For the first time since 1990, someone from outside the program will lead Wisconsin: former Utah State head coach Gary Andersen. Fortunately for Andersen, the Badgers are well-stocked due to their run of three consecutive Big Ten titles.
Wisconsin has three main contenders for the starting quarterback job: senior Curt Phillips, and sophomores Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy. Phillips led the team to a 2-3 mark in relief duty during 2012, beating Indiana and Nebraska. Stave started six games last season, providing a boost to a fledgling passing game. Meanwhile, McEvoy, a JUCO transfer, was the lone QB taken in February’s class.
Wide receiver Jared Abbrederis (49 receptions for 837 yards) and tight end Jacob Pederson (27 receptions for 355 yards) will be the primary targets of the aerial attack — no matter who’s behind center.
If the Badgers are known for anything, it’s beef. The team’s O-line depth chart lists LT-Ryan Groy-318, LG-Dallas Lewallen-309, C-Dan Voltz-301, RG-Kyle Costigan-313 and RT-Rob Havenstein-342. The coaches in Madison have traditionally favored a strong rushing attack behind a hefty O-line, and this season shouldn’t be any different.
RB James White will have an opportunity to shine after serving as Montee Ball’s understudy. White enters the 2013 campaign with 2,571 career-rushing yards, the most of any active running back in the FBS. He’s averaged 108.42 yards per game (in 12 games) when chalking up 15 or more carries.
According to Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated, sophomore RB Melvin Gordon should also see plenty of action in the coming year. Gordon emerged as a rising star late last season. He gained 216 yards on nine carries against Nebraska in the Big Ten title game and 51 yards on nine carries against Stanford in the Rose Bowl. Gordon finished with an enviable 10 yards-per-carry average.
On the other side of the ball, new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda brings a proven track record from his days with Andersen at Utah State. He has a skilled front seven to work with led by NG Beau Allen and LB Chris Borland. The linebacker corps is also deep and talented. The D-line should reap the rewards of Aranda’s change to 3-4 defensive scheme. It features the return of standout DEs Pat Muldoon and Konrad Zagzebski.