wouldn't have come here if he didn't have a great chance to start." Honestly, I think I lean that way, but I've always wrestled with just automatically placing him ahead of Stave. As Mulhern recalls, Stave had a fantastic spring and as a proven quality, I think he's the more reassuring candidate at this point.
Bill Connelly returns to this Big Ten season previews -- you can read them all here -- with Nebraska this morning. The headline really says it all, but here's another teaser to give you the gist of where he's heading:
But with this schedule, Nebraska really could rack up a serious number of wins without actually improving much over their recent product. None of the Huskers' first seven opponents are projected better than 70th, and only one (Michigan State at home) is projected better than 20th (and barely at that). Nebraska might not face an elite opponent before the Big Ten title game, and that's only if Ohio State or Wisconsin are actually elite.