With spring practice starting up in a matter of weeks (March 13 to be exact), it's about time to start speculating on how Wisconsin's depth chart is going to look.
Now, with many returning starters from last year's 10-3 squad, it shouldn't be too hard to predict what players are going to be on the field next year. With success like that, there shouldn't be many major changes.
Regardless, it's always interesting to predict what a team's depth chart will look like before even the coaches know.
Anything can happen in spring practice.
Established starters may fizzle. Incoming freshmen may surprise. Injuries are, unfortunately, always a possibility. There are usually some major contrasts between the projected starters and those that actually see playing time the next year.
But, as college football fans, this is a necessary procedure. So, here we go.
Projected Starter: Scott Tolzien
For being a first-year starter playing in a run-first offensive system, senior quarterback Scott Tolzien really couldn't have been more efficient.
Going into last year, no one really knew who would be the starter.
Would it be Dustin Scherer, the senior who took over for the bumbling Allen Evridge the year previous? Would it be freshman phenom Curt Phillips, Wisconsin's best quarterback recruit in years?
Well, Wisconsin's coaches surprised everyone when they went with little-known backup Scott Tolzien. And, despite many doubts, they couldn't have been more correct in their decision.
Throwing for over 2,700 yards with 16 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions, Tolzien complemented Wisconsin's bruising running backs perfectly. Unless he gets injured, there is simply no reason why Tolzien shouldn't be lining up under center next year.
Projected backup: Curt Phillips
In limited action last year, Phillips showed his arm (and his inaccuracy) but more importantly, his mobility.
Although he only threw 12 passes, Phillips made an impact with his feet, running for 138 yards on only 14 carries, almost a ten-yard average.
Hopefully, he'll develop those passing skills because the former Gatorade Tennessee Player of the Year will likely be the starter when Tolzien graduates next year.
Projected Starter: John Clay
Coming off his Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year season, junior running back John Clay has much bigger aspirations this year: the Heisman Trophy.
And why shouldn't he? Over 1,500 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns are reason enough to think he has a legitimate chance. Barring any injuries, expect another big season from Mr. Clay
Projected backup: Montee Ball
Only a freshman last year, Ball impressed many with his quick, darting running style and was an excellent complement to Clay's bashing style.
Ball ran for close to 400 yards and four touchdowns and should see significant playing time when Clay needs a break. He will certainly be another big-play threat for Wisconsin's potent offense.
Projected Starter: Nick Toon
Following in his father Al's footsteps, Nick is on the path for greatness at Wisconsin.
Using every inch of his 6'3" frame, Toon hauled in 54 catches for over 800 yards and four touchdowns last year and is looking for even more this year.
He will undoubtedly be Tolzien's top target once again and if Wisconsin can develop a consistent passing game, could be in the running for All-Big Ten honors.
Projected Starter: Isaac Anderson
Although he had only 30 catches last year, Anderson was one of Tolzien's favorite and most consistent targets.
At only 5'11", Anderson is a little undersized, but he makes up for that with his speed and quickness.
Example. Tolzien's first pass of 2009: An 80-yard touchdown to a wide-open Anderson after absolutely burning a Northern Illinois cornerback.
Projected backups: David Gilreath and Kyle Jefferson
With two wide receivers getting suspended in the off-season (Maurice Moore and Kraig Appleton), Wisconsin's receiving corps is somewhat depleted.
Both Gilreath and Jefferson have seen playing time at wide receiver the past few seasons and should fill in adequately. However, if neither Moore or Appleton is cleared to play this year, the Badgers will be looking for help, paving the way for lesser-known backups or even incoming freshmen to see the field.
Projected Starter: Lance Kendricks
With the loss of Garrett Graham to graduation and possibly the NFL, Wisconsin's only real question mark on offense going into 2010 is tight end. And even then, it's not really a question who is going to start.
Senior Lance Kendricks, having learned under Graham and Travis Beckum the last few years, is more than ready to fill the slot.
Kendricks caught 29 passes for three touchdowns last year and showed exactly what he was capable of, on a national stage nonetheless, when he caught seven passes for 128 yards against Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl.
Projected backup: Uh?
Yep, that's where we're at here. That's why, in one of my previous articles, I made the point that I thought one of Wisconsin's incoming tight end recruits could see the field this year.
Well, it's definitely possible. It will be interesting to see who steps up in spring practice for the right to sit behind Kendricks.
Simply put, Wisconsin's offensive line was one of the best in the country last year. They paved the way for 2,650 rushing yards for Wisconsin as a team and allowed only 21 sacks..
And they're all coming back.
That's right. Gabe Carimi, John Moffitt, Peter Konz, Kevin Zeitler, and Josh Oglesby are all back to anchor what should be one of the best offenses in the country.
As any college football fan knows, the Big Ten is known for its outstanding, and usually huge offensive linemen. Wisconsin is no exception, and may possibly be the most renowned school in the country when it comes to producing offensive linemen.
With all of these guys coming back, both the running and passing games should be as good, if not better than last year.
LT: Gabe Carimi (6'7", 325 lbs)
LG: John Moffitt (6'5", 320 lbs)
C: Peter Konz (6'5", 315 lbs)
RG: Kevin Zeitler (6'4", 317 lbs)
RT: Josh Oglesby (6'7", 330 lbs)
Projected Starter: Phillip Welch
If Wisconsin was to have any true doubts heading into next season, it would be at kicker.
Phillip Welch, though strong-legged, was not accurate last year. He missed two extra points and went only 17-24 on field goals, including missing two inside 40 yards.
Although he hit a 57-yarder against Fresno State, his inconsistency has many Badger fans worried.
However, Welch may have some competition next year.
Although it could come from current backup Alec Lerner, it will more than likely come in the form of incoming freshman Kyle French, one of the highest-rated kickers coming out of high school.
French also has a great leg and if he can show that he's more accurate than Welch, Phil may be out of a job. However, If French doesn't beat out Welch, he will grayshirt next season.
Photo courtesy of Madison.com