Fall camp is underway and the offense for the Wisconsin football team returns a great deal of experience coupled with heightened expectations for the season ahead. Many, myself included, are picking Wisconsin as the favorite to win the Big Ten West.
Paul Chryst and company open camp healthy, and with more answers than questions on the offensive side of the ball. The belief is that the offense for the Wisconsin football team will become more dynamic with Mertz having a year as QB1 under his belt and all of his weapons back at his disposal.
With so many spots already spoken for, the opportunity to make an impact will be tough to come by for some of the younger players. However, the team isn’t without young talent pushing for additional reps. It will be interesting to see how things unfold, so today we take a look at where the two-deep stands entering camp.
1. Graham Mertz (RS) So.
2. Chase Wolf (RS) Jr.
Graham Mertz is entrenched as the starter and appears to be back to full health. Many around the program have lauded his improved leadership skills and knowledge of the playbook. This is all very encouraging given the immense amount of talent he possesses. If he takes the next step in his development it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Mertz pushing onto an All-Big Ten list by season’s end.
Chase Wolf has seen the field sparingly and even had a few packages draw up specifically for him late last season. I think the team is incredibly fortunate to have a player like Wolf as a backup. Chase Wolf is an above-average QB2 and would be good enough to start at plenty of programs around the nation. Should anything happen to Mertz over the course of the season, I don’t think the Wisconsin football team will be dead in the water.
1. Jalen Berger (RS Fr.)
2. Chez Melusi (Jr.) or Isaac Guerendo (RS Jr.)
Jalen Berger is the lead dog and an obvious breakout candidate for the Badgers. Berger was a big-time recruit who got his feet wet a season ago, never eclipsing 15 carries. I expect that to change drastically this season and become a focal point of this offense. I’d expect over 1,000 yards rushing with the potential for even more.
Chez Mellusi transferred in from Clemson and figures to be in the mix for carries as well. Mellusi wouldn’t have left Clemson if he wasn’t given some kind of assurance he would have a role from day one. Mellusi was a McDonalds All-American and has big-time speed. I expect Mellusi to get plenty of work, and be an excellent compliment to Berger in a new-look backfield. This is a true three-down back.
It’s do-or-die time for Isaac Guerrendo. Guerrendo has been hampered by injury to this point in his career, but the coaching staff is high on his ability. If healthy, I absolutely expect him to figure into the running back rotation due to his game-breaking speed. However, if injuries force him to miss time, Coach Chryst has no shortage of options behind him waiting for their chance.
1. John Chenal (Sr.)
2. Quan Easterling (RS So.)
John Chenal is an animal and will assume the role of lead fullback this season. Chenal is a good blocker and will be a tremendous asset in short-yardage situations. Easterling is a scholarship fullback that has great versatility for the position. It’ll be fun to monitor his progress throughout the season because we all know coach Chryst is going to play two fullbacks.
1. Danny Davis (RS Sr.)
2. Jack Dunn (RS Sr.)
Danny Davis returning was huge for this passing attack. While it may not seem like it, with a solid senior season he’ll leave the program top ten in several statistical categories. Davis is a downfield threat with great body control. He was severely missed last season.
Jack Dunn has been a nice player for a walk-on. Despite his size, he blocks at a high level and is a nice depth option should anyone miss time.
1. Kendric Pryor (RS Sr.)
2. Chimere Dike (So.)
Kendric Pryor’s return was also important in what would have been an otherwise inexperienced receiving room. Pryor has a shiftiness to him and is a nice option to have on the jet sweep. Pryor has big-time speed and is a weapon that Chryst will manufacture touches for.
Chimere Dike is the future of this receiving room. Dike had a lot asked of him last season as a true freshman. With Davis and Pryor back, he’ll have far less attention on him which should allow him to breakout for this offense. It’s clear that he and Mertz have a strong connection, and Dike is an exceptional route runner. The future for Dike looks promising.
1. Jake Ferguson (RS Sr.)
2. Hayden Rucci (RS So.) or Jack Eschenbach (RS Jr.)
Simply put, Barry’s grandson is one of the best tight ends in Wisconsin football history. Ferguson is Mertz’s favorite target and I expect him to have a monster senior season. Not often do you find a player who can contribute at a high level for as long as he has, so don’t take him for granted.
I’m going to lump Rucci and Eschenbach on this one because both play noteworthy reserve roles. Rucci is without a doubt the team’s best option as the blocking tight end and was damn good in that role a season ago. I expect more of the same from him this season while Eschenbach is used more as a pass-catcher. Eschenbach is a great athlete for the position and could also find himself with additional opportunities as the program looks to further develop players for life after Ferguson.
1. Tyler Beach (RS Sr.)
2. Logan Brown (RS So.)
1. Josh Seltzner (RS Sr.)
2. Cormac Sampson (RS Jr.)
1. Kayden Lyles (RS Sr.)
2. Tanner Bortolini (RS Fr.)
1. Jack Nelson (RS Fr.)
2. Michael Furtney (RS Jr.)
1. Logan Bruss (RS Sr.)
2. Trey Wedig (RS Fr.)
Heading into fall camp, barring injury the first-team offensive line appears to be set. Joe Rudolph has always been vocal about getting his top five players on the field and worrying about fit later. This is undoubtedly why Jack Nelson finds himself starting at right guard. He is so talented that he forced his way onto the field no questions asked. Nelson will be a pillar for the Wisconsin football program’s offensive line for years to come, with the added benefit of getting reps alongside some talented and battle-tested seniors.
The second unit is where spots on the two-deep are up for grabs. There is no shortage of young talented players vying for the chance to prove themselves. Paul Chryst has done an incredible job on the recruiting trail in recent years, leaving the Wisconsin football team with an embarrassment of riches at the position. This of course is a great problem to have, and one that often sorts itself out. Don’t be surprised if the two-deep looks a bit different at this position before the opener. I expect the offensive line to be dominant this season and set up for success well beyond this season.