The 2015 Holiday Bowl awaits the Wisconsin Badgers in just over three weeks. After that, the build up to the 2016 season begins without seniors like quarterback Joel Stave, Alex Erickson, Tyler Marz and Austin Traylor on the offensive side of the ball.
Here's a very, very premature look at the 2016 Badgers' offense, and what the team will look like, position by position. Three coaching staffs in four to five years for these players would be rough on any team, but they've have handled it in stride and went 9-3 this season and end it with a date with USC in San Diego on Dec. 30.
Please note, until class of 2016 recruits sign their national letter of intent, we won't include them for now.
Bart Houston, 6'4, 224 lbs., RS SR
D.J. Gillins, 6'3, 198 lbs, RS SO
Alex Hornibrook, 6'4, 211 lbs , RS FR
Thad Armstrong, 6'5, 213 lbs, RS SR
Expect a competition between Houston and Hornibrook. Gillins has been moved to receiver for this season at least; it could become a permanent move. If not, Gillins' athleticism could make it a three-way race. Houston, the incumbent, had a great game against Illinois. Hornibrook was one of Chryst's Pitt recruits, and also looked solid in spring practices for what that's worth.
Projected Started in 2016: Bart Houston
Corey Clement, 5'11, 219 lbs., SR
Dare Ogunbowale, 5'11, 200 lbs., RS SR
Taiwan Deal, 6'1, 220 lbs., RS SO
Alec Ingold, 6'2 237 lbs., SO
Serge Trezy, 6'2, 202 lbs, RS SR
Bradrick Shaw, 6'1 205 lbs., RS FR
Mark Saari, 6'0, 208 lbs., RS SO
Troy Laufenberg, 5'10, 190 lbs., RS FR
After some early questions regarding whether Clement would declare for the draft, he's been quoted saying that he won't leave without first or second round consideration from the NFL Advisory Committee. That's unlikely, so we will almost certainly get another season out of the talented runner. Ogunbowale has been serviceable as a backup, but the further development of Deal and Ingold will help allow the running game to keep progressing. Clement staying puts the offense in the unique position of having the entire position group from 2015 return.
Projected Starter in 2016: Corey Clement
Austin Ramesh, 6'1 246 lbs., RS JR
Normally, the fullbacks would be included with the running backs -- but this is Wisconsin, damnit! Ramesh has been a huge part of the Badgers' inverted wishbone formation this season, and will be a nice replacement for departing seniors Derek Watt and Derek Straus going forward. I also wouldn't be surprised if Ingold was used in spots as a fullback, or also Jake Whalen is a linebacker who was considered a fullback coming out of high school. He could be moved here also.
Projected Starter in 2016: Austin Ramesh
Rob Wheelwright, 6'3, 202 lbs., SR
Jazz Peavy, 6'0, 189 lbs., RS JR
Reggie Love, 6'3, 216 lbs., RS SR
George Rushing, 6'1, 180 lbs., JR
Krenwick Sanders, 6'2, 204 lbs., JR
Andrew James, 6'0, 166 lbs., RS FR
Ricky Finco, 5'8, 185 lbs., RS SO
Peter Roy, 6'0, 186 lbs., RS SO
Henry Houden, 6'4, 194 lbs., RS FR
The Badgers lose three seniors, but one especially stings. Losing redshirt senior Alex Erickson, really the only receiver who's been reliable since Jared Abbrederis left in 2014, will hurt this offense -- though there's talk about UW wanting to appeal for an extra year of eligibility, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Jeff Potrykus. He's been a huge part of the team as a former walk-on, and will be missed. However, the position will undoubtedly get more athletic in 2016. Wheelwright, Peavy and Love will look to build upon their playing time in 2015, but Rushing and Sanders will need to show more. Also, look for then redshirt freshman in James -- a speedster from Florida -- who could make an impact in the return game.
Projected Starters in 2016: Rob Wheelright, Jazz Peavy, Reggie Love
Troy Fumagalli, 6'6, 247 lbs., RS JR
Eric Steffes, 6'5, 255 lbs., RS SR
Kyle Penniston, 6'4, 233 lbs., RS FR
David Edwards, 6'7 239 lbs., RS FR
John Damrow, 6'3, 225 lbs., RS SO
Mitchell Herl, 6'4, 217 lbs., RS FR
Losing Traylor hurts, but not as much considering that he missed a big chunk of this year. Fumagalli will become the main receiving threat, with Steffes being a solid blocking tight end. Penniston also provides a lot of promise. He's a receiving-first tight end, but comes from an elite high school program. Edwards is also a big body oozing with potential. Both will have benefited greatly from their redshirt season.
Projected Starters in 2016: Troy Fumagalli, Eric Steffes
Michael Deiter, 6'6, 316 lbs., RS SO
Dan Voltz, 6'3, 301 lbs., RS SR
Micah Kapoi, 6'3, 330 lbs., RS SO
Beau Benzschawel, 6'6, 308 lbs., RS SO
Jacob Maxwell, 6'6, 309 lbs., RS SO
Walker Williams, 6'7, 321 lbs., RS SR
Jon Dietzen, 6'6, 329 lbs., RS FR
Logan Schmidt, 6'4, 303 lbs., RS SR
George Panos, 6'5, 321 lbs., RS SO
Brett Connors, 6'6, 310 lbs., RS SO
Ryan Ramczyk, 6'6, 297 lbs., RS JR
David Moorman, 6'5, 288 lbs., RS FR
Aidan McNamara, 6'4, 314 lbs., RS JR
Kevin Estes, 6'5, 273 lbs., RS FR
Ian Dretzka, 6'6, 312 lbs., RS FR
Jason Erdmann, 6'6, 326 lbs., RS FR
Ben Hemer, 6'6, 299 lbs., RS JR
Having a super young offensive line has its tough times, as seen in seasons like 2015. However, the good thing about them is that they are young. They get better. Losing left tackle Tyler Marz hurts, but the experience between the rest of the group will make them better moving forward. I listed the top group in order of their projected starting spots. Gone also is tackle Hayden Biegel, who per the Wisconsin State Journal's Jason Galloway, will no longer play football due to sustaining multiple concussions.
Michael Deiter will shift back to left guard with Voltz coming back off injury to play center. Micah Kapoi will battle redshirt freshman Jon Dietzen for right guard, with Benzschewel likely winning the right tackle job. Only losing one senior is huge. With Biegel, the projected 2016 left tackle gone, I'd expect Jake Maxwell to get the job, however with competition from two newcomers: Ryan Ramczyk and Cole Van Lanen. Ramczyk will be a fourth year junior transfer from UW-Stevens Point, where having multiple years of starting experience in the WIAC will put him in a better position to contribute immediately than Van Lanen, the highly regarded prep prospect. Van Lanen is currently the 25th ranked prospect nationally by 247sports.com
Returning at least eighteen of twenty offensive linemen is a great way to build depth and more importantly, competition.
Projected Starters in 2016: Jake Maxwell, Michael Deiter, Dan Voltz, Micah Kapoi, Beau Benzschawel
Overall, this should be what the 2016 Badger offense will look like -- not entirely too different than the 2015 offense. Having a new starting quarterback for the first real time in four years will be interesting. A lot about the offense will hinge on whether or not Clement returns to Madison or not, but just look for an offense with another year of experience and depth. The receivers will be forced to step up and take on new roles, but an offensive line with an added year of experience will help steady the offense. Head coach Paul Chryst will keep building this class and adding talent to this current roster.