Jack Coan and the defending Big Ten West champions have some retooling to do on offense this spring
It may not be as warm in Madison, Wisconsin, as it is in other parts of the college football world, but none of that matters for the Wisconsin Badgers. Coming off an appearance in the Big Ten Championship Game and the Rose Bowl, Paul Chryst once again has his program expecting to be in the Big Ten title mix in 2020. But with the notable departure of one of the nation's top running backs and offensive lineman, will Wisconsin be able to fill some big shoes?
If there is one thing to expect from Wisconsin, it is the Badgers will still manage to run the football effectively. But there are some key storylines to keep tabs on this spring out of Madison for the defending Big Ten West Division champions.
5 Storylines to Watch During Wisconsin's Spring Practice
1. Who replaces Jonathan Taylor?
Wisconsin has had a pretty good run of running backs over the years (pun partially intended), but replacing a 2,000-yard rusher like Taylor is never as easy as inserting the next man up. Wisconsin may not have the next Taylor ready to go, but the Badgers will feel comfortable handing the ball off to Nakia Watson. Watson was the second-leading rusher in 2019 with 331 yards and two touchdowns.
2. Is Jack Coan the undisputed starting quarterback?
After leading the Badgers to the Big Ten West Division title and an appearance in the Rose Bowl last season, Coan seems like a fine fit to continue guiding the Wisconsin offense in 2020. Coan passed for 2,727 yards and 18 touchdowns last season, with just five interceptions. But Graham Mertz and Chase Wolf will look to give Coan a battle this spring as they each hope to show off their full potential.
3. What about the receivers?
Having an experienced starting quarterback might be good for Wisconsin considering the need to find some new top receiving targets. Quintez Cephus and A.J. Taylor have each moved on. The good news for Wisconsin is returning receivers Kendric Pryor and Danny Davis III aren't without experience contributing in this offense. Pryor caught 23 passes for 278 yards last season, and Davis III recorded 30 receptions for 250 yards and a touchdown. Developing another top receiver will be key for the Badgers this spring.
Wisconsin also has a new wide receivers coach to sort through things with Alvis Whitted now a member of the staff.
4. Strength on the defensive line
One key area for Wisconsin's potential success in 2020 will come on the defensive line. The Badgers return almost everyone up front on defense, so there will be consistency to fall back on this spring. And that puts the Badgers' defensive line in a great spot after having the Big Ten's second-best rushing defense and the second-most sacks in the conference in 2019.
5. Offensive line fills some holes
On the other side of the line of scrimmage, Wisconsin has a few key holes to plug on the offensive line this year. Tyler Biadasz declared early for the NFL draft and two other linemen graduated. That leaves some good competition to be had for three starting jobs on the offensive line with left tackle Cole Van Lanen set to anchor the unit. Fortunately, Wisconsin has had some good success on the offensive line and that should once again be the case in Madison. Among the options could be new four-star recruit Jack Nelson, who is on campus now and ready to participate in his first spring with the program.
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Patreon, on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.