5 Issues We Would Love Wisconsin's Gary Andersen to Address at B1G Media Days
On July 28 and 29, the media circus moves to Chicago for the Big Ten Media Days. After last season's 9-4 campaign in head coach Gary Andersen's first season at the helm, Andersen will look to build off of that as he begins implementing his own system and his own recruits get pushed into the fold.
Andersen has proved himself very earnest and open with the media, and let's hope that continues during media day as he fields questions about how he can continue the recent success of Badger football despite losing a number of players from last year's team, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.
Without further ado, let's take a look at the five biggest issues Gary Andersen should address at the Big Ten media days.
Who Will Be the Starting Quarterback?
When Joel Stave went down in the bowl game against South Carolina, Badgers fans were shown that it can be worse with someone other than No. 2 throwing the ball. When Curt Phillips came in, he went a measly 7-of-12 for 37 yards and two interceptions.
Stave has been really good at times for the Badgers, good enough to be put on the Davey O'Brien watch list for best quarterback this season. But I think that says more about how absurd these preseason watch lists are, as I wouldn't be surprised to see him holding a clipboard in Houston.
Tanner McEvoy gave Stave a run for his money while both were healthy during the spring, though Stave still had lingering pain from the injury that knocked him out against South Carolina and may have underperformed because of that.
Either way, Coach Andersen can't keep fans and the team in the dark forever, as at some point, the team will need to choose a starting quarterback. I wouldn't be surprised if the first question asked isn't about who the starting quarterback is, as no matter how good the tandem of Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement are, there needs to be at least a relative threat that the Badgers may throw a pass once in a while.
How Will They Reload on Defense?
The Badgers hardly lack talent on the defensive side of the ball. The problem is experience. The spring game, a 6-0 affair, had little to do with how well the defense played—though they definitely checked a lot of positives—it was mostly the ineptitude of their offense.
Linebackers Vince Biegel and Joe Schobert should provide a jolt of energy into defensive coordinator Dave Aranda's more aggressive scheme, while Chikwe Obasih has the potential to be one of the most disruptive defensive ends in the Big Ten.
But once again, it all circles back to how well these players will perform together. The secondary shouldn't be a problem, as replacing third-round selection Dezmen Southward is the least of the Badgers' concerns. Warren Herring should be able to replace Beau Allen.
But when Schobert, Biegel and Herring were subs, they could exert all of their energy for the few snaps at a time they were playing for. This year, depth becomes an issue, as last year's depth becomes this year's starters with not a lot of recruiting done by the coaching staff to bring in a ton of fresh blood in the trenches or in the linebacking corps.
Can the Badgers Win a Bowl Game?
Three Rose Bowl appearances, three defeats. While winning three Big Ten titles is impressive and all, winning a bowl game would do a lot to continue to pull in the top-tier talent that Coach Andersen has been angling for.
The last time the Badgers won a bowl game was in 2009, which was also the last time they didn't play on New Year's Day or later. One has to go all the way back to New Year's Day 2007 to find a Badgers bowl victory once the calendar turns to January.
The Badgers losing in bowl games wouldn't be such a big problem if it didn't seem as if every time they step outside the Big Ten or play a big game in the Big Ten—except against Nebraska—they find ways to lose games.
Losing to Oregon in the 2012 Rose Bowl isn't a huge deal on its own, except when you think about how much talent that Badgers team had or how they also lost to Michigan State and Ohio State that season. It's time for the Badgers to start winning big games, particularly against nonconference foes, and a bowl win would certainly help their national perception even more.
Who Will Be the Starting Wide Receivers?
The spring game answered few questions when it came to the receiving corps, seeing as how other than a man named Jazz (Peavy, who could contribute quite a bit this season due to a dearth of other receivers), no Badger receiver totaled more than one reception.
Now granted, the quarterback situation, at least for one team, was a nightmare thanks to no run game and limited snaps for those playing—D.J. Gillins, Bart Houston and Ethan Armstrong—before the game itself. But when your consensus No. 1 receiver, Kenzel Doe, had more carries (two) than he did receptions (a goose egg), you have some serious problems.
While I don't expect Andersen to name a pair of starters on Media Day, a better clue as to the depth chart before the freshmen come in would be nice to know so Badger fans can temper their expectations accordingly.
The dark horse in this race is Robert Wheelwright, who has been talked about quite a bit; however, due to a nagging injury in the spring, he couldn't show off his immense talent. He is better on the outside than both Doe and Jordan Frederick, though due to limited snaps, he may be the odd man out.
Will There Be an Open Kicking Competition?
At times, I feel like the only person who cares about how important this kicking competition will be. Last season, Coach Andersen was fully prepared to have Chris Borland take field goals of real distance before a hamstring injury nixed that plan.
Now, with incoming freshman Rafael Gaglianone coming into the fold to go along with incumbent Jack Russell and kickoff man Andrew Endicott, there should very well be an open competition for the spot.
Russell hit two of three field goals in the spring game, providing the only offense for either team by hitting from 30 and 41, while Endicott missed his one try.
Badgers fans have suffered through years of horrible kicking, and nabbing a scholarship kicker in Gaglianone, who has the leg to step in right away and nip at Russell's heels, will be important. Though he will need a strong fall camp, Andersen needs to show faith in the freshman right away.
With kickers, confidence is such a big thing, and Andersen cannot vacillate between kickers like he did last year. Whether he goes with Russell or Gaglianone, he can't have them alternate extra points or field goals. This position will be arguably just as important for the Badgers as receiver or linebacker.