Badgers football: Breaking down the UW lineup by position

Jim Polzin looks at how UW will line up this season.

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  • Depth chart

    Projected starter:

    5 Tanner McEvoy, 6-6, 223, Jr., Hillsdale, N.J.

    Backup:

    2 Joel Stave, 6-5, 225, Jr., Greenfield

    The rest:

    7 D.J. Gillins, 6-3, 185, Fr., Jacksonville, Fla.

    13 Bart Houston, 6-4, 217, So. Dublin, Calif.

    14 Connor Senger, 5-10, 175, Fr., Milwaukee

    12 Thad Armstrong, 6-3, 194, So., Ottawa, Ill.

    The skinny

    McEvoy was the surprise winner of the quarterback derby, but UW coach Gary Andersen said both McEvoy and Stave will play. McEvoy has struggled in the passing game at times, but he's got the running skills that Andersen desires in a quarterback. Stave is 13-6 in Stave’s 19 career starts. His 3,598 career passing yards at the midway point of his career already rank 10th all-time at UW, and his career completion percentage of 61.1 is fourth. But he needs to improve at hitting receivers in stride and his running skills are lacking. Andersen hasn't ruled out Gillins playing this season, though the coaching staff would prefer to redshirt him. Gillins showed promise during camp, particularly on scrambles.

    By the numbers

    50 Stave’s national rank in pass efficiency rating last season (138.1).

    Glass-is-half-full forecast

    McEvoy is accurate enough with his arm and productive enough with his feet that defenses have to respect him as a dual-threat. Stave takes his demotion in stride and helps in the passing game when needed.

    Glass-is-half-empty forecast

    Defenses realize McEvoy is a one-trick pony and force him to put the ball in the air. Stave loses his confidence or regresses without Jared Abbrederis and Jacob Pedersen to turn to in obvious passing situations. The end result is defenses stacking the box and leaving UW’s talented tailbacks with no room to run.

  • Depth chart

    Tailbacks

    Projected starter: 25 Melvin Gordon, 6-1, 213, Jr., Kenosha

    Backup: 6 Corey Clement, 5-11, 217, So., Glassboro, N.J.

    The rest: 28 Taiwan Deal, 6-0, 216, Fr., Capitol Heights, Md.

    22 Caleb Kinlaw, 5-9, 180, Fr., Goose Creek, S.C.

    Fullbacks

    Projected starter: 34 Derek Watt, 6-2, 231, Jr., Pewaukee

    Backup: 26 Derek Straus, 6-0, 235, Jr., Waunakee

    The rest: 30 Austin Ramesh, 6-1, 247, Fr., Land O’Lakes

    36 D.J. Spurling, 5-10, 225, Fr., Slinger

    The skinny

    Gordon could have bolted to the NFL, but he decided to return for his junior season. He’s already rushed for 2,328 yards and now will step into the role of featured back. Clement looked great as a true freshman, averaging 8.2 yards per carry, but his attempts were limited (67) because he had Gordon and James White ahead of him. Deal needs to be ready if Gordon or Clement get dinged up. Watt will slide over to U-back at times to take advantage of his receiving skills. His backups, Straus and Ramesh, look physical as blockers and also can carry the ball when needed.

    By the numbers

    24 Gains of 20 or more yards on the ground for Gordon, or one every 12 carries during his career.

    Glass-is-half-full forecast

    Creative ways are used to get the ball in Gordon’s hands and he responds with a monster campaign that helps him make a run at the Heisman Trophy. He’s able to stay fresh because Clement is a playmaker in his own right and goes over 1,000 yards. Deal isn’t used much, but he’s able to build up some numbers late in blowouts. Watt develops into a goal-line threat in the short-passing game.

    Glass-is-half-empty forecast

    Defenses make it their mission to stop Gordon and Clement and are able to limit their production. Worst yet, one of them gets injured, leading to a dicey situation at a thin position.

