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Wisconsin depth chart 2014: Observations of the Badgers' Week 1 offense

Looking at Wisconsin's first depth chart of the season, there aren't many surprises on offense aside from the one large elephant in the room.

Mike McGinnis

Monday afternoon, Wisconsin released its first official depth chart of the 2014 season. Among reports that Tanner McEvoy is expected to start Saturday against LSU, head coach Gary Andersen didn't confirm McEvoy won the starting job; rather, the Badgers listed both McEvoy and the incumbent Joel Stave as co-starters.

Wisconsin Depth Chart — Week 1 vs. LSU
QB 2 Joel Stave (Jr.) OR 5 Tanner McEvoy (Jr.)
RB 25 Melvin Gordon (Jr.) 6 Corey Clement (So.)
FB 34 Derek Watt (Jr.) 20 Austin Ramesh (Fr.)
WR 86 Alex Erickson (So.) 9 Jordan Fredrick (Jr.)
WR 3 Kenzel Doe (Sr.) 12 Natrell Jamerson (Fr.)
WR 16 Reggie Love (So.) 17 George Rushing (Fr.)
TE 49 Sam Arneson (Sr.) 48 Troy Fumagalli (Fr.)
TE 46 Austin Traylor (Jr.) 44 Eric Steffes (So.)
LT 61 Tyler Marz (Jr.) 62 Walker Williams (So.)
LG 73 Dallas Lewallen (Sr.) 71 Ray Ball (Jr.)
C 70 Dan Voltz (So.) 63 Michael Deiter (Fr.)
RG 54 Kyle Costigan (Sr.) 55 Trent Denlinger (So.)
RT 78 Rob Havenstein (Sr.) 74 Hayden Biegel (Fr.)


Despite last week's reports, McEvoy and Stave are listed together as starters. Per Andersen from today's press conference:

But at the end of the day, we're right where we were. We've got two quarterbacks that I think are going to help this football team throughout the year, and whoever takes the first snap doesn't necessarily say he's going to be the guy for the whole season. We've got two kids who want to compete and will continue to compete. That's where we're going to stay with it.

You're going to hear the same thing from the coordinators. You're going to hear the same thing from the quarterbacks. That's where we sit.

I believe the reports that McEvoy will start, but I also feel Stave will help the team in some fashion. They'll need the former walk-on at some point, and Andersen noted last week how both deserve playing time. Stave must be the best back-up quarterback in the Big Ten, and in my opinion, the nation. He's 13-6 as a starter, threw for 22 touchdowns last season -- second-most in Wisconsin history in a single season -- and he's the backup?

In the portions of practice open to the media this fall, Stave looked like the better passer, and with the rise of the wide receivers, I thought fortune favored him. By all means, McEvoy looked better than he did as a passer in 2013, but most of the media agreed on that impression of Stave (granted, we're not coaches by any means). What was behind closed doors and off-limits must have been a different story.

Andersen and Ludwig have wanted a dual-threat quarterback that can make the offense even more potent and threatening. McEvoy made some nice throws at times, including a nice back-shoulder throw to Kenzel Doe during one practice a couple weeks' back. With play-action and rollouts being staples of the passing game, McEvoy adds an extra dimension that defenses have to look out for. Imagine McEvoy running a "pop" pass a la Auburn versus Alabama in the "Kick Six" game. Read this article by SB Nation's Ian Boyd for reference, and if the Badgers will/can run this, it's almost impossible to defend. That's what exactly they'd be looking for.

Running backs

Nothing to note here. Just two studs at running back in Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement (M&C Rushing Factory, for you '90s kids -- it's going to catch on), and a solid, dependable blocker in junior fullback Derek Watt. Freshman Austin Ramesh is in the two-deep as junior Derek Straus recovers from a collarbone injury.

Wide receivers

Wide receivers coach Chris Beatty has said consistently this fall camp that he's comfortable with his position group. After months of fans and media talking about the group needing to step up in the wake of Jared Abbrederis' shadow, a new hope dawns with a productive camp from upperclassmen and a host of true freshmen.

Doe's shown leadership throughout the offseason, as noted by Andersen, and it will be intriguing to see how they use him -- whether in the slot or outside and in fly sweeps. Erickson had a very solid camp, and Reggie Love has stepped up and earned a chance to produce. Fredrick is one of the team's best run-blocking receivers and is looking to bounce back from a lower-leg injury suffered early in camp. Throw in the true freshmen trio of George Rushing, Natrell Jamerson and Krenwick Sanders, and Andersen likes the position group.

"Our numbers are much better there, as far as a group, than it was a year ago," Andersen said.

Andersen did say he'd take about eight receivers with the team to Houston, so -- along with the probability of Sanders heading to Houston when Andersen confirmed the three true frosh would travel -- it wouldn't be outside the realm of possibility to see Robert Wheelwright or Jazz Peavy there if they've recovered from injury.

Tight ends

You lose three seniors, you reload. What you lack in experience, they make up for in talent. Sam Arneson and Troy Fumagalli are your "hybrid" type tight ends (H-backs, U-backs), with Austin Traylor and Eric Steffes as your anchor "Y" tight ends. All will play a role in short-yardage and red-zone looks, especially with a lot of "23" (two running backs, three tight end) personnel you saw last season.

Offensive line

The starters have been set for a while, but I'm intrigued by the depth here. The interior two-deep with guards Ray Ball and Trent Delinger and true freshman center Michael Deiter have gained valuable reps through the spring and fall camps, but it will be interesting to see how tackles Walter Williams and Hayden Biegel have developed in a matter of a year.