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January 2, 2014
A look ahead to 2014
Gary Andersen finished his inaugural season at Wisconsin with a 9-4 record, a good but not great first year in Madison.
UW's head coach had one telling quote after his team's 34-24 loss to South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1.
"Football becomes really hard when you get yourself into a position where you can't throw it on offense and you can't cover them on defense," Andersen said.
That said, the Badgers must improve in both areas while also filling holes in a few other spots on the roster.
The following is an early look at what things could look like when spring camp opens in March:
Outlook: Joel Stave, who had an up and down sophomore season, is back for the Badgers. But the starting job is expected to be wide open once again. Tanner McEvoy, who made a big contribution at safety in 2013, will move back to quarterback this spring. The former junior college standout provides the dual-threat option Andersen is looking for at the position. Bart Houston, a redshirt freshman, has a huge camp in front of him.
One to watch: Bart Houston
Coming in: D.J. Gillins, a four-star recruit from Florida, will enroll early at Wisconsin.
Position: Running back
Outlook: Thomas Hammock oversaw an extremely productive group in 2013. Gone is James White, but Melvin Gordon, who could make a run at the Heisman Trophy, will be back for his junior season. True freshman Corey Clement proved he's capable of being a big contributor at UW and he'll get plenty of work this spring. Junior Jeff Lewis provides depth while Vonte Jackson, who is recovering from his third knee surgery, should also be available for camp.
At fullback, starter Derek Watt, a huge contributor in the run game, returns for his junior season. Behind him, Derek Straus, Austin Ramesh and D.J. Spurling will compete for time.
One to watch: Corey Clement
Coming in: Four-star Taiwan Deal and three-star Caleb Kinlaw are expected to sign with the Badgers in February.
Position: Tight end
Outlook: Thee Badgers are graduating Jacob Pedersen, Brian Wozniak and Brock DeCicco, paving the way for the next wave of tight ends at UW. Junior Sam Arneson returns, but Austin Traylor, Austin Maly and Eric Steffes are unproven at this point. The staff is also very high on T.J. Watt and Troy Fumagalli, both of whom redshirted in 2013.
One to watch: Austin Traylor
Coming in: Wisconsin does not have a committed tight end in the 2014 class.
Position: Wide receivers
Outlook: This group loses Jared Abbrederis, the only consistent threat UW had at the position all year. Kenzel Doe, Jordan Fredrick and Alex Erickson all return, though eyes will likely be on Rob Wheelwright and Reggie Love this spring. Speedster Jazz Peavy redhsirted this season and junior Marquis Mason is attempting to come back from a knee injury.
One to watch: Rob Wheelwright
Coming in: Wisconsin will look to overhaul the position with Dareian Watkins, Chris Jones, Krenwick Sanders and Natrell Jamerson all coming in this summer.
Position: Offensive line
Outlook: Ryan Groy, arguably the most versatile of the linemen on UW's 2013 roster, will be lost to graduation, while Zac Matthias, a key reserve, has also exhausted his eligibility. Starting tackles Tyler Marz and Rob Havenstein are back on the edges while Dallas Lewallen, Kyle Costigan and Dan Voltz return on the inside. Redshirt sophomore Ray Ball, who will be battling for a starting job at either guard spot, has a huge camp in front of him. The staff would also like to see what it has in freshmen Jackson Keeler and Hayden Biegel.
One to watch: Ray Ball
Coming in: Both Jaden Gault and Michael Deiter will enroll early at Wisconsin, while George Panos, Beau Benzschawel, Jacob Maxwell and Micah Kapoi will arrive on campus this summer.
Position Defensive line
Outlook: This position will be hit hard by graduation with Tyler Dippel, Pat Muldoon, Beau Allen and Ethan Hemer having all played their final game at UW on Jan. 1. Jake Keefer, Warren Herring and Konrad Zagzebski are penciled in as starters with Bryce Gilbert and James Adeyanju providing some depth. True freshman Chikwe Obasih was the scout team player of the year in 2013.
One to watch: Jake Keefer
Coming in: Projected nose tackles Craig Evans and Jeremy Patterson should compete for time immediately, while projected ends Conor Sheehy and Billy Hirschfeld will provide needed depth at end.
Outlook: Another position with a good amount of seniors on the 2013 roster, the Badgers will lose linebackers Chris Borland, Ethan Armstrong, Conor O'Neill and Brendan Kelly. Vince Biegel and Joe Schobert are waiting in line at outside backer with Derek Landisch expected to start at one of the two inside spots. Youngsters Leon Jacobs, Alec James and Garret Dooley have a chance to prove themselves this spring. There will be an open spot at inside backer with Marcus Trotter the leading candidate to fill the hole, though the staff may work to get the best four players on the field.
One to watch: Alec James
Coming in: Three-stars Dominic Cizauskas and TJ Edwards project on the inside, while three-star Rohan Blackwood will likely start at outside backer.
Outlook: The group returns its entire 2013 unit (with the exception of Jakarrie Washington, who was dismissed from the team) but assistant coach Ben Strickland has to get better production. Sojourn Shelton, a true freshman, was arguably the top performer this fall. He returns along with Darius Hillary, Peniel Jean and T.J. Reynard. Keep an eye on Devin Gaulden, who is nearing full strength, and A.J. Jordan, a converted wide receiver. Florida natives Hugs Etienne and Terrance Floyd are also in the fold.
One to watch A.J. Jordan
Coming in: Wisconsin does not have a projected cornerback committed in the 2014 class.
Outlook: Dezmen Southward leaves a hole at one of the starting safety spots while Mike Caputo, who had a great sophomore season, is set to return in 2014. Leo Musso and Nate Hammon contributed in 2013 with Michael Trotter set to return for his final season. Keelon Brookins and Joe Ferguson are two underclassmen to watch in the off-season.
One to watch: Keelon Brookins
Coming in: Junior college prospect Serge Trezy is committed to Wisconsin along with Lubern Figaro and Austin Hudson. A 6-foot-2, 185-pound prospect from Florida, Hudson will enroll at UW this spring.
Position: Special teams
Outlook: Kyle French will not be back in 2013, but Jack Russell, who took over the starting job at kicker, and punter Drew Meyer return for the Badgers. True freshman Andrew Endicott, who handled kickoffs this fall, could push Russell in camp in an effort to secure both jobs.
Who to watch Jack Russell
Coming in: Rafael Gaglianone will be on campus this summer and should be in line to compete for the starting job immediately.