  • Depth chart

    Projected starters:

    86 Alex Erickson, 6-0, 196, So., Darlington

    16 Reggie Love, 6-3, 214, So., Boynton Beach, Fla.

    Backups:

    9 Jordan Fredrick, 6-4, 214, Jr., Madison

    3 Kenzel Doe, 5-8, 176, Sr., Reidsville, N.C.

    The rest:

    12 Natrell Jamerson, 5-11, 180, Fr., Ocala, Fla.

    17 George Rushing, 6-1, 190, Fr., Miramar, Fla.

    15 Robert Wheelwright, 6-2, 201, So., Columbus, Ohio

    11 Jazz Peavy, 6-0, 187, Fr., Kenosha

    10 Krenwick Sanders, 6-1, 193, Fr., Jesup, Ga.

    18 Lance Baretz, 5-11, 195, Jr., Franklin

    31 Connor Cummins, 6-1, 200, Sr., Kettering, Ohio

    82 Jake Stengel, 6-3, 203, Jr., Sheboygan

    The skinny

    Teams had a hard time stopping Jared Abbrederis last season even when they knew the ball was going to him. Now, he’s gone, leaving some complementary pieces to blend with some raw freshmen. Is there a go-to receiver among the group that includes Doe, Fredrick, Erickson and Love? Can Wheelwright stay healthy? Are Jamerson, Rushing and Sanders — rookies who opened eyes in camp — the real deal?

    By the numbers

    10 Receptions for Fredrick last season, making him UW’s leading returning receiver.

    Glass-is-half-full forecast

    It’s hard to envision anyone in this group catching more than 50 passes, but that’s OK. The wealth is spread around, and QB Joel Stave gains confidence in a handful of players. With Doe the only senior expected to see significant playing time, the group goes from major question mark this season to a position of strength heading into the 2015 season.

    Glass-is-half-empty forecast

    Inconsistency rears its ugly head, and Stave doesn’t know who he can trust on third down. The young players show flashes of brilliance, but they hit a wall over the course of a long season. Nobody in the group reaches 30 receptions.

  • Depth chart

    Projected starter:

    49 Sam Arneson, 6-4, 244, Sr., Merrill

    Backup:

    46 Austin Traylor, 6-3, 248, Jr., Columbus, Ohio

    The rest:

    48 Troy Fumagalli, 6-5, 246, Fr., Aurora, Ill.

    44 Eric Steffes, 6-3, 259, So., Mount Calvary

    42 T.J. Watt, 6-5, 247, Fr., Pewaukee

    84 Austin Maly, 6-5, 250, Jr., Waunakee

    89 Sam Eckert, 6-5, 220, Fr., East Troy

    The skinny

    The Badgers must replace two experienced players in Jacob Pedersen, who had 104 receptions for 1,394 yards with 17 touchdowns during his career, and Brian Wozniak. Arneson is a solid player and appears ready for a bigger role. Traylor hasn’t gotten much playing time, but showed in camp he can be effective as both a blocker and a pass-catcher. There also are some nice young pieces in the group, particularly Fumagalli and Watt.

    By the numbers

    10 Consecutive seasons in which at least one UW tight end has finished the season with 20 or more receptions.

    Glass-is-half-full forecast

    Arneson and Traylor step into expanded roles and continue the Badgers’ tradition of excellence at tight end. They’re effective as blockers and threats in the red zone. Fumagalli emerges as a playmaker down the middle of the field.

    Glass-is-half-empty forecast

    UW’s tight ends provide solid blocking but are quiet in the passing game, which would put even more pressure on the wide receivers.

  • Depth chart

    Projected starters

    LT 61 Tyler Marz, 6-5, 321, Jr.,

    Springfield, Minn.

    LG 73 Dallas Lewallen, 6-6, 321, Sr., Berlin

    C 70 Dan Voltz, 6-3, 311, So., Barrington, Ill.

    RG 54 Kyle Costigan, 6-5, 319, Sr., Wind Lake

    RT 78 Rob Havenstein, 6-8, 333, Sr.,

    Mount Airy, Md.

    Backups

    62 Walker Williams, 6-7, 320, So., Tacoma, Wash.

    71 Ray Ball, 6-7, 324, Jr., Columbus, Ohio

    63 Michael Deiter, 6-5, 317, Fr., Curtice, Ohio

    55 Trent Denlinger, 6-6, 306, So., Cuba City

    74 Hayden Biegel, 6-6, 303, Fr., Wisconsin Rapids

    The rest

    69 Aidan McNamara, 6-4, 315, Fr., Madison

    52 Jacob Maxwell, 6-6, 295, Jr., Greendale

    58 George Panos, 6-5, 301, Fr., Hartland

    64 Brett Connors, 6-6, 311, Fr., New Berlin

    66 Beau Benzschawel, 6-6, 291, Fr., Grafton

    68 Jaden Gault, 6-6, 310, Fr., Cottage Grove

    72 Ben Hemer, 6-4, 293, Fr., Medford

    75 Micah Kapoi, 6-4, 323, Fr., Kapolei, Hawaii

    76 Logan Schmidt, 6-4, 300, So., Gotham

    The skinny

    The group returns five players with starting experience: Marz (13 career starts), Lewallen (seven), Voltz (six), Costigan (21) and Havenstein (28). There’s not much experience behind those five, however. At guard, Ball and Deiter appear to be next in line. At tackle, it’s Williams and Biegel.

