A season with high expectations was met with relative disappointment by the Wisconsin Badgers. A preseason Big Ten favorite with some projecting them as a real College Football Playoff contender, Wisconsin fell out of the top spot in the Big Ten West Division for the first time since 2015.
With spring football arriving in Madison, head coach Paul Chryst has a new quarterback to find, plenty of key faces to replace at traditionally strong positions like linebacker and offensive line and more as the Badgers look to climb back to the top of the Big Ten West and compete for a conference title.
5 Storylines to Watch During Wisconsin’s Spring Practice
1. Rebuilding the offensive line
If there has been one unit that tends to be fairly stable in Madison, it has been the offensive line. The Badgers are looking to fill a number of big shoes this season with four starters gone from last year’s squad due to graduation, the NFL draft, or early retirement. After a relative down year on the line, some talented linemen stepping into bigger roles should provide some stability.
2. Finding a new QB1
With Alex Hornibrook leaving Wisconsin and signing on with Florida State, the Badgers have a rather fascinating situation at quarterback this spring. Jack Coan figures to be the most obvious choice given his prior experience in relief of Hornibrook, but stud Class of 2019 quarterback Graham Mertz is enrolled now and ready to get to work.
3. How to improve Jonathan Taylor
When the fall rolls around, Wisconsin should feel confident in handing the ball off to their workhorse running back. After two big years running the ball for the Badgers, Taylor is likely preparing for one final year of college ball before moving to the NFL. While he doesn’t have anything to prove this spring and could get away with a lighter workload in the spring to allow other players to get some reps, his ball handling could still use some work. Taylor had some problems with fumbles last season that must be eliminated to keep his NFL stock on the rise.
4. Wisconsin’s secondary needs to grow quickly
There may be some concerns about how quickly the Wisconsin defensive backs and safeties will get situated, but there is an optimistic outlook for the 2019 season. Starting jobs across the back end are on the line beginning this spring and a year of growth last year should lead to a more reliable pass defense. Faion Hicks and Rachad Wildgoose should clamp down on the outside corner positions while Scott Nelson and Reggie Pearson are the favorites for starting safety positions.
5. Plugging in the linebacker spots
Wisconsin’s biggest concern on the defense may actually be right in the middle of it all with the inside linebackers. After losing T.J. Edwards and Ryan Conelly, Wisconsin will have some big shoes to fill at a key spot that has been pretty steady over the years. Chris Orr is a likely replacement for one of the spots. Jack Sanborn may grab a hold of the second vacant spot with a strong showing in the spring after getting his feet wet last fall.
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.