The Wisconsin Badgers concluded spring camp late week after 15 practices that spanned from late March to late April.
Wisconsin allowed media in for eight of those sessions, and B5Q watched seven. By all indications, spring camp performances usually springboard players into fall camp reps, but as all programs do after this time, we have some questions before those practices start in the late summer.
B5Q looked at the potential depth charts for both sides of the ball this week—offense on Monday, then the defense on Tuesday. We named the players that stood out on Wednesday. Now, let’s address what we’ll be watching in August as the Badgers prepare for the 2019 season.
Who will compete to start at quarterback in August?
We might as well start with the most obvious question from the most talked about position this spring camp.
Who will vie for the No. 1 spot under center?
In the open sessions viewed by B5Q, it appeared all of rising junior Jack Coan’s reps in 11-on-11 work were with the first-team. That’s not saying other quarterbacks did not receive “first-team” reps as well, or as much of a “first-team” designation with key players on the offense out or resting, just that Coan received the most.
However, I felt those reps were telling for now, at least for what was shown in those sessions open to the media. He will obviously be in the mix.
Behind Coan, true freshman Graham Mertz showed his potential while still adjusting to the college game. He displayed why he was one of the best prep quarterbacks in the 2019 class. Can he take his progression to the next level come late summer and make a concerted challenge for the “throne”?
I think redshirt freshman Chase Wolf could have a say in the quarterback race, too. His dual-threat nature—arguably the strongest arm in camp combined with his wheels—is extremely intriguing if he can continue to hone his decision making and make strides during his second fall camp as a Badger.
Who will settle in at cornerback in hopes of starting?
Last year, six corners received starts. The group is a year older with a season of experience under their belts.
Caesar Williams, Faion Hicks, Rachad Wildgoose, Donte Burton, Deron Harrell and Alexander Smith all shuffled together during base and nickel looks at certain points during the spring. First-team and second-team reps were all jumbled with various combinations of players.
Who shows the most consistency, makes the most plays and finds their roles within the defensive backfield will once again be worth watching.
Who will find their way into the starting guard rotation?
Tyler Biadasz and Cole Van Lanen sat during the spring practices, which allowed others to receive reps at center and left tackle, respectively. I believe redshirt sophomore Logan Bruss will lock down the right tackle spot, though he worked at right guard as well before his left thumb injury which could provide some positional versatility that is always helpful if needed.
In finding the best five, who will start at the guard spots? Kayden Lyles and Jason Erdmann received a lot of reps at the left guard spot, but there is also Josh Seltzner and David Moorman. Offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph praised Moorman in mid-April for his work to that point, and the redshirt senior will likely fight for a role with the first-team. He was listed as the No. 2 left guard on the depth chart heading into the 2018 Pinstripe Bowl.
In my depth chart projection, I had Lyles at left guard and Erdmann at right guard, but I could see both Moorman and Seltzner challenging at points as well. Though inexperienced compared to the 2018 group, I do feel there is talent here in the current roster to have a full two-deep of ready lineman.
Who will step up at tight end behind Jake Ferguson and Luke Benzschawel?
Both Ferguson and Benzschawel ended the spring out of practice, with the latter being sidelined for the entirety due to rehabbing an injury. That led to walk-ons Gabe Lloyd and Jack Eschenbach gaining reps during these sessions, and though I was not able to watch the position group as intently as I would have liked, I thought both performed decently.
I feel depth could be a slight concern here if injuries creep back up in the tight end room in fall camp and the season. Ferguson is a passing catching threat who will be needed by whoever leads the team at quarterback to keep defenses honest. Benzschawel fits the bill of that prototypical “in-line” tight end, but he also has missed time the past two seasons due to injury.
If Lloyd and Eschenbach can continue their development, that will help the position group. Two incoming freshmen—Hayden Rucci and Clay Cundiff—will join the program in early summer and will participate in fall camp. Could the first-year players adapt to the college level at a quick pace to provide backup as well?
- Who assumes the back up nose tackle spot: Walk-on redshirt senior Gunnar Roberge served as the main reserve nose tackle this spring. Can he emerge in his final season to be a rotational player if sophomore projected starter Bryson Williams needs a breather, or is injured? Will one of the 2019 signees—Rodas Johnson, Keeanu Benton or Gio Paez—be able to step up?
- Placekicker: Collin Larsh and Zach Hintze are the two vying for this position. Larsh could be used for short to medium range field goals, while Hintze has the leg to kick from longer distances. It should be interesting to see how this pans out come August.
- Logan Brown: Can the heralded offensive lineman make the jump and work into the two-deep at one of the tackle spots as a true freshman with no spring ball experience?