    By the numbers

    40 Career games played for Havenstein, the most among active players on the UW roster.

    Glass-is-half-full forecast

    An experienced line sets the tone on offense and allows Gordon and Co. to put up huge numbers. Havenstein and Voltz emerge as stars.

    Glass-is-half-empty forecast

    Injuries strike, leaving UW with inexperienced players to fill the holes. The group as a whole is solid but nothing special.

  • Depth chart

    Inside

    Projected starters:

    30 Derek Landisch, 6-0, 231, Sr., Nashotah

    59 Marcus Trotter, 6-0, 226, Sr., Racine

    Backups:

    43 Michael Trotter, 6-0, 220, Sr., Racine

    32 Leon Jacobs, 6-2, 230, So., Santa Clarita, Calif.

    The rest:

    16 D’Cota Dixon, 5-10, 206, Oak Hill, Fla.

    22 Chasen Andersen, 5-11, 221, Fr., Logan, Utah

    56 Ben Fischer, 6-0, 211, Fr., Crivitz

    57 Ben Ruechel, 6-2, 224., Sr., Oconto

    49 Justin Schweitzer, 6-1, 208, Fr., Silver Lake

    38 Zander Neuville, 6-5, 226, Fr., Waupaca

    Outside

    Projected starters:

    47 Vince Biegel, 6-4, 244, So., Wisconsin Rapids

    58 Joe Schobert, 6-2, 240, Jr., Waukesha

    Backups:

    41 Jesse Hayes, 6-3, 229, Jr., Cincinnati

    48 Jack Cichy, 6-2, 220, So., Somerset

    The rest:

    17 Sherard Cadogan, 6-3, 232, Sr., Washington Township, N.J.

    50 Josh Harrison, 6-0, 223, Sr., Huber Heights, Ohio

    53 T.J. Edwards, 6-1, 229, Fr., Lake Villa, Ill.

    19 Ryan Connelly, 6-3, 225, Fr., Eden Prairie, Minn.

    46 Matt Austin, 6-3, 218, Fr., Fond du Lac

    24 Keelon Brookins, 5-10, 209, Fr., St. Paul, Minn.

    The skinny

    UW must replace four players — Chris Borland, Ethan Armstrong, Conor O’Neill and Brendan Kelly — who were first, third, fourth and seventh on the team in tackles. Borland’s playmaking ability will be particularly difficult to replace. Landisch and Marcus Trotter have experience on the inside, while Biegel and Schobert are athletic types who should be able to get to the quarterback. Jacobs also could be lethal in pass-rushing situations.

    By the numbers

    15 Career forced fumbles for Borland.

    Glass-is-
    half-full forecast

    Biegel becomes UW’s next star at linebacker and Schobert emerges as a playmaker on the other side. While Landisch and Trotter can’t be expected to duplicate Borland’s numbers, they prove to be solid and assignment-sound.

    Glass-is-half-empty forecast

    Landisch and Trotter don’t come close to filling Borland’s void. Biegel shows signs of being great but isn’t consistent.

  • Depth chart

    Nose tackle

    Projected starter:

    91 Konrad Zagzebski, 6-3, 277, Sr., Weston

    Backups:

    95 Arthur Goldberg, 6-3, 290, Jr., Mount Lebanon, Pa.

    94 Conor Sheehy, 6-5, 279, Fr., Milwaukee

    92 Jeremy Patterson, 6-3, 326, Fr., Screven, Ga.

    Defensive end

    Projected starters:

    34 Chikwe Obasih, 6-2, 268, So., Brookfield

    45 Warren Herring, 6-3, 283, Sr., Fairview Heights, Ill.

    Backups:

    93 Jake Keefer, 6-3, 269, Sr., Woodville

    6 Alec James, 6-3, 259, Fr., Brookfield

    99 James Adeyanju, 6-2, 262, Sr., Chicago

    96 Billy Hirschfeld, 6-6, 271, Fr., Okauchee

    The skinny

    UW was a deep, experienced group in this area in 2013, but that’s not the case any longer. Gone are four veterans — nose guard Beau Allen, along with ends Tyler Dippel, Ethan Hemer and Pat Muldoon — who were dependable players. Herring goes from backup to starter at nose guard, and Zagzebski is the most experienced end returning. The rest of the two-deep is pretty young, though big things were expected from Obasih and James when they were recruited. The bigger concern is in the middle. Zagzebski was moved to nose guard late in camp, switching spots with Herring. Meanwhile, Andersen expressed with the depth at nose guard early in camp but later said he was pleased with Goldberg's progress.

