Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, March 8, 2016
Wisconsin is aiming to get back to the summit in the Big Ten West. But there is work to do as Paul Chryst begins his second season in Madison coming off a 10-3 debut and second-place finish in the West.
Key personnel is gone. And the coaching staff has been impacted with defensive coordinator Dave Aranda leaving for a fat raise and the same post at LSU after leading a unit that led the Big Ten in scoring defense (13.7 ppg) and total defense (268.5 ypg) in 2015. Chryst tabbed Justin Wilcox from USC to take over. How will that impact the defense, which was excellent under Aranda?
Having a healthy Corey Clement at running back will help, as injury ruined his 2015. And the offensive line has better talent, depth and experience. But who will be the quarterback? And who will be the go-to wideout with Alex Erickson gone? The front seven on defense looks good, but major holes loom in the secondary.
Here are three areas to watch this spring.
1. Quarterback. Who is it gonna be with Joel Stave gone? Only three scholarship signal-callers are on the roster. Bart Houston will be a fifth-year senior, Alex Hornibrook redshirted as a true freshman last year and Kare? Lyles is an early enrollee. Basically, it?s a two-man battle between Houston and Hornibrook. Houston has more experience and played a lot vs. Illinois last year, while Hornibrook is a talented passer who committed to Paul Chryst when he was at Pitt and followed him to Madison.
2. Secondary. The staff must replace three starters in the secondary with corner Darius Hillary, free safety Tanner McEvoy and strong safety Michael Caputo gone. In the mix for the two safety spots are D?Cota Dixon, Arrington Farrar, Leo Musso and Joe Ferguson. At corner, Natrell Jamerson, Derrick Tindal and Titus Booker will battle.
3. Offensive line. Last year?s depth and experience problems have now given way to a slew of players who have experience and, at least to start the spring, a number of guys who will be competing for spots. The only departure is left tackle Tyler Marz. Center Dan Voltz will still be out this spring with a knee injury but should be good to go at the start of summer workouts. On the inside, Michael Deiter, Micah Kapoi and Beau Benzschawel all played a lot last year. Add Jon Dietzen, the strongest player on the roster who redshirted last year, and that?s four guys for the two guard spots. At tackle, Jake Maxwell played well in his games last year. Ryan Ramczyk sat out last year after transferring from UW-Stevens Point and the coaches are high on him. Those two guys will get the first look at the tackle spots. So the staff feels like right now it has seven guys (with Voltz) for five spots, which is a much better situation than last year.
WISCONSIN SPRING INFO
Record: 10-3 overall (beat USC in Holiday Bowl); 6-2 Big Ten/T2nd West
Spring ball starts: March 12
Spring game: April 23
Key players gone: SS Michael Caputo; WR Alex Erickson; CB Darius Hillary; OT Tyler Marz; WR/FS Tanner McEvoy; P Drew Meyer; LB Joe Schobert; QB Joel Stave; TE Austin Traylor; FB Derek Watt
Key players back: G Beau Benzschawel; LB Vince Biegel; LB Jack Cichy; RB Corey Clement; G Michael Deiter; LB T.J. Edwards; TE Troy Fumagalli; K Rafael Gaglianone; NT Arthur Goldberg; G Micha Kapoi; OT Jacob Maxwell; DE Chikwe Obasih; LB Chris Orr; RB Dare Ogunbowale; WR Jazz Peavy; NG Conor Sheehy; CB Sojourn Shelton; C Dan Voltz; WR Robert Wheelwright
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