Good teams send players to the NFL. The Badgers' recent success—the team has three-peated as Big Ten champions—has made them keenly aware of this phenomenon.
For the 2013 season, the Badgers will need to figure out how to replace offensive stalwart Montee Ball and offensive line anchor Travis Fredrick. The defense will also be left with some glaring holes, as much of the secondary is graduating along with ferocious linebacker Mike Taylor.
Good teams also find suitable replacements when key pieces depart. If Wisconsin wants to keep up its winning ways, it is imperative previously unsung players step up. With that in mind, here are four players that will impress in 2013.
After Jeff Duckworth's amazing catch in the 2011 Big Ten Championship game, many Badger fans expected him to replace Nick Toon as Jared Abbrederis' complimentary receiver. Sadly, Duckworth's junior campaign was largely forgettable.
Duckworth has solid hands, though, and is a very good route runner. 2011 was most likely an aberration. Expect Jeff to have a breakout senior year. He is too talented to repeat last year's paltry stat line.
In reality, it should not be surprising that a third-string Badger running back is poised for a big year. Montee Ball was once third on the depth chart, and last year Melvin Gordon impressed with his limited touches.
Jackson is a redshirt freshman who is ready for his Badger debut. This highly touted recruit should be able to do some damage when he is given the rock.
Being a Watt is akin to being Badger royalty. J.J.'s little brother will not be wreaking havoc by sacking quarterbacks, but he could become the best fullback in the game.
Watt is a smart player who coaches rave about. While the bulk of his time will be spent lead-blocking for whatever running back the Badgers hand off to, do not be surprised if Watt is also given additional offensive responsibilities.
If Badger fans have learned anything these past couple of years, it is to never underestimate a Watt.
So, this pick is a little bit of a cop-out.
The Badgers have not announced a starting quarterback for 2013, but fans should be confident that a quality starter will emerge from the competition. Unlike last year when the Badgers had Danny O'Brien and a bunch of unproven bench warmers, the Badgers enter 2013 with multiple quality options.
Joel Stave's broken collarbone with have healed completely, Curt Phillips was granted an extra year of eligibility and phenom prospect Bart Houston is ready to go. Stave and Phillips will come into the season with previous starting experience, and Houston was highly touted coming out of high school for a reason.
While it is still uncertain which one of these quarterbacks will emerge from what is sure to be a tough training camp battle, the Wisconsin faithful should be more than confident in trusting the eventual victor.