    By the numbers

    207 Combined career games played for Allen, Dippel, Hemer and Muldoon.

    Glass-is-half-full forecast

    Players such as Zagzebski and Keefer, who have patiently been waiting their turn, take advantage of their expanded roles. Obasih and James use their athleticism to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. The youngsters rally around Herring, the elder statesman of the group.

    Glass-is-half-empty forecast

    A smallish front line of Herring (283 pounds), Obasih (268) and Zagzebski (277) gets pushed around and teams are able to run the ball on UW with ease.

  • Depth chart

    Cornerback

    Projected starters:

    8 Sojourn Shelton, 5-9, 178, So., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

    5 Darius Hillary, 5-11, 188, Jr., Cincinnati

    Backups:

    10 Devin Gaulden, 5-10, 187, Jr., Miramar, Fla.

    18 Dare Ogunbowale, 5-11, 188, So., Milwaukee

    25 Derrick Tindal, 5-11, 174, Fr., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

    29 Terrance Floyd, 5-10, 191, Jr., Boynton Beach, Fla.

    11 T.J. Reynard, 5-9, 175, Jr., Virginia Beach, Va.

    Safety

    Projected starters:

    7 Michael Caputo, 6-1, 212, Jr., Imperial, Pa.

    31 Lubern Figaro, 6-0, 179, Fr., Everett, Mass.

    Backups:

    21 Peniel Jean, 5-11, 194, Sr., West Palm Beach, Fla.

    19 Leo Musso, 5-10, 194, So., Waunakee

    23 Austin Hudson, 6-2, 205, Fr., Tampa, Fla.

    1 A.J. Jordan, 6-0, 190, Jr., Dayton, Ohio

    36 Joe Ferguson, 6-1, 210, So., Madison

    The skinny

    Shelton tied for third in the Big Ten with four interceptions and Hillary started all 13 games at the opposite corner spot last season. UW also has some intriguing prospects behind those two players. Safety is the bigger question. Caputo, whose specialty is run support, will be used in a hybrid role, and Figaro emerged as the starter opposite him. Jean has made a successful transition from cornerback and will be a backup along with Musso, who was slowed by a hamstring injury in camp.

    By the numbers

    9 Interceptions for the Badgers last season in 425 pass attempts by their opponents.

    Glass-is-half-full forecast

    Shelton doubles his interception total. Caputo helps make up for the loss of Borland at linebacker by being a consistent playmaker near the line of scrimmage. Figaro becomes a ball-hawker in the secondary.

    Glass-is-half-empty forecast

    UW’s interception total remains low. Teams devise ways to exploit Caputo and the other safeties in the passing game.

  • Depth chart

    Kicker

    Projected starter:

    10 Rafael Gaglianone, 5-11, 231, Fr., Sao Paulo, Brazil

    Backups:

    97 Jack Russell, 6-0, 176, Jr., Waunakee

    37 Andrew Endicott, 5-9, 175, So., Sacramento, Calif.

    Punter

    Projected starter:

    90 Drew Meyer, 6-3, 187, Jr., Hartland

    Backup:

    38 P.J. Rosowski, 6-3, 186, Fr., Stoughton

    The skinny

    Incumbent Jack Russell returns, but he was overshadowed in camp by true freshman Rafael Gaglianone, who has huge leg. Junior punter Drew Meyer returns for his third season as a starter.

    By the numbers

    3 Career misses from 40 yards and beyond for Russell, who has converted just once from that distance.

    Glass-is-half-full forecast

    Gaglianone is the real deal, giving UW a threat to score points when drives end outside the opponents’ 30-yard line.

    Glass-is-half-empty forecast

    Gaglianone’s youth shows and Russell struggles with his confidence after losing the job to Gaglianone, leaving UW coach Gary Andersen with nobody to trust at an important position.

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