There will be plenty of new faces and looks in Madison this season, as the Badgers are going through their third coaching change since the end of the 2012 season. Thankfully for Wisconsin, the new coach is a former Badger quarterback and offensive coordinator who knows the program, the people and the expectations.
Speaking of expectations, Wisconsin has played in the Big Ten Championship Game in three of the last four years. The bar is set — and in the minds of the Badger faithful — there is no excuse not to reach it again. Can Paul Chryst rally this talented-yet-inexperienced bunch and lead them to another division title? That's the big question in Madison.
Wisconsin's Five Biggest Fall Camp Storylines
1. Dealing With Another Coaching Change
This is the third coach the Wisconsin senior class will have played for. Can the Badgers remain resilient in the face of constant change from year to year? Chryst's coaching style in terms of X's and O's probably won't change much from what Wisconsin ran under Gary Andersen. All-Big Ten-caliber talent at various spots on the defense and upperclassmen at key positions on offense should help with whatever transition there will be.
2. Can the Offensive Line Gel Early?
We know Wisconsin has recruited some talented linemen as of late. Only two starters return from a season ago, and some of those young recruits are going to be starting as underclassmen. There is little time for growing pains, as the first test of the season comes right out of the gates in the form of the Alabama Crimson Tide.
3. Can Corey Clement Carry the Load?
We know Clement is talented, as he nearly reached 1,000 yards on the ground while playing second fiddle to Melvin Gordon in 2014. The fact is, he's a different kind of back in terms of his physical build and his running style than both Gordon and James Conner — Chryst's elite back at Pitt. If Clement is unable to withstand the number of carries expected from a feature back at Wisconsin, we may see much more of the big, physical freshman Taiwon Deal in the Badger backfield.
4. Joel Stave Needs to be a Factor Under Center
Stave has struggled with consistency throughout his career. He'll have a dependable go-to receiver in Alex Erickson — the senior who caught 55 passes in 2014. After that, there isn't a whole lot of experience in the receiving corps. The good thing about the Chryst/Joe Rudolph offense is that it does feature a heavy dose of tight ends in the passing game. This should take some of the pressure off Stave and reduce his tendency to try and force something downfield that isn't there. If the passing game doesn't develop, the Badgers may not be talented enough in the run-game to overcome their predictability.
5. Can the Defense Make Plays?
Being stingy alone may not be enough to win the Big Ten West — Wisconsin's defensive unit will need to do more to maximize offensive possessions. The Badgers must establish a consistent pass rush up front, while increasing the number of takeaways from the secondary (only 6 INTs in 2014). There are some stars roaming around on defense, but they'll need to set the tone for an otherwise young and inexperienced group.