For those living in Wisconsin, it’s hard to fathom anything remotely close to spring. However, even with all the snow on the ground and the frigid temperatures, the Wisconsin Badgers open spring practice on Wednesday. It’s the first step in the journey that will be the 2014 season, a season that will finally see a playoff to determine the national champion.
What better time than now to crack open a six-pack of questions heading into the opening of the Wisconsin Badgers spring practice.
Who opens up the season as starting quarterback?
Head coach Gary Andersen can say all he wants about how two-year starter Joel Stave’s job is “his to lose.” I’m not buying it. I say it’s more of an open competition this spring with the best man winning out. Competing for the starting job with Stave will be Bart Houston, Tanner McEvoy (yes that Tanner McEvoy) and freshman D.J. Gillins.
Stave is the incumbent, but his job is far from safe. After another up and down season, Houston and certainly McEvoy will be chomping at the bit to earn an opportunity to open the season under center. And don’t count out the freshman Gillins. Yes it’s very rare for a true freshman to come in and start right away, especially in Madison this season. But you better believe he will make it tough on the coaches, as will the other three, when it comes time to make a decision. I don’t envy Andersen or offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig when it comes to making the call of who will start the season at quarterback.
Can Melvin Gordon make a run towards the Heisman Trophy?
I’m going to start off by saying yes, Melvin Gordon will make a run towards the Heisman this season. I think it is one of the main reasons why he came back for one more year. Gordon took the college football nation by storm last season, running for 1,609 yards and 12 touchdowns. I see no reason as to why Gordon does not improve on those numbers once again this year. Look for Melvin to make a major case for the Heisman this year.
And oh yeah don’t forget, our own Daniel Zimmer has a poll going as to why Gordon’s Heisman campaign slogan should be. If you have not already, go vote now.
How will Badgers do in the new B1G West division?
With the addition of Maryland and Rutgers this season, the B1G had to do some conference realignment. That also means they got rid of the Leaders and Legends titles (finally!) and renamed them with East and West.
The Badgers find themselves in the West division with Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern and Purdue. Minnesota is slowly on the rise and Iowa looks to be tough this season, but other than that this division does not seem all that strong. The Badgers are young this year but should be able to compete for the West division title in 2014.
What WRs will be able to fill Jared Abbrederis’ shoes?
No matter who is named the starting quarterback, they’re going to need someone reliable to throw to now that Jared Abbrederis has graduated. Not going to lie, those are some very big shoes to fill. Abbrederis had 78 receptions last season while the rest of the Badgers receiving corps combined had 28.
Kenzel Doe, Jordan Fredrick and Alex Erickson are the top receivers returning to Camp Randall this season. But there is some young talent waiting in the wings for their opportunity to make an impact this season. Jazz Peavey and Robert Wheelwright will be competing for playing time this season as well. Wheelwright has all the potential to see significant playing time this season, but consistency will be the key for the sophomore out of Columbus, Ohio.
Who will step up on defense this season?
Wisconsin lost their heart and soul on defense Chris Borland due to graduation and coach Andersen will be desperately looking for someone to step up and perform at a high level this season.
Sophomore Sojourn Shelton had four interceptions last season, third best in the Big Ten. But at times he played like a freshman and it showed. Look for Shelton to use his experience he gained from a year ago to make a big impact in the 2014 campaign.
A linebacker that could step up this season for the Badgers is Vince Biegel. Coaches are high on Biegel and I’m personally excited to see how well he has improved from last season. Biegel recorded 25 total tackles and two sacks in the 2013 season.
Alec James and Chikwe Obasih, two of the best recruits from Wisconsin in the 2013 recruiting class, both took a redshirt last season and will be looking to add their names in the hat of impact players.
What is the way too early outlook for the 2014 season?
Spring practice is just beginning so it’s tough to make a real sound projection for this season, especially with talented recruits joining the program later this year.
It’ll be very interesting to see how well this team plays against one of the best from the SEC, the LSU Tigers. A very tough first game of the season, but a great test for the Badgers. And it’s going to be cool to see them go up against “one of the big boys” at Reliant Stadium in Houston, TX to kick off the season.
The Badgers will also take on the new faces of the B1G, the Maryland Terrapins and Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
Will Wisconsin be able to come out of the new and improved B1G West and reach the conference title game once again? Only time will tell, but the road to Indianapolis is a little easier out of the West than the loaded East division. Iowa could give the Badgers fits as well as Minnesota and even Nebraska.
The Badgers spring game is slated for Saturday, April 12 at 3:00 p.m. CT and will be televised on the Big Ten